New recipes

A Dark Winter’s Night

A Dark Winter’s Night


The sweet aromas of mom’s home cooking, family gathered around the breakfast table, and spirited conversations by a warm fire are all quintessential moments of any holiday gathering. So, what better way to toast the season and create new memories than with Mama Walker’s line of breakfast-inspired liquor? The perfect ingredient for any holiday cocktail, Mama Walker’s offers a new way to experience all your favorite holiday traditions in one delicious glass.

Ingredients

  • 2 parts Mama Walker’s Glazed Donut
  • 1/2 part Kahlúa

Dreading a dark winter lockdown? Think like a Norwegian

W hen Kari Leibowitz first arrived in the Norwegian city of Tromsø, she was both intrigued by, and fearful of, the approaching winter. Two hundred miles north of the Arctic Circle, the city does not see the sun from mid-November to mid-January. It was a far cry from the state of New Jersey, where she had grown up, or Stanford, California, where she had been studying before travelling to Norway.

As a health psychologist, Leibowitz’s aim was to understand the ways that Tromsø’s citizens coped with the long “polar night”. In many countries, the short days of winter are thought to cause lethargy and low mood, resulting in “seasonal affective disorder” (SAD). This is sometimes assumed to have a purely biological basis – levels of mood-regulating neurotransmitters such as serotonin are generally lower in winter than in summer, and last week a study suggested that people with more neurotic personalities are particularly susceptible to low winter moods. SAD is often treated using standard antidepressant drugs, as well as psychotherapies.

During the darkest periods of the polar night, Tromsø only receives two to three hours of indirect sunlight, shining into the sky from below the horizon. Yet its inhabitants do not show the kind of wintertime depression you might expect of a city cast in darkness. One study by May Trude Johnsen at the University of Tromsø found that the citizens’ wellbeing barely changed across the year. Their sleep was a bit more disturbed without the daily rhythm of the rising and setting sun, but they reported no increase in mental distress during the winter.

So what’s their secret? Of the many potential explanations, Leibowitz’s work suggests that one vital component may be a particular “mindset” that arms the citizens against the stresses of the long polar night.

Tromso at night. Photograph: RelaxFoto.de/Getty Images

These lessons could not be more timely. We may not live in the far north, but many of us in Europe and the US find winter to be the cruellest of all seasons – and that’s without the shadow of a global pandemic. Last week the Observer reported that as we face the daunting prospect of a second lockdown in cold dark conditions Brits have been stocking up on patio heaters and fire pits but, consumerism aside, what might we learn from the Norwegians’ psychological resilience?

Leibowitz’s findings build on decades of previous research showing that the mental framing of stressful events can powerfully influence the ways we are affected by them. People who see stressful events as “challenges”, with an opportunity to learn and adapt, tend to cope much better than those who focus more on the threatening aspects – like the possibility of failure, embarrassment or illness. These differences in mindset not only influence people’s mood, but also their physiological responses, such as changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and how quickly they recover after the event. And the impact can be long-lasting, even during major transitions: one Israeli study found that immigrants’ stress appraisals can predict how well they adjust to their new country. They also seem to determine how well police officers in Australia cope with the stresses of their work.

Needless to say, our appraisal of whether an event feels like a threat, or an opportunity, will depend on our circumstances and our resources to handle the problems we encounter. But it is sometimes possible to change our appraisal of a situation consciously. In one memorable experiment, Alison Wood Brooks, an associate professor at Harvard Business School, asked participants to face their fears of public speaking. Brooks found that simply asking the participants to repeat the phrase “I am excited” helped to reduce their anxious feelings and led to a better overall performance, since it encouraged them to view the situation as a new challenge rather than a threat. Many psychotherapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy, have also been found to increase our resilience by helping us to reframe stressful events in more constructive ways.

To test whether a difference in outlook could also explain the resilience of Tromsø’s residents, Leibowitz designed the “wintertime mindset scale”, which asked participants to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as

There are many things to enjoy about the winter

I love the cosiness of the winter months

Winter brings many wonderful seasonal changes

Winter is a limiting time of year

There are many things to dislike about winter

Sure enough, she found that participants’ answers predicted their wellbeing over the coming months the more they saw the winter as an exciting opportunity to enjoy a glacial climate, the better they fared, with high levels of life satisfaction and overall mental health.

Amazingly, Leibowitz found that these attitudes actually increase with latitude, in the regions where the winters will be even harsher. People in Svalbard (at 78 deg north) had a more positive mindset than the people in Tromsø (69 deg north), who took a more optimistic view than people in Oslo (60 deg north). In other words, the positive wintertime mindset is most common where it’s most needed.

