(Or, How to Survive Late Winter on the Prairies)
Here at All Things Jill and in conjunction with our friends at our sister company, The Apothecary in Inglewood, we've come to a conclusion over the years:
We will allow that it doesn't always suck (two years ago, it was beautiful -- for instance). And we will allow that even the worst March has bright spots, like the days getting longer (literal bright spot!) and ... ummm... sometimes Easter?
We really don't love March.
So, a few years ago, we came up with an idea to help us get through those last few weeks of winter unscathed. Those weeks when it really, really seems like spring should be here but often, it's just not. Those weeks when even though the days are longer, it's still darker than you'd like; and the ground isn't thawed to plant the garden yet; and there are often still a few blizzards. Did we mention we live in Calgary? If you live on the Canadian prairies, or almost anywhere in Canada besides the West Coast, for that matter; or in the American midwest, well... you get what we're talking about.
The idea was to not let ourselves sink into the despair that threatened to overtake us via wet socks, grey slush and slippery yet salty roads, and to instead give ourselves things to look forward to. Things to laugh about. Ways to feel joy.
We called it: Magical March.
Here in our building, Magical March consists of games like Hidden Thing (to be explained below); events like Pi Day, Ice Cream Sundae Day and Potluck Brunch; and activities like a bad joke exchange and a random regift exchange. All activities are optional but open to everyone.
As we head into a March that threatens to rival even the worst Marches of the past, and we have hit that point in the winter when we question: "Will it ever end?," we wanted to give you the chance to plan your own Magical March. Maybe that means choosing a few ideas from the list to schedule with friends or at work; maybe it means printing this list and using it for ideas throughout the month when you feel down; or maybe it will just get you thinking about how you can make these last few weeks of Neverending Winter not just bearable, but truly fun. Enjoy!
How to Use the List
First of all, don't view this as just one long list. Sure, it's a list of ideas, but you shouldn't choose more than a handful of things! We recommend you pick a couple of habits or recurring options, like a weekly board game night, for instance; or putting your pajamas in the dryer each night before bed to warm them up. Then, choose 3-5 activities in total for the whole month, from options like crafts, get-togethers, spa days or a road trip, and find a way to schedule them in. Again, none of this should feel stressful in any way -- quite the opposite! Choose things that make you feel really happy, and that seem easy or at least very do-able. They should fit easily into your life and make you feel excited to get out of bed in the morning. Last, share these ideas with someone close to you -- your family, people at work or a close friend. Maybe they want to join you? Just be sure to tell someone about it so that you'll actually do the fun things. We hope you feel much more filled with hope and joy after you have your Magical March planned out!
So, without further ado, we give you...
100 Ways to Make Your March Magical
Set the Mood
In reading about hygge, the now much-hyped Danish culture of cosiness, it struck me how much of it revolved around atmosphere. Here are some ideas for creating a cozy atmosphere this March.
1. Light a fire in the fireplace. Make a habit of sitting by the fire each evening and doing something that you enjoy (keep reading for ideas!)
2. Listen to beachy music. What music do you think of when you think of summer, or being at the beach? This will be different for everyone. You can also search for summer or beach playlists on your music streaming service.
3. Light some candles. Candles not only give off literal warmth, but candlelight really does create a warm atmosphere. Just be sure to supervise them well!
4. Get your lighting right. Whether it's via the afore-mentioned candles, "warm" lightbulbs, or simply turn off a too-bright overhead light in favour of lamps, lighting makes all the difference. Keep your spaces cozy by examining your lighting and making changes if needed.
5. If you use a diffuser, try scents that make you think of spring -- synergy blends from The Apothecary like Walkin' on Sunshine and Sunflower Citrus are said to be "happy citrus scents" while Secret Garden is a lovely floral blend. Scents like jasmine, bergamot, tangerine, spearmint, or May Chang might put a little pep in your step.
6. Enjoy winter sports — whether it's ice skating, cross country skiing, snowshoeing, tobogganing or something else, get out there and enjoy the snow while it lasts. You'll enjoy that post-sports hot cocoa knowing that you got some exercise.
