3 Ways I’m Bringing Light into November

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This week, Minneapolis has been gray and cloudy every day. So often our moods reflect the weather outside; right now, as I gaze out the living room window at flurries and a sky devoid of color, it’s hard not to feel lethargic and blah.

That’s why this November, I’m trying to be intentional about bringing more light into our home, especially on dreary days like this one. Here are three ways I’m experimenting with light.

1. Fireplace

If you have a fireplace, use it! For the first seven years we lived here, we never touched ours. We bought the house in December 2012 and closed eight days before we got married (I don’t recommend it!) and couldn’t be bothered with the chimney inspection. We’ll do it in the spring, we told ourselves. Ha! Fast forward five years and we finally got around to that inspection. We bumbled our way through lighting our first fire in the fall of 2019 and when we finally got it going, I thought, why the heck didn’t we do this sooner?!? There’s nothing quite like the wind howling outside as I cradle a mug of tea and stare into the crackling flames.

We need to be extra careful with the kids around and both buying wood and taking out the ashes are a pain, but the coziness and warmth still make using the fireplace totally worthwhile. In the past I’ve tended to think of building a fire only as a special occasion thing, but I’m going to try for more often this winter.

2. Candles

If you don’t have a fireplace or don’t feel like lighting it, candles are a great alternative. I know, I know, not exactly a revolutionary idea. But I’m one of those people that’s traditionally fallen into the camp of having candles around as decorations but never actually bothering to light them. Spoiler alert: lighting them makes a difference.

I have the overhead lights off right now and this little candle glowing beside me. With the flurries swirling outside, it feels so homey and quintessentially November.

And while I much prefer when I can put a candle on a neat, clear surface, that’s not realistic at my house. We don’t have an eat-in kitchen, so our dining table is not only the sole spot for meals, but also a hub for making art projects, playing with Legos, jotting down grocery lists, etc. Earlier this week I decided that if I only light candles when there’s no other mess, it’s never going to happen. So in spite of papers, markers, a sippie cup, a Duplos dinosaur, and miscellaneous other junk, I lit the candles on the table (and those behind it on a shelf) to enjoy while I made dinner. It felt pretty random but also lovely.

Worth noting: with my big kids old enough to be responsible around fire and my littlest one not yet mobile, we’re in a time period where I can mostly enjoy candles without big safety concerns. The open flames in a higher-traffic area still make me a little nervous, though, so I’m going to switch over to pillar candles in hurricane holders for the table. We’ll obviously have to reevaluate candles altogether once Bennett is on the move. Maybe fake flames? I’ve never been enamored with the look of battery-operated candles, but I might have to give them another chance. Let me know if you’ve found ones you like!

3. Fairy lights

Don’t want the worries associated with any sort of fire? Fairy lights to the rescue! Right now Target’s holiday offerings include battery-operated fairy lights for $5 each. I love how the tiny bulbs and thin wire give them a look that’s distinct from the Christmas-tree variety. Bonus? They have a timer switch so that you can have them turn on at the same time every day, then automatically turn off again after six hours.

One set of these lights is now part of my fall mantle display. While I refuse to shortchange Thanksgiving and the fall season by subbing out my leaves for Christmas gnomes, the chill, barren landscape of November feels very different from September’s colorful, sunny days. The lights add nice ambiance and are bridging the transition from fall to winter. I’ve set the timer so that they come on every day around 4 in the afternoon and stay on until 10.

Another string of lights is coiled up in a jar that sits at the corner of our kitchen counter, serving as a backdrop for our gratitude stations. It casts a nice, warm glow on these gray days while also reminding me to keep writing gratitude postcards and adding to our gratitude wall.

To really go all out with cozy November lighting, I combined them. Here’s the scene from our living room earlier this week. Evan, Nate, and I had just made it through tiny pellet-like snow and a brutal wind on the walk home from school, so we rewarded ourselves with a fire and hot chocolate. I forgot to light the candles on the mantle to achieve a perfect trifecta, but it’s on my agenda for next time. #goals

Do you have favorite candles or candle holders? Different ways you use fairy lights? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. I enjoy your writing, Katie, and the “but you have to actually LIGHT them” advice. I also use fairy lights in costumes, and used them to light Jack o lanterns in a tiny Halloween diorama/display, and plan to use them on a tiny Christmas/solstice tree later.

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