It’s that time of the year. The twinkle and promises of the holiday season are fading away, leaving us with broken resolutions and frozen noses. There’s a reason January is both hot tea month and national soup month–after the New Year’s Eve glitter falls, we could use some warmth and comfort. This weekend, skip the long return lines at the mall and instead gather together with good friends, hearty food, and a crackling fire.
You may have heard of hygge (pronounced hyoo-ga), the longstanding Danish appreciation for simple comforts, togetherness, and a cozy atmosphere. Last year New York Times bestseller, The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking, popularized the concept, described as “the antidote to the cold winter, the rainy days, and the duvet of darkness.”
Let’s infuse a little coziness into what’s left of our cold Iowa winter. Get ready for your most cuddly agenda ever: the hygge to-do list!
15 Ways to Embrace Hygge This Winter
- Curl up with a cup of hot chocolate. My family’s favorite is Abuelita. Once the Mexican-style chocolate melts into the milk, I use an immersion blender to make the drink extra frothy. Highly recommended: try it with a little Kahlua for a delicious grown-ups-only version.
- Grab a cozy blanket and watch a favorite movie.
- Take a walk with your family. Getting outside and being close to nature encourages us to be truly present in the moment. Fellow mom Sara describes her nightly walks as “a refreshing moment to talk with my husband without a clear view of the ten billion tasks that need to be done.”
- Read a book. Do you know about Overdrive? Through the Iowa City Public Library, you can check out free e-books and audio books delivered straight to your tablet, phone, or computer.
- Light candles during dinner. Wiking refers to candles as “instant hygge.”
- Have a board game night. Board games are the first suggestion in The Little Book of Hygge’s chapter on inexpensive hygge activities. Why? Board games are social, nostalgic, and a simple way to have fun. Fellow mom Linda has some excellent suggestions for kid-friendly games, plus innovative ideas for grown-up game nights. Review her recommendations here.
- Make soup. When my husband and I were living in central New York, I fell in love with our grocery store’s lentil soup. After we moved back to the Midwest, I was thrilled to find the recipe online. It is a hearty, flavorful soup perfect for a chilly day; pair it with a crusty bread for a filling meal.
- Warm up your socks or pajamas in the dryer before bed. It’s like a whole-body hug.
- Spend time in a cozy café. There are so many wonderful coffee shops and cafes to choose from in the Iowa City area. One of my personal favorites is The High Ground Café, especially if you can grab a seat by the fireplace. Find the perfect spot to enjoy a hot drink here.
- Play. One of my in-laws’ favorite games is a variation on Farkle, a dice game. It’s a great after-dinner activity because it keeps people around the table, can easily include any number of players, and doesn’t interfere with friendly conversation. Learn Farkle rules here.
- Watch the sunset or sunrise.
- Make plans for brunch with friends. Wiking describes the “everyday joy of good company” as a predictor of happiness and life satisfaction. Gather your squad together for good conversation and maybe a mimosa or two. Iowa City Moms Blog has a wonderful guide to brunch options.
- Bake. I have found with a stand mixer and some patience, baking bread is not as intimidating as I once thought. This challah recipe is my favorite. I bake four small loaves (instead of the two indicated in the recipe) and freeze so we have homemade bread on demand. My four-year-old helps by “painting” on the egg wash and sprinkling poppy or sesame seeds on top before baking.
- Designate a cozy nook in your home. Add a table on which you can put a cup of tea, some books you would like to read, lamps for soft lighting, and comfortable seating for quiet togetherness.
- Involve your family. Fellow mom Dawn says, “Our family sits down and makes a giant ‘wish list’ of all of the many things we each want to do.” For more life inspiration from abroad, read Dawn’s piece on parenting like the Dutch.
How many of these items can you check off your list before the groundhog sees his shadow?