It’s this time of year when I appreciate home and hearth the most. While I may not have a fireplace (although I’d absolutely love one), its the cold, wintry air and beautiful white snow cover that makes me do a whole lot of nesting indoors to create that inviting, fireside feel that I want my friends and family to enjoy when they visit. 

The Scandinavians have this concept of hygge that has gained popularity globally because it’s a celebration of the more positive side of cold and blustery weather that forces us to stay indoors; instead they embrace the chance and the opportunity to buckle down, nestle in and create an inviting and warm space with candles, good food, games and the creation of happy moments with their closest friends and family. I personally love it and have been finding myself utilize this concept for the past several years. By living in the Chicagoland area, we are no strangers to the wind, cold and Chiberia-like weather that can be seen as depressing and uninspiring, but if we look at the positive side of this time of year there is so much to be grateful for and actually anticipate as the season goes from Fall to Winter quite abruptly here. 


So what can be done to embrace the weather, the season and all the good things that come along with it? Here’s my list of top 5 things to do to get on with the business of living well during the cold winter months, particularly December and the holiday season that surrounds us. 

  1. Plan to eat indoors– a lot. Why not use this time to not only sharpen your cooking skills, but also to bond with the people you really want to spend more time with? Make a classic roasted chicken, or boneless skinless chicken breast in some sort of creamy sauce- both of which represent the very essence of communicating love and affection across the table. You feed those you love with the aroma, the warmth and the delicious flavor infused into something you put your heart and soul into- that speaks volumes without saying a word. Of course, we all want baked goods, too, don’t we? Can’t forget the lovely aroma those add to the house, as well…
  2. Get out in nature. Yes, it’s cold. Sometimes it’s snowing so much you can’t necessarily drive anywhere, but you can get out and walk along the paths of nature preserves and forests, or get out into your own backyard and explore what’s there. Get the kids and yourself all bundled up and see what you can find. For example, pine trees aren’t all the same- do your kids know how to identify the difference between the different conifers? There are so many, sometimes even in just one yard or space. I have several different ones, some of which produce juniper berries and others tucked away into the landscape I never noticed them until I went outside and focused my attention on what I could use to make a pretty wreath or decoration for my front door.It’s that attention to detail that makes all the difference. 
  3. Make crafts using the natural elements you’ve found outdoors. As I said, I walked my yard to find elements I could use to decorate my home. Not only are there different kinds of greens from pine trees in which you can make beautiful wreaths for doors and mirrors like this boxwood wreath……or this pine wreath…but the pinecones also become a beautiful centerpiece in any dining room just by placing them in a bowl or tall clear container as-is. You can also begin to force branches and bulbs so they will blossom nicely around mid to late January, like these amaryllis plants- one variegated…and the other all red.Or these paperwhites……both of which can be found at most hardware stores and nurseries. I love to see them start off indoors in dirt and moss and become the beautiful natural eye candy right on my windowsill. Nature is the most beautiful artwork and we need only to seek it out and bring it inside. 
  4. Go through your pantry and discover everything you’ve not been using- and put them to good use now. The reason foods were preserved were for times like these. Jams, jellies, pickled vegetables, even preserved meats and fish- were meant to be savored at this very time of year when things cannot be grown outdoors. This is how much of the world survived and even thrived during the unforgiving cold because many of our ancestors knew how to extend the life of their locally grown food products, naturally. If you don’t have any of these kinds of things, all you have to do is visit a local farmers market and see who has been doing just that. Chances are you’ll find someone who thought ahead enough to offer these specialty items and give you an idea of what you can plan ahead for next year, so that you can enjoy your own kind of hygge even more…
  5. Create an ambiance of comfort, warmth and invitation in your home. Environment is everything, isn’t it? No matter the weather or scenery outside, you can make the inside your own palace and lap of luxury on your terms. For me, that means a lot of indoor lights, including candles perched onto wrought-iron candle holders and candelabras, giving my rooms a dramatic but warm feel that seems to embrace everyone who walks in. They also transfer to my table with dinner guests to create an extra special feel of closeness and togetherness you usually can’t get in a restaurant. While I curl up on the couch with my real wool blankets made in New Hampshire found at an antique shop in Vermont, I hold tightly a mug of homemade sipping chocolate or winter herbal teas always warms me up just right. …and the love one feels surrounded by just doing these small things. Doesn’t that all sound so inviting? Let me know in the comments section below…

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