Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Hibernation Strategies

It is dank in the UK at the moment. A few bright spells of sunshine lift the pall of gloom for a while and then it returns to form - damp, dark, gloomy and rather depressing. I find as I get older that it's not the cold of winter I mind so much, per se, as the dark. And at this time of year when the days are still rapidly drawing in, and will be, for the next month or so, it's definitely on the dispiriting side.

Every year hibernation seems more and more appealing. I envy those creatures that by now are cosily hunkered down in a warm cocoon, dreaming of Spring and insulated from the hostile reality of the world above them. Of course the cocoon of a hibernating creature is itself a dark one but somehow, asleep and with your eyes closed, I feel, it doesn't matter so much.

I suspect the appeal of hibernation is more than just physical - being able to switch off for a few months - no work, no stress, no endless list of "to dos", not even meals to get - sounds blissful doesn't it?

But in the absence of real hibernation possibilities, what to do? I have two strategies to meet this challenge which I thought I might share with you. One is the "gemütlich" strategy - ie one may not be able to hibernate but "cosy" sure is possible.

To cultivate "gemütlich" (the German word means a bit more than English "cosy" - a bit like the Scandinavian concept of "hygge"):

1 I bake. Anything. Muffins; scones; chocolate brownies; bread; flapjack; gingerbread - damp gingerbread cake and crisp, yet slightly chewy, gingerbread biscuits like these. The making is therapeutic as is the fragrant warmth that emerges from the oven. As is eating the results.

Especially accompanied by tea in a pink mug with a lucky toadstool on it!

2 I transfer my hibernating instincts to a substitute. Hence the urge to make these hooky hedghogs from the pattern in the November issue of Simply Crochet. The pattern is also available on Ravelry here. They are just made out of odds and ends of yarn left over from other projects, mostly the unwanted "string" colour from my sea-ripple blanket. The soft part of their stuffing is even more thrifty - it's just yarn ends - and as I didn't have any proper safety eyes, I used some black beads from my sewing basket.

They've come out a bit larger than I was anticipating but I've made a virtue out of necessity and by stuffing them partly with plastic pellets, to give them weight as well as bulk, they are perfect paperweights and are sitting happily in my in-tray, weighting down the pile of papers and reminding me every time I look up from my desk that they are hibernating on my behalf!

I am wondering whether the autumn leaves provided for hedgehog-hunkering-comfort might improve my in-tray to boot! By Spring, if I leave it well alone, all that paperwork might have broken down into lovely compost!! Or not, as the case might be!!

3 I go round lighting candles. Any shape or size. Plenty of them. On the supper table; in the bathroom; on the kitchen work-surface. These are just little jam jars which were passed on to me by my mother-in-law for jam-making but the lure of a little, pink, hooky treatment, (courtesy of an adaptation of Sue's pattern, in Granny Squares) and a nightlight was too great!

4 I make homemade soup and serve it in a cup instead of a bowl. I know - why should a cup rather than a bowl make any difference? But I think it does. H agrees with me so it's not just me, either.

My other strategy is resistance-based.

To combat my feelings of creeping inertia and any desire to shut down:

1 I go for a walk as often as I can get out there. Even when the light is failing or it's pouring with rain. But especially if the sun comes out and there's a bright window of opportunity, even if it's only short-lived.

2 I have a clear-out of cupboards, drawers etc. I know this is associated more with Spring-cleaning than autumn or winter but I find it's therapeutic and the feeling of increased space and order, instead of squashed chaos, bolsters my energy levels. I won't post you a pic of before or after - too shameful, I fear! No, H, you may not post that incriminating pic you took of my larder!

3 I avoid drinking any alcohol for a bit and drink plenty of water. I find, this too is an energy-booster and believe it clears my head and skin and probably benefits my liver. Don't disillusion me!

4 I try to think of a way to expand my skills at something - be they crafty, culinary or (if I'm really desperate!) mental arithmetic. This year it's been knitting!

And yes, you do see, not one, but three, pink knitted houses here!

I have always wanted to live in a pink-painted house ever since I was very small. I haven't managed it - yet! But I have not given up hope and in the meantime I am knitting them. If I can bear to part with them, they will become Christmas presents - more dish cloths / face flannels. You can find the pattern on Ravelry here - it's called "Nineteen Hundred House" and it's by Amanda Ochocki. I absolutely love the sash windows and the gabled roof shape.

If you have any tried and tested hibernation strategies you'd recommend me to add to these, I'd love to hear them.

In the meantime, I shall try to resist hibernating with my hedgehogs 
as I have a new and, for Mrs T, slightly ambitious, knitting project to launch into!

x E


  1. Hi...not a huge fan of crochet animals but those hedgehogs are just adorable, so cute
    Hugs x

  2. Those hedgehogs are adorable, I with you and H I always have lovely homemade soup served in a giant mug, nothing better and jacket potato's baked long in the oven bliss, perfect on these grey gloomy days. November grey alway seems the worst, maybe as we can still recall Summer. Love the pink houses, I always wanted to live in a Suffolk pink cottage
    Clare x

  3. That was absolutely lovely! Thank you for the tips, many of which I do, but I wasn't doing with deliberation. I agree about the cups instead of bowls for winter soup -- it's the idea of DRINKING the soup that is appealing, I think. Happy Hibernating!

