My personal Christmas tradition is going to Celebration in the Oaks in my hometown of New Orleans. I’ve been attending almost every year since I was a child. In elementary school, I performed at it one night each year with my school choir. It was always a fun time, because after the performance, I could run around with all my friends seeing lights and riding the rides.
Through high school and college, I usually attended with a large group of friends. Some years, I went with my family. I’ve been living in Baton Rouge now for 14 years, but I still go into New Orleans every year to attend Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. There is something awesome about experiencing the same lovely fun year after year.
This year, of course, was different. It is 2020 and nothing is the same. It was only open for a driving tour. We still drove down last week to see it.
It was a mixture of lights used each year with some new ones thrown in.
Many of the lights are NOLA themed.
One unique touch is that your family’s names showed up on the nice and naughty lists as your car reached them. My daughter showed up on the nice list and my husband on the naughty list.
There was a special tribute to our healthcare heroes this year during the global pandemic.
Here are a few pictures from the past years at Celebration in the Oaks. My absolute favorite ride in all of City Park is the carousel, also known as the flying horses. I love carousels, but this is my favorite carousel ever.
Another great part of our annual tradition is visiting Storyland. It was updated a couple years ago, but many of the classics remain, including the dragon slide and Cinderella pumpkin.
And then of course there is the annual picture in front of the poinsetta tree.
During a normal non-Covid year, I recommend visiting Celebration in the Oaks. It is full of fun experiences. From walking through the lights, seeing the decorated Christmas trees, riding the Ladybug roller coaster, roasting marshmallows, riding the train, and more, it is always a great time.
I recently read The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking. I have been listening to the podcast, By the Book, where each episode is about a different self-help book. When I listened to the hygge episode, I knew that I had to read the book. Before that, I didn’t know anything about hygge. But it definitely is how I prefer to live.
Hygge is a Danish word that can’t be exactly translated into English. It is pronounced something like “hooga.”
Wiking works at the Happiness Research Institute, which studies what makes people happy and how to improve the quality of life of people around the world. It is based in Denmark, which often ranks as the happiest nation in the world. The cultural concept of hygge is one aspect of why that may be so.
Reading the book reminded me of my book nook that I created several months ago. I was focusing on hygge and didn’t even know it! It is my very own hyggekrog!
There is even a song from the Broadway musical version of Frozen all about hygge!
In the book, Wiking lists a hygge manifesto, which boils down to the following ten concepts:
The book addresses various aspects of hygge. The first chapter is on light. The Danes love candles and burn them all the time everywhere. Scented candles are not a big deal. It is more about the light. They are also really into hyggelig lighting, which is at a lower temperature (definitely not fluorescent). They prefer a certain style of lamps, which “spread the light without subjecting people to a direct glare.” To create a hygge mood, there should be a lot of candles and small lamps to create “small caves of light” around the room. Denmark is dark and rainy, especially in the long winter. Lighting design can help increase those feelings of coziness and intimacy.
I feel like I have always been the opposite. When I walk into a hotel room, I always want to know why they have several lamps rather than one big overhead light. I’ve been trying to light candles more, but usually for the scent, not the lighting aspect. I feel weird in dimly lit restaurants. But do I just want those bright lights just because that is what I’m used to? I’m going to experiment with turning out the lights more and lighting the candles. We are in the process of buying a new house. When we move in a few weeks and I start decorating my new house, I am going to think about putting more lamps around, so that I at least have the option of hyggelig lighting when I want it. Maybe even some fairy lights!
Most of the candles that I have owned in my life have been gifts or come in a subscription box, such as Causebox. If I am going to be increasing my candle consumption and purchasing more candles myself, I will make sure to buy eco-friendly, all-natural candles. The book even mentions the air pollution and negative effects of burning too many candles, but it doesn’t address that there are options out there that are better than others. If you didn’t know that there was a difference in candles, just google non-toxic candles to find out what to look for when purchasing a candle.
Another chapter in the book is on togetherness. Hygge mostly happens in small groups of close friends or family. It is perfect for introverts like me who would prefer a relaxing, cozy night with a few friends to a big, loud gathering at a bar. I could still work on having more hygge togetherness moments, as I am not as always as social as I feel that I should be. Wiking says that the art of hygge involves “the art of expanding your comfort zone to include other people.” We are social creatures and as most happiness research shows – “the best predictor of whether we are happy or not is our social relationships.” It is important to have work-life balance in order to have those hygge moments with your family and friends.