These positive attitudes were apparent in Leibowitz’s casual conversations indeed, she says that many of her friends struggled to understand why you would not enjoy winter. They embraced the possibility of skiing or hiking in the mountains, and savoured the chance to practice koselig – a Norwegian version of Denmark’s hygge – which might involve snuggling under blankets with a warm drink in the candlelight. Far from dwindling in the dark, Tromsø’s community flourished in the long polar night. “There is this interaction between the culture that you’re part of, and the mentality or mindset that grows out of it,” says Prof Joar Vittersø, Leibowitz’s collaborator at the Arctic University of Tromsø.

Surrounded by Norwegian positivity, Leibowitz soon found her own mindset shifting she learned to love long walks with a headlamp to guide her path. And rather than yearning for sunlight, she came to appreciate the “soft, peaceful” appearance of the city in the darkness. “When it was snowing, I would always try to go out and enjoy the fresh snowfall.”

She suspects that many other people could follow suit, once they find out about this research. “Most people don’t realise that their beliefs about winter are subjective,” says Leibowitz, whose research is currently under peer review. “They feel like they’re just someone who hates the winter and there’s nothing they can do about it… But once you put it in people’s heads that mindsets exist, and that you have control over your mindset – I think that that’s tremendously powerful.”

Leibowitz conducted her initial studies long before the new coronavirus left Wuhan – and she is realistic about the challenges of trying to see the positive in the pandemic. “A change in mindset is not a cure-all for everything,” she emphasises. It can’t simply eliminate our anxieties about the job insecurity or the fear of losing a loved one, and we should not attempt to suppress those emotions.

Even so, she suspects that adopting the positive wintertime mindset could make a second lockdown a little less daunting for those who worry about keeping their mood buoyed in the bad weather. We might recognise, for instance, that it’s a time for baking comfort food or cosy evenings curled up under a blanket in front of a box set – practising a little bit of the Norwegian koselig. And if we normally exercise on a running machine, we might try to find value in a bracing jog in the elements. Since the risk of contagion is much lower outside, we might also adapt to the Scandinavian way of outdoor socialising (lockdown regulations permitting). Tromsø, for example, has an open-air cinema, so residents can enjoy atmospheric film screenings in the eerie Arctic darkness. As the Norwegians say: “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”

This time, we do at least have the advantage of knowing what did and didn’t work during the first lockdown, so we can be more realistic in our expectations of what we can and can’t achieve, focusing our efforts on the small actions that bring the most comfort, rather than aiming to write a bestselling novel, say.

A recent study by Prof Hannes Zacher, a psychologist at Leipzig University, shows that our personal framing of the pandemic has already had a small but significant effect on our responses during the crisis so far.

‘The more people saw the winter as an exciting opportunity, the better their wellbeing.’ Photograph: DieterMeyrl/Getty Images

The survey, which was set up before the crisis, ran from December 2019 to May this year – and as you might expect, there was a significant drop in life satisfaction and positive mood after the pandemic hit Europe. But certain psychological characteristics and coping strategies seemed to protect some people from the worst effects. This included “active coping” – such as setting up a proper office at home, scheduling home-schooling times for the children, and making sure to eat well, sleep well, and exercise, Zacher says. As the previous research predicted, the most resilient participants also managed to recognise the potential opportunities in the crisis – such as “learning something from the experience, or trying to grow as a person as a result from the experience,” Zacher explains.

Like Leibowitz, Zacher emphasises that the aim is not to sugar-coat the situation or to deny the difficulties that we will face we can’t hide from the shadow cast by the pandemic, any more than the citizens of Tromsø can pretend that the sun is still rising. By recognising our own capacity to control our responses to the lockdown and the changing seasons, however, we may all find some hidden reserves of strength and resilience to see us through the days ahead.


Key Players

  • President: The Hon. Sam Nunn
  • National Security Advisor: The Hon. David Gergen
  • Director of Central Intelligence: The Hon. R. James Woolsey
  • Secretary of Defense: The Hon. John White
  • Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff: General John Tilelli (USA, Ret.)
  • Secretary of Health & Human Services: The Hon. Margaret Hamburg
  • Secretary of State: The Hon. Frank Wisner
  • Attorney General: The Hon. George Terwilliger
  • Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency: Mr. Jerome Hauer
  • Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation: The Hon. William Sessions
  • Governor of Oklahoma: The Hon. Frank Keating
  • Press Secretary of Gov. Frank Keating (OK): Mr. Dan Mahoney
  • Correspondent, NBC News: Mr. Jim Miklaszewski
  • Pentagon Producer, CBS News: Ms. Mary Walsh
  • Reporter, British Broadcasting Corporation: Ms. Sian Edwards
  • Reporter, The New York Times: Ms. Judith Miller
  • Reporter, Freelance: Mr. Lester Reingold

The Dark Winter exercise was the collaborative effort of 4 organizations. John Hamre of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) initiated and conceived of an exercise wherein senior former officials would respond to a bioterrorist induced national security crisis. Tara O'Toole and Tom Inglesby of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies and Randy Larsen and Mark DeMier of Analytic Services, Inc., (ANSER) were the principal designers, authors, and controllers of Dark Winter. Sue Reingold of CSIS managed administrative and logistical arrangements. General Dennis Reimer of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT) provided funding for Dark Winter.

