*An Experiment to Soothe my Soul
I’ve been feeling a bit down lately…my job has all but diminished because of Covid-19. I’m working shortened hours, with reduced pay, so as you might imagine, it’s been stressful!
I know I need to take a massive chill pill and relax, and Hygge popped into my mind. Two years ago, I read a book called, “The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.” Pronounced, “Hoo-Ga,” Hygge is at the core of what it means to be Danish. Hygge is the concept of purposely constructing an environment that’s warm and cozy, thus improving personal well-being and happiness.
Since I AM 2.9% Scandinavian (according to ancestry DNA testing), I’ve decided to issue myself a 20-Day Hygge Challenge to purposefully embrace a feeling of comfort and happiness in my life. All joking aside, I think that the concept of Hygge is already programed into my DNA. Prior to knowing that there was an actual name for this concept, I’ve always felt it, especially when I’m outside. To me, it’s that peaceful, satisfied feeling I get when experiencing the splendor of nature, or even when I’m just at home, curled up with a good book. It’s about relaxing and feeling happy. The best part about Hygge, is that it’s relatively free!
I’m refusing to let Covid-19 and the rest of the craziness that seems to be swirling across America (and the world) to affect my well-being. Yes, this is just what a Danish doctor would order… 20 days of Hygge, at least in my mind! LOL! Why 20 days? This is the window of time that I have between my job assignments.
Day #1 (9/19/2020)–Wool Clogs
I walked for 4 miles today along the C&O Canal near Shepherdstown, WV. At the 2-mile mark, I noticed a sandy beach along the river, so I climbed down the bank and found a perfect spot to sit along the water’s edge. I stretched out on the warm sand and I could easily imagine the absorption of Vitamin D entering my body from the rays of sunlight hitting my face. As the sun warmed my body, I was soothed by the sounds of water splashing over the nearby rocks in the river, and by the chirping of song birds in nearby trees, and water foul honking in the distance. It was the perfect kind of noise to soothe my jangled soul. I forget to mention the smell of the air–fresh and fragrant–it was lovely.
Day #2 (9/20/2020)– Fairies and Gnomes, and Bear Poop–Oh My!
Today my feeling of hyggelig came from an unexpected moment. The walk was already particularly enchanting–no human noise–none! This makes for my favorite kind of walk! I’ll spare showing you the picture, but about half way through our trek, we found fresh (read that as very fresh) bear scat. Over previous years, we’ve seen about 30 black bears on hikes, and each time it’s been thrill. After seeing the berry-loaded poop, we were on high alert, not because we were scared, but rather, we felt excited. We ended up not seeing one, but that heightened feeling of excitement added a fun element to an already fun day.
Day #3 (9/21/2020)–Hell No!
If you were to ask me 6 months ago if I liked to cook, I would have answered with a resounding, “Hell no!” Surprisingly, even to me, I’ve found my way back into the kitchen, after a long, long absence. When my children were little (They’re grown men now–28 & 30 years old), I cooked every day. I did it, because that’s what mom’s are supposed to do. However, I found it extremely unenjoyable and many times, stressful and tiring. It’s not the just cooking—it involved shopping, the cooking itself, and clean-up. I hated all of it, but I did it.
When I look back reflectively, I guess part of the reason that I didn’t like it was because money was tight, especially in the early years of my marriage. I looked for recipes that were cheap, easy, and fast. Well, that’s a no brainer–imagine the taste! UGH! As the years passed, I gained more and more weight, and cooking represented my problem area ( or at least I thought it did), so I steered clear whenever I could.
Fast forward to my current job, which I’ve had for the past four years….I travel around the United States conducting trainings, so I’ve eaten out for probably 95% of that time. WOW…talk about packing on the pounds!
Enter Covid-19…my job switched to staying at home and training virtually. Fearful of gaining weight, I issued myself a challenge of walking a minimum of 2 miles each day until I reached 500 miles. As of today, I’ve walked 180 days, without missing a single day. I’m closing in on 700 miles, and since I originally set the challenge, I’ve bumped it up to 1,000 miles.
Because I was home, I decided to grow and maintain a garden over the summer. I grew tomatoes, peppers, and several different types of herbs. Well…when do this sort of thing, you need to cook, or everything would go to waste! As the summer wore on, a funny thing started to happen–I began to enjoy looking for recipes which included my garden ingredients, AND cooking became more and more interesting and fun. The most surprising thing that happened (and this is the biggest shocker); I actually started to like the clean-up as well. It felt strangely satisfying to make something by hand, and then look around a clean kitchen when I was finished. What has Coronovirus done to me? Amazingly, it’s helped me dig down and discover some hidden talents and abilities buried deep inside me.