What about hyggelig food and drink? The book states “hygge is about being kind to yourself-giving yourself a treat, and giving yourself and each other, a break from the demands of healthy living.” Danes eat a lot of sweets. Sweets are hyggelig. Comforting, slow-cooked foods are also hyggelig. The smells that permeate your house when baking bread or cooking a hearty stew definitely increase the coziness factor. Hot drinks are also very soothing. I’m not a coffee drinker, but tea and hot chocolate are nice when snuggling up under a blanket with a good book. The process of creating good food alone or with others is very hyggelig.
I’m not sure that I can convert to the Danish hygge definition of clothing. I am all for the casual and comfortable, but my style is not minimalistic, black, and full of scarves. I rarely wear scarves, and I love color. I like my clothes to be fun and put a smile on my face. That is hygge clothing to me. I will wear the comfy sweater and leggings, but they just might be bright pink instead of gray!
Danes are really into design since so much of hygge takes place at home. Since I am about to move into a new house, I am thinking about how I can make it as hyggelig as possible. The items in my home should be comforting. Items should be more than just the physical object, but hopefully have a story or emotional value to go with them. Wiking says that decorating with wooden items and simple, natural materials makes us feel closer to nature. Maybe that is why farmhouse decor is so popular in the U.S. right now.
He also says that we should add a variety of textures to our home. Not just cozy blankets and cushions, but how do the other items feel to the touch? Smooth ceramics, a wooden table, etc. Also a good hygge home should have books. And take the time to hand write letters. Very hygge.
I also want to make my office more hygge. I am a school counselor, so obviously the more comfortable and inviting my office is, the better. I’ve also had many students over the years ask to turn out the overhead lights and just sit in the natural light in my office.
Hygge is supposed to be in all aspects of our lives. We shouldn’t hygge just at home, but also at the office, at restaurants, out in nature, etc.
Hygge is also about experiencing and savoring the present moment. I’ve written about my struggle to be more present before. It’s an ongoing piece of work.
The Christmas season is the epitome of hygge. It has all of the required elements – family and friends, traditions, food, decorations. The book talks about some common Danish traditions. I would love to form even more traditions in my family surrounding the holidays.
What about you? Do you try to “hygge-fy” your life? And yes, I did just make up that word.
I love lists. I love categorizing things and working my way through a list. I spend more time planning a trip than going on it. I spend time adding to my to be read book list, sometimes, before reading the several hundred books that are already on it. I can’t help it. It’s who I am.
During this time of social distancing at home, I’ve come up with a few ways to have fun with lists. The first one has been very popular on my social media. My daughter and I have been Disneybounding from home every day with clothes in our closets. I first Disneybounded on our most recent trip to WDW earlier this year. (There is a blog post on it, if you want to check it out.) For those outfits, I purchased some clothes and accessories to go along with things I already had in my closet to make the perfect outfits for the park.
For this challenge, we have just been working with the things we already have. Working our way through lists of Disney characters has been both a delight and a challenge, as we see what we can come up with. Once we are done, I’m going to put all of our pictures together in a Shutterfly book to remember all of the fun we had.
A long time ago, way before my daughter was born, I worked my way through watching each of the top 100 movies as listed by the American Film Institute. We’ve been having family movie nights each day. Usually, we sit around forever trying to agree on a movie to watch together. So, I came up with a fun challenge to mix it up.
I wrote down a list of movie genres on small slips of paper and put them in a bag. Every few days, we draw a new genre out of the bag. Then each family member is challenged with coming up with a movie for us to watch that meets that category. So far, we’ve done sports movies, action/adventure movies, animated movies, classic movies, and we are currently on superhero movies. Once we are done with the genres in the bag, I’ve got even more ideas up my sleeve to keep it going as long as we want. It’s fun, and each family member gets a turn to pick the movie, so no arguing about the best choice.
Another list that my daughter and I have been working our way through comes from the Usborne book, Step-By-Step Drawing Animals. My daughter and I are drawing each animal in the book, following the simple instructions. Together, we sit down and draw the animal. Then we decorate the background and add them to our stack. When we have worked our way through the entire book, I plan to connect our drawings somehow into some kind of book for our memories. It’s a fun activity to do together, and we can see the different interpretations we each have of the same animal.
The list that I have been working my way through since the very beginning of this quarantine is watching the Cincinnati Zoo’s daily home safaris. It started as a family activity that we did together. The three of us would sit down to learn about a new animal at the zoo each day. My family eventually started to lose interest, so we got behind schedule. I’ve started watching them again on my own, but I am still catching up for time away. Learning about all the animals is fascinating to me and makes me wish that I was a zookeeper.
What kind of fun, new activities have you been doing during quarantine? Is anybody else working their way through a list?
