Hello, new year

www.houseofsmilla.com blog about motherhood, hygge, slow living and minimalism. 
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Hello, new year said our holiday card this year. Not because I'm the grinch who stole Christmas, but because it was the design that spoke to me the most. 

I also didn't plan on writing another post on new year resolutions/plans/ambitions/dreams, but then I opened up this blog template and it just came pouring out anyways. Last year, this post went something like this "...don't stress out, practice more hygge, see if it can make you happy". To read the full story you can click here. It is mid December as I'm re-reading last years words and I feel a slight sense of accomplishment, but mostly I feel that I fell short. I did add more "hygge" to my daily life. The first few weeks with Winter particularly, I slowed down and swam in a sea of newborn bliss. Then, the move happened. I told myself last year, whatever happens in 2017, don't loose your mind, don't loose yourself during this year of transition. And what happened ? I may have just lost my mind a little bit. Or in more self-loving, respectful words - I just haven't found my rhythm in this new Texas life of ours.

There are days, that I feel totally content, secure in my mothering, utmost happy in my marriage and everything from lighting a candle first thing in the morning, to a wonderful steamy homemade meal in the evening is just great. Mostly though, I am mourning the times that could be spent with our friends and family back in Germany and I mourn, that despite my best effort (and you really can't say I haven't tried) I just haven't found a deep, meaningful connection here. For someone who thrives on social contacts, that's not good at all. Chatter at the playground is nice, but it only goes so far towards greater happiness. My children are wonderful, they are my life - but as any mother will tell you, to talk all day about fairies and legos and animal noises just doesn't mentally stimulate you in the long run. I have a hard time adjusting to the climate and the fact that there are no seasons. After all, it's intentional living in the rhythm of the seasons that fulfills my heart. I feel for my husband, who has to deal with my changing moods on top of his stressful new career and the fact, that he hasn't quite found is rhythm either. On top of it all the nagging question: was it worth it? Will it be worth it?

The answer of course is, most likely, yes. Until I get over myself though and find real contentment in our new life, I need to stop being so hard on myself. I need to focus even more on the things that we have, the countless things we can be grateful for. 

Hello, new year says our holiday card. It also says:

DRINK COFFEE, GET OUTSIDE, READ ALL THE BOOKS & GET SOME SLEEP. 

I put that on there, because it matched the photographs I had picked so nicely. I thought it was smart and fresh. Just the perfect little message coming from us. A little bit more original maybe, than your standard "and a happy new year". 

Not until I received the cards in the mail did I realize, that, from an unconscious place, I prescribed myself exactly what I need for the new year. Turns out, I don't think I put that on there for you. I put it on there for me. 

DRINK GOOD COFFEE (continue to gain more knowledge on craft coffee // keep watching my handsome husband experiment with his brews // sit down together and analyze the taste, developing our palate one sip at a time // mainly, join together in conversation at our table // invite others to join us // togetherness.)

GET OUTSIDE (the Texas heat sucks // but I need air to breathe // the kids NEED room to roam // seek out places that fill our soul // find that wildness tonic )

READ ALL THE BOOKS (unplug // nourish your mind // stop feeling sorry for myself for not knowing about the ways of the world, but educate myself // remember how good written words makes you feel and soak it in // screens off)

GET SOME SLEEP (whenever you can, take a nap // the things I think of as important aren't nearly as important as my sanity // go the f to sleep // you need it mama // I will never feel good in my skin, if I keep up this sleep deprived mess that I am)

So without knowing it at first, I made some resolutions after all. Did you? 

p.s.: I wrote the draft for this post in mid-December. It is the first week of January now and oddly, with the new year came a sense of newfound positivity and cheerful outlook on the months to come. Hopefully, I'll be able to keep these energies flowing and make 2018 a happy one. 

 

 

On my nightstand {December}

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As one of my goals for next year is to just take the time to read some books, I want to share on the blog, what I'm currently reading. So this is what is currently on my nightstand:

What falls from the sky by Esther Emery

Esther Emery was a successful playwright until she went through a personal and professional crisis and found herself in a new location, in a mending marriage, with little kids at home and decided something had to be done. She logged off. Completely. No internet for one year. In doing so, she learns valuable lessons and reconnects with God.

I was really intrigued by this book, as I think her experiment is sort of radical and kinda wonderful. So far I'm really enjoying this book, for the off-the-internet part. However, I do find, that the book turns out to be more about her reconnecting with her faith, than anything else. While I can follow her journey with interest, I can't fully grasp it. I think, if you find yourself on your own spiritual journey with the Christian faith this book is beautiful. For someone like me,  with a more secular lifestyle, it may be too much religious talk at times. I wish I would have found out more about her very interesting upbringing, her marriage and her day to day without the internet. 

All in all, I will still recommend this book for a cold winter day. Great shoutout to the person designing the cover! You had me brewing coffee and nestling in a soft blanket as soon as I set eyes on it. Maybe that's it: I was lured in by this amazing cover and was slightly let down by its content. 

How to Hygge by Signe Johansen

Another hygge book for my ever-growing collection. Johansen's book offers a little bit of everything. From an introduction to hygge, to the joy of pika, to recipes and resources. While it may not become my favorite book on hygge it certainly cheers me up and entertains me and the best part is - it is light. You can enjoy it in small pieces between naps and diaper changes. 

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

"Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant, in the blink of an eye, that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work, in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?"

My husband has read all the Gladwell's a while back and told me bits and pieces here and there. He quotes his works at dinners and christmas parties and I figured it is finally time to see for myself what the fuss is all about. 

