Category: how to

How To Hygge (Or: 29 Ways To Actually Enjoy Winter)

Want to know how to Hygge? Looking for things to do in winter or winter survival tips? You're in the right place! Click through for advice from a 3rd-generation Minnesotan about how to survive winter!
Imagine looking forward to the cold and dark of winter.

Can you picture it?

Pulling out your favorite soup recipes and a pile of cozy sweaters.

Lighting candles around the house and inviting friends over for sledding and board games.

Snowshoeing through a forest muffled with snow, towards a bright cabin full of your favorite people

When we put it like that, six months of dark and cold seems almost …. pleasant.

If you’ve never heard of hygge before, it’s the Danish concept of warm coziness during the winter months. It’s “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people” (according to Denmark’s official tourism website.)  Those Danes actually enjoy winter! They embrace it and look forward to it! Whaaaaatttt?!!

And as a third-generation Minnesotan of Scandinavian descent, I know a thing (or 29) about winter. I know how to cozy down and warm up.

So if you, too, are looking for a more social, more enjoyable winter – this post is for you. Bookmark it for the coming months when the excitement of the holidays has worn off and now it’s just cold and dark and dreary. Pour yourself something warm, settle in, and have a read.

How to Hygge (or at least hate winter less) 


How To Chase Your Dreams Without Hating Your Life

Can you chase your dreams while still having a social life? Can you chase our dreams without going broke? Do you really need to drop $$ on a new computer or camera? Click through for 12 tips from people who have made it happen //

When I was nine years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a writer.

Loving and supportive and deeply pragmatic as they were, my parents patted my tiny, third-grade hand and said, “That’s great! Maybe you should get another job and write at night. See how that goes first?”

And while I resented their advice even at that young age, I followed it. For years, I taught ESL at a non-profit, coming in early and leaving late so I could write on my work computer.

For two years, I spent every 45-minute lunch break leaving comments on other blogs. I learned to live on, like, $2 because I was saving money to leap into self-employment.

While all this sounds a bit hard-assed and dire in retrospect, I’ve discovered that it’s not unique. Nearly every dream-chaser and goal-achiever I know has a similar story! Last month, Rêve Consulting invited five dream-pursuers and me to speak about what we’ve learned by chasing big, audacious ambitions. I was amazed that so many of us shared similar epiphanies!

Below, you’ll find some of my personal revelations as well as those of Tricia Khutoretsky, founder and curator of the Public Functionary art gallery, Jamie Millard co-executive director of Pollen Midwest, and my husband Dr. Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist for the state of Minnesota.

12 things you learn while chasing your dreams­­­­­­­


How To Give Amazing Gifts

Want to give amazing gifts? Looking for gift giving advice? Not to brag but I'm a pretty great gift giver. All my 'secrets' are here!

In addition to championship level cheese-eating and Thriller-dancing, I like to think that I’m a pretty good gift giver. I am totally the friend who makes note of the salt and pepper shakers you liked so much at that restaurant, finds a pair and then gives them to you for your birthday three years later.

(And devotedly hopes that you remember that you liked them and aren’t kind of creeped out by my insane memory)

How To Give Amazing Gifts

Listen + Pay Attention

The truly awesome gift does not come off of Christmas Wish List. It’s the thing that your friend mentioned in passing several times or that you always see them fawning over when you’re out shopping.

It’s the sort of thing that they mention liking but can’t justify purchasing when there are bills to be paid and cars that need repairs. It’s the sort of thing that you know will bring them joy.

Shop Year Round

But I’m sure you already know this, right? Riiiiight? Waiting to shop until it’s holiday season is wicked stressful. Wading through seas of women in cat sweatshirts? Not how I want to spend my winter weekends. So if gift giving inspiration strikes you in August, buy the gift then, for Pete’s sake!

If you’re on a summer road trip and your friend is coveting some turquoise in New Mexico, buy the necklace and stash it till Christmas. Aren’t you the clever one?

Think Personal

Now, I’m not one to sneeze in the face of pillar candles or a basket of scented bath things, buuuuut I also wouldn’t shriek “Wow! You know me so well!” to the giver of these gifts.

Give the people in your life something that shows them you know who they are and what they’re about. An aerial map of a city where they used to live or an artist’s sketch of their childhood home. Or what about one of those custom-made photo albums that have the photos printed on the page? Or Indian cooking classes for your friend who spent a year in Mumbai? Or tickets to a reading with their favorite author?

