Thursday, January 2, 2020

Warming Up to Winter

The Holidays are behind us and a new year lies ahead.  The parties and celebrations are over, and we retreat back to our nests to spend some quiet time alone to think and regroup.

During these chilly, snowed-in days of January and February, it's a good idea to take a little time out to self-nurture, and keep warm and cozy before the activities of the year truly begin again in earnest.

This can be the most frigid time of the year, with blasts of freezing temperatures and winter blizzards driving us back into the comfort of our own homes.  This is the perfect time to create a new ritual we can carry with us into the rest of the new year.  A warm, comforting drink in the evening before bed can be an excellent new custom to introduce into your nightly routine, if you aren't doing so already.

A hot drink on a cold night will get us toasty warm all the way down to our toes in no time at all.  But even in the summer, a nice warm drink in the evening helps set the tone in our bodies for deep relaxation and a good night's sleep.

Nothing is more soothing than a nice hot cup of tea or — dare we say it? — a glass of hot milk before bed (especially if that milk has a nice, fragrant cinnamon stick in it!).  Pair it with a nice, warm bath and you'll have the best night's sleep ever.

Best yet, it can be an excellent way to spend meaningful quality time with your spouse after the kids have been sent off to bed.  Turn off the tv, pour a couple of big mugs full of something steaming hot and delicious for you both to enjoy, and indulge in some quiet grown-up conversation at the kitchen table or in front of a fire.

Setting a few minutes aside for some special alone-time with your spouse gives you a chance to really communicate and truly connect with each other ... a moment devoted to talk about your day, your vision for the future, plan your next vacation, or just appreciate who they are.  A ritual apart from the "busy-ness" of the day and endless interruptions is a good way to introduce sanity back into your marriage, and into your life.

It's also a fantastic way to spend good quality time with yourself ... to relax into your thoughts, daydream about the future, and generate some lovely new ideas prompted by enjoying something pleasurable, warm and cozy.

In winter, a mug of hot chocolate (try it with a dash of cayenne pepper), hot buttered rum, chai, or Irish Coffee all make a wonderful hot beverage to warm us up in the evening.

In summer, a cup of hot mint tea, chamomile, or some other relaxing beverage might be just the ticket to soothe us into a good night's sleep.

Take the time now on these quiet, freezing winter nights to try some new and different hot drink recipes or mixes that you can pull out of your hat any time you need a cup of comfort and warmth through the year.  We do highly recommend one daily, as your nightly bedtime ritual.

And once you find your favorites, don't forget to fill a thermos full to keep you warm during nippy winter outdoor events and outings ... hiking, walking in the woods, sledding, skiing or snowboarding, football games, outdoor ice skating, ice hockey games, bonfires, or nights spent outside with a telescope.

Some suggestions:

Hot Chocolate - (The recipes are endless ... Mexican, Salted Caramel, Gingerbread, and S'Mores are just some variations ... and Williams Sonoma, Cadbury, and Godiva make some of our favorite packaged mixes.)

White Hot Chocolate - Stir white chocolate (white chocolate chips or bar chopped into small pieces)  and vanilla extract into steaming hot milk until melted.  Ladle into mugs and top with whipped cream or marshmallows.

Hot Chai - Pre-made in bottles, powdered mix, or one of the many recipes available online.

Hot Nog - Keep leftover eggnog refrigerated and reheat on chilly nights during the Holiday Season and beyond.

Hot Apple Cider - Heat up some fresh apple cider on the stove, flavored with mulling spices or a cinnamon stick, orange zest, a touch of maple syrup or brown sugar, or finish with a squeeze of caramel topping.

Pumpkin Spiced Latte - whip up a homemade (non-Starbucks) version made with real pumpkin purée.

Tea Lattes - Steep a bag of black tea with an assortment of spices, such as star anise, cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, fresh ginger, or pink peppercorns in steaming milk, coconut milk, or almond milk.

Citrus Spiced Tea - Steep black tea with whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange juice, pineapple juice, a dash of lemon juice, and sugar.

Linden Tea - While there are many teas out there specially formulated to relax your body into sleep, we have found none more calming than Linden tea.  On those evenings when your nerves are frayed, a cup or two of this tea will settle you right down.

Golden Milk - If you're taking tumeric under doctor's orders to combat inflammation or to ward off Alzheimer's, this warm beverage may be your best choice for an evening nightcap.

Ginger Turmeric Herbal Tea - Simmer ginger, turmeric, licorice root, orange peel, orange oil, and black peppercorns in water to make a hot, fragrant tisane.

Ginger-Lemon Infusion - Ginger simmered in water, a squeeze of lemon juice, and honey to taste.

Hot Toddy - For an old-fashioned nightcap to end the evening the way our grandparents did.

Hot Buttered Rum - Just like they serve in the ski resorts, this hot beverage will tuck you into bed in no time.

Irish Coffee - If you can handle a hit of caffeine before bed, Irish Coffee is a delicious way to go.

Mulled Wine - An excellent use for leftover wine.

Wassail - A spiked apple cider from olden days.

Warm Cognac with Anisette - A warm brandy snifter is a classic after-dinner drink, but it's brought to an altogether new level with a drizzle of anisette floating on top.

Coconut Vanilla Steamer - A cozy and fragrant winter cocktail.

If these warm winter beverages aren't enough to entice, you'll find many more here, as well as even more hot drink recipes online.  Consider keeping a mason jar with some of your favorite home-made hot drink mixes to add variety to your usual repertoire.  And don't forget to make extra jars of mix to give away as Christmas gifts next year, so friends and family can stay toasty warm all winter long, too!

Cozy sipping!


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Enjoy previous seasonal blog posts:

New Year's Resolutions
A list of fun things to look forward to in the year ahead!
Never On The "1st" Date
Laying the groundwork for the success of your goals and resolutions
Travel Plans
Planning some new sights and scenery in the New Year
The Romance of Travel
Falling in love with a new destination, adventure, and vistas
A Fresh Start
Healthful smoothies to begin the year off right!
Salty Sweets
Finishing salts on your dessert
Romancing Your Life
Setting the scene to fall in love with your own life
Romantic Foods
Something special ...
How It All Began
The very beginnings of Afternoon Tea.
Baking is Love
No one has to bake ... ever.  So when they do, love is there.
A Tale of Two Bread Puddings
So different, yet both so good!
Food Porn
It has become a national obsession ... we're salivating over food and all the food shows on tv
A Very Foodie Town
It's almost time for Restaurant Week again!
Top Chef - Colorado
A celebrity in the family!
Cooking with Herbs
Herbs are making a tasty appearance in some of your favorite desserts!
The Problem with Pesto ...
It's so darned easy, you'll be making it all the time!
The Icing on the Cake
Does a bakery really need to make frosted layer cakes?
What's Your Favorite Cake?
If only I could pick just one!
Do-Gooders!
Ana's non-profit, Healing Warriors Program, gives away a state-of-the-art electric wheelchair!
Congrats, HWP!
Healing Warriors Program received a huge honor, and we were invited to the Pentagon to see it!
Baking Cakes
Basic baking tips for beautiful layer cakes
Donate if you can!
Healing Warriors Program,
my sister's nonprofit, does very important work for our service members' complete health and wellbeing.

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