Thursday, June 28, 2018

Summer Hygge

When I was searching for the meaning of life (*mid-life crisis...cough cough*) I came across the term "Hygge" and was instantly smitten. It's a Danish word that embodies a feeling of coziness and contentment. It essentially evolved as a way of surviving brutal winters without going stark-raving mad. In other words, if you have many months of darkness and cold, you need to figure out a way to embrace that weather and find the good and beauty there. 

Winter Hygge practices may involve snuggling under a cozy blanket, sipping hot coffee in front of a fire, and playing outside in the snow.

But Hygge is more than a season. It's a feeling...a way to live in the moment and find happiness.

Summer is actually the perfect time to practice Hygge, especially if you love nature and being outside.

Here are ten of my favorite ways to slow down and savor the moment during the summer season...

1. Walk outside and enjoy nature. This is probably my favorite outdoor experience. I love the wind on my face, checking out flora and fauna, and the silence and perspective I get away from civilization.

I recommend walking in a forest where it's shady and cool. Or, if you don't mind people (hee hee)...walking near the beach so you get a lovely summer breeze. One of the best summer spots is Sachuest Point in Middletown, Rhode Island. You can bird-watch, walk along the cliffs, and then grab a Del's lemonade on the way home. Bliss!

2. Make sun-tea. This is such a satisfying old-fashioned ritual. Take a clear pitcher, add 6 tea bags (I like Decaf Ginger Peach from The Republic of Tea), add water, and then place in the sunshine. Once the tea has steeped, you can remove the tea bags and add fresh herbs (lemon balm, lemon verbena, mint), or even slices of fresh fruit. Serve over ice. Refreshing!

3. Swim outside. There's a big difference between swimming in an indoor chlorinated pool packed with kids and swimming in a fresh water lake. Swimming all alone. Just you, a view of the mountains, and maybe a couple of fish near your feet.

My favorite and most invigorating swim was at the Basin Harbor in Vergennes, Vermont. The water (Lake Champlain) was freezing cold. Makes you feel alive! Fabulous experience.

4. Cook outside. Summer cooking is simple, easy, and so delicious. The farm stand is filled with fabulous fresh veggies and herbs. Who wants to turn on the oven when it's hot? No one! Time to fire up the grill.

Here's one of my favorite simple summer meals... a grilled veggie salad. Slice up zucchini, red onion, and orange/yellow peppers, grill until they have a nice char, toss with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve over greens and sprinkle with a bit of feta or goat cheese.

5. Garden daily. Another necessity in my life. It combines beauty, science, and creativity. Not only does it feed my soul, but it feeds my family. Gardening is calming and life-affirming, as well as practical (tomatoes for lunch!). BEST HOBBY EVER

Every day I do a bit of weeding and check out the new developments--what has bloomed, what fruits are ripe and ready to be picked, what herbs are sprouting. I also snip a fresh bouquet to place on my kitchen window sill. I usually add fragrant herbs for a nice scent in the house. I'm especially partial to lemon, so I like to trim lemon verbena, lemon balm, lemon basil, etc.

6. Socialize outside! One year I put white Christmas lights on my deck during the winter, and then after the holidays, I left them there. (No, I wasn't being lazy. I totally meant to do that!) Unexpected discovery: my deck was transformed into a whimsical spot for the summer. Add some bouquets of fresh flowers on the table, a few candles, and voilà! You now have the perfect spot to entertain. Make some summer cocktails, hang out under the stars. You can even create a summer cocktail bar with various fresh herbs from your garden. Party time!

7. Read outside. Kindle, print book. Doesn't matter. Reading is more relaxing when you are hiding in a shady spot with a gentle breeze ruffling your gorgeous silver hair. *wink* Personally, I like to hide under the big umbrella on my deck with a glass of sun-tea and my latest favorite Harlequin Presents. As one does.

8. Plan a local road trip. My only rule about travel...try to make it simple and stress-free. Otherwise, you need a vacation after your vacation. 

My family drove up to Maine recently. It's an easy drive, and we stopped for lobster rolls, to see the lighthouse at Cape Elizabeth, and had an incredible visit to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay, which is nothing short of stellar. Confession from a Botany Geek: I was so taken with this gorgeous and inspiring spot, I cried. Twice. This garden is a hidden gem of the best kind. If you get a chance to visit, take it! 

9. Open your windows! I'm a fresh air nut. You know how some people love A/C and some love fresh air? I want the air. Even if it's filled with pollen, I still want the air.

After a long tough New England winter, I love getting a summer breeze in the house. I also love the view of my window boxes spilling over with flowers and herbs. It's a nice way to enjoy the weather.

10. Visit a farmer's market. Some shopping I hate: CLOTHES! Ugh. And some shopping I love: antiques, plants, and FARM STANDS. The best! There is something that is quintessentially summer about meandering through an outdoor market.

I just had a lovely time with my mother and sister at the farmer's market in Sewickley, PA. It had herbs and baked goods and pottery and wine and gorgeous plants and food stalls. One of the nicest markets I've seen.

I'm also partial to the farmer's market in Norwich, Vermont, where I used to get salad mixes with greens and flowers and herbs. So charming!

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So, there you have it. Ten of my favorite ways to enjoy the moment during the summer months. There's no reason you can't enjoy that cozy, happy Hygge feeling even if the weather is hot and sunny.

Just take a step outside and slow down your pace.

Hoping all of you have a wonderful summer,