The Spirit of Yuletide Décor

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, and most Joyous Yule, my dear friends.  Our household, throughout the year, tends to honor and celebrate the oldest of traditions and beliefs, long before organized religion and that feels beautiful and real to us.  We will be celebrating Yule, but since I was raised Christian and Doug was raised Jewish, we incorporate all sorts of lovely traditions into our house and celebrate with our families.  For all the celebrations are really the same, the celebration of light, love, and hope.

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Decorating for the holidays should be nothing short of fun!  Incorporating ideas, palettes, and items that bring joy are the basis for holiday décor.

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We have collected cute stockings for a long time.  The children took some of their stockings to their own homes.  We are one short this year with the arrival of Ayla Mae, so I will find an adorable one for her.  Santa is coming to Grammie and Pa’s house Christmas Eve!  (To my great delight!)  I hung the stockings with care from the curtain rods.

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This was the first tree top angel I bought when I was nineteen years old in my first home.  I, of course, chose the tallest tree I could fit in my house this year so angel sits in the window welcoming loved ones.  Find these beautiful candles for a buck and some in the religious aisle of your grocery store.  They have them without the pictures on them.  They burn for a long time and they add festivity and charm to the home.

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Incorporating things you love is easy.  This moose was one of two that Doug got me our first Christmas together.  Her head is falling off but way up on the bookshelf she has a safe place of importance.

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The tree is filled with ornaments of old and new.  Photo ornaments the children made in grade school and ones from my childhood.  Ones from Grandma’s tree and many from our travels.

Yuletide décor is in the details.  Use holiday china this time of year, even for lunch!  Put oil lamps in each room.  Light plenty of candles.  Place strings of garland and twinkly lights in each room (even the bathroom!)

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These sweet, little cloches hold seasonal treasures.  Bird’s nests and moss covered twigs, sprigs of pine and pinecones.

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We opted this year to just string lights around the front porch and set them on a timer.  I love my ristras (one day I will be in New Mexico) and I leave the chairs and tables set up all winter in case of a sunny day that can be spent on the porch.  Always add pieces of yourself in the décor.  A sterile scene from a store doesn’t create the spirit of life that your own personal touches can.

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Place tea candles on sand inside lunch bags and line your front walk.  Light an oil lamp on the front porch for visitors.  Make handmade gifts this year.  Spend time enjoying the season.  And make space in your heart for light, love, and hope.

Six Years of Farmgirl School (and the adventure continues)

1005625_697090816973051_350125397_nSix years ago today I sat down and wrote my first blog post.  I had just recently heard of blogging.  I was writing regular columns in a few local newspapers but I was excited to take my words onto a bigger scene.  Even if I didn’t get any followers, I would enjoy typing away in the morning while watching out my window, holding a cup of coffee and watching the chickens play.  We were still fairly novice at everything from chickens to growing lettuce so the blog has chronicled our vast and adventurous journey and the life of a family, and inadvertently has become a comprehensive site to find out how to do everything from making witch hazel to milking goats.  My “How to Make Chokecherry Wine” has had thousands of views over the years.  Tomorrow, we will bottle homemade mead.

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This photo was used in an article in the Washington Post about our family.

I remember seeing a blog that had five hundred followers.  I could not believe it.  500!  I wondered what that would be like.  This morning I have one thousand, one hundred, and two followers.  Over 142,000 people have read my blog since I began this journaling journey six years ago in a rented farmhouse with nary an idea of how much to water crops.  We’ve come a long way!

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Maryjane
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Ayla

Six years ago I was preparing for my first granddaughter to arrive.  Today my second granddaughter is twelve days old.  Many people watched as we moved to what we thought was our forever farm, only to become homeless.  You cheered us on as we got back on our feet and purchased a home of our own with a third of an acre and a chicken coop.  You have watched me make friends, mourned over deaths with me, read as we created new businesses, patted us on the back as they closed, shared holidays with us. laughed with me, and befriended me.

Turns out that folks don’t keep blogs going for very long, maybe just a few years.  I love blogging.  Anyone who enjoys writing ought to start a blog.  It is easy and so restorative.  I just want to thank all the readers out there right now for giving me an ear, a place to be, for following along on this Farmgirl adventure.  It is far more fun to write for an audience.

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I read through the November posts from 2012.  The first ones.  Man, that’s some funny stuff.  Typos and all.  (Amazing how much one can edit and still overlook typos!)  Thanks for purchasing my books. (AuthorKatieSanders.com) I have seven, but Farmgirl School; Homesteading 101, which covered our first few years and my memoir, The Making of a Medicine Woman are near and dear.  I will have a second Farmgirl School book out by the end of next year.  We have much to discuss about urban farming and lots of projects to do!  (Let us turn the back porch into a greenhouse.  Should we get ducks?  Let’s make a walk-through arbor with pumpkins and twinkly lights!)  Oh friends, six years later, we are just getting started.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Sleepover with a newborn goat at Grammie’s house.

