While ushering in winter is exciting at first, by the end of February us northerners have had enough of ice, snow, cold temps and occasional power outages (and I include my husband in that group along with this golf buddies). BUT first and foremost, let’s celebrate winter and the coming of a new year…new beginnings…new hopes and lest we not forget…the dreaded resolutions.
I’ve always wondered why people make resolutions when we all know that chances are most are broken or long forgotten by Ground Hog Day. If you are so inclined to make a resolution…why wait to make your proclamation on New Year’s Eve? How about the day you make the decision in the first place? This is one of my pet peeves and I, for one, have never made or intend to make a New Year’s resolution. Enough said.
The best way to celebrate the new year, all month long…a bit of the bubbly.
If you love a sparkling wine, step outside the box and try wines not made from the traditional grape but made with blueberries or other fruits like cranberries. How does this sound…seasonal apple sparkling wine that leaves a dry, crisp flavor in your mouth. OK…I’m sold. Sounds like a great excuse for a wine tasting party!
May I Suggest… How does a frozen cocktail sound for dessert? All you need is your favorite flavor of sorbet or sherbet and a bottle of sparkling wine. Place martini glasses in the freezer during dinner and when it’s time for dessert, fill each with little scoops of sorbet and top with sparking wine. You’re welcome!
Did you know…champagne is commonly made with white chardonnay grapes and the dark skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes. The dark grapes are carefully pressed to extract the inner pulp avoiding the inclusion of the outer skin. France is the #1 sparkling wine and champagne producing country in the world. Viva la France!
Are there any health benefits to drinking champagne?
Believe it or not…yes! Champagne is actually good for your heart.
- Champagne contains the same antioxidants as red and white wine .
- It prevents damage to blood vessels.
- It prevents blood clots.
- It reduces bad cholesterol (LDL).
- It reduces the risk of strokes and other heart illnesses.
- Champagne contains proteins that have proven to be beneficial to short term memory which affects all of us as we get older. All you need is 3 glasses per week. Wait…what?
- Champagne also contains magnesium, zinc and potassium which are mood lifters. Invite that grouchy neighbor over, offer him a glass of champagne and see what happens.
- Like wine and sparkling wine, champagne lowers the risk of diabetes.
- Champagne helps prevent the onset of dementia.
Did you know…champagne has fewer calories than red and white wine. 80 calories compared to 120 per glass.
Have a punch bowl? Serve this to the crowd at your next party…Champagne Punch
- 12oz frozen cranberry juice concentrate
- 12oz frozen pink lemonade concentrate
- 12oz frozen limeade concentrate
- One bottle chilled white wine
- One liter chilled seltzer water
- 2 bottles chilled Champagne or sparkling wine of your choice
- Garnish ideas: sliced lemon, fresh mint leaves, orange slices, cranberries or cherries
OK, OK…back to the enjoyment of winter in New England…
I love wildlife and so much is going on in our backyard right now. We have an obnoxious number of squirrels prancing about trying to get into the feeders and I often see fresh deer tracks in the morning snow. Life is good.
Wild turkeys come by the dozens every day to eat sunflower seeds that we’ve scattered on the ground. The adult males neck and head are red and the females have bluish heads and more feathers.
The males dewlap, caruncles and snoods, to me, are gross. These are the fleshy growths hanging under his chin, the growths on his neck and the fleshy growth that protrudes above his bill. But, I’m sure each serves a purpose…perhaps the female finds them attractive.
Male wild turkeys also have spurs on their lower legs which can be up to 1 1/4″ long…ouch. Turkeys mate in April and soon I’ll be watching “Toms” strutting with their plumage spread out for all the females to admire.
Hens nest in May laying about 12 eggs and chicks are born in early June. We love watching the baby chicks grow over the summer and while I know wild turkeys are not territorial, I’m hoping the new mother hens I’ll be seeing this spring are the poults I watched dutifully following the flock around last summer. I recently read that while the average life span of a male wild turkey is 1 1/2 years and 2 years for the female, some have been known to live up to 8 years.
Did you know… After totally disappearing 150 years ago, thanks to our Fish and Game wildlife division, wild turkey population is thriving.
Unfortunately… fox, fisher cats, coyotes, hawks and owls are their predators and our woods is home to all of them.
Speaking of predators…We have a Bobcat and mountain lion in the area and a bear that likes to steal the feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds.Our property seems to be on a “feeding trail” of some sort. Protected woods with a few ponds of fresh spring water for drinking leaves us with priceless wildlife sights to observe every day.
Play in the snow with your best friend.
And speaking of wildlife…Let the Winter Birds Sing!
‘Tis the season for feeding our backyard birds and they’re coming by the droves. Finches, Cardinals, Bluejays, Chickadees and the Tufted Titmouse flock to our feeders daily from early morning until dusk.
