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!
At the end of each year, it is tradition for interior designers, paint experts, and fashion gurus to release their predictions for the hottest colours of the upcoming year. “Colours of the Year” are based on societal and design trends the experts see, and every industry pays attention to them. Amazingly, these annual predictions can influence everything from paint colours to couch cushions to kitchen appliances.
Are you ready to see the 2023 “Colour of the Year” predictions? Read on below to see the trendiest colours and learn more about incorporating them into your outdoor living space.
While 2022 focused on bringing more green into interior and exterior spaces, the 2023 “Colours of the Year” are all about self-expression and prioritizing health and well-being in the home.
Nods to nature and earthy tones are popular and utilized to create spaces that feel protected, calm, and cozy. Elegant whites and grey-beiges are also trending, creating opportunities for fresh starts.
Here are all the predictions we have seen so far:
While not highlighted in this article, Valspar has also unveiled its picks for "Colours of the Year" with 12 stunning hues that echo the trends noted by other experts. Cozy White, Gentle Violet, Rising Tide, and Villa Grey are just some of the colours on their esteemed list.
Below, we dive into some of the different colours of the year and offer tips on how to incorporate them into your outdoor living space.
Terra Rosa by Dunn-Edwards is a bold, romantic, nostalgic, and approachable hue perfect for a neutral background or as an accent colour. It’s rosy-pink tones with a slight nod to terracotta provide a sophisticated, yet pretty look for any space.
This "Colour of the Year" pairs well with white accents, tan linens, slate greys, and blush pinks. Add pops of black, green, sky blue, or yellow to complement Terra Rosa and make the space your own.
Complement Terra Rosa colours on your deck or patio with a Pamir Pendant Lampshade in beige or natural. Toss a Solid Crinkle Throw in Fawn Pale Beige/Medium Beige over your outdoor sofa or add a pop of yellow in your outdoor kitchen with a Dandelion Linen Hand Towel.
Redend Point by Sherwin-Williams is a beautiful blush-beige with pink undertones that is a perfect example of a mid-tone neutral. It offers warm energy with earthy colours, creating a sense of serenity while bringing a touch of desert-esque nature to a space.
This modern and energizing neutral can stand on its own or pair well with other neutrals like beige. Similar to Terra Rosa, Redend Point looks great with white. It is enhanced by natural accents like rattan, terra cotta, and grassy greens.
Pair Redend Point with unique décor items like the Dutchess Indoor/Outdoor Pillow in your outdoor space. Opt for rattan patio furniture like the Kamomill Armchair or accessorize with the Haya Set of 3 Outdoor Planter Baskets with a rattan finish. A Hassel 2.5 Seater Sofa would also look stunning with a Redend Point-coloured pillow or throw.
The terra cotta-inspired and pinky trend continues with Better Homes and Gardens pick - Canyon Ridge. However, while Terra Rose and Redend Point lend themselves to a more romantic, traditional, or moody look (depending on how you choose to style it), Canyon Ridge creates opportunities to have some fun.
A vibrant cobalt pairs well with Canyon Ridge, as do greens, reds, and whites. Because this "Colour of the Year" works well with almost any hue, you can express your creativity and bring your own style to the mix. For modern spaces, take the risk with cobalt accents. Opt for denims for rustic spaces, or stick with a timeless navy if a traditional look is what you are going for.
Blank Canvas by Behr is appropriately named due to its ability to complement any design you can envision. This "Colour of the Year" offers a clean, fresh, rejuvenating, and inviting
hue that provides more visual interest (and less starkness) than pure white. Use it on its own or as a grounding starting point for visually appealing layers.
Blank Canvas offers limitless possibilities for both indoor and outdoor living spaces. It invites us to embrace a fresh start and aligns with the trend of creating a sense of calm and rejuvenation. Yet, at the same time, it challenges us to demonstrate our individuality.
Bring Blank Canvas aesthetics into your patio furniture with outdoor sectionals like the Lyra 2.5 Seater or Armchair. The Vevi Coffee Table in white is another way to incorporate the vibes of Behr’s Colour of the Year.
Complement Blank Canvas-esque outdoor furniture by boldly experimenting with different colours, textures, patterns, and materials. Try a rug like the Bold Strike Shag Mat, add some interest to your table with the Kimono Rectangle Placemat, or incorporate pops of colour with the Patek Turkish Towel
Glidden’s Vining Ivy brings nods of nature into your space with its blend of blues and greens. While it looks like a bold choice at first, this energizing “Colour of Year” is extremely versatile and can work in both classic and contemporary styles.
Use Vining Ivy to create a welcoming, cozy, and tranquil environment that feels homey for you and your guests. In your outdoor living space, utilize Vining Ivy as an accent in your patio cushions, pillows, throws, rugs, and towels.
