Readers and co-workers share their favorite "recipes" for making it through Seattle's dark and rainy season.
Now that we’re past winter solstice, we get a little more daylight every day.
But when you’re in the middle of the Northwest’s January grays, it’s hard to remember that. So we asked our readers and co-workers what their favorite “recipes” were for making it through this season — for getting cozy, hyping the hygge and adding brightness to their days, in whatever form.
And boy did you all respond, from questioning why anyone would want to get away from the gray to offering some seriously inventive cozy-making ideas. Grab your slippers and your favorite hot drink and read on.
Tips from readers
Sock it to ’em
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Socks! Yes, really! Colorful, wild, bright and crazy socks! … I adopted this plan a couple of years ago because I was sick and tired of seeing everybody wandering around dressed all in black or other dreary colors so that they faded away into the Seattle-area winter backdrop. Results were immediate. I can’t tell you how many people have stopped to tell me — with a big smile on their face — how much they love my socks! How can you not be warmed up from toes to head when stranger after stranger stops to share a compliment and a smile.
— Meredith Prock, Issaquah
Frequent (and sometimes lengthy) power outages [on Vashon Island] during these long, dark winter nights remind me to have lots of candles and matches handy … and a camp stove to heat water. When the power is on, I indulge in a few lightly scented candles, wrap my hands around a hot cup of spice tea with a splash of brandy and soak my street-weary feet in a homemade concoction of natural bath salts and herbs for at least 45 minutes, followed by a good slathering of island-made Bliss Trauma Balm. Finish with a cozy pair of clean, wool socks and snuggle under a blanket for a Netflix rom-com and all is good!
— Janice Randall, Vashon Island
Blanket fort + books = hygge bliss
I admit that when the weather gets rough, I head straight indoors where it’s warm and dry. For an extra hygge experience, I raid my linen supply for every sheet, blanket and pillow I can find to build a giant blanket fort. Keys to success include leaving plenty of entry/exit points for our cats (nothing is more hygge than warm, purring furballs), a healthy supply of books (and my Kindle for variety), snacks and an electric kettle for hot beverages on demand.
— Kim Baker, Auburn
It’s not you, it’s the gear
I’m a Seattle native, so I’m used to the cold damp dark that seeps into your bones and grows mold on your soul. I always advise folks who are new to town to buy the best raincoat they can afford (REI Garage can be helpful) and do whatever they would’ve done on a sunny day. You get a little wet, but you feel a lot better.
— Alison Driver, Seattle
Dance the blues away
Use your phone or other device to play your favorite songs that are great for dancing. Dance around the house or sitting down. Alone or with others it cheers you up. Bonus: Warms you up AND uses calories.
— Gail Wiesner, Sammamish
Get outta town
I moved to Seattle 13 years ago, and my friends back East think I’m crazy when I tell them one of the best things about Seattle is the weather. … Of course, I’m talking about summer. My recipe for surviving the winter is to make plans to spend it elsewhere. My favorite winter activity is sitting under a shade tree in a tropical climate with an iced cold glass of vodka and lemonade reading in The Seattle Times about winter storms, freezing temperatures, monthly rainfall, impassable passes, avalanches, ski conditions, power outages, etc. This year there will be bonus coverage: the traffic snarls resulting from the viaduct teardown.
— Richard Welt, Seattle
Winter is my favorite season because I ski. I think the key to enjoying winter here is finding an outdoor activity you enjoy, especially in the mountains where there is usually snow instead of rain. Snowshoeing is often overlooked and is a delightful way to get out and these guided tours [at Snoqualmie Pass] only require a donation to rent the snowshoes. … I’m all for hunkering down at home but for me it’s best after something vigorous outdoors!
— Jon Mastrude, Seattle
Tips from the newsroom
The great indoors
As someone who basically never goes outside if she can possibly avoid it (what’s sunshine going to give you but sweat, wrinkles and skin cancer?), I don’t know why anyone needs a recipe to get cozy. Just do it! The great indoors, if you are lucky enough to have shelter, is delightful all year-round. Read a great book! Watch a great movie! Curl up on the couch with your cat! (What, you don’t have a cat? GET A CAT.) Should you have further questions for me — and why would you? — you can find me in my favorite armchair, drinking the nectar of the gods (Diet Coke, which needs no recipe) and dreading the inevitable arrival of spring.
