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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A Goal for 2017 and for Life

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Looking Ahead and Beyond

We are in the midst of the constant barrage of New Year’s resolutions — to be thinner, wealthier, more youthful appearing.  Everywhere you look or listen, you can be promised that 2017 is the year that you become a better self.  And while I think that self improvement is very important, I do not believe that we all have to strive for the aforementioned ideals.  I am all for bettering my health and boosting my savings account but I think that the New Year’s resolution as such sets many people up for not succeeding.  In my first yoga class of 2017, my teacher brought this up:  the difference between a resolution and a goal (or intention).  With a resolution, it is as if you feel that you must absolutely fulfill this one thing, without any room for being human.  With a goal, you set up for something that you work toward over time.  With this difference in mind, I have chosen to work toward a goal for not only 2017, but for the rest of my life.  It is simply to use what I have.

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A Creative Closet Door

This goal may sound simplistic but it is actually quite expansive.  For starters, as a creative person always striving to learn more and try more, I have decided that instead of taking on new hobbies I am going to use the skills that I have and build upon them.  This means learning more complicated knitting techniques including sweaters, socks and lace.  It means learning new quilting techniques and retaining them, especially all of the different things I’m learning in my art quilting group. (Side note:  the above picture is of our new “closet door” made from blocks I’ve had sitting around since a defunct block of the month club 3 years ago.  These were just sitting in a box until I decided to unearth them and use them.  Now every day we no longer have to look at our clothes, but instead this nice piece.)  This includes utilizing my newly remodeled sewing room as my own creative space, a luxury that not many people have.  I am going to keep on taking pictures and learning from experience and library books.  I know that in delving deeper into the skills I have instead of getting involved in another hobby that I only know and don’t excel at, I can still learn and experiment with the solid foundation I already possess.

Using what I have also extends to the kitchen.  Before I make a grocery list based upon we’re craving and what’s on sale, I will first visit our pantry and our freezer.  I will shop from home before I shop from the store.  Fortunately for me, this is pretty easy because we have a freezer full of Hatch green chiles and Olathe corn and a pantry full of basmati rice, Anasazi beans and home canned tomatoes and pickles.  We are fortunate to have food security and we can easily supplement what we have and make nourishing meals.  Chances are that some of our recipe experiments will be flops and that is okay.  It will allow us to use our creativity in the kitchen instead of simply relying upon the grocery store.

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The Household Library/Staircase/Rock Collection

My goal includes using all of the possessions I currently have.  I will wear that nicer dress to work more just because I can.  I will wear the jewelry that I have, wear the (old but functional) cashmere sweater on the weekends and read all of the books I own.  I have books on my shelf (well, stair landing) that I have been carting along for years.  It is time to grab those and curl up under a quilt!   I’ve also been listening to some of my old cds (remember those?) and it has been really fun.  It is amazing how many lyrics I remember from things I’ve had for 10 or 15 years.  I will burn the candles at a Wednesday night meal because what I have is meant to be used.  I will grind up the fancy coffee on a weekday morning.  It is easy to see our stuff as precious and forget about the original utility of our things.  As a continually striving minimalist, I don’t want to have things that just sit around, I want everything in my house and my life to have a purpose.  If I find something that no longer serves a need (I believe Marie Kondo calls this “sparks joy”), then it needs to go someplace else.  I want our home to be full of only the things that are used and that add to our lives, nothing that has long since served it purpose.

So, my seemingly simple goal to use what I have is actually a very large and overarching lifetime enhancer.  It will be something that I work towards in 2017 and probably for the rest of my life.  It is a goal that can be added on to and one that also allows for me to be the human that I am.

Living With A Lot Less

It has officially been a week since I moved into our new mountain town loft.  I arrived with a Ford Focus worth of belongings and a couple of sea kayaks strapped to the roof.  (Sea kayaks in the mountains?  Their next iteration is high-altitude lake kayaks!)  In the car was the following:  my laptop, a folding camp chair, an air mattress, a sleeping bag, the pea quilt, two suitcases full of clothes (one entirely full of work dresses in the event I landed a job as fast as I got an apartment — eternally hopeful, I suppose), a pillow, a towel, two plates, two bowls, a coffee mug, a smattering of utensils, a pot, a pan, a coffee maker, unfinished quilt blocks and my sewing machine.  Of all these things, there are still many I haven’t used.  Not once have I used both plates or bowls.  And I certainly haven’t worn any of the dresses I brought.  I haven’t missed anything, really.  Except for my boyfriend, I miss him — and for right now, that’s it.

I have been able to cook three meals a day without a bevy of implements.  I have used the insides of cardboard boxes as cutting boards and a pot lid as a strainer.  There hasn’t been a single moment where I’ve pined for something else.  And, we have no internet at home which has meant no New Orleans jazz station and no temptation to binge on streaming videos.  Instead, I’ve gone to the library, I’ve listened to all those discs stored in my laptop music library and I’ve taken a few naps.

All this has made me think that I really could live with a lot less.  The last week has been a lot like camping indoors, with running water and a full kitchen.  I haven’t been uncomfortable in the least.  The space feels empty, but there is also something very zen about it at the same time.  Tonight, I’m sure that I will collapse upon the sofa and place my weary feet on the ottoman very grateful for the arrivals.  I believe that my gratitude will be less about my belongings and more about the driver’s safe arrival, and the ability to settle into our new life.  The most important thing arriving later today isn’t an object, it’s a person, it’s the beginning of our next adventure.

The apartment will fill up with our possessions and we will wonder how we accumulated so much stuff.  I’m sure that I will, once again, cull some of my belongings and reduce even further.  I’m already dreaming up all of the craigslist ads for sale.  But all of that stuff is later today and right now I am just going to enjoy my coffee on the floor, sitting in a sunbeam and marvel one last time at the emptiness of our new home, wondering about all the things that will happen within.

When One Door Closes . . .

Closing up the coop

Closing up the coop

 

When one door closes, another door opens.  How many times have we heard this proverb, and yet we still need a continual reminder that things often happen for a reason.

After a couple of tough years roughing it out in the wild east of Oregon, I am now a resident  (so says my lease and my library card) of an idyllic town nestled amongst the mountains of southwestern Colorado.  I have vowed to take advantage of all there is to see and do here, all the while eating green chile every day.  I take this latter vow pretty seriously.  In leaving Oregon, there were many goodbyes, but I know in my heart these will soon be followed by many hellos.

It can be very hard to wait patiently for a change in your life, especially when you are a person that believes in taking action.  This time around, waiting has proved to be invaluable as we did not flee to some place to stay for another couple of years, instead somewhere I can really imagine a present and a future.  I  have landed in a place where I don’t have to think about commuting except on the weekends to be in nature.  I am in a place where people take life seriously with a lot of fun involved.  I am in a place where people care — and this point alone makes everything worthwhile.

Closing the door on the old life wasn’t totally easy, no matter that I was pleading to the universe for a change.  It was hard to say goodbye to the chickens and to our home brimming with our crafts and fond memories.  I learned to quilt in that town and left behind some wonderful people, who will always be in my memory whenever I sit down to sew.  I said goodbye to getting hugs from kiddos at the grocery store and to being a familiar face around a small town.  I have no idea what will happen here — what career form I will adopt, what new hobbies will engross me and just how much green chile I really can eat.  It’s exciting this new life and all of those doors I closed, all of the goodbyes I shared will be counterbalanced with openness and welcomes.  I just know it.