Creating a cozy hearth for the family
Ok, I know technically winter doesn’t start until December 21st, but when temperatures start dropping in mid-November, it certainly starts to feel decidedly more winter than autumn. And, while bringing some nature into our homes is fairly easy in the spring and summer when wildflowers and garden herbs are ripe for the picking and open windows admit birdsong and breezes, tying our homes to the outdoors in winter is a bit trickier. Why might we want to tie our homes to the seasons? First, connecting with the cycles of nature is good for our psyches. Countless studies have shown that spending time immersed in nature makes us calmer, happier and more alert. In winter, spending time in nature is potentially less appealing and available—so let’s bring some of that healing energy inside our cozy homes at this time of the year. Here are a few of my favorite ways:
1. Embrace darkness. With the longest nights of the year, a big feature of winter is darkness. In days long past, this would have meant we humans spent more time sleeping and more time in front of firelight. Embrace nature’s push for more sleep and dimmer lights. Instead of making your home’s interior blaze with electric light, consider letting darkness take hold and instead sitting by candlelight in the evening. Try to abandon screens, and instead talk quietly in the dimness, or tell stories or sing songs.
2. Make a beautiful wreath. Wreaths are a perfect symbol of the season and a fairly easy craft for a chilly afternoon. Wreaths can be made with dried herbs or with twigs and berries you collect on a nature walk. Try these DIY wreaths, or explore the internet for a wealth of other ideas.
3. Connect with winter spices. Winter is all about being warm and cozy, and few things enjoy a longer history of warming up humans than spices and herbs such as cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and ginger. Let these comforting scents spread throughout your home by simmering a pot of herbs on the stove. You can simmer these herbs on the stovetop in water as a nice potpourri, or double your pleasure by simmering them in apple cider or wine.
4. Make a nature-centric centerpiece. Making a centerpiece collected from nature is as easy as choosing your beautiful natural items and pairing them with an attractive vessel. Like the wreath project above, this idea gets you out on a nature hike to collect your materials (and soak up some precious vitamin D) then back inside to craft away. Some combos I might try: Berry-filled branches in a tall vase; pine cones in a large glass jar; evergreen boughs tied with a burlap ribbon and laid on a tray; statuesque bare branches arranged like a bouquet.
5. Grow greens. Few things can make us feel more connected with nature than having growing things in the house. Bonus points if that growing thing is edible. Lettuces are incredibly easy and fast to grow from seed, and they do well even in the low light of winter if you have a south-facing window. Pick up a wide, shallow container, plants the seeds of some mixed greens or Swiss chard, and enjoy watering and admiring your growing salad garden, even on the coldest days of the year. Even better: You’ll have fresh green salads come January.