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Preparing To Go Inside With Hygge

Recently, I’ve been thinking about getting ready for a second spike in Covid 19 cases.  Our first experience in March was sudden and shocking.  Since then we’ve had lots of time to get a handle on this strange new world.  Our numbers of Covid 19 cases are still quite low as I write this in August, but if it does happen again this Fall, I want to be ready.  In fact, if it happens, I’d like to be as “hygge” or cosy, as possible.  

You may have heard this word “hygge” (pronounced hue-guh) before.  It’s a Danish word for a feeling of cosiness and contentment.  Some of the things that Danes would consider hygge would be lots of candles and warm drinks, a casual meal with good friends or family, comfortable warm clothes, and a home with natural outdoorsy accents.  (As I look over that last sentence, it occurs to me that the traditional Canadian cottage/cabin experience is pretty hygge, if you’re lucky enough to have one).  One other part of hygge that I think gets overlooked is that it’s not meant to cost anything; it’s about taking pleasure from what you already have.  It’s about taking a little bit of joy from being inside and warm on a cold day or enjoying a nourishing meal and some card games with your family or friends.  Denmark has a rainy climate (Copenhagen averages 170 rainy days per year) and so Danes spend a lot of time indoors; if they felt depressed by grey, rainy days, they’d be unhappy a lot of the time, so they choose to light some candles, put on comfy clothes,  and take pleasure in food, friends, and low-key activities. 

 I feel an affinity for this attitude – it reminds me of living mindfully, noticing and being grateful for the beauty around me and the loving relationships in my life.  So in the spirit of a hygge lockdown, or even just getting through a long Canadian winter, these are some of the things I’ve been doing:

  • I’ve been making jam -- with strawberries, figs, peaches, and apricots.  What a pleasure it will be to open a jar of these wonderful summer fruits in November.  My heart lifts every time I see these little jars of red and gold.  Next on the list is some bright green pesto and roasted red peppers to put in the freezer.
  • I’ve got a long list of books I’d like to read, some of which I’ve bought or borrowed, and some of which I’ll download from the local library.  I’ve also started a list of movies and tv shows that have been recommended.
  • I’ve bought a couple of blank journals – I do love a new journal and I find writing a little bit every day quite therapeutic.  
  • I’ve found a meditation app that I really like (Waking Up) and a bunch of interesting podcasts (news, science, comedy, history, self-development).   I feel good taking a little bit of time to be quiet and meditate every day, and it helps me sleep better later on.  And the podcasts are like a bit of intellectual “food” – I feel like I’m learning something, which makes me happy.  They put me in the room with someone who is smart and funny--and brings me a new perspective.  
  • I’ve ordered a craft kit for a kind of Japanese embroidery called Sashiko mending – my husband raised an eyebrow when I mentioned this – it doesn’t really sound like my kind of thing, but I saw a reference to it online and it looked really lovely so I’m going to try it.  I’m actually excited about trying it.
  • We’ve been meeting with a few close friends every Saturday night on Zoom for the last few months.  We’d had a movie club with them for a few years and once the Covid 19 lockdown started we realized we could still do it, by just watching the movies in our own homes and then meeting virtually at 8:30pm.  It’s been great – we spend quite a bit of time just chatting and catching up and somewhere in there we talk about the movie too.  I hope this will continue and we can set up a regular call or games night with our families too.
  • I looked around the house and found we’ve got lots of candles:   little votive candles, big tall ones, decorative candles that people have given me for hostess gifts.  I plan to light all of them, though not all at once!  And I’ve also found lots of vases, pretty plant pots, and interesting containers for cut flowers.  When we travelled to Denmark and Sweden last year, we saw the lovely way they brought nature and greenery inside; often it would be just an interesting branch or a single wildflower in a small vase or jar, a tiny pot of fragrant herbs.  It could even be just one big beautiful leaf on a stem, or a few stalks of tall dried grass.  My thought at the time was, why haven’t I ever done that?  Very hygge.
  • There are a few practical things I’m going to get next time I’m out shopping – coffee, pasta, cleaning supplies, flour, canned beans and tuna, and yes, toilet paper, and I’m going to tuck them in the back of the cupboard or closet – just in case!  I’ll also get some ground pork and beef to freeze in case I want to make some Danish “frikadeller.”  These are delicious meatballs that, according to our Danish friends, most families eat every week.  We had them both hot and cold while we were in Copenhagen and since we’ve been home, I make them regularly.  
  • I’ve been looking around and noticing that the house is getting quite messy and cluttered.  I’m not one of those people who gets pleasure out of tidying up and organizing; it usually all happens in a flurry before we have people over, and since we haven’t been having people over, well you get the picture.  A clean, uncluttered house is a part of the hygge ethos and now seems like a good time to do it.  I always feel so much better once it’s done.
  • I’ve been thinking about the need for different types of yoga practices when I’m at home a lot.  When we first went into isolation, I was happy with something quiet but as the weeks went by I really valued a more vigorous yoga practice.  Both are needed.  I have my mat out all the time now and I’ve moved it from the basement (nice but still a basement) to our bedroom where the light is lovely.  I find it more appealing there and I walk by it so many times during the day that it’s more top-of-mind and I get down and stretch in small increments more frequently.  I miss doing yoga at the studio, but I also love the CSY on-demand videos – there’s a great variety of yoga, pilates, and meditation in there, and it’s convenient to do whenever I feel like it.  If you’d like to try a 30 minute Active Yoga Practice, try CSY.34 - Energized and Strong in our CSY Video On-Demand library.  

