Hacking Winter

Life Hack (noun) : Definition of life hack
: a usually simple and clever tip or technique for accomplishing some familiar task more easily and efficiently – Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

We didn’t use the term “life hack” when I was a kid, but that’s what we were doing when we realized waxing our shovels made short work of a tedious task.

Old school ski wax. Blue was for dry conditions, yellow for wet, sticky snow

Using the same paraffin-based stuff we rubbed on the bottom of our skis, we slicked those shovels up whenever heavy, wet snow buried the walkways. We didn’t need it with the dry, light stuff, but it was a brilliant workaround with gloppy snow that stuck to our shovels like peanut butter to a spoon.

I’ve written on this blog before about my absolute favorite childhood life hack—wearing bread bags inside our winter boots. After pulling my older brother’s nearly-worn-through wool socks over our shoes for insulation, we slipped used bread bags over the socks to create a waterproof membrane inside our leaky rubber boots. Gore-Tex™, Schmoor-Tex.  Fancy wasn’t necessary to keep our feet warm and dry.

I was thinking about these youthful life hacks last weekend when we crossed winter’s midpoint. Simply surviving winter is the main task I seek to accomplish more easily and efficiently these days, so what are my 2020 winter hacks?

Number #1 is grippers.

When I was a child, elderly women at my church wore clear plastic booties over their shoes with short, sharp metal spikes embedded in the sole. My mother referred to them as “creepers.” Watching those devout old ladies hobble across the churchyard in a February sleet storm, I never imagined I’d own several pair myself.

Grippers: Don’t leave home without ’em.

The modern equivalent of creepers come in a variety of colors, cover only the bottom of the shoe and are said to be used by Olympic bobsled athletes. I don’t do a lot of bobsledding these days, but grippers make walking on the Old Port’s brick sidewalks less of an orthopedic crapshoot, and that’s good enough for me.

Hack Number #2 comes from Denmark (the country, not the town in Oxford County). One weekend in January we decided to embrace winter by adopting the Danish tradition of hygge (say it with me, hoo-ga). From this Country Living article https://www.countryliving.com/life/a41187/what-is-hygge-things-to-know-about-the-danish-lifestyle-trend/ I learned that America took to hygge in a big way in 2017. While I’m a little late to the party, it’s still going on.

My favorite line from this informative article? “Do sweatpants count as hygge? Yes. There’s even a word in Danish for them! Hyggebukser are that pair of pants you’d never be caught dead wearing in public, but practically live in when you’re at home on the weekends binging on Netflix.”

I have just the pair, but they’re so intensely hyggebukser I don’t dare post a picture of them on this family-friendly blog. On our recent hygge weekend we dressed in fleece from head to toe, drank a lot of hot tea and cocoa and made homemade macaroni and cheese in honor of our Danish role models.

mac and cheese

My mac and cheese hack is to shred my own cheese, and use at least two kinds.

As winter hacks go, it was a huge success.

Hack #3 involves a good binge-watch.

Like the Danes, Netflix (or Acorn TV, or Britbox) gets us through many a long winter night. New episodes of Vera have been airing on Fridays and reruns of The Great British Baking Show are cheering on the even grayest of days. Hot tip: if you haven’t seen Keeping Faith on Acorn, check it out. Three seasons. Great actors. Set in Wales. Binge-watching this show is a perfect winter hack.

Hack #4 ? Get outside.

I’ve  written here in the past about my love for walking the winter beach. This may seem the opposite of hygge—the icy wind, the frozen fingers—but after every ocean storm intrepid surfers flock like hungry gulls to several nearby strands.

My parka never feels warmer than when I watch the winter surfers.

Watching the action is a highly effective winter hack in that you feel toasty warm compared to the fearless dry-suited surfers who hurl themselves into the icy sea in hope of catching a wave that will leave them momentarily sitting on top of the world.

Hack #5? Take yourself to the theatre.

There’s nothing like a live stage performance to ease one through the dark season. On February 10—this coming Monday night—10 talented actors from Portland Stage Company will be performing staged readings of new work by five Maine crime writers, all current or one-time MCW bloggers: Gerry Boyle, Dick Cass, Paul Doiron, Julia Spencer-Fleming and moi.

During a pre-performance reception at 6:30 pm, the fabulous Barbara Kelly will be selling books to bring home to read in front of the hygge fire.

The show starts at 7:00 sharp. The actors will read ten-minute scenes of new work by each of us. Tickets are $10 in advance, available here: https://portlandstage.secure.force.com/ticket/#/events/a0S3Z000006goQIUAY

The coming weekend’s wintry weather (mixed precipitation, wax up those shovels, kids) will be over and done with by Monday. So turn off Netflix, shed your hyggebukser and join us at Portland Stage Company where we can hack winter together.

READERS:  What are your favorite winter hacks? Please share in the comments.

Brenda Buchanan is the author of the Joe Gale Mystery Series, featuring a diehard Maine newspaper reporter who covers the crime and courts beat. Three books—QUICK PIVOT, COVER STORY and TRUTH BEAT—are available everywhere e-books are sold. These days she’s hard at work on new projects.

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6 Responses to Hacking Winter

  1. Janet Murch says:

    As I sit in my dog haired covered hygge yoga pants waiting for the sleet, well written and well said.

  2. Feeling cozy just reading your post–thanks for sharing!

  3. bethc2015 says:

    In a storm like we had yesterday, where the snow is crusted in ice, we would forego our sleds in favor of corrugated cardboard that let us fly over the snow. Thanks for bringing back memories and bringing some smiles into a frosty winter day.

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