Cocoa on a Rainy Day

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  It is scheduled to rain for the next five days where I am. I started thinking about what blanket I wanted to snuggle under, what book I wanted to read, and what I wanted to sip. When I went in search of a recipe for hot cocoa and what I found was even better. Check out all of these ways to enjoy cocoa–by thinking outside the mug.

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The Norwegian Secret to Winter Bliss

Winter NightThe people of Norway have a word to describe the cozy winter nights leading up to Christmas. I think we should all practice this:

“Norwegians also have a word, koselig, that means a sense of coziness. It’s like the best parts of Christmas, without all the stress. People light candles, light fires, drink warm beverages, and sit under fuzzy blankets. There’s a community aspect to it too; it’s not just an excuse to sit on the couch watching Netflix. (They have)…plenty of festivals and community activities creating the sense that everyone was in it together.”

I am going to light a fire. I hope you are too.

A Tiny Gentleman, or Its Time to Slow it Down

I have been having a hard time throwing on the breaks of my life. I have been thinking Unhurried Christmas thoughts, but I didn’t think it was fair to share them if I wasn’t walking the walk. In the last two weeks, I have been out of the house before the sun and back well after it has set. I confess to eating more granola bars than meals lately and I haven’t done a thing to my house other than putting up a fall wreath on the door. I had meeting requests starting at 7:30 am and going to 9:00 pm. Not exactly the warm, holiday feeling schedule I aim for.
That changed yesterday.
I am working on an assignment on a military base for a few weeks, and I was working faster than my internet could handle. I escaped to a Starbucks on base for high speed Wi-Fi and a really large cup of coffee (see: the hours I have been keeping, above). Amid the rapid-fire clicks of my keyboard I overheard an encounter between a pair of teeny tiny siblings, a boy and a girl, leaving the coffee shop with their mom. The little girl was about two and a small stature for even that. She was wearing a skirt and ruffled top and the smallest pair of maryjane pumps ever created for human wear. She strode around making the shoes make that “bossy girl walking down the hall” noise that, let’s face it, is pretty damn satisfying. As they got to the door, her brother, who was four years old (tops) says, “After you, ma’am.” The little girl was also holding the door behind him while admiring her shoes. She was strong and cute and relishing in the knowledge! He was a gentleman and proud to be one.
In that moment, they were paralyzed with politeness. She wanted to do it herself—because she could. He couldn’t not do this very important thing he was taught to do. She looked up at her mom and said, “But *I* can do it.” And he looked up at his mom and said, “I am holding the door for the ladies.” How she didn’t laugh is beyond me, but I am glad she didn’t. The earnestness in the situation was palpable.
Finally the mom had to step in and take the door for both of them and when she did, they both scampered off in the direction of their car.
I thought about that for the rest of the day. What I came up with, after my heart recovered from melting, was that the mom of those two little ones is awesome. They were both had the best intentions; being kind and strong— and I am sure that is something she taught them. So when it came down to using what they were learning they got stuck. She didn’t shout or hurry them along. She let them have the moment and it was beautiful.
Time to slow down. Time to savor the moments. Time for an Unhurried Christmas (and possibly a pair of pink maryjane pumps).

Savoring the Christmas Season (With Rum Balls)

The Rum Ball 2013

This is the last rum ball. The last sugary bite of Christmas 2013.

We got a heavy little box of these for Christmas last year from T’s parents, who make them together as part of their Christmas tradition (you can read all about it here). We are some of the lucky people that reap the rewards of the tradition.

When the box arrived in the mail, I asked T if he got a brick of gold for Christmas. He might as well have based on the blissful smile on his face when he opened the lid to reveal perfectly packed, row upon row of rum balls. The whoosh of that sweet, cocoa-y smell filled our kitchen that day and again for months each time we dipped into the stash for dessert or late night snack. They often made us reminisce and tell stories and make plans for Christmas, even in the middle of summer.

Now here we are. Talk about taking time to savor the season. We made these precious treats last almost all year long.  Now we get to anxiously wait for the next batch to arrive.

Happy beginning of the season of expectancy, of waiting, and of warm, festive Christmas time.

Now, get to the kitchen and make some of  those famous christmas memory evoking rum balls. Thanks T-ma for sharing your recipe!

Magic Christmas Rum Balls

Dry Ingredients:

  • 1  Cup vanilla wafers crushed fine
  • 1  Cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1  Cup powdered sugar
  • 2  Tablespoons Cocoa

Wet Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons of light corn syrup
  • 1/4 Cup Rum
Instructions:
  1. In large  bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.
  2. Then add all of the wet ingredients
  3. Stir to combine.
  4. Refrigerate 20 to 30 min., until able to roll dough into balls in your palms.
  5. Roll each ball in sugar
  6. Pack up and mail to the people you love (after stashing a whole bunch in your own freezer).
Expert note: Sometimes we added more syrup and rum according to consistency.  A very little at a time while stirring.  Stir well.

 

Ending the Flurry of Hurry!

 

This is how I feel right now (wait–AFTER the ad).

For the last few weeks, ever since I started to think cozy thoughts about an Unhurried Christmas, something strange happened–every single thing sped up. It was like a flurry of hurry. IT was not cozy. Until today.

Today I finished a project, took an important test (and passed it–hooray!) and as the pressure and responsibilities lifted, I started to SING!

And now I feel like the clip says, I am out of the woods, I am out of the dark, I am out of the night. I am ready to step into the (Christmas) light!

