Do you have a plan to have more winter fun during 2021? Whether you love to brave the cold and snow or snuggle up indoors, I rounded up a variety of ways you can make winter more enjoyable in the Twin Cities. In spite of restrictions due to the coronavirus and a slow rollout of a vaccine, I encourage you to remain active, hopeful, and engaged with community life. Together we can thrive.
Did you know that the most popular hobby in the USA is watching TV? Who hasn't slipped into their PJs or "Netflix pants" and enjoyed a big bowl of popcorn on a snowy winter night? Yet, after so many months of isolation and screen time, I'm suggesting hobbies and activities away from a screen. Here's a list that includes fun distractions, activities, hobbies, and even a few opportunities for personal growth.
Indoor Activities for a Winter Day
- Many of us enjoy special music during December, and once the holidays are over, we miss the music that made the days feel special. Take time to create a winter playlist or enjoy someone else's. Author Myquillyn Smith, nicknamed The Nester, has popular seasonal playlists you can easily find if you search Nester Smith on Spotify.
- Choose a signature fragrance for your home, either seasonal or year-round. A friend of mine took this idea one step further. Not only does she always burn a Woodwick "Evening Bonfire" candle in her own home, but she also gives that candle as a shower or housewarming gift to all her friends. As an alternative to candles, either simmer a stovetop potpourri or diffuse a blend of essential oils. Of course, Pinterest offers an abundance of options to try. Once you find something you like, make it your traditional winter fragrance to mark the change of seasons.
- Baking is also a popular hobby. Choose and perfect your signature winter meal or dessert. My favorite one-dish meal is Chicken Pot Pie. I've never had a failure, and my family and friends always are impressed. It's easy to change up the flavor with different vegetables, seasonings, and meat, such as leftover roast beef. My signature dessert is a fruit crisp and this apple crisp recipe is my family's new winter favorite. For some fantastic baking inspiration, follow Minneapolis pastry chef Zoe Francois on Instagram. After watching her, I really want a kitchen food torch!
- Listen to a new-to-you podcast. I ask family and friends for ideas, listen to at least one episode, and then follow up with them about their recommendations. My adult son was excited to tell me that our family-favorite audiobook series, Hank the Cowdog by John R. Erickson, is now available as a podcast featuring the voice of Matthew McConaughey. My own recommendation is The Lazy Genius podcast hosted by author Kendra Adachi. She hooked me with her tagline: Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don't.
- Did you get an Instant Pot for Christmas or on Black Friday? Many people open the box, read the warnings, and never use it! Want some Lazy Genius advice? Start simple to take away your fear; cook either rice or hardboiled eggs in the Instant Pot. Once you've done that, you'll feel confident to take the next step. Also, you'll need an Instant Pot cookbook. Not only will you learn how to prepare new dishes, but also you'll learn how to adapt your own recipes for the Instant Pot. After some research, I bought This Old Gal's Pressure Cooker Cookbook. Don't judge a book by the title! There are 120 family-friendly recipes and excellent photos. (I need to see a picture of food to know whether or not I want to eat it.) If you want to try a few recipes before you buy a book, follow This Old Gal on Facebook. (I just discovered Thriving Home on Instagram, and Polly+Rachel will help you make freezer meals for the Instant Pot. Check them out!)
- More people are learning about their heritage through DNA testing, such as 23andMe. Use the information to open new doors to cultural cuisine, music, literature, folk art, unusual sports, language studies, and travel shows. Perhaps you grew up eating traditional foods but never prepared them yourself. Ask family members for their recipes and tips.
- Make a video recording about an aspect of your cultural heritage with an older relative, similar to this video that inspired me to bake krumkake.
- Light up your home with ice luminaries. Minnesota's Jennifer Shea Hedburg is a master at the craft!
- After packing away Christmas lights and decor, add cozy texture to your home with a faux fur blanket, pillow, or sheepskin.
- Ask your friends who like to read for their book recommendations. My husband and I are setting aside our e-readers in favor of books from our local library. (You can either pick up a book from the "Hold" shelf or schedule a curbside pickup.) Reading a physical book is a welcome break from screen time! My husband read Minnesota author William Kent Kreuger's entire Cork O'Connor mystery series, which is set in Minnesota. My mom and sisters loved Kreuger's recently published novel, This Tender Land. I'm enjoying Louise Penny's Chief Inspector Gamache series, which deals with the themes of justice, redemption, and second chances. I highly recommend the audiobooks! Once I've completed the Inspector Gamache series, I'm tempted to return to Jan Karon's Mitford series with Father Tim. I'll never forget his prayer that doesn't fail: Thy will be done. Winter is the perfect time to binge-read through a favorite series of books! (Just a note about Kreuger and Penny's murder mysteries: As I explained to my young nephew, the bad guys in a story do bad things and say bad words. That's why some books and movies aren't appropriate for everyone. If a book makes you feel uncomfortable, please don't read it.)
