Winter survival guide!
Hello Winter! We can’t complain, we had a very mild beginning of the season this year. Thank you for that! We hoped it was going to stay like that until the end but then the colder breeze came-in strong. We still have another month to go, and it is usually the time when most people plan a getaway to a warm, tropical place full of palm trees with fresh coconuts hanging and pineapple cocktails with cute umbrellas on top. For the rest of us who stay up here in the North, the best ways to fight the winter blues is with friends and fun times.
Our dear friend Kathy McLaughlin from Downtown London, helped us create a short guide for “when things get tough” this Winter. The most special part was our lovely meetings over tea, coffee and treats while creating the compilation. We already tried some of them, and will give it a try to the rest in the next few days. If you want to join on in the adventure you’re more than welcome! Just tell us in the comments how was your experience!
FREE OR ALMOST FREE:
-Watch the sunrise. It gets easier as it happens later during the colder months. You probably see it every morning before going to work, but next time, we just want you to be present. Sit down close to the window and just watch the sun rise, do it as meditation, be thankful for another day and then continue with your morning routine. You’ll notice how light and happy you feel throughout the day!
-Make angels in the snow like you probably did when you were a little kid. You can make an entire angel family… and don’t forget to give them names and take tons of pictures!
-Practice your ice-skating skills at Victoria Park and the Covent Garden Market Rotary Rink or the Springbank Park skating trail. Did you know that ice skating was brought from Europe in the 1740s and it is primarily divided into three categories: figure skating, speed skating and ice hockey. Victoria Park’s rink is free and open every day from 10 am - 10 pm, skate rentals and skate sharpening available weekdays from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm and noon to 10:00 pm on weekends. It’s free if you have your own skates!
-Shovel out the snow from a senior’s driveway. It will only take you a few minutes and you have no idea how happy you’ll make the other person, especially if he/she has a few extra years under their belt or is experiencing mobility issues. You can do this as a one-time thing, or register with Snow Angels London to make an ongoing commitment to helping your neighbours shovel their snow.
-Try snow painting. Fill spray bottles with water and food colouring and let the artist in you have fun painting the snow. (We haven’t tried this one yet but looks super cool!)
-Build a snowman, snowwoman, snow pet or snow fort, or all of them. If it’s the right kind of snow to build tunnels, build a snow run for your dog, make it a mixture of open spaces and tunnels, keep the path interesting and give your dog hours of fun running and playing in their own personal winter dog park. Make sure to take pictures and share with your family and friends! You can also have a snowball fight with friends and invite strangers to join. Soft snow only… keep it fun and harmless!
-Make a picnic at Victoria Park. Is this too crazy? Bring blankets and hot chocolate, sit on a table close to a tree to block the wind and fill the space with laughs and stories with family and friends. Grab a picnic basket, and stock up on fresh or prepared food from Covent Garden Market if you don’t have time to prepare it at home.
-Wear your best, warmest winter boots and aim for 10.000 steps on the snow. It sounds like torture at first, but once you’re out there you’ll enjoy being mindful, feeling the snow under your boots, listening to the crunchy sound with every step, hearing the birds and breathing the fresh cold air. Surround yourself in nature, Fanshawe Conservation Area is beautiful for it (plus the entrance and parking are free during the winter), or take a walk along the Thames Valley Parkway. You can also try cross country skiing or snow shoeing when everything is covered in white, just enjoy the quiet, peaceful sound of being away from traffic.
-Volunteer at a community soup kitchen or church to give food to those in need. Check online for information about services available to support individuals experiencing homelessness in our community, to see where you might find a fit for your talents and volunteer contributions.
-Visit The Market at Western Fair and the Covent Garden Market in a single Saturday. Have a market day adventure, stock up your fridge with fresh vegetables from our local farmers and decorate your home with handmade crafts from our local artisans. There’s usually live music, food samples and most likely you’ll see some old friends or meet new people! Make sure to say hi to: Common Ground Farm’s team, Mindy and Ryan from Loco Fields, Andrew from The Village Meat Shop, Ricardo from Bifana Boys, Brett from Exclusive Concrete, Danielle and Mike from Tiramisu Bake Shop, Laila from Laila’s Loft, the guys from The Root Cellar and Purple Moose Socks!
