9 cozy winter favorites for the cold and dreary season

9 cozy winter favorites for the cold and dreary season

Will and I just returned from Scotland, which was magical, blustery, and cold. (We spent a few days in Wigtown and then drove up to Edinburgh. I’ve shared about it on Instagram, and will tell you more here on the blog soon.)

I noticed how that thanks to the windy weather, and the fact that it got dark before 4:00 p.m., I was especially appreciative of little creature comforts—hot drinks, good books, warm toes.

Will and I had one experience in Edinburgh that threw this into sharp relief. We rolled into town mid-afternoon, in the freezing rain. After a lovely lunch (cozy), we headed out into the rain to explore (delightful, but emphatically not cozy). After an hour of walking, we decided to visit a specific coffee shop to warm up—but it was a substantial walk away. Our walk there was beautiful but the misery index was on the high end, because we were frozen. (I kept pulling off my gloves to take photos! Great for memories, but terrible in the moment.)

But then we arrived at our destination—a snug, warm café that seemed to stock all of my favorite things, from the Keep Cup to the Monstera plant. The baristas were welcoming, the mood was enticing, the coffee was delicious (and my mug doubled as a hand-warmer). Once we were inside, we no longer cared about our frozen walk.

Not all of you are in cold and dreary climes right now (wave hello in comments and remind us what warmth and sunshine feel like?) but I know I’m not alone in the land of blustery and cold, so today I’m sharing 9 of my cozy winter favorite things.

1. Drinks on the go. 

Keep Cup. Will and I stumbled upon this unusual travel “mug” at a Southern coffee shop this summer and instantly fell in love. I didn’t used to use travel mugs much, because my old mugs would quickly take on the smell (and worse, the taste!) of whatever’s been in it, no matter how carefully I wash it. The Keep Cup is glass, which makes it easy to wash, and it doesn’t retain that coffee smell or taste. I’ve had mine for years now and it’s still working great.

I also love my Drink Tank, which I stole out of my husband’s Cairn box. I started using it for cinnamon tea (I love Harney & Sons hot cinnamon spice), and now it smells so strongly of cinnamon that I don’t use it for anything else. But that’s okay, because in cold weather I am more than happy with the cinnamon. My friend Leigh got me hooked on this fantastic tea, which tastes like my favorite wintry things—cinnamon, cloves, and orange, with a hint of sweetness. I stockpile the decaf when they have it in stock at Harney & Sons; I’m also quite fond of their Paris blend.

2. More tea. 

At my house we’re also loving the Red Refresh herbal blend from Trader Joe’s, an inexpensive, beautiful pink tea with just the right amount of zing.

3. More coziness. 

I packed light for Scotland, and I seriously underestimated the wind chill, which means I was sometimes wearing two sweaters at once (plus underlayers, plus a huge scarf). I don’t know why this was surprising, because I do the same thing at home. Most days I’m wrapping up in a cozy cardigan, on top of whatever I got dressed in that morning. And my favorite impulse buy of recent memory is a huge plaid poncho (or cape, perhaps?) from Anthropologie (similar to this one). It’s warm, it’s pretty, and it doubles as a blanket, whether I’m on an airplane or reading in bed.

When we were in Scotland we noticed that people took their cozy comfort seriously. One of my favorite things at our Wigtown guesthouse was the hot water bottle they left for us in our simple room. I haven’t used one at home in the past, but I think I might start. (Here’s a basic hot water bottle, and this cover is particularly adorable.)

pomegranate lemon potpurri stove

4. Good smells. 

I’ve been lighting the candles, filling up the diffuser, and putting a homemade pot of smells on the stove every single day. It makes such a difference in atmosphere (and I like to tell myself that two of these three do a tiny bit to combat our super-dry winter air).

I also remembered just in time to grab some paperwhite bulbs for our kitchen. My mom has been growing these in the winter months for as long as I can remember. If you’re interested, here’s how to do it. I like to plant mine in pebbles or small marbles.

5. Dry skin stuff.

My sister-in-law is a self-described Kiehl’s junkie, and a few years ago she got me hooked on their Ultra Facial Cream. I have sensitive skin, and I was skeptical, but I love it. Those jars aren’t cheap but I find they last forever. (I typically buy the 4.2 ounce size.)

I also rely on Aquaphor this time of year. The air is so dry my kids and I suffer from brutal dry skin—but only when we forget to slather this on at night. This stuff is drugstore magic.