  4. Can I just say those hedgehogs would make me smile on the gloomiest of days. They are adorable. I would have to add a nice bit of tea in the afternoon, to take the chill off.
    Love your post today,

  5. I'm ok up until Christmas, I love the dark evenings, closing the curtains, keeping cosy! Then after Christmas I'm hankering after the lighter nights and its a painful wait until spring! Think I might need to make some hedgehogs....... :) x

  6. I will try your techniques (I love all of them), as I also am feeling a hibernation coming on. I always like a post with a Scandinavian reference. Koselig is another word we use in Norwegian. :-)

  7. Dear Mrs T
    A lovely post which made me feel cosy and warm! Those hedgehogs are just adorable (and useful - William Morris would approve). When the weather is sunny, I agree, it is lovely to be outside. I spent a happy few hours today insulating my pots with bubblewrap (not beautiful, but vital) and the sunshine made the task feel much better. Lots of craft projects on the go also makes me feel happy!
    Enjoy all your cosy activities!
    Best wishes

  8. Such a lovely post Elizabeth , I really enjoyed reading about your coping strategies.
    I agree with them all, though I haven't tried soup in a mug for years.
    I love indoor bulbs too. I've just found Amaryllis kits in Morrisons and I was thrilled. I love watching them grow....the anticipation is fun and it's a good distraction from the lack of flowers outdoors.
    Jacquie x

  9. Im liking all your techniques, although I think your leaf paper work compost may be wishful thinking unless you throw some worms in too. I love to bake, and your ginger biscuits sound very appealing, I think I'll rustle up a recipe....we've all been buggy in this house and ginger is just the thing somehow. Love the knitted houses, the pattern is lovely, may look that up myself. The German word is going to be added to my sprachfürer (I've probably not got that right ) I've just started a beginners German ou course which was not going too badly until someone pointed me in the direction of a webpage with dative, articles, etc... On which I have no understanding in English let alone German!

  10. Keep coming back to your blog and looking at those darling hedgehogs. Might have to try them.

    Your knitted houses are darling. Sharing your ginger biscuit recipe?

  11. Good strategies Elizabeth. Soup definitely takes on a different quality in a cup - or even a small deep bowl as opposed to a large shallow bowl - and just the thing after a good walk.
    You could join all your houses together to make a "town" blanket.

  12. Dearest E - Hello!!!! Sorry for the longest of long absences but have been putting my new business together since September! All up and running now so will 'clock in' more often.... How this post made me smile... Images of Mrs Tiggywinkle and her clan snuggling down under a mountain of leaves....perfect. Totally agree about the baking, the candles and the decluttering but you could always turn your back on the English winter and come and visit South Africa where today it's a blistering 38C!!!!! We could settle ourselves by the pool with long G&Ts and discuss matter of state (well, knitting and crochet then)!!! Love always. x

  13. Clearly more baking is the answer for me. Thanks for the happy hibernation tips!

  14. Oh me too! I would love to hunker down and not have to face the gloomy drive to work at the crack of dawn. I would add watching old films and hot chocolate with loads of marshmallows and cream to my strategies though it's a good job large woolly jumpers hide the evidence of over-indulgence! Helen

  15. Why not sew the house pieces together to make your very own pink house. Fill it with some stuffing and some rice/sand to add weight and it would make a lovely door stop. If you can embroider you could even add window boxes, roses round the door or pretty curtains. Just a thought , I hope you don't mind - Jacqui x

  16. Hi, Elizabeth. Last weekend I sat down and started to write a blog post entitled, "What Happened to Cozy?" I had started to write about the current preference by so many for spartan design and lack of clutter, throw cushions, tablecloths, etc. and how I have, as I've grown older--and as winter approaches--a greater appreciation for cozy comforts. I was, therefore, once again a bit amazed to see how your blog spoke to me. I also love your hedgehogs! I've seen some knitted versions I've wanted to make. We've had some construction done on the house lately (tearing out a closet in Jonathan's room and adding one in what was previously an area with a vaulted ceiling), so I've been neglecting my blog. I've also been trying to write a pattern for some mittens, so have been occupied with math and charts. Anyway, I enjoyed speaking with you so much last weekend. All my love to you and your family.

  17. I so know what you mean about the light levels. We moved to north Cumbria 4 years ago this coming January and to me the only marginal downside of our new life up here is the lack of light in the autumn/winter months, although staying light until 11pm around midsummer's day is a complete joy! I work from home in a west facing room so have the blind fully up all day to let as much light in as possible, yet I still feel sluggish and longing to go back to bed in the mornings. This year I have bought a SAD light which is A4 size and sits on my desk next to my computer screen and it has been an absolute godsend. I have it on for a couple of hours when I first start and it really is making a huge difference and I feel so much more alert and able to function at 100% - would definitely recommend! Of course the big plus side of moving back north is I now have far more time to make things - been a knitter all my life but last year learnt to crochet, so I find your posts very inspiring!

  18. Soup in a mug/cup definitely tastes better! Totally agree :o) Your list of hibernation strategies sounds like my list - minus the mental arithmetic LOL.

    I find I spend allot of time in the conservatory over winter - heater blasting away and lots of homespun blankets around and of course a hot cuppa tea. The more daylight I absorb the less likely I am to succumb to SAD.

    I also usually watch for the very minute that the stores get daffodils in - and then I buy heaps. That cheery yellow does wonders to lift the spirits.

    Love your blog BTW!

    X Shirley Ann

  19. I love your suggestions and need to begin applying them here as well, although the weather has really been mild and sunny this fall (she says a little guiltily). I have a National Geographic magazine that dates from the 1950s that features the Laplanders. The article was fascinating because it is unfiltered through modern eyes, but at that time anyway a lot of the people living above the Arctic Circle would sleep maybe 4 hours a night during their endless summer, but in the winter they slept 14+ hours a night. I think without electricity we all might do a little winter hibernation, which doesn't sound all bad:)

  20. Brilliant strategies, all of them. And I couldn't agree more about soup in mugs and gingerbread. And hedgehogs apparently ... you sent me looking for a knitting pattern for them :D

  21. Hi, I love your winter strategies, adore soup in a big round cup and those little houses are absolutely amazing.


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