Who doesn’t love the spontaneity of friends and family dropping over to share the enjoyment of our beautiful summer season. There's something about eating outside on our patio or in the garden that feels a little more special than being indoors. And with surprise guests, you don’t have the stress over planning a visit, or mealtime either. It’s all about enjoyment of the moment!
This warm and sunny time of year reminds me of the relaxed get-togethers in Italy, It also brings to mind Italy’s bountiful lemon harvests along the Amalfi coastline, and more particularly, one of its famous lemon products, Limoncello (although I'm also partial to their heavenly lemon-scented soaps). Limoncello is essentially a liqueur that is made by macerating the outer peel of a lemon's skin in a neutral grain spirit alcohol for several weeks, the peels then removed, and the alcohol diluted with water and sugar.
Limoncello was often, and still is, produced as a homemade liqueur, with recipes passed down through generations. It is typically served as a digestif either after a meal or with a dessert. Otherwise, limoncello can be served as part of a cocktail, with my favourite being the Limoncello Spritz, a favourite of my friends as well! Whether you have made your own or have a store-bought bottle stashed away for just such occasions, what better way to enjoy the warmth and relaxation of our lovely summer days, than with spontaneously gathered friends enjoying an al fresco party on a deck or patio, and a toast to our warm summer days, with a Limoncello Spritz.
You can easily extend the party into the evening with a quick and easy dinner including favourite flavours of the season … and the best news? It can still be healthy too when you incorporate seasonal vegetables or fruit! To help you, we have included some quick and easy Al Fresco drink and meal ideas to share with friends or family who drop in this summer, and have you spending less time cooking and more time enjoying friends in lovely weather. The following recipes can be found at the end of this blog.
The Samvaro grouping at Cottage Culture is the perfect choice for these spontaneous get-togethers, as there is a corner sofa, armchairs and a large, taller height coffee table available. It is a modern, yet classic series in anthracite aluminum, with subtle contours creating a pleasant and inviting feel, along with pale grey Olefin fabric (the
European version of Sunbrella) cushions complete with water-repellant lining. The seat height is higher, at 48cm (18 7/8 inches), so it feels more like a dining chair height, which, with the taller height coffee table complete with a stylish storage shelf, makes it perfect for enjoying drinks and snacks.
Or, to keep going with the Al Fresco theme, you could also choose to gather a selection of chairs around an extendable table they don’t need to match! - to seat your clan. Extendable tables are a wonderful way to provide spacious dining for your regular family or friends in your space, yet expand to accommodate, more infrequently, others who may drop-in on occasion, whether spontaneously or for specific holiday meals. Cottage Culture has a selection of these extendable tables in two sizes to accommodate your gathering. And using whatever outdoor chairs you have is an easy way to enjoy the moment with family and friends, free from the stress of organizing an event that needs to be planned down to the finest detail.
To extend that casual and carefree theme, throws or Turkish towels can make a great table cloth and add a spot of colour. Turkish towels, made from long-fibre 100% Turkish cotton, are washable, making them an easy care solution as a spontaneous table cloth at your festivities. And what’s better value than being multi-use these days? Cottage Culture has a wonderful selection, so you are sure to find something which catches your eye.
Finally, pull out your assorted glasses and dishes – it’s casual after all! - then layer in any candles you have handy. And keep throws at hand to ward off any cool breezes as the evening lengthens.
And now for the recipes to complete your Al Fresco celebration. Once your recipe choices are prepped, spend your time relaxing and enjoying your guests !!
A simple and wonderfully refreshing summer cocktail made from just three ingredients, you’ll definitely enjoy this vinous yet fizzy cocktail! The recipe requires the following:
2 Oz Limoncello
4 Oz Prosecco or sparkling wine
2 Oz Soda Water*
1 Lemon Slice
1 Sprig of Mint
Pour the ingredients, starting with the limoncello and finishing with the sparkling wine, into a large wine glass or tall highball filled with ice. Stir gently and garnish with a lemon slice and mint.
You can also use thyme or basil instead of the mint.
