Friday, December 23, 2011

.gifts from the heart.

I love gifts. I love giving them, and I love receiving them. I love hunting them down around town, trying to find just the right sentiment for just the right person. I love making gifts specifically for a certain individual. I love wrapping them in reused gift wrap, or in shiny new gift bags. Gift giving is the sauce. So when people decry Christmas as an over-commercialized, materialistic, capitalist holiday, I feel slightly wounded.

Growing up, Christmas was never just about the gifts. Christmas was a magical, glowing heart in the middle of the dark, unyielding winter. There were cookies to bake, ornaments to make and hang, and seemingly unlimited Christmas specials to watch repeatedly. I know it's cliche to say so, but Christmas was a manifestation of magic for me. My mom had me convinced that Santa's elves were out and about, checking Mr. Claus' naughty'n'nice list one last time, and tinkling bells were evidence of the elves presence. Gifts were merely a cherry on top of my month-long magic sundae.

I never quite understand why those who deride the giving of gifts don't simply opt out, or change their own gift giving and getting habits. This year, I set a limit on the money I'd spend on gifts for each person, choosing tokens that were more of 'toppers' than anything else. Then, I baked three types of sweets and tucked them inside tins and placed each memento on top. Next year, I might not spend anything, or I might not bake anything. The point is that no one is twisting my arm to engage in gift giving. I choose to participate because I absolutely revel in the delight of the receivers, and in the winter months, we all need a bit of cheer.

A sour friend once snarled, "why only at Christmas? Why only once a year?". I view the holidays as such: I love cheesecake, and will usually pick it over any other dessert, but it's a special treat. If I ate it everyday, or even every week, it would cease to be satisfying. Instead of looking forward to a creamy treat, I would probably start gagging at the thought of one more serving. Christmas is a rich, delicious treat. I look forward all year to savoring every carol and light filled moment, just as I look forward to constructing the perfect Halloween costume, or planning the perfect vacation. Gift giving or receiving is only what you make of it.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

.first cocoa of winter.

There's nothing like a mug of hot cocoa on a cold, damp winter morning, in a not-so-well-insulated house. With the longest night of the year behind us, a long, chilly winter still lays ahead. I don't have time to wait for my house to heat up, or for spring to arrive, so I make large batches of "instant" cocoa and store it in a large tub. This recipe is quick and easy, and tastes better than any store bought variety. A cup of this sweet treat is sure to warm you to your toes faster than your furnace will!

Easy Instant Cocoa
5 cups powdered milk
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa
1/4 tsp salt

- Mix 4 tbsps mix with boiling water in a mug, stir, and revel in the deliciousness!

Sometimes I add cinnamon to the mix, or tiny marshmallows. Or, if you like a more fiery brew, like my friend Chris, try adding some dried chilies!

Monday, December 12, 2011

.The Holidays.

Full disclosure: I fucking love Christmas. Hence, this entire post will be dedicated to that most sparkly, rum soaked, turkey stuffed of holidays.

There are many reasons why I love Christmas. The most simple reason being that the time of year evokes warm and fuzzy childhood memories of a simpler time in my life, when the most pressing issues on my mind were whether or not Santa knew about that vase I broke

(but successfully hid), and if I should change out of my snow-suit into dryer apparel.
In recent years (oh, say, the last 10 or so), Christmas has taken on a much more "adult" appeal: mulled wine and spiced rum (more on the rum later...), baking your own choice of Christmas cookies, booze-soaked crafting session, and decorating your tree however you want. There's something magical, even as an adult, about running around and preparing for gatherings, however small or informal. I still peek out the window every morning hoping to see a snow-covered west-coast lawn.

My current, favourite holiday treat is decidedly hot-buttered rum. I've posted and professed my love for mulled wine, and the warm, grapey beverage still has a spot in my heart. However, with one of the coldest winters on record bearing down on us, I needed something with a little more "stank". The best thing about my current recipe, is that it can be made in advance and refrigerated, either in a mason jar, or, rolled into a log.

Bunny's Hot Buttered Rum
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 2 cups demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch ground clove
  • pinch salt
  • Sailor Jerry's Rum
  • boiling water

Mix butter, sugar and spices together. I use my hands to get the job done. Pack mixture into sterilized mason jar, or roll into a log and wrap in wax paper and refrigerate.

Add about 2 tablespoons of the mixture and add 1 - 1 1/2 ounce rum to a mug, and top with boiling water.