I was honored to play the part of the President in the exercise Dark Winter . . You often don't know what you don't know until you've been tested. And it's a lucky thing for the United States that, as the emergency broadcast network used to say, 'this is just a test, this is not a real emergency.' But Mr. Chairman, our lack of preparation is a real emergency.  The Honorable Sam Nunn, House Hearing on Combating Terrorism: Federal Response to a Biological Weapons Attack, July 23, 2001  


Winter’s Coming: Ideas for Staying Cozy at Home

How do you get cozy? As we move into wintertime and the nights get colder, I begin to crave coziness, that feeling of body, mind, and spirit enveloped in warmth and comfort. Hunkered down, snug, safe, secure. Here are some new ideas for finding comfort—from connecting with others to warming up a living space.

Reflecting on the idea of coziness, I see people creating it in different, though interconnected, spheres of daily life.

How to Connect With Others

Connecting with loved ones, friends, and others contributes to a sense of security, comfort, and joy for most of us. It helps to conquer the dark-season blues (aka seasonal affective disorder).

Yes, COVID has made it challenging for some us to have face-to-face human connection—and also exposed the sometimes-rough edges of family “closeness” during in-home quarantine! Chatting in person outdoors at a 10- to 12-foot distance for “driveway dining,” exercising outside, or while our dogs romp in the local dog park becomes less feasible during the colder months.

However, virtual get-togethers through a video-conferencing platform have offered many of us a lifeline for connecting with loved ones, meeting with healthcare professionals, managing our work lives, and enabling millions of children to attend virtual school. Book clubs, quilting guilds, and “knit-alongs” have continued meeting and socializing virtually.

  • Some friends have a weekly dinner via Zoom, enjoying food and drinks with each other. It may seem awkward at first but you soon forget about the screen and enjoy some of the same conversations and laughter that you did in person. Other families hold a weekly church service, chatting afterwards over coffee just as they would in person. Try something like this!
  • Encourage family and friends to share videos and photos by sharing your own. I’ve purchased a camera and discovering the joy of photography. I’ve loved seeing videos/photos of people’s first attempts at cooking from scratch, baking bread, home barbering, dog grooming, home repairs gone awry, and more.
  • Despite its flaws, I love Twitter, and have valued it especially during the pandemic. I follow folks who have perspectives both similar to and different from mine, as well as many people with deep expertise in a variety of specialties: nature photography, gardening, politics, and medicine. They answer my questions or point me to sources who can, and link me to interesting articles, scientific studies, and other interesting people.
  • I enjoy the way social media generates spontaneous discussions and friendships. It also links to live debates and workshops. Last summer, I participated in a Twitter short course on backyard fruit-growing, a weekly series of videos showing a Cooperative Extension fruit specialist talking about various fruits growing around his Mississippi home. So much fun! And I could follow up with questions to the specialist.

The flat screens on our computers, television and TV s reduce our loved ones, friends and co-workers to two-dimensional images. Many of us miss the hug-and-snuggle features pre-pandemic life. Enter doggies and kitties.To help cope with loneliness and quell their anxiety, Americans have increasingly turned to companion animals.

Before the pandemic, around half of all American households included at least one pet. Depending on which organization conducted the survey, American homes held 77 to 90 million dogs, and 58 to 94 million cats. That number will surely explode during the next survey, as news reports say Americans have emptied out animal shelters across the nation, adopting dogs, cats, and sometimes more exotic pets. Some shelters have long waiting lists, though cats are often looking for homes!

Children, missing their friends and familiar activities, can cuddle up with their animals for comfort. Young readers can read aloud to their adoring non-judgemental dogs. Single adults working at home alone have shared and often photographed how they snuggle up to and even converse with their animal companions.

Walking the dog becomes an important form of outdoor activity. Visits to the dog park while dogs romp free of a leash, allows masked and physically distanced owners to say hello and chat with the humans. Neighbors who walk dogs are meeting each other for the first time, forming a neighborhood “text” group to meet up for outdoor walks.

Long a beloved fixture on social media, cat and dog videos starring household pet have become a central focus on social media since early on in the pandemic quarantine. People have spent countless hours catching the family pets on camera (or watching other people’s animals) being naughty, performing amazing feats, cuddling up on the couch, crowding their human companions out of the bed. Each animal video can generate dozens of responses, with others comparing their own pet’s looks or behaviors to the original. The animals have become one important link to increase our human connections with friends, loved ones, and complete strangers.


