An Insider's Guide to Winter Survival in the Granite State
We're all hearty New Englanders, there's no doubt about it. Whether you're a flinty lifelong Yankee or a flatlander from away, anyone who can survive the snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures of our darkest season has earned the title. But, let's be honest, while some of us celebrate the season of black ice and snow angels, others hunker down and endure it.
For every ski bunny there's somebody back at the lodge quivering in the warmth of a wood fire, and for every outdoorswoman invigorated by a moonlight hike in fresh powder there's a homebody with his head buried in a book counting the days until spring.
But we all have to get through this together. It's the yin and yang of winter. Here's a survival guide for your body and your mind.
Even if the electricity goes out, all you need is a good book and a lantern to get you through the long dark days of winter. We asked the experts what they'd recommend.
"Go big. Be the hibernating bear in front of the fireplace," says Laura Lacy, owner of White Birch Books of North Conway. "I'm reading the 'Song of Fire and Ice' series." Each of the five-book series by George R.R. Martin is about 800-1,000 pages. "That would sustain you through even the longest New Hampshire winter. Even if you listen to it – each audio book is 25 hours long. But it's a great choice because the books are transporting. You're going to another world." And if you happen to get through the epic, don't worry. Two more books are scheduled to come out and HBO has turned "Game of Thrones" into a television series.
Robert Kenney, whose family has owned Homestead Bookshop in Marlborough for more than 40 years, recommends history for a winter read – New England history.
Kenney says he read "Paul Revere's Ride" by David Hackett Fischer in his book club and thinks its 464 pages would provide a little education about the American Revolution along with some winter entertainment. "He was an anomaly and most people only know him by the Longfellow poem. But really, his ride was not that important in his life. This book gives you a look at who he really was and it takes place here, in northern New England."
"Winter had come early to New Hampshire in 1774. The snow deep on the ground by Thanksgiving Day, November 24. Another snow fell on December 9, and turned the highways into morasses of mud and slush. Then in typical New England sequence, the weather turned bitter cold. The thick slush froze in rough furrows on the rutted roads." So wrote David Hackett Fischer in "Paul Revere's Ride"
Last winter Sherry Evans, a librarian at Portsmouth Public Library, read Wilkie Collins' epistolary 800-page novel, "The Woman in White," and recommends other readers to do the same. Collins, a contemporary of Charles Dickens, first had the book released in serial form in 1859. It's considered to be one of the first mystery novels. "It's very long, very thick and very dense," says Evans. "It's got evil women, men in white and all the classic makings of a good detective story." If the snow is too high to get to the library, "The Woman in White" is available for free on Kindle.
For those who like to go outside in the winter Photosynth, a free app from Apple allows you to stitch together those scenes of the snow-covered mountain range you're about to hike and create a 360-degree panoramic photo from left to right and up and down, to come up with a sphere-like image. Want to make your friends who live in warmer climes jealous? Share the panorama to your e-mail or Facebook or publish it to Bing Maps.
After a day outside snapping those winter photos, wouldn't it be nice to cozy up to a warm fire? Hear the snap and crackle and witness the soothing flames on FirePlace, a free app. OK, so you want to feel the heat, but you can take your little flame along with you anywhere, and the app also comes with choices of background music or allows you to download your own and you don't have to clean up those messy ashes afterward. And don't worry about the fire burning a hole through your mobile device. It has an auto-extinguisher timer. FireDroid is a similar free app for Android users.
Baby, it's cold outside, but how cold does it feel? Wind Chill Widget is a free Android app that will display the current wind chill conditions. Wooly Wind Chill is Apple's version of a free wind chill calculator app. Temperatures can be displayed as either Celsius or Fahrenheit.
There's a reason why so many famous artists and writers are from New England – long winters are the best time to cultivate your mind.
The Nackey S. Loeb School of Communication in Manchester (www.loebschool.org) offers six-week courses given by experienced, working journalists and other professionals for free.
Too cerebral? You can get in touch with your inner Gordon Ramsey (minus the snarky) at The Manor on Golden Pond in Holderness (www.manorongoldenpond.com), which offers two-day Fork in the Road Gourmet Cooking Classes for the newby or the experienced while living the high life in the country inn.
The Colby Hill Inn (www.colbyhillinn.com), 33 The Oaks St., Henniker, runs Cooking Confidential – An Evening With The Chef – Monday-night classes starting in January and running through to the spring. The $125 price of the classes includes cooking lesson, monogrammed chef jacket, take-home recipes and a three-course dinner with wine. Early reservations for classes are recommended and, yes, you can give the classes as a holiday gift.
After cooking you may want to think of channeling John Travolta and sign up for a dance class, solo or with your honey. For example Queen City Ballroom Dance Studio in Manchester (www.queencityballroomnh.com) offers ongoing hustle classes.
If you think weathering a long, cold, dark New Hampshire winter is a challenge in the age of HD television, iPods and high-speed Internet, imagine what our Colonial forefathers and mothers would do? They flipped it. The heady concoction called Flip was hugely popular among the colonists first showing up in the late 1600s. Made with rum, beer, sometimes egg and cream if available, and some sweetening agent – raw sugar or molasses or pumpkin seed if that's all you had. And if you were lucky enough to have spices, nutmeg and ginger. After everything was mixed, an iron poker or loggerhead was heated in the hearth, then plunged into a pewter mug or ceramic pitcher to heat the flip and give it a burned flavor. In the December entry of the 1704 New England Almanac there was even a poem about the drink:
"The days are short, the weather's cold,
By tavern fires tales are told.
