Homemade Hygge

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We have daffodils! 

Well today is April 1st and the Winter Storm Warning just expired for our neck of the woods.  However, a look outside shows the “wintry mix” continuing unrelented.  Despite the fact that it has officially been spring for a few weeks, Southwest Colorado is apparently still making up its mind between the seasons.  Such is life down here where the last 3 Memorial Days have been snowstorms.  I like to think of the positives to all the moisture:  that our well will not run dry, that we will not experience horrible wildfires and that one day soon we will have a week of solid sun to rejoice in.

This year the new buzz word around design and house circles has been hygge (hoo-gah), a concept very loosely translated from Danish to mean “coziness in life”.  There are dozens of books and blogs espousing how living a life full of hygge can bring greater happiness not only through a long winter but throughout the year.  And the Danes should know, they are consistently ranked one of the happiest countries every year.  So in the spirit of embracing hygge, here are some of the ways I’ve adopted the concept for my own home.

One :  Quilts
This means both the creation of and use of quilts.  Winter is the perfect time to spend a lot of time on the sewing machine.  I get the majority of my quilting done during the cold months because when the days are long and the weather temperate, I am outside enjoying nature.  Winter is the perfect time to wrap up in the all of the quilts.  Quilts adorn our couch downstairs and make a huge difference in warmth on top of our duvet cover in bed.  We do our best to keep our energy costs low, and quilts can warm you up fast and free.  In short, quilts make winter tolerable.

Two:  Books
Books, like quilts, are a year round activity.  But in the winter, there are days when you’ve finished a round of shoveling and you get to just be for a few hours with a good book under a quilt. Winter is a great time to read those big books, the ones that are 500 pages plus because you are home so much and you don’t have to cart them around.   You can lose yourself in a book without that feeling of indoor guilt, the feeling that the weather is so nice you should be doing something else.

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Three:  Warm cute socks
When it is cold out warming up your feet is a great way to feel cozy all over.  Winter is when I break out the hand knit socks lovingly crafted by my boyfriend’s talented grandmother.  Warm socks and slippers are the simplest way to feel toasty on a cold day.

Four:  Big warm drinks
Last fall I got a newish espresso machine from the thrift store for $5.  In the warmer months, I don’t want a big drink in the morning but come winter, especially on weekend mornings, I like to sit with my big drink and just savor it.  Typically my weekday mornings do not allow for this luxury as I leave the house at 6:30, but the weekends are for indulging in a big drink.  Also, hot chocolate with a shot of brandy is the most amazing thing after a long session of shoveling.  Especially once you put on warm dry socks and sit under a quilt.  (There is obviously a lot of overlap here.)

Five:  Sleeping
Animals can hibernate, why can’t people?  With the dark days, there is no guilt in getting in some extra sleep.  Winter is a time of respite and rest for the natural world and it should be for us too.  Some nights, the 8 pm bedtime is simply the best.

Six:  Cooking with and without a crock pot
Winter too is the time where we bake more bread, cook those labor intensive meals and eat heartily.  Cooking encompasses a good part of our household entertainment in the winter.  Also, we recently procured our first crock pot (also at the thrift store and also for $5) and that thing is a total miracle.  It is so wonderful to put stuff in and come home hours later to a meal already made and a delicious smelling home.  We have made some incredible meals in the crock pot:  pot roast, pulled pork, various chilis, posole, Tikka Masala, chicken burrito bowls and whole turkeys.   I like to prep all of my food the night before so that in the morning, I can simply dump in all of the chopped ingredients and head out the door with minimal effort. The crock pot has certainly made our winter much more tasty.

Seven:  Fake candles
I remember when battery operated candles came out and they looked so fake.  Well a mere few years later and thanks to the advancement of LED bulbs, I am officially a fan of fake candles.  I managed to get all of ours at the thrift store and they give off a pleasant light.  I have a set in our bedroom and on super stressful days post work, I like to lay on the bed with the candles aglow and my Himalayan salt lamp lit and do some deep breathing/meditation.  I call this my drama detox and it works.  The faux candles make the house feel cozy without a ton of effort.  Also, they are safe.

