Saturday, January 14, 2017

Hygge and Winter

I don't know if there is enough wood in the world to knock on to superstitiously keep this statement at bay. Here goes: So far, it hasn't been a bad winter! Not like this photo from 2013!

Last week I wrote about one of my words of the year, Hygge, and a lot of you were excited about the concept and hadn't heard much, if anything, about it. (I hadn't either till recently.) For those who want a wonderful discussion about hygge, check out this link from On Point on WBUR/Boston where the show was devoted to a lively and fun discussion. (They don't speak of sheep on the show, but knitting or crocheting is a very hygge thing!)

So, you might wonder how those two connect -- light winter so far (knock knock) and hygge! Well hygge is all about being cozy. And when I chose it, who knew what winter -- the time I really need to cozy up most of all -- would be. So I decided to share a few photos from winters past so my Southern friends (who seem to be getting it worse than we are right now) and my Down Under pals can see what Michigan winter can look like. Below is the Ditch several years ago.

And below is a golden oldie -- one of the joys of the Scanning Project. Dad and Grandma, endearing for so many things -- notably the chic fashion of the farm wife! Dad isn't the picture of fashionista perfection either!

They had it tough back then, living on a farm with a good deal of property. While I don't remember hearing about cows, I know the barn was full of chickens, including Dad's pet Pedro, who ended up on the dinner table. Dad was never big on chicken after that. There was no "staff," no snowplows. Just Grandma and Grandpa (who is notably absent in these shoveling photos!)

My grandmother was a tall woman -- 6'1" -- so when you see those snowdrifts next to her, you know it was a pretty hard winter.

Despite the fact that many photos of me as a child show me scowling when outside...

...I loved winter far more than I do now.It was much closer to the ground when you fell and the snowsuits provided a certain amount of padding that a pair of jeans and a parka don't!

And there is something hygge about eating snow. Clean, fresh snow.

Or building a snow fort or sucking on icicles. Really? My mother let me do that?

I loved sledding and snowballs. Winter was fun!

It became less fun the older I got but even by high school I managed to make the most of it. I would stand with my friends for hours in the front yard at Christmas. We would stop traffic as we'd stand in a holiday tableau, moving slowly, like animated mannequins and trying not to let steam escape from our noses or mouths.I remember people stopping, trying to make us laugh and occasionally trying to figure out if we were real. Our cast of characters varied, depending on who was available but we always had fun.

This all started because Dan, the one in the red who grew up to work for the State Department overseas (now retired) lived in our 'hood and one day when mom came home from the store she commented that his family had a nice Christmas display of a life-sized caroler mannequin holding a candle. Well, it was Dan. He'd do all by himself (a lonely business), so we decided to take the show down the road to our house -- at the top of a "T" in the streets -- and add a few characters. He brought a tree and floodlights from the church where his dad was a pastor. We'd do it for as long as we could stand and when traffic slowed, would come in for a hot-chocolate warm up.

Now Rick is a winter guy.

This year's winter with only one substantial December snowfall that melted within a couple of weeks is frustrating him. He would spend all winter doing this if he had his way.

And definitely not this.

For which I am greatly relieved. The other day he rode his bike over (we were in melt-mode then) and then it iced up outside and the bike ended up in my hall for two days -- till he walked it home.

Whether it is snowy or not, Lizzie's birds will gladly eat us out of house and home.

And I am glad to feed them, partly because it's the right thing to do and in part because it provides us both with great entertainment! (That tree is finally down.)

From where I sit, the best thing about winter and snow is just how pretty it looks when it has just fallen and it feels divinely romantic. This...

....and this...

...maybe this.

And not this, which is more of what our typical winter is like!

So, while we haven't had the snow of some of the photos here so far, it's still pretty darned cold and I am longing for a little more heat and a little less ice.

And I'm hoping to get it soon! But not, I think, here.

So, till next time, stay Hygge!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Melancholy Waltz

I suppose there is something to be said for the idea "If you don't have much to blog about, don't do a post." But that never stopped me before.

Aren't these copper and brass popcorn poppers of my cousin's one of the most "hygge" things you could imagine? Prettier than bags in the microwave!
So, as you read through, enjoy a rather January-sounding melancholy waltz (which really isn't one but to me it's in three-four time and that's my vision. So there.)


(This is Rick's Cinelli trio, playing at a gallery. More on that below.)

It seems as though January is a whirlwind. We are one third of the way through and I'm still taking down Christmas.

This, of course, isn't a surprise. I will be taking down Christmas right up till Equinox and even then the angel tree in the guest room stays up. The winter trees will be up till close to then too.

But Christmas must go.

This depresses me intensely. But that said, I have a big tree in the living room. February will bring a Cork Poppers dinner to my house, book club, and a visit from my friend Suzanne. I need the real estate.

Rick and his trio performed twice at the Absolute Gallery (one of Lansing's best). The first time, a Friday evening, it was definitely brisk! But the music warmed it all so nicely.

I have to admit, it was fun to wander about and know I had a lovely place to come back to. I think more than a few passers-by noticed them in the window and came in to warm up with Kathy's hot mulled cider and chili!

