Back a month ago when it was 70 degrees outside and my hubby and I were doing fall hikes for my birthday in t-shirts and a light stocking hat, I really swore I didn’t care if winter ever came around this year. (Of course as an organic farmer I had a different opinion. I knew that we farmers need the chilling temps of a real winter to kill pests and diseases that overwinter in the soil during mild winters). But if I were to take off my farmer hat, I really believed I could be perfectly happy in a world that never dipped below 50 degrees.
Then the snow hit. Then the deep, bone-chilling cold of winter began. Then, within one week, I was unable to attend not one, not two, but four events I was looking forward to due to bad weather.
I expected feelings of resentment or bitterness or sadness or something. Damn Wisconsin winters ruining my plans! That’s what I expected to feel. But I didn’t. I looked outside at the rising drifts of snow, at the steam pluming out of chimneys and tailpipes, at the couples walking to the park tucked into so many layers you could hardly see their faces, at the kind neighbors snow-blowing our sidewalk, our driveway and the stairs to our front porch. On Friday morning, as I watched my calendar get increasingly clear, I watched the world from our living room window and felt the tightness in my face melt away. I felt the racing of my mind begin to slow. I felt calm. And relaxed. And quiet.
Now, generally I am not a person who really remembers to take time to feel quiet. Aside from my Carrot’s annual birthday getaway to Buckhorn
and our anniversary trip to Pictured Rocks
(where my Carrot reminds me I’ll be much happier if I leave my phone behind and opt instead for a new book and a deck of cards), I don’t really like to stop. I race a mile a minute through the farming season only to find myself with a bit more time in October that is quickly filled with friends, family, volunteer projects, date nights and trail runs. What I call calm likely looks frantic to any regular person (it certainly does to my husband).
I realized this weekend that despite the fact that my car is slow to start some mornings, our heating bills are outrageous and my face is often chapped from the hours spent outside, that I could never live anywhere without a winter.
Blizzards and extreme cold have this way of slowing you down when you least expect it and most need it. In this fast paced world of cheap fuel, cheap flights and the internet, there is so much to keep us busy and so little that encourages us to slow down. Snow does that. You can’t drive too fast. You can’t do or go everywhere that you like. You have to stay home. It’s a beautiful, therapeutic thing.
This weekend was a weekend of home. On Friday, I watched about a hundred documentaries on food and farming for an upcoming film festival I’m helping with. It may not sound like relaxing, but it was my kind of heaven. We ate easy foods all day like grilled cheese, canned tomato soup, and frozen pizza. I roasted cherries and poured a Roasted Cherry & Ginger Old Fashioned (more on that later) while we watched The Family Stone and made more popcorn garlands for the tree.
Saturday brought a snow run with the dogs that was pure magic and a short drive to my parents’ home where we sipped mimosas and baked nine varieties of Christmas cookies. The snow piled up outside on the evergreen trees and Bing Crosby played in the background. There was arguing and I broke two of my mother’s possessions. It felt just exactly like a Saturday in December should feel. My drive home through the blizzard was intentionally unhurried. The Christmas station blared holiday tunes as I crawled down country roads.
On Sunday we woke to the third neighbor with a snowblower clearing our walk. The generosity of our little street warms my heart. I can’t wait to hand them each a plate of cookies. I sipped on hot chocolate and then headed to a local park with the dogs and my Carrot for our first snow shoe of the season. We were the first ones out there and conditions were perfect. We returned home, got bundled up in blankets to watch a Packers victory while I made simple decorations for my office. We began addressing our holiday cards and we dined on comfort food for dinner: a pasta filled with pork sausage, mushrooms, caramelized turnips and cream.
It was, all in all, the kind of holiday weekend dreams are made of. It was perfect. And best of all, my sipping on cocktails inspired a simple holiday gift for my Old-Fashioned-loving family members.
Below you will find both a recipe for bourbon and ginger roasted cherries and the perfect way to turn them into a build-your-own-kit that will get your friends and family straight through the winter. My family is partial to Brandy Old Fashioneds Sweet. I put a twist on the classic with ginger ale instead of Sprite to echo the ginger in the cherries. If your family prefers bourbon to brandy or soda water to something sweet, feel free to adapt (or give them any array of options!).
Lots of snowy love,
DIY ROASTED CHERRY & GINGER OLD FASHIONED KIT:
1 bottle Korbel Brandy
6 cans Ginger Ale
1 pint Bourbon & Ginger Roasted Cherries (recipe below)
2 Oranges or a handful of Clementines
A notecard with written instructions on how to make the cocktail:
Spoon approximately two tablespoons of roasted cherries into a rock glass. Add a slice of orange (or a couple slices of clementines) and a 2 dashes of bitters. Muddle well. Add ice cubes followed by a shot of brandy. Finish with ginger ale and stir well to mix. Taste and add maple syrup or sugar if not sweet enough.
BOURBON & GINGER ROASTED CHERRIES
Makes 3 cups (yes! enough for extras!)
Takes 30 minutes
24 ounces (2 bags) frozen pitted cherries
6 tablespoons packed brown sugar, light or dark
6 tablespoons favorite bourbon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- In a large baking dish (9×13 works great!), combine cherries, brown sugar, bourbon, ginger and salt. Stir to combine. Roast for 35 minutes in preheated oven.
- Remove from oven and stir in vanilla. Allow to cool and then pour into mason jars or other containers. Store in the fridge for up to two weeks.