Earlier in the summer, I learned how to make bone broth (because I had a leftover carcass of a broiled chicken). I watched a slew of videos on the subject, and in one, the woman taught me how to freeze vegetable scraps for future stock making. I was already throwing most of my vegetable scraps into our compost bin, so I just had to come up with a new system. Onion skins, celery ends, onion tidbits, carrots, etc. would be frozen, and scraps that I didn’t want to be in the stock would be composted.
I’ve learned that cooking, in addition to knowledge and technique, is all about organization and planning. I like that aspect…I’m just missing the technique at this point, but I’m getting better.
As you can tell, my Hygge for today was all about being in the kitchen. I added the frozen vegetables to a large pot, and I took the time to sort through the veggies in my refrigerator, to make sure nothing went to waste. I found a few limp carrots and a handful of green beans that had seen better days. I chopped them all up added them to the mix. I also cut off the remainder of my harvest of chives, oregano, and basil. I chopped it up and added it to the pot. In case you’re curious, adding onion skins gives the stock a beautiful appearance, and without it, the liquid would be quite pale (or at least that’s what my online cooking guru told me). The last part of the process is straining out the vegetable chunks, and the taste…wow, it’s so good! I froze most of it for future use, but I’m going to use some of it this week to make a carrot soup (What’s happening to me?)
I also shredded two zucchinis for a zucchini & banana bread that I planned to make later. I opened YouTube and found a great playlist called, Relaxing Coffee Jazz – Relaxing Bossa Nova Music for Stress Relief, which I listen to as I prepped and chopped.
My daily Hygge–music and cooking!
Later in the afternoon I walked to Debbie’s house. We sat together on her back deck, sipping iced tea and chatting. Afterwards, I walked back home, giving me 4.08 miles for the day. I crave my time outside, and for me, it’s extremely hyggelig!
Day #4 (9/22/2020)–Good music, good food, good smells…and Plato!
My friend, Debbie, cleaned out her books a few weeks ago, and she asked if I wanted any of them. We laughed about her still being in procession of her college text books, especially, “The Republic of Plato.” I gratefully took it and two other books from her collection.
So yes, one of my hygge moments today was reading about Plato’s thoughts and ideas. I sat in a cozy chair in my bedroom, wrapped in a blanket. It was too cold to sit outside on the porch in the morning, so I delighted in feeling the warmth of the sun through the window as I read.
Plato is DEEP! I found that I had to read aloud to better understand the text, which if you think about it is amusingly appropriate, as Plato himself was an orator.
Later in the day I made banana & zucchini bread…
The particular recipe that I used called for cinnamon and allspice, which created a wonderful aroma while it was baking. Of course, as I prepped the ingredients, I listened to jazz music on YouTube. Good music, good food, good smells…and Plato! Does it get any better than this?
Day #5 (9/23/2020)–Gobble! Gobble!
I was particularly excited to take my walk today, because I knew that I would be reaching the 700-mile mark for my walking challenge. For the first mile or so, I listened to music. My husband called, and we were happily chatting, when I noticed a wild turkey in a small clearing near the road. I’ve seen turkeys from the car, but I had never seen one this close. I tried to sneak forward taking a few steps at a time, but with each step I took, he took several small turkey steps in the opposite direction. He kept his eye on me as he continued to nibble at the grasses and plants.
At one point, a butterfly danced around his head and he tried three or four times to pluck it out of the air with his beak. I laughed and I was so entranced by his behavior that I finally stopped trying to get close to him, and instead, I watched quietly. He was pretty big, but the most fascinating thing about him was the wattle that hung down from his neck. It was blood red and seemingly translucent when the light from the sun hit it at just the right angle. When I set off today, I had no idea that my hyggelig moment of the day would come to me in the form of wild poultry!
I started easy with a quick loaf, and then I worked my way up to a soda bread, because the description proclaimed that it was perfect for beginners. Gobble! Gobble! It was delicious and crusty. After it cooled, I sliced and froze most of it. I did leave out a few slices, so Tom & Debbie could try it. I feel successful and incredibly satisfied today!
Day #6 (9/24/2020)–
I began the day with a 5.62 mile walk. It was a bit chilly, but the sun was warm. As I walked, I listened to a podcast about the history of the English language. Yup–that’s enjoyable for me!
I spent the afternoon in the kitchen and I made homemade Cream of Carrot. Soup and I ATTEMPTED to make French Baguettes. The soup was creamy and delicious, the baguettes could have been used as a lethal weapon. True French baguettes only have four ingredients–flour, water, salt, and yeast. With only four ingredients, what could possibly go wrong? A lot!
