5 Ways to Get Your Home Winter-Ready with Hygge

Winter is a tough time for our well-being. Hygge (hoo-guh), a Danish lifestyle concept that emphasizes comfort, minimalism, togetherness, and coziness, is your secret weapon for preparing your home for winter. Shut out the cold with plush throws, pleasant scents, and wooden accents.

cat lying on blanket

Create a cozy atmosphere with textiles 

Textile art was a major trend in winter 2019, and it shows no signs of slowing down. Display a macrame tapestry to make your space feel comfortable and welcoming. Cuddle up with a wool throw and hot chocolate to save on heating costs. On stressful days, decompress underneath Bearaby’s weighted knit blanket. Hygge emphasizes spending time with friends and loved ones, and floor pillows make your living space more inviting for guests. Pile a few patterned wool throw pillows on the sofa to unwind together.

row of lit candles

Heat up your home with candles 

Candles create a beautiful Hygge inspired space. If you don’t have a fireplace, grouping candles on your mantle or coffee table creates the illusion of a large flame. Light a few citrus scented candles on your nightstand to unwind after a long day. For a magical atmosphere, wrap fairy lights around a grouping of glass candle holders. Take note that traditional candles emit chemicals that are less than ideal for you and the environment—soybean wax burns cleaner.

gallery wall with plants

Add wood accents to your space

Hygge reminds us to connect with the natural world, and wood accents are perfectly inviting. Wooden coasters add a touch of rustic charm to your coffee and end tables. Black walnut serving bowls are great for serving snacks, but are still elegant enough to use at the dinner table. Lay out geometric wooden tea light holders to mix contemporary with countryside. If you enjoy working with your hands, try log candle holder crafts for a fun Hygge challenge. Twig bundles are cost-friendly, easy to dress up with metallic twine, and are a crafty alternative to wooden picture frames.

essential oils bottle

Soothe the soul with essential oils

The Danes can’t do without comfort. Hygge prioritizes downtime, and an essential oil diffuser makes your space more calming. Peppermint and lavender essential oils are universally pleasant scents with a wealth of benefits. Peppermint oil is an all-natural remedy for killing winter cold germs and refreshing the air, while lavender oil is ideal for easing anxiety. Eucalyptus oil emits a stronger scent and acts as a decongestant. Vitruvi’s stone essential oil diffuser offers all the minimalism and organic feel of Hygge.

reading with a cup of tea

Hide from the cold in your Hyggekrog 

If you lead a busy life, channel Hygge to take care of yourself. The Hyggekrog is a “nook” where you can escape the demands of work, family, and winter weather. To create your own Hyggekrog, decorate your favorite space with accents that give you comfort. Display your favorite photographs in wooden frames. Stock the den or the living room with a basket of slipper socks, an oversized sweater, and a fleece electric blanketLay out a book with glossy pictures of sand and surf to ward off the winter blues. Nothing takes the chill off like self-care.

Ultimate Pet Lovers’ Gift Baskets

Being the parent of a pet is a lot like being the parent of a human—there are a lot of things to buy. But if you’re ever out of gift ideas for your pet-loving friend, a gift basket stocked with everything they could need is a great option! They and their pet are sure to thank you.

Puppy Parent Basket
New puppies can be a handful, and knowing what necessities to buy can be a little overwhelming for new owners. Help them get a handle on it with this basket that has everything they could ever need.

  • Picture frame
  • Tennis ball/chew toys
  • Stuffed pillow
  • Bones

Feline-Friend Basket
Cats will go crazy for this fun basket made special for them. There’s yarn and catnip for playtime, not to mention homemade treats in their favorite flavors!

  • Yarn ball
  • Feather toys
  • Catnip/treats

Busy Birdy Basket
Bird owners, watchers, and their feathered friends will love the tasty DIY suet cakes and cozy new home in this basket.

  • Suet cakes
  • Feeder
  • Bird book
  • Seeds

Happy Horse Basket
Any horse-lover knows the way to a horse’s heart is through their stomach, so this basket with apples, sugar cubes, and other treats is guaranteed to put a big grin on their face. You can also add a fun printed scarf for your loved one to show their love for their pet!

  • Apples/carrots
  • Brush
  • Horse-printed scar

Good-Doggie Treat Jar
Homemade treats are a great option for any pup, but can be especially useful for owners who’s pet is on a restrictive diet. Fill a jar with cookie cutters, and the instructions for these treats so your loved one can make their dog’s day! PRINTABLE GIFT BASKET TAGS


Try making one of these baskets for your pet-loving friends and family, and snap a picture of your homemade gift to post on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #ALMcreate.