Image: Lumie

How to Cozy Up Your Living Space

Like me, maybe you love the cold, snowy, and spare aesthetic of the outdoors in winter, but dread the short days and the low arc of the winter sun.

  • The number one trick to beating back the darkness: light! Full-spectrum bulbs and lamps mimic natural daylight (but without dangerous ultraviolet rays). Some people use special photo-therapy lamps (“light boxes”) to help fight seasonal affective disorder (winter depression) by basking directly in their light for a few minutes each day. In my experience, people don’t only feel better and see better in areas lit by full-spectrum lighting, we also look better.
  • Outline one or more windows or door frames with strings of small Christmas-tree lights to create a soft, intimate lighting effect that helps a room feel cozy.
  • Mirrors placed to reflect lamplight can help brighten the evening. (Please don’t rely on live flames—candles and kerosene lanterns for brightening. You don’t need a house fire to further complicate your life.)
  • Cozy up your space by adding brightly colored accents: pillows, throws, area rugs. Professional designers suggest adding depth and texture for extra coziness: a plush, fluffy throw, two or three layers of pillows, a shaggy area rug.
  • Consider an indoor tent! When my daughter was young, I remember making all manner of tented play spaces by draping sheets over furniture and large-appliance boxes begged from the hardware store. You can still fashion them yourself, but nowadays, online merchants offer hundreds of styles of indoor tents and “privacy canopies,” some designed as floorless models to enclose, provide privacy, and even insulate their occupants from drafts.
  • Suffuse your living space with comforting fragrances. Any kind of baked good in the oven—banana bread, apple/pumpkin pie, chocolate-chip cookies—will do the trick. But you don’t need to cook to fill your home with a warm, inviting scent. Boil water containing cinnamon sticks with other favorite spices, or a few drops of an essential oil, and set the container on a counter or shelf. Light a stick of balsam or pine incense.

How to Green Up the Indoors

Well-maintained house plants brighten a space, soften harsh angles, promote a sense of calm, and help purify the air. (Check out these tips on houseplants for low light and this guide on winter care for your houseplant.

Check out these tropical houseplants clean your indoor air for a healthier living space.

If you already have one or two plants that do well, you can try expanding your collection by propagating some new ones from cuttings.

Don’t have the money or patience for houseplants? Buy or forage in the wild for some evergreen boughs. Trim them to size, and place them as table settings, or on mantelpieces, bookcases, and dressers. Keep the water fresh, and they’ll stay green for weeks. Bonus: Balsam or pine cuttings will send evergreen scents wafting through the air.

Warm Yourself

Feeling cozy means feeling a comforting sense of warmth. Before the advent of central heating, our ancestors used ways of heating themselves and the space immediately around them, rather than the air throughout the entire room.They invented hooded chairs to capture and retain radiant heat sitting in front of a stove or fireplace, folding screens to reduce drafts, insulating canopies and curtains around beds. My mother recalled her days growing up in a big Vermont farmhouse her mother heated stones in the kitchen woodstove, and used tongs to place them in a long-handled brass bedwarmer that she slid back and forth between layers of goose-down comforters before tucking her nine children in for the night, two or three to a bed.

Maybe you’re turning down the thermostat to save money on winter heating costs. Here are some ways to stay cozy:

  • Hot baths. Nothing beats a hot bath on a winter evening. Adding a few drops of lavender essential oil to the bathwater may deepen your relaxation.
  • Seed- or bead-filled “beanbags” to heat in the microwave. Over the years, I’ve acquired a big collection of them, mostly as gifts. I have bean bags that drape around my neck, over my shoulders and down the back. I have some long, narrow ones I can spread across top of or along the sides of my thighs. I have beanbag mittens that soothe sore fingers and wrists, and beanbag booties to take care of cold feet.
  • Slide a couple of heated beanbags under the covers for a few minutes before you turn in for the night to create an intense coziness that helps you slip quickly into a restful sleep.
  • My go-to plan for evening coziness: I heat a couple of my beanbags, apply them to a stressed area, and sit in my recliner under a thick plush blanket sipping a cup of ginger tea, to read a book or the newspaper, do a word puzzle, watch tv, or chat online. Pure joy, especially after that hot bath.


Image: E. Kondratova/Shutterstock

Warm Up With Food and Drink

Nothing creates a deeper sense of comfort and joy than the right food and drink. Winter coziness depends on having a good supply of them on hand. Of course, the favorites and the recipes vary from culture to culture and household to household.

My winter comfort foods include any kind of homemade soup, stew, and chowder—and chili! The possibilities are endless, depending on the ingredients I have on hand. It’s easy to cook up a huge stockpot of dry beans, then make a big soup that lasts for three or four days, then turn the rest into a chili with onions, garlic, roasted peppers from my freezer. A big part of these comfort foods for me involves the versatility and ease of preparation. Add a cheese sandwich to the soup, a green salad to the chili, and you’re set.