Don’t Give Them Gifts That You’d Like

I know it’s incredibly tempting to give your lovely but fashion-challenged cousin a gift card to Forever 21. Or give your technologically backwards grandma a digital camera. Gift giving isn't about you and the life you think these people are missing. Click To Tweet It’s about giving them something that they want, something that will make them happy. So you best not be buying me a GHD or a rolling suitcase because they will gather dust and lead me to question our friendship.

Don’t Dismiss The Small Gift

For her 30th birthday, I gave my BFF a novelty eraser and $5. And she loved it! Really! But before you decide that you don’t ever want to be my friend, you should know that the eraser looked like a delete button (we’re both Internet obsessed) and the five dollars was
a) brand new from the bank
b) featured a home-made sticker
c) was a payoff on a long held bet/inside joke

And I’m pretty sure she was more touched by my $6 worth of presents than the various picture frames/gift cards/novelty socks that she got. At least that’s what I’m telling myself.

Consider The Gift of Non-Stuff

If you are attempting to give a gift to someone over the age of 26 who has a ‘real job,’ there’s a pretty good chance that if they want something? They just buy it. And really, who needs another decorative bowl/set of cuff links/DVD?

Non-stuff is more memorable and it doesn’t need dusting. Good non-stuff gifts include airplane tickets, gift certificates for spa services, a night at a Bed and Breakfast, classes or lessons, tickets to a sporting event or concert or donating to a cause that’s important to them. Added bonus: easy to wrap!

Do you consider yourself a good gift giver? If you are, tell us your best gift-giving tips so we can learn from you!

P.S. 23 life-improving gifts you should just buy for your damn self

photo by Jennifer Pallian // cc

How To Give People A Watered Down, Exhausted Version Of Yourself!

Are you constantly asking "Why am I so tired?" Most of us are. The solution is both simpler and more complicated than you'd think. Click through and find out how you can have more focus, more energy, more calm!
For years, the question that ran in a loop through my brain was “Why am I so tired?” In those exhausting years, before blogging was even a proverbial twinkle in my eye, I was an ESL teacher.And I looooooved it.
I was that teacher who came early and stayed late and brought in themed snacks to match the books we were reading. I sang songs about colors with exaggerated gestures and those facial expressions unique to teachers who are trying to get people to sing along.
I come from a long line of teachers (education is the family business) and we’re all equally committed. I remember my dad creating all his own worksheets for his Social Studies class and my mom’s holiday-themed clothes that kept her second graders endlessly entertained. (Christmas tree earrings, FTW.)
Like many passion professions, teaching expands to fill the space you give it. You’re never ‘done.’ You never look around your classroom and think “Welp, that’s it! I can go home and stop thinking about work because I’m finished.”
You can easily spend every evening and weekend poring over the curriculum, planning new units, fussing with bulletin boards.
And I frequently did. Slowly but surely, like so many teachers before me, I started to burn out. I’d check my email while my students practiced their keyboarding skills. I’d assign “silent reading” while I silently read my most recent issue of Real Simple.
This wasn’t who I wanted to be! Disappointed and overwhelmed, I called a huddle with my veteran teacher parents. I was hoping for some time management tips or a pep talk that would return me to my high-energy, super-engaged self.
But what they told me was a lot more realistic and a lot more useful.

“Well, of course, you can always do more. But if you do too much, you’re not giving them your best. You’re giving them a watered-down, exhausted version of your best. They don’t deserve that and neither do you.”

This applies to just about every area of our lives, doesn’t it?
When we have eight social commitments each week, it’s difficult to really be there for our BFF when she’s blindsided by a breakup. When we take on a zillion projects at work, it’s hard to give our passion projects the attention they deserve. When we post seven times a week, it’s hard to create the meaningful, longer pieces we’re really proud of.
Being exhausted and overwhelmed serves no one. You deserve to actually enjoy your job and relationships; they deserve the best you have to offer.
Are you guilty of taking on too much and then doing a less-than-amazing job on all of it? Where could you cut back? If you’ve stopped overdoing it – what did you stop doing?
photo credit: moore christophe // cc

How To Fake An Entryway When You Absolutely Don’t Have One

Want to fake an entryway? Make a small space look a little special? Click through for clever ways to make your space more inviting and create an entryway where one doesn't exist!

This guest post come from our DIY/design contributor Thalita of The Learner Observer. Thalita writes about easy, cheap ways we can all make our small, rental spaces even cuter. Follow along with her on Twitter or Instagram!