Your Shopping List for Hard-to-Kill Plants

Not the green thumb type of gardener? Does your foliage tend to droop and die? Then these rugged plants are for you!

So what makes these plants hard to kill? They are considered to be low maintenance because they just need to be in the right light and given the right amount of water once the soil is dry to thrive. Reference the list below to find out how much light each plant requires, and then match them to the appropriate rooms in your house.

Low Light:
Some plants thrive in little to no light, which means that they would be great for rooms with little natural lighting. Perhaps the most well-known of these plants are the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) and the tropical Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Others hard-to-kill plants in this category include the Chinese Evergreen (Aglaonema) and the Golden Pothos (Epipremnum aureum).

Medium Light:
The second group of plants to consider are ones that are a bit more light flexible, as they work well in a fair amount of natural lighting. One example is the tried and true Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum). The intricately patterned Prayer Plant (Maranta leuconeura) also fits the bill, as does the Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica).

High Light:
Do you have rooms in your house that just pour in the natural lighting? Then load up on these beauties! A great example of a hardy high-light plant is the Aloe Vera plant (Aloe barbadensis), which you can grow and then use the gel from its leaves to sooth burns. Another is the Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria heterophylla), which adds a touch of outdoor living into your indoor space. The Jade Plant (Crassula ovata), the Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina), and the Zebra Haworthia (Haworthia attenuata) also fall into this group of plants that soak up the sun.

Maintaining beautiful, vibrant plants in your home can be easier than you think, regardless of your gardening skill level. Simply matching the right type of plant with the amount of lighting in your house is a great first step.

Paying Hope Forward

Jeanine Patten-Coble enjoyed vacationing at a North Carolina beach with her husband and son each year, and 2009 was no different—at first. However, the day before their trip, her doctor shared a shocking diagnosis: Patten-Coble had breast cancer.

Devastated but undaunted, she went on their scheduled family beach trip the next day. While running on the beach, mulling over how to tell her son about her cancer, she came across a compound of abandoned houses and found her new calling: creating vacation retreats for breast cancer patients and their families. The seeds for what would become the nonprofit organization Little Pink Houses of Hope were planted.

Patten-Coble spent the next year receiving treatment and having surgeries while laying the groundwork for Little Pink. From the beginning, she admittedly felt doubtful and eventually felt overwhelmed—especially since she had a full-time job in education and was devoting all her time to planning. Nonetheless, she soldiered on, and, in 2011, the first five Little Pink retreats were held, and she left her full-time job in education to focus on her true vocation two years later.

breast cancer survivors group

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

Since its inception, the organization has provided free weeklong getaways, from Costa Rica to California, to over 800 breast cancer patients and their families. In 2019, it has twenty retreats scheduled, each at a different location, and will serve over 200 families overall. Morning activities are offered, such as a beach day, a boat cruise, or riding ATVs, as are nighttime activities, from a family game night to a bonfire on the beach to stargazing, depending on the location. The families eat meals together as well for further bonding.

“People are desperately looking for similarity,” Patten-Coble explains. “They want others who empathize, who they don’t have to explain everything to. It’s a different story when you’re with people who get it. You can really talk about the experience in terms of how it’s impacting you instead of trying to make other people feel better that you’re sick, which is exhausting for a cancer patient. Our whole model is based on the idea of creating these organic environments of support. People at the retreats become friends, which leads to a much larger, deeper support network that’s meaningful long after the retreat. You come as strangers, and, at the end of the week, you leave as family. The commonality of cancer and shared experiences bonds people and strips differences away.”

It takes about nine months to plan a retreat. Each location, chosen not only for its locale but also for its community feel, has a local retreat coordinator, a retreat director, and a one-to-one ratio of volunteers and participant families. Houses are obtained in two ways: through word of mouth and, more often, by partnering with local property management companies, which can reach out directly to individuals who might be inclined to donate—simply because, as Patten-Coble says, they understand the difference they’re making in the lives of others. As a sign of gratitude, Little Pink requests off-peak weeks to minimize income loss, plus each homeowner gets a handwritten letter and photo from the family who stayed in his or her house.

breast cancer survivor paddleboarding

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

Ultimately, Patten-Coble says, Little Pink retreats are about empowerment. “We use the word empowering a lot because, for a lot of families, their experience with this disease has been anything but,” she shares. “Their week truly empowers them to get back to who they are as a family unit because they experience brand-new fun things every day. We want cancer survivors and cancer patients to see themselves as thrivers and as people who, despite their diagnosis, have this new chapter that they’re in control of writing. They might not be in control of the ultimate progression of their disease, but they control how they live every day.”

