“In November, the trees are standing all sticks and bones. Without their leaves, how lovely they are, spreading their arms like dancers. They know it is time to be still.”— Cynthia Rylant, In November
Here November is, a precursor to the long hard slog of a Canadian winter, and what a chilled November it is. It’s a month of in-betweens and a month of rushing: to get out of the cold, to enjoy what daylight there is, to get our shopping done or take advantage of the sales, to hurry toward our still-far-off holidays and the new year, anything to distract us from right here, right now.
It is, in short, a month that threatens misery and exhaustion…unless you decide to make like the clever creatures of the wild and get cozy. Unfortunately, we live in a society where human hibernation is not really viable (although maybe it could be one day), but that doesn’t mean we can’t get into the spirit of settling in somewhere warm and indulging in comfort.
I usually hate this season and its looming threats of polar vortexes and grey slush. I especially do not look forward to the inevitable salt pebbles that will leap into my boots to join my socks, which have crawled down to my toes, in making each step some arcane form of torture. But this year, I want things to be different.
This year, given all that’s happened, I think we deserve to rest and retreat, to be still and lovely. Even if just for a moment.
We might do this by swaddling ourselves in sweaters, hoodies, and/or weighted blankets, and lovingly persuading (see: gently forcing) our furry companions to chill in our laps. We might indulge in delicious drinks and sweets flavoured with cinnamon, clove, peppermint, chocolate, and marshmallow. We might get our fireplaces crackling with real or virtual flames and gather ’round it. We might go up to cottages and resorts when we get those elusive days off of work to enjoy pretty vistas and winter sports. We might queue up our favourite holiday films and scream-sing our favourite holiday songs. (For the record, mine is Love Actually and Ariana Grande’s Santa Tell Me, respectively).
Or we might feel that our usual winter habits just aren’t quite cutting it. Maybe you’re looking for something new but not at all strenuous to do that’ll evoke that same ‘snow day, no school!’ feeling of our childhoods, when winter was truly a wonderland. Or maybe you’re just feeling as grey as the weather and in need of a gentle guide to self-care.
Either way, I’ve got a selection of books on the topic, which I hope will have something for everyone!
Cozy: The Art of Arranging Yourself in the World by Isabel Gillies has long been on my to-read list and was my jumping off point for this post. I’ll admit it was the gold leaves on the cover that first caught my attention, but the actual content is what kept me reading, right from the introduction, where Gillies explains just why coziness matters. Gillies invites us to appreciate and understand the importance of cultivating comfort in an oftentimes chaotic, overwhelming, and painful world.
Partly a guide, partly a series of anecdotal narratives, Cozy is sure to lead you by the hand to a sweeter place, and show you how to shore up your strength so that you can face the world. She starts with Part I: You, moving on to Part II: Home, Part III: Neck of the Woods (i.e. how to find coziness in the big wide world), Part IV: Journey (all about travel), and rounds it off with the critical Part V: When It Feels Hard.
But wait, there’s more! The book ends on a (literal) sweet note, with a series of recipes guaranteed to warm you all the way through. (Her recipe for strawberry jam is practically calling my name).
The Calm and Cozy Book of Sleep by Beth Wyatt is an absolutely gorgeously illustrated book to guide you towards getting your best sleep. I personally have a very hard time both falling and staying asleep due to general restlessness and an overloud, constantly running internal monologue (hence my love of writing, which gets my brain to be quiet).
Wyatt eases us into our better rest journey by explaining sleep basics, before moving us along into perfecting our sleep environment, adjusting our relationship with sleep, transitioning from being on the go to being in bed, comfy sleeping positions, the various kinds of sleep aides available, what to do when sleep still remains elusive or unsatisfactory, and how to wake up.
Yup, there is literally a guide on the best way to wake up. I don’t know about you, but blaring alarms is not it.
The Cozy Table: 100 Recipes for One, Two, Or A Few by Dana Devolk is the comfort cookbook of my dreams. As a self-professed foodie who recently looked at her spending habits and realized she really ate out way too much for someone who liked cooking, I enjoyed diving into this cookbook and adding some new recipes to my repertoire. This cookbook has it all: appetizers and snacks, main courses, side dishes, sweets, and even sauces and condiments! It is very much about indulging, and therefore not for the faint of heart (or, should I say, the conscious of heart health).
The recipes range from simple and homey (but still yummy) to more refined deliciousness, with accompanying photos that really got my mouth watering. Personally, I’m excited to try out the sinful sensation that Baked Chocolate Chip Donut Holes promises to be.
Cozy White Cottage by Liz Marie Galvan initially hooked me with its subtitle: 100 Ways to Love the Feeling of Being Home. You all know why, I don’t think I gotta explain. I will say, though, that my dad has long despaired of me and my constant rearranging of my furniture whenever I get bored/start feeling trapped in the sameness of it all. (To that I say, environmental enrichment. The past two years have firmly convinced me that humans need this much as animals do).
Galvan walks you through our entryways and beyond, giving tips and advice on how to decorate and arrange our living spaces to exude maximum coziness. She manages to make the predominant colour scheme and theme (white, rustic) seem inviting rather than clinical and austere. Never fear if you’re more into anything approaching maximalism (or if you’re working with a smaller apartment or a single room); you can still apply Liz’s principles! I really like what she says about engaging all five sense and not just sight. There’s more to comfort than visuals!
Sleepy Snoozy Cozy Coozy by Judy Young is both a sweet little gem of a bedtime book for kids, and a source of great facts on the animals it depicts, which makes it engaging for all ages! (Did you know some spiders hibernate? I did not!) This picture book features all sorts of animals and where and how they bed down, and is sure to both educate and whisk its readers into a restful sleep.
And in case you thought this was an exhaustive list…it most definitely is not! The Vaughan Public Library’s catalogue has so much on offer, for both this and other topics!
If you’re not sure where to start but are interested in seeing more of our comfy collection, I’d suggest checking out the host of great ‘cozy’ themed lists, which recommend everything from mysteries to romances, and more! (You can also make your own lists, either of things you recommend or things you want to check out! All you have to do is sign in to your account with your library card to get started).
And now, to foster a little corner of comfort right here: comment below with your own favourite cozy books, music, movies, tv shows, and habits!
Until next time, stay warm, stay still, and stay lovely.