Hawt Chocolate

We made a deliciously rich and decadent hot chocolate recently that I decided must be a part of my #2020s20HolidayCrafts. I insist you make it immediately then sit back with a good book and one of those arm-knitted throw blankets and have yourself a merry MERRY weekend-before-Christmas.

This recipe is adapted from a Southern Living magazine hot chocolate recipe.

I mean… it starts with Half and Half and milk. So you know it’ll be good. It continues with a half a can of dulce de leche. Need I say more?

Shaved dark chocolate, heavy cream, girrrl. This is some extra livin’.

After pouring a mug full of heaven, add about a tablespoon of Tennessee Honey whiskey then top it off with some homemade whipped cream.

And why not add a chocolate rolled wafer cookie while you’re at it.

ENJOY some grown-up time and thank me later.

Tennessee Hot Chocolate

  • Servings: 5-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


4 cups half and half
1/2 canned or jarred dulce de leche
8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, extra for topping
Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1C cold heavy cream
chocolate rolled wafer cookies (like Pirouette)

Whisk together 4 cups half and half and 1/2 cup dulce de leche in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until heated through (about 10 minutes)

Remove from heat and whisk 8 ounces chopped dark chocolate, 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt until the mixture is smooth.

Next, beat 1 cup of cold heavy cream in a cold bowl with an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks form (about 1 minute)

Pour hot chocolate mixture into 4 serving cups. Add a tablespoon of whiskey. Top each with whipped cream, a drizzle of de leche and shaved chocolate. Serve with chocolate rolled wafer cookies.

.

Away. At The Manger

December 18, 2010

Mom had been incoherent for a long time. Alzheimer’s turned her into a completely different person for the last eight years of her life.

I sat next to her in the assisted living cafeteria. Dad was at the piano playing Christmas carols for the room filled with other residents, staff, and family. It was their annual Christmas dinner and celebration but it happened to also be my mother’s birthday. Dad was being Dad – entertaining the troops, so to speak. Scott found a box of rubber gloves, had blown them up, and was making obscene gestures with them under the table. Mom sat motionless through the whole event. I was awkwardly trying to bridge both worlds.

People yelled out requests as Dad played along. Grandmas getting run over by reindeer and Old Saint Nick tunes cheered up the space. But when he started playing Away in the Manger, Mom immediately sang along. She didn’t sing the melody, but rather the alto line. Her beautiful alto voice carried the tune as perfectly as she’d done all my life. Her brain knew the part. Her mouth knew the words. Her heart knew the meaning.

She died one month later.

When I hear this song now, I usually rearrange the punctuation. Mom is not here, she’s Away. At the manger. She’s the little southern lady in the alto section, strong, perfectly on tune, and filled with joy.

Meanwhile, jokes are still being told behind the scenes, the piano sing-a-longs are still at the ready, and Anna-Margaret and I are attempting to further the song to each generation that follows.

Happy birthday, Mom. Thank you for a deeply southern heritage filled with kindness, faith, and the perfect cookie tier combination.

Craft Fail.

Doggoneit! This wreath. This huge wreath with it’s beautiful ornaments…it was going to be a good project. I saved it for the middle. 22″ x 17″ of Christmas cheer.

However…

I bought a huge tube of ornaments. Then, for good measure, I also bought a smaller tube of ornament balls. But this thing requires six MILLION ornaments! ugh.

So IF you were making this, you simply lay your wreath down and start hot gluing your ornaments on, using the table as your ‘wall back’.

Hopefully this is a popular ornament color that they’ll bring back again next year. COVID and Crafting is difficult sometimes!

I guess I will pack it all away and finish it next year?? Had I known I would be short this much (guesstimating was never my strong suit – but I SERIOUSLY had a LOT of ornaments to work with), I might have worked in other things like pinecombs or yarn balls or something.

Nothing to sweat over now though. That baby is born and I’m going to have to bow to defeat. What a typical 2020 wreath, huh??!

Instead, I’ll show you our 2020 glass ornaments we’ve collected so far. I say ‘so far‘, but I think we’re probably done for the year. It will be fun to collect more and more every year until we have a dedicated Christmas tree just for them. As I mentioned before, these are like collecting charms for a charm bracelet. Each ornament has meaning and ‘spoke’ to us.

I ordered the masked Santa online to commemorate 2020. When I opened the package his weird blue eyes freaked me out a bit. Again…how appropriate, right?

EEEEEK.

Crafts are fun and challenging and you do everything you can to overcome the obstacles along the way. But sometimes, you lay the project aside and say, ‘I’m done. For now anyway. Maybe later.’ I’ll be first in the store when the Christmas decorations start coming out in 2021. Maybe I’ll get lucky and find similar colors.

Happy crafting!! (And know when to quit.) 🙂

Deeply thankful.

Since Scott works next week, we decided to have our Thanksgiving dinner together on Friday. When your family is sitting down to turkey next Thursday we will be in the oh-no-not-turkey-again stage of leftovers.

