A Bucket List of My Own | Taking Care of Myself This Winter

As the temperatures have plummeted, I've found myself housebound these past few weeks. We packed up the last of the Christmas decorations (except the lights on our house, which will likely stay there until April!) and have settled into the deep winter.

When I moved to New York from California in the early 2000's, I was initially enamored with the winters here. It was the first time I regularly experienced snow, and I loved it. I soon discovered though that in the post-holiday slump, January and February can be kind of bleak.

I worked in the early mornings at a law office one year and would take the subway downtown at 5am to get to work on time. I still remember walking down 59th Street in the dark biting cold of pre-dawn February. It was rough.

These days the winter is made all the more difficult by being the mom of two young kids. Two kids who love to go to the playground, and run around outside. Being confined to the house - not only because of the cold, but because of the shortage of daylight hours - can cause some major cabin fever. The kids grow bored and grumpy and lethargic.

This year I approached winter armed and ready. I knew after last year that I needed to have some tricks at the ready to help us all pull through. I made up a list of winter happiness boosters, and originally I thought I would make a family bucket list. Bucket lists with the kids this time of year are tricky though. They are helpful for activity inspiration, but can also cause a bit of pressure. School is back in session and winter germs are running rampant. It's freezing outside. Most often we just spend the winter weekends laying low. I was afraid that a family bucket list might just be a recipe for failure.

So instead I've been thinking a lot about "hygge" and a change of attitude. Working on making our home feel like a place of comfort and refuge, and focusing on gratitude and making the best of these winter days.

I read on a blog last week about "winter decorations" - decorations that you put up AFTER Christmas to celebrate the winter season. I loved the idea. I brainstormed with a few friends and then began on our own "winter decor".

I checked out some of the online post-Christmas sales and ordered some LED candles and a string of lights that look like leaves that I hung over our living room window. The kids and I decorated mason jars with scraps of fabric to make candle holders. I found a couple of cute little houses on sale at World Market that I put LED candles in. I began folding origami cranes. I want to make about twenty of them and then hang them from a branch displayed in a vase. Something about origami cranes makes me feel hopeful.

I replaced a couple of houseplants that had become gnat-infested with a peace lily, an orchid and a lucky bamboo. I bought a bird feeder which we placed on the little table on our porch for all the neighborhood birds and squirrels to partake in - right outside our living room window, where we can enjoy the show.

Next on the list is to get some paper white bulbs and put them in a bowl with some stones. It will be nice to see them bloom. I also want to hang some new photographs on our living room walls.

I bought a little chalkboard which we hung in the kitchen and where we have been scribbling gratitudes everyday. And Eric surprised me with a belated Christmas gift - an inflatable hot tub in the backyard! We went in it for the first time two nights ago and it was AMAZING!

Something else I have been doing to combat the deep winter blues, is prioritizing doing things for me over work, chores, social media, etc, etc. I've been reading a lot and writing everyday. I've been going for short walks while the kids are in school. I've even been watching a bit of TV, which I hardly ever do! ("The Crown" and "Stranger Things"). I am also contemplating going to see a movie by myself one day - something I loved to do pre-kids. I think I have been to the movies only once since Lila was born six years ago!  Another outing I would love to do before the snow melts, is to go for a walk at the beach. I have never seen the beach in the snow and I so curious about it!

Despite saying I wasn't going to write a family bucket list, this is all sounding very bucket list-like, right?? Perhaps a winter bucket list just for me would be nice. Full of little wishes and desires. It feels a little strange to make a list that doesn't include the kids, but maybe that is my lesson to learn this winter. That I need to nourish myself before I can nourish others. 

So here it is. A little winter bucket list of items just for ME:

1. Read everyday.
2. Write everyday.
3. See one movie solo.
4. Visit a museum.
5. Play with watercolors or a coloring book.
6. Watch season 2 of "The Crown".
7. Make some Valentine's decorations.
8. Write down one thing I am grateful for everyday.
9. Go for a walk on the beach alone.
10. Look for color and light to photograph.
11. Grow some paper white bulbs.
12. Get a haircut.
13. Celebrate "spring forward".
14. Enjoy the hot tub!

How do you nourish your soul? What activities are helping you through the winter months? Do you decorate to celebrate the seasons? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Francesca Russell is a documentary-style family photographer and filmmaker located in Garden City South, NY. If you'd like to see more of her recent documentary family photography, head over to her Facebook page or follow her everyday adventures on Instagram. If you are looking for a family photographer or lifestyle videographer on Long Island or in the New York City area to document your family, small business or event, please contact her for more information.