For cozy winter drinks, I think of strong, dark-roast coffee, cocoa, herb teas (especially peppermint and ginger), mulled cider, and the various recipes that come under the general heading of wassail. You can make a non-alcoholic wassail by simmering any kind of fruit juice with a handful of spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg, and allspice. Some people (raising my hand) even take comfort in a cup of boiling water spiked with plenty of lemon juice, with or without sweetener.

Buoyed by the promise of a COVID -19 vaccine and better therapeutic drugs, experts warn we still have a long, dark winter ahead, during which we’ll need to wear our masks and other protective equipment outside our homes, maintain a generous physical distance from others, stay out of indoor spaces other than our own homes as much as possible, and wash our hands often.

All the more reason to adopt a few new ideas for staying cozy. What are your favorites?


Deep dark winter is the best time for.

Pasta! I've been making Bucatini all' amatriciana lately and it's easy and oh so good. One of Rome's favorite pasta dishes. Here's my take on it.

Over medium heat in a large pan, using good quality olive oil, saute 4 oz diced guanicale (for purists) or I more frequently used 4 oz diced pancetta (because I'm a realist) until lightly browned. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside. Add 1 medium to large diced sweet white onion and about 1/3 to 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes to remaining oil in the same pan. Salt the onion lightly and saute gently over medium low heat until the onion is golden and caramelized--about 20 minutes. This is the key step. Then add in one 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes and mash the tomatoes lightly. Add the meat back to the sauce and simmer uncovered for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook one pound of bucatini according to package directions but one minute less than recommended. Drain but save one cup of the pasta water. Add the hot pasta to the sauce in the pan along with a bit of the saved water. Cook the pasta with the sauce over medium heat for about a minute-add water as necessary. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano over the cooking pasta and stir until the pasta and sauce marry and merge together (kinda sexy, huh?) Serve hot with more cheese. Leftover will reheat very well in the microwave. Enjoy!


Host a Game-Night Party

Make food satisfying–and yet easy to prepare, serve, and eat. That means lots of finger foods, simple to nibble between rolls of the die, and a hearty main course to provide sustenance as the night–and games–linger on. With a few pantry staples, such food can be prepared on a whim–key in a season when one is never sure how the winds will blow.
Quick Tip: Stock up on pantry basics. Chicken breasts, cheese, mixed nuts, marinara sauce, and Italian bread ensure you can pull together a memorable party quickly and easily.
Chicken Fingers recipe

Assemble snacks on a tray for easy shuttling between the kitchen and the playing area and then back again. Appetizers arranged and presented on trays with raised edges minimizes messes. Pass out finger foods while guests play a few rounds. And establish an accessible place to set food, drinks, napkins, and dishware. Extra trays come in handy for quickly clearing away dishes between rounds. Then serve dinner with everyone seated around the dining table. Quick Tip: Snacks such as celery and carrots can be prepared ahead. Store them submerged in ice water to keep them crunchy blot with a paper towel before serving.

Plan ahead and make the dough for the Cheddar Goldfish Crackers. Wrap it well after chilling it for 20 minutes, you can store it in the freezer for up to two months.
Cheddar Goldfish Crackers with Peanut Butter Spread recipe

Individual soup tureens with their own lids mimic bright-toned game pieces–and keep soup warm until everyone is ready to gather at the table. Display antique game boards on a wall, buffet, or dining table and transform miscellaneous playing cards into place cards.

Warm, hearty soups are perfect for a night of nesting at home.
Herbed Meatball Soup Recipe

Vegetable lasagna’s universal appeal and easy preparation make it a game-night staple. Try using an enameled cast iron lasagna pan to maintain heat while the dish is carried from the oven to the table.

You can skip the lasagna and serve soup, salad, and garlic bread as a main course if you’re short on time. To prepare the Garlic and Herb Bread: Sprinkle a halved loaf with olive oil, chopped garlic, oregano, and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, then wrap in foil and bake.

Keep root vegetables–Carrots, potatoes, leeks–handy for a super-simple side dish of Roasted Root Vegetables: Cut vegetables to similar-size pieces, then toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and an aromatic herb such as dill or rosemary and roast at 375°F until fork tender (watch some vegetables will cook a little faster than others).

Enjoy one more game along with dessert. This last course can be a help-yourself affair, particularly if you offer cookies and pre-slice the sticky upside-down cake to make serving convenient.
Classic Pineapple Upside-Down Cake recipe

Cake and cookies call for milk. For fun, fill an ice-packed bucket with individual containers of whole, low, and nonfat milk. Name tags on straws look neat and keep beverages organized. Give adults’ milk a spike of the hazelnut liqueur Frangelico and serve in individual shot glasses.

