Christmas Rewind with Wizzard

I love that my teen is open to all sorts of musical and artistic expression. Okay, really I mostly love that she digs the same music I do.  One of my favorite parenting moments came when the manager of The Violent Femmes liked a tweet about my kids rockin’ out to ‘Kiss Off’ on one of our epic road trips.

I. Win. Parenting.

While making merry and junk, she began to ponder complain about Christmas songs that get remade with each generation (lack of creativity much?) Wanting to prove that the holiday music scene has more to offer than the 2,147th remake of ‘Santa Clause is Coming To Town’ I decided to I’d share my favorite Christmas song with her; ‘Fairy Tale of New York.’

Naturally we went to YouTube, because actually seeing Shane MacGowan sing is a gift in itself. She loved it, I beamed. Then YouTube served up another Christmas-themed-British-type music video.  My words fall short in describing this, so I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

Were two drummers really necessary? Why is there just one balloon, and is that child beating himself with it? Don’t even get me started on the guy at the piano or the overuse of blue eyeshadow. Did he just kick that child? This is a CLASSIC!

Her reaction… “All. The. Drugs. They must have been on all the drugs.”

Happy Christmas!

 

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate FudgeHonestly, does a post with a title like this really need anything more than a recipe? I could tell you about how I’ve just recently developed an interest in bourbon, and the craft of distilling it. Could go on about how discovering I like it has sparked all sorts of mixology adventures. Maybe I should tell you that Maker’s Mark enlisted me in some boozy baking fun, and that they helped in the development of this recipe by sending along a bottle of their amber awesome for me to play with. But really, all you want to know is…

“How do I get this in my belly… NOW?!”

So here ya go, you chocolate-loving-booze-hounds. (people after my own heart)

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge IngredientsOne note about ingredients : Though fudge is oft made with semi-sweet or milk chocolate, this recipe uses high cacao content dark and semi-sweet chocolates. Why? Because this blend helps showcase the smokey notes of the bourbon and plays well with the tart cherry flavor. I tested a few chocolate options and this final blend took the recipe over the top – which is what boozy chocolate should be, right?

Bourbon Cherry Dark Chocolate Fudge
Serves 24
Dark, rich and delish, adding bourbon and cherries takes this fudge from holiday treat to confection perfection. I highly recommended using both good quality chocolate and vanilla bean rather than extract.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
3 hr
Total Time
3 hr 15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup Bourbon (I used Makers Mark)
  2. 1 cup Dried Dark Cherries
  3. 1 pod Vanilla Bean
  4. 1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
  5. 1 cup Sugar
  6. 5oz Sweetened Condensed Milk
  7. 1/4 tsp Kosher Salt
  8. 6 oz Semi-Sweet Chocolate
  9. 6 oz Dark (70% Cacao) Chocolate
Instructions
  1. Place cherries and bourbon in a small sauce pan, allow to simmer on medium heat until most of the bourbon is absorbed into the cherries. Set aside. In a double boiler over medium heat combine milk, sugar, vanilla caviar (insides of the pod) and butter. Allow to come to a simmer. Add chocolate by 1/2 cups, whisking to combine. Once all chocolate is melted, remove from heat. Stir in cherries and bourbon until combined. Place in a disposable 8x8 foil pan. Top with dried cherries, pecans, walnuts, or almonds (optional). Allow to cool. Refrigerate for a minimum of three hours before serving.
Notes
  1. If you prefer a more pronounced bourbon flavor, decrease the amount of condensed milk by 1 ounce and increase the bourbon to 3/4 of a cup.
Chicken Nuggets of Wisdom http://chickennuggetsofwisdom.com/

 

 

Study Abroad Because…?

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Gingerbread House in the State Dinning Room

The White House was decorated for the Holidays, beautifully picturesque and embodying all that is good, familiar and comfortable in our country.  Traditional vignettes were everywhere; the smell of freshly cut pine, the sumptuous float of color on mantels, the brilliant shine of ornaments and the inviting twinkle of lights evoked a yearning for the Rockwellian innocence of American Christmases past.

It would have been easy to become swept away in the grandeur, delighting in my snug little box of national pride.  But, that’s not why I was there. 

I was there to consider the value in sending American children to other countries as part of the White House Travel Bloggers Summit.

America is the land of opportunity, right? So why encourage your precocious progeny to pursue knowledge beyond our borders in a place where those “A’s” they earned in foreign language classes might not be so impressive? Why?

Because it will change  their life, yours and maybe the world.

Study abroad is for everyone and we must prepare our future leaders — American students of all backgrounds — for the global workforce and to be global citizens.” ~ Evan Ryan, Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs

Studying abroad opens minds and doors for our children, providing better job opportunities, making the connection between what is found in a textbook and how it translates into application on a local and global scale. And frankly, it makes them far more interesting.

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s address summed up eloquently, the core reasons why both travel and study abroad should play a key role in the education of all Americans,

“…travel outside our borders can add a new dimension to a person’s social and cultural intelligence – and one’s knowledge of how people abroad interact and do business with one another…In this day and age, more and more employers want to hire people with a true “world view” with the adaptability and openness that comes with having experienced other cultures.”

The Secretary sited a survey by MetLife that found 65% of Fortune 1000 executives identified global awareness as “very important” or “essential” in order to be ready for a career.

