Now that I’m no longer working and my daily commute is a walk through the snow drifts to the mail box, I’ve realized that my life is already pretty hygge, at least compared to what it was. No more watching the weather forecasts for potential snowstorms or laying awake half the night worrying about the roads, (I had one of those jobs where the only option for staying home was if you called in dead), or driving home late at night through whiteouts, where the only good thing was that you were the only fool on the road and hence could drive down the middle of it. One of the benefits of getting older is that you don’t have to work anymore, and if you are elderly like my mother, no one expects you to go out at all, so you can stay at home and paint.
A big part of hygge is appreciating the things you have and do that make winter a bit more bearable. (see previous blog Comfort and Joy: How to survive January, for more on hygge, which is a derived from a Danish word for “well-being”). So, what are the things that make a home hygge? The Danes are big on coziness, candles, coffee, blankets, fireplaces, mulled wine, sweets, relaxed decor, soft lighting, comfortable clothing and casual entertaining. Sounds like a recipe for a snow day. Hygge is even better if you can arrange for a snowstorm, preferably one with howling winds, the kind where the weather forecaster tells everyone to stay inside and off the roads. Then after it has passed, and the world is a winter wonderland, you can go outside and make a snowman.
And of course no snow day would be complete without grilled cheese and tomato soup, it’s the stuff childhood memories are made of.
There’s nothing worse for your house than to feel bare and cheerless after the Christmas decorations have been taken down, (your house has feelings too, see Tidying up blog Jan), so I keep some of them up until the end of January, sometimes mid-February, if it’s a particularly harsh winter. You can put the Santa and reindeer stuff away for a much-deserved rest, but the greenery, pine cones, berries and fairy lights can help provide a hygge atmosphere.
The Danes are the biggest consumers of candles, (mainly unscented), so light some pretty candles.
Comfort food is a big part of hygge. Homemade beef vegetable soup simmering on the stove, leftover turkey pie, mac and cheese,
or a big pot of chili, with a simple green salad and some warm bread, all make a nice evening supper. Dempster’s baguettes are so good, you could pass them off as homemade – eight minutes in the oven, and they come in whole grain and rosemary/garlic too. Baking itself is very hygge, brownies from a box are quick and can bribe snow shovelers, while a date nut loaf takes more work but can give your house a wonderful smell. If you don’t want to bake, you can spray some cinnamon room spray around and buy some treats.
The Danes love reading nooks, so a plump lounge chair with some cozy pillows and a throw, is a good place to sip cocoa and read your favorite magazine, even better if the chair faces a window where you can watch the snow falling outside or the cardinals at the feeder.
If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, then nothing beats reading a book by the fire. You can start in on that stack you got at the second-hand sale last year. Popcorn and mulled cider make a nice fireside snack. Add some mellow music, Ella Fitzgerald is always good.
If you haven’t got a love to keep you warm, a cat is good company, maybe two, but no more than five.
Reading in bed with a cat purring, and tea and cookies, is pure hygge.
There is something about plaid that is so cheerful. I put a red plaid flannel duvet cover on my bed before Christmas and leave it on all winter. It looks nice with crisp white sheets and lacy pillows, an idea I saw in a decorating magazine once. A plaid flannel housecoat with a fleece lining (Vanity Fair at Sears before they closed, but L.L. Bean carries these too), can keep you warm and cozy while you do your final check around the house before bed, and when you look outside, yes it is still snowing. It’s really piling up out there, you may be snowed in tomorrow too. As you drift off to sleep, listening to the north winds howl, may you have sweet dreams….of summer!
Song of The Day: Our House – Crosby Stills and Nash – music link