The Month of Hygge

Friday, March 31, 2017

Have you heard of hygge?

Pronounced "hoo-guh," it seems to be the new buzz word floating around the internet lately. It's a Danish term describing a huge part of Scandinavian culture that's been around for centuries and has only recently begun to catch on in the States. So what exactly is it? That's what I asked myself when I heard the word used over the Christmas holiday and since I didn't want to feel out of the loop, I quickly downloaded the The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living and began investigating. Once I finished reading, I knew I'd be incorporating the concept into our lives in 2017. It fit right in with my theme of simplifying and I couldn't wait to get started.

Hygge is kind of hard to describe since there really is no direct translation in English, but the term, to me, depicts more of a feeling than a practice. It was coined to describe the coziness and togetherness that Scandinavians try to create and foster during the long, dark winter months. While it might seem pointless for me to be sharing this now that winter is coming to a close, I'm beginning to see more and more how hygge can become a part of daily life, no matter the season. It all boils down to something that I think many of us are longing for these days - contentment. 

To me, hygge is slowing down. Hygge is connection. Hygge is intentional living. It's often been associated with feelings of relaxation, gratitude, and peace. It's comfy socks, a crackling fireplace, a steaming cup of your favorite coffee. It's making a home-cooked meal with your family, setting the table with cloth napkins, lighting candles, and playing a vinyl record in the background. It's laughter and mindfulness and joy. It's paying attention to small details and the simpler moments in life, and when you finally try it, it's truly luxurious. 

So in keeping with our word for the year, my focus for the month of February was simplifying my routine. And this is exactly where I found the perfect opportunity to bring in a little hygge. 

At first, I made the mistake of listing all the things I wanted to change about my daily routine. I thought about the things that really mattered to me and came up with a schedule to fit them all in. I wanted to wake up earlier, find time to workout or do yoga for an hour, cook a healthy breakfast, make it to work on time and return home after a long day to cram in dinner, housework, homework, and reading before bed. Seriously? Ain't nobody got time for that. I realized that, realistically, "simplifying" my routine by swapping out old habits wasn't simplifying at all. After considering this, I decided instead to prioritize what was important and find ways to incorporate hygge throughout my day.

When I wake up now, I slide into my slippers, turn on my favorite playlist, light my Blue Cedar Fig candle, make a cup of tea, cuddle with the pup, and then slowly get ready for work. I prep my meals on Sundays so that I can eat a wholesome breakfast at work to ease into my day. I workout during my lunch hour to use my time most efficiently. When I get home, Mike and I cook together as Ella Fitzgerald sings us the most soulful melodies. We sip wine and eat at the table together, bundle up after dinner to take a walk with Archie, and then do our best to settle in for the night without TV (...most of the time). We read, play guitar, journal, and sometimes even play board games. (Mike's been teaching me how to play chess and I'm terrible but I enjoy making up names and voices for all the little pieces, so I guess it's a win-win?)

Don't get me wrong, though. We certainly aren't perfect and I still have moments where I'm rushing around, running late to work or where we've over-scheduled our evenings, but the goal we set was to try and make this our routine. Fortunately, over the last couple of months, we've had more days that followed the outline above than hectic ones, so we count that as a success.  

All I know is that these simple starts and ends to my day have made all the difference. Despite the short days, February was actually one of the best months I've had in long time. There's something to be said for slowing down, focusing on the parts our day that we often rush through, and trying to add little details to make them feel special. Normally around this time of year, I've reached peak exhaustion but I'm actually happier than I've ever been. Fingers crossed I can keep it going throughout the year and I hope that you are inspired to embrace hygge too!

Have you read any books about hygge or tried it yourself? Are you looking for simple ways to bring hygge into your life? Check out this article. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

That Time I Signed Up to Bike 140 Miles For Charity

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

So I think I did something crazy, but before I jump into it, let me explain.