If you have been a follower since the beginning please make a comment.  Here’s to another six years of living the good life.

The Magic of a Yuletide Card

Thanksgiving eve.  There is always so much to be thankful for.  Health, family, security, home, and an inspired life.  These things I think of and am thankful for each day of the year.  As a vegetarian and a history lover, Thanksgiving isn’t really my favorite holiday.  And this year my children will be other places.  So, I have put up my Christmas houses and am clearing a place for the tree.  Yes, Yule is my very favorite holiday of the year.  The lights, the charity, the music, the wrappings, the trimmings, the beauty and joy that surrounds Yuletide is intoxicating for me.

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My grandparents with their great, great granddaughters. So much to be thankful for.

Now, I feel like we are all old friends here.  Just like you are over for coffee this pretty morning and I am telling you about how I, on a whim, just registered for a full load of classes to pursue a teaching degree (yes, I did that the other night) or am showing you photographs of my new granddaughter.  Over the years we’ve have had some laughs, we’ve had some tears, we’ve had some wine.  But I like the tangible as well.  I would love to be on your Christmas card list this year and I will add you to mine.  Let us pen old fashioned wishes and hopes for the new year.  I love hearing from readers and responding.  It makes us friends out there in this big, small world.

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Christmas cards may seem old fashioned, but they are a link and a wish to family and friends, old and new, and a moment of your time and love.  There is no greater gift than that.  Christmas cards have led to a few really fabulous pen pals for me.  I enjoy so much that moment of peeking in the mailbox and finding a card or letter.  Placing the envelope in my apron pocket as I make a cup of tea.  Sitting down to savor every word.  To be there.  To listen.  To read.  To pull out a few pieces of beautiful stationary and respond.  Yes, it is one of my favorite things.  Send me a card and I will send you one as well filled with good wishes and cheer, from my cozy home to yours.

Mrs. Katie Sanders

1901 Brown Ave

Pueblo, CO 81004

Wishing you a joyous Thanksgiving and a happy beginning to your Yuletide festivities.

The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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It is Enough

My mantra this year, for 2018, was, “Never make a decision based on fear.”  It was amazing how many times I caught myself making decisions (keep my struggling apothecary open, open another shop, apply to begin school) based on fear rather than faith.  This simple mantra helped me understand my motives and make better decisions (no more shops, no school).  And through that faith Doug got an amazing promotion and I am able to stay home and do what I do best, homestead and homemake.  I am available to help my children, feed my husband nutritious meals, keep a house, take care of a mini-farm, and grow our food.  That mantra led to a great outcome.

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Autumn always feels like a new beginning to me.  Like the pagans of old, I feel this is the New Year.  My mantra for the next year is, “It is enough.” I have enough things.  I have enough love. I have enough creativity.  I have enough space on this mini-farm right here, right now.  And most importantly, I am enough. 

Our Lady of the Goats

With so much time on my hands I have had way too much space to reminisce, regret, and be hard on myself.  Over the past four years we have built our dream farm, lost it, went homeless, lost our animals, lived with friends, lived in the city, rebuilt, bought an urban home, made a farm, closed our businesses, Doug went back into the IT field, our children have found the loves of their lives, and our second granddaughter will arrive any day.  A lot to take in.  A lot of gratitude.

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So I may have made some dreadful decisions over the years.  But I have made a lot of good ones too.  I am enough.  I don’t look like I did when I was modeling in my twenties.  I have faults.  But I have more wisdom and I have more love.  And everything around me echoes, It is Enough.

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…maybe one day we will have goats or the animal sanctuary I so dream of….or maybe we will stay here in this space…or maybe it will become legal to have farm animals beyond chickens in the city here…but in the meantime, I must leave the future where it belongs and be present.

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It is Enough.  We are enough.  You are enough.  This beautiful life is enough.  And when we realize that, gratitude comes rushing in with peace and great joy on its wings.

The Beloved Family

There is a very large photograph in Aunt Donna’s basement of her as a young woman, dark hair, slim figure, standing primly in a beauty pageant.  Her forties hair swirled perfectly and her lovely face and smile… my Shyanne looks very much like her.

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Aunt Donna is my grandma’s sister.  I say ‘is’ even though she passed away on Halloween.  She is mentioned throughout this blog many times as my gardening guru, my insight to family history and spirituality, and my friend.  At eighty-nine years old, she left behind a family that she had helped keep together over decades.  The matriarch.  I shall miss visiting her.  I shall miss her home.  I shall miss asking things like, “What do I do with Jerusalem artichokes?” after a day of harvesting sumac and Oregon grape root, or apples, or grapes or Jerusalem artichokes.

Family is beloved.

