Gift Ideas

The Evolution of Domesticity

I'm not a crafty person. And for a really long time, I shied away from any preconceived notions I had about my "roles" in life. Between school, work, work, work, and more school, Scott and I had a fairly established routine of frozen pizza and Barilla pasta sauce. It served us well. And in a lot of ways, in our early married life, I still felt like my mom was the one who cooked the turkey and sewed the buttons on, and I was still the kid. And then I changed. First, after 9 years of marriage we bought a house. And then we got a dog. And then we got Lucy. And somewhere in the midst of all this, my latent nesting instincts kicked in. Scott and I started cooking more (I took a bread class, Scott gave me a Mandoline), we bought trees, and remembered to water them, we remodeled, and painted, and cleaned the inside of the microwave (but not the oven.) I had an epiphany when I decided to make Salt Playdough for Lucy. As I was rolling it out, I remembered the warm dough that my mom would make for me. And here I was doing it for Lucy. I was a mom/wife/woman doing mom/wife/woman things, and it felt really good. Not forced on me, but something I chose and loved. I should mention that Scott and I are an awesome team. I'm lucky that we are in this together, because he is better at making the pizza dough and waffles.

Around the time we bought our house, I started doing Christmas Cards. It was surprisingly fun. I loved giving and receiving cards. And, building on Christmas traditions, this year I decided to make neighbor gifts. I guess that is silly, but for me, it was kind of a big deal. I maybe still haven't cooked my own turkey or sewn on a button, but I was going make hot chocolate on a stick this year! I was going to be neighborly! It would be epic! Last March I discovered this company's hotchocspoon, and bookmarked it for inspiration. So, here are my attempts and lessons learned on how to make these, in case you are so inclined. It was really fun, really messy with a lot more chocolate needed than anticipated.

I did a bit of research when trying to find my own recipe and used this one from givers log, which worked perfectly. Basically you need,

8 oz of good chocolate 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder 1/2 cup of powdered sugar a pinch of salt

and then just follow Amber Lee's instructions. She is a chocolate guru.

I made peppermint chocolate sticks and Mexican chocolate sticks. For the peppermint I added crushed candy cane (it works best to put it in the middle of the chocolate, with a bit sprinkled on the top. For the Mexican I added cinnamon and chili powder. Next time I will add more of the flavorings. It was a bit too subtle for my taste.

Helpful things I learned,

One bar of 12 oz bar of chocolate, makes about 10 cubes of chocolate. It's better to fill the chocolate up all the way in the mold. Don't ever, ever get water in your chocolate. It's like the most evil thing to do to chocolate. Don't use chocolate chips. They don't melt quickly. Use more flavoring then you think you need. Don't use extracts. Plastic bags don't work that good. I used this pancake pen that we happened to have. I don't know how to temper chocolate, and I got the mysterious, ugly fat bloom on my beautiful chocolate, which made me sad. If I can't figure out the tempering thing, next time I will just dip the set-up spoons in melted chocolate chips or Cocoa Candy Melts, and then roll in the candy cane/cinnamon/cardamon/curry or whatever combo I come up with. One cup of hot milk or cream, works perfectly with the chocolate. And if I'm going to be picky, I wish I made my tags larger, preferably 3X3.

As far as supplies, I made the tags myself, and had them printed off at Kinkos. I found the perfect size silicone ice cube trays at Amazon here, and it makes 32 at time (so I tripled the recipe each time.) The wooden spoons were purchased at Garnish.

Lucy helping deliver our gifts.

And here is Lucy helping me and enjoying the fruits of our labors. This is her new "picture" face.