First off, let me just say – GO HAWKS! Yes, this is what happens to us during the short winter days here in the Northwest. We become rabid fans of… something.

We have passed the solstice, and so our day light hours are creeping ever longer. Yes, I love it here, but I have to say that I tend to breathe a sigh of relief when that shortest day passes by. It feels like a halfway point in some sort of seasonal marathon. This is as long as the dark gets, my brain seems to say; we’ve made it through and are coming out the other side.

So what have I done with my winter days? I have once again been inculcated into the cult of the pigskin. I watched with glee as the Seahawks fought it out with the Saints to advance towards the Superbowl. Don’t get me wrong – I like football. I like it a lot. I am the daughter of a former football ref, and as his only daughter am proud that I was the child that watched sports with him. I’m just generally not this…involved.

Granted, I do the football thing a bit differently. We do many things a bit differently here, after all. Our football watching party included really good beer and take out from Pok Pok, (another cult I am a member of). I can only imagine what the play-offs will look like!

But it isn’t all sports all the time, either. Another passion I have found ramping up has been baking. Winter days are ideal for baking. Seriously, what is better on a cold and rainy day than cozying up to a hot oven? At the moment I am deeply immersed in Ken Forkish’s brilliant cookbook “Flour Water Salt Yeast” which is the best bread making book ever. I love how he invests himself in the details.  I have yet to actually make a loaf, but that is more about time than it is confidence. When it happens, I will post the results – good or bad – here.

Along those lines, I have also found myself immersed in the best geek cooking blog in the world. Serious Eats. What won me over was this – the Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies. How can you not love someone who is willing to go all scientific theory on cookies? There is so much to learn here, from how the ingredients affect the outcome to how to apply that to other recipes. I found myself mulling how I could improve a cocoa powder brownie I have been working with while reading this post.

Yes, I know; but hey – winter days in the Northwest call for something to take your mind off the fact that you have been living in a dim netherworld for days on end.

Football, baking, reading, and a lot of scheming. That has been my January.

I have come to believe that this time of year is necessary for me. It is my downtime to think and plan and gather forward momentum. Soon, not very soon, but soon – it will be light until eight in the evening. The sun will peek in my window well before 6 am. The Northwest urge to not waste a single moment of sunshine will drive me from my bed, from my home and out into clear skies (or even filtered sunshine) to accomplish….something.

Winter days, in all their gray, hushed, dim glory give me license to play with levains, to spend time in the warmth of my little kitchen and to figure out where the year is headed. There is an order and a calmness to it all. Well, save those playoff games, which are anything but calm.

Maybe it is just easier to dream of sunny skies on a dark day, to dream of possible futures, to brainstorm and consider and ruminate. Or maybe I am just trying to find a way to justify why I tend to hibernate on winter days. And to think that one of my schemes involves moving further north! Hey, it can stay light until darn near midnight once you get to Canada…