Last fall, a bunch of my co-workers and I volunteered at this non-profit in Baltimore called Moveable Feast that provides meals at no cost to people with HIV/AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses. They've been around for nearly thirty years and last year alone they delivered over 800,000 meals to more than 5,000 patients. Their goal for this next year is to provide one million meals to people all over not just Baltimore City, but the five surrounding counties and the Eastern shore.

In my time working in Infectious Disease, I've come to understand how important it is that critically ill patients continue to get these services. Sometimes, a meal delivered by a charity like this is the only meal a homebound patient will get for the day. Needless to say, my coworkers and I were so inspired by the work they do at Moveable Feast that we wanted to find ways to help raise money for the organization. As soon as we asked, the coordinators working with us that day began excitedly explaining that a majority of their funds (aside from grants) come from money raised through this bike ride they host every year in May. The Ride for the Feast, as they call it, is a 2-day, 140-mile bike ride from Ocean City to Baltimore City and all of the money raised by the riders goes directly to serve the patients.

And this is the crazy part...

Yep, you guessed it. I signed up.

I signed up for a 140-mile bike ride.

I signed up for a 140-mile bike ride with no experience.

I signed up for a 140-mile bike ride with no experience, when I don't even own a bike.

Well, that is until yesterday when I finally purchased one.

On top of everything we've had going on over the last few months, I've been slowly but surely working up my endurance, training 5-6 days a week at the gym, going to spin class, lifting weights, and trying my best not to think too much about the commitment I've made.

Half of me is stoked for this ride and half of me is terrified. But truthfully, no matter what happens, whether I accomplish my goal or not, at least I know that I'm supporting an incredible cause in the process. It's not going to be easy, but it will be worth it. It's also comforting knowing that I'm not alone. A few of my coworkers signed up too and will be riding right alongside me. We even formed a team - The Periodic Table Dancers are back in action!

Aside from all the training, I'm also working toward raising $1500 for the cause which is equal to the cost of feeding one client for an entire year. I'm now more than half way there, but I thought I'd share the information here on the blog in case anyone feels inspired to donate. (Or in case anyone pities me enough to contribute. Ha!)

The link to my page can be found here and honestly any little bit helps.

If you have questions regarding my sanity or would like to know more about the cause, please don't hesitate to ask! Aaand if you have tips on riding 140 miles on a bike across Maryland, I'll take those too! ;)

Shamrock Shindig and other Shenanigans

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Last weekend may have been a total whirlwind for us, but it was also a total blast. I hosted the Baltimore Baton (founded by my Baltimore blog babe bestie Megan of Soup of the Day) and we spent the weekend hopping around the city to all of our favorite spots, sharing our adventures on their Instagram page along the way. We covered quite a bit of ground and even spent an afternoon pretending to be Irish down at the Inner Harbor.

Saturday we hung out most of the day in Hampden, starting at our favorite coffee shop, Artifact Coffee, for brunch, then spent the afternoon driving around Charles Village, hanging out at Red Emma's for some study time, checking out Graffiti Alley right around the corner, and then back to Hampden to do a little shopping at True Vine and hit Paulie Gee's for a late lunch. (They have the absolute best vegan pizza by the way. The arugula, pickled onion, and cashew "ricotta" was to die for.)

The next morning we were up early and popped down to Fells to caffeinate and walk a bit in the sunshine before our first stop down near Pier V. Megan was hosting an event through Waterfront Partnership called Shamrock Shindig. (I know this girl is everywhere and just as amazing as she sounds!)

There were local food trucks serving up some of the best Irish dishes, live music by The Shamrogues (we even got to meet them and snag a free CD!), lawn games, and tons of festive spirits. We stayed until the end, dancing and hanging out with friends, and then headed over to Pratt Street for the St. Patrick's Day Parade!

The whole weekend was so much fun and it was a great way to kick off the holiday! I hope everyone has a safe and super fun weekend celebrating!