Everyone Needs an Italian Hot Chocolate

Now, I am completely spoiled. I can no longer find much joy in that powder you add to hot water… I’ve tasted REAL hot chocolate. Not that thin, watered-down stuff..but the real, liquid gold, melt in your throat, not-too-sweet, just right stuff. I was ruined in Italy a few years back… I had real hot chocolate in Nemi and I doubt I will ever be able to go back to the old stand-in (and don’t get me started on comparing American Gelato!).

I’ve been searching for a recipe, an idea to work from, SOMETHING that will get me close to that small piece of wonder…but until now had nothing. Then, I found it. A recipe that, with a little tweaking here and there, has some real promise.

Homemade Italian Hot Chocolate - YUM!

Homemade Italian Hot Chocolate – YUM!

Italian Hot Chocolate Recipe
1 ½ cups half-and-half (this can also be a mixture of heavy cream and milk…whatever you have on hand)
1 ½ teaspoon cornstarch
2 Tablespoons sugar
3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 ounce dark chocolate

First, on a cutting board chop your chocolate into small pieces/flakes using a large knife (this makes it much easier to melt in the milk mixture later). I recommend using a high-quality chocolate, but I’ve also had great results with Hershey’s Chocolate Chips (and I’m a bargain shopper, so this happens much more frequently)! Set chocolate aside.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 c. the half-and-half (or milk) with the cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Make sure there are no lumps in the mixture. Pour the remaining half-and-half in a small saucepan over medium heat and slowly bring to a simmer (should not get to the point of boiling). When the half-and-half is hot, steaming and begins to bubble around the edges whisk in the sugar. Make sure your cornstarch mixture has not settled (you will most likely need to whisk it smooth again), then whisk it into your half-and-half mixture.

Allow the mixture to thicken slightly as you continue to whisk, this usually takes less than a minute. Remove from heat and quickly whisk in the chocolate until smooth. Pour into two cups and enjoy immediately! :)

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Usually I continue to perfect a recipe as I go, so let me know if you make any changes! My husband had to have marshmallows in his (who could do without them, right?), but I preferred mine as it should be…a deep sweetness that doesn’t make you sick after a sip. YUM.

Our Newest Additions

I’ve been neglecting my blogs for a while now, and it’s about to change. Well, everything is about to change. We got a puppy! We are also expecting a little girl, due in June!

So, first things first – meet Jaxx:

The day we picked out our new puppy Jaxx (3 weeks old)...still too young to bring home!

The day we picked out our new puppy Jaxx   (3 weeks old)…just opened his eyes and still too young to bring home!

Jaxx is a full-blood Pit Bull Terrier. He is a dark red brindle color. We decided to keep his ears long and named him after Jax from Mortal Kombat. Apparently, we’re nerdy like that. We didn’t name him for the first few days, but over half of the names on our list were from some kind of cartoon or video game… Bowser (NES Mario) and Hugo (Naruto Shippuden) to name a couple of our other ideas.

Our Pit Bull Terrier - Jaxx

Our Pit Bull Terrier at 11 weeks – Jaxx

I did a lot of research before really deciding I wanted a Pit. I just didn’t know anything about them…but my husband had grown up around them most of his life. The more I read about them, the more I realized it was the dog for me! Knick’s parents just had a third (and final) litter, so it was now or never to get one. We call him our velcro dog – he LOVES human contact.

Always looking for a lap to sleep on and already loves the coming little person!

Always looking for a lap to sleep on and already loves the coming little lady

He is so smart…learned to sit on command at 10 weeks, to walk on a leash and lay down on command at 11 weeks, to stay and lay on his side at 12 weeks. I’m home all day, so I usually spend a few hours a day playing with him and training him. He has a very high energy level..but he is usually eager to please and quick to pick new things up. I am constantly logging onto http://www.pitbull-chat.com checking out new answers for questions I have.

And, meet the newest member – Kniya Annah:

Kniya Annah - 19 weeks!

Kniya Annah – 19 weeks!

We found out last week that it’s going to be a GIRL. She’s already a mover – and I’m sure she’ll become the perfect companion for Jaxx, but making mamma feel a little sick with all her kicks! No complaints here, though, this pregnancy has been hassle-free for the most part, and the random popping in my stomach just confirms what the ultrasounds and doppler readings already told us – she’s alive and kicking. Hard.

