Living Simply | January 1, 2015

Rest in winter

Photo by Larisa Koshkina

January is a time when many of us decide that we’re going to make a change. We’re going to lose weight, get in shape, de-clutter, cook more, spend less, or quit a bad habit. We raise a new standard, set a higher bar of excellence and make bigger demands for ourselves.

My “Type A” personality likes the idea of starting new challenges on the first day of the new year for the same reason that I like to hang my clothes according to color, but I’ve realized that this “new year, more work” concept is a little backwards.

Think about it: there is less daylight in January, snow and cold force us indoors in many parts of the country, the ground is frozen, animals hibernate, and plants don’t grow. This entire season of winter seems designed to force us to slow down . . . stop . . . rest.

When I was younger, winter seemed to be the longest, most miserable season. But ever since my husband and I started growing and preserving enough produce to last us through the winter, I have actually begun looking forward to the cold. It means a break from our labor—that we’ve finally subdued the towering mountain of tomatoes and zucchini, and that we can spend our evenings doing something other than canning, and our early mornings doing something other than weeding. It means that we can rest, and that it is now time to enjoy the sweet fruits of our labor.

Stillness is a practice of willpower. To rest is an exercise in restraint. Why is it that we deny ourselves this thing that we so desperately need, as though restoration of the soul were an indulgence? Social expectations and cultural demands have wandered so far from what was surely God’s intent for the winter season.

Over the next few weeks, let’s take advantage of the gift of winter. Let’s savor the quiet. Let’s allow ourselves the luxury of respite in this season most designed for the practice of being still. Let’s set a new standard of excellence for down time before revamping our workload. Let’s take a break, give thanks for our many blessings, and relish the fruits of our labor.

Speaking of fruits of our labor, one of my favorite things to do with raspberry preserves canned in August is to spread them over these simple shortbread cookies. The same with blueberry and strawberry preserves as well.

Classic Swedish Shortbread Cookies

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Cream together 1 cup of softened margarine and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar.

While mixing, slowly add 2 1/4 cups flour and mix well.

Pat dough evenly into a jellyroll pan until it covers the entire bottom of the pan. Use a butter knife to divide the dough into four long rows. Make a small indentation the long way down the center of each row with your finger. Spread a jar of fruit preserves into the indentations.

Bake 10-15 minutes.

While shortbread is baking, mix 1 cup of powdered sugar, 2 teaspoons of water, and 2-3 teaspoons of almond extract into a glaze.

While cookies are still warm, drizzle them with the almond glaze.

When cool, cut shortbread into diagonal strips and serve (especially with coffee).

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at