6. Jigsaw puzzles.

Earlier this month I woke up on a Sunday, sat down with a cup of coffee, and didn’t get up until I finished this small 100-piece puzzle. It was divine. (My little puzzle came from Page One Books—thanks, Brandy!)

I love puzzles in the winter, and am excited about starting in on this 1000 piece book-themed puzzle in the next day or two. I also LOVED this two-sided one (not as tricky as it sounds).

We also played a ton of games in Scotland, which are similarly soothing to my brain. This word game was a favorite.

7. Paperbacks.

When I’m deciding what to read next, the question of paperback vs hardcover rarely enters my mind. But lately, I’ve found myself choosing paperbacks for paperbacks’ sake. Am I the only one who thinks they’re easier to cuddle up with on chilly evenings?

8. Cozy boots made for walking.

I have somehow gone years without owning cold-weather walking shoes, and needed some for Scotland. (I usually just wear my Tieks when I travel, but the forecast of chilly rain ruled that out.) My feet are huge, which makes shoes tricky. I ordered a few pairs of boots online, prioritizing the stylish over the more suitable—including these adorable booties that were way too small for my big feet—and struck out.

Hearing my tale of shoe-shopping woe, a friend enthusiastically recommended this brand, and suggested I visit my local outdoors shop to try them on in person. I came home with these boots, which were a little snug width-wise, but they assured me they’d stretch. They did, and they were perfect, both for our trip and regular cold-weather dog-walking back home.

My boots look like hiking boots. One of our travel companions also had Blundstones, but she’d chosen these pretty Chelsea boots from their dress series.

9. The Sound of Music.

We just watched this a few weeks ago, for the first time in ages, so now we’re all walking around the house singing like Maria (or Liesl, to be honest). That photo above is from Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crags—doesn’t it just make you want to sing like Maria in the Alps? This is the musical at my kids’ school this spring, so I’m sure I have lots of Sound of Music in my near future. (Ask me again in April if it’s still a favorite?)

The Sound of Music is a fitting way to wrap up a favorite things list: what are YOUR favorite things for a cozy winter? I’d love to hear all about them in comments. 

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  1. Kathy says:

    I’m waving from Florida, where it’s often warm in the winter. Today, not so much. Cold and rainy, and I admit that while I love the change, it would get old if it lasted all winter. My favorite cozy things are similar to yours: tea/coffee; a good book; a cat, dog, or both curled up near you; always some sort of throw to snuggle under; candlelight on dark evenings (downside is that it’s hard to read by candlelight!); rocking in a rocking chair; rewatching a favorite movie. Simple pleasures are the best!

  2. JenCanRead says:

    Waving hello from Louisville, GA, where I’ll be spending Christmas. The highs are in the low 60s, which is usually lovely, but I’m desperately craving chill and snow. Time for a trip?

    • Anne says:

      I had no idea! We put ours together last night and I never would have guessed the brand has a history of being problematic. I appreciate you sharing this link.

  3. Jen says:

    It’s around 20 degrees in North Dakota right now, but it’s been in the upper 30’s much of the week…beautiful weather for ND in Dec! (I’m happy if we can stay above zero at this time of year). My favorite cozy things for winter…a Deneen Pottery mug (I have 3) filled with Donut Shop Nutty Caramel or Green Mountain Hazelnut coffee and creamer, warm slippers on my feet, wrapping up in a blanket on the couch with a good book (I’m loving Richard Paul Evans and Donna VanLiere right now), or playing board and card games (Dutch Blitz, anyone?) at the kitchen table with hubby and kids. 🙂

  4. Jennifer says:

    A warm hello from Southern California. We do have chilly evenings and I love the butter socks from Nordstrom and fleece throws to stay warm. I just ordered a puzzle with a winter scene from Amazon yesterday! Looking forward to working on that with my kids during the Christmas vacation, undoubtedly while we wear pjs. My favorites are from PJ Salvage, super cozy!

  5. TX Dee says:

    I grew up in MN and MI and lived 29 years in PA, all the while dreaming of moving to TX. We finally made it and have been loving those Texas winters ever since. By the way, I once did active Reserve duty in Scotland in early winter and can attest to the bluster, cold and wind. We all did a lot of walking and once, in the midst of a snow squall, had to struggle up the sidewalks, leaning into the wind until we could grab a lightpost or signpost and pull ourselves up to it, then put our heads down and trudge towards the next post, just to make progress. I’ll never forget that nor the cold (to us) lodging. It was normal to sit around the lounge at night and suddenly see one or two reservists drop and do push-ups or sit-ups before calmly going back to sitting on the sofa. We were just trying to warm up. Great memories. Hope you can get back to Scotland in the summer some time.