-Visit Museum London on a Sunday afternoon. Check out the new Centre at the Forks, and enjoy the winter wonderland panorama as you gaze out the windows at the Lorraine Ivey Shuttleworth gallery upstairs. If you’re still feeling “artsy” you can also visit the Arts Project, the Michael Gibson Gallery and the Forest City Gallery, they’re all very close to each other and always have great exhibitions from local and international artists.
-Go to a local bookstore and spend the entire day browsing through beautiful books. It feels like Chapters/Indigo have taken over, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you remember the smaller guys too. We have several bookstores in town that offer a wide variety of new and used books for all tastes, from reference books to trendy fiction, pop culture items and everything in between. Some of them are City Lights Bookshop, Attic Books, Mandala Books, Brown & Dickson Booksellers, Oxford Book Shop, The Book Store at Western University, Bread and Roses Books at The Bus Stop and The Library Store at the Central Library. If culinary reading is your thing, check out the cookbook sections of the bookstores, or pop over to Jill's Table and check out their well-curated selection of books. Make it your mission to learn something new!
-Visit the London Central Library, get your library card up to date (if you don’t have it yet) and rent a book for the week. Sometimes we forget about how things used to be in the past. There’s something magical about bringing back those childhood memories and doing things the traditional way, the way we used to do them before technology became so easily available. Do you remember how frustrating it was to have to look for a word in the dictionary vs just googling it on your phone? Do you remember the feeling of looking for a certain book and finding out it was already rented for the week? Play the nostalgia card and enjoy those stored memories! And once you have that library card, you can use the Libby app to request and download digital and audiobooks if you can’t make it out to the library when the weather outside is frightful. You can bring the world to you!
-Go to a Poetry Slam event with Holly Painter and get in touch with your inner poet! If you want to learn more about poetry slams, check out the InkWell Words and Wellness toolkit on Holly’s website.
-Write a handwritten card to a friend and send it through regular mail. Choose a card with artwork that your friend will enjoy. Share a funny story or an important memory, say something sincere about what their friendship means to you, ask them how they are surviving the winter blahs, or make plans to do something fun in the future. Stay connected!
-Visit Citi Plaza, on the site of the oldest shopping mall in our city. Originally named Wellington Square Mall, then Galleria London, the shopping centre first opened in 1960 to host the most trendy department stores. Its popularity was followed by a big expansion of more than twice the size in 1986, making it the largest mall in Southwestern Ontario at the time. With the recession in the early 90s, a big portion of the stores closed due to lower sales, and in 1996 the mall was sold for a small fraction of the initial renovation cost. The new owners opened the doors to a wider range of tenants and welcomed Goodlife Fitness, Rainbow Cinemas, the Central Library, Collège Boréal, Everest College, Fanshawe College, Continuing Studies at Western, a dental centre, a spa and a food court, along with many non-retail offices. If you decide to head down to Citi Plaza, you might stay for a movie at Imagine Cinemas.
-Visit a Maple Farm and become a maple connoisseur. Ask the farmers to tell you their story. We suggest visiting Crinklaw’s Maple Farm, the oldest in the London area. When you’re back at home, engage your family in cooking one of Crinklaw’s maple-inspired recipes from their website.
-Do a high class extra virgin olive oil tasting at Pristine Olive Tasting Bar. They will let you sample their olive oils and balsamic vinegars, will give you lots of interesting information about olive varietals, origins and processing, and will guide you through recipe ideas and best pairings. Truly a one of a kind experience!
-Try Skiing or Snowboarding to Boler Mountain. We live in Canada, we must embrace and enjoy the cold weather and white snow that we’re well known for. Burn some calories, fall a few times and have some hot chocolate and a well-deserved meal at the recently renovated ski lodge.
-Enjoy swimming to a warm indoor pool. The City of London offers a wide variety of swimming activities in all their swimming pools throughout the winter, the water is always at 28C, plus you’ll generate some extra heat from swimming. You don’t need to sign up, become a member or commit to going on a regular basis, they have one-day passes available so you can just give it a try one time. Most likely, you’re going to love it so much that you’ll repeat every week. Find a pool close to you here: Aquatic Services.