Study Abroad is a relevant, important, life skill.

Applying this message to myself, I considered my own years abroad. My study abroad experience wasn’t traditional. There was no “convincing my parents” that there was value in it, that I was mature enough, able thrive living a content away in a country where I barely spoke the language. They didn’t have to struggle to find the funds needed to send me. A set of orders from the Secretary of the Navy rendered those points moot.

Yet the years I lived in Spain – explored Europe and North Africa, studied life – imbued me with the same depth of understanding of our oneness, illustrated firsthand the impact of global citizenship, and the power in person-to-person exchange of ideas and values. 

The knowledge I gained in my early adulthood travels is with me to this day. It is the spark that kindled my passion for travel,  my need to continue to build relationships with the people I meet – be that down the street or digging beets out of the ground with a farmer in Jamaica – and to help my children see the value in these experiences. It was the beginning of an unquenchable wanderlust.

Living abroad changed me forever, for the better.  It allowed me to explore and appreciate of our differences while becoming keenly aware of our sameness, of those threads that run through each of our stories that form the binding of a book this the greater anthology of humanity.

The summit was also used to announce the opening of the State Department’s new U.S. study abroad office, which will manage some of their premier study abroad programs. The office will join advocating for the benefits of study abroad, and bringing resources to those interested in participation. To that end, they announced a partnership with the Institute of International Education and College Week Live to launch the first ever Virtual U.S. Study Abroad Fair that will be taking place on February 25th on-line and everywhere. (for updates connect with the State Department Exchange Programs on Facebook )

In the midst of the busy holiday rush, as we shop and shop, furiously checking off the “wants” on Christmas lists and hunting down longed-for toys, I invite you to consider some “needs”. 

White House Travel Bloggers Summit - Christmas Tree in the East Wing

The need for shortening the bridge between cultures. 

The need for uniting the threads of our world into a tapestry of more peaceful understanding.

The need for living life fully, for contributing meaningfully to the creation of future history.

As you sip cocoa in the firelight this season and listen to the strains of “Joy to the World”,  I invite you to think of THE WORLD.

I’ll be back in Part Two of this series to share information gleaned in our family’s quest to find a the Study Abroad program that works with our resources and suits Kaytie’s (our teenage daughter) goals. She seems to have an ever-changing list of places she wants to go and things she’d like to focus on… none of which include cleaning her room.

Patent pending, Hyperactivate

Share A Meal – Change A Life

The small act of sharing a meal could have a big impact on a family in need. It can also have an even bigger impact on your own family. As they say, “Sharing is caring,” right?

Our family has a holiday tradition that sprung from a question my youngest son posed after our annual holiday party five years ago…

Mom, what about kids who can’t go to a cookie party because their families don’t have cookies?

A simple question with anything but a simple answer. How do you explain hunger and need to a six year old child? It’s rough. Our solution was to give them not just an explanation of what need was, or why it happens, but to give them a way to make it tangible, while also showing them how they could make a difference – however small.

That year a silly, bowling pin shaped, piggy bank became their “Charity Bank.” They put their own money into it. Change from spending allowances and buying gifts. Coins found in sofa cushions. Quarters given by sweet elderly family friends. All that added up to over $45. It’s grown each year since.

When December hits, they can’t wait to cash it in and hit the store. We let them shop for hats, gloves, scarves, and food that THEY like. Then we head over to a local family shelter for the kids to deliver – with much glee – the fruits of their savings.

The Charity Piggy Bank Project

“Tell me I forget. Teach me I remember. Involve me and I learn.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

This year we chose to help the kids focus on food with their giving. Learning from Unilever’s Project Sunlight, that so many children in America suffer from hunger on a daily basis, it seemed the perfect fit for involving the kids so that they’d learn how far-reaching the impact of sharing a meal can be.

We talked about how this problem was so big that there were likely kids they knew that are impacted.  With that in mind they headed to the coin exchange and counted up this year’s savings. $59.78 in hand they went shopping.

First it was at Walmart where they hand-picked the meal items to share. Then it was over to a local grocery store that prepackages meals, then donates them to a local food bank.

Share a Meal Getting the kids involved

I pitched in at the end to pick up some grocery gift cards to be dropped off at the local Fire Department. As the child of a Fire Chief I know that fire fighters have some of the biggest hearts known to humanity. Often they’ll keep a cache of clothing, toys, and household items to be donated to families who’ve lost things due to fires, accidents, and even just those who they meet while out in the community, that find themselves in need.

We all learned that sharing a meal doesn’t have to mean sitting down at the table together – though I highly recommend that as well.  It can be as simple as one of the things we did, stopping by the local food bank with some non-perishable food items, reaching out to a local shelter or donating your time at any one of the organizations that helps feed those in need.

Need more ideas on how to help stamp out hunger? Visit Unilever’s Project Sunlight website and follow along on social media using the hashtag: #ShareAMeal. Or stop by Project Sunlight and tell them why you’d share a meal, they’ll help spread the word and we can all have a bigger impact!

disclosure: this post is part of my participation in Unilever’s “Share a Meal” campaign. I was compensated for a portion of my participation. That said, my opinions are my own. Our family will always support projects that help those in need and we hope yours will as well.  

 

I have four kids and an opinion.