It may be bitter cold across most of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get excited for spring and summer now. These cold winter months do have an advantage: they give you ample time to plan your outdoor living space, so you can revel and relax in it when summer arrives. Here are some pros of planning ahead:
Let’s say you want a new paver for your backyard patio and pool. If you wait until summer to start thinking about it, you’ll have missed an entire season of enjoying your new outdoor space with your family and friends. Use the seasons to guide you. Determine what you want during winter, complete it in the spring, and then inaugurate your space in the summer! We’ll work with you to create a timetable that suits your needs.
Thinking about what you want ahead of time during the colder months will also help you consider what you’ll want year-round.
Questions like “will I be able to use this when it’s chilly?” and “how will this color of paver look in the winter?” as well as “what kind of maintenance will be required in the colder months?” can be best answered when you’re in the thick of it. This way, you won’t just be thinking ahead for summer; you’ll be thinking ahead for the upcoming winters to come.
For those who love the great outdoors, winter can be a major bummer. But giving yourself something to look forward to in the next season can make you feel just as productive as you are during spring, summer and fall. And, you might just come to enjoy these months of nature’s chilly curfew.
There’s an old adage that reminds us that though we can’t control the winds, we can adjust the sails. Nature has this made abundantly clear for many this year. We may not be able to control the symptoms of winter, but we certainly can find ways to look forward to the future. After looking back at how productive your winter was and seeing the fruits of your labor pay off in the summer, you just might embark on another fantastic project the next time winter comes calling.
If you’ve ever celebrated the holidays with someone of English ancestry, you may have had the pleasure of sharing a pot of delicious wassail. Wassail was originally considered a symbol of greeting and celebration. Drinking was often accompanied by caroling and general merriment, which makes it perfect for the winter season. Wassail, which means “be you healthy” or “be whole,” is a hot mulled cider traditionally enjoyed with others as an ancient southern English ritual intending to ensure a good cider apple harvest the next year.
So how exactly does one go about concocting this drink from olden days? It may have a rich history, but it’s very easy to whip up. You only need six ingredients, none of which require traveling back in time to the English courts:
- 2 quarts of apple cider
- 2 quarts of pineapple juice
- 2 cups of orange juice
- Juice of 1 fresh lemon
- 1 teaspoon of whole cloves
- 2 cinnamon sticks
Start by combining the apple cider, pineapple, orange and lemon juices in a large pot over low heat. Add the cloves and cinnamon sticks, bring to a boil and then simmer for an hour. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves and serve.
You can serve wassail hot or cold, though it is traditionally served hot. If you’d like it to be less tart, you can quarter the lemon juice or add more cider. Feel free to modify the recipe to suit your palette. (Ghosts from King Arthur’s Court are not going to come haunt you for breaking tradition.)
And voila! Fresh, homemade wassail. Enjoy!
The weather outside may be frightfully cold for many of you, but what about a delightfully bold, crackling fire outside? It’s a terrible thing to feel like you can’t enjoy the outdoors without worrying about frostbite. That’s why we’re spotlighting our fireplaces and fire pits along with ideas for entertaining outside! Don’t let the weather keep you cooped up with cabin fever. Here are some tips:
Plan something that coincides with the hottest part of the day. Depending on where you live, that still might be pretty cold! But there’s no rule that says it’s only appropriate to use a fire pit at night to roast s’mores and tell spooky stories. Fireplaces are for light and heat!
Invite some friends, neighbors or family members over for a mini-camping experience. Everyone brings a blanket and curls up in a chair around the fire to play a game. There are plenty of games you can play without sacrificing the comfort of heat. Try charades, or the endlessly amusing “who am I?” game. If you’ve never played it before, it’s easy and always a scream. Pick a famous person (alive or dead, real or fictitious) and write their name on a post-it, then stick it onto the forehead of the person to your left. Now guess, one question at a time, moving clockwise, who you are!
