Little evening of American hygge

The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

3 words: cozy, happy, intimate

Biologically speaking, I’m ⅛ Danish. But when we talk about hygge*, I’m pretty sure I’m 100%.

Hygge: it’s the domestic trend of 2017, and I’m totally into it.

Hygge: it’s a word to represent the Danish concept of coziness

I was born for coziness.

(Probably most of us were, but I’m thinking I’ve got some serious natural gifts in this department. I’ll challenge anyone to the building of the world’s coziest little blanket-and-pillow nest.)

Denmark frequently ranks near the top of the list of happiest countries, and this book’s author (CEO of the Happiness Research Institute) says hygge is an important part of the picture.

And this charming little book is a handbook to creating your own experiences of hygge.

The book itself is pretty darn hyggeligt (cozy), cuz it’s small and includes pleasant drawings in soft blue tones that represent the key elements of hygge. We’re talking: candlelight, comfort, togetherness, a cozy nook, a fireplace, books, ceramics, blankets and cushions, vintage touches, and pleasures like warm beverages, chocolate, and cake.

Dear heaven, people. I want that life.

So the Dear Man and I set out to build it.

On a recent February evening, we did all the cozy things… we did some meandering tourist-style grocery shopping at a completely fascinating international market where we bought Danish cheese and butter because: hygge: it is Danish.

We also bought lots of other delightful things (including chocolate), because hygge demanded it.

Then we cooked Bookbinder Soup (I know!!!) and dined by candlelight and it was cozy as all heck.

And there was even the requisite book-as-coziness-object because, while the soup simmered, Book Nerd here kept reading aloud to highlight all the ways we were having the most hyggeligt evening ever in all the world.

(Did I mention I was wearing my fuzzy new slippers? I was.)

 

Give this book a whirl if you like… nesting, learning about other cultures, slowing it down a little to savor the coziness of winter, and books about the quiet pleasures of domestic life.

 

So, my friends… What are your hygge superpowers?

 

*pronounced: hoo-gah

Fixer Upper

 

(photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Magnolia Story by Chip Gaines and Joanna Gaines

3 words: warm, revealing, personal

I’ve never met them, but man, I love hanging out with Joanna and Chip Gaines.

Yes, this is an HGTV thing.

And it’s probably psychologically unhealthy to say, “Hey, I think I’ll go hang out with the Fixer Upper people!” and then get all excited cuz I just made my Pilates session more palatable.

Or maybe it’s brilliant.

I’m really too close to it to say.

(Gretchen Rubin Better Than Before readers: I’m using the strategy of pairing!)

One of the things I love about hanging out with those two is that they’re such a great team.

This book describes how the team came into existence. There’s a whole backstory there that I had no idea about… Joanna meeting Chip while working at her dad’s Firestone, her early efforts at design, the financial struggles as they were getting their real estate business going… it’s all the real life stuff.

And the way they were really awkward when filming a demo, until they got into a huge fight because Chip had bought a horrible houseboat.

And then the TV people saw some potential.

It’s pretty good stuff.

Reading this book was a bit of a risk, because when you like somebody the way they appear on TV, sometimes learning more about their true story can be a real disappointment.

This book made me like them more.

And I’m totally serious, Joanna and Chip, about that invitation to stop by and re-make my house.

 

I’m no Julia Child

 My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme

3 words: enthusiastic, personal growth, amiable

OK, I’m seriously no Julia Child.

But I’m seriously part of her fan club.

That Julia, she’s all about pursuing her passions and personal development and learning. And I really love hanging out with people like that.

Lifelong learners, you are my tribe.

This book’s been around for years, and I only stumbled on it because Gretchen Rubin wrote that one of her favorite posts was the one she’d written about My Life in France.

And it made me want to read Child’s book. Bientôt!

And while I knew only a few facts about Julia Child when I began reading, I liked her immediately. And her story of self-discovery and self-actualization completely resonated with me.

Here’s what’s great about this book:

First, Julia’s voice is clear and brisk and confident and engaging. It’s fun to read her words.

Second, it’s also the story of a marvelous partnership. She and her husband Paul supported one another’s interests and worked together as a team.

Third, it’s a celebration of mentorship and collaboration. Julia gives full credit to her teachers and the other chefs who inspired her, and to her early co-authors and colleagues.

Finally, this is one joyful memoir. It’s downright jubilant. Once Julia found her passion, she threw herself into the hard work of mastery, and she conveys the delight she took in the work. It made me happy to read about it.

How about you — ever read a memoir that made you happy just reading it?

 

Pizza Pizza!

Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg

3 words: personal, cheerful, entrepreneurial

This book hit the sweet spot: pizza, plus entrepreneurship, plus a nice conversational style. I was happy every moment I spent reading it.

Delancey is the story of Molly and her husband Brandon opening a pizza restaurant in Seattle. It’s the story of the early days of their marriage, when she was pretty sure he’d bail on the restaurant idea before the brick oven arrived.

Surprise!


And while the tone overall is cheerful, Molly is candid about her not-always-positive responses to the stresses of opening and running a restaurant.

It’s exactly the type of book I love to read: people living an experience I’d despise if it happened to me. But give me a book about opening your own business (or traveling to the Arctic or working as a journalist or any number of things I’d hate to actually do), and I’m one happy little creature.

The entrepreneurship thing has really taken hold of my brain, even though I totally do not want to be an entrepreneur. I’ve been listening to the podcast Online Marketing Made Easy with Amy Porterfield, and I’m completely hooked.

It’s like a corollary [dang, people: I did not know how to spell that word!] to my watching HGTV obsessively, when actual house-hunting and renovation makes me break out in hives.

So, back to Delancey. Here are two things that carry this book’s story into the future…

  1. The Dear Man and I have added Delancey to our list of future pizza destinations.
  2. Molly also writes the Orangette blog, which has been on the periphery of my consciousness for years now. So if you want to read the ongoing tale, you can!

 

The ladies love their quilting…

Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas

Back before there were book clubs, the ladies had quilting groups. Heck, the ladies still have quilting groups.
In this book, set in Great Depression era Colorado—up in the mountains—the quilting groups were the big thing. This is a sisterhood book.
I like sisterhood books. I truly do.
This one starts out with 80-something Hennie noticing a sad-looking young woman outside her gate, looking at her “Prayers for Sale” sign (a remnant from happy days early in Hennie’s marriage). Hennie takes young Nit under her wing, telling her stories of their small mining town, and sharing the stories from Hennie’s younger years, which bear a resemblance to Nit’s early married years.
Hennie and Nit are both relocated from Appalachia, and their wording is full of reminders of their origins. (To the question, “How’s yourself?” Hennie replies, “I am deteriorating at a normal rate.” [p. 99] As my people are apt to say, that tickled me.)
And as in many of Dallas’s books, at least one of the characters is carrying a big secret that is revealed at the end.
This book almost could be a little sweet, but the promise of the revelation of a lifelong secret—and some of the earthiness of the town—save it.
Instead, there’s a strong tang of bittersweet. Hennie’s well-meaning daughter intends to move her to Iowa (perish the thought!) plus Hennie isn’t getting any younger, so there is a sense of loss as she experiences “the last time I’ll ever…” moments. As Nit is coming to the end of her days, Nit’s life is just getting going; the juxtaposition really works.
(I made that quilt up there while attending a week-long quilt class with a friend. She pieced the excellent block with the pink in it and helped me pick the border fabric. She is someone great.)