Why not stick with the evening’s theme all the way to dessert? These Chocolate Domino cookies are sure to be a hit.
Quick Tip: No time to bake? Visit the bakery at your supermarket for fresh cookies or cake. Most will accommodate a special order even the morning before your event.
Chocolate Domino Cookies recipe


Reviews of escape game "Dark Winter's Night"

We really enjoyed the "Dark Winter's Night" escape room here. They are a bit pricier than some other rooms in town, but the game master was very attentive and helped us all have a great time. We were traveling with our young children (1 and 10) so we need to check with escape rooms to see if they can/ will accommodate the little one. They were great about it, let us walk right in to one of the rooms and get started.

The only downfall- there were a few things broken in the room. IE- we had to have a metal connection at a certain point and they told my husband to use his wedding ring as the connection. Also, when we "escaped" and finished all the puzzles, the room didn't react like it was supposed to. That was disappointing.

All in all, a great experience.

Elizabeth S.

Escape rooms are taking the United States by storm! The goal of the game is to find a way out of a locked room within the given time limit. Work as a team to solve logical puzzles, uncover clues, and follow the storyline to unravel the mystery. Each riddle brings you one step closer to the ultimate escape! Escape room games are great for a night out with friends, a date, a birthday celebration, or a team-building activity in the United States.


The 13 Best Winter Cocktail Riffs&mdashand Classic Recipes&mdashto Drink When the Temperature Drops

There are no hard-and-fast rules about cocktail drinking this year. Perpetual homedom shot those straight to hell, so we pre-batch our Manhattans in the freezer for easy refills, day or night, and fill stainless steel canteens with Gin Rickeys for our post-work strolls around the neighborhood. Still, it&rsquos wintertime, and aside from taking a welding torch to eggnog on Christmas morning, there are more refined methods of marking the cold weather, cocktail-wise. "Everyone's looking to drink seasonally," bartender Tristan Willey of Brooklyn's Long Island Bar once told us. "But if you don't know what to do at home, you can just rotate one or two things to make it appropriate for the time of year." Make that Negroni a Boulevardier. Tap into the allspice undertones of a Rum Old Fashioned. Winterize a Marg like you winterize your car. We teamed up with Willey to create 13 cocktails with a winter-friendly twist. Here's how to make them all (and how to make their untwisted counterparts, as well). Drinking is not the reason for the season, but it damn well is one of them.

"Using a split base of cognac and rum adds a depth of flavor and makes it a little more delicate. You still get that warm, sippable cocktail, but it doesn't beat you over the head."

Ingredients
&bull 1 oz cognac
&bull 1 oz aged rum
&bull 1 oz lemon juice
&bull 1 oz simple syrup
&bull 5 dashes bitters

Directions
Add ingredients to 3 ounces of boiling water in a mug. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and a lemon wheel studded with cloves.

For a traditional Hot Toddy: Mix 2 oz bourbon with .5 oz honey and a splash of lemon juice, then combine with hot water or herbal tea&mdashwe like Chai. Garnish with lemon. Read more on the Hot Toddy here.

"It's a traditional Whiskey Sour, but to make it a New York Sour, you float red wine&mdashCôtes du Rhône or Beaujolais, something with a backbone to it&mdashon top. The rich aromatics push it into winter."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz bourbon
&bull .75 oz lemon juice
&bull .75 oz simple syrup
&bull red wine float

Directions
Shake the bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice and strain into a double Old Fashioned glass over ice. Top with a red wine float.

For a traditional Whiskey Sour: Shake 2 oz bourbon, 2/3 oz lemon juice, 1 tsp superfine sugar, and an egg white well with cracked ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, then garnish with a maraschino cherry and/or lemon wedge. Read more on the Whiskey Sour here.

"It's just like a traditional Margarita, but with an egg white. And we split the base between reposado tequila and mezcal. It gives you those summer flavors, but with the thickness of the body and the smoke of the mezcal."

Ingredients
&bull 1 oz reposado (slightly aged) tequila
&bull 1 oz mezcal (like Del Maguey Vida)
&bull 1 oz lime juice
&bull .75 oz simple syrup
&bull 1 egg white

Directions
Shake ingredients without ice, then shake again with ice. Strain into a coupe glass and serve up with a salted rim.

For a traditional Margarita: Chill a cocktail glass, then rub its rim with lime juice and dip it in coarse salt. Shake 2 oz tequila, 1 oz Cointreau, and 1 oz lime juice with ice, then strain into the glass over fresh ice. Read more on the Margarita here.

"It's really beautiful, and perfect for an elegant party. It elevates the pomp and circumstance of your traditional glass of Champagne."

Ingredients
&bull 4 oz sparkling wine
&bull 1 sugar cube
&bull Angostura bitters

Directions
Soak the sugar cube in Angostura bitters and drop into a champagne flute. Fill with sparkling wine (a dry prosecco will also do). Garnish with a lemon twist.

