Podcast 16: Cozy ways to enjoy winter days

Hello and welcome to Episode 16 of Life On the Brink, and Happy New Year!

We have officially left 2020 behind us. And even though it could be said that it's off to a rocky start, 2021 has so much to offer. I believe this is the year that a lot is going to turn around for each of us. And really, you can't blame me for getting optimistic at the beginning of the year.

While I’m not really doing resolutions this January, I do have one concrete goal:

read 15 books in 2021. This is mostly because I had the same goal in 2019 AND in 2020 and I didn’t do it either year, but I feel like this is my year. And I’m off to a good start, because today we’re talking about a very special book that has become my first read of the year.

The book is Cosy: The British Art of Comfort by Laura Weir. This is a book that I have found so inspirational, I’ve completely devoured it (in truth, it’s not terribly long, which helped with the devouring).

Today I’m sharing my favorite cozy thoughts from this book with you because with all this talk of goals and new beginnings, it is really a shame that for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere, it comes right in the middle of the dead of winter when you are motivated to do absolutely nothing. And on top of that, we are still in COVID times, so our interactions are limited. We're spending even more time at home than maybe you would during a normal winter. But I’m determined to embrace this winter, and this book is making it possible.

I’d like to start with a quote by Dolly Alderton, which is basically the foreword for this book:

“Cosiness was something I always slightly feared. Coziness would mean not being out- and out was where, I have been led to believe, life happens. Being out was glamorous, sexy, full of experiences and people. It was rock ‘n’ roll. It was where you were supposed to be if you wanted to make the most out of your ‘one wild and precious life’, in the words of Mary Oliver. As I’ve grown up, I’ve come to realize that so many experiences, lessons and moments of life changing joy, love and happiness happen in a home. Coziness, for me, is Radio 4, slow cooking, every Sunday supplement, Long breakfasts, long movies, long phone calls, big jumpers, tangled limbs in a bed or sofa. I enjoy those things even more now that I know indulging them doesn’t mean I’m missing out on the big party of life happening somewhere outside and that life can be just as wild and precious in the quiet as it is in the noise.”

Isn’t that just beautiful?

You may be familiar with the phenomenon of hygge, a Danish word that represents a cozy way of living. I’m not Danish, and I haven’t been able to really witness this kind of living firsthand, but I agree with Laura that “there is a certain elitism attached to it now it’s been hijacked by hipsters and interior design magazines”. It has been portrayed to many of us as being an ideal, a perfection that, I’m sure, is far from its true meaning. Cozy, on the other hand, I connect with much more, probably because I’m a massive Anglophile.

Weir writes, “Cosy is your interpretation of what cosy is. Your version will be different from mine, but one thing is for sure: fairy lights don’t have to be involved unless you want them to be.”

Real coziness isn’t an aesthetic you have to project to others, though I’m often inspired by a certain aesthetic, and that’s ok too. It’s how you live your life as your most honest, comfortable self. I’m making an effort to let that part of myself have free reign this year, especially this winter.

So with that, go ahead and make yourself a cuppa and let’s dive into it. These are my 8 cozy takeaways from this book that I’m incorporating into my daily life this winter in order to make my home, routines, and life more COZY.

1.Embrace Tea.

Of course, we're talking about tea, we have to start with it. And it's not just because I decided it, literally the first chapter of this book is called Tea (a woman after my very heart). The act of tea-making requires you to slow down and make something nice and warm for yourself. And since it’s so cold outside, the winter actually enhances the tea in a sense.

“Life-affirming and soul-warming, a cup of tea solves everything.”

And if you’re totally lost on where to begin with tea, check out this episode to learn all the delicious basics.

2. Invest in soft/comfortable loungewear that makes you feel good.

In the book, Laura outlines some winter wardrobe essentials like sweaters, gloves, socks, hats, etc. and her opinions on them, but I think that the most important elements of this wardrobe would be one’s loungewear, or as I like to call them, “inside clothes”. My cosy uniform usually consists of leggings, a sweatshirt or really soft sweater, and socks. It's these comfy clothes that make me feel really good and make being at home more appealing. So this winter, especially since we have even less places that we can go, why not invest in well-made or really comfortable quality pieces to just wear at home? Fuzzy socks are a must in my book.

My sister and our husbands, puzzlin.

3. Try a cozy craft.

I am very loose with the term “craft”. I personally like knitting and crocheting, working with soft yarn, but I would also include cross stitching (my sisters enjoy this one) painting (Josh’s recent hobby), or sketching or journaling or writing, or really anything that you work with your hands. I would even put puzzles in this category. No activity is more cozy during the wintertime, especially if you do have someone with you. My family and I have gone through many a puzzle this winter season, and I think that counts.

Really this is any kind of small project that is something you enjoy and has no pressure or deadlines attached. Perhaps there is an end product, but it’s not goal oriented. It’s simply for your own enjoyment.