Similarly, consider using champagne or crémant** instead of a prosecco if you prefer something a little drier than prosecco.
*I choose a lemon lime flavoured sparkling water for the extra citrus flavour
**I tend to choose a drier sparkling wine - usually a Cremant (~10g/l sugar) (or a Cava (such as Codorniu sparkling at 9g/l sugar))
A quick and easy pasta dinner
While pasta may, for some folks, seem to have a bad rap, it can be part of a healthy dinner when paired with a bounty of seasonal vegetables.
Cook your favourite pasta (maybe try a whole wheat option for a bit more fibre!) according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Heat 1-2 tbsp of oil in a large skillet, and sauté onion and garlic until soft.
Add slices of zucchini, bell peppers, thinly sliced carrots, mushrooms, fresh peas, or any other vegetables that might need to be slightly cooked.
When the vegetables are just tender, add drained pasta, your favourite greens and herbs, and stir to combine.
Leftover chicken or sausage would bump up the protein and add another flavour element.
Serve topped with parmesan cheese.
Add a bottle of your favourite red - perhaps a lighter Pinot Noir, or a rosé to toast the summer season and you have the recipe for a convivial celebration of the season. Sit back and enjoy!
Grilled Peach & Brie Smothered Chicken
Source: EatingWell Magazine, July/August 2020
This super-fast and healthy smothered chicken tastes best on the deck with a chilled glass of gewürztraminer. The fruity white pairs nicely with the peaches here.
Active: 20 mins Total: 20 mins Serves: 4
Serving Size: 3 ounces chicken and 1 ½ cups salad
1 pound chicken cutlets
½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided
¼ teaspoon salt plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided
1 firm ripe peach, halved
4 ounces Brie cheese, sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, plus more for garnish
1 (5 ounce) package baby arugula
Preheat grill to medium-high.
Sprinkle chicken with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
Oil the grill rack.
Grill peach halves, cut-side down, until lightly charred, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and slice.
Grill the chicken until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 160 degrees F, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, and top the chicken with the peach slices and cheese. Grill until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 165 degrees F and the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Whisk oil, vinegar, tarragon and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Add arugula and toss to coat. Serve the chicken on top of the arugula. Garnish with more tarragon, if desired.
Grilled Asparagus (in foil)
Source: Fresh Off the Grid
This simple grilled asparagus recipe is the perfect side dish to make on your next backyard BBQ.
Sometimes we can get so hyper-focused on the main dish that we completely forget to make a side. That’s one of the reasons we love making this foil-packet grilled asparagus! It’s so incredibly easy to make, requires very few ingredients, and can be ready in virtually no time.
Prep Time: 5 mins Cook: 15 mins Total: 20 mins Serves: 4
Tips for the Best Grilled Asparagus
1 lb asparagus
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ lemon, zested
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
This is a super easy dish that comes together in minutes, makes the most of this bountiful seasonal vegetable and is a great way to add a side dish to your meal without dirtying another piece of cookware – perfect for your Al Fresco meals!
With the end of summer almost upon us, why does it feel like we need a vacation to relax and recharge from our vacation? Let’s face it creating summertime memories can be exhausting. Organizing family get togethers, days at the beach wiping sand from children’s feet, hands and food! Packing and unpacking, it can leave you feeling even more drained than before you went on vacation!
There is no doubt that spending time outdoors is a great form of selfcare and even more effective when you take some time for yourself to enjoy solo. Studies show that spending time in nature can reduce blood pressure, muscle tension and heart rate. In fact, 90% of people say they have more energy after spending time outside. With all of these great reasons to spend more time outside why not create your own luxurios lounge area to reap the health benefits mother nature has to offer you?
To create the perfect spot to unwind and recharge is simple, we have put together some helpful tips to assist you in putting together the perfect personal little get away for you to relax, recharge and unwind.