Pair Vining Ivy with wood finishes, rich textures, and stone accents. For a concrete tabletop look, try the Virgo Coffee Table. Opt for the Eios Teak Dining Table or the Circus Dining Table with Lazy Susan to incorporate natural wood.
Last but certainly not least is Rustic Greige by Dutch Boy. As its name suggests, this "Colour of the Year" is a mix of grey and beige. It has subtle red undertones, which make it a great match for the other earth-tone paint and décor items that are on-trend.
Like other colours on the list above, Rustic Greige is grounding, cozy, comforting, and calming. Its warm, neutral tones can be used as a backdrop to soften bolder colours, but it can also stand on its own as the focal point.
To complement Rustic Greige in your outdoor living space, incorporate the Blixt Lounge Chair in Pink. Alternatively, make greys a focal point with an outdoor sectional from the Ambon collection. The Ayla Turkish Towel in Red is also a creative way to stay on trend, add visual interest, and pull out the red undertones of Rustic Greige.
Whether you are attracted to the bold and romantic hues of Terra Rose, the warm energy of Redend Point, or the opportunity to be adventurous with Canyon Ridge, you
are sure to find outdoor furniture and decor items that bring in one (or more) of these "Colours of the Year." Pair the desert and terracotta-inspired hues with earthy colours like tan, white, blue, green, and yellow. Also, plan to have some fun experimenting with different textures, patterns, materials, and finishes.
For nods of nature and a bold yet versatile colour (that may initially seem beyond your comfort zone), opt for Vining Ivy's blue-green blend. Make it the star of your space, or incorporate it more subtly with outdoor décor and accessories. Pair it with wood and stone accents to keep your outdoor space on-trend.
If Terra Rose, Redend Point, Canyon Ridge, and Vining Ivy seem too adventurous for now, colours like Blank Canvas and Rustic Greige may be just what you are looking for to rejuvenate your space. Both hues are cozy, inviting, and versatile. Utilize them as a base for layering or let them shine as the focal point. Dare to pull in the other "Colours of the Year" with outdoor pillows, throws, towels, and rugs.
No matter which colours you choose to spruce up your backyard, deck, or patio next year, we know you will have a great time experimenting with colour and expressing your personal style.
What did you think of the 2023 "Colours of the Year?" Did any of the hottest colours for summer 2023 catch your eye? Are you already getting excited about how to incorporate some of them into your backyard, patio, or deck? If so, you will love what Cottage Culture has in stock!
Browse our online patio furniture collection or visit our showroom in Hensall, Ontario to start making your vision come to life. Though you are likely packing up your outdoor living space and preparing to hunker down indoors for the winter, it is never too late to start planning for your perfect patio next season!
It’s hard to believe that it’s already 12 years ago now, this month, that I was travelling with a group of friends through Peru, first visiting the Amazon, then Cuzco, the Sacred Valley and the UNESCO World Heritage Site dating from the 15th century, Machu Picchu. It was on the journey from Cuzco to the Sacred Valley that I first met live alpacas, and the first of numerous artisans creating clothing from the soft fibres of these woolly animals. Of course, I had to bring home an alpaca sweater, which I continue to enjoy today!
After visiting this special part of the world, it is easy to see what inspired Jessie Lyon and Case Bakker (the co-founders of Pokoloko) to share the wares and support the local artisans of the area with the rest of the world.
With a shared value of fair-trade principles and eco conscious ideals Jessie and Case started Pokoloko. A brand that curates unique high-quality artisanal goods from around the world. Pokoloko has grown to over 1000 boutiques across North America and supports over 100 artisan families in South America, Turkey, Morocco, and Indonesia.
Cottage Culture shares the principles and ideals that are Pokoloko, and we are proud to carry the unique heirloom-quality items created by these gifted artisans from around the world. We love the quote
“You can’t empower women in one country while exploiting women in another.”
The alpaca is a species of South American camelid mammal, domesticated and kept in herds that graze on the high levels of the Andes in Southern Peru at altitudes of 11,000 to 16,000 feet above sea level(!), where they are sustainably bred and raised for their fibre. That’s right it, it’s called alpaca fibre, not alpaca wool. Alpaca fleece is the natural fibre harvested from the alpaca. This is harvested once a year by shearing the alpaca, usually in the springtime depending on location. The shearing of the alpaca in no way harms the animal, in fact alpacas need to be sheared once a year to protect the animal’s health. The alpaca can not shed like a horse, cat or dog making them unable to manage the summer heat. This alpaca fibre is used for making knitted and woven items similar to sheep’s wool.