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My own beautiful family. (From left: Reed, Emily, me, Maryjane, Doug, Andrew, Bree, Shyanne, Jacob)

Family looks differently to different folks, indeed, but a family is a family.  Even though the actual definition is of blood and descent, I feel the dictionary ought to update.  I was born into a very large family.  As I grow older in the line, the family line changes and we all take different places.  My grandmother is now the matriarch.  There are many pieces missing in between, either from death or distance or apathy, they move away or fall apart or come closer and evolve.

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Maryjane’s beloved Aunt Pat (my dear friend)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, knew Aunt Donna.  She knows my grandparents on one side.  She also called my friend, Kat, grandma and calls Rod, grandpa.  She calls my great friends, Auntie and Uncle.  The harsh lines of lineage change and soften.  Maryjane’s Pa adopted all my children when they were very small.  There is no question that he is their father and his entire side of the family can be found penned into Ancestry.com as such.  My lovely, dark skinned sister and brother are as much my brother and sister as my blond brother and sister.

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Four of the five of us. (From left: Patrick, Vanessa, Joel, me)

And to Maryjane there is no difference between anyone.  If they are in our lives, they are family.  Community and family and friends intertwine and become stronger.  Find those that bring you joy and choose to spend time with them.  Call once a week, pen a note and send it off.  Be there.  Be present.  Be kind.  Be thankful.  Because family, made up of the kindest and those that love us, is beloved.

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My world.

Act Two: Chapter 17- My Life

There are many blogs out there that stay on point.  They do not veer into private matters or personal life.  This, my dear friends, is not one of them!  Geez, I even freely give out my address so folks will send me a Christmas card.  Now, I try to stay on subject, I really do; decorating, recipes, gardening, chickens, gatherings, et cetera.  But, this blog also acts a bit as my journal and sound board.  This is my network of international friends and loved ones.  I respect your notes, your thoughts, your own writings and lives.  I credit the success of this blog to the realism that comes from it.  You know me as well as anybody, even if we have never met.  This blog is about the real life of our family.  So, come on in and sit and spell and let me know your thoughts.

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Ah,  it was a beautiful day yesterday as Doug and I traversed three or so miles of rugged landscape through sweet smelling spruces and pine.  Across ledges looking out into the vast expanse of valleys and the city nestled below.  Crows veered ahead and the scent and feel of autumn was present on the warm day.  Last time I was there it was so dry you could hear the oak crying for the contents of our water bottles.  Since monsoon season, things have perked up and new growth was eminent and joyful.  And that, my friends, is where we are in our life at the moment.

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“You always panic when things are going really good,” my straight-forward cousin, Julie noted.  The beautiful ebb and flow of life freaks me out.

It didn’t used to.  Why, I used to taut go out on a limb, fly baby, fly!  Now, that we have lost everything a few times over and are settling into a rhythm, I tend to panic when not in survival mode.  Decisions become much bigger than they should be.  I plead to the universe for a clear and precise answer, preferably with details of the future, so that I can make a good decision that won’t land us destitute.

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The answer floats back from beyond…”what do YOU want?”  Do that, Sister.

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My incredibly hard working, intelligent husband got a huge promotion/job offer at work this week.  HUGE.

Our next act begins.  The next chapter.  Now, I have the amazing opportunity to be a homemaker.  I excel at this work.  We save a lot of money when I am home taking care of everything.  I am happy here.  Content.  Except that I desperately want to go back to school.  And I am all set to do so in January.  English and Anthropology to finish a degree from a long time ago.  I want to teach college…maybe high school.  I have always wanted to teach school.  Okay, so go back to school then, yes?

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To the tune of forty plus grand, y’all.  Now, last time I had a full scholarship.  I am a diligent and good student and can very possibly again get scholarships.  Will I like teaching?  What if I spend that much money and then don’t like it?  What if’s sound through the air like mischief in the making.

…what do YOU want?….

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I will be fifty when I get a job as a teacher.

I tell this story often, but when I was working as a caregiver a long time ago I took care of a lovely older woman who told me while I was trying to figure out if I should go to school or not (because I would be the ripe old age of 38 coming out), that time flies and I will be that age soon enough so why not be doing what I want to then?  Well, here we are again, just a different age when I get done.  I hate to add so much debt to us.  I hate the unknown.  (will I even be able to get a job?!)

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Our monsoon season has come and new growth is all around us.  I have the great gift of a being a woman in a free country, with a beautiful family, and a husband who wants me to be happy and follow what my heart says.  Of course, shutting off the chatter is half the battle.  Can’t hear a damn thing.

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…what do you want to do?…Let’s do that.

 

A “Falling in Love” Baby Shower

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Autumn is such a lovely time to host events.  It becomes its own decorating theme!  I think in this day and age all of us are ready to host simpler parties, to have easier get-togethers, to really celebrate without enormous expense.

