Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Hygge = Comfort Living, Foothills-Style

Winter doldrums got you down? A cold or even the flu has you under the weather? The Danish notion of “Hygge,” which many Danes think of as a feeling of coziness, togetherness and contentment, may be just what you need to get through the dark, cold days of February. I’ve just started The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. It’s an whimsically illustrated book that shows how you can embrace “Hygge”—a Danish term that looks like it could be pronounced “Huggee” or with a stretch of the imagination, “Hug Me,” but it’s apparently pronounced “Hoo-ga.” However you say it, now is the perfect time to treat yourself to fresh air, extra light, and comforting food and surroundings. And yes, lots of hugs.

It would be great if “Hygge” happened magically or spontaneously, but it does take some prior planning. Maybe fit some outdoor time into your day—a lunchtime walk, or after work, a ramble in the park with a friend in the dusk. Next time you’re at the store, you might lay in a supply of soup-making ingredients. And of course, some quality chocolate. 

Once you’re home, get out the soup pot, and into your jammies and fuzzy socks. Live flames of some kind (preferably not coming from your stove!) will really lift the spirits—if you don’t have a fireplace, how about candlelight? Have beeswax or soy candles on hand (they don’t emit chemically fumes like paraffin). Instead of lolling on the couch in front of the news, read a fun book or watch a PBS mystery. (Try to steer clear of The Walking Dead or anything similar—the Hygge vibe doesn’t really go with blood and gore.)

Here at Berryridge Farm, you’ve always got an excuse to (or a reason to make yourself) get outside, even in winter. I’ll chop a little firewood, and turn the compost pile to keep it from freezing. In the evenings, John will have a fire going in the woodstove. While I like candlelight as well as the next person, lit candles just remind me of having a power outage. Instead, we turn on a string of holiday lights we keep in the living room window until Daylight Savings Time. For entertainment, John loves nothing better than a Japanese Samurai film...lots of swords, angst, and everyone dies at the end--but with a Zen-like acceptance.

I just finished Marian Keyes' latest Irish comedy-drama, The Woman Who Stole my Life, so for me, it's back to TV. This week, I'm re-watching The Forsythe Saga (Masterpiece Theatre). It’s not Downtown Abbey (sigh…6 seasons just weren’t enough) but a beautifully acted historical drama with Downton-worthy gowns!

Back to soup: a few days ago, John and I were down with the flu, and not up for the 65-mile round trip to the supermarket. The fridge was looking pretty empty—I was down to 3 carrots, a chunk of onion, a potato and no fresh meat. My garden kale was a wreck due to several weeks of bitter cold, and I’d used all but one of the parsnips I’d managed to harvest before the ground froze in December. But thanks to forethought and a bountiful garlic harvest, we had enough staples on hand for what I call:

Cupboards Are Bare Flu Soup:
1 quart chicken broth
½ onion
3 big cloves garlic
2 carrots
1 medium potato
1 large parsnip
½ cup dried green lentils
1 6 oz. can tomato paste

Peel and chop the veggies, and saute in a generous amount of olive oil. If you like a brothy soup (I do), in a separate pot, cook the lentils in a couple of inches of water for 20 minutes or so. After both the lentils and veggies are soft, combine in your soup pot and add the broth and tomato paste. Some garlic powder and herbs from the garden are nice—I used some freshly picked thyme, which grows all winter here in the Foothills. Stir well, and while it’s simmering for 30 minutes or so, give your partner, child, or pet a hug!

The Sunday afternoon before I got sick I made some walnut chocolate cookies (see recipe in my November 2016 post) and still had a half dozen in the freezer. That evening, we had soup with whole grain bread and homemade cookies, and voila—nourishing Hygge food! 

What's your version of Hygge?  I hope you'll share it here!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

J.K. Rowling Quote and Resolutions Resolved

The New Year is one week old…do you know where your Resolutions are?

You’ve hardly gotten around to sweeping up your New Year’s eve confetti, and self-help experts are on Resolution-making like a pair of skinny jeans—most of them implying that if you’re not trying to improve your life in some way (with not just one Resolution but several) your future as a functioning human being is in doubt. If that’s not enough pressure, there's all kinds of advice about what to do when you can’t stick to your Resolutions (there’s no “if”—you’re only human, right?) so failure is already built into the system!

Most of what’s out there we’ve all seen before. Like, instead of setting an intention to stop a behavior, you should make it positive. Example: don't say to yourself, I will stop eating so many Lindt milk chocolate bars, you think, I will improve my health. Still other goal-setting gurus suggestions: make your goals realistic and specific; partner with someone who shares your resolution; when you slip up, just keep going. All good advice…but not so inspiring.

Seeking more pizzazz when it comes to making resolutions, I found a sampling from the Seattle chefs' community: "To eat not standing up at least four times a week." "Exercise more so I can drink more Champagne," And, "Practice doing cartwheels more with my 8 year old daughter so I don't hurt my back every time I try one." (Thanks to "New Year's resolutions from 17 Seattle chefs," by Bethany Jean Clement, Seattle Times, January 1, 2017.) Fun resolutions, even if they won't quite set the world on fire. 

Hoping for an epiphany, I kept looking for some Resolution advice I could really get excited about. O Magazine columnist Martha Beck focuses on what you might call "Non-Resolutions" (January 2017 issue). Her approach includes a few nuggets: Resolve not to lose weight but to gain "weight" by adding more meaning to your life. Instead of vowing to declutter your house, embrace the chaos. Rather than saving money, "spend" more positive attention. Definitely a new twist.

Gigantic garlic from the garden!
I was all set to make my new Non-Resolutions, then I found some even better advice: give yourself a theme for the New Year. After many years of making, then breaking my Resolutions, I’m going with this one. Out of the many self-improvement goals/themes I could undertake, and there are many, I came up with one that covers everything: Take More Chances.  

If you’re a risk-averse, creature-of-habit homebody like me, you know an intention to go for the gusto is a major stretch. Just this week, however, I “lived dangerously” by taking two completely new risks. One wasn’t all that successful; still, I’m glad I tried it and I’m going to give it another go and see what happens. The other risk paid off. Emboldened by my most successful garlic harvest ever, I lined up a "backyard farming" teaching gig for this spring! 

Teeny-weeny covered wagon
The morning after I made my Resolution, I reached into the new package of tea for my wake-up hot beverage. If you drink Red Rose tea, you know each package includes a miniature ceramic figurine, part of a collection with such themes as the circus, nautical items, wild animals, and so forth. Interestingly, I found a small orange covered wagon! The serendipity of making my "Take More Chances" resolution, and coming across the symbol of those ultimate risk-takers, pioneers, hinted that I was onto something.

I knew I was on track for sure when today, I came across more words of wisdom for anyone ready to take more risks: "Anything's possible if you've got enough nerve." J.K. Rowling

Here's to more nerve for us all! Happy New Year!