  6. Susan says:

    I guess you have lots of readers from Florida. I am in still drying out from yesterdays torrential rain, Orlando where the highs today are supposed to be in the upper 60’s. I have no like of cold weather so thanks for suggestions on ways to stay warm and cozy.

  7. Meg says:

    My husband refers to the time after Christmas as Puzzle Season. I’ve made sure he has a brand new jigsaw puzzle to open on Christmas, and I can’t wait to get started on it!

  8. Susan in TX says:

    We are a holiday jigsaw family as well – I was raised on it! 🙂 My favorite “comfort” on the rare days that it is cold is “fuzzy socks.” Add a cuppa something warm in the hands, a nice blanket, and twinkle lights and candles, and it’s hard to move me. (Especially if there’s a book in my lap.)

  9. Terri Freeman Terpstra says:

    Aloha from Hawaii! I know no one will feel sorry for me, but always have a hard time remembering that it’s even the holiday season! One warm sunny day rolls into the next-I miss the weather “cues”

  10. Waving a cheery hello from southeastern France, just outside one of the gloomiest cities in Europe in winter, Geneva, Switzerland. Where it is gray and overcast for 4 or 5 months of the year, at least! And where it gets dark at 4-something pm. I put a fire in the grate most evenings and set up for reading or making art, but not usually for going out. I’ve got a wonderful chaise longue, which is great for lounging on and reading in. Highly recommended! Happy holidays to all.

  11. Louise says:

    Waving Kia Ora Hello from New Zealand where it’s the start of summer. It’s 5.30am and light and sunny and we’re starting our day with a beach walk ?. I often find it odd following a blog with lots of references to the climate when it all seems backwards! When it is winter time, my favourite cosy thing to do is a long bubble bath, sometimes listening to an audiobook but often just daydreaming.

  12. Jenny says:

    You can understand why Denmark invented the concept of “hygge.” It’s essntially coziness and contentment and connecting with people and enjoying simple things. I’d add that even in warm SoCal, we like our outdoor fireplace. I also love baking bread and slow-cooked food in the oven that you can smell halfway down the block.

  13. Nancy says:

    My husband and I were in Scotland and Ireland in October visiting a friend in Thurso, the most northerly point in Scotland. I went prepared for freezing weather and was pleasantly surprised, wishing at times I had brought a T-shirt. Even the locals said the weather was unusually mild. Though we also had some wild wet and cold weather on the Isle of Skye and Ireland. Sorry you didn’t get to experience the beauty without the cold. Or that you didn’t get to go to Eteaket, a wonderful little tea shop in Edinburgh. I greatly enjoy your posts and recommendations.

    • Anne says:

      I was hoping to get to Eteaket, but we had to leave early. It’s on my list for next time. 🙂 Your itinerary sounds amazing, with Thurso and the Isle of Skye.

  14. Donna H says:

    I moved from sunny CA to cold Idaho this year so ‘cozy’ has been my new constant goal. I’ve been playing Scattergories in front of a fire with friends and the warmth + laughter mean coziness to me. By the way, I did a Sound of Music tour in Salzburg a few years ago and it couldn’t have been more fun (yes there was lots of singing).

  15. Jill K. Porco says:

    I MUCH prefer paperbacks to hardcover so I get them whenever possible. The last hardcover I purchased was in 2014 or around then so it shows I don’t buy many of them. Paperbacks are easier to carry around and read period and if you get one from a used bookstore, it’s already broken in and even easier to use. If too well worn, I don’t buy them.

  16. Melanie says:

    I grew up in Southern California, so as a kid Christmas meant putting on a sweatshirt and spending hours outside riding a new bike or playing with whatever new toy I’d gotten for Christmas. But now I’ve spent more years living in cold winter climates than I have living in Southern California and I LOVE a cold, snowy (as long as I don’t have to drive in it), cozy Christmas season. That being said, I wish the flowers would bloom and it would become spring on January 2.

    My winter favorites: hot chocolate made with real chocolate and half&half, baths, twinkle lights, reading next to the Christmas tree.

  17. Maureen says:

    I’m waving hello from the San Francisco Bay Area where we have been experiencing
    very cold and foggy days. I love it. I wake up and say to my dog ” Oh, Claire, it’s an Outlander Day!” We grab our hats and scarves and head out for long walks. Then come home to tea and biscuits for both Claire and me while we curl up to knit. I think I have always been a winter girl; it’s the hot summers that bring me down. I loved your post today, I will think of Scotland and you as we walk today!