This was supposed to be a table set for five. Our children were going to be here all at one time and I could imagine the talking and laughing and plates being passed. But then Corona took over and cancelled all our plans. Flights that had been booked for months were re-adjusted to a later (unknown) time in 2021. This was so disappointing at first, but I find myself, today, deeply grateful for cancelled plans. From the time we decided to eliminate plans for Thanksgiving (and Christmas) until now, the COVID rates have skyrocketed. It would worry me far too much to think of my children getting on planes with other holiday travelers and either getting the virus themselves or bringing it to our home. We have all worked so hard for six months to avoid this horrible virus. A vaccine is on the horizon so why not hang on just a bit longer. We can do it. Our decision was one of love for each other and respect for the fight we have been putting up so far to keep COVID at bay.

So instead, it was just me and Scott. We started listening to Christmas music this week and began putting up our trees and holiday decorations. It is, by far, the earliest we have ever done this but this year, I think we are all wanting a change of pace. We need the joy and promise of Christmas.

6, 893 attempts at one little picture. In the end, we are just going to have to settle on the best we can get with a 9-month-old puppy. We didn’t even attempt to include our cat, Haddie, imagining the cat and dog chase down the center of the table.

Scott played all the cooking hits. Lots of carbs and calories, but oh-so-many memories. He worked on the meal (with Tilly’s help, sampling the food) while I worked on the house. Before long things were looking and smelling like the holidays.

We included a family favorite: Strawberry Pretzel Salad. Mom used to make this salad/dessert and we all looked forward to it every year. It is, actually, a big pain to make. Maybe that’s why it’s a once-a-year favorite. It includes my favorite food group: salty and sweet.

Instead of people pouring through our front door, it was a much smaller gathering than expected. But we had fun and enjoyed every minute of our Thanksgiving meal from prep, eating and much-deserved nap to follow.

I’m quite sure the gnomes are enjoying having a puppy in the house this year. There’s no telling what goes on when we go to bed each night. I am sure they are up to no good!

You hope your children have tender and gracious memories of their childhood holidays. But just recently my son brought up the insane reindeer we had (as I am sure many of you did as well) that would CONSTANTLY topple over. It had a bum leg so it teetered off balance at all times. Just looking at it for longer than a mere glance was usually enough to bring it to a pile of wood in the middle of the living room. The expletives he now includes in the reindeer’s descriptions do not bring forth merriment and fondness. -ha!

That rickety reindeer has long been gone but a few years ago I found this smaller version and snatched it up. The funny memories it brings to mind was worth it. This one, luckily, is much smaller and much more balanced!

Last year I was gifted this Willow Tree nativity scene. I had momentarily forgotten about it until I started unpacking the Christmas boxes this year and was pleasantly surprised all over again. I have never been more grateful for a humble baby and His saving grace. I marvel at the resolute dedication of a young teenage mother and a faithful fiance’. So many families have seen death and suffering this year – all around the world. Jesus walks before us. The path may not be easy or end as we desire, but His hand is there to offer comfort. He can lighten the load we bear, whether it be the heaviness of worry or the tragedy of loss. May we be as faithful as the holy trio as well as those who took up the faith and followed the Star.

NOEL. An exclamation of joy at Jesus’ birth. My personal prayer is to loosen the grip on the burden of fear this holiday and concentrate on the joy of a guiding Father. The joy of birth.

We wish you a beautiful Thanksgiving. I understand the disappointment and discouragement attached to plans being cancelled or minimized. It is a difficult year. But it is also a forced-opportunity to spend less time maximizing on the unimportant details and further appreciate the simple blessings of breath and connection and irreplaceable memories.

The deepest love and gratitude, from our house to yours –

g.

A CHRISTMAS MEMORY by Truman Capote

Illustrator Beth Peck elegantly illuminates the words of Truman Capote as he tells the story of the uniquely loving relationship between seven-year-old, Buddy, and his ‘sixty-something’-year-old distant cousin, living in the same house. ‘We are each other’s best friend.’⠀

They make cakes together every year as the weather turns cold and fly homemade kites when the weather begins to warm. They dance together around the house, laughing and enthralled in all that is happy in life, not like the other more burdened members of their family. She relies on his youth, he on her zest for life. “When you’re grown up, will we still be friends?” I say always.⠀

‘“Buddy, the wind is blowing” and nothing will do till we’ve run to a pasture below the house, plunging through the waist-high grass, we unreel our kites, feel the twitching at the string like a sky fish as they swim into the wind.’⠀

Satisfied and sun-warmed they lie in the grass, happy and filled with adventure. “You know what I’ve always thought?” she asks in a tone of discovery, and not smiling at me but a point beyond. “I’ve always thought a body would have to be sick and dying before they saw the Lord. And I imagined that when he came it would be like looking at the Baptist window: pretty as colored glass with the sun pouring through, such a shine you don’t know it’s getting dark. And it’s been a comfort: to think of that shine taking away all the spooky feeling. But I’ll wager it never happens. I’ll wager at the very end a body realizes the Lord has already shown Himself. That things as they are…” – her hand circles in a gesture that gathers clouds and kites and grass – “…just what they’ve always seen, was seeing him. As for me, I could leave the world, with today in my eyes.”