Let it snow

Snow really does make almost everything look better. My partner and I have spent the past week in our get-away spot outside Wakefield, where we are surrounded by evergreen trees, snow and silence. I knew when I woke up long before dawn yesterday morning, from that special light snow brings to the sky, that there had been an overnight snowfall, and my spirits were immediately lifted. I wasn’t quite ready to engage with the day, so pulled up the duvet, edged the very large cat sleeping on the bed to one side and picked up my book, content in the knowledge that new fallen snow awaited me.

When I eventually made my way out of bed, the house – despite an overcast sky – was so bright I did not need to turn on any lights, thanks to the snow that was on the ground, stuck to the trees and capping the outbuildings. I got the fire in the wood stove burning brightly and, even before I tackled the Wordle puzzle, took some time to soak up all that snow with my eyes.

Outdoor celebrations

Now that we are well into our second winter without our usual escape to San Miguel de Allende, I am coming to really enjoy this time of year. I am, finally, fully winterized, with the first good quality boots I have had since I was a kid, a warm coat with a zipper that works, a decent hat and gloves that manage to keep my hands and fingers warm.

All that winter gear got a workout last weekend, when I attended an outdoor 60th birthday party for a close friend. It was a nippy -15 degrees at best, but the day was sunny, there was almost no wind, and the bonfire around which we gathered gave off a surprising amount of heat. We celebrated our friend with pizza from a nearby pizzeria and hot chocolate (see below for recipe), followed by not one but two kinds of chocolate cake. My toes didn’t even start to complain for about two hours, which seemed pretty good to me.

Walking in the snow

In a recent blog, I indicated my intention to seek out some used cross-country ski equipment, imagining myself swooshing along well-manicured trails through the woods. Fortunately, I came to my senses before I invested too much time or money in this pursuit. While I knew that graceful swooshing was likely an unrealistic goal, what stopped me was the realization that when — not if — I fell, I would have a lot of trouble getting back up. The thought of being stuck in an inelegant and possibly painful position, rapidly getting cold, until someone strong enough to hoist me up came along was enough to bring an end to my fantasy.

I may not be skiing through the woods, but my partner and I have had several very enjoyable walks while we have been here. Gatineau Park, which is close at hand, offers a number of winter walking trails through the woods. A couple of days ago, we explored the back streets of Wakefield, heading up beside Riviere La Peche to Maclaren Falls and from there into the woods on the TransCanada trail. We were treated to the sight and sounds of a pileated woodpecker one day, a raven kept company with us on another and, during our Wakefield walk, the roar of the falls drowned out everything else while we watched the water tear its way down the river.

Drinks for the cold times

Some liquor just seems made for the winter. I bought maple syrup liqueur for the first time, which my partner has been enjoying over ice while we play cribbage, Codebreaker and Quirkle in the evenings. He’s also had it in his morning chai more than once, and claims it gets the day off to the best possible start.

I am serious about my hot chocolate, having become spoiled by the richness of Mexican chocolate drinks during my San Miguel stays. While I didn’t have enough Mexican chocolate to make a large quantity for the birthday party, I came up with a pretty good facsimile.

For a crowd: combine 2 litres 3% milk, 1 litre whipping cream, I cup dark cocoa, ½ cup sugar, 1 vanilla bean split lengthwise, 2 sticks cinnamon and 4 or 5 cracked cardamom pods and whisk over medium heat until cocoa is completely dissolved and drink is hot. Strain out the spices, then stir in 4 squares unsweetened dark chocolate until melted.

Serve in large mugs with a shot (or two) of Irish Cream, while gathered with friends, and everyone will stay warm for hours. The cold strips away any possible harm from consuming a drink that is one-third whipping cream – honest.

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