Almost everything will work again if you unplug it, including you. - Anne Lamott
Your “perfect spot” is where you feel the most relaxed on your property. Take a walk around your outdoor space and listen to your instincts. Do your shoulders relax a bit more when you are near the pool or water feature or do find yourself having a deep exhaling breath by your flowers in your garden? Does a particular view help your mind calm and your thoughts stay present? Whichever area you are the most at ease is the perfect area for you to create your personal luxury lounge area.
Then condsider the seating that you prefer to use and the space available to you. A chaise lounge though incredibly comfortable requires a large available footprint. This type of seat requires space - a typical chiase is around 78in long x 27in wide (sometimes more with arms). If you are using multiple chaies lounges then you want to leave two to three feet between each seat for easy access.
For tighter spaces, consider a more upright lounge chair with a footstool - matching or not. Although not as versatile in terms of going from horizontal to seated lounge posiitons, this seat is often as comfortable and is perfect for reading, eating, and sipping. Footstools can be part of a set or a functional pouf, side table/stool combo or even a planter. Anything that allows you to lift your tired legs.
Also consider the sun's position and your own preferences. For example, are you a morning person who soaks in a sunrise or the early morning rays as shadows lift for the day? Or do you long for restful sunsets? If the afternoon siesta offers you the greates rejuvenationm then shade is no doubt an important consideration.
And then consider your senses. If your eyes are spent happily in a book then the ambient sounds around you are very important. If you like to gaze out over a view then this will be an important factor in identifying the best spot.
We recommend keeping your lounge area simple and uncluttered. It is harder to unwind and decompress amid clutter. All you really require is a comfortable seat; lounger, daybed or armchair and a footstool, a side table for your book and refreshment and an option to get out of the sun if need be.
But to add a luxurious comfort and elegance, the extra elements you could have on hand are a light throw for added coziness, a selection of outdoor toss cushions for added comfort, natural elements such as greenery and water.
To further personalize your lounge area, let’s look into each of these elements in a bit more detail.
a.k.a the Sun lounger, chaise loungem beach chair, deck chair. The lounge seat is likely the largest investment component of this special space. There are many options to choose from but the best choice is likely the combination of the chaise that feels most comfortable to you and the one that is most asthetically pleasing - that draws you to get there in the first place. You do want ot be able to envison this space in those stressful moments as you prepare to steal away for that well-earned time off.
There are many materials that are used to make loungers including wood, wickerm synthetic rattan and iron. We have found, however, that our most popular loungers consist of rust-free sturdy but light aluminum frame with a maintenance free textline fabric.
Cushions remain a split vote as it is hard to beat that feeling of sinking into a soft cozy cushion when you finally recline for a moments peace. That said, more and more we see customers opt for a low-maintenance textilene option. This seat that allows air to flow through is perfect poolside when you have a swim before your relaxing/recharging time. People don't seem to want to bother with collecting cushions or wrestle covers before a rain or having to wait for cushions to dry when the rain clouds beat you to the punch.
Having said this, Cottage Culture has a range of lounging options....here are a few of our favourites.
VEVI - The staff pick is the Vevi black aluminum lounger in chic black. The clean, straight lines of this lounger allow it to integrate with many different styles. It comes in white, khaki beige and classic black which allows for great versatility - dress it up however you like! The adjustable neck roll on the Vevi lounger provides extra comfort and is one less cushion you would need to worry about bringing in and out of the weather as it too is textilene.
ANDY - For a classic look, consider the Andy Lounger – one can almost imagine them lined up on the deck of the Titanic or a poolside at a summer resort from days gone by. The comfort of this seat is hard to match with it’s adjustable head and foot rests to create that perfect personalized comfort. Teak detailing on the arms and head rest of this lounger add an elevated aesthetic for an elegant look. Although classic in appearance the Andy lounger is modern in it’s functional design.
ELATI – To capture that Scandinavian look of functional design combined with natural materials, then look closer at the Elati lounger. for your relaxation haven. The Elati lounger consists of a durable, sustainable teak frame in modern lines with a grey quick-drying textiline fabric. The meticulous design of the Elati lounger creates a first-rate reclining experience perfect for you to relax and recharge in style.