Hello again! I’m back this month to share something near and dear to my heart – creating an entryway when you have none to speak of. Yes, my friends, I share your pain.
I happen to have a makeshift hallway as an “entry” and if more than one person is standing in it, we have a major traffic jam. So let’s see what some of your best solutions might be if you suffer from this major first world problem!

How to fake an entry way

Paint it on
Yes, I am serious. If you have such a small space that furniture isn’t even an option, get real creating and paint some on your walls. Of course, add in some real elements with it (like the hooks and shelving here).
painted entry 1
And if the modern look isn’t your thing, go more traditional with a painted console table – though there are bigger pieces of furniture here, you can see the potential for a smaller space.
painted entry 2

Benches are your friend

It’s true. You can sit on them, you can put things on them, and some of them even look damn good in the process!
bench entry

Opt for thin ones if you have a narrow hallway space like mine, or go for something deeper but narrower if you only have a small corner of space to work with.

small bench
For Pete’s sake, don’t forget to make use of the space under your BFF – the bench, of course. Use baskets, boot trays, or just throw your stuff under it. Either way, use the space!
white entry hall
Hooked on phonics hooks!
The last image is also a great example of this. Line up some inexpensive hooks and make yourself a mini mudroom of sorts. And the image below also uses benches extremely well. Hooks and benches are kind of a killer combo for an entryway.
IKEA entryway

Your guests will thank you and you won’t have to awkwardly hang people’s coats on the stair banister anymore.

coastal entry
Even if your space is teeny tiny like this one, hooks are probably my number 1 thing on the list of things you need in a small entryway. Or any entryway, really. So convenient!
small entry
Nifty shoe storage
I’m bringing back the word ‘nifty’. It’s happening. It’s so the next “fetch.” Show storage like this is really just dreamy. These definitely do double duty as storage and as a surface for catching your keys and sunglasses.
shoe cabinet entry
Yes, some of them attach right onto the wall, so you can make them any height you want. Bonus. Don’t forget to always include a mirror: they make almost any space appear larger and you can make sure your butt looks hot in those jeans. No, I have never ever done that…
corner entry

Think outside the box

Go a little crazy (as if painting your entryway on wasn’t crazy enough) and try some different things, like some old crates that you can change up whenever you want!

crate entry
And if you happen to have a larger space to work with, and maybe it’s just a little awkward, give yourself some storage by using a dresser – yes, a dresser – as a console table, and rethink the rectangular mirror and opt for something that doubles as artwork.
mirrored entry
Did you notice almost every single image I showed you had hooks? I’m telling you, once you put some up on your walls, you’ll never want to go back to throwing your coat on the first piece of furniture you see or going down the hall/into the next room to hang up your things!
I hope you found this useful, and maybe even a little entertaining? Have you created an entry way out of nothing? Share your tips in the comments!
Sources: 1. Modern painted entry // 2. Painted console table // 3. Entry with rustic bench // 4. Small entry with white bench // 5. Long entry with two benches // 6. Bench and hooks entryway // 7. Nautical hooks // 8. Small entry with white hooks // 9. Shoe storage #1 // 10. Shoe storage #2 // 11. Crates in entryway // 12. Dresser and mirrored entry

Good Idea: Fancy Breakfast Foods As Hostess Gift

This is an occasional post series I’m trying out! Short and sweet, just sharing clever ideas I’ve picked up from my ridiculously smart and well-mannered friends.

hostess gift ideas
My friend Kate is one of those humans who’s so put together and on top of it you’d resent her if she wasn’t so awesome. Like, why do you have the answer to almost every question, Kate?! And why is your hair always so shiny? And how did you find the world’s most perfect winter coat while the rest of us are toddling around in sleeping bags with arms?!
Annnnnyway, Kate recently introduced me to The Sweetest Hostess Gift Idea and I’m passing it along to you guys so we can all ‘win’ at dinner party guest-ing.
Next time you attend a Friday or Saturday night dinner party, instead of more wine or flowers, bring your hosts fancy breakfast treats! They’ll think fondly of you the next morning when they’re nibbling on your treats among the dirty dishes and empty wine bottles that mark any successful dinner party.
If you’re a DIY-er you could make some Oatmeal Cookie Granola or a Spicy Zucchini Frittata. If you’re more of a pick-something-up-at-the-store type, you could gift them some amazing donuts, mimosa-makings, a loaf of artisan bread and some ripe avocados, or just some berries and nice Greek yogurt!What’s your go-to hostess gift? I like to give these as house warming presents!
photo by jules // cc