And that includes teaching guests to celebrate every day and to grab every second possible out of life. Though she has countless stories of participants doing this, Patten-Coble says one still stands out from Little Pink’s first retreat. A woman named Shari was nervous about the group activity, paddleboarding, so they went out on the water together. To ease her worries, Patten-Coble told Shari that she didn’t even have to get up, but she insisted. Immediately, Shari’s two boys, eight and ten years old, started screaming from the shore at the top of their lungs, cheering on their mom.

“They were so full of joy and full of excitement. In that moment, Shari wasn’t a cancer patient. She was a rock star mom,” she remembers. “Shari turned to me and said, ‘This is why I had to do it. This is how I want my boys to remember me—it doesn’t matter what happens in your life; you still get up and try every single day. They’re going to need that lesson when I’m gone.’ Thinking of this still makes me cry, but it encompasses the joy we’re able to create, even when it’s mixed with pain. We have a chance to impact people. It’s about touching one heart and one life at a time.”

Understandably, choosing the families for the retreats can be a painstaking task, so the organization uses an assignment committee that reads through every application, first word to last; the members pored over 3,000 applications for 210 spots in 2018. People who are currently in treatment are top priority, and those selected choose the retreats they’d like to be considered for, which is often based on their treatment schedule, their kids’ school schedules, or proximity. Patten-Coble notes that Little Pink is especially mindful of geography, having started on the East Coast and expanding all the way to the West Coast: “Most of our expansion in 2019 is in the Midwest and the West, which is to help meet a need—lengthy travel is often very difficult for cancer patients, so the more locations we have spread across the country, the less time people have to travel.”

mother and son on beach

© Little Pink Houses of Hope

For her efforts, Patten-Coble was named a CNN Hero in 2017. The network raised money in her name, which allowed Little Pink to start a scholarship program for the children of families who have attended a past retreat. “I am a firm believer that family is for life,” she states. “We maintain relationships with our families long after their retreats. The scholarship is a way to remain a part of these kids’ lives long after their retreat and say, ‘You’re loved’ and to encourage them to always be the difference in the life of somebody else. Our hope is that they take it, get a great education, and, one day, pay it forward in some other way.”

Paying hope forward is what Jeanine Patten-Coble has been doing ever since taking a beach run the day after her breast cancer diagnosis. She has continued doing so by offering more retreat locations and penning her memoir, Struck by Hope. In the future, she plans to replicate the Little Pink Houses of Hope model for people with other types of cancers, such as ovarian, uterine, and lung cancers. “We’ve clearly seen how much people are willing to get involved, if given the chance,” she says. “We’ve become a great vehicle for people to use their gifts and talents in a way that’s truly meaningful. I have a front-row seat to the goodness in the world, and it’s why this model works. It’s simply about embracing people with a humongous hug during one of the worst times of their lives and bringing other people onboard to hug them. We’ll keep developing ways to give time, happiness, and hope to as many people as we possibly can.”

Must-Have Phone Numbers for Your New Home

Moving is largely about looking back and looking forward. We make meticulous lists of everything before the move: from what has to be packed up or tossed out from the old house, to the utilities turn-off dates and the moving van’s pickup time. Likewise, we do our best to make sure that everything in the new home is ready to go so that we can seamlessly start our new life.

And an important part of that post-move plan is to be prepared. Sure, you’ll probably have a good idea of what you want to put in each room as you unpack. But what if you suddenly need a dentist? Or your son gets sick? Or a pipe bursts in your basement? Would you be prepared for any of these situations?

You should make a list of of important phone numbers before you move (or, at worst, soon after you move in), and make sure to share it and its location with everyone in your household. Here are some ideas for what numbers to put on your list.

Police department/Fire department.
If you have an emergency, you should call 911. However, it’s always helpful to have the local phone numbers of these personnel handy as well, in case you have a question about ordinances, need to report something, or need other non-emergency help.

Doctor/Hospital.
Be sure to have the phone number of your physician in your new town (as well as the physicians for everybody else in your family) in case there’s a sudden illness and you need a same-day appointment, or if you just need some medical advice.

Dentist.
People don’t usually think of needing a dentist’s number right away, but if a dental disaster occurs—such as a chipped tooth—trust us, you’ll be glad you have it. If your kids have braces, make sure to have the contact info for their orthodontist as well.

Poison control.
Hopefully you won’t be one of the approximately 24 million people who call poison control each year. But with harmful chemicals common in households, it’s a good idea to have the number at the ready, just in case.

