Photo Credit: Jewish Press

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful…”. The chorus from the popular folksong by Dean Martin always gets stuck in my head during these cold, dark winter nights. Yes, Chanukah is over and the next Yom Tov is months away, but we can still enjoy winter with these fun activities!

Try any of these and you’ll sure to gain a new appreciation for winter.

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Cranking up the heat is always tempting once the temperature falls, but we don’t have to fall prey to the American stereotype of putting on sweaters only in summer. Keep the temperature at a reasonable level of 65 and layer up! There is a strong sense of comfort that comes with zipping up a warm sweatshirt, and pulling on thick, wool socks. You can’t bundle up like that in a house where the heat is at 75°.

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, use it! When we were in Switzerland, I was impressed to see stacks and stacks of firewood in people’s garages and building storage units. In America, I find that so many people have fireplaces and don’t bother using it as they worry about the mess or the potential danger of having a lit fire near children.

However, with some hard rules in place, such as nobody is allowed to pass a specific line on the floor, and making sure a responsible adult is in charge, a fire can be a magical experience. You can buy some treated logs that make starting a fire a breeze if you are not familiar with lighting up chopped wood. Gather everyone together with a stack of books and enjoy the show a fire brings.

Fire makes us think of marshmallows. I personally find roasting marshmallows inside to be a terrible idea as the gooey, melted marshmallow gets all over the floor, couches, and whatever else is nearby. Instead, a much cleaner and still yummy solution is melting marshmallows straight into hot cocoa, the drink of the winter. You can make your own hot cocoa with a simple mixture of sugar, cocoa and pinch of salt, mixed with hot water and whole milk. Adding mini marshmallows to the cup, watching them melt and then drinking the warm deliciousness, makes the cold, dreary days something to look forward to.

What’s better than baking during the winter! Crack open all the cookbooks you keep promising yourself you will use, and have each person in the family select a different recipe to experiment with. The warm, delicious smells will invade your home and warm your body – and your soul.

An added bonus: this is a great opportunity to make challah. It can be difficult in the cold weather for challah dough to rise, so making challah at the same time as your cakes and pies are baking in the oven and warming up the kitchen will solve that problem.

Enjoy some hot, delicious soup! I personally love soup, all kinds of soup. There is absolutely nothing more satisfying than a warm, chunky soup, accompanied by a thick slice of bread for dinner.

Take advantage of the cold weather to showcase your fun scarves and pretty hats! It’s nice to switch up clothes every now and then. In fact, I know people who live in tropical climates and complain about their lack of seasons, so at least we can appreciate the change, where we get to pull out cozy scarfs, woolen mittens and sleek peacoats.

Finally, after a day of shoveling snow, or tramping through freezing rain, treat yourself to a hot bath. Children love taking baths, but there is no reason that they should have a monopoly over the bathroom! Clear out the bathtub of all the rubber ducks and other paraphernalia, and draw yourself a hot bath. Don’t forget the bubbles and a good book!

Winter can seem long and dark, but before you know it, spring will come and you will have a greater appreciation for that first day when you can cast off your coat and go outside and enjoy the breeze.

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Pnina Baim is the author of the Young Adult novels, Choices, A Life Worth Living (featured on Dansdeals and Jew In The City) and a how-to book for the Orthodox homemaker, Sing While You Work. The books are available at amazon.com. Pnina is available for speaking engagements and personal consulting. Contact her at pninabaim@gmail.com.