Monday, December 5, 2011

it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

It's December! The time of the year which always makes me nostalgic and long for home and the comforting memories of leisurely days with family, spent sitting around a large dinner table, sharing and enjoying a meal, exchanging stories. There was always an abundance of food and an abundance of laughter - especially with my brother who could imitate and impersonate just about anyone... plus a great-aunt who was also wacky, unconventional, and just delightful. Between the two of them, we would be practically falling off our seat laughing, our bellies aching not just from food but from the uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Every year I debate with myself whether to decorate my home for Christmas or not. Although I know that Christmas isn't about the lights and the ornaments, there's a comfort in going through traditions. Ever since I left home and lived on my own, I always decided not to decorate - as I tend to go out of town and visit family that time of year. But this year though, I decided to put together a few simple things.

A DIY wreath - which cost all of $4!!! Made from materials from the dollar store - $1 for the plain wreath and $1 per pair for 3 pairs of gold accent pieces.

A pillar candle for $1 per pair, on a red saucer. Surrounded by sparkly snowflake ornaments from C&B

Pinecones in a clear glass bowl... always nice to have some natural elements. It's not clear from the photo, but I love this asymmetrical glass bowl. Its free-form shape adds an organic touch.

I love the texture natural materials add to a space.

And last, but not the least...

Spanish-style hot chocolate

Spanish-style hot of my most favorite childhood memories of Christmas. My family and I grew up drinking this chocolate, which my mom made frequently during the holidays, but also throughout the year -- to celebrate a birthday, to welcome friends our houseguests, or to enjoy with Spanish-Filipino style pastries for an afternoon snack. Each time my mom made it, it was always in a big pot for the whole family as well as friends dropping by - expected or not. The smell of chocolate would waft through the whole house, inviting everyone to gather around the table for a leisurely cup of chocolate. Now I've brought the tradition over here and shared it with friends as well.

This chocolate is not for the faint of heart -- it is made with pure unsweetened cocoa.

Here's what you'll need:
A small saucepan, preferably with a thick/heavy bottom, and ideally with a pouring spout.
A heatproof rubber spatula (or anything you can use for stirring)

This recipe makes hot chocolate for 2:
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (the one we always used back home comes in round tablets, about an ounce each)
¼ cup water
3 teaspoons sugar (turbinado or raw sugar is good, but regular sugar is fine as well)
A tiny pinch of sea salt
A tiny pinch of instant coffee or instant espresso
3 tablespoons milk, or to taste

Start by melting the chocolate tablets with water over medium-low heat. Be sure to stir so that it melts evenly – the rubber spatula helps with scraping any chocolate on the bottom of the saucepan so it doesn’t burn.

Once the chocolate is melted, add sugar. Start with 3 teaspoons of sugar to make a bittersweet chocolate drink (my personal preference), or add more to make a sweeter drink. Add sea salt – it sounds unusual, but a little salt brings out all the flavors. Then add the coffee, because a little coffee makes chocolate taste even better.

Add 3 tablespoons of milk, or half-and-half if you want a richer flavor. This makes a dark hot chocolate, but you can always add more milk to lighten it up.

Pour into espresso or demitasse cups. Enjoy by itself, or with churros, biscotti, or shortbread cookies.

thick, bittersweet hot chocolate in demitasse cups

I've also been reading about this "twelve dates of Christmas" in the blogosphere. Might be something for A and I to consider. Unhurried, quality time together to focus on what's important amidst the often frenzied holiday state.

Hope you're doing something special with your loved ones this season!

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DebraLynn said...

Mia!! I am so glad to be reacquainted with your blog. I tried to find it a few months ago and I couldn't seem to locate it. This is yet more of you, and I am grateful to have it. I love your writing and your photos and your heart!!! A GIFT. You are a gift.

DebraLynn said...

Mia! I am so glad to have your blog again! I had lost it for a while and I couldn't find it when I went searching. Your words, your style, your photos, your heart -- all speak to me. A GIFT. You are a gift. Thank you.

Mia said...

Debra-Lynn: oh my goodness, thank YOU! Love to you. :)

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