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Kings Mountain, North Carolina, United States
"A mind lively and at ease" is a blog by a first-generation Russian-Ukrainian immigrant Maria K. (Maria Igorevna Kuroshchepova). An engineer by education, an analyst by trade, as well as a writer, photographer, artist and amateur model, Maria brings her talent for weaving an engaging narrative to stories of life, fashion and style advice, book and movie reviews, and common-sense and to-the-point essays on politics and economy.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Today... I am trying to beat the winter doldrums

While North Carolina does get more sunlight in the winter than, say, New York or Minnesota, the cold and the dreary landscape (no pretty snow to cover up the bare trees) eventually do get on one's nerves, especially when combined with the post-holiday emotional rundown.

My personal case of winter blues has been compounded by some less-than-dazzling health-related news, and the side effects from the drugs I had to start taking to combat those less-than-dazzling health-related news. When I found myself struggling over a new blog, I knew I had to pick a topic that would be good both for my readers and for me. So, I decided to focus on finding things that can lift one's spirits - winter or no winter.

Stay warm... and colorful

Of course we all want to bundle up. However, if we have to pile on the layers, let's at least make them interesting. Hats, for instance, can be tremendous fun - and they help you keep something like 70-80% of the body heat that radiates from your head (all that thinking turns the noggin into a veritable heat sink.) Whether you pick a beret, a cloche, a scarf or a full-on-Russian-princess fur hat, choose one in a rich color that would elevate your winter outfit out of the conventional black or gray dullness. A fun bag won't keep you warm, but can have the same brightening effect on your look.

I am not certain why, but most offices seem to be hell-bent on freezing employees to death by keeping the AC on and the temperature - at 62 degrees even during winter. Do not be reduced to wearing your coat at the office. Rather, opt for something elegant, soft, warm and colorful. Many places on and off line sell wraps of every imaginable variety. You can pick one that is barely larger than a basic scarf or one that can double as a blanket (and a very stylish blanket at that). As you decide on a color and pattern, hold the wrap up to your face in front of a mirror - pick the one that works best with your complexion and your hair and makes your eyes sparkle.

Being wrapped up to keep warm doesn't leave much room to show off your jewelry. A necklace would be hidden behind the wrap and a bracelet - under a long sweater sleeve. To bring in a bit of sparkle, consider an inexpensive pair of earrings or a set of stackable rings that pick up or coordinate with the color of your wrap.

Eat, drink and be merry

Tea, coffee and soup manufacturers must be making a killing right now, what with the Northern American continent turning into an Arctic suburb and all of us going for any hot food and beverage we could lay our hands on. However, the tenth bowl of chicken soup holds little attraction, and when you can't enjoy what you eat, you are not getting nearly the benefits of it.

Having color on your plate is important year-round but is doubly so in winter, when the eye longs for something other than gray and white. Bell peppers, squash, eggplant - all of them can add some much needed pop both to the color of your dinner and to the nutritional value of your household menu. And what can be prettier (and tastier) than a bowl of tomato soon with a grilled cheese sandwich?

Not sure, how to make your own? Hit places like Epicurious for easy recipes or splurge on a few ready made meals from Home Bistro, for example (their soup sampler is to die for and includes their fabulous bison chili breadbowl).

Your hot beverages need not be blah either. I love trying out new tea flavors, and winter is a perfect time to do it. Pomegranate... Blackberry... Mango... Green tea with lemon... Mmmm... Many of them are decaf, so you can have them through the course of the day. If you prefer coffee, consider going for darker richer roasts. This is also a good time of year to experiment with the French press coffee - that stuff will keep you going all day!

Re-decorate

Before you run away screaming, I am not suggesting that you do what I did - which was re-paint half of my house and make plans for the other half. Although, if you are feeling brave enough - by all means, go for it. Dressing the familiar rooms in bright new colors is a great antidepressant. Besides, climbing up and down the ladder with brushes and paint rollers is fabulous exercise, and painting the top portion of a wall is a nice way to stay warm, because that's where all the warm air is - under the ceiling.

If you are not feeling quite that ambitious, go for smaller things. Get red sheets or a new colorful comforter for your bed. Check places like Ross and TJ Max for inexpensive accent pillows and jewel-tone wine glasses. If you had too much fun while Christmas shopping and the budget is completely dry, print out some beautiful vibrant photos from your own collection or from the Internet, get some $6 frames from Dollar General and fill up the blank spaces on your walls with these small windows into summer and warmth.

Images courtesy The Leather Works, Yystudio, Maria K., Beautiful Silver Jewelry, Home Bistro, Republic of Tea, Brylane Home

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