Friday, 14 July 2017

Home comforts: Summer Hygge

Last winter Hygge hit the headlines, this Danish concept of cosiness, and everyone was going crazy incorporating Danish winter elements to their lifestyles. We are all a bunch of copycats, aren't we?!

Well, I don't know about you, but in high summer like right now, I start singing Christmas songs and wish for cosy winter evenings with all the home comforts of the holiday season.

Don't get me wrong - I do love summer. I love going out without 20-million layers of clothes, being barefoot all day, lazing around on the grass and getting fresh air every day. I love going places on my bike, eating outdoors and walks in parks with friends. But I love the cosy season too. And a lot of what I've come to love about winter are the cosy things I enjoy at home.

So what can a gal do when it's just too warm outside for hot chocolate and wool jumpers? How can we still enjoy the feeling of home as a retreat, somewhere to recharge our batteries in the madness of this life?

I've put together a list of a few of my favourite summer home comforts which might give you ideas. Little things that make me smile, feel a bit more special, or bring me joy in some way.

Years ago when I had no children, I was a crafty soul. I sewed about a kilometre of bunting from thrifted vintage bedsheets.  Ok, not a whole kilometre, but it sure felt like it. Along with a couple of strings of cotton bunting I've bought over the years, this little collection gets pulled out for every birthday to decorate the house, taken along on our camping trips, and is now adorning our garden, brightening up the blank walls and adding colour and jollity to our outdoor space. I highly recommend investing in some bunting, or making your own. Start with simple paper bunting in plain white and see how cool that looks against a colourful backdrop, or even strung across a window.

In my cynical years I told my dh not to buy me flowers, as they are so quick to die, and to buy me chocolates instead. He's been happily obliging for nearly two decades. I would like to officially reverse this flower boycott and have some more around the house. Failing that I will buy them myself. I only have one real vase, the rest are glasses and jars, but whatever you put flowers in they will always look good. I've had less luck with houseplants, though I continue to buy and kill them at a rate of about 4 per year. I will soon be investing in some plastic plants and flowers to adorn the house, but the fresh ones will always trump plastic in terms of style.

I am growing my own herbs in a specific herb garden area of my garden this year. I used to have them in pots and dotted around the gardens front and back. Now they're all together with little paved paths between them. I love going out the kitchen door and picking some oregano for a pasta dish, some rosemary for a stew, or some lemon balm for our drinking water in summer. I am torn between wanting to cut and dry some of the abundant lemon balm, but it's about to flower and I want to attract as many bees as possible to the garden, so I'll probably leave it be. These herbs also have medicinal qualities so are dual-purpose. They definitely make me feel cosy and self-sufficient in the height of summer.

I used not to cultivate any flowers in our garden. I was so into the idea of growing our own food, I just concentrated on fruits and vegetables. But in recent years I've been gifted two rose plants (my girl is called Rose) and I really enjoy seeing them bloom. I'm keeping greenfly off them with my organic garlic spray and a toothbrush (yuck, knocking them in their dozens off the rosebuds). We planted a wisteria in an archway too, and are eagerly awaiting the year it deigns to bloom. There is an abundance of sweet violet in our gardens from the previous owners but that's about it, so in years to come I look forward to growing more and more flowers, hygge for sure.

Home cooked meals 
Even though we're not wearing jackets (most days!) and we're craving water and fresh fruit, a good home-cooked meal is still on the table most nights of the week. The slow cooker is in high rotation as we can have a great day out and then come home to a hot meal. I've been doing curries with rice, a pork stew, also pastas with pesto, pasta bakes, courgette and spaghetti fritters, baked potatoes, toasted cheese sandwiches (totally constitutes a "decent" meal in my house!) and homemade pizza. I'm trying to save a bit of money as we had got into the habit of eating out a few times a week, then our car packed up, so while we shop around for a new motor, the extra euros spent on not eating out will go towards this goddamn huge expense. We are loving slow cooker fruit crumbles with yoghurt for desserts, either made with apple or frozen plums with some berries from our garden to liven it up. Paleo crumble is totally easy too (as my dh can't have wheat or oats) so I make him a separate one using ground nuts/seeds and coconut flour or buckwheat.