I had heard that making baguettes takes a bit of skill, and that turned out to be true. I watched several videos until I felt somewhat comfortable with the process of mixing, rising, shaping, rising, baking, etc. I found the process to be fun, and as I progressed through the steps, everything appeared to be going well.
The bread turned out perfectly crispy, especially the underside. The problem was the middle, it was very dense, with minimal rise. The taste was actually pretty good, but the inside density and appearance was just WRONG!
It can only be two things (in my novice opinion)…the yeast or the oven. I can’t change my oven, but I can certainly try again…and I will. Was this still a hygge moment? You bet it was! I enjoyed the challenge and the actual process of making the bread, and I feel motivated to try again.
Day #7 (9/25/2020)–
Today was all about being outside…first a walk…and then dining alfresco. Perfecto!
Day #8 (9/26/2020)–
I woke up in a really bad mood today, and I felt sad and blue for most of the morning. I just couldn’t shake the feeling, and it was an odd sensation. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I could burst into tears at any moment. I tried to shake off the feeling, but it felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders.
I decided that the most loving thing that I could do for myself , and the best course of action was to take a nap. Napping mid-day is something that I rarely do. I got into bed, turned on some soothing music, and pulled the covers up to my chin. I must have fallen asleep immediately, because I don’t even remember drifting off. I woke up three hours later! I felt refreshed and the gray cloud had definitely lifted. Sleep! Sleep was apparently what I needed!
Day #9 (9/27/2020)–
Today was all about finding a new hiking trail…
It was a beautiful day, and Tom and I discovered a hiking trail that we’ve probably driven past at least over 20 times in the last several years. We’re still marveling over how we could have missed this gem.
We saw lots of wildlife today which always thrills me. We saw and heard lots of birds, including hawks, vultures, songbirds, and even a Pileated woodpecker. We saw many squirrels collecting nuts on the ground, and running along tree limbs. It’s always fun to watch their antics.
We also came across a big box turtle crossing the trail. He was probably my Hygee moment for the day. I sat down on the trail next to him and quietly observed him for several minutes. He finally stuck his head and legs out, and I was able to see his magnificent coloration. If I ever become a professional photographer, I will become a photographer of turtles! They don’t move much! LOL! I thoroughly enjoyed watching him.
Day #10 (9/28/2020)–
Today’s Hygee moment was a simple one…enjoying a cup of pumpkin spice coffee while sitting in the sun on my back patio. Vitamin D and caffeine–a win-win combination! LOL!
Day #11 (9/29/2020)–
I can tell you what my most UN-hyggelig moment of the day was–the debate between President Trump and former Vice-President Biden. It was horrific! They reminded me of two 5 year-olds on a playground. It was a clown show–and I felt angry after watching it. Shame on both of you!
After the debate, I settled myself down by watching an old episode of Survivor, and then I listened to soothing music as I feel asleep.
Day #12 (9/30/2020)–
I guess the best hygee moments are the ones that just happen. True, you can purposely set out to create a moment of peace, calm, and comfort for yourself, but surprises are great fun, too! I had just finished my walk and I was approaching my house, and I saw that there was a colorful package on my front porch. I hadn’t ordered anything, so it was definitely unexpected. I could tell from the return address label that is from my friend, Victoria, but I was still puzzled as to why she had sent me something. It was too early for my birthday.
I brought the package to the back porch and began to open it with a sense of curiosity and excitement. She had sent me a collection of “fun stuff” including handmade potpourri, food items, sea salt from Maine (where she lives), Halloween candy corn socks, a face mask, tea, a special mug with a picture of our “tribe,” etc. She had also included a card which thanked me for our friendship. I was so touched that I began to cry. Victoria, thank you for my hygee moment of the day! I’m so moved by your thoughtfulness, and I feel very lucky to have you as a friend!
It’s not about the “things” that she sent, but rather, the human emotion behind it, and the feeling of comfort that it provided to me. After opening the package, I went inside and made a cup of tea from the one of the tea bags that she had sent, and of course, I used my new mug. I brought it back outside and enjoyed my gift in the warmth of the morning sun.
Day #13 (10/1/2020)–
Today was a beautiful, crisp, cool day. I’ve noticed that I’ve had to really pay attention to the temperature prior to heading out lately, and on some days I’ve needed a fleece and thin gloves in the morning. I like walking in cooler temperatures…AND fall is my favorite season, so I really enjoyed today’s walk. One of my newer goals is listening (re-listening) to 141 podcast episodes about the history of the English language. I’ve already listened to about 20 episodes so far, and I had a big gap in time between them, and I kind of lost my place. I decided to start over…as of today I’ve re-listened to the first 7 episodes, and now I’m going to listen to one every day until I finish the series. I love learning something new when I walk!
