With a cold snap recently taking us to -7 degrees Fahrenheit here in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, winter has most certainly arrived. As with the dawn of each Winter season, potential up-and-down mood-swings may also arrive. For many people, winter can sometimes feel bleak and even gloomy but there is a silver lining my friends -- and always remember you are in control.
For me, growing up in New England, winter has always heightened my desire to get cozy. I thought winter in New England was tough at times but in Denmark, which is two times the size of my home state of Massachusetts, the Danes must weather an especially long and dark winter.
Engrained in their culture is something they call — “hygge.”
This Danish term represents a warm, snug, relaxing atmosphere, and it’s something you can intentionally cultivate whenever you want to do so. Pronounced “hoo-guh,” the word is said to have no direct translation in English, though “cozy” comes pretty close. It is defined as “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” Derived from a sixteenth-century Norwegian term, hugga, meaning “to comfort” or “to console,” you can see how this relates to our well-used English word “hug.”
Chilled out here in Arkansas, there’s never been a better time to add some "aesthetics of hygge" to our homes and our daily routines, and here are some easy areas to start focusing on how to make hygge happen.
I absolutely adore candles especially this time of year and especially those with hints of pine, cedar, mahogany, and a touch of vanilla.
It’s really no surprise why candles create the foundation for coziness: real fire feels primally comforting, and generates a softer and warmer light than what’s created with electric lamps. Though the flicker of a candle’s flame is small, it adds a disproportionately large amount of coziness to your home. There are endless makers of candles, and endless scents.
Back in New England, most everyone seems fond of Yankee Candle Company which started in South Deerfield, MA and they have certainly made a name for themselves over the years but as of late, I am more interested in their new premium candle brand - WoodWick. As the name appropriately implies, the wick is actually made out of wood, and when lit, the candle crackles, like a real fireplace. Ahhhhhh, so soothing.
It’s also quite interesting to learn how candles can actually change how a family and friends interact. Dinners and gatherings can last on average 20 minutes longer around the table because the atmosphere of the candles puts everyone in a storytelling mood.
So instead of just sitting down and only focusing on one's appetite, the conversation beautifully evolves as everyone begins to enjoy the ambiance set by the candles and they begin to talk about their day, sip their wine and even become nostalgic with stories of Christmas past.
2. Read a good book while wearing your slippers
Nestle in that comfy chair, pull up the ottoman and open the book of your choice. There’s certainly no need to wear constricting, uncomfortable shoes when you’re around your own home, but just wearing socks can sometimes leave your dogs feeling a bit chilly.
Cue entrance - the slipper.
In today's world, there are so many slipper options. Many enjoy the traditional slide-on that grandpa also enjoyed. Or a leather moccasin. My Jeff used to wear his man moccasins around our home in Seattle in the early years of our relationship and I thought it was cute. This year, my recommendation to you is to check out: Grey’s Wool Outdoor Slipper. It’s made of a cozy wool blend that feels like you’re wrapping your feet up in two individual plush blankets. Aside from that, this slipper is temperature regulating, has a moisture wicking feature and is odor resistant. The rubber sole provides some grip which accommodates the need to venture out of the house to say, walk the doggo. It also dampens sound as you walk across a tile or creaky wood floor, (like in our Eureka home which was built in 1890) allowing you stir around the house like a mouse searching for that quick finger-licking taste of pie while no one is watching.
Ok, so the hygge scene is set, fire is crackling, slippers are on. Why not get lost in a new book by an Arkansas author. Here's a list of a few new adventures for you to try:
Fiction books by Arkansas authors
Bernice Runs Away | Talya Tate Boerner – a spunky and rebellious 80-year-old woman leaves home in the rearview mirror to chase her adventure
Poison Parcheesi and Wine | Jane Elzey – another wasband is named, and four best friends find themselves deeply entangled in solving the mystery
Arly Hanks mysteries series | Joan Hess – follows the story of a big city Sheriff who relocates to a smaller Northwest Arkansas town
1971 | Matt McGowen – a grieving widow, an abandoned son, an open-ended story and a curious sheriff.