7. Light a winter bonfire! Invite some friends or just gather the family. Sure, it's not quite like sitting around the fire in the summer, but a big fire in the backyard or a park while there's snow on the ground can remind you how magical winter can be. Don't forget the hot drinks!
8. Seek out the night sky. Find a spot free of light pollution and watch the stars, or check the Aurora Watch website to find out when and where to view Aurora borealis (you can even sign up for text alerts!).
9. If it’s really cold, try making frozen bubbles, or boil a pot of water and toss the boiling water into the air to watch it turn to snow before it lands!
11. Get some sun outdoors — even a few minutes each day makes a difference.
12. Enlist a friend or two at work to join you for outdoor walk breaks once or twice a day — just five or ten minutes makes a big difference!
13. Hang out with a friend who loves winter. Do something they like. Let their enjoyment offer you a different perspective!
Habits to Practice This Month
14. Enjoy the sunrise (and sunset). Try to get a look at either, whenever you can. Not only can they be beautiful, which brings joy in and of itself, but noticing the earlier sunrise and later sunsets will draw your attention to the lengthening days.
15. Practice mindfulness: start with one of these three easy ways to be more mindful this week.
16. Only wear the comfiest things for the entire month of March. It must be warm enough, soft enough, fit properly and cover you sufficiently to feel totally cozy. Promise yourself.
17. Adopt moon rituals. If the cycles of the moon are meaningful to you in some way, why not take steps to officially observe them with a ritual you really enjoy? This might be mixing up scented bath salts on the new moon to use in a bath on the full moon; or just going for a walk under the full moon each month; or perhaps tracking the moon and other aspects of your life in a bullet journal. There are lots of ideas out there for observing the cycles of the moon - get Googling and see what feels meaningful to you!
19. Leave the oven door open after you cook something, once you’ve turned the oven off. Only if there are no kids or pets in the house!
20. Start a ritual. This could be daily or weekly, or tied to a specific act, like your commute or shower. The point is that it should be pleasurable, and not feel like an obligation. This could mean creating a special morning playlist to play during your shower and buying a body wash that you love to go with it. It could mean making a point of reading for half an hour before bed each night. Or maybe it could be a weekly board game night with the family. Whatever it is, do it with intention!
21. Don’t fight naps! If you're feeling like you need to lie down for a 20 minute snooze and you have the option, just go for it. They say napping is good for you, right?
22. Fake laugh till you make laugh. This is a little saying that we made up here at All Things Jill and The Apothecary. We were all feeling a little down one day and decided to laugh our most ridiculous fake laughs until all of us were truly laughing. And it worked! We have done this a few times and have found that sometimes we think it's not going to work... but it always does!
Eat for Success
24. Up your coffee (or hot chocolate) game! Make a flavoured simple syrup to sweeten your coffee. Buy some really nice coffee beans and grind them yourself. Get a can of whipped cream. Use canned coconut milk in your hot chocolate. Or add extra cocoa. Put a sprinkle of ground cinnamon, cardamom or ginger in either. YUM! (Also consider: sprinkles??)
26. Eat some high quality chocolate: get a bar with 70% cocoa or higher and make sure that you love the taste.
27. Tea with mitts! Have you ever had a cocktail made with hot tea? Maybe Blueberry Tea (orange pekoe tea + amaretto + Grand Marnier)? The name for tea with alcohol added is Tea with Mitts (or at least some people call it that) and it can be a lot of fun pairing liqueurs with different teas! There are certainly worse ways to pass the time while we wait for winter to end.
28. Eat foods from warm places. Add a little spice to your life to warm up! Which spicy dish do you like? Thai curry? Jamaican beef patty? Indian… anything? BONUS: as you eat, picture yourself in the place where the dish originated. Maybe there are waves lapping at a shore...
29. Spend an entire weekend gathering the ingredients for, prepping and enjoying an unusual meal that you’ve never made before. We have our eyes on this vegan ramen!
30. Buy a really special treat (a beautiful macaron from your favourite bakery? A fancy cupcake? A lovely lemon tart?) and enjoy it on a fancy plate, by candle light.
31. Have a Build-Your-Own-Ice-Cream-Sundae Party! Gather some friends, hold it at work or just do it on your own. Make sure to have lots of different toppings to choose from and at least a couple flavours of ice cream on hand.
