Tuesday, November 29, 2016

20 Wonderful Winter Ideas

Hi all,

As autumn rapidly gives way to winter, typically a bit of gloom tends to settle in on ones usual mood.  I know a lot of people report feeling like they have less energy, feel less happy and not as upbeat during the winter months.  Therefore, I began brainstorming all the wonderful winter activities one can partake in.  Initially it seems as though there are significantly less options as opposed to every other season.  Forgive me for stating the obvious, but the frigid temperatures do not exactly encourage most to want to be outside for extended periods of time.  For most of us, the change in season is further license to spend more time indoors.

In lieu of the chilliness outside and in order to try and counteract these mindsets, I came up with a list of fantastic ideas and activities that fit hand-in.hand with the season.  I hope these will help you look forward to, instead of dread, the coming winter.

1. TV series/movie marathons. What better activity for a Saturday afternoon/evening or Sunday afternoon?  Especially, for all you New Englanders, when a blizzard is underway.  There are SO many mind-blowing TV series nowadays.  Television has grown to astounding degrees in terms of quality.  I can recommend a few top notch series to get you started:  The Wire, The Affair, Six Feet Under, or Friday Night Lights.  All of these are absolutely outstanding, totally gripping, amazing shows.  You cannot go wrong with any of those four.  I believe most of them are award winners as well.

2.  Traditional fall flavors.  Pumpkin (pumpkin chocolate chip bars...Mmmmm).  Carrots (carrot cake, anyone?).  Sweet potato.  Butternut Squash.  Cinnamon.  To me, these are some of the core flavors that make up autumn.  Find some delicious recipes or dishes to sample or experiment with that contain these ingredients.  Yum.

All of the above photos are my own.  Carrot cake, pumpkin pie with pistachio crust, a healthy beauty bowl, and a chocolate cake made with sweet potato.  They are sugar free, gluten free and lactose free.  For these recipes, check out Sweet. Raw. Free. (My other blog).

3.  Fall foliage.  Ok yes, I admit that with winter essentially here, the curtain has basically fallen on the foliage showing.  However, there are few things more spellbinding then the explosion of fiery color that sweeps across the trees during autumn.  This is of course found in the highest quality (aka the most saturated and vivid colors) within New England in the US.  And yes, I am biased ;-) but I am also speaking factually.  People travel from all over the world to see the leaves change in New England.

To see more of the most awesome spots in New England, check out my previous blog entry on this topic.

4.  Plaid.  First off, plaid has always been a classic and I imagine it always will be.  But there is something especially fitting and oh so charming about plaid during the winter season.  This is the time to break out your plaid clothing items?  Do not have anything in plaid?  Grab at least one thing this winter.  It could be a scarf, a skirt, a jacket.  The list goes on.

One of my favorite streets, not only in Boston but in the world.

5.  Scarves and boots.  There is something about wrapping up inside the wooly warmth of a scarf.  And having a pair of killer fall boots can amp up any outfit you wear.  Its the perfect clothing piece.  If they are comfortable, you will wear them all the time.  And if they look good?  Not only will you be comfortable but you will look AWESOME.  Invest in a quality pair of fall boots if you havent already.  And if you have, get excited!  Now is the time to break them out once more.

Attired in my plaid scarf and winter boots, and posing with one of my favorite people <3 my brother, Spencer.

6.  Roaring fireplaces.  Whenever the day arrives that I have my own home, I absolutely will have a fireplace or hearth of some sort.  Their prescence makes a room SO inviting, so cozy, with a touch of rustic charm.  I could live entirely in one room as long as it had a fireplace.

7.  Coziness.  This term can be fitting across a wide expanse of things.  Your favorite fleece blanket, a warm drink, a favorite restaurant or cafe, fleece socks, cuddling up next to someone you love with a movie or great book, holiday lights, being holed up in your favorite cafe doing some writing or reading, bundling up and going on a short walk through your favorite part of the city, baking up something sweet and delicious, the list goes on.  Winter is THE time for all things cozy. 

8.  Spending a weekend afternoon baking or cooking.  During the summer time, this activity can prove too hot, adding heat to an already too warm kitchen.  Winter is the ideal time for cooking and baking, adding delectable aromas and a comforting warmth to your kitchen.  Some ideal recipes for this time of year include macaroni and cheese, fruit crumbles, quinoa and sweet potato salad, apple crisp, a decadent chocolate cake, the list goes on.

My own recipe for fruit crumble.  Its sugar-free, gluten-free AND lactose-free.  And the best part?  You can throw it together in less than 15 minutes.  You can get the recipe here.

9.  To segue into this next point, comfort food.  Winter is the time for chowing down on things that are cheesy, rich, mouthwatering, full of flavor and delicious taste. 

10.  Bikram yoga.  I imagine most of you have heard of this.  However if you havent?  Its essentially regular yoga, but practiced in a room that is ultra hot.  Its great for your body, your muscles, your pores, etc.  Try it just once.  Its a unique, slightly intense but really interesting experience.  Grab a friend and go.  You will feel awesome afterwards.