Vet.
We can’t speak with our pets, but we can speak with their vets. Keep your local veterinarian’s contact information easily accessible in the event of your four-legged friend needing some expert help—especially since that possibility is enhanced as they explore their new surroundings.

School. 
New school district, new school, new friends. All reasons to have the school’s phone number readily available as you and your family adjust to a new area. The school will have your phone number in case they need to contact you; you should do the same.

Plumber.
Researching for a plumber can save you from a ton of headaches, especially if your new home’s in a different area of the state or country. Look at reviews online, ask around, and keep in mind the plumber’s proximity to your new home. Once you decide on one, add his or her number to your list.

Utilities company.
You likely already have the contact information for your new utility company on your new bill or service agreement. Jot it down on your list in case you have an issue such as a blackout.

Babysitter. 
This one is almost second nature for parents. Because of the important role the babysitter plays, you very well may have to plan ahead to find a reliable, trustworthy one in your new neighborhood. When you do, you don’t want to have to root around for her number.

Pizza place.
Yes, this is important, especially when you first move and may not have everything unpacked and set up at your new place (including pots, pans, or silverware). Fortunately, many restaurants send complimentary mailings to the new family on the block, so you can easily transfer the number onto your list.


Click below to get this handy list of important phone numbers, and put it on your fridge or near your phone—any place where you or anyone else in your household can easily access it at any time.

Take Fantastic Fall Photos

It’s obvious why fall is one of the best seasons for photography—it’s one of the times of year that nature is at its most colorful, and you (typically) don’t have to worry about combating scorching heat or freezing temperatures.

But in order to make the most of your autumn photography session, you’ll need to keep these few tips in mind.

  • Leaves are gone almost as quickly as they change, so try to find and scout your location the day of, or, no more than one day in advance.
  • Unless you’re really into the classic feet in the leaves picture, try to mix it up your session with a few landscape shots, or consider capturing aspects of the season that people often forget, like contrasting blue sky or wildlife.
  • Use the sun to your advantage. Fall is a great time for back-lit shots, as the sun will be peeking through the breaks in the trees. Also keep in mind what time the sun is setting, since it will be earlier than it was during summer.
  • Instead of focusing just on the leaves, seek out other tiny details, like a bird nesting or a squirrel gathering nuts—this will keep your photos from looking too similar.
  • Shooting with a cell phone? Don’t worry if the colors aren’t popping as much as they do in-person. You can always fix coloring on your phone or computer afterward.

Fun Fall Ideas (That Aren’t Already on Your Bucket List)

Apple picking. Pumpkin picking. Leaf peeping. You’ve heard it all before. Fall is full of amazing sights, smells, and sounds, but very rarely do you come across an activity that you haven’t already checked off your must-do list five years in a row.

Well, here’s a list of things you’ve probably (hopefully) never thought of to make the most of fall. And, if you have, congratulations on being original!

Play pick-up football.

What’s the only thing better than packing the car and spending a couple hours at a crowded football game? Inviting the neighborhood over for a pick-up game of two-hand touch. This is a great way to get out some energy and socialize on a nice fall afternoon, and you can encourage families to come in a team color, and award prizes for the best teams.

Head south.

When we think of fall foliage, most people think of New England—Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. But other parts of the US experience fall’s change of colors, too, and just as vibrantly (though a little later than the North). Instead of road tripping the Northeast, try driving through the Smokies, if you’re in the East, in late-October to early-November. If you’re out West, try a hike through the Sunset Trail in Mount Laguna, California, in mid-to-late-October. Mid-westerners can experience incredible fall colors throughout the Ozarks in early-to-late-November.

Host a pot-luck.

Amidst the tailgates, and later, more formal holiday dinners, there’s not much time for a casual potluck. But really, fall is one of the best times of year for these get-togethers because there are so many yummy foods coming into season!

Step aside, apples.

Speaking of yummy fall foods, we all could use a break from pumpkins and apples, can’t we? Not to knock these staples, but there are so many other amazing fruits and veggies hitting their peak in autumn. Eggplant, fennel, pears, persimmons, and spinach are all at or near their harvest through the fall months in most parts of the US. (Want some recipe inspiration for these foods, and more? Visit our Bites page!)

Make a haunted house… out of candy!

When Halloween is over, how much candy do you typically have left? If the answer is none, no shame. If the answer is a ton, have some fun and try making your own version of a gingerbread house, minus the holidays. Take some graham crackers and melted chocolate or marshmallow to make the house frame, and get creative decorating your haunted house in whatever candy pieces you can find.

Throw a scary scarecrow contest.