4. Take an afternoon walk

As I mentioned this back in Episode 9, I am trying to get more in the habit of walking outdoors. I've kind of done it every now and then, but I know that in winter I'm going to have to be even more proactive about this, or else never leave my house until March. With the garden lying dormant, I need a little push to get outside, but I so enjoy it when I do.

Taking some time to be outside lets the brain relax. I prefer not to listen to anything music or podcasts, and just let my brain de-stress. The cyclical motion of walking is great for the body without requiring much focus, and I really enjoy tuning in to the sounds and sensations of nature around me. Also, it’s totally acceptable to drive to a nearby park to get all the good woodsy vibes if you don’t live in a quiet spot.

Plus, once you’re done and the sun has gone down, you can return to the home, make some tea, put on your cosy clothes, and begin your evening. It’s a beautiful refreshment that makes being at home more enjoyable.

5. Cook a cozy meal:

Whether or not you enjoy cooking as much as I do, we all need some cozy food these days. I say at least once a week, take the time to prepare a cozy meal for yourself or your family.

By cozy I mean a meal that 1) perhaps takes a bit more preparation, requiring more patience to make it but also 2) something that is warming and comforting. Probably it's something in a bowl.

These are things like soups, curries, pasta (I've started making fettuccini from scratch!), oatmeal, etc. I will also put baking into this category. I made some banana muffins last week, but I subbed some of the ingredients to make them a bit more wholesome. They were so delicious, so cozy, and I enjoyed them for several days.

I also think the act of cooking these things is healing in and of itself. There's nothing like stirring that big pot of soup as you're putting those little finishing touches on it. It warms the soul and the stomach.

For all the cozy meals, I have to recommend this blog, Half Baked Harvest. Literally everything is amazing, and I’ve made many of her recipes.

6. Set the scene.

There is no moment so pitiful as putting away the Christmas tree. I find that, come January, I have to be more intentional about bringing cozy ambience into the home, and there are a few ways that instantly make my living space more inviting in the winter:

-lighting: During the day I much prefer natural light (as much as our west-facing, ground-floor apartment can get), and will often avoid turning on any harsh lights in the morning and evening. It’s hard to avoid in our kitchen and bathroom (renters for now), but the rest of the space is filled with warm lamplight. Oftentimes, Josh and I will light small unscented candles at the dinner table, and I usually have one burning in the afternoon or evening with a pine or cozy scent.

Have a look around your place and if it’s not as cozy as it can be, take a moment to assess the lighting. It might be a matter of simply changing to a warmer lightbulb.

“Ah, the joy of the dimly lit room! If I had my way, my entire world would be eternally-- and subtly-- shone upon by warm, flickering candlelight”

-blankets: This is a given, but sometimes I find the aesthetic look of a blanket is prized above its actual use, so I’m making it a point to actually snuggle under a blanket when I’m relaxing on the couch. It makes such a difference! And my eternally-cold feet have never been happier.

-music: Whether it’s a jazz record at dinner, a spicy playlist while I’m cooking, or something cozy and relaxing to clean or work to, music changes the whole mood of the space. Check out the album at the end of this post for the ultimate cozy, rainy day sound.

7. Look around and enjoy the cozy.

The whole point is to slow down enough to see the beauty in your home, your life. So once you’ve snuggled under your blanket, maybe with your tea or soup, take a moment to stop and enjoy that moment. We move so quickly and live so fast that sometimes we don't stop to embrace it. If you've put all the effort into cultivating this coziness in your routine in your home, actually take a second to enjoy it. It's really a privilege to be able to relish such beautiful moments.

8. Share your coziness.

“So if we are celebrating the privilege of being cozy, and the blessings it brings us, we should try to help others feel that too.”

Here are some ideas to share some of this warmth with others:

-donating a coat or warm clothes

-secretly de-icing the driveways of your elderly neighbors

-working with a local charity to bring kindness and warmth to others

-bake a little extra or make a ton of soup to share with a neighbor or loved one

-write a physical letter to someone

-use your cozy craft time to make something special as a gift

-take a walk outdoors with someone who is very isolated this winter

-spread your warmth and coziness with a copy of this book!

-share this podcast!

This Week’s Little Joy: Bridgerton (of course). This Netflix series is set in a sort of fantastical, historically inaccurate version of England in 1813, and if you’re someone who loves a good period drama, this is definitely worth a watch. I was skeptical at first (the costumes are flashy and the soundtrack incorporates modern music), but I truly loved the story. It’s only 8 episodes and totally sets itself up for another season, so give it a try!

*note: this show is definitely more spicy than, say, Downton Abbey. Some scenes are not family-friendly, just a heads up*

What I’m Listening To: When it’s cold outside I can’t get enough of this 2-disc album: The Essential Frank Sinatra with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. I usually start with “Blue Skies” on the 2nd disc and shuffle it from there. Old recordings of young Sinatra, it’s like a hug through your ears.

Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode! If you’d like, leave a comment to let me know how you cozify your winter days, or leave a review on your podcast app. Until next time, friends, have a warm and lovely week!