Yesterday, I got food poisoning. The worst food poisoning that I have ever had. Scombroid food poisoning. It was one of the top most painful experiences of my life. Like, rolling around on the floor, crying, super intense pain. I probably would have gone to the emergency room if it weren’t for coronavirus. Instead, I powered through with several different medicines. It only lasted 6 hours, thankfully, but those 6 hours were pretty horrible.
It is moments like these, however, that remind me what a great caretaker my husband is. He really steps up to the plate and does everything in his power to help the situation. He researched what was happening, found me medicines, called a telehealth doctor, went out to buy more medicines, rinsed out my vomit bucket countless times, got me ice packs and hot packs, all while continuing to parent our six year old in the next room.
When I had my biggest medical emergency, after the birth of my daughter, he was an amazing advocate. He did everything in his power to care for me (and our newborn) and advocate on my behalf, especially when I was unable to do so.
When our daughter gets sick or hurt, it is Daddy she calls for, not me. He is a problem solver while still being compassionate. He fixes boo-boos and tummy aches. She trusts him implicitly.
He is also a caretaker in other ways. He takes care of our house, our money, etc. I rely on him for so many important things.
I give my husband a hard time, most of the time. But, he really is good. So this is my “I appreciate you” post.
It has been one week since I posted my “how I’m going to spend my time during quarantine” post. Let’s just say, that I am not always the person I hope to be.
I have no schedule. I know a lot of people have been touting the importance of a schedule, especially in regards to homeschooling, but also just for life. I’m not really a schedule person. Too much pressure. Instead, my goal has just been variety. I don’t want to do the same thing for hours at a time. I try to make sure that I switch it up often enough.
That doesn’t mean I am filling my time with noble and productive pursuits. It just means I want variety in whatever it is I decide to do. Read a book to my daughter – switch to workout – scroll through facebook – draw – take a nap – go for a walk outside – eat a snack – watch an animal video from the zoo – read the news – watch a show – play a board game – and so on and so on.
I have not cleaned my entire house or done any elaborate art or implemented a strict homeschooling curriculum. But so far, we are surviving and trying to prevent too much boredom. How has your time on the inside been going?
Today is the first day of our coronavirus quarantine. My husband told me this was going to happen back in January when news of the virus first came out. I didn’t believe him and thought he was always assuming the worst will happen. I’ve had to admit that he was right (although I still think he is a negative Nelly).
I am an introvert. I enjoy time to myself immensely. But I also know from experience that I can get antsy after too much time at home. As of right now, schools are closed for at least the next month. I am trying to be proactive and make sure my family doesn’t go crazy during this quarantine. It actually has the potential to be a great time of togetherness and quality time.
Even on a regular day, I spend waaaaay too much time on my phone and Facebook. My goal during this quarantine is to fill as much of my time with things of value and not waste it away. Don’t get me wrong, I do find value in social media. On it, we share information, humor, our lives, ideas, and more. I do value it as a way to remain connected to others. Collectively finding joy and humor in the coronavirus memes is great. I just want to make sure that I don’t become consumed (like I have the tendency to do).
So my goal is going to be to look for things to do that bring value to my life during this time of uncertainty. Yoga, art projects, reading, prayer, walks outside, organization and decluttering, etc. These are things that I always try to focus on, as I’m big on self-care. With all of this extra time, what more will I be able to accomplish?
And it isn’t just about me. Unlike me, my daughter is a very social creature. She gets great joy out of attending school each day and seeing her friends. My time will be filled with making sure that her learning and fun continue. That means I can’t be on my phone, but directly engaging with her for as much of the day as possible. Just like I can get sucked into the social media hole, she can easily get sucked into the watching TV hole.
For some reason, I woke up at 4:30 this morning. I never get up this early, and yet here I am, up early with nowhere to go and nothing to do. I know it is anxiety keeping me up, but I’m sure I will fit in a nap later today in my busy quarantine schedule. Look at me, already making good use of my time by writing a blog post for my sadly neglected blog!
My husband and I will still be working from home, but I know that our next month is going to look very different. My goal is to use my time as wisely as possible. What are you doing to make the best of your quarantine time?
Tonight, my daughter and I decorated our Christmas tree. We are not the kind of family with super posh and coordinated holiday decorations. But I loooove my Christmas tree.
My husband pulls the fake tree out of the closet. I turn on the Hanson Christmas albums. And we start decorating.
As I place each ornament on the tree, I smile and reflect on a special memory. You see, while my ornaments may not all match, each and every one is part of my story. I love to travel. On every trip I take, I carefully select an ornament to add to my collection. Each year, as I decorate the tree, I get to think about all of the places I have been.
I have so many favorite ornaments that I cannot share them all. Here are a few.
Of course, we also have lots of Disney ornaments, so I get something different each visit.