VEVI TEAK – If top-of-the-line luxury is what gives you the special place that you deserve, then let us introduce the Vevi teak lounger. The design is the same as the aluminum Vevi, but the materials and style is elevated with the use of a sustainable, solid teak frame, eye-catching stainless-steel structural accents and high-quality black Ferrari texteline fabric. This lounger is a jaw dropper! Comfort is not over looked when it comes to the design of the Vevi teak lounger with an adjustable head rest for you to create the perfect reclining position this lounger is where day dreams are made!
Maybe a lounger is not your ideal form of outdoor relaxation and you would feel more comfortable in a hammock or an armchair?
Hammocks are not limited to lounging horizontally from the tree limbs anymore (although I must admit I could find some peace swinging in a hammock with a nice summer breeze). There are many different types of stands available allowing you to place your hammock wherever you choose. Indeed even the sitting position is variable from seated to reclined to your traditional lying down position.
Some of stands have even become elaborate enough to include their own attached canopy to help keep you out of the sun. There are many different fabric choices available when you are looking at hammocks, everything from braided rope netting to canvas material. The options are endless. Just be careful when you get out of your hammock as this sometimes is challenge for some of us!
To take lounging to the next level, consider the sunbed – made for two people to lay side by side in the summer air. And once again, some sunbeds also come with their own canopy supplying their own cool shade. The bases of the sunbeds range from synthetic wicker to powder-coated aluminum. Make sure that the sunbed cushions are covered in an olefin fabric or a Sunbrella fabric as these fabrics are mold, mildew and UV resistant.
If your outdoor space is limited in size and you would like the option of a sectional or a sunbed, consider Cottage Culture’s Gonesse Lounger. The Gonesse is a versatile piece that can be set up as a corner sectional or remodeled into a sunbed large enough for 2 or 3 people. The rust-free aluminum frame and olefin fabric covered cushions make the Gonesse a low-maintenance option. The neutral colour pallette of the cushions create a cozy feeling and still allow you to add that personalized pop of colour with outdoor toss cushions or a warm throw.
Whichever lounger you choose it is best to take it for a “test drive” first and get a feel for it. Some loungers may come with a lower price tag, but once you lay in them you feel the difference that you are paying for. You also want to make sure that your lounger will last and be worth the investment.
When planning this space, you need to consider tables. A side table for your luxury lounge space should be large enough to hold a good book and a glass of your favourite beverage. Any larger, and you start to may inadvertently create a cluttered look.
Again, the options for a side table are endless both in material and style. So, how does one decide? Consider a few of these points:
Some of our favourites:
The Pamir side table which is high on style and function and comes in two hues of synthetic wicker and three shape styles that can be nested or stand alone.
The Cero – a resin circular design that doubles as extra seating if required.
The Vevi bench – this is a split from the traditional side table but if you are lucky enough to have two loungers in your outdoor space you may prefer a larger, elongated table to share between the two seats for books, beverages and perhaps a plate of hors d’oeuvres.
The all-important element of shade! Just in case you happen to completely relax and maybe even enjoy a quick siesta in your outdoor luxury lounge space, a shade option is highly recommended. Gone are the days of baby oil and lemon juice hair spritzs!
There is no question that a little sunlight is essential and it is a delicious feeling to curl up and feel the warmth of the sun in your bones. However, protection from those harmful UV rays is necessary.
Umbrellas come in a variety of options including a cantilever design that eliminates the center pole creating more room and a unified space or a stand-alone option that is secured in a weighted base. There are even half unbrellas for narrow decks or patio spaces.
The market style umbrella is more economical than the more structural cantilever design and it is easy to use when you are just sneaking in a quick ‘me-time’ break when the opportunity arises. The Mito umbrella base is a sturdy base made of granite with wheels and a handle making it easy to maneuver if required – at 110 lbs, this stands up well against wind.
When looking at umbrellas be sure to look for a tilting option. This allows you to block out the sun at different times of the day no matter where the sun happens to be. Another option to look for when purchasing your umbrella is venting at the top. Be sure that there is venting or flaps at the top of the umbrella allowing the wind to move through. The Cambre umbrella is a stylish option that has top flaps for air movement as well as a tilting option.
