Winter Is Coming

Well, to be honest, it's pretty much here. 

Living in a four-season climate is a double-edged sword. Southern Wisconsin in the summer is glorious.

No... beyond glorious. The temperature is warm but moderate - usually around 80 degrees. The humidity can be high because there are lots of bodies of water but it's generally not uncomfortably humid. Most older homes don't have central air - just ceiling fans and the occasional window unit to take the edge off when it's necessary. This past summer, I ran my air conditioner for a total of 6 days.

But winter... ugh. Bitter cold and lots of snow. Even in years when the winter is considered mild, it's difficult (for me, anyway) to navigate the cold. A few years after moving here, I learned that winter is only as brutal as how inappropriate your winter wardrobe is. But, even with this piece of wisdom, I'm never, truly, warm. I live my life wrapped in wool, down, and long-johns. There are multiple blankets on my sofa and my dogs are required to act as heating pads. Oh... and the best thing I've ever bought for myself - bar none - is a heated mattress pad. I'd like to point out that it's really, really hard to be truly stylish and truly warm. 

Of course, along with the change of season comes the sniffles. I've already had one bad cold (it's still hanging on a bit) and Cassandra has pneumonia. And it's only November. All winter-season survivors have some routine for when they get sick. This year, I've started making my own Cold Buster Tea that came from a recipe that was originally printed in Bon Appetite Magazine (of all places). I swear it helps - especially when combined with a Neti Pot regime and a lot of sleep. 

Cold Buster Tea

1 Tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (fresh makes a difference - I've tried using bottled and it's not the same)
2 teaspoons of honey (use more if you need it to be sweeter or if your throat hurts)
1 teaspoon of finely grated ginger (fresh is a must. powdered/dried ginger doesn't work)
1/4 teaspoon of echinacea extract (you can find this at natural food stores or online)
A pinch of cayenne pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a mug with one cup of boiling water. Stir until honey is dissolved. Let steep for a few minutes. You may strain it if you prefer not to ingest the tiny bits of ginger.

Additionally, I like comfort food when I'm sick and my new, favorite crunchy snack is homemade, seasoned hard pretzels. This also makes a GREAT game-day snack for those of you who follow the sportsball.

Seasoned Pretzels

2 lbs of hard pretzels, broken into pieces
1 1/2 cups vegetable or Canola oil
1 package of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix
1 teaspoon dill
1 teaspoon lemon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. 

Put broken pretzels in a large roasting pan. Mix all other ingredients and pour over pretzels. Stir well to coat the pretzels. Do not cover the pan. Bake for 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Beware - these are totally addictive.

Stay healthy everyone!

- Alex

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