32. Drink more herbal tea! Iced or hot, herbal teas can help keep you hydrated by inspiring you to drink more fluids. If it's cold outside, hot drinks are always welcome, but it can be easy to overdo it on the coffee at this time of year -- keep your very favourite herbal teas at hand as an alternative.
33. Enjoy healthy fats! Your body needs fat to aid in the absorption of vitamins A, E, K and D, so be sure to include fatty fish like salmon; nuts; olives and avocados in your diet.
34. Make lots of soups and other large-batch meals and freeze them to reheat later. (You know... when the weather is, presumably, hot and you don't want the stove or oven on.)
Some Thoughts on Personal Grooming
35. Make your bath very special! Whatever that means to you -- whether it's the bath salts or foam or bath bomb you add; putting plants or crystals or candles around the tub; what you eat or drink while you're in there; or what you watch or listen to during your bath, make the experience really good. You're worth it!
36. Treat yourself to a goodie like a nail polish, lipstick or something else that makes you feel good about yourself!
37. Give yourself a home pedicure (or, pay someone else to do it).
38. Have a home spa day, complete with a facial.
39. Groom yourself as if you’re going to the beach — exfoliate, shave, whatever you need to do to feel beachy!
40. Make an amazing body scrub and use it in the shower to moisturize while you exfoliate. Add a scent that makes you happy.
41. Wear a perfume or scent that makes you think of spring. Personally, I have one that smells sharp and green and reminds me of a flower shop. Smelling it on my wrists from time to time reminds me that there will be flowers again... one day.
43. Stay moisturized! Make a simple sugar scrub from sugar and coconut oil to use in the shower; keep your favourite lotion nearby; and treat dry areas like the soles of your feet, and elbows to a little body butter if you like.
44. Use a hydrosol as your toner. Why? They smell amazing! Get a hydrosol you love and it can either be super relaxing (like lavender) or give you a nice pick-me-up (like neroli). Learn why hydrosols are the unsung hero of the aromatherapy world and then more about using them as toners. I use Neroli Hydrosol as my toner and because I love the scent so much, it gives me a little boost every morning.
Part of what makes March so difficult is the unending chill. We want to wear cute spring clothes but that March wind just won't let us. Take some extra steps to stay warm and cozy this month -- dig in your heels against winter while it lasts!
45. Visit a steam room or hot tub at the local rec centre. This is an affordable way to feel nice and warm!
46. Visit the tanning salon. This isn't for everyone, but if you're the type of person who experiences a warm afterglow after lying in the tanning bed (the tropical scent of tanning lotion doesn't hurt!), give yourself a pass this month and take in a few sessions.
47. Plan a trip to a hot spring. If you're lucky enough to live near a natural hot spring, why not pay it a visit this month?
48. Hit up a friend with a hot tub. Not that we're saying you should use your friends, of course. But if you have a friend who is happy to have you over for a soak, why not go do some catching up? Take them something yummy you can share as a Thank You.
49. Try hot (or warm) yoga. Get fit while staying toasty!
50. Make like a cat and find the sunny spot! Catch some afternoon sun through the window on a couch or large cushion. Have a little nap.
51. Spend a night, day or entire weekend in bed with a lover — hey, it’s good for your mood!
52. No fireplace? Find somewhere that has one — a hotel lobby, a coffee shop? Spend the day reading or writing by the fire.
53. Buy a bunch of very cozy socks and cycle through them this month. Do what it takes to keep your feet warm and comfy!
54. Put a hot water bottle in your bed before you go to sleep.
55. Use a heating pad whenever you need it - even at work. You might even want to keep one of those bags filled with rice or barley at your desk to pop in the microwave as needed.
56. Utilize the timer on your thermostat. Make sure it's nice and warm before you have to get out of bed; and save on energy by keeping the temperature lower when you're out of the house, and at night.
57. Institute the nightly ritual of putting your pajamas in the dryer for five minutes before bed.
58. Create a terrarium. What a nice way to bring some greenery into your home!
59. Make tiny pieces of furniture and other props so that when the snow clears, you can create fairy houses in the forest (make sure everything is biodegradable!).
