As Christmas approaches many people are busy making plans to visit friends and relatives up and down the country. If you’ve got a family in tow, it’s often easier to pack your car up rather than travel by train or coach with them, but winter driving has its own hazards. Read on for some top tips for safe winter driving.
In the UK we are largely unused to driving in icy, snowy conditions, so when the winter weather is at its worst many drivers struggle. On family car journeys I am always chief navigator and in charge of the map reading and snacks. Preparation is key when you’re going on a long journey in winter.
Winter Driving Packing Essentials
Drinks – hot and cold
A snow shovel
Ice scraper and de-icer
A spare battery pack for your phone.
I would also suggest taking a map with you as well as your sat nav. I’ve lost count of the number of times our sat nav has failed us and I’ve had to guide us to our destination with a good old fashioned map.
Winter Driving in snow and ice
In Scandinavia, people learning to drive spend time learning to drive safely in the extreme winter weather they have over there. In the UK this is not often the case, your instructor may touch upon how to deal with different driving conditions, but the only thing we’re really prepared for is rain.
When driving in icy conditions, avoid braking suddenly, this may cause you to skid and lose control.
Drive slower than normal to reduce your chances of skidding and having an accident.
Make sure you approach bends and corners with extra care, always look ahead and anticipate the conditions ahead.
If you lose control, don’t panic! Take your foot off the accelerator, and position you wheels in the direction you want to go in.
For more advice and information on driving safely in the winter, you can download this useful ebook from Chill Insurance, providers of some of the cheapest car insurance available in the UK.
One of the boys favourite winter meals is a hearty beef in red wine stew, it’s something I’ve been cooking for years now, and since I got a slow cooker (or crock-pot) last year it’s been a regular in our weekly menus, something I can pretty quickly throw together the night before, or first thing in the morning and leave to gently bubble away in the slow cooker for the day. There is nothing better than coming home from a hard days work to find a hot and hearty meal ready to be served.
I was sent a bottle of Eisberg Cabernet Sauvignon to try and I thought it’d work really well in my beef in red wine stew. Eisberg is an alcohol free wine, so if you’re worried about using alcohol in your cooking if children will be eating it (even though any alcohol would usually be burned off during the cooking process), if you’re counting calories, or if you’re avoiding alcohol for other reasons, then this alcohol free wine is a good option.
My recipe for beef in red wine is really flexible and pretty quick to put together. I usually use shin of beef or braising steak, these are both good for really long, slow cooking and are very tender once cooked, and so delicious my five year old makes short work of it.
Slow cooked beef in red wine
A delicious and hearty beef stew, cooked slowly until the beef is tender. A perfect winter warmer!
1 bottle of red wine, I used Eisberg alcohol free wine
1400g Braising steak, in chunks
3 large carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 stock cube
2 bay leaves
1 dessert spoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil (or similar)
Salt & pepper
Add salt and pepper to the flour and toss the beef chunks in the seasoned flour and fry the beef in the oil (in batches) until browned. Set aside.
While the beef is cooking switch on the slow cooker and put it on high, add the bottle of red wine (less one glass) to the pot.
Chop the carrots, celery and parsnips into bitesize pieces and put into the slow cooker. Peel the shallots and add those to the slow cooker.
Once all the beef is browned put it in the slow cooker with the bay leaves, sugar, tomato puree, stock cube and some more seasoning.
Deglaze the pan with the glass of red wine and add that to the slow cooker too.
Leave the slow cooker on high for two hours, or until you need to leave the house; then turn it down to low. The stew can be eaten after 5 or 6 hours, but if you can cook it for a bit longer then that’s always going to be better.
Towards the end of the cooking I spoon out some of the liquid and mix it with any of the remaining seasoned flour and add that paste back into the pot, this helps to thicken the gravy.
When you’re nearly ready to eat, taste and check the seasoning, adding more if you think it needs it. Serve with buttery mash and vegetables.
You can easily change what vegetables you use, root vegetables are always lovely in this, it’s great with swede if you have some or even new potatoes. You could use large chunks of onion instead of shallot if you’d like. It’s very forgiving and very flexible.
Made with alcohol free Eisberg, this really helps to cut the calories down in this hearty stew. At just 36 calories a (125ml) glass (compared to an average of 158 calories for standard red wine). This wine is a great option for people counting their calories. Eisberg is available from a range of retailers including major supermarkets.
Note: We were sent the Eisberg wine for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.
When the clocks change each autumn everyone seems to start hunkering down for the winter. The heating goes on and we all trudge off to work or school in the morning gloom, returning when it’s dark and living in something of a twilight world. It’s miserable and this kind of dark, dank wintery misery even has a medical name – Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. For SAD sufferers there’s one thing which can really help – sunlight, or simulated sunlight.
I don’t have SAD, but I do have the winter blues, it’s not officially medically recognised, but is characterised by sufferers saying “Meh” whenever they open the curtains between November and March. There are a few things I do to try and perk me up, but there’s no known cure other than a four month holiday in the sun.
If the weather isn’t too grim I try and get outside during daylight hours, if only to the local coffee shop for a brew and a biscuit. Fresh air and daylight are good for the soul, as is the tiny amount of Vitamin D the weak winter sun will give you while you’re outside.