-Try indoor climbing at The Junction Climbing Centre and then grab a beer at Anderson’s Craft Ales as a reward from your efforts. Climbing is a great way to increase your range of motion and flexibility, it will make you use the muscles from your upper and lower body simultaneously, you’ll work on strength and cardio at the same time, and over time it can also help you think sharper, as you have to solve problems and take decisions quickly before each move.
-Sign up for yoga classes at the Downtown Yoga Centre, Body & Soul to go (you can head next door after the class for a delicious pizza at ZenZa Pizzeria), Shangrilah Yoga Studio, Modo Yoga or Yoga Shack. Align your body, give your mind a rest and enjoy the warmth of yoga practice in the middle of a cold winter day. Don’t be afraid if you can’t touch your toes with your hands; it is not about what you can do, it is about balance and inner peace, so let go of any expectations and just be present. Yoga is for everyone!
-Experience a Tea ceremony at The Tea Lounge or Wisdom Cafe. Enjoy a relaxing time and learn from the culturally rich traditions around tea. There are thousands of varieties, blends and stories behind the powerful tea leaves, from black to white, and all the way through Rooibos, green, Oolong, Pu-erh and everything in between. Find your favourites and discover the different medicinal properties of each. It promises to be an eye-opening, peaceful experience!
-For the big coffee aficionados, we have some incredible baristas in town! Stop by Locomotive Espresso and experience what the coffee culture is all about (and how good quality coffee, properly brewed tastes like). At Loco, they have some of the best baristas in town, including Meaghan Biddle, who enjoys sharing all her passion and knowledge in her barista workshops. You can learn how to prepare the perfect cup at home using the most traditional/easier brewing techniques, or test your latte art skills for the win.
-Make the weekends sweet and create a Bakery route. There’s nothing more heartwarming than a freshly baked cupcake straight out of the oven. Cookies, cakes, scones, squares, tarts, bagels and everything else in the baking realm! What makes baked goods SO GOOD is the love that passionate bakers put into them, it is the secret ingredient and it what will make you come back over and over again. We count the days to visit Danielle from Tiramisu Bakeshop every Saturday for her chocolate cookies, we love seeing Kate’s smile greeting us at the door of her Bake Shop Studio every time we go for her iconic macaroons, we drool over the sweet smell of freshly baked bagels and sourdough bread from Tabitha and Dave at La Noisette Bakery, we listen carefully to the stories from the different pastries at Cameli's Pastry and Cafe, and we enjoy staring at the beautifully decorated desserts from Olha from Happiness. These are some of our favourites and we hope they become your favourites too!
-Visit the Hyland Cinema and watch an inspiring documentary, a classic movie or an indie film. The 514-seat movie theatre was inaugurated in 1930, initially screening second-run films. In the 1970s it was redesigned and renovated to offer a larger lobby and update the sound and projection systems. Once the multiplex cinemas came into play, the Hyland started being at risk of being forgotten or even closed. In the following years, it was sold several times and it’s currently independently owned and operated, reclaiming its place as a true London landmark that screens award-winning films, international movies and all-time favourite classics.
-Get tickets for the Grand Theatre, whose busiest time of the year is during the colder months. Going to the theatre, along with many other cultural activities, has been proven to benefit the mind, making you more creative, social and human. You can end the night with a locally-sourced, handcrafted dinner at Garlic’s of London, or walk a couple blocks to visit one of the most renown restaurants in town, David’s Bistro, which was recently renovated and where you’ll always find the friendly faces of David himself greeting you at the door, his wife, Cindy, and his daughter Natalie taking good care of you.
-Visit Queen's Park and do a cultural tour in Old East Village. While in the area, you can do a short walk tour. Check out some quality vintage antiques at Back to Fuchsia, stop by Booch Organic Kombucha to get your gut in check, see what’s happening at The Bus Stop (part market space, part book store, part community space), meet the potters at the London Clay Art Centre and take a look at their most recent work (don’t forget to see their mural), stop by the Baker’s Dozen and discover more than 20 local artisans and their crafts (they also have a cool mural at the back), take a look inside the London Food Incubator and perhaps end the tour with a nice organic, sustainable lunch at The Root Cellar.
