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Fleece throws, jigsaw puzzles and breakfast for dinner

For years, when our daughter was younger, I enjoyed leaving out a large jigsaw puzzle for people to work on. Sometimes I would set it up on the library table in the living room. Other times, I would bring out the card table and place it by the front window.

Family members and friends couldn’t resist taking a seat – trying this piece, then that piece – and often five minutes turned into 20 and 20 minutes turned into an hour.

“Will you be staying for dinner?” I would ask visitors, as they searched in earnest for a piece of blue sky.

Of course the cat could be a big distraction, jumping up on the table and swatting pieces to the floor or messing up a section of the puzzle by rolling around on it. As his nap time approached, however, he would settle down and quiet would be restored in this cozy setting.

Cozy is the keyword here. That’s what we crave in our homes in the winter – whether it’s a curled-up cat on your lap or your favorite fluffy slippers.

I have yet to bring out a jigsaw puzzle this year, but one thing I continue to do is set a few lights on plug-in timers. I don’t like to walk into or wake up to a dark house. This is hardly smart house technology, but it works.

Similarly, a friend of mine said she has several battery-operated flameless candles with built-in timers that help create a homey ambience in the evening.

Think hygge. Country Living explains hygge – a Danish word pronounced “hoo-ga” – this way: “This Danish concept cannot be translated to one single word but encompasses a feeling of cozy contentment and well-being through enjoying the simple things in life.” Candles, fireplaces, throw blankets, oversized sweaters and thick socks (really, anything knitted) also make things way more hygge, the article read.

But consider this, too: “While staying indoors all day long drinking hot chocolate and reading your favorite book alone is certainly hygge, getting outside to go for a long walk (yes, even in the winter) and spending time with friends and family is also a crucial part of the idea,” according to Country Living.

I asked a few people what looks and feels cozy to them this time of year (without upping the thermostat):

• A basket full of fleece throws and warm blankets within reach for anyone to grab.

• Oversized toss pillows and a big throw on the couch.

• A cup of tea in the afternoon.

• Flannel sheets. A warm comforter. A homemade quilt.

• A warm rug or mat on a cold bedroom or bathroom floor.

• Lounging clothes – the warm and comfortable things you change into after work or school but before you put on your pajamas.

• Breakfast for dinner. Soups, stews and chicken pot pie are nice, but there’s something wonderful about cinnamon toast, fluffy scrambled eggs or warm maple syrup on a cold evening.

OK, blueberry pancakes are acceptable as dinner in the summer, too. But only if the blueberries are grown locally.

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