60. Plan an epic April Fools Day prank.
61. Find some untouched snow and tramp a labyrinth into it.
62. Spend a day making Sharpie tie dye.
63. Check out a local art gallery.
64. Finally learn to crochet, knit or do another needlecraft.
65. Start a massive jigsaw puzzle.
66. Make coloured ice globes using water, balloons and food colouring.
Make a Connection
67. Plan a random regift exchange with friends or co-workers.
68. Host a potluck or weekly friend dinner, or brunch.
69. Instate a weekly board game night with your family or friends.
70. Throw a slumber party!
71. Force yourself to be social — even once this month! If you've become a bit of a homebody over the winter, force yourself to get out there and see people you really like. Chances are, you won't be sorry. Just give yourself a potential out in case you need it.
72. Cuddle a kitty, dog or a child. If you don’t have a pet or kid of your own (or they’re not interested), visit someone who does. Have a friend with a new(ish) baby, who likes to use baby carriers? Offer to wear their baby in the carrier while they shower, nap or do something else. They can show you how to use the carrier. The radiant heat of a baby is amazingly curative!
73. Invite a friend you’d love to catch up with over for tea. Bake something tasty before they arrive.
74. Visit your grandparents, if you have the option.
Look to The Future
75. Make a list of all the things you’d like to do this summer. We can dream! Try for a list of 100.
76. Set a goal for the future and figure out the steps you need to take to get there — and then start today!
77. Make a vision board.
78. Host a clothing swap. This is a great way to get inspired to clear out your closet!
79. Put together a capsule wardrobe to last you until REAL spring — only the coziest, comfiest items that make you feel really good!
80. Get your spring cleaning done now! A fresh, clean home will make it feel like spring has come early.
81. Spend a day binge watching a fluffy show and mending those clothes you’ve been putting off.
82. Wash your bedding!
Special Activities for at Home or at Work
83. Have a Pajama Day! At work, if it's appropriate, or just at home if not.
84. Pi Day! (March 14 <3/14> - this is an actual day that people observe! We like to celebrate like most others, by eating locally made pie.)
85. Hidden Thing: yes, we said we would explain this. In our search for very simple, and free things that would bring us a bit of joy, we came up with Hidden Thing. It simply involves choosing something small and cute or funny (we chose a small plastic cat that fits in our palm) and hiding it. Whoever finds it has to hide it again. And so on. Each time you find the hidden thing, it brings a little bit of fun and happiness! It's a reminder to not take life too seriously.
Bring Spring Into Your Life
86. Plant something! Get some seeds ready to get a head start for the garden, or just plant something to grow on your windowsill. Seeing those little green sprouts poke through should brighten your days a bit.
87. Buy yourself flowers or a plant. Again, that bit of green can really brighten things up!
88. Visit an indoor garden, if there is one nearby. If you're up for it, even the atrium of an office building will do the trick. Take a picnic!
89. Wrap a tree branch in yarn (a la yarn bombing) and “plant” it in a bucket of rocks.
Something Fun to Look Forward To
90. Designate one day a week to visit the wave pool.
91. Have a blanket fort movie marathon! Do it with your partner, a friend, the kids or a whole group!
92. Family massage day: book a massage for each family member. Or, just book a massage for yourself.
93. Plan a staycation! Either stay at home and spend your time visiting all the local attractions you don't get around to; or book a hotel room nearby.
94. Take a day off work and go on a road trip to somewhere within an hour of your home that you normally overlook.
95. Go dancing! This could mean taking in the local nightlife, or it could mean having a dance party with the kids. Or, you could even take dance lessons.
It Feels Good to Give
96. Spend a day writing letters and cards to loved ones and mail them right away— brighten someone else’s winter day.
97. Get a jump on this year’s Christmas gifts! Make something (knitting, cross stitch, woodworking?); shop sales; get started on a photo collage or other memory gift.
98. Perform some random acts of kindness!
99. Hang bird feeders — you’re not the only one anxiously awaiting spring!
100. Create a care package to send to someone who could you the pick-me-up.
We'd love to see how you make this March more bearable... even magical! Use the hashtag #MagicalMarch on Instagram or Twitter!