 

This weekend I will share a special recipe, preparation for a Christmas tradition and of course, some quiet moments reflecting on the season and all that it means to slow down and enjoy it!

Join me for the sleigh ride! Sing along!

Hello Falling Leaves and Cozy Nights: Putting Summer Away

Hello Falling Leaves and Cozy Nights: Putting Summer Away

Maple Leaf

 We spent Sunday putting summer away. This wasn’t the plan, it just sort of happened. I headed out to the front of the house to trim the bushes so the trick-or-treaters had a nice clean path. T came out and helped me clean up the branches and sweep the sidewalk. We weeded and sadly pulled up flowers that weren’t going to make it through the impending frost. When we were done there we moved to the back. This is part of preparing for an Unhurried Christmas.

The back of the house is another story altogether. Our house backs onto a narrow swath of forest with a little stream. Idyllic, huh? It is, until fall rolls around and we are under an all-out assault from the oak trees. When the wind blows it sounds we are being pelted by hundreds golf balls. It sounds like those angry trees from the Wizard of Oz have taken root in our backyard. T has been known to flinch and shout: “INCOMING!” from the living room. Surveying the impact on the deck, we found this everywhere we looked:

copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

Acorns Hiding Everywhere

We used our mighty new leaf blower to send the leaves back to the forest as I cut back plants and emptied pots. This tomato plant (Juliet Roma) has had no concept of size or season the whole time she has been growing. We haven’t been able to reach the top of it since July. It is easily 9 feet tall. There are still THIRTY-TWO tomatoes on the vines. Far be it from me to get in the way of her overachievement; I gave it a big drink of water and left it right where it was.

Copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

October Tomatoes!

Copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

Post Summer Harvest

Copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

Racing to Beat the Frost

                And just before we swept the acorns, I saw this:

copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

A Handful of Future Trees

Those little nuts were trying their hardest to become trees. T looked at me like I was the little nut when I said I couldn’t kill the little trees. You have to honor something that is trying that hard to fulfill their purpose. They had already survived squirrels and chipmunks and a harrowing journey from the tree tops to the ground. I couldn’t just uproot them.

So I planted 36 of them in this pot. That is all of the acorns already rooting in my other plants and between the slats of the deck. My plan is to plant any of them that become saplings in the spring. Now I am kind of rooting for them to grow.

Copyright Unhurried Christmas 2014

A Pot Full of Trees

In the end, the deck was clean, the planters were set to rest, our birdfeeder was full, the woodpile was covered and you know what?  We are ready.

We are ready to settle in, slow down and enjoy another Unhurried Christmas.

I really hope you will join us!

 


PS: After all of the yardwork, here is what I made for dinner to welcome fall:

Roasted Delicata Squash

(Did YOU know that there is a squash that doesn’t need to be peeled? Me either!)

You can flip the squash midway through, but I didn’t. We couldn’t get enough!

Happy Fall!!

Hunting and Gathering Through the First Week of the Year!


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I just finished a really good book. I was drawn in by the worn pastels on the cover when I found it at a used book sale last summer. It sat next to my bed for months before I started it–but once I did I didn’t want to put it down. I dragged it with me through all of our Christmas travel. I fell asleep reading it. It is one of those books that leaves you wondering how the characters are doing long after the book is done. In short, it was a great way to kick off reading in 2014.

Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda is my first book of the new year. Its the story of three unlikely roommates who find one another and shape a life in a gigantic apartment in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. One of the room mates, Camille is an artist sort of in recovery. This is the story of her finding her way and a family being formed. The story is smart and involved. This is not a very light read but it is a great way to get lost on a cold afternoon. The story is infused with good humor, tidbits of art and world history, and food. I couldn’t get enough. It made me think of these moments in Paris with my best friend. We took the Eurostar from London and we spent less than 24 hours there, but we packed a lot in (the joyful challenge of travel on a budget)!

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One of the characters in Hunting and Gathering works as a security guard in an art museum. She didn’t do it because she wanted to be a guard, she did it so she could see the art and sketch at work. That made me think of my trip to the Orsay Museum. That day there was a group of school children taking a tour. The little French kids were adorable, but they weren’t what stood out. The tour guide was. She was in all black to her knees. Adults could have just seen that in the crowd, but the kids who spent time sitting cross-legged on the floor, saw her crazy, swirly, artistic tights. She got their attention. That is knowing your audience–and loving your job!

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The next thing this book made me think of is the Eiffel Tower–but of course! When Lola and I were in Paris years ago, we took a walk late at night (sleep is for leisure travelers). And as if we summoned it from all of the chick flick movies we had ever seen, there it was shining blue in the distance. We were giddy (I am sure the French loved that). We pulled out the berets my mom sent us for the trip and we proceeded to take a hundred pictures like these from every corner of the street we were on. Each photo has the Eiffel tower sticking out of the top or the side or some part of one of our heads. I am laughing now as I write about it. The characters in Hunting and Gathering are mostly Parisian and even they know they talk about the tower with a kind of reverence. Long walks are almost a character in the story. Reading with Paris in the background of the story made this even richer. I was disappointed that the book came to an end, but I soon learned that Gavalda is a contemporary French author–and she is still writing. All of her books in French and in English are available on Amazon, and here is the even better news–I found a PDF version. Click here if you want to read it too!

Now. What should I read next?