I’ve written previously about what winter has been like in our new home. We’ve been experiencing our first round of seasons in eastern Washington, and it has been an adventure. One thing I didn’t fully consider was that up in this corner of the country, the summer days are longer than I’m used to, but the winter days are also much shorter. At the solstice, the sun would set right before 4:00 p.m. I think, to a degree, I always forget about how miserable it feels for the days to darken so early.
With the darkness and mounds of snow, it’s been so important to find joy inside our cozy home. Enter, hygge. According to the blog, Hygge House, the Danish word hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is defined as “a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.” I love the concept, and it’s certainly applicable year-round, but I’ve generally heard it applied to enjoying the slow winter months, and for me, it’s been a great way to keep from feeling so gloomy.
I’ve been practicing hygge by forming new habits, allowing myself to savor the slowness, and finding new ways to enjoy being a homebody. Here are a few things I’ve been doing find joy in my cold, dark, winter days.
Hold onto the Holidays
We traveled across the country to Alabama and Tennessee over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, and while I LOVED getting to spend time with loved ones, I always mourn a little bit when we have to leave our glowing, fresh tree and cozy home. This year, we were lucky enough to drive out to a snow-covered tree farm and saw down our own, absolutely perfect blue spruce. We sipped hot coco in the barn as they trimmed the lower branches for us. I made a resolution, right then and there that I would continue to celebrate the spirit of the holidays even after we returned home on January 3rd. As has been our custom, we left our stockings full until we came home and had another, miniature Christmas with just the two of us, me and my husband. We only took our tree to be recycled a week and a half ago! Even then, dark days call for extra light, so I’ve decided to keep the lights strung up around the door frame and over the kitchen windows until closer to spring! Giving myself permission to let go of the holidays slowly has been a nice transition into the new year.
Last year, I wrote about winnowing my Christmas decor down to a single shoe box, tree support and string lights excluded. This year, the only things I added were a year-round grapevine wreath, a handmade, wool pom garland, and dried orange slices (along with the rest of the blogging world.) You can read about that effort, here.
The Decadence of Drinking Tea
A few months ago, I switched from drinking daily coffee, to daily green tea. It was heartbreaking to break with my morning Chemex ritual, but I have lots of stomach issues, and drinking coffee on the daily was exacerbating my heartburn. I do still often indulge on the weekends, or on the occasions that I go to a coffee shop, but most mornings, it’s me and the tea. I drink one cup of jasmine green tea with breakfast, and one cup of green tea with a slice of lemon in my thermos to sip on my commute.
In addition to my morning tea, I’ve also been drinking more tea throughout the day. It’s so lovely to take a moment to prepare a cup of Earl Grey in the early afternoon to push through my work, or a cup of Chamomile or Sleepy Time in the evening as I unwind. It only takes a couple of minutes, but the warmth of the mug in my hand, and the warmth of the liquid in my belly gives me joy.
Read A Tangible Book
One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to buy a beautiful copy of Jane Eyre and read it, on paper, from cover-to-cover. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, but sadly, I don’t usually allow myself to sit down and actually read the words on the page. It feels so much more productive to be able to multi-task, so sometimes reading a tangible book feels like a luxury. But I feel like I’m able to connect with the text in a more intimate way when I lovingly read each word.
I searched my local bookshops, both second hand and independent, but one had only nondescript, cheap paperbacks, and the other was sold out. So I ended up ordering this beautiful Vintage Classic, and I love it so much. Just looking at the cover makes me happy.
Jane Eyre has long been one of my favorites, even though I’m not sure if I ever actually finished the book all those years ago in high school. But as an English major, I’m very familiar with the story. I’ve listened to lectures and podcasts, and I love the movie version that came out a few years ago. I’m about a third of the way through, currently, and it hasn’t disappointed. I can feel a future Jane Eyre-inspired post bubbling up.
Poached Eggs and the Art of French Cooking
Another one of my goals for the year was to learn how to successfully poach an egg. This was also on my list of resolutions last year; I tried once and failed, and for some reason, I never tried again. But this year, I took to the kitchen with determination! I followed these directions, which omit a fateful swirling of the water, and… it worked! It’s has taken a few attempts to perfect the water temperature, but I’m proud to say, I can poach a pretty mean egg. I treated Andrew to latkes with poached eggs, homemade apple butter, and sour cream! I’ve recently moved on to perfecting my ever-so-French, soft-boiled egg.
In the realm of poaching and boiling, I finally got my hands on a vintage copy of Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I found it in my local used-bookstore, and it made my weekend. It makes me want to branch out and try to convert my buttery-southern-comfort-food cooking style into a classy, French style. Who knows… maybe I’ll use these slow, dark winter days to try something a little more daring!
Stack the Deck
It makes me sound about 80, but I’ve been playing lots of games of cards this winter. Back in October, Andrew and I were invited to a weekend in a cabin in the Wallowa mountains. The folks we stayed with taught our group a multi-player card game called Cantaloupe. It’s fast-paced and accommodates just about as many players as you want to add. We spent Thanksgiving with some friends in Seattle and taught them the game. Then, when we went home over the holidays, we taught my giant family to play. There was one day that we did little else! In Nashville, we taught Jill and our gang there to play! We’ve been a little obsessed. Even on evenings at home, Andrew and I have pulled out the decks to play crazy eights or solitaire. It’s such an old-fashioned, inexpensive, simple joy, but it’s a good excuse to turn off Netfilx and have some tea and conversation over a game of cards.
Hit the Mat and Other Simple Joys
Doing yoga is almost always on my list of goals for myself. I always intend to take a class, but for one reason or another, that usually doesn’t end up happening. Instead, I’ve been enjoying doing some youtube yoga, specifically Yoga with Adriene. She has a video that of “yoga for a rainy or snowy day“, and it feels tailor-made for practicing hygge.
On top of all of the hygge practices I’ve listed, I’ve been taking time to light candles, listen to music, take naps whenever possible, and give myself some space to write and be creative.
Throughout the gloomy winter days, and especially in the midst of the current, anxiety-inducing state of our country, these practices could be filed under self-care. It’s so important to stay alert, informed, and involved, but it’s also important to take a step back and enjoy the little parts of life that give me peace and joy.
What about you? Do you have any favorite hygge practices? How have you been dealing with the dark winter days?