cry uncle

I’m one of those people who genuinely struggles with winter. I like winter, and somehow I’ve managed to tackle 43 of them, but not without effort. I have all the prerequisite gear: sorels, skis, mukluks, snowshoes, down parka, yaktrax, thick woolly socks, a pom-pom hat, you name it.

But I also have Raynaud’s. Which means my blood vessels are prone to spasm. Spasms that cut off circulation to my fingers, toes, nose, ears, and yes, even my butt cheeks. More often than not, these extremities are in some crazy shade of blue or white and are pretty much numb. It can be a real buzz kill.

Still, I try. This year more than ever, I’ve made it a point to embrace the cold. When we got our first blizzard in early November, I took it as an opportunity to expand our snowshoe trails. When the thermometer got stuck below zero in December, I just quit looking and went outside anyway. And when we were dealt a long string of grey days in January, I donned my pom-pom hat and remained cheerful.


But this week? This week it’s all over. Winter has officially pinned me down and made me cry uncle.

It’s my own fault. I made a tactical error of spending a long weekend in California. California, where it was bright, and sunny, and warm. It only bothered me a teeny tiny bit that they are struggling through their worst drought ever and I was visiting in what should be the rainy season. Plus one for climate change. I came home with a stiff neck for how much time my face spent involuntarily craned towards the sun.

But I can’t pin my winter resignation solely on the sunny weather. The company had a hand in it too. Allow me to do the math. Five lifelong friends renting a beach house + 4 bright, sunny, warm days in an otherwise cold grey stretch = nothing can compare, so don’t even bother trying, and good luck getting on with the rest of winter. Sigh.

I spent my teenage summers with these four women, but we weren’t doing typical girly stuff. Instead, we were backpacking through the mountains via Camp Widjiwagan. Together we traversed the Bighorns in Wyoming, the Beartoooths in Montana, then northward to the Canadian Rockies, and finally, a six week trip (complete with 2 air food drops) to Kluane National Park in the Yukon.

Let me tell you when you spend 43 nights together in a tent, you get to know each other pretty much inside and out. And when you do things like break camp in the early pre-dawn to forge a stream that’s too raging to cross during the day because of glacial melt, certain sort of trust emerges.


I guess there is an inexplicable bond that forms when you make the choice to drop off the map together, into the wild with only yourselves to rely on. That’s the only way I can account for the five of us, living all across the country, leading very different lives, still being able to come together and instantly join at the hip.

What a relief it is to have people like this. You can check your back story at the door because they already know it by heart. These are the friends who you’ll stay up late with, spilling wine on your jammies. The ones you’ll stumble down to the beach with, hot coffee in hand, for some morning yoga. The ones whose job it is to restore you. The ones who will make you feel 18 and invincible.

Can you see how winter got the upper hand?

I arrived back in the land of cold and perpetual grey with a few bright reminders tucked in my carry on. Citrus from my friend Cari’s lemon and lime trees. I set my gems on the counter and fixated on them all week long. I grew overly attached. In the end, I more or less had to force myself to use them. I just couldn’t bear to relinquish their bright, sunny energy. Finally, reason kicked in and I understood that watching them gradually rot would be worse.


Which is how I wound up with three lovely little lemon loafs sitting on the counter instead. Not a bad trade-off. Because now, instead of putting on an extra layer to go out, I can just stay in and have another slice of encouragement. Uncle.

Lemon Cake
(adapted from Rose Carrarini’s Breakfast Lunch Tea)

This is a subtle, unobtrusive lemon cake, laced with almond flour. And like the book it originates from, it is absolutely perfect for breakfast, lunch, and tea.

1 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
juice and zest of 2 average size lemons
1 rounded teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond flour
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

For the glaze:
juice of 1 lemon or lime
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar

Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs in, one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla, lemon juice, and zest. In a separate bowl, mix dry ingredients together with a whisk and gently fold into the batter.

Pour batter into a well buttered pan (1 loaf, 3 smaller loafs, an 8-inch – whatever strikes you) and bake about 35 minutes. Your choice in pans might affect baking time, so watch closely towards the end and don’t over bake, leaving you with dry cake! Top should be golden and a toothpick should come out clean.

Let cool, remove from pan, and drench with the glaze (which is simply well combine lemon (or lime) juice and powdered sugar).

disected lemons

18 Responses to “cry uncle”

  1. 1 kg February 13, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    dear Jill! what a wonderful way to spend a weekend. Must. Have. More. wishing you warmth, warmth and more warmth. my heart sends you much love. thnx for the great (and giggly) yoga with the seagulls on the beach.

  2. 3 patty guerrero February 13, 2015 at 2:40 pm

    Loved Garlic Pig. I tho’t you were going to say in last sentence—“now, instead of putting on another layer and go outside, i can put on another layer of “fat” and stay inside and eat my cake. but, yours is better. Gonna make that lemon bread real soon. Thanks.

  3. 4 dani February 13, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    Love this. Beautifully written, and now I want some lemon cake. Thank you.

  4. 5 Lois February 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    I always learn something reading Garlic Pig, Jill. Didn’t know you were a Widji kid. And I too deal with Raynaud’s (tho i didn’t know how to spell it). Looking forward to more sunshine, which makes winter easier. :)

  5. 6 Anne February 13, 2015 at 6:21 pm

    Sorry you have Raynaud’s. I know it can make winters extra hard, but your numb butt cheeks comment made me laugh out loud. If only lemons could cure Reynaud’s!

  6. 7 candy swenson. February 13, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Hi Jill. Love reading your posts in THE GARLIC PIG. You are an energetic young lady. We are enjoying our vacation down in So. Florida. Eric lives here so we dine together each night unless he says “enough already”. We are going on a cruise Sunday-Sunday. Give him a break. Headed up to Ft. Myers to wait for three of our grandaughters to come visit us for a week. Sending cheery thoughts & lots of sunshine. God bless!!¡!!!!! Candy.

  7. 9 CareBear February 14, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Yum! Can’t wait to put more of those lemons to use in that lemon bread recipe. So glad we all got to spend that time together! Love you all to the Yukon and back!!! Take that winter!

  8. 10 Ella Bella February 15, 2015 at 10:20 am

    Oh Jill, I totally understand how much you loved being with your friends and in CA. I went to Puerto Vallarto for a week and it was so wonderful to feel warmth all day long, every day. I too have Raynaud’s but it’s very mild and only on the end of two fingers. I’m so blessed that performing arm windmills sets it straight. I love your posts, they are endlessly enjoyable! Thank you.

  9. 12 Ella Bella February 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

    Correction: Puerto Vallarta

  10. 13 ella thayer February 15, 2015 at 10:21 am

    So wonderful to hear from you!

  11. 15 Ann February 16, 2015 at 8:45 pm

    I got a little depressed last winter when I saw that the latest ski fashion was long black quilted skirts that make everyone look like they are working for the Pope, but then Mariah, who takes people camping at 42 degrees below zero, asked for a sassy baby blue quilted mini- skirt to wear over her dog mushing clothes when she goes on a trip to the north Pole. Last winter her butt cheeks got so cold she got chill blains, and those things make Raynauds look like nothing. So, I’m highly recommending thick quilted skirts in cheery colors to make the winter zoom by. Maybe you could get one to match Earl’s winter coat, or just cut a hole in an old sleeping bag and stick your head out. Love you! Ann

  12. 17 Linda Ramacier February 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    I’m so happy to hear that the 1989 Mountaineer’s were able to spend time on the beach in sunny California. Your blog made me smile and it brought back wonderful memories watching you all grow up Widji.

    May the long time sunshine on you.

    Linda (aka, the bus lady)

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