Blankets and cushions
For those "child thinks it's playtime just 'cuz the sun is up but it's only 5am" mornings - I bring the baby downstairs so she doesn't wake the rest of the house, settle her in front of goddamn Peppa episodes and cuddle under a blanket to sleep on the sofa for another hour or two. One-eye will open when she gets to the end of a video, I'll blearily find another and go back to sleep. Blankets are equally important for making forts or beds outside on the grass when it's warm. And for cuddling into at night while watching Netflix and eating clandestine chocolate with the dh. We have a selection of blankets gained over the years, both large fleece baby blankets and homemade crocheted ones. So keep them out all year round guys, not just for winter!

Herbal teas
I'm in a caffeine-free phase at the moment, so I'm drinking Rooibos tea and I have a few different varieties I rotate. In the morning I like it plain (organic, Tick Tock is my fave brand for flavour) with a dash of almond milk. In the daytime if I have a sugar craving I will drink vanilla rooibos which is nicely sweet without containing any sugar. Evening times as a treat I love a rooibos chai or masala rooibos. I will make a thyme / rosemary / ginger tea if we're sick or I'm coming down with a case of the lumpy boob/threatening mastitis. The kids will have the odd cup of rooibos with a dash of honey. In general I'm not into chamomile / fruit teas, I avoid peppermint as it dries up breastmilk. I love the ritual of tea drinking and now that my eldest can fill the kettle and switch it on, half the job is done! So it may not be hot chocolate season, but hot drinks are still comforting in summer.

I've been nesting as we're staying closer to home these days. So one day last week I started painting the kitchen at 8.30am and got my fave shades of pink on the walls by early evening. Two coats. The previous day I'd filled all the little holes and cracks and now I am totally in love with the kitchen again. I have my eye on some gorgeous posters (educational AND pretty, what more do you want?!) and will get them framed so the wall stays gorgeous and Instagrammable. Very important for a mama who's a nutritionist who spends so much time in the kitchen. I've great plans for repainting my wardrobe and dresser too, just haven't started yet. I'm thinking blush pink and grey. Mouse bum, or whatever you call it.

Water dispenser
After a few goes of fermenting my own elderflower juice (never got it alcoholic - couldn't wait that long) and a botched kombucha attempt, I gave up and we now use this large jug thing for water. We have reverse osmosis filtering, which renders the water completely tasteless (I know all about the mineral-adding thingamajig, just haven't organised it yet thanks!) so we add lemon balm and it gives a lovely sweet flavour to the water. The kids can help themselves, but have discovered that you can stick your mouth under the tap and pour direct into your mouth, so I'm trying to stamp that out. I'm sick of cleaning up puddles under it. The dispenser makes water easier for the younger ones to drink and I love that they can help themselves.

Nail varnish
I bought some Rimmel 60 second nail varnishes and am rotating them for summer; pale blue, peach and an iridescent shell pink. They have surprisingly great lasting power and take only a little while to dry, though 60 seconds is pushing it. Nail varnish as I've said many a time, is one of my ways of treating myself, and when I've my nails done I always feel well groomed. I've had shellac / uv gel applied a few times but I'm not happy about all the UV exposure over time, so prefer to do it myself without the lamp.

Feeling cosy in summer can be done with the simple addition of a scarf (How 1950s does that sentence sound?!). My scarves are great for a spit ' n' polish on the kids faces, and a patterned one shows very little stains ;)  I've been living in a coral one with blue pattern on it (which my boys use as an "invisibility cloak"), and just today bought a cashmere-like blush coloured one which I fully intend to live in for the rest of the summer. Scarves can moonlight as picnic blankets, kids sunshades, wraps to keep your arms warm, hairbands, a baby blanket, a towel in a pinch... you get it. Don't be without them.

I'm not a big one for synthetic fragrances. I own one perfume (discovered on my honeymoon to New York and reminds me of it ever since) and I don't do body spray / deodorant / fabric softeners / air fresheners / pillow sprays. You get the drift. I prefer to open the windows and just wash regularly rather than overload the scents, plus they can mess with your hormones and your kid's too. But I do love the odd scented candle and have recently been gifted a room diffuser oil. I like mainly fruity in summer and spicy (cinnamon apple) in winter. Lighting a candle in the evenings gives a room a lovely homely feel, even in the height of summer. Alternatively you could go for essential oils in a burner or diffuser, or fresh flowers. Our white star jasmine is flowering at the moment on our patio, and the scent of it as you walk past is magic. I think it's really grounding to surround yourself with lively scents (including your gorgeous children's natural scents) and enjoy them mindfully as you go about your day. Stopping to smell the roses and all that.

So I hope I've given you some nice ideas for hygge in summer, please add any more ideas below in the comments.

Hope you're enjoying your summer
Nee xx

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