Not all of our Christmas ornaments are from travel. Many are special because they were handmade by my grandmother. She has given me many homemade ornaments over the years. These are just a couple.
Some ornaments don’t represent my travels, but rather my home!
Other ornaments represent important life events. The church plaque pictured below is where my husband and I got married. The long thin Santa shell was bought on our honeymoon. The angel shell is from my daughter’s baptism.
And of course, like any good tree, there are the Christmas ornaments made by the hands of a small child at school or elsewhere.
My tree is eclectic. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Awhile back, my dad told me about the band The Highwomen, a girl country supergroup created in homage to the Highwaymen, a legendary country supergroup. Yesterday, I was listening to the album, which I definitely recommend. Each song is unique and great.
As I drove along in my car, however, I was emotionally unprepared for the song My Only Child. To many people, it will just be another song on the album. But it spoke directly to my heart and made me cry.
You see, it is a love letter from a mother to her only child, a daughter. I am a mother to an only child, my daughter.
The day my daughter was born was traumatic and life-threatening. It ended with a hysterectomy. While I will always be grateful that I survived, the loss of the ability to have more children came with a grief that took a few years to overcome.
For the first few years, I envied families with extremely large families, probably only because I didn’t have the option. I spent time researching and reading books on surrogacy and adoption. I held onto every one of my daughter’s baby items, just in case.
Eventually, my husband and I decided that our family would be complete with just the three of us. I slowly started to give the baby things away. While I was at peace with the decision, that doesn’t mean it did not come with a great deal of sadness.
The song starts by talking about how “I know you wish you had a brother” and “I know you wish you had a daughter.” At some point, every only child asks about siblings. I have explained to my daughter and I’m pretty sure she understands that she will always be an only. I know that sometimes she gets bored with just us parents, but I try to focus on the positives.
The rest of the song is a love song to a child. That is the positive. She is the greatest love of both me and her dad.
The song is raw and intimate. If you also are the parent to an only child, perhaps not by choice, check out the song and have a good cry like me.
I am a notorious planner. I love to make lists. Researching and planning for a vacation is my absolute favorite. I will sometimes spend more time researching books to add to my TBR (to be read) pile then actually reading. I can’t help it. I get great joy from planning and lists. But it is also important to remember ……
So sometimes I must remind myself – “put down that phone and enjoy the moment you are in.” Twirl in the sunshine. Dance in the kitchen. Snuggle in the morning. Notice something beautiful. Skip down a path.
My house is usually messy and full of chaos. It raises my anxiety, but I also hate cleaning up. I recently decided to take one small corner of my home and turn it into my tidy, relaxation spot.
The sofa and bookshelf were already here in my bedroom. In a messy home, however, extra furniture easily becomes a place for clutter. A couple of weeks ago, I declared, this is my book nook. This is my spot for relaxation. No more clothes or toys thrown upon this sofa!
In the past, those curtains stayed closed. Now, I am opening up to let in the natural light. This spot is also great, because it is has the separate lighting (the chandelier) from the rest of the room. Since my daughter sleeps in my bedroom, I can still use my book nook spot after she is asleep without turning on the overhead light.
I purchased a few little extras to make my spot extra special.
I bought an extra cozy blanket from Pottery Barn Teen. It is super soft and perfect both for me and for my dogs to snuggle under. I also ordered these Pride and Prejudice themed pillows from TheOldCuriousityShopp on Etsy. They are comfy and bring me joy!
On the wall, I hung this letter box from Underwood Letterpress. It came in my Fall Causebox. I plan to change it up with quotes from my favorite books. This one is from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. I love the whole series!
I already had this table from Hobby Lobby, but moved it next to my book nook. I’ve never been a big candle person. I don’t buy them myself, but I have several that I’ve gotten as gifts. I don’t have the strongest sense of smell. I usually only light them right before people come over to my house to mask any not so great smells that may be lingering. Many people find candles soothing, so I’m trying to be one of those people. This La Lueur candle, which also came in my Fall Causebox, does smell better than many of the unnatural and synthetic candles that I have had in the past.
I even ordered a new mug that would brighten my mood to use for hot tea in my book nook. This cup of happy mug comes from Natural Life, and says “do more of what makes you happy” inside the rim.
I also try to be one of those people who drinks a comforting cup of tea. Tea is healthy and makes me feel fancy.
My little book nook brings me joy. It is not always quiet, with dogs and a child in the house. But I am making an effort to spend time there doing things to take care of me, like relaxing and reading a book. My dogs usually join me. It’s also a comfy place for my daughter to sit next to me and draw or read books together. My sink may be currently full of dirty dishes and toys are currently strewn around the house. But my book nook is cozy and calm.