This has been a difficult year and it seems likely that it will continue that way for a while longer.  There are some things each of us can do to slow the spread of the virus (mask, social distancing, hand washing), but there are also a lot of things that are beyond our control.  Whether there is another lockdown or not, we are all socializing less which can bring you down both mentally and physically over weeks and months.  Perhaps we can put some things in place now to make that time at home as pleasant, as hygge, as possible.  I’m trying to take joy in small things, in the everyday, right now and into the Fall season.  

~Cheryl Smith



Frikadeller (Danish Meatballs)

I serve these delicious meatballs warm with a mushroom sauce and small boiled potatoes, but they’re also good for lunch, served cold, sliced, and laid out on a piece of hearty buttered bread with mayonnaise on the side.  The garlic powder, oregano, and basil are not traditional but our Danish friends said every family had their own recipe and would add a little bit of this and that to suit themselves, so this is my version.  If you’d like the traditional frikadeller, omit the garlic powder, oregano and basil and just use the nutmeg.  Makes about 18 meatballs.

250 gr ground pork
250 gr ground beef
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup fine bread crumbs
¼ milk
1 small onion, grated on larger holes of box grater
¾ tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
¼ tsp each garlic powder, dried oregano, and dried basil
¼ tsp nutmeg (optional)
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
¼ cup seltzer water or club soda
¼ cup butter, for frying

In a large bowl, combine the beaten egg, bread crumbs, milk, onion, salt, pepper and spices.  Mix well and let it sit for a few minutes.  Add in the ground pork and beef using your hands.  Mix it well.  Sprinkle in the flour and work it in.  Add in the seltzer water or club soda.  The mixture will be very moist but not dripping.  

If you have time, you can chill the meat mixture for 15-30 minutes in the fridge to make the meatballs a bit easier to handle.

Put two regular kitchen Tablespoons in a small bowl or mug of cold water.  To stop the meat from sticking to the spoons, keep putting the Tablespoons back into the bowl so they have a slippery coating.  To form the distinctive elongated frikadeller shape, scoop up a heaping spoonful of the meat mixture with one of the wet Tablespoons, and use the other Tablespoon to gently make it a neat flattened oval.  As you make each one, put it on a flat tray or cookie sheet until you’ve formed all the meatballs.  (I suggest you line the tray/cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper so the meatballs don’t stick.)  

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Fry the meatballs until well browned on each side, about 15 minutes total.  

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