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I was inspired by our city park.  Every weekend, if it is warm, one will find entire families in the park.  Portable tents popped up, folding tables and chairs, a BBQ smoking, and children running about while the elders talk.

We chose the old, indoor pavilion at the park in the woods in Elizabeth to have the baby shower.  It was a half way point for most people.  It snowed so only half the people came, but the ones that did had a great time and it was warm and cozy within the red walls of the building.  My friend, Vanessa, and I strewed leaf garlands and mini pumpkins on the tables.  A simple sign, “We are falling in love with Ayla Mae” graced the gift table.

Being somewhat introverted, Emily and I dread those silly games thrown at baby showers.  Reed is excited to be a dad and he wanted to be at the shower as well, so co-ed it was.  We did a contest where each person wrote down their guesses of what day the baby will arrive, hair color, weight, height, and day or night arrival.  The winner will get a gift card in the mail.  A simple journal was laid out for family and friends to write a note to Ayla so she could read in the years to come how excited we all were that she was joining our family.

We had the party at 2:00 so there was no pressure to put on a big spread.  I would have, but I had the furthest to drive and it would have been hectic, so mid-afternoon leaves room for easy snacks like chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus, and ranch dip and carrots.  A big pot of coffee and a crock pot of hot cider warmed the guests that ventured out into the snowy afternoon.

The highlight was my daughter’s cupcakes. (http://facebook.com/wickedlydeliciousdesserts)  Shyanne made the most delicious cupcakes filled with caramel apples or ganache and hand made, perfectly sweet frostings with hand made and and hand painted decorations.  Amazing.

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The twinkly lights in the wood building, the smells of hot coffee and cider, the colorful leaves, the laughter, the sweet gifts, the glowing parents, it all was so lovely and simple.  I took the opportunity, having all of the kids there at the same time, to have my dear friend, Alvin, get some family pictures.  It is always a perfect day when families can be together.  And a fall themed party is an easy way to do it!

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Close Two, On With the New

They closed with little fanfare.  New opportunities only come from shut doors.

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One shop that had been in place for years transfers to my daughter, Shyanne, and she will have more success without the overhead.  The new shop space is left better than it was before.  No one came and the fates have spoken.  I did get a new piano out of the deal.  The abandoned beauty was left in the back of the shop covered in years of plaster and dirt.  Restored and tuned, it sits in my living room ready to be played.  So, silver linings all around.

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It’s never a mistake to follow your dreams.  I always encourage folks to take the leap.  Sometimes I fly, sometimes I fall pretty hard, but I dreamt, I tried, I lived.  My house is now filled with boxes and furniture from both shops and a thin path leads all around.  That is my task the next few days (or weeks).  I still have taxes to pay and accounts to close.  I think I am done with shops and tax accounts and juggling and no pay.  Ah yes, and no overhead.

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I have a job interview tomorrow to go back into caregiving.  I don’t necessarily have to work but the tight budget thing is gets old and I have big plans for this lovely house and yard and y’all know that takes a little cash.  So, all good things ahead.  Blog posts about redecorating, renovating the kitchen, landscaping the gardens, recipes, and a simple life are still to come.  And my new grandbaby will be here soon.  I am relieved, overwhelmed, inspired, and grateful.  Thanks for following along on the ride.  This is indeed a very good life.

Hygge Lifestyle (simple pleasures and joyful living)

As the season begins to change, and the light appears more golden, as do the leaves, I find myself responding as well.  A natural response to the cool nights, I suppose.  Autumn welcomes in the New Year in many cultures so perhaps that would explain the nesting instinct.  My ancestors of old would be busily putting up food (as I am) and preparing the garden beds to sleep for winter.  Firewood will be cut and stacked soon and soups are on the menu for the first cool day.

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Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Nordic principal of all things cozy and good.  Of cable knit sweaters and wool socks.  Of blazing fires and drinks with friends.  Of self care with baths and saunas and good creams.  Of gifts and community and laughter and warmth.

Perhaps it is because of my Scandinavian ancestry or perhaps it is from living in a four-season climate, that I so love the hygge concepts.  It is one thing to prepare for winter and be ready to survive, it is quite another to prepare for winter beautifully.  It draws in the sensations of warmth and soft textures, and good books by the fire, and romantic evenings in, and game nights with friends, and rose scented baths, and hot chocolate in the snow.

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But outside of the seasonal aspects, the Hygge lifestyle is for all year.  Its focus is on friends and family and self love, and good food and good drinks, and noticing the beauty in every moment, in every season, in every facet of life.  Of embracing bliss and goodness and waking up to these lovely days we have.

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The book, The Hygge Life; Embracing the Nordic Art of Coziness Through Recipes, Decorating, Entertaining, Simple Rituals, and Family Traditions is a lovely book to curl up with and incorporate into your home and lifestyle.

Wishing you heart warming and simple joys!