"Winter isn't about eliminating refreshing drinks, but there are things that can make them more seasonally appropriate. By swapping the gin for the richer, silkier flavors of the cognac, it turns it into a more wintery version of itself."

Ingredients
&bull 1 oz cognac
&bull .5 oz lemon juice
&bull .5 oz simple syrup
&bull splash of sparkling wine

Directions
Shake the cognac, lemon juice, and simple syrup with ice. Strain into a Champagne flute, and top with Prosecco or another dry sparkling wine. Garnish with a lemon twist.

For a traditional French 75: Shake 2 oz London dry gin, 1 tsp superfine sugar, and .5 oz lemon juice well with ice. Strain into a Collins glass half-full of cracked ice, then top off with Champagne. Read more on the French 75 here.

"With the cranberry and allspice you get those more traditional winter flavors and scents, but it drinks like a tall, easy Collins."

Ingredients
&bull 1.5 oz vodka
&bull 1 oz Cointreau
&bull 1 oz lemon juice
&bull 1 oz cranberry juice
&bull 1 bar spoon of allspice dram

Directions
Shake ingredients with ice. Strain into a Collins glass over ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a lemon wheel studded with cloves.

For a traditional Tom Collins: Shake 2 oz London dry gin, 1 oz lemon juice, and .5 oz simple syrup with ice, then strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice and top with club soda. Read more on the Tom Collins here.

"You take the typical white rum out of a Daiquiri and replace it with an aged rum that has those caramel notes. It's still balanced, it's light and effervescent, but it has that rich spiciness to it."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz aged rum (like Diplomatico Venezuelan)
&bull 1 oz fresh lime juice
&bull .75 oz simple syrup

Directions
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a coupe glass. Serve up with no garnish.

For a traditional Daiquiri: Squeeze .5 oz lime juice into a shaker, stir in .5 tsp superfine sugar, and then add 2 oz white rum. Shake well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Read more on the Daiquiri here.

"It's a classic, with a blended scotch paired with ginger, honey, lemon, and that smoky Laphroaig misted over the top. It fits so perfectly with the season."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz blended scotch
&bull 1 oz lemon juice
&bull .5 oz honey syrup
&bull .5 oz ginger syrup
&bull .25 oz Laphroaig scotch

Directions
Shake the blended scotch, lemon juice, and syrups with ice and strain into a double old fashioned glass with a single large ice cube. Pour Laphroaig over the back of a bar spoon so that it floats atop the drink, and finish with a lemon wheel.

"It excels at what the Scandinavians do, which is cope with a cold, long, dark winter. The aquavit is a little herbaceous, which gives it a great caraway and rye background."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz aquavit (like Linie)
&bull .75 oz sweet vermouth
&bull .25 oz cherry spirit (like Leroux Kirschwasser)
&bull 2 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain over ice into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish with an orange twist or cherries.

For a traditional Manhattan: Stir 2 oz rye, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 2 dashes Angostura bitters well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cocktail cherry. Read more on the Manhattan here.

"Using a sweet vermouth instead of dry, and adding a little bit of maraschino, makes the whole thing so cozy. It's the kind of Martini you'd pull up next to a fire and drink."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz gin
&bull .75 oz sweet vermouth
&bull 1 bar spoon of maraschino
&bull 1 dash orange bitters

Directions
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe glass. Serve up and garnish with an orange twist.

For a traditional Martini: Fill a metal shaker with cracked ice, pour in 1 oz dry vermouth, stir briefly, and strain out. Add 4 ounces of gin, stir briskly for about 10 seconds, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with an olive or a lemon twist. Read more on the Martini here.

"It's a Negroni, but with rye whiskey instead of gin. It's a natural evolution, bringing a dark spirit into a classic drink that we love. It's great for fall and winter, but I drink it year-round."

Ingredients
&bull 1.5 oz rye whiskey
&bull .75 oz Campari
&bull .75 oz sweet vermouth

Directions
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into a coupe glass. Serve up and garnish with an orange twist.

For a traditional Negroni: Stir 1 oz London dry gin, 1 oz Campari, and 1 oz vermouth rosso well with cracked ice. Strain into a glass over cubed ice, then garnish with a twist of orange peel. Read more on the Negroni here.

"It uses so many wintery things, like the Applejack and maple syrup. You could not make a more fireside-appropriate cocktail."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz apple brandy (like Applejack)
&bull .25 oz maple syrup
&bull 3 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Directions
Stir ingredients with ice, then strain into an old fashioned glass. Serve up and garnish with a lemon twist.

For a traditional Sazerac: In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water. Add several small ice cubes, then 2.5 oz rye whiskey, 2 dashes Peychaud's bitters, and 1 dash Angostura bitters. Stir well. Roll a few drops of absinthe around a second, chilled Old-Fashioned glass, then pour off the excess. Strain the contents of the first glass into the second. Read more on the Sazerac here.