  18. Erin says:

    I just moved to the PNW (eastern WA) and as a Southerner prone to chill, a great down jacket and Sorel boots are must-haves. I’ve also learned to dress heavier than I think I need to, and as a result, I’m rarely cold.

  19. Shannon says:

    I have been newly introduced to Kiehl’s and am wondering if your “self-described Kiehl’s junkie” sister-in-law would have any recommendations on which products to use in addition to the Ultra Facial Cream? I’m just not sure what to try next? Thank you :)!

    • Anne says:

      She always tells me she loves everything! From my own experience, I found that I’d rather use more Ultra Facial cream on my whole face than their specialized eye cream (the avocado variety). I do love their Ultra Facial Cleanser; it’s gentle and smells great. And I’ve liked the samples I’ve gotten of their oils, like the Midnight Recovery Oil, but I haven’t tried a whole bottle long-term.

  20. I love those boots! I’ve been looking for some all the time, long-lasting boots. I live in Texas so it doesn’t get that cold, but still. So I bought the dress Chelsea boots. Looking forward to a new year with less things, and more well-made and special possessions I can use and cherish.

  21. Katherine says:

    Chicagoan here our winter is sunny but can be brutally cold. What I love about winter is that it gives you the perfect reason to stay in, cozy up and have no plans. When I lived in FL (yes I moved out of FL!) I always felt guilty being lazy on sunny days since I grew up in the Midwest. You have to take advantage of sunny days!! We love a great fire, warm drink (usually coffee), book for me and movie with the family. Happy cozy season!!

  22. SHERRY JOHNSON says:

    I have been looking for a hot water bottle like this. I have migraines and use heat to ease the pain. Thanks so much for the link. I enjoy reading all your posts. I work in a library and run their bookstore. Such fun!

  23. Oh I can only imagine how cold you were in Scotland — the chill is biting and so different from what we have in the states. Have you tried the Uniqlo Heattech shirts? I’m a fashion photographer and thats what all the fashionistas wear under their clothes during winter fashion week so they don’t freeze. I bought one to shoot the Northern Lights in Finland and it worked like a charm. Now I never travel anywhere without one in my suitcase! They’re very light and hardly noticeable under clothing but they keep you so cozy and warm.

    Xoxo,

    Ashley || Sed Bona

  24. Debbie Ball says:

    I am loving the addictive spiced nuts and have made three double batches as gifts for neighbors! Having these with dry white wine or a cup of herbal tea in these cold afternoons as I read mail or wonderful books. A new family favorite we found on your website!

  25. Rosalie says:

    Waving hello from Australia, where we had a high of 40 degrees Celsius yesterday, and it was so warm overnight that I needed a spray bottle to mist myself with just so I was cool enough to get to sleep. Loved reading about your chilly weather experiences when I woke up this morning. Merry Christmas to all, whether you are in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.

  26. Simone Layton says:

    So hello from Queensland, Australia. We are in the middle of summer. Yesterday was 92 degrees and I spent the late afternoon in the azure blue of our backyard pool, a glass of crisp white wine in hand (floating wine glasses are kitsch but oh-so-practical). Christmas lunch will include fresh seafood and mangoes, cherries and peaches. My reading is getting decidedly more lightweight over the holidays: beach reads only.

  27. Marilyn says:

    Waving hello from Queens new York. Looking forward to your future posts on Scotland. We enjoy your blog and posts throughout the year.Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and a blessed 2019.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

  28. SoCalLynn says:

    Waving HI! from southern California where it was 75 today. I love doing a puzzle during the Christmas holidays, so as soon as I finish wrapping gifts tonight I’m opening up the one I bought at Marshall’s the other day.

  29. A few years ago I was walking in the hills above Edinburgh (Arthur’s Seat I think) and my two friends and I broke into “ The hilks are alive w the sound of music…” so your comments here make me smile. Glad you enjoyed Edinburgh so much. We did too!

  30. Sue says:

    I’m hailing from coastal Maine, and believe me, most Mainers light the wood stove to be cozy. And pull up a cat or a lap robe. Nothing like it.
    And, if it makes you feel any better, I visited Edinburgh in early April and it was about the same as you described! RAW! And, windy and cold and wet. We had to keep walking, too, plus it was the days before wheeled suitcases….I know this dates it, but man alive, those suitcases were heavy to carry along the streets in Edinburgh, looking for a cheap B & B. And, our rooms were usually fourth floor walkups!