The League for the Suppression of Celery | Wendy Russ – tag along with Kate and her cross-country road trip to a new job in California
Tattered Glory series | Nancy Dane – Heartbreaking tales of endurance and perseverance along the background of the Civil War
Just Between You and Me | Jenny B. Jones – stepping off the edge sometimes means facing your past
When the Ice Melts | Ashlyn MaKayla Ohm – an inspirational story of second chances
Nonfiction books by Arkansas authors
All the Young Men | Ruth Coker Burks – a memoir of love, compassion and chosen family
Winthrop Rockefeller | John Kirk – a story of Arkansas’ New Yorker
Uncle Jesse’s One-eyed mule | Rep. Roy Ragland – a history of the rustic lifestyle of a forgotten town
Only on Sundays | Janis Kearney – discovering Mahalia Jackson’s life story
Speaking for Myself – Sarah Huckabee Sanders – behind the scenes of the White House in her own words
All Quiet at Mena | Mara Leveritt – a personal account of the secrets in one of America’s greatest war on drugs
The Disappearance of Maud Crawford | Beth Brickell – How could a middle-aged, respected woman just vanish? An award-winning filmmaker unravels the story and records her findings.
Sowing Seeds of Justice | Becky Williams – the story of 10 African American women who grew up in the Delta
Coveralls & Tell-alls | Sheila Pierson – leadership principles from the farm
Southern As I See It | Alcinda Chandler Smith – a practical guide to manners and traditions
This Faherty Brand blanket is a really nice quality pick; one side is made with brushed cotton, the other with soft Sherpa fleece.
If the essence of what hygge should feel like is “a good hug” blankets are the kings of imparting this feeling. So, after you've lit the candles, donned the slippers and chosen the book, sit down and envelop yourself in a substantial blanket.
There's nothing quite like it, especially when you’re snuggling up with your main squeeze and your fur-baby, a blanket adds a comforting layer of warmth.
4. Lounge-around pants
When you’re setting aside time for hygge in your own home, think cozy but not schlubby.
(I love that word, schlubby.)
With hundreds of styles of comfy pants, sweatpants, leggings in the world, it can get hard to pick. My absolutely favorite is the jogger, as they taper at the ankle which looks sharp, stylish and intentional but there is also these delightful Buffalo Plaid Print Drawstring Waist Teddy Pajama Pants at a price that will entice you to point-click-ship!
Joggers have taken to the scene and some of these styles are super comfortable. From H&M, Slim-fit sports joggers in DryMove™ is one of my favorite joggers that I own.
Marine Layer’s Yoga Jogger are made with a super soft performance fabric that’s got plenty of stretch and have served me well when working from home, taking walks around the neighborhood with Kirby, or deadlifting like a beast in the gym.
Here in Eureka Springs, one of my favorite shoppes is Parts Unknown where you could get this lovely, lambswool westerly sweater - a style made famous when The Dude wore an original in the film "The Big Lebowski."
Sweaters are certainly comfy, and many days you’ll find me schlepping (another gem of a word) around the house and running errands in my hole-y thirty year old college sweater but when the temperature really dips, like it has lately, and on those occasions when we're having some friends over for a firepit, the warmth of a solid sweater is perfect sartorial arsenal and with all the designs offered out there these days, you'll look much better than schlubby.
Sweaters, especially a cardigan, are an underused option because, as I've often thought myself from time to time, a sweater reads as old-mannish, like Mr. Rogers, but after I get it on and all situated well, there is often that surprising moment in the mirror when it makes me "feel" handsome. That, my friends is what makes attire truly special to us - how it makes us feel.
Here's a candidate for my all-time favorite sweater: this rugged cardigan from Schott’s. Ummm, hello sexy, corduroy elbow patches!
So, no matter what you choose to do, or how to do it, remember that the very best ways to activate the coziness of hygge is through contrast; that is, sitting by a crackling fire right after taking a brisk Winter hike, lounging in a comfortable pair of sweatpants and soft socks with a warm throw blanket, watching a movie and sipping a mug of cocoa after the hustle- and-bustle of holiday shopping all morning.
Now, you get the idea.
Kisses And Hygge My friends, And A Very Happy Holiday
To You And Yours From Eureka Springs, Arkansas.❤️