Sunday, January 21, 2007

The First Snow and Steaming Cocoa

Last Christmas morning, my darling little ones gasped when they first caught a glimpse of the pile of loot. Sleds! Because they're so huge--and so Christmassey in and of themselves--we didn't bother to wrap them. I just leaned them picturesquely against the tree and let them take center stage, giving the first impression on the most magical morning of the year.

You know what happens when I give my kids sleds for Christmas?

It doesn't snow.

And so it was, the winter of 2005/2006 held no snow for my sweeties to try out their treasures. Every week, I would say, "It's still winter. There's still time. It'll snow. Just wait and see!"

They waited through January, and February, and March, and even April.

But they never did see.

This year, we feared the same fate would befall the sleds as did last year. Would they be destined to hang around in the barn loft, amidst the old farm sink and schoolhouse lights, both of which are waiting for our next building project? It seemed to be so. We passed through November, December and the better part of January with little more than a few fickle flurries, but nary an accumulation. The little noodles had all but lost hope.

And then, this morning as we sat through our church service, the Creator was crafting a world of white. After I'd done my morning gabbing post-service, I stepped toward the front door to find Sweetheart, my seven-year-old, lying flat out in the yard of the church, her arms sweeping wildly, here hair soaked with snow, flakes drifting onto her rosy little cheeks. She was absolutely delighted.

My eldest son brought a friend home from church, and the neighbor boy made his way over the hill. Soon, they were all digging through the piles of gloves, then dragging the long-neglected snow equipment out of the barn. There were snowbikes and snowboards and sleds, oh my, and the bundled boys made short work of turning these Amish hillsides into their own personal snow resort. Even The Baby, age three, bundled up in her brand-new (read: thrifted) hat, gloves and buttonhole scarf, and her hand-me-down snow coat--the same one that had fit her older sister four years ago, and her older brother four years before that. I took in every moment as I watched through the window, the sill decorated with a fluffy dusting of snow that looked so much like the soft pile of Pecorino Romano my eldest daughter Bard had freshly grated for today's lunch.

While I began preparing a Sunday afternoon pasta feast (more on that later), I called Bard into the kitchen to whip up a pot of scratch-made hot chocolate. She was almost caught in the act by her siblings twice, who came in to change their soaking-wet gloves or take a potty break. But she made a quick recovery.

"Are you making hot chocolate?" Asked the inquiring sibling.
"No," answered the misleading older sister.
"What is it?" The sibling persisted.
"Melon soup," she lied.

Disappointedly, they trudged back out into the crisp air.

Hot chocolate is so much better if it's a surprise.

Normally, we top off our cocoa with a dallop of homemade whipped cream, but the heavy cream was reserved for today's pasta meal, so the cocoa had to go naked. For you, however, I'll provide the recipe. You'll have to make it yourself, though.

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Simple Hot Chocolate

1/2 cup sugar or honey (more or less to taste)
1/4 cup cocoa powder
dash salt
1/3 cup water

Mix all of this together in a saucepan, bring it to a boil, then stir and boil for two minutes.

Add:

4 cups milk (I use raw, whole milk, of course :-) )
3/4 teapoon vanilla, or, if you want minty-flavored cocoa, some mint oil

Heat it, but don't boil it. Ladle into mugs and dallop with whipped cream. Serves two big mugs or four small mugs. Double it for best results.

You can make the sauce part ahead of time, put it in a jar and keep it for when-you-need-it use. Just pour a bit of your syrup into a saucepot and add milk to your likeness, heat it up and serve.

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Once inside, the children and their visitors were pleased to find not cold melon soup, but steaming mugs of rich, real hot cocoa. The didn't even mind that it was naked.

Ah, yes. Sustenance for more outdoor adventures in the long-awaited snow.

2 comments:

Hind's said...

So... what is your next building project that includes an old farmhouse sink and schoolhouse lights?

Thicket Dweller said...

Well, we'd either like to use it when and if we remodel our cabin, or we'll use them when we retire and build our little cape cod in the woods. Then again, anything can happen. :-)