-Go to a Pottery night event with Laila Brandt from Lailart. If you enjoy getting dirty and creating masterpieces that will become part of your daily routine, then you should sign up for one of Laila’s workshops, where you can create your own. mugs, bowls, plates or abstract decorations to inspire you. You can find her every Saturday at The Market at Western Fair, take a look at her gorgeous creations and ask about the next workshop.
-Eat Ice Cream “in the cold” on the outside tables of Haven’s Creamery. If the elders say that a hot cup of coffee helps on the hotter days, will it work the same way for the winter days? There’s just one way to find out… order your favourite flavour on a waffle cone and head outside to one of the wooden tables from Haven’s Creamery. Compare the differences between their summer flavours and winter flavours. During the summer you try to finish the ice cream before it melts, now the challenge is to finish your ice cream before you freeze!
-Sunday brunch at The River Room can be transformational. The space has a breathtaking view of the river and gorgeous natural light coming in through the large windows that surround the place, the service is always kind and on-point, and the food is prepared with love with local ingredients. On February 18th, Chef Angie Murphy and her team from Grace Restaurant will be preparing a special pop-up dinner for Family Day. More information about Dinner with Grace here.
-It is always handy to learn how to throw an axe, you never know if you’re going to need the skill on your next camping trip… or for the next zombie apocalypse. Visit BATL Ground and start practicing. You can organize a small tournament with friends or co-workers, and see who’ll have more chances to survive in the wild. If axes are not your preferred defence mechanism, perhaps you can try archery at The Hood. To make it all even more interesting, you can also test your brain response, teamwork abilities and emergency skills in an escape room. It’s great fun and also good for building collaboration and teambuilding skills with co-workers too!
-Listen to a local band playing live. There’s nothing more satisfying than listening to your favourite band or discovering a new one live on stage, there’s something about the performance and people’s excitement that will make you remember that night forever. It could be something big at the Budweiser Gardens or something intimate and fun like the Friday Night Live at the London Brewing Co-Op or special events at Life of Leisure. Use the #LDNENT hashtag on social media to find events near you, or visit the London Music Office website to find your next new favourite local band!
-Plan your visit to the Budweiser Gardens to watch a London Knights Hockey Game. The Knights started representing London in 1965, since then, they have won more than 24 cups and titles in total. Enjoy the excitement of seeing them give their best up close and treat yourself after, with a high-end, locally sourced and handcrafted Italian dinner prepared by Chef David Lamers and his team at Abruzzi Ristorante, where you can also find mind-blowing desserts prepared one of the most talented and inspiring pastry chefs in town, Chandany Chen.
-Eat/cook something you’ve never tried before. It could be as simple as just an ingredient, or as complex as a 5-day process. Give another chance to something that scares you, prepare something (that you usually buy pre-made) from scratch, like bread or pasta, or do research on ethnic foods you’ve never heard of. You can start a food journal where you’ll write your thoughts about spices, aromas and flavours from different cultures, visit our local restaurants and compare flavours, ask questions and learn about the diversity of flavours and how to combine them. If you feel even more adventurous try brewing your own beer or Kombucha, or roasting your own coffee!! Have fun in the kitchen!
-Make a heartwarming hot chocolate with good quality chocolate. If you are feeling adventurous, add some chilli to warm things up a bit more. To keep things interesting, you can also try making a Mexican mocha latte.
-Create a meditation routine and incorporate warm thoughts every day to fight the colder days.
-Make a juice detox to boost your immune system, clean your body after the holidays and get ready for an exciting Spring season. Pulp and Press is one of the biggest Canadian juice companies and it was born right here in London in 2014. They offer a great line of cold-pressed juices, smoothies, probiotics and juice-cleanse packages that will keep you excited and on track during your detox. It will be good for the mind, body and soul!
-Organize a mystery meal. Invite friends, ask them to bring different ingredients and cook a meal together with what everyone brings. Challenge your creativity and have fun cooking with friends. If you need some inspiration or information about what’s in season, you can find a season chart in our cookbook, along with recipes for the different ingredients. You can also ask some of our local farmers what are their favourite meals with what’s available during the winter.
