I begin looking forward to spring before the cold has even begun. I note the milestones of the winter solstice, then January 7 when the mornings begin to come earlier (see 1/14/2011 posting), and finally, the beginning of March when the long slog of winter is definitely past. We can still get dumped on by major snowfalls, but the end is in sight.
A more subjective observation is the blooming of witch hazel at Longwood Gardens. These are the earliest bloomers, usually in full bloom by the middle of March, well before anything else.
Last year was usually warm, and a few blossoms were open by January 8. Still, I did not expect anything last week when I saw them, but the buds were there with their tiny blossoms already beginning to peek out. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)