  31. Brooke says:

    I love these blog posts, great to see you wearing our great Aussie blundstones, I wear a pair everyday on the farm we are about to face a week of 35 + degrees Celsius for the next week, you are making me wish for winter with this list and I hate winter!

  32. Maureen says:

    You forgot to add warm sleep socks to your list. I love to snuggle down under the covers while wearing a pair of thick socks.

  33. Mimi Gregor says:

    My favorite bit of coziness is to put on my jammies and chenille robe — even if it is technically still late afternoon — sit on the sofa by the fire (which is usually going 24/7 when it’s cold out) and read an absorbing book. Right now I’m reading The Little Friend by Donna Tartt. I am accompanied by various teas that I get from a local tea shop that I brew in my FiestaWare teapot (with cup and saucer, too. I LOVE FiestaWare!)

  34. Liz Poland says:

    You might also want to look into Keen brand shoes and boots. I have wide feet and am out in all kinds of weather as a dog walker/petsitter and have a pair of Keens for every season!

  35. Marlaine Lerz says:

    Merry Christmas to you and your family! I’m from NH but winter in SW Fla also…With the warmer temps I miss the hygge ideas. I still participate on cooler days with the hot teas, poncho wearing, candles burning all the time and making my home as cozy as possible! Tonight, after dinner, we will watch A Child’s Christmas in Wales..a favorite over the years when our children were home! Ever heard of it? I think you would enjoy it Anne….Namaste!

  36. Suzanne says:

    Howdy from Houston, Texas!

    My favorite thing to do when it gets cold is to re-read Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. It has so many evocative scenes and relays the true meaning of Christmas. Apart from that, at this time of year, I love a Greenberg smoked turkey, a case of Ruby Red Grapefruit and a pan of homemade fudge. For decoration, masses of white poinsettias are elegant and traditional.

    Merry Christmas to all!

  37. Beverly Coomer says:

    I LOVE my Blunnies! I bought them for riding, but I find myself choosing them as my go-to footwear for most everything! They are so comfortable, relatively lightweight — considering their material content — and easy to get on! I’ve had mine for 4 years, and they have worn like iron. Personally, I think they’re trendy and fashionable, as well as uber practical! I know you’ll love yours!

  38. I just loved this entire list. I am all about the cozy while traveling. Your cafe story reminds me of a similar experience — a friend and I were walking through the Cotswolds on a particularly rainy and chilly April day, and after hours exploring in grey rain, we stopped at a little cafe for some tea and cake. It was SUCH a cozy experience, from the steaming cups of tea, to the delicious sugary cake to the fact that we were the only ones in the toasty warm cafe and could fully relax and laugh after our long walk outdoors. It’s one of my favorite memories of that trip!

    I love using a hot water bottle. I have a bad back, so keeping one on hand is a necessity for me, and while it helps me medically, it also makes for a warmer sitting experience, lol. That is, if it hasn’t been stolen by my cat, who immediately goes to sit on it the second I get up from the couch and leave it unattended. We are thinking of getting him his own for Christmas…because we’re THOSE people who spoil their cat, lol.

    I second your love of Harney’s Paris tea. I don’t particularly care for their “basic” teas like English breakfast, but their flavored teas are exceptional. Try Fruits d’Alsace for another lovely experience, and definitely try it while eating a piece of good chocolate; it will bring out the taste of cherries in the tea.

    And, making your home smell delicious with candles, etc, is key. I burn candles all year round. I’ve tried diffusers, and while I love the scent they give, I miss the glow of a lit candle, so I go back to my first love every time. I actually love grey, dreary days now because they are the best for being cozy (and for writing!)

  39. Kristian says:

    We left twinkle lights up all winter last year, and likely will keep some thing year too. I’ve an irrational fear of candles (and an almost two year old into everything!), so it seems like a good alternative.Plus, when it gets dark so early, it is nice to have them on so you have some cozy light to come home too.

    Other cozy things are teas from Pheonix Tea Shop in Red Lodge. I’m partial to their Irish Sunrise (Irish Breakfast tea leaves dried in an old whiskey barrel) or their House Black. Paperback books in the tub too 😀

  40. Mary in Nashville says:

    I recently had to use a heating pad after a difficult back spasm. I’ve left it in my favorite chair and now I use it on the low setting whenever I am tired or chilly

  41. Naomi says:

    Hello from Minnesota! Not too cold today, but a winter storm is supposed to hit overnight and tomorrow. My favorite cozy things for the winter are our fireplace, my faux sherpa lined blanket, and our cat.

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