This idea could be done one of two ways: you can gather a group of friends to make your own scarecrows out of hay, sticks, and scrap craft materials. Or, arrange yourselves in teams and select a person to become a scarecrow, with the team working together to transform their teammate via makeup and clothes. The winning team is whoever can create the best scarecrow (either human or fake)!

Successes and Strides in Breast Cancer Research

The five-year survival rate for women with breast cancer has steadily increased in the last twenty years to nearly 100 percent for stage 0 and stage 1 patients (Cancer.org). Important studies, fund-raising, and support from survivors and families have significantly impacted the outlook for this disease—and have pushed research to new heights.

  • Researchers have sped up computerized imaging to identify tumors more quickly, making prognosis and treatment faster. (USC)
  • Advancements in genetic testing have made diagnoses and identifying risk factors for breast cancer much more reliable. (American Cancer Society)
  • Successful studies in immunotherapy and other medications are giving patients many more options for treatment outside of chemotherapy. (Cancer Research Institute)
  • There are more than three million breast cancer survivors living in the US, because of increased awareness and improved research. (American Cancer Society)
  • Improved awareness and support for breast cancer survivors and families have dramatically enhanced quality of life after diagnosis. (Breastcancer.org)
  • The FDA continues to approve medication that not only combat growth of the disease, but also reduce side effects of treatment. (National Cancer Institute

Working 9 to 5 (with a Clean House)

When you dedicate more than 40 hours a week to your job, oftentimes other obligations fall to the wayside—like the upkeep of your home. Although balancing your time is a juggling act, these tips will help you stay ahead of the cleaning throughout the week.

Start small.  
When it comes to cleaning, small efforts can make all the difference. In fact, just simply straightening up before you to go bed—i.e. washing the dishes, folding and putting away laundry, and picking up after your family—will help you start the next morning off on the right foot. Because really, who doesn’t want to wake up to an organized living space?

Ensure that every minute counts.
With a busy schedule, time is of the essence. Since nobody enjoys coming home to a mess, there are a few things that can be done while you’re away at work. Before you leave, consider throwing in a load of laundry, and hanging it to dry once you return. Since most dishwashers have a heated dry feature they can run during the day. Another option is utilizing a robotic vacuum that can run on a set schedule.

Create, and stick to a schedule.  
Like anything else in life, a schedule can help immensely with cleaning. Creating and sticking to a schedule will enable you to chip away at the chores throughout the week, and not feel completely overwhelmed on the weekends. Consider breaking down the tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal goals. Download this printable household cleaning schedule to keep your housework running like clockwork.

Make it a game.
If you have children, getting them involved can make a world of difference. To keep them interested, consider making the cleaning process a game. Simple things like hanging a chart on the refrigerator and offering an incentive once they complete a certain number of tasks will keep them entertained. Keeping it fun will help to teach them how to clean up after themselves, all the while making less work for you.

Practicing these tips will help keep your house in tip-top shape, regardless of your work schedule!

Don’t Let Mother Nature Ruin Your Floors

Without always realizing, the conditions from outside can quickly cause damage to your floors—no matter the type. Refer to these tips when a winter storm hits to protect the integrity of the flooring in your home this season!

Utilize floor mats.
Placing a mat in your entryway is the easiest way to ensure clean floors when it snows or rains all day. This encourages your family and guests to wipe their shoes off before entering your home. Don’t be afraid to suggest they take shoes off completely, either!

Invest in a steam mop.
If you’re worried about the damage to your floors, it may be time to invest in a steam mop. The technology in this method effectively gets out tough marks on finishes like linoleum, vinyl, and even hardwood (just make sure your floors are sealed), while being gentle enough to use weekly.

Try to be diligent.
While you can’t be expected to walk around your house with a paper towel roll every time someone forgets to take their shoes off, at least aim to be more attentive to your floors. You don’t want to wait until spring to clean up the spots from snow and sleet, which by then will be harder to deal with.

Cover the carpets and rugs.
Hard flooring may be pesky, but nothing compares to getting stains out of carpets and rugs. On a particularly snowy day, cover your floors with furniture pads. It may seem excessive, but you’ll thank yourself later for not having to do a deep clean of these areas!

Choose cleaners carefully.
The right cleaners (and cleaning methods) can make all the difference to the longevity of your floors. Traditional mopping your hardwood floors is no longer the way to go, and will just add more moisture to the mix. Use a cloth to take care of excess water whenever possible, and be quick about cleaning up areas that are prone to damage.

Follow these cleaning tips to keep your floors looking shiny and brand new this season!