Living: Warm up to the outdoors in winter weather
For most people, winter means battening down the hatches and succumbing to the toasty allure of the great indoors. Nothing wrong with that — who doesn’t love a soft blanket, a comfy couch and a steaming cup of hot cocoa? But staying inside can also mean missing out on the outdoor charms of the cold-weather months.
Here are 20 smart, stylish and scrumptious reasons — from surprising twists on winter dishes to fresh takes on outdoor celebrations — to get out ... and stay out.
1. It’s easier to catch a sunrise. It takes time to adjust to winter’s fleeting hours of daylight, but there is a wonderful upside that comes with the sun’s late-to-rise, early-to-bed schedule: Watching that giant orb slowly ascend over the horizon is a much more plausible scenario when the event happens closer to 7 a.m. than at 5:30 a.m.
2. It’s off-peak season for national parks. Visit natural treasures and tourist hot spots, like Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, in the cold-weather months and you’ll be rewarded with pristine, jaw-dropping beauty — minus the hustle and bustle and jostle and clamor of hordes of other visitors.
3. Viruses congregate indoors. There’s an uptick in viruses in the winter. And since staying indoors means an increased risk of person-to-person transmission, venturing outdoors regularly is a smart move.
4. You have an excuse for being wobbly on your feet. Ice skates, skis, snowshoes — cold-weather sports call for clumsy footwear that can be hard to manage at first. As you search for balance on a frozen lake or snowy slope, you can revel in the fact that you’re burning calories as you commune with nature: According to the Mayo Clinic, for a 160-pound person, cross-country skiing expends about 496 calories an hour, while ice-skating burns 511.
5. You get to bring the roaring fire outside. If you don’t have an outdoor fireplace, use a huge galvanized tub instead. It’s fireproof and eminently mobile. Put it front and center in your backyard for a casual camping-themed gathering, or tote it to the banks of a frozen pond for a “fire and ice” skating party. (You can also put it directly on the ice, provided the ice is at least 4 inches thick and blue to clear.)
6. You can, in good conscience, skip your daily shower. Hot water saps your skin of precious moisture, so if there’s ever a season to forgo the daily scrub-down, winter is it. And washing your hair every other day — something beauty experts recommend because daily washing can strip tresses of natural oils — is easier to get away with in the cooler months.
7. A drop in the mercury may be good for you. Exposure to chilly temperatures may lead to a longer life. Studies involving worms, mice and mussels have all supported the link between the cold and longevity. Researchers in the mussels study were inspired when they learned that the bivalves found off the coast of Spain survived up to 29 years, while those found in the less balmy waters of Russia lived nearly 200 years.
8. It’s the perfect time for mulled wine. Winter’s answer to sangria, mulled wine can be prepared the night before, stored in the fridge and then, just before a party or an outdoor event, reheated and poured into your trusty thermos. (We’re fans of the Stanley vacuum-bottle thermos; 1.4 qt., $42, Stanley-pmi.com.) For the recipe, go to marthastewart.com.
9. There’s nothing better than hot chili in cold weather. Top the classic crowd-pleaser with a few dollops of a yummy avocado cream for a satisfying meal “en plein air.” For our vegetarian chili and avocado cream recipe, go to marthastewart.com/1047284/vegetarian-chili-avocado-cream.
10. Dress up Mother Nature. Try stringing up some twinkly white lights (the heavy-duty kind made especially for the outdoors) in your backyard. It will cast a gorgeous glow and create a festive atmosphere for outdoor dining.
11. At last, an occasion to gift your guests with (faux) fur. Drape faux sheepskins on outdoor chairs for a cozy-chic way to keep revelers toasty as they chat. Then send the soft rugs home as party favors at evening’s end. Tejn faux sheepskin, $10, ikea-usa.com.
12. You can streamline your skin-care regimen. If you have sensitive skin, you may be able to temporarily shelve your correcting treatments, which can exacerbate dry, irritated skin, and just go for a product that moisturizes. A Martha favorite? Skinceuticals Hydrating B5 gel; $74 for 1 oz., skinceuticals.com.
13. There’s an easy fix for a cold seat. Be sure to pack a wool throw or two (Pendleton makes particularly rugged ones — from $98 each, pendleton-usa.com) so that you can rest when you’re out and about. (Bummer fact: Sitting on a cold surface conducts the heat from your body to the rock or icy ground under you.)
14. Your yard misses you. Despite being dormant, your garden still needs attention. Gently brush snow off bushes and tree branches to prevent breakage, mulch the garden with used Christmas-tree boughs and begin fruit-tree pruning.
15. There’s a science to winter dressing — and here it is: According to the National Ski Patrol, you need three levels of winter wear: a moisture-wicking inner layer (usually synthetic), an insulating middle layer (wool or fleece) and an outer shell (like waterproof Gore-Tex outer layers). Just keep away from cotton, which absorbs moisture and tends to stay wet.
16. You no longer have to fear slipping on ice or snow. One word: Yaktrax. Just put the lightweight traction slip-ons over your shoes and you’ll be sure-footed once more. Walk, $20, yaktrax.com.
17. You can dust off your old camping diningware. Enamel cups and tin containers, especially when filled with a sweet-savory toffee-nut snack mix, add charm to outdoor entertaining. (For the recipe go to marthastewart.com/1047285/toffee-nut-snack-mix.)
18. Some sun will do you good. Your vitamin D production plunges when the days are shorter. In July a fair-skinned person living in New York City might need to stay in the sun for only five minutes to produce 1,000 IU of the vitamin, according to the Norwegian Institute of Air. In January? Well over an hour.
19. You can (and should) continue your outdoor strolls. Studies have shown that walking outdoors may be better for your mental health (higher vitality and self-esteem, lower tension and depression) than walking on a treadmill or track indoors.
20. Your dog needs fresh air. To lure a winter-phobic pooch outside, the ASPCA recommends aerobic activities such as playing fetch to keep your pet warm, or taking a romp in wooded areas, where there’s a plethora of smells, sights and sounds to distract from the cold. Just make sure your dog is properly dressed. Martha Stewart Pets has a line of outerwear for your furry friend (from $20 each, petsmart.com).