"The rum and its molasses flavors, plus the allspice and Angostura bitters, make for this lovely, rich, slightly thicker Old Fashioned variation. It's perfect to have late at night."

Ingredients
&bull 2 oz rum (like Eldorado 12-Year)
&bull 1 bar spoon of demerara syrup
&bull 3 dashes Angostura bitters

Directions
Build ingredients into a double Old Fashioned glass with ice. Finish with lemon and orange twist.

For a traditional Old Fashioned: Place a sugar cube in an Old Fashioned glass, wet it down with 2 dashes Angostura bitters and a short splash of club soda, then muddle. Add a large ice cube and 2 oz rye or bourbon, then garnish with an orange twist. Read more on the Old Fashioned here.


Backstage Escape Games – Dark Winter’s Night (Formerly, The Cabin at Beachstone Lake) (Review)

Are you ready for a chilling Christmas story?
In the small town of Parkview Point, something strange has happened at the long-abandoned cabin on Beachstone Lake. Quiet for years, the cabin has suddenly sprung to life with Christmas decorations and cheer. All across town, children noticed that their gifts under the tree and letters to Santa were missing, replaced with a terrifying note from Krampus. The half-goat, half-demon evildoer has challenged anyone to enter the cabin and escape with the gifts. If they do, then the town will experience joyful Christmas seasons for decades to come. If they fail, then Christmas will be forever canceled in Parkview Point.

First Impressions:

We happened to be in Myrtle Beach during December, and while this room runs all year, it seemed like the perfect time for some holiday themed escapes! Even better, this room wasn’t all warmth and tidings of good cheer, there’s a Christmas-hating demon on the loose to outwit! Krampus is such an interesting character, and to have a room revolving around him seemed like it’d be an excellent time!

High Points:

What an immersive room! The initial game briefing takes place at the front of the titular cabin, and sets the tone with a quaint exterior accentuated by whimsically tortured Christmas decorations. To add to the charm, a radio announcer comes over the loudspeaker to deliver the half-wacky, half-creepy story, and keeps the immersion going by starting up a fantastic Christmas themed playlist that’s ever so slightly ominous. The inside of the cabin is just as awesome, with perfect décor and fantastic technology that removes you entirely from Myrtle Beach and transports you to the chilly winter world of Krampus! The story is well delivered through every facet of the game, whether it be puzzles, the evolving room itself, or the notes left behind, keeping us wholly engaged throughout the experience.

Puzzles are excellent, and highly varied, allowing for our team to divide and conquer this non-linear room. The game flow is hugely intuitive, and will make sense to even the newest of players with it’s tactile and creative interactions. Every step of the way gives excellent feedback, and so many of the creative enigmas housed inside the room are just pure fun to solve. It constantly feels like you’re truly working through the demented machinations of Krampus brought to life as you work through the many physical activities and manipulate the various props. There are a lot of hidden items, but they are stashed at key points during the game, ensuring the experience doesn’t become a glorified scavenger hunt, and the meta-puzzles build towards satisfying ah ha moments. Almost every step of this game is pure puzzle solving bliss.

There is one point within the room that can be absolute auditory torture if you don’t achieve your goal quickly. We did not, and our sanity eroded. I think that was the point, but still, that was rough. Near the end, I had flashbacks to a couple of the overly long puzzles from Backstage’s other room, The Legend of Atlantis. In an otherwise excellent game flow, these puzzles can really bog a group down, however, there was only one in The Cabin at Beachstone Lake, and I jumped on that grenade willingly since I tend to be at least decent at solving that type of puzzle. Our group of 3 was fairly comfortable in the room, but still tripped over each other now and again, so I can’t imagine stacking the maximum of 7 in here, so I’d recommend attempting this one with a smaller group if at all possible.

The Cabin at Beachstone Lake keeps up the stunning quality that Backstage Escape Games initially produced with Atlantis, proving once again they’re the bar for Myrtle Beach escape adventures! This room is perfect for anyone looking for a truly memorable outing, and if you’re in the area, you absolutely should try it out! Book your time matching wits with Krampus here!

Full Disclosure: Backstage Escape Games comped our tickets for this game.


Applicable Apps

An app, preferably one with AR capabilities, can make it extremely easy to find objects in the sky—and also to answer any “what’s that?” questions you have as you’re looking up. SkyView shows what planets, constellations, and even satellites are visible in real time. It’s available for both Android and iOS. Night Sky is a Sunset favorite, although it’s only for iOS.

Don’t spend too long staring at your phone out there, though. For one thing, you went outside to commune with nature, not to fall down a TikTok rabbit hole. Also, the bright screen will temporarily dim your night vision, making it harder to see fainter objects.


Watch the video: Das Leben mit den dunklen Wintern Schwedens. Mitternachtssonne u0026 Polarnacht