I've only completed the first chapter but I'm already hooked. I guess, my instinct tells me this is going to be good.

There's no such thing as bad weather by Linda Akeson McGurk

I just finished listened to this as an audio book and I very much enjoyed it. Linda is a swede, married to an American, living in the Midwest and wondering "where are all the kids?". She compares the outdoor mentalities of Scandinavian and American parents and explores the benefit of taking the little ones outside. 

As a German, married to an American, living in Texas and wondering "where are all the kids?" - this was a listen right after my own heart. Highly recommend for any parent!

What is on your nightstand right now? Always looking for recommendations! Leave your suggestions for me in the comments. Thank you! 

Advent hygge

blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com
blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com
blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com
blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com
blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com
advent hygge house of smilla-17.jpg
blog about motherhood, hygge and slow living. www.houseofsmilla.com

Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas, has always been a very special time for me. My mother, long before the Danish concept of  "hygge" was a trend and slow living was a movement, incorporated an array of wonderful traditions into these grey winter days and had a knick of making these weeks very memorable.

Now, that I have two little ones of my own, I try to do the same. This is my wish for them: My babies, I want you to  enjoy Christmas and the cold winter days, as a magical, warm time filled with connection and simple joys, rather than writing endless lists to Santa about which consumer items you'd like to receive. 

In one of my favorite German Christmas carol the second verse goes like this:

In dem Herzen ist's warm, still schweigt Kummer und Harm, Sorge des Lebens verhallt: Freue Dich, Christkind kommt bald
In our hearts we feel warm
Free from worries and harm
Cares of life fade far away
Come soon dear Christ-Child, we pray!

That to me is really the essence of this time. But how does this translate into a fast paced world, where everyone is running around hastily to get all errands done before the Holidays? 

For me it is about rituals and togetherness. These are a few things we do during Advent, to fill our lives with some extra hygge:

Candles, lights and the scent of spruce

Always, a fan of candlelight, I really lay the candlelight on thick during Advent. I have candles in every possible spot, where the kids can't reach them and then some on the table, where they can reach them. This way, we can light them together first thing in the morning and enjoy the soft warm light during our cozy breakfasts. I'm a big believer in teaching children safety around candles and fire early on, instead of opting for LED's. There's just something to be said for real candlelight - the softness, the crackling, the smell when you blow it out. It is all part of the magic.

Besides, lighting the candles, I start out our mornings by putting some spruce or pine scent into my essential oil diffuser to fill the house with the smells of Christmas. 

Almost every evening, after it gets dark, I pack up the kids in the stroller and we walk around our neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. It is wonderful to walk the quiet streets and see the lights of the Christmas trees shimmering through curtains and blinds and to wonder what festive preparations are being made inside. It winds us down for bedtime and it fills my lungs with the fresh crisp air and it feels so good. 

Of sheepskin and cozy corners

We don't have our own Christmas tree this year, as we are traveling back to Europe for the holidays, but I put up our homemade tipi in the living room instead, filled it with  sheepskins and decorated it with string lights. A wonderful nook to play, read and snuggle. 

It is finally cold enough in Texas to add our sheepskins onto our dining room chairs again, as well as add some wool blankets onto our linen bedding. Christmas time to me is all about feeling those soft materials and to feel warm and cozy. 

Tomte Tumetott and other winter stories 

Advent is the perfect time for stories. Wether it's stories from our own childhood, or old stories from our grandparents that we can share now with the kids. Ours are still a bit to small to dwell in anecdotes, but my husband and I share stories about Christmas traditions and fond memories. Just last night, we asked our dinner guests to share their favorite Christmas stories with us.

In December, I put all of Smilla's and Winter's books away and replace them with a few Christmas books that we continue to acquire over time. Most of them, still from our own childhood. I try to read stories about winter, snow and Christmas time every day to them. Wether it is the actual nativity story (which I think is important for them to learn about, no matter where you stand in terms of faith), or cute books about winter. Later, I can't wait to share Christmas traditions around the world and holidays throughout the different faiths with them. This year it makes me squeal with joy, that Smilla is old enough to enjoy my collection of Astrid Lindgrens Christmas stories. The one were Pippi Longstocking is wearing a christmas tree on her head bringing cheer to little Pelle, Bosse and Inga is her favorite. 

Oh Tannenbaum! and other songs

This is the perfect time for music. All day long our vinyl player is spinning our three Christmas records on repeat. In the evenings, EVERY NIGHT, before bed, we come together as a family and sing our favorite Christmas carols. Smilla, although not even three, can sing most tunes with us now. It is by far my favorite seasonal bedtime routine. 

Crafts, baking, and the wonderful scent of orange slices

What a perfect time for daily crafts. It is not something fancy every day. Some afternoons, we simply draw on paper. Some days though, we go all out and craft starts, snowmen and other symbols of the season. I think one day I'd like to pop corn and string the popcorn - maybe next year, when we will have our own christmas tree again. I did make a garland of orange slices again this year. Although, it immediately attacked bee's (!) - in December - oh Texas. 

While I haven't done very much baking this season, we have decorated a few gingerbread cookies. Well, I have decorated and Smilla was very focused on licking the frosting. 

Once we travel to Germany I would love to bake some more traditional cookies of my childhood and have Smilla at it with the cookie cutters. 

In the end, it is important that you don't feel obligated to do any certain number of Christmassy things. If you hate baking, don't feel obliged. That's when it becomes stressful and overwhelming.

Find what you can fit easily into your daily routine. Create a simple daily habit for the whole family to enjoy and count down the days until Christmas.

Have a peaceful time.