And did you know? Alpaca is one of Earth’s most sustainable fibres! Alpacas have soft, padded feet - not hooves – which minimize soil erosion in their environment. They consume less water and food than their camelid relations, and nibble on top of pasture grass without uprooting it.
Fun Facts about Alpaca fibre:
Alpaca fibre is not itchy like regular wool.
Alpaca is as silky and soft as cashmere.
Alpaca fibre is almost five times warmer than any other kind of wool.
Even when the Alpaca fibre is wet it will retain heat.
Alpaca fibre is flame resistant.
Ancient South Americans called Alpaca fibre “the fibre of the Gods” and it was reserved for royal use only.
Alpaca carries no lanolin which makes it hypoallergenic.
When we asked our staff to choose their favourite alpaca product it quickly came to light that we truly have too many favourite alpaca products to choose just one! The sweaters are all so soft and luxurious and the blankets and throws so cozy and comforting! After much consideration here are a few of our staff favourites;
The softness of this sweater must be felt to be believed! Wear it as a fashionable cardigan or as a Fall or Spring transitional coat. Whichever way you to choose to wear it the Mia sweater gives you a comfy confidence as you go about your day.
The Aztec pattern of this beautiful duster length sweater truly makes a statement. The heirloom quality and timeless design of this sweater make it a sweater that will be loved by generations. Made with the supremely soft fleece of the baby alpaca the cozy factor of the Long Jacquard sweater is elevated even more! The problem with this sweater is you want to wear it everywhere!
The perfect throw to snuggle up with! The classic design of this throw is both complementary and full of character making it perfect accent in Scandinavian design as well as a great choice for gift giving. Made with 100% Turkish Cotton and 100% high-quality fleece this is the go-to throw that causes family feuds!
As I stated earlier, these are just a few of our favourites and there are many others to choose from. The great thing is, you don’t have to travel to remote areas to enjoy any of these products visit cottage-culture.ca or stop in our showroom to see and feel these items for yourself. Cottage Culture offers these little alpaca luxuries, as well as other Turkish cotton product lines.
Turkish cotton is a premium quality fibre that’s made to last. An extra-long staple fibre (ESL), Turkish cotton is very easily harvested using sustainable practices. Much like Egyptian cotton the long fibres yield stronger and smoother threads than regular cotton.
Fun facts about Turkish Cotton:
The fibres of Turkish Cotton dry best when not exposed to high heat – so we recommend to hang dry your Turkish Cotton towels and hand towels.
Turkish Cotton dries quickly! Instead of absorbing moisture like Terry cloth, Turkish Cotton wicks away moisture.
Turkish cotton gets softer with time.
As Turkish Cotton is very thin, the robes and towels are exceptionally lightweight making them great for travel!
Our favourite picks for Turkish Towels are the Hasir-Prussian towel and the Atlas Turkish Towel. The versatility of these towels makes them a great investment and also an excellent choice for a gift! Suitable for the home as a bath towel, a fashionable wrap or sarong as well as being the perfect beach blanket. You feel the quality of these towels at first touch! The eye-catching gematrical design of the Atlas or the soothing striped pattern of the Hasir allow them to compliment any home.
The Scandinavian concept of “Hygge” is a cozy feeling in your soul, a chair or group of chairs pulled up to a glowing fire in a fireplace or firepit, a softly flickering candle on a table set for dinner for two, wrapping yourself in a warm cozy sweater or just a general feeling of contentment in a simple setting. Hygge can be all of these and more as described in our blog Hygge – The Scandinavian Lifestyle of cozy. It means comfort, joy and well being.
This warm comfort can be achieved with the many Pokoloko products that Cottage Culture is pleased to be carrying in our store located in Hensall, both numerous cozy alpaca creations, plus Turkish cotton textile products. And if you are selecting any one of these treasures as a gift, there is joy in both the giving and receiving.
Want to wrap yourself in soothing comfort? Try out any of the fleece-lined throws. Perfect to keep the evening chill at bay or to cozy up in with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. These throws make a great design choice if you are looking for that “something” to give your space a cozier feel, just drape it over the corner of your sofa or chair and it instantly warms up the space. Instant Hygge!
Another way to experience the feeling of coziness and warmth is to wear an alpaca-fibre toque, head band, scarf or mittens. Depending on the day, maybe wear all of them! These items are perfect for the wet snow days that we experience here in Southwestern Ontario as the alpaca fibres retain heat even when wet!
The relationship focused nature of the Pokoloko company and conscious nature of which they choose to run their company are only a couple of the reasons we are proud to carry the Pokoloko brand in our showroom. By supporting artisans from around the world we can help others help themselves and empower them.For a more in-depth read into the individual artisans from around the world that Pokoloko supports I encourage you to read some of their blogs at pokoloko.com.