Saturday I gathered with some friends to celebrate Cork Popper Cheryl's birthday. It was another nippy day and it was a good diversion from the computer. And taking down the tree.

But the lion's share of my time has been working on a major scanning project. I have so many photos to scan and of course whenever I look for one, I find ten more. I have told the friends of my youth to be afraid. Be very afraid.

So, going back to Old Town to shop around and enjoy their Sunday performance was a nice break in the action! Although it was so darned cold! Ice was floating down the Grand River! It was no wonder I was eager to get home for pasta and a double dose of Sherlock!

I've been practicing my Hygge by cozying up at night, reading a terrific biography of Stephen Sondheim.

But then it's back to the scanning. Because taking down the big tree depresses me. I know. I said that before. It bears repeating. (I should mention that everything else that's coming down is down. I think. I'll probably find something in July and then try to pawn it off as Dickens advised, keeping Christmas in the heart (and home) all year long!

And the snowmen will take the place of Santas. Once I find them in that mess of a basement.)

I will start with the ornaments on the back today.  Yes, I will. And when I unbalance the tree so much it falls over, I won't feel so bad about seeing it go.

Delighted to be linking this week to Share Your Cup, where you will find loads of wonderful links and tons of inspiration!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Taking Action with Hygge!

By now you probably have heard of Hygge. Articles in the New York Times and the New Yorker have extolled its virtues. So have bloggers including one of my favorites, Monique at La Table de Nana, in her New Year's post. Susan Branch wrote of it in great detail in her holiday post.

The term comes from the Danish and while there is no word-for-word translation, it conveys a feeling of coziness and conviviality.

Snuggled up by the fire with hot cocoa? Hygge. Wearing your favorite fleecy top and cozy socks or slippers? Hygge. Reading a great book with the dog or cat at hand? Snuggled under a cozy quilt? Hygge.

Pronounced "hoo-guh," think about the stranger who says hello to you, wanting nothing in return but a smile. (Like my New Year's walk at the Ditch!).

Think about comfort food. Meatloaf. Home baked bread. Chicken pot pie. Steaming pots of soup. All of which sounds like dinner with Rick and all of which is Hygge.

I quote the New Yorker article above here: "Louisa Thomsen Brits, the author of “The Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Contentment, Comfort, and Connection,” calls it “a practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real life” and “a cure for SAD”—seasonal affective disorder—“in book form.”

Again from the New Yorker: "Helen Russell, a British journalist who wrote “The Year of Living Danishly,” defines the term as “taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things,” like a freshly brewed cup of coffee and cashmere socks." I might add real maple syrup, baking and your favorite pet to the list.

Last year my guiding word was "Listen." I listened a lot and I heard birdsong, waves on the beach, winds in the pines. But more than frequently, I didn't like what I heard. I am thinking this year of having two words. "Hygge" and "Action." "Action," because I need to "do" and not just "think," whether it is complete creative projects, meet a goal or work to change the world. And "Hygge" because maybe it's yet another way to get back to my heritage, this time on my Dad's side. And besides, what's not to love about cuddling up by the fire, knitting, purring cats and hot tea?

I have a lot of Danish in my heritage -- my great grandfather came over in the 1800s from Copenhagen with his wife, so my grandmother was first generation American from Danish parents. While I've never been there, I often read studies that say that the Danish are among the happiest people in the world. Their taxes would kill you -- they're very high, about 45 percent. But they actually get something from it. Time for a very hygge-like cookie!

According to an article in US News, Education is free -- there is no tuition, even at university and each student receives a $900 stipend from the state. The parental leave system is the most generous in the world and there is free quality healthcare which reduces risk and promotes better health. They are working actively to combat climate change and actively support both the employed and unemployed with development or job-assistance opportunities.

Now, one can argue till the cows come home about what is in part a welfare state and whether or not it is a good thing. But Denmark takes care of its people far better than the U.S. does. The cost of living is pretty high. But when we get something from it, I don't mind paying. And we can learn a lot from their example.

And people are happy. The government works.

And to be honest, I love hot chocolate by a fire. I love cozying up in the winter when a storm is blowing and feeling safe and warm. I love holding the Lizzie, even though she would prefer I not. And I love to bake and cook and make things and savor Rick's bread, home made and so delicious.

I feel compelled to take action this year. To be the change I want to see in the world and work to facilitate it. To not be passive but productive. To create, to write, to experience, to do. Rather than following like sheep, I'd prefer to knit from the wonderful wool those sheep (and llamas!) provide.

I have a great need to cozy in these days -- and not just because of the weather. I long to really reflect on this beautiful life that I have, the happiness I feel and the things that bring happiness to me. Family, friendships, love, warmth, joy. Hot tea or cocoa on a cold day (and this morning it is 6-F and the windchill below zero).

So, this year, it is two words. The "doing" word and the "being" word.

Here's to hygge and action. World, I am ready to take you on -- and to take care of myself, too.

Delighted to be linking this week to Share Your Cup, where you will find loads of wonderful links and tons of inspiration! 

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