Some ask for dram when first come in,
Others with flip and bounce begin."
Imbibing was such a Colonial pastime that a drinker's dictionary ran as a newspaper article in the winter of 1737, attributed to Benjamin Franklin, listing more than 200 adjectives to describe the state of drunkenness including groatable, buzzy and "halfway to Concord."
Food columnist Marc Bouchard of Hudson is the executive chef at Stellna in Watertown, Mass., but he lives in New Hampshire and has this advice about a must-have winter larder:
You wake up one winter's morning to find that the roads are a sheet of ice, school has been canceled and you're trapped indoors with a ravenous horde. You haven't been to the supermarket in days, but luckily your larder is stocked with the following:
- Garlic: If you can have just one flavoring agent, it has to be garlic. One clove can season a salad, two a soup and three or more can make your main course sing the "Hallelujah Chorus."
- Onion: Garlic may be my favorite aromatic, but onion is the most indispensable. Its sweet flavor is the starting point for every successful soup, stew and sauce.
- Grated parmesan or other cheese: Melt it on bread for a snack, sprinkle it on top to disguise leftovers or stir it into pasta to make the kids think that it's macaroni and cheese.
- Dried Pasta: 75 cents' worth of dried spaghetti combined with garlic, grated cheese and any leftover protein or vegetable equals one main course, ready in about 12 minutes.
- Cabbage: The world's only indestructible fresh green vegetable. Shred it to make a slaw, chop it into a soup, slice it for a stir fry or steam it as a side dish.
- Corn Tortillas: More durable than bread, and just as versatile. Make huevos rancheros for breakfast, tacos for lunch, enchiladas for supper and homemade tortilla chips for a late-night snack.
- Eggs. They last for a month in the refrigerator and can be turned into an omelet, French toast or the aforementioned huevos rancheros.
Bouchard also recommends keeping canned tomatoes, dried lentils, dried rice and popcorn on hand.
Simple Snowstorm Spaghetti with Oil and Garlic
- 1 lb. dried spaghetti
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add spaghetti and cook according to directions until al dente. Meanwhile pour the oil into a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and a pinch of black pepper and cook just until fragrant. Drain the pasta and add it and 1/2 cup of the pasta water to the pan. Add the parmesan and toss well.
Shoveling for Safety (and Exercise)
For those of us who are at one with the snow, shoveling the white stuff isn't a chore, it's part of out fitness routine. "I prefer to call it snow training," says Nancy Carlson, a Concord fitness instructor.
And why not? A person who weighs 170 pounds burns about 1,250 calories for every 30 minutes spent shoveling. Carlson, who owns the Get Fit NH Boot Camp, suggests a five-minute warm up period of stationary high knee runs, jumping hand claps, forward and lateral lunges and squats before addressing the shovel.
And the workout guru has several other tips. To avoid back pain, she recommends shoveling with a split stance, one leg forward and the other leg back. She cautions to always shovel snow in the direction that your toes point to minimize excessive spinal rotation that can wrench your back, and suggests that you mix it up, 10 shovel tosses to your left with your left leg forward and then do 10 shovel tosses to your right with your right leg forward.
The yin to the snow shoveler's yang is keeping snow from accumulating on your roof.
As the snow melts and freezes it can create ice dams that add weight to your roof and can lead to expensive repairs. Your weapon of choice is a snow rake. A 21-foot aluminum rake costs about $60 at local hardware stores.
Site preparation is important. You don't want to be falling into a hole while pulling snow down from above. First step is to prepare a path around the house either by shoveling or packing snow around the house by taking little tiny baby steps, retracing your steps many times. When you begin pulling the snow down, get the easy stuff first. Make the removal part of your exercise routine and remove a little snow every day. It's important to plan in advance. By mid-February when you might need a rake, stores are often sold out. Of course, if you have any known health problems, check with your doctor before shoveling or raking.
Snowshoeing – it's not just for trappers anymore. In recent years the Native American form of winter locomotion has gotten downright trendy. And why not? Snowshoes have become lighter, smaller and less cumbersome and you can burn 400 to 1,000 calories an hour depending on your pace, the terrain and the gear you are carrying. You don't need any special skills, the equipment isn't particularly expensive and the silence and beauty of a snow-frosted field or forest is its own reward. You can rent snowshoes and get instruction at many ski areas including Gunstock, King Pine and Loon Mountain as well as the Beaver Book Association environmental center in Hollis.
Even the most ardent cold-weather fan tires of the gray and white that is the palette of a New Hampshire winter. Take a nice indoor walk while giving your eyes and tastebuds a reminder of nature's true colors and tastes by visiting an indoor farmers market.
An indoor holiday farmers market will be held at the Derry Parks and Recreation Department, 31 West Broadway from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. December 4 and December 18.
Starting January 7 and continuing every first and third Saturday of the month through March 17, there will be an indoor winter farmers market at West Running Brook Middle School, also in Derry at 1 West Running Brook Ln. from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Winter indoor markets will begin at Cole Gardens (www.colegardens.com), 430 Loudon Rd., Concord, each Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting January 7 and running through March 31.
If you are up north, Berlin will host a winter farmers market on Dec. 3 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bickford Place (site of the old Rite Aid building).