This winter, take the party outside! Bundle up. Build a crackling bonfire. Play winter games. Serve warm-you-up foods. And let the beauty of a snow-kissed landscape take center stage.
That's the philosophy of the Ice family, which gathers on the family's snow-coated Minnesota land on special occasions. "We dress warm, close in on the roaring fire and realize that we truly are hardier than we thought," says Audrey Ice, whose late father and his 12 siblings grew up on the 13 acres in Wayzata, a Minneapolis suburb.
Are you hardy enough for an outdoor winter party, too? Click ahead for Audrey's hearty menu, stay-warm strategies and clever decor.
A bonfire provides the focal point for a snow-day party. Blanket-topped hay bales surround the flames and provide easy seats. Recycled-sweater koozies protect fingers from cold drinks.
Like a multicourse dinner, foods come out one-by-one: zesty chicken chili cooked in an iron kettle over the fire (left), loaded slider-style hamburgers (next slide), creamy beer-cheese fondue with chunks of crusty bread and sweet apple slices (slide 5).
Why bother with ice? Freezing temps keep bottled beverages cold. For a festive display, serve drinks in a partitioned vintage box and metal pail, cushioned with soft snow.
Paper-wrapped cups hold pretzel sticks -- a quick midparty snack.
A guest decides which coat to snag from a shovel "coat hook." Shovels, anchored in 3-foot-high drifts, act as holders offering tartan wool coats and nubby blankets. Vintage bushel baskets store fleece scarves, mittens and hats for those who need extra layers.
Heavy-duty luminarias, made from snow-filled metal pails and candleholders, outline a path during the day -- and light it at dusk.
Vintage snowshoes, wooden skis, toboggans and sleds accent the party area as decor -- and double as activities.
Hanging lanterns crafted from mason jars and wire are lit as the sun sets.
Party guests stay toasty by the fire, which blazes until people leave around midnight.
No one minds when the sun sets and temperatures drop. In fact, it feels as if the party is just getting started. Hotdogs appear from the house to roast over the steady fire. Enamelware coffee cups are refilled with hot drinks. Chatter and laughter continue late into the night.
For Audrey, watching her family members enjoy themselves makes the party planning and preparation all worth it.