Easy Recipe :: Bacon Egg Rolls

A new discovery – make bacon, eggs and toast in one pan (and one skillet). It’s simple and a delicious twist to traditional breakfast (plus it tastes like a McMuffin…)
Here’s how I made this wonderful little treat today:
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Fruit Leather and Pineapples

I’ve been contemplating food storage lately; canning and freezing are great ways to preserve produce from summertime for winter, but they aren’t very easy to store. I garden quite a bit in the summer, and then store up garden food for the rest of the year. Last year I filled a few shelves with canned jars (glass isn’t the most convenient to store or move), and completely packed my freezer.

Last year I canned: Chili, Green Beans, Applesauce, Raspberry Jam, Blueberry Jam, Blackberry Jam, Strawberry Jam, and Pasta Sauce. In addition, I froze: Sweet Corn, meats, breads, and some Green Peppers.

We went through the Corn, Green Beans and Pasta Sauce lightening fast (note to self: prep double the amounts for next year!) and I still have plenty of Jams and Chili left over. That tells me about what I will need to do differently this summer in preparation for next year. The Jams made great Christmas gifts last year, especially as a “hostess” gift for the places we went.

But this year I’m adding a new dimention: Dehydration.

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Painted Polka Dots

I am forever confused between my plain silver keys. This may sound ridiculous, but I have three of them on my key chain that are similar in size and seldom needed. Whenever I do need one, I have to try 2 or 3 before I find the right one. I thought it might help if they looked slightly different. Today I decided to “upcycle” them into new versions of themselves.

First, I picked out some fun colors of nail polish that I already had on hand:

Then, I painted the keys.

  • The green colors needed 2 to 3 coats to show up, but the blue only needed one.
  • The lighter colors should be painted on first, because they won’t cover the dark colors as well as the dark colors will cover them!
  • Stick with large patterns (like polka dots, or filling in segments of the key) unless you have the designer tip nail polish (I do, but only in the wrong colors!)
  • Wait for layers to partially dry before painting new layers on top (about 5-10 minutes)
  • Paint one side at a time, waiting for the entire first side to dry before painting the opposite side (about 1 hour)

Here is my result:

I worked on them while doing other projects during the dry times. They didn’t take long at all to paint, but they add an extra bit of personality to my (otherwise boring) key chain!

 

Little Whiskers

My cousins kittens are now about 3 weeks old.

I stopped by to pick the girls up the same day the cat was giving birth. These were the first kittens I’ve seen born. They just opened their eyes this week and can’t stand at much more than a wobbley crawl.

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Coffee Grounds and Sharpened Pencils …IF only.

So, I’m working on an exciting new illustration project.

The only hint I can give you is “farm.”
And that I’m going through coffee at a frighteningly fast rate…
…Oh, and I can show you this fun little collection I put together for a creative boost:

Barn Crates and Sunbeams
I found the “Garden Dirt Fragrance Oil” by AdamsboroSundries particularly inspiring:
Garden Dirt Fragrance Oil Low Shipping

But, I have been drawing up a storm…
Okay. So I guess I will also give you this sneak peak:

But that’s all you get.
For now.
(and I hope you feel “suspended” :)

Raindrops on Snapdragons, Stitches in Turquoise

Rainy days. Everything looks more saturated – the greenery becomes greener, flowers stand out as rare pops of color, the tree branches contrast dark against the bright colors.

Raindrops are featured on petals and leaves – shimmering like little starlit orbs.

The sun shining through the grey clouds eliminates strong shadows, and assures no detail will be lost. I couldn’t help myself – I had to get out the camera and take these pictures of my garden today. Thunder and rain only add to the majesty of the plants.

Rain is perfect for a mug of coffee and indoor projects. My Upcycled choice of the day?
My brand new (and very old) sewing machine:
This beauty was a $5 find at a garage sale this weekend.

Works like a charm, and just needed a bit of cleaning. They even included all sorts of extra needles, bobbins, pins, and other helpful supplies. I’m thinking it might be from the 1970′s, but I’m not sure. It’s very heavy – a quality machine made out of all metal.
I’m not sure if I can really express my excitement in finding this.
I can’t wait to start creating all sorts of upcycled works with old fabric finds.

And, of course, I must include some wonderful Etsy Finds:

A Whimsy Little Garden