Day #14 (10/2/2020)–
Even though I’ve been trying to be kind to myself by making sure that I have and recognize at least one hygee moment for the day, I can feel that I’ve been in a slump lately, and I know exactly what’s causing it. I’ve been intermittent fasting for the last 59 days, and I haven’t lost a significant amount of weight. That has really frustrated me, because I’ve done a complete 180° turn around with my eating.
- Timing of my eating–fasting
- Clean fasting
- Severely restricting foods made with preservatives
- Severely restricting fast food
- Growing tomatoes and herbs and cooking with them
- Severely restricting processed carbs
- Making my own bread
- Eating lots of fruits and vegetables
- Cooking most of my meals (this is a huge change!)
- Walking every day (I’ve walked 197 days in a row!)
I’ve bounced around at relatively the same weight for about a month by losing and gaining the same 1-3 pounds. As of today I’ve lost slightly over 33 pounds, and I’m thrilled with that, but I still have about 40 more pounds to lose…being patient is difficult!
After I finished my walk this morning, I decided to sit in the sun on the back porch. I made a cup of hot tea (no sugar) and looked up the dictionary.com word of the day, which, by the way, is one of my secret pleasures! The word for today is élan (pronounced:ā-ˈlän), a noun which means vigorous spirit or enthusiasm.
Hmmm…how appropriate! I’m going to take today’s word as a sign to keep moving forward with all of my goals (including weight loss) with a renewed sense of élan!
Day #15 (10/3/2020)–
Covid-19 has really hit my livelihood hard, and I’m now only being scheduled to work one week a month. How long will this last? Nobody knows, so financially I’m under constant stress. I decided to supplement my income by finding a second job—which I did–at a winery! Today was my first day. It was a beautiful day and I think people are tired of being cooped up inside, so it was insanely busy. I had a great day, and I’m so happy that I decided to try something new. I like wine, and I love visiting vineyards, so I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to learn about the wine industry.
After our shift was over, everyone gathered to debrief and enjoy a glass of wine together. It was so nice to relax, talk, and laugh with a new group of people. Hygge equals comfort, so this was definitely that moment for the day! Meeting Josh sure helped as well! LOL!
Day #16 (10/4/2020)–
Today was all about being outside. I walked in the morning and then Tom and I walked at Yankauer Nature Preserve in the afternoon. The weather was perfect and we scored a NoHot (No Humans on Trail)! That reason alone created the perfect hygge moment for me. However, the hygge purpose that I was striving for was that I was on the look-out for some evergreen branches to use in my stove-top potpourri. I was successful and later the house is filled with the most heavenly woodsy scent! THE NOSE KNOWS!
Debbie called and invited me to her house for a porch date to include iced tea, watching the sun set, and French baguettes. A weird combination? Yes, but she had just tried making the baguettes for the first time (ever), and she was excited for me to try some. They were so good! She had also made ricotta cheese which we slathered on the warm bread. We also dipped the bread in olive oil sprinkled with oregano–DELISH!
Day #17 (10/5/2020)–
Today’s hike was all about collecting a bit of juniper for my potpourri. It wasn’t much of a hunt, because I already knew where a tree was. Fall is my favorite season of the year, and the weather was glorious! (The juniper smelled amazing when I added it to the simmering pot later in the day). I’m so smell oriented, so between being outside, and the potpourri…I was in heaven!
Day #18 (10/6/2020)–
My hygge for today was sleeping in! I didn’t set the alarm and I naturally woke up at a few minutes after 8:00 a.m. I peeked at the clock and luxuriated in the fact that I was snuggled up in my warm bed AND that I didn’t have to get up if I didn’t want to…and I didn’t want to! I rolled over and fell back to sleep, and finally woke up for the day at a couple minutes before ten. It felt so good–I guess I needed a wee bit more sleep!
Day #19 (10/7/2020)–
I’m certainly not trying to eat strictly vegetarian, but today I made egg cups and a side of black beans. My hygge moment was the combination of sitting on the back porch and eating my meal. The weather was perfect and the leaves are beginning to turn, so that was enjoyable…but my meal was delicious! I enjoyed the fact that it tasted good AND it was good for me.
For me, anything is better (including food), if I’m outside!
Day #20 (10/8/2020)– Today is my final day of documenting a hygge moment for the day. Hygge moments happen daily, but I know that in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we tend not to notice. It reminds me of the saying, “Make sure to stop and smell the roses.”
My hygge moment for the day was noticing the fall colors when I was walking….when I say notice, I mean that I stopped and really looked at the colors. Fall is my favorite season, and it goes by so quickly.