Cold comfort

Ottawa residents share what keeps them hygge for the holidays


As lovely as Ottawa is, winters in the capital can be brutal. Between trying to navigate snowbanks with a stroller, struggling in – and out – of snow pants (then rinse and repeat) and having to allow extra time to get, well, anywhere, many parents are counting down the days to spring by mid-February.

But Ottawans are a hardy bunch, and have incorporated cozy and comforting – hygge – activities to make the winters more bearable.

A few years ago, hygge caught on in North America, filling books, lifestyle news and trend reports – and people couldn’t get enough. Parenting Times asked readers and friends about their favourite comforting cold weather habits and activities. Grab a blanket and a hot drink (practically the very definition of hygge) and read on.

A warm getaway

Mom of two Crystal Pruys keeps warm by planning for a yearly trip down south. “(It) keeps us all sane and gives us amazing family memories,” she says. By the time the family goes on the seven to 10-day trip at the end of January or beginning of February, they’re more than ready to leave the snow behind. For Alan Viau, that warmth is more readily available – in the form of a “hot tub at Movati.”


Gettin’ crafty

“I love this time of year because of all the local craft shows,” says Ottawa mom of three Meighan Hartley.  “So many talented local artists make getting ready for the holidays fun and it gets us out of the house even when the weather is cold. I love the smaller local ones – the ones that feature a lot of the mom and pop or stay-at-home mom shops,” she says. Hartley says she sneaks away for the morning with a girlfriend to grab a coffee and Christmas shop. “I love the unique things that can be found,” she says. “I find it is a great way to find special pieces that really remind me of those I am buying for.”


Nothing like a warm beverage to warm the cockles of your heart

The smell of slow cooked mulled wine defines the season in Monkey Rock Music founder John King’s house – and is a hit when company comes around. He combines four bottles of red wine, rum, and citrus fruit (“some juiced, some just sliced and put in, but too much rind makes it bitter,” says King, who has been making the wine for six or seven years. “Black cardamom is nice, so is star anise, cinnamon and a few cloves.”) Simply combine and cook on low all day. “It lasts a few days just sitting in the slow cooker,” he says.

For local mom Deanna Wright, nothing defines the warmth of the season like hot chocolate and cuddling under blankets in front of the fire. Mom of two Alissa Leering agrees. “Hot beverages and comfy clothes and socks (and) a fireplace to sit near,” she says.


Back to tradition

Mother of two Mariah Little creates her own cozy. She and her husband cut and split their own wood for their woodstove at home. “The woodstove is a focus point in our addition,” says Little. “It heats the whole house fairly quickly too. While we weren’t looking for a country home with a woodstove, it was definitely an added bonus that we were very excited about.”

“We have access to many areas, through friends, to get our own wood at no cost as long we keep it clean and respected,” she says. “You know you’re self-sustaining from cutting wood yourself to heat your own house. It makes you feel content in life. It’s a huge pro for us. It’s nice to not have to use our furnace and pay for it. By cutting our own woodstove, we are only paying for a small amount of gas for our chainsaws. It also keeps you healthy, the activeness by hiking through the bush to get to the wood to cut it. To split it all by hand. To make your kindling. It makes you feel active and keeps you with nature.” Once the fire is roaring, the family of four warms up with a nice drink, and a snack or a nice meal that Little has cooked. “I’m still getting into the woodstove cooking,” she says. “It’s a fairly new thing for me, I’ve done campfire cooking so it was exciting to branch out and cook via the woodstove.” She’s made coffee, grilled cheese, chicken fajitas, pancakes, eggs and more.


Food, glorious food

Speaking of food, comfort food means different things for different people. Jae Park likes Korean food and stews, Anna Wong makes a mean apple pie (served with a side of vanilla ice cream), and Chuck Schouwerwou likes homemade Mexican food with good tequila. For Sheryl Jean-Louis, it means a slow cooker dinner of roast and veggies (followed by sappy Christmas movies and family snuggles by the fireplace, of course), and Rose Thomas loves a bowl of homemade chicken soup with fresh warm bread. We’re getting hungry just reading this!


Blankets, blankets and more blankets

Blankets serve so many purposes. Bring on the blanket forts for public relations guru Samantha Moonsammy Gordon and her family, who love “lots of fleece blankets and creating a hibernation cozy space at home with food stocked, essential oils diffuser, great playlists of music and movies,” while Canada’s Money Coach Judith Cane’s collection of blankets would make anyone envious. She cherishes “all the flannel quilts I have made over the years. So many memories of winters past,” she says.

Embracing the outdoors

When she’s not enjoying the hot chocolate and blankets in front of the fire, Deanna Wright says “getting outside and enjoying it is the best! Years spent skiing and sledding the winter seems to pass so much faster! Both skiing and sledding were a huge part of my childhood so anytime I partake with my son I know I’m contributing to those same happy memories,” she says. She’s hoping to get her five-year-old son on skis this winter. After spending time outside, they like to warm up by the fire. “I grew up with a big round wood burning fireplace in the middle of our living room, so having a fire lit was regular occurrence, especially in the winter when I was a kid,” she says.” I’m happy we’re at the age now where I can tell my little man to stay away from the fireplace and actually turn it on when it’s really cold outside.”

A few years ago, Amanda Bernardi and her family rented a yurt in Gatineau Park for the first time. “Watching the snow fall on a peaceful winter day made me so happy,” she says. “We had brought everything we needed and we were so warm and snuggled up and that moment lives on in my memory. I recommend it.” Rosemary Thompson loves skiing, while former Run Ottawa president John Halvorsen naturally gravitates towards skiing and running, even in the winter. “If you dress appropriately, the outdoors can be enjoyed. Then coming home, warm shower or even better a sauna, and relaxing inside with a fire and food.”



Stephanie Kelly loves planning a winter weekend: “cottage, hot chocolate, bad movies, good board games, big bonfire and fancy dinner by the fireplace. Makes the cold feel moderately less brutal.” There’s also a good contingent that love to just relax on the couch – specifically, with Netflix.

“Nothing better than hot chocolate, Netflix, and my bathrobe!” Charlie John told Parenting Times on Facebook. Karen Wood says, “In winter we move to the living room at the front of the house. We even move the TV so we can enjoy the fireplace, cardinals in the tree outside the window and Netflix.” What’s hygge for local mom Danielle McGee? “Netflix, and not having to get up to go to work in the dark and cold!” We wholeheartedly agree.


Fact Box

What is hygge?

The Danish and Norwegian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of contentment and well-being, hygge (pronounced as “hoo-ga”) celebrates the simple things in life that bring comfort and joy, perfect for this time of year.

Pull quote

Oh, the weather outside is frightful

But the fire is so delightful

And since we’ve no place to go

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

  • Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”