Time has a wonderful way of showing us what really matters.
- Margaret Peters
To achieve the full benefits of mother nature’s free decompression therapy we do recommend that your luxury outdoor lounge space contain some greenery, flowers and/or other natural elements. Depending on where you chose to create your outdoor luxury lounge area you may have already have flowers in your space. If not, even an Elephant Ear plant, fern or Palm plant will give you the added touch of mother nature and are easy to care for.
Now that you have the basic elements needed to create your outdoor luxury lounge space all you need to do is put it all together and sit back and relax! If you are still having some trouble visualizing your space the knowledgeable and helpful staff at Cottage Culture are always happy to help! And remember, making sure to make time for you is not something you should feel ashamed of. When you take a few minutes for yourself each day you feel more recharged and more ready to handle whatever comes your way.
Compared to our North American culture of working, even when on vacation it seems(!), Europe embraces vacation. While it may seem crazy to us for some European businesses to close for two weeks during peak tourist season so that the owners can take their own vacation time, the European vacation culture is strong.
Perhaps there is something to be learned from this mindset. And, if we have the luxury of taking vacation time during our warm and sunny summer months, we should consider their cultural approach to fully embracing our time off!
Swedes have long embraced the staycation, which is called “hemester”, derived from the Swedish word for home “hem” and holiday “semester”. “Hemester” can mean simply staying put in their home or apartment during their annual summer leave, although it is also commonly used to describe the more general concept of taking a vacation anywhere within one’s own country. A Scandinavian staycation is also a time to connect with nature, and recharge one’s batteries for their long cold, dark winter. Staycation is a time for social get togethers, sunny lunches, evening gatherings and picnics.
Swedes have discovered that taking a lot of vacation actually makes them more productive. When you have time to unwind, destress and enjoy everything in your life, you come back to work refreshed, brimming with energy and ideas, ready to dig in with gusto. Proof of the productiveness in this work/life balance is that Forbes magazine named Sweden the best country for business in 2017. It is also known that the tech and start-up sector is one of the strongest in the world, with investment per capita in Stockholm second only to Silicon Valley.
World-wide, and certainly in Canada since the Covid-19 pandemic began, people are choosing to ‘staycation’ which makes good sense for that reason alone. Travel restrictions, airport challenges and fuel prices have all contributed to the ever-increasing popularity of the staycation.
To support tourism and hospitality industries recover from the financial impacts of the pandemic, the Ontario government announced a temporary Ontario Staycation Tax Credit for 2022. The aim is to encourage families to get out and explore our province, rather than resort to the previous international long-haul travel mindset. This tax credit is a bonus for would-be travellers who are put off by the Covid risk of venturing too far from home.
From our perspective, there is another great reason for choosing a staycation. We in Southwestern Ontario live in a prime vacation area with plentiful beach and park areas, and gorgeous countryside views to soak in world renown sunsets. Plus, some of us even have the luxury of working from home in this beautiful area!
Southwestern Ontario extends North from the Lake Erie shoreline up to the Bruce Peninsula and reaches west from the neighbouring Toronto-Hamilton-Niagara Golden Horseshoe region to Lake Huron - Ontario’s West Coast.
Lake Erie, as the smallest and shallowest of the Great Lakes warms up quickly in the hot summer months, and its shores share many delightful beach towns and provincial parks with us, including Point Pelee with its 20 kilometers of smooth sand on either side of the peninsula, Port Stanley, Port Dover and Long Point, which is recognized as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.
The entire western shore of Lake Huron exhibits natural beauty, with long sandy beaches and steep bluffs trailing along the lakeshore interrupted by an occasional river valley. A string of pretty harbour towns, including Grand Bend, Bayfield, Goderich, Kincardine and Southampton. One of these towns, Goderich, boasts that it is the prettiest town in Canada!
