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How To Be Cozy

While Karen is our self-appointed resident expert on hygge — the Danish art of coziness — it’s a matter all three of us take pretty seriously this time of year. And by “this time of year,” I mean whenever it’s cold and dark. Living in Alaska gives us plenty of time to practice!

I thought I’d use this opportunity to share some of our well-earned wisdom. Since we spend all day at the station thinking about sound, I wanted to create a guide to achieving Peak Cozy with all the other senses: sight, feel, smell, and taste. And now without further ado, I present:

How to be Cozy

1. LIGHT

Arguably the most important element, a comforting glow is essential to creating a cozy atmosphere. Plus: gentle, warm lighting is the most flattering, and who doesn’t want that?

Candles are ideal [See Karen for Fire Safety Tips!], but there are lots of other options. Although certain soulless individuals would allege that Christmas/fairy/twinkle lights are “tacky,” unlike unframed posters and mini-fridges, these are one dorm room staple I still embrace.

The Cave of Wonders, a.k.a. KNOM Volunteer House, also has a nearly inexhaustible supply of lamps that cast a nice light. Whatever you choose to illuminate your space, maximize coziness with multiple light sources, arranged at eye level or lower. Aim for yellow- rather than blue-tinted light, and avoid overhead fluorescents at all costs. Working in radio, I feel professionally entitled to hate fluorescent lights: not only do they have all the charm of your least favorite dentist office, but their high-pitched droning can ruin a recording.

A willow tree full of lights and ornaments and plenty of Christmas decorations cozy up the KNOM volunteer house circa December 2017.

The KNOM volunteer house circa December 2017.

2. WARM STUFF

My personal theory is coziness is it’s mostly about contrast. That’s why light is so key (“It’s dark out there but bright in here”).

The same is true for everything you can feel. When it’s cold, windy, and wet outside, bring on the warm and fuzzy!

Sweaters, slippers, and blankets are musts. I also sacrificed major packing space in order to bring along my massive red plaid fleece bathrobe, and I haven’t regretted it for a second. I’ve happily worn a knitted hat pretty much every day I’ve spent in Alaska, beginning back in balmy June, but I wouldn’t think of leaving the house without one these days. I scored a new one this weekend in a white elephant exchange. Although I was very tempted to steal Gabe’s origami muskox, polar bear, and caribou, I think it all worked out for the best: when I pulled out the hand-knit green-and-white hat, it was instantly pronounced “a very Zoe hat.” That’s probably because I already owned a nearly identical one, but didn’t Coco Chanel say one must have a signature look? No?

3. GOOD-SMELLING STUFF

These days, “autumn” is basically synonymous with “pumpkin spice,” but in my opinion, a nice-smelling space is even more important when in the winter. You’re spending the most time indoors, after all!

At our holiday party this weekend, I was thrilled to make mini pomanders with cloves and clementines. I now have one in my room, and one on my desk at work. I also use an essential oil diffuser at night, which does double-duty as a humidifier. Karen has likened sleeping in an un-humidified winter room to being mummified. And you know what is not cozy? Cracked lips and scaly hands. I am not a year-round lotion-user, but in the winter I become emotionally dependent on the incredible-smelling hand cream my cool aunt turned me on to in high school.

A pomander and an essential oil diffuser help make winter spaces extra cozy.

Step 3: good-smelling stuff.

4. HOT BEVERAGES

I’ve talked a lot on the volunteer blog about my bodily shock at arriving in Alaska fresh from 90-something degree weather in North Carolina.

I say with confidence that July 2017 will be the single summer month in my lifetime in which I consumed the most hot chocolate. I drank it nearly daily in my first weeks, but we are now in prime hot chocolate season. And there are plenty of other great options: Warm up some apple cider or eggnog, keep it classic with coffee or tea, or channel your inner British schoolchild with mug of hot milk mixed with cinnamon and honey (I dubbed this “cinnamilk” and was unduly proud). Half the fun is just getting to hold the warm mug.

BONUS: FRIENDS!

Truly the best way to spend a cozy day: with friends! Getting outside in the elements is key to a cheerful winter, but cold weather is also a perfect excuse to invite over a friend or two or ten for TV/movie marathons, game nights, cooking or baking, or simply lounging around and chatting.

And there you have it! May your days be merry and bright!

– The Cozy Club