In the last two winters we have spent in lovely Minnesota, right around the midway point of the season I find I require a reset. We’re not close enough to start the countdown to lighter jackets and increased sunshine. And yet we’ve not quite exhausted all that the cold days have to offer. This is when I dig deep for cozy.
While we often associate hygge-like feelings with the winter, candlelight for darker days, small gatherings to stay connected, warm blankets, comforting food, cozy is not reserved for winter. Cozy is necessary in summer too, even for those of us in climates for which summer is at its best.
Here I sit with a little more than four weeks left before the school schedule returns and I am ready for a check in. I am ready to assess what is going well and what I want more of to maximize our last days of summer. Just like I do in the winter, I’m ready to find the coziest parts of our summer and lean into that. And I want to share it with you in case you need a little inspiration for your last days in the sun.
Here is where we find our summer cozy…
The library. Always the library. Reading in the summer is as much a cozy feeling as it is in any season. Nothing is more comforting then returning home with a giant pile of library books and spending a lazy afternoon reading. I love the speed in which we consume books in the summer. And by "we" I mean my children, or me reading to them. My reading on the other hand has not been as impressive as I would like. More on this later. But the library has also served us in other ways beyond books. We check out movies, both for kids and for adults, we have a rotation of music playing in the car just around town and on our long road trips, and we started listening to audio books as a family. The library will always be the coziest place in any season.
Our favorite summer books so far:
Secret Tree Fort
Everything you Need to Build a Treehouse
Up in the Leaves
Pie is for Sharing
Easing into a rhythm. I hesitate to say we have a routine or a schedule. But I would say we have found rhythm. I am learning to lean into the lighter moods of my children in the morning by reserving this for more independent play and for help around the house. This is when the battle of wills is less active. A daily chore has been easier to incorporate than I expected, thanks in part to it being an expectation first thing in the morning following breakfast and dressing. And then once they have completed a task to help me out, then they are free to play until we head out for a morning adventure. This looks different morning to morning, but they are more likely to play nicely together at this time of day.
What this is teaching me is to be very intentional about recognizing my children have golden hours too, times when they are at their best. The afternoon when everything tends to fall apart, we reserve that time for water, for errands, for snacks, for survival. Taking our time to let this rhythm happen organically made for a much smoother transition. I need to be reminded of this at every season because each season require its own rhythm but can’t be forced.
My favorite way of cooking in the winter is still the best way to cook in the summer. Here is the recipe: Big pile of veggies, anything that is in season whether from the farmer’s market, CSA, or right out side in my very own garden. Roast it up, earlier in the morning before it gets hot preferably, or on the grill if you have time and space. Pair with a favorite sauce and something on the grill if you need a little extra protein. That is dinner. And it is delicious every time.
We just did this last night when we had a group of neighbors over for happy hour/dinner. I had eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and beets from my garden, squash and green beans from my dad’s, and potatoes from the garden of grandpa Trader Joe. They all got a good roast with my favorite seasoning (Twenty One Season Salute from grandpa Joe again). Then I whipped up a green goddess dressing from the carrot tops (perfect parsley replacement,) basil, and chives from my garden. I was able to plate that and relax with cocktails with our friends while Mike babysat a pork shoulder on the rotisserie grill. It was soooo good. But so easy. And while this all sounds like a ton of food, even on the simpler days with just the family, we still use this method. Don’t overthink dinner. Cook what you have, and what they will maybe eat (or not.) The sauce you choose can change it up. But the rest just lets the food of the season shine.
And when you’re done with dinner, Popsicles in the freezer is the hot chocolate of this season. They must always be stocked, are good at any time of day, and are really only good in this season so you can never have too many.
Let the weather guide your day, not doom it. Contrary to my original theory on summer in Minnesota, the weather is not all sunshine and rainbows. Actually, there is a lot of sunshine, sometimes really hot and humid sunshine. And there are rainbows too because it can rain a lot. Somehow this analogy is getting away from me. What I’m trying to say is summer weather is not perfect. When it gets hot, it gets HAWWWWT. Or at least it feels that way when you don’t have central air to keep cool. But I can proudly say for the first time in all of my life, I have actually enjoyed being hot this year. Even the sticky heat that makes my hair frizz like crazy and my thighs permanently glue together. In fact, the heat feels good. A big part of that is learning that the heat is temporary, and the beach is at its best life when the temperatures crank up. Just like sledding is only possible with snow, a dip into cool waters with sand under your toes only feels good when it is hot. And all that rain? We take a cue from the endless snow days of last winter and make it the perfect excuse for an afternoon movie.
When in doubt, go quiet. I always think big when looking ahead to a new season. In winter, I think this is the year I organize my photos, repaint all the rooms, write that memoir, train for that marathon. And then I get to the last month, see I have done none of that, and I panic. This is not healthy. But as I sit and think of my summer, I worry that same anxious feeling is approaching. Quick! Only four weeks left to go to all of the parks, swim at all of the beaches, eat all of the ice cream, write all of the essays, read all of the books!
I want to do that. But I won’t. However, I could also go the other direction and just say, well there goes another summer come and gone. Too bad it wasn’t what I had hoped. Try again next year.
This year, I want a balance. This year I want to end the last month with a little more peace, a whole lot of grace, and perhaps with more intention on what feels good for all of us. But to do this, I recognize I need to let some things go.
This year, I recognize for myself one area that sucks me into a black hole when I am feeling drained is social media scrolling. So with support from other fellow writers, I am going to try to press pause on this area. I’m not setting any other big goals. I’m not doing this in attempts to prove how negative the world of Instagram and Facebook can be, because I don’t believe this to be true.
I am simply making a choice to go a little quiet in order to spend some time with me. I’m hoping this means more writing, more reading, more play. But if it just means more quiet, that will be enough.
Speaking of quiet, as I sit here to write this, I am pulled back to reality by a very loud bugle call through my open windows. A bit of neighborhood trivia for you, some individual in our area has made it their life’s joy to play reveille over a loud speaker every morning at 7 AM. While we often only hear it in the summer because that is when the windows are open, this person, whoever they might be, makes a point to follow this routine every single day, year round. And I’d like to think that person understands that no matter the season of life, we all need a little reminder to begin our day with the same delight and cozy joy that comes from a day at camp.
With that I begin my morning, my August, my last few days of a cozy summer.
See you in September!