We who live on Lake Huron like to believe that we have the most gorgeous sunsets in the world. And it’s not just us making theses claims as National Geographic once said that Grand Bend, Ontario has one of the Top Ten most beautiful sunsets in the world.
Never waste any amount of time doing anything important when there is a sunset outside that you should be sitting under.
C. JoyBell C.
Now that the personal benefits of real vacation time and the secrets of our beautiful geographic area are out, go ahead and take a vacation. Break out of your day-to-day routine! ‘Unplug’ - step away from your cell phone and your laptop. Europeans have proven for us that the world doesn’t end if you go on vacation, and that you are truly more productive afterward. Dive in and embrace this vacation attitude!
The Cottage Culture team dug in to what a staycation means to each of us. For me, the term “vacation” conjures up the warm sunny days of carefree youth stretching out in seemingly endless summers. While an idyllic holiday calls up memories of raucous lake days of splashing kids while watching peacefully from a chaise. And still another, casual patio lounging with summer cocktails and classic playlists. What we all agree on however, is that right now, what we all crave is a really comfortable lounge chair in the shade of an umbrella with or frankly, without a good book – permission to relax.
Great wellness thinkers of today suggest that slowing down, adopting a mindfulness attitude, appreciating what we have, like our health, our family and our friends, and developing a strong sense of gratitude can awaken and enhance that same child-like enjoyment of the world around us.
We can create an inspired place, an oasis, where our vision for our well-being can become our wellbeing reality and we can sink into relaxation and renewal. You don’t have to travel far to accomplish this wellbeing reality…
In fact, as staycations really embrace this idea of taking time for yourself, connecting with nature and enjoying home, it makes sense to create that space to be enjoyed whenever you can escape whether for a moment or a full vacation.
For some, simply creating a tranquil space where you can relax and breathe deeply, shifting out of the day-to-day busy-ness, To-Do lists and regular demands of your life and taking a break from the outside world is enough of a mini staycation to recharge.
Your staycation oasis is as individual and unique as you are! For some, this space is a private, sheltered location in their garden, or a spot by a pond or fountain, for others a quiet corner of their deck or patio isolated from main traffic areas, while for still others, a quiet seat overlooking a lake, field or city view.
And sometimes renewal is about lifting your spirit. It may not be tranquil or private. It might be about gathering together in a space that offers a welcoming and calming vibe. Girlfriends lounging on a patio while catching up after a busy spring or a young family lounging sleepily.
So, start planning your own peaceful sanctuary or perfect oasis now…
How do you actually go about creating this wonderful space? Wellness experts have a few points for creating your inspired spot for perfect relaxation. We’ve already mentioned your intention to create an inspired place, which is the starting point. So, focus on creating a space that looks and feels amazing.
What better way to enjoy that sense of peace and total relaxation than to stretch out on a chaise lounger or what is sometimes referred to as a “sunbed”? Although, with our health-conscious approach to sun safety now, we should perhaps rename them “shadebeds” and relocate them to cool shaded areas for refreshing relaxation.
Whether a private nook with space only for you, or a row of stylish loungers to share with friends, Cottage Culture offers a great selection of sun/shade beds with the clean aesthetic lines of Scandinavian design. All combining low maintenance textilene seats that allow rain to pass with a choice of sturdy sustainable teak frames or aluminum frames.
Imagine the Andy chaise, with both an adjustable footrest and backrest, high quality textilene, and softly curved solid teak arms, or the Elati sunbed, a reclining chaise with teak frame and high quality, soft charcoal grey colour textilene seat, without arms, so you can relax in unconstrained comfort.
Layer this with the Kotte stool, or ‘pouf’ that provides a comfortable foot rest and a portable extra seat. Constructed in Olefin fabric and all-weather foam, it provides functionality for any outdoor setting.
And take the lounger one step further with the flexible Gonesse that can easily flip from sectional to bohemian sunbed piled with textured throws and comfy pillows.
This is a small peak into the many options for creating your perfect oasis available at Cottage Culture. After giving thought to what your personal sanctuary will be, we would be happy to provide options to make this vision a reality. Enjoy your summer staycation!!