Keeping warm and active helps stave off the winter blues a bit, getting out for long walks at the weekend with the family is a good way to get some fresh air and exercise, and makes me feel less cooped up.
During the day I try and flood the house with natural light, opening curtains and blinds wide, so even if it’s raining outside I can still enjoy natural light. I hate having electric lights on during the day as it makes me feel closed in, natural light is for me always preferable.
We have large skylights in our kitchen and in the room I work in, these are brilliant for providing bags of natural light all year round, and were probably the thing which sold this house to me, having a light, bright house is very important.
Equally important as lots of natural light is the ability to shut that light out at night, or when the summer sun is strong. VELUX are a well known company who design and sell a range of blinds for skylights. All of our skylight windows have been fitted with pull-down VELUX blinds and during the heat of summer I know I couldn’t use those rooms without them.
The winter blues aren’t enough to send me to my bed for three months, but I do try and look after myself a bit more, enjoy any breaks in the weather to get out and about, and to make the most of the natural light available for the sake of my mood and my electricity bill.
In Manchester we’re a bit spoilt for National Trust properties. Our favourites are Dunham Massey, Lyme Park and Quarry Bank Mill (where the TV series The Mill is set). They’re all within a 30 minute drive of our home, so on Saturday we hopped in the car for an afternoon at Lyme Park (famous for featuring in the film Pride and Prejudice).
We went for two reasons, the first was to run off a bit of steam and get a dose of fresh air and exercise, the second was to give my camera a bit of a workout. I’m still getting to grips with photography, but I enjoyed myself which I think is the main thing.
It was bitterly cold, but he headed towards the Timber Yard which is just past the large duck pond and it is home to a cafe and the shop. However we got distracted by a half melted snowman and went galloping up a nearby hill in search of adventure. Whilst we didn’t find actual adventure up the hill, it did bring us to the gate leading to Crow Wood, an “unsupervised play area” tucked away behind the Timber Yard.
Despite visiting Lyme Park on a regular basis for the past five years, this is the first time we’d discovered Crow Wood. It’s a lovely area with a variety of trees, a babbling stream, lots of fallen logs and half collapsed walls. It was beautiful in winter, I expect every season brings its own beauty. There were so many lovely shadows, shapes and textures, I had to try and capture some of it.
We scrabbled around the woods, exploring, hiding, searching for bear caves and bears as well as keeping our eye out for the Gruffalo. We didn’t find him, but the search did allow us to work up an appetite, so off to the cafe we went for a pot of tea and a massive slice of cake.
The temperature was dropping fast, so we decided it was time to head home. We stopped by the duck pond on the way past, the sun was just starting to dip behind the trees. It’s not a great picture but you can see the ice on the pond and maybe get a sense of how cold it was.
We had a lovely afternoon out. We loved exploring the woods, wrapped up against the elements, searching for bears, using our imaginations, playing hide and seek. It’s always lovely going out with the boy and seeing what he’s remembered from last time and the new things he’s learnt (like ice melts and becomes water).
He’s growing so fast. We were reminiscing as we were walking along that we visited Lyme Park the day I found out I was pregnant. That day I was walking around like I’d break if I bumped into anything, I’d never been pregnant before, I didn’t know how to be. I was pregnant with the baby I never thought we’d have and I was so happy and terrified for the little life inside me. I guess that day is one of the reasons why Lyme Park is so special to me, and to us.
I’ve digressed there, I’m sorry *wipes away tear*. Anyway, Lyme Park is lovely and well worth a visit, it’s a huge (really huge) estate so you could spend a whole day exploring the house, gardens and woodland etc. We’ll be back again in the spring to explore Crow Wood and see what springtime delights are hidden in the woods. Don’t forget your wellies!
A little while ago I wrote a post about facing my fears. One of my biggest fears is snow and ice. I cannot bear it. I’m watching the weather forecast now and they’ve said it might snow this week. I’m already starting to feel sick and my snow phobia is really kicking in.
I hate the snow and ice. I’ve got a real fear of slipping, falling and hurting myself. I used to slip and fall and bounce. Then when I fell I started breaking things (mainly myself) and since I’ve ruined my spine and had the operations, I’m terrified of falling and ending up in a wheelchair. It could happen.
For years I couldn’t leave the house when it snowed, I’d call in sick at work and just ride it out. Then I was given a pair of those ice grippers which genuinely changed my life and I could leave the house again. But I’m still frightened to go out, especially by myself. I know the chances of me falling are vastly reduced with the grippers, but if I’m out by myself there’s a real, genuine fear that I’ll topple over and really hurt myself.
If it doesn’t snow this week then it might happen next week. It’s pretty much guaranteed to happen at some point over the next few wintery months. The thought fills me with horror. No really. I know like half the nation I should dance with joy, get the sledge out and start building a snowman, but really that’s not for me.
You can keep your snow and you can keep your ice. I’ll stay inside and keep warm and safe if I can. I’m slowly getting my nerve up, it’s a vast improvement on where I used to be and how I used to panic at the very thought. I still feel sick though, horribly sick. It’s snow joke.
Do you have any phobias? Are you frightened of snow and ice too?