11.  Inviting cafes, romantic restaurants, low lit bars.  These are the places that scream "inviting respite during the cold months."  You know the places.  There are many of them.  To name a few in Boston:  The Thinking Cup, Tapeo, Figs, The Paramount, The Danish Pastry House, and Rudys.  And to name a smattering in Frankfurt: Sugar Mama, Cafe Maingold, Cafe Crumble, Iimori, and Gingko.

I can offer you a few extensive lists, one for Frankfurt, and two for Boston (list #1 and list #2), all of which include loads of AWESOME spots that fit this description for you to check out.

12.  Spontaneous, short and sweet weekend getaways.   This is the time to grab your love and take off for a few days.  Ideally, a charming, cozy little bed and breakfast set out in the countryside.  You spend your weekend eating homey, delicious meals.  Walking in the woods.  Holed up in bed together.  Engrossed in thick books as you cuddle side by side in front of a roaring fire.  A day of downhill skiing, totally thrilling and fun.

I personally am dying to go on this particular weekend getaway at some point.  Its been on my list for years.  The Christmas Cookie Tour in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  It includes two nights of accomodation, tour tickets, recipes for a number of the cookies, free samplings at the beautiful inns, a string of which are set close together, etc.  Sounds amazing.  Scenic, totally romantic, cozy and absolutely delicious.  Totally New England.  Check it out here.

13.  Dinner parties.  If you read my blog and/or know me personally, you know that I love dinner parties.  Everything about them.  From the planning the menu, to the grocery shopping, the decorating, the actually preparing the dishes for my guests, and finally, the party itself.  I love the laughter and conversation, the enjoying a plethora of delectable dishes, the jokes and interesting topics that arrise, etc.

14.  Investing in a thick book.  Winter is the time to choose a slab of a book and dive in.  Summer time is better for lighter, fun reading.  They coined the term "beach read," for a reason.  This is a story that doesnt require a lot of focus and isnt especially dense or difficult to read.  However, winter is the perfect time to invest in a book.  Choose a whopper of a story and allow it to swallow you up.  You could also embark on reading an entire series.  There isnt much better than the feeling of "Oh my gosh, I cannot wait to finish ___(insert daily responsability here: work, cleaning, etc)___ so that I can go back to reading and find out what happens next!!!"

Here is a short list of awesome book recommendations.

And, a few gripping, stellar books (all of which I have read, so I can endorse them) that are thick, engrossing and totally worthwhile:

15.  A weekend evening home to yourself.   Obviously if this were the norm every single weekend night, it would shift from being a treat into potentially being something that might make one feel lonely.  However, to do this sometimes?  It feels like the ultimate luxery.  Grab your favorite snack or treat, have a movie lined up that you have been dying to see or a TV series you cannot wait to get sucked into (the key part of the phrase "to yourself" means that you do not have to confer with someone else on what you will watch, do, or eat ;-) the choice is 100% YOURS alone!!!  How awesome is that?), cuddle up in your coziest clothes, and enjoy.

16.  A walk outside in the woods, ideally after a blanketing snowfall.  Either with a great friend, with your love, or with family.  Not only is this incredibly beautiful in terms of the scenary and setting, but its fun.  This gives you a chance to connect closely with this person, away from the hustle and rush of everyday life.

17.  Host a raclette evening!!!  Yes, this sort of falls under the dinner party umbrella, but this is a more specific theme and direction for the evening.  This is a pretty trendy German thing (see photos below), and I can tell you from experienece, something about it is LOADS of fun!!!  (In terms of similar but different ideas: you could host a beer tasting evening, a tea/coffee and dessert party, a board game night, etc.  There are a number of fun ways to incorportate an activity and narrow your theme).

18.  Photo session with friends in a picturesque location.  Yes, its cold out.  But with the bright reflection of snow, this makes for a particularly flattering and lovely photo shoot background.  Grab a few close friends and take some photos together!  You will be glad to have them after the fact, once back inside the respite of warm indoors.

19.  See the new J.K. Rowling movie, "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them."  I was shocked by how great this was, whoa.  This movie was incredibly well done.  It was chalk full of everything that a good story should have.  Magic, suspense, excitement, humor- many laugh out loud moments, romance, some creepy, dark moments.  Also, for the ladies in the audience, the main actor is totally endearing and adorable.  If you are even a semblance of a Harry Potter fan, go check this one out while its still in the theaters!  This week will (coughs in slight embaressment) be my third time seeing it...

20.  Take a trip somewhere new.  Winter is a good time to shake things up a bit, to do something that will excite you and add some color to this colorless season.  Vacation somewhere you have never been before.  Even if its a short one, just 3-4 days.  You will enjoy looking forward to the trip, leading up to it.  The trip itself will be awesome.  And you will reminisce about it for the rest of the winter afterwards.

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