- Keep a 5-year diary. Last year I purchased this one because it's small and includes a writing prompt for the day. Typically I jot down a few lines of personal history, breaking news, or simply observations about the weather and natural world around me. I never knew 2020 would be such a crazy year, and who knows what 2021 has in store.
- Invest in your spiritual wellbeing and find hope. More than likely you've experienced some type of loss recently, and it's essential to recognize and grieve it. Even during a pandemic, you don't have to do that alone. Minnesota Governor Walz acknowledged the importance of gathering in community for prayer and worship so we don't lose heart. Churches have made accommodations to allow people to safely gather in person or you can come together as a faith community online. We invite you to prevail through difficult circumstances rather than feel overwhelmed.
- Spend some time reflecting on the past year and setting goals for 2021 using this free guide from Magnolia.
- Invest in your future and learn something new. The Dakota County Library offers free access to Lynda courses through their K-12 program. (Lynda was recently rebranded to LinkedIn Learning.) Take online courses in business, marketing, design, photography, web, and software development.
- Learn a new art medium or handcraft. Now you can easily buy a kit and enjoy online instruction that you can refer to at your own pace. Let's Make Art offers kits for adults and children. Gray Duck Art in Minneapolis will create a paint-by-number kit from a photo of your pet!
- The Fat Quarter Shop has a free series of videos to teach you how to make the Ultimate Beginner Quilt. If your tastes are more modern, check out The Modern Quilt Guild and international modern quilt superstar, Victoria Findlay Wolfe, who grew up just south of the Twin Cities. There's a lot of inspiration and positive interaction within the online quilt community. Kristin Esser welcomes people who quilt, knit, or just like keeping a cozy home.
- If you want to learn how to cross-stitch, follow the link -- this craft is making a big comeback during the pandemic.
- Learn fly tying to prepare for a fly fishing adventure. (Learn more about fly fishing in Minnesota below.)
- If you're interested in metal or woodworking, check out Twin Cities Maker! They have classes and equipment.
- Plant a terrarium now as you plan for a garden in the spring. Or create an indoor fairy garden and read Cicely Mary Barker's classic Flower Fairies books.
- Design your own board game using this kit that includes all the classic elements of a game.
Outdoor Activities for a Winter Day
- Chances are you've heard of ice fishing, but have you tried it yet? If you're not one to sit still waiting for a nibble, maybe you want to try winter fly fishing in Minnesota. Outdoor guided tours are available year-round.
- Collect maps of the Dakota County parks, Minnesota state parks, and your local city parks. Make a plan to visit new parks and check them off your list. Some parks have great winter amenities, like sliding hills, snowshoe rental, ice fishing, and groomed ski trails. Pick an activity, such as sledding, and visit a number of parks. Ask your kids to rate each park because everyone likes to share their opinion. Perhaps you'll discover a new favorite location.
- Go stargazing with the Minnesota Astronomical Society.
- Are you a sunrise or a sunset person? Make a date on a clear day to enjoy a hot beverage and snack while you watch the colors spread across the sky. Visit a park or scenic overlook for an unobstructed view.
- Go birdwatching at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge or hang a bird feeder at home and identify your backyard visitors. The Audubon Society has great resources.
- During heavy snowfall, go outside and listen. The snowflakes absorb sound. Do you notice a difference?
- Try a new outdoor activity: ice skating, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, or riding a fat bike. Parks and recreational centers have made a few changes during the pandemic so you can still enjoy time outside with friends and family. When you're learning new skills, it's fun to do it with someone who will laugh along with you.
- Learn about a different winter sport, such as curling, or broomball. Observe a game and try it for yourself.
- Pack up food for a winter picnic. Make it special and have a picnic basket ready to go at a moment's notice. I stock a vintage picnic basket with cute (and cheap) plates and cutlery from Target. Spread out a blanket, pass out the travel mugs or fill cups from a Thermos, and enjoy a sandwich outdoors on a sunny winter day.
Come on, Twin Cities! Let's be the Bold North and stay hopeful and engaged with our family, friends, and community. With a little effort and planning, we can make the best of winter!
P.S. If you think a friend would appreciate this list of ideas, please share this post with them. You can also pin it to your Pinterest board to keep as a reference!
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