Have hot drinks and snacks ready, and don’t forget to remind everyone to bundle up. Check out our mulled wine recipe or whip up some hot apple cider. Or, if you happen to be an always-on-the-go type, let people pick their own drinks from a single-serve coffee/tea/cocoa maker. You could even set out pre-stuck marshmallow roasting sticks, warmly welcoming everyone the moment they set foot into your backyard.
Now let the quality time and fun begin!
Don’t let the cold weather discourage you from enjoying your outdoor space this winter — all you need is a few blankets and a tasty beverage to keep you warm. This Mulled Wine recipe is one of our favorite remedies for frosty nights. Enjoy!
- 1 large orange
- Seeds from 8 cardamom pods
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger
- 8 to 9 tablespoons sugar, divided
- 2 bottles (750 ml. each) dry red wine
- ¼ cup orange-flavored liqueur (optional)
- Thin orange slices (optional)
- With a vegetable peeler, pare 8 thin strips zest (4 in. by ½ in.) from orange. Juice orange, and reserve juice.
- Wrap cardamom, coriander seeds and ginger in a piece of cheesecloth and tie with kitchen twine.
- In a nonreactive saucepan, crush orange zest and 7 tablespoons sugar with a wooden spoon to release oils from zest. Add reserved orange juice, wine, and spice packet. Cover and bring to a simmer over high heat, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 30 minutes. Discard spice packet and orange zest.
- To serve, heat wine, covered, over medium heat just until steaming. If you like, stir in liqueur and more sugar to taste. Ladle into heatproof glasses. Garnish with thin orange slices.
From Sunset 2009
As friends and family begin filtering in for the holiday season, or as you travel to their homes, we invite you to indulge in this recipe for Holiday Pears that will awaken your taste buds. With a decadent mix of spices, this dish will surely become a staple in your holiday traditions.
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
4 firm-ripe pears such as d’Anjou or Bosc (about 2 1/2 lb. total)
1/2 rinsed lemon (about 2 oz. total), thinly sliced (ends discarded)
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1. Sort cranberries and discard stems and any bruised or decayed fruit. Rinse and drain berries. Peel pears; cut in half and core. In a 2- to 2 1/2-quart baking dish, combine cranberries, pears, and lemon slices.
2. In a 1- to 2-quart pan over medium-high heat, stir sugar, vinegar, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and 1/2 cup water until mixture boils and sugar is dissolved. Pour over fruit. Cover dish tightly with foil.
3. Bake in a 350° regular or convection oven until pears are tender when pierced, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature.
From Sunset December 2001
With the changing colors of the leaves and more tolerable temperatures, fall is a wonderful time to get outside and enjoy your outdoor space. Here are some of our favorite outdoor products for fall:
A good mug is essential for sipping down a hot beverage in cooler temperatures. We love this Barkaris Olive Mug from Pier 1 (1).
This Selamat Reo Lounge Chair from Wayfair (2) makes a cozy spot for long conversations into the night with friends.
A brick oven from the Belgard Elements Collection (3) is the perfect accessory for dinner and dessert; fire up some tasty pizzas with all your favorite toppings and then break out the s’mores for a treat that’s sure to please.
Nothing makes an outdoor space feel more like the indoors than soft, fluffy pillows and throws, plus they brighten up your patio with seasonal colors. We’re fans of the Tuscan and Brittany Papaya pillows and Canyon Chenille throw from Frontgate (4) because they’re made using Sunbrella which means they can withstand mother nature.
A rug is the foundation for making an outdoor space a room, defining the space and creating a focal area. We like the fall colors in this Red Floor Tile Rug from World Market (5).
Ready for a s’mores upgrade? Try this S’mores Party Maker from Bed, Bath and Beyond (6) and make up to three s’mores at once with one tool. Plus, if you want a twist on the classic s’more, try these exciting flavors in the 5-Piece Chocolate Bar Gift Set from Crate & Barrel (6) – toffee brittle, milk chocolate, malted milkshake, s’mores and peanut butter cup, yum!