Did you know… Birds are predictable and tend to stay in a certain area. So the Blue Jays that frequent your feeder today are the same Blue Jays that visited your feeder last year and the year before that. The oldest known wild banded Blue Jay was at least 17 years and 6 months old when it was recaptured and re-released during banding operations in the State of Ohio.
New England can get extremely cold with lots of snow. The days are short and the nights are cold and long. It’s important to offer our feathered wildlife what they need to survive until spring. In my opinion, black-oil sunflower seeds are the best. The outer shell is thinner making it easier for smaller birds to crack and the kernel inside is larger than a regular sunflower seed.
Suet is also important in their diet because fat is a crucial source of energy. Small blocks of suet can be purchased quite inexpensively just about anywhere. Place a suet hanger on a branch near a window and have your camera ready for some beautiful shots.
Small Finches love thistle but you’ll need a separate feeder with smaller feeding holes.
Did you know…the favorite food of the northern Cardinal is safflower. The good news about safflower seed is it’s NOT preferred by squirrels and black birds. I get so annoyed by the ever increasing number of squirrels in our yard and I’ve yet to find a feeder they cannot “break in to”. They climb, jump and leap onto the feeder…just to hang there until every last sunflower seed has been consumed.
Birds love fruit too! During winter months when our little feathered friends can’t find fresh berries to eat, we can help by offering them chopped up grapes and minced apple and banana slices.
Melt down some suet in your microwave and add pieces of fruit and peanut hearts (You know those tiny delicious nubs inside peanuts we love to eat by themselves? Maybe that’s just me.). Let the suet harden in the freezer and then hang in your suet holder. The birds are gonna love you for it.
While I haven’t seen the mountain lion yet, I have heard him and just earlier today I caught my first glimpse of the bobcat that lives in our woods. He’s quite big now. One animal I would love to see this winter is a snowshoe hare, however I doubt that will happen.
So…what do New Englanders do all winter you ask?
Bundle up…get the wood stove going, grab that book we’ve been meaning to read and curl up in the big chair by the fire.
Baby…it’s cold outside. How about filling the entire house with the good smells of a delicious pot of homemade soup simmering on the stove. Click here for my Homemade Tomato Bisque recipe that will warm you up on the coldest day.
New England has numerous ski areas with some of the toughest trails in the country for skiers and snowboarders. There’s also ice skating on our beautiful lakes.
Growing up, weekends were either spent skiing or staying at our lake house where I loved to ice skate every chance I had. My dad would clear snow creating a huge area for us to skate and when the sun went down, he’d turn on the boathouse flood lights which lit up the ice like a stage and we’d skate until bed time.
One late afternoon on a Saturday in late winter, Dad and two of us kids skated out of our bay toward Elizabeth Island. I think I was 10 or 11. A few days of unseasonable warm weather thawed some of the ice between the mainland and the island and in an instant, a single intense cracking sound was heard deep beneath our feet. It was an eerie, frightful sound and suddenly Dad was gone. As I froze in my steps crying out to him, I was relieved to see his head and shoulders emerge from the edge of the ice. He yelled as sternly as he could…Skate home as fast as you can…don’t stop…don’t turn around…just skate fast…HOME!! NOW!!”…was what he shouted.
Long story short…like a 3rd class passenger on the Titanic, the odds were against him but somehow Dad was able to pull himself out of the icy water and made it home. The clothes he was wearing had frozen, but miraculously he survived. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite that scared.
If you’re not into ice skating, there’s always snow shoeing, ice fishing and ice racing. Yes…ice racing.
For many years I enjoyed competing in the Porsche Club of America annual ice race on Newfound Lake in NH. We’d have a quasi-oval track with a few turns plowed on the ice and conduct time trials where only one car was racing against the clock at a time. I didn’t drive my beloved Porsche (except for that one year) but instead took turns driving what everyone nicknamed the “rent-a-wreck”. Some poor soul would rent an automobile for the weekend and return it on Monday. To give the car more weight for better traction, everyone would pile in…as many as would fit. When our individual “run” was over, everyone would fall out of the car like clowns at a circus, change drivers and everyone would pile back in…again and again. It was great fun.
In closing, let me leave you with this…
I’m not sure who said or wrote this…but it’s good food for thought especially this time of year.
Time is free, but it’s priceless.
You can’t win it, but you can use it.
You can’t keep it, but you can spend it.
Once you’ve lost it, you can never get it back.
And as Carl Sandburg once wrote…
“Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.” Enough said.
I would love to hear what your resolutions are for this New Year and equally love to hear of your successes. Please leave your comments below and let me know how winter is spent in your corner of the world.