— Moira Macdonald, arts writer
Pajamas in public
Grocery list for favorite comfort food or beverage of choice
— Wake up in comfy pajamas and leave them on.
— Apply weather appropriate footwear and big coat (optional: put on a hat if your bedhead hair is particularly wild).
— Walk/drive/bus to your nearest grocery store.
— Walk the aisles of the store with nary a care in the world that you are a grown human adult wearing your pajamas in public.
— Acquire supplies for your favorite comfort food/beverage (mine is mulled wine …)
— Return home, prepare comfort food/drink in your pajamas, enjoy the rest of the day cozy in your pajamas and with your favorite comfort food/drink at hand.
— Crystal Paul, travel/outdoors writer
Cozy at the conservatory
Seattle’s charming Victorian-style Volunteer Park Conservatory is steamy warm, with beautiful blooms and a lovely, earthy smell that’s a dose of tropical paradise without leaving town. (Editor’s note: And the conservatory offers free admission through February!)
— Madeline McKenzie, Seattle Times staff
Rev up the raindrops
Start by making sure you can really hear the raindrops. Wedge a baking sheet outside a window, if you must, to amplify them … there’s just nothing like snuggling up on the sofa with the pitty-pat of Puget Sound’s endless winter drizzle in the background. (Safety note: Please don’t wedge things in your windows if you live above a sidewalk or other pedestrian thoroughfare.)
Market Spice tea
Morning Bun from Columbia City Bakery
The Sunday Seattle Times (I’m an editor, sue me!)
— Lynn Jacobson, deputy managing editor
New bookstore + graphic novel/page-turner fiction + armchair
Six or so years ago, during a phase when my then 3-year-old son was usually either running around or running around screaming, I was following him around a bookstore when I stopped short — because I glimpsed nirvana: A mother and tween-age son were each curled up in separate armchairs, reading separate books. Enthralled in separate worlds. Alone together. It was the definition of coziness. It seemed as remote a possibility as going to the moon together.
Lo and behold, with my now sometimes-quiet 9-year-old, this has actually happened to us at least twice. We go to a bookstore; favorites include Third Place Books Lake Forest Park or Elliott Bay. Or we go to our local branch of the Seattle Public Library. He grabs a graphic novel, and I grab an appealing fiction title. We sit in chairs. We turn pages. Bliss.
— Elisa Murray, features desk editor
My recipe for cozy is fluffy socks, red wine, a hydrating face mask and jazz music. Something about that combination makes me feel luxurious.
— Michelle Baruchman, staff reporter
The power of hot water
I’ve got a claw-foot tub and I love to fill it to the brim with water so hot it hurts. With a good book to read and a chilled glass of New Zealand sauv blanc, I can forget about the dreary weather for at least a while.
— Sandi Doughton, Pacific NW magazine writer
‘Make friends with the cold’
Several winters ago, I was living in semirural Japan, doing typical young-expat work: freelance writing, freelance editing, teaching English. One of my private students was Dr. Susumu Bouoka, a droll country doctor who was like something from a period movie (wry smile, metal spectacles, salt-and-pepper mustache, the works) who also refused to do any homework. He was just there to chat. One afternoon, I was complaining about the damp cold and he laughed, saying something like: “Be cold! Make friends with the cold!” He suggested going to an onsen (hot spring) and spending extra time in the cold-plunge tub, learning to be cold without shrinking from or resisting it — just letting the cold into myself and learning how to deal. His advice stuck and I’ve used it for years. So if you’re feeling lethargic or glum this winter, take Dr. Bouoka’s advice: Endure a cold shower, or jump in Puget Sound, or take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, standing on the prow for the whole ride, letting the wind and rain whip around your face. Then realize you’re fine: You’re not dying of hypothermia, you’re just cold — and maybe even a little energized.
— Brendan Kiley, arts writer