Right after Thanksgiving we start to hear the warnings, only twenty-eight days until Christmas. Soon, there are only fifteen, then ten, five, four, three and two days, until yikes! It’s here! But not to worry, you’ve made your lists. You’ve checked them twice, three times and more. You’ve made new lists and checked them three or four times.
It’s been a long race. There were cookies to bake and a tree to trim. You untangled endless strings of lights and braved the cold to wrap them around trees and shrubs. Even more courageous, you braved the traffic jams at the malls. You shopped ‘till you dropped and somehow managed to accomplish the impossible. You found gifts and gadgets for one and all, from the most finicky teenager to the guy who has everything.
Wonder of wonders in all the rushing around and chaos you didn’t leave a package behind at a checkout counter or in a shopping cart. But the wonders don’t cease. Not only did you get everything home but you waded through a bunch of unintelligible directions and assembled every thing that needs assembly. Finally, and perhaps the most impressive, the most miraculous, you remembered all your secret hiding places. All your gifts are present and accounted for and neatly wrapped under the tree.
Throughout December your afternoons, evenings and weekends have been packed. You survived the annual office holiday party without getting fired or destroying your career. You swapped cookies, sipped eggnog, shared cups of tea, glasses of wine and a nibble or two. You mingled, exchanged harmless banter and chatted with friends and neighbors. You’ve been to pageants and band concerts and dance recitals. You stood in the cold helping the Boy Scouts sell Christmas trees and carpooled kids hither, thither and yon. And since life doesn’t stop for the holidays, you did it all on top of your regular day job, or jobs.
Now it’s finally here. All that hustle and all that bustle is about to come to an end.
You made your last last minute trip to the store (and hope to high heavens that it really is the last). You celebrated in church with readings and carols. A beautiful, festive dinner has been shared, although a few little ones might have been too excited to take a single bite. The kitchen is now back in some semblance of order and the dishwasher softly whirls and hums.
“The Night Before Christmas” has been read, maybe reread. Kisses and hugs have been given all around, at least twice. Children are finally tucked in and dreaming of sugar plums. Or maybe the latest computer game, Lego set or Barbie. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and a steaming mug of cocoa and a plate of cookies are perched on the hearth for Santa.
At this point you might be tempted to ask yourself, “What have I forgotten?” Regardless of the answer, it is time to put away that never ending to-do list. If it’s not done, it will just need to wait for another day or another year. Grab a mug of tea or a glass of wine, put your feet up, take a deep breath, heave a huge sigh of relief and relax. Feeling guilty? Don’t. In a few hours, all the craziness will start again!
I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Enjoy!
Triple Chocolate Cream Parfait
This decadent dessert is perfect for a special holiday dinner. It is very easy to prepare but start it early in the day as there is some down time between steps. The parfaits are very rich, so I recommend you serve small portions. Enjoy!
2 1/4 cups heavy cream
Grated zest of 1 orange
4 ounces of good bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ounces of good milk chocolate, chopped
4 ounces of good white chocolate, chopped
3 teaspoons Grand Marnier
3/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1. Heat the cream, orange zest and salt in a heavy saucepan over low heat until it is almost a simmer.
2. While the cream is heating up, put each of the chocolates into small mixing bowls.
3. Remove the cream from the heat. Dividing it equally, strain 3/4 of a cup of warm cream through a fine mesh sieve into each of the three bowls. Let stand for a few minutes. Whisk until the chocolate in each bowl has melted and combined with the warm cream. Add 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla to each bowl and whisk to combine. Let cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate until cold, about 3 or 4 hours.
4. With an electric mixer, beat each bowl of cold chocolate cream until it holds soft peaks. Carefully spoon a layer of bittersweet chocolate cream in the bottom of small dessert or wine glasses. If necessary, give it a soft tap to settle the chocolate cream. Repeat with the milk and white chocolates. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
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