-Prepare a freshly-milled sourdough bread and play with different heritage grains. If you don’t know where to start or what to do, you can visit Richard and Sammy from Whole Grain Hearth and ask them for some guidance, they also offer workshops to help you with the basics before you jump on your own, and you can also buy some of his bread and compare with your first creations. Ok, that last one was just an excuse to eat a double portion of bread! It is SO GOOD!
-Host a fondue party and try this great recipe from Jill’s Table! Invest in a great fondue pot, and ask your friends/family if you can borrow theirs too. It’s always fun to make more than one fondue when you are entertaining a group. You can pair it with a “listening party” too. Ask each guest to bring their favourite digital or vinyl album and listen to all of them together. You can also ask everyone to bring foods that pair with the music and let them explain why, turning the event into a fondue + tapas night. Be ready to explain why the music and food you chose are so special and what they mean to you. If you need recommendations or are looking to expand your music library, you can check out Forest City Records, Old East Village Vinyl and Grooves records.
-Try learning how to knit and make yourself a nice, colourful and cozy scarf. Wear it proudly during the winter and if someone asks, teach them how to do one too! You can find everything you need at Leo and Roxy Yarn Co or at Knit Stitch at The Market at Western Fair. If knitting is not your thing, there are plenty of interesting crafts you can learn, like painting, woodworking, playing with clay, create paper snowflakes to hang with a string from the windows, make artisanal paper, cross-stitching, quilting, making a rug, colouring T-shirts and countless other activities that you can adopt as your winter hobby.
-Cook a meal as a family and make each family member in charge or a different course. Keep your ideas a secret, so in the end, no one will know what the others are preparing and everyone will have an interesting surprise dinner.
-Host a board games night at home. Visit Uber Cool Stuff, The Cardboard Cafe and Imperial Hobbies to get inspired or to pick up a new game you know your friends and family will love! If you’re feeling the need to go out to play, go to Milos' Craft Beer Emporium and check out their library of games available at the bar! They also have a Little Free Library where you can leave a book or take a book, and a unique vending machine featuring local artisan crafts. You can also opt for a more relaxing night, and host a movie marathon over a heritage popcorn tasting. You can find many interesting varieties at Wayne’s Gourmet Popcorn in The Market at Western Fair.
-Teach your kids how to prepare one of your favourite cookie recipes. Pass along your family and cultural traditions to the next generation, and make meaningful memories for your kids. Consider sharing the experience with friends and neighbours too. If you don’t have a favourite recipe yet, Chef Shauna Versloot from The Live Well Community included her grandmother’s shortbread cookie recipe in our cookbook, it holds great emotional value for her and she decided to share it so you can adopt it for your family as well. You can make as many variants and adaptations you want to “make it your own” and start a new family tradition.
-It’s a perfect time to jump on the minimalism bandwagon, to simplify and make space in your home. Clean your closets and take out all the clothing and household items that haven’t seen the light in a while. Donate what you don’t use to local charities, thrift stores or support centres. If you think minimalism is for you, find out what kind of minimalist you are in this article.
-Take a hot bath with candles, soft music and a glass of wine. Take time for yourself. Let your body know that you care about it and allow it to restore its natural balance. Leave the office, the kids, the traffic, the mortgage payments and the stress on the other side of the door and just focus on what makes you feel happy, your goals, dreams and loved ones. I’m sure you’ll leave energized, inspired and ready to face any challenges with a positive mindset the next day.
-Introduce yourself to your neighbours (if you haven’t done it already). Bring them cookies, or pie, or maybe wine, ask them about their story, find things in common, invite them over and talk about how you can make your neighbourhood better, together!
-Create your own list of things to do in the winter and try to cross them all off. If you don’t mind, you can share some of them with us, tell us how did it go, make suggestions and give us more ideas for next year. Perhaps we could do some of them together as a community or start our own winter group for all of us who struggle during this time every year.
These are some of our favourite things and best “winter discoveries” for now, it took us almost half the winter to finish the list and now we have the other half to finish experiencing all the activities listed. We’ll be back next year with more ideas, more activities to try (like frozen lake fishing?) and more favourite spots to visit. In the meantime, you can tell us what are your favourite activities during the Winter, so that we’ll feel like we’re not alone in this!