Eight:  Showers at night with lavender
We get a very early start in the morning and many mornings, our routine also involves shoveling.  I began taking my showers at night and it totally changed my mornings.  Suddenly I was not having wet hair and feeling further behind in time.  Also, showering at night feels like a good way to end the day, to rinse away the past.  I like to sprinkle a few drop of lavender oil on the bottom of the tub to help relax me even more.

So these are the primary ways I’ve incorporated hygge into our home to make the winter more enjoyable.  The true concept of hygge can be translated to be year round and I am certainly looking forward to embracing it with backyard bbqs and long weekends curled up in the tent.  It is very easy to embrace the seasons and make all four cozy and happy.

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In Awe

In order to better appreciate the process of creation, sometimes you have to stop making and just enjoy what has already been made.  Here are snapshots from Leslie Gulch in southeastern Oregon.

A Tulip Grows in the Desert

Tulips:  a symbol of fortitude in a harsh landscape.

Tulips: a symbol of fortitude in a harsh landscape.

Last year, my first spring out of the damp Pacific Northwest, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the spring foliage.  Living in the desert, I did not anticipate daffodils, hyacinths, tulips and fruit blossoms to appear for a few short weeks between the 20 degree and the 100 degree days.  I especially did not anticipate tulips in our yard, the yard neglected over years prior to our arrival.  Incredibly, these hardy bulbs are able to remain dormant throughout the deep freeze of the winter and survive the intense heat of the summer.

Yesterday, our tulips finally bloomed.  I was concerned because all around town flowers were showing themselves off.  No need to worry, ours are just late bloomers.  I cut a few off to put inside on our house, but will keep the others intact outside for a few more days to enjoy the natural sunshine and the pleasant weather with their bee friends.

We have spent countless time trying to figure out how to make the landscape of our homestead a bit more pleasant without a ton of water.  We have cultivated, dug, planted and covered up our land trying to make it more aligned with the climate.  We’ve planted low-water desert plants, created rock gardens, used our chicken mowers and yet invasive weeds still dominate the yards.  And yet, the most beautiful thing in our yard, we haven’t touched.  These tulips live without human interference, they just exist.

I’ve always felt that I could live anywhere, adapt to anything and create the life I desired.  This location has proven these long-held notions harder to believe than ever before.  The weather here challenges me, especially the stretches of 105 degree days in the summer.  And then I look at these tulips and I am amazed by their ability to survive the extremes.  If they can do it, I can do it too.  I can become a hardier, more adaptable version of myself.  I can just exist and make it work.

 

You Never Know What You’ll Find on the Ground

My awesome haul!

My awesome haul!

Yesterday we attempted to go kayaking on a nearby reservoir.  What we thought would be a leisurely paddle was thwarted by crazy winds.  Thank goodness we have giant, stable sea kayaks!  It was surreal to be paddling on a man-made reservoir in the desert and feeling as if we were in the more turbulent waters of the Puget Sound or Columbia River.

Anyhow, after getting bounced around for a couple of hours, we decided to take a walk, shake off the sea/reservoir (?) sickness and find the creek that feeds the reservoir.  Walking across the dam, I was forced to look down at the ground for the wind was so strong.  And, thank goodness I did for, lo and behold, this road was covered with pieces of obsidian.  Now, who creates a road out of one of the sharpest rocks in existence (naturally occurring volcanic glass) I cannot explain, but I found some of the coolest pieces to add to my rock collection.  I am an amateur geologist, don’t you know.

In addition to my question of why the obsidian was there, I want to know where it is from.  There is no known obsidian within 100 miles of us, but I still find chunks of it when I’m scouring for rocks in the desert.  Some of these pieces could be old flakes from tools as obsidian was highly valued for its sharp consistency.  The sheer number of pieces that I found in the most unlikely place — on top of a dam road — is truly bizarre.  Also incredibly intriguing is how the rocks are rounded like river rock with the shiny, glass on the inside.  I wish I could solve the mystery of these rocks!

You really never know what you will see when you look down on the ground.  When you take your eyes away from the big picture, you can find tiny wildflowers, little critters and cool rocks in unexpected places.