Nov 6, 2013

Honeyed Hot Chocolate

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Ooh-whee, are you feelin’ the Fall, people? We are, even in San Francisco. As per usual, the sunshine and blue skies have finally joined us just in time for temperature to drop, which I can never quite get used to. You know what else I can’t get used to? Daylight savings time. Before children, this used to mean an extra hour of sleep, and feeling even cozier in the late afternoon as the sun dropped out of the sky earlier and earlier. Kind of dreamy. But all this means now is that my kids’ sleeping schedules are even more terrible than usual, and I have less hours in the day to try and get a decent photograph of some really great hot chocolate for you (I give up; see above). Bah. Luckily I’ve had a few fun things going on that have buoyed my mood and kept me from jumping off the roof in a premature Seasonal Affective Disorder tirade:

1. Our big Kindergarten girl has really started reading and writing and generally blowing us away with her hilarity. She’s started lamenting the fact that she can’t walk to and from school alone like all the “collegers”. “Collegers” meaning the older kids in her school. Invented, earnestly delivered words are the best words.

2. My baby boy is still very much a baby, but is now eight (!) months old. Which means that we are officially in the Very Best Stage with him, the stage that makes people have babies in the first place: squidgy, babbling, present, funny, lovable, crawling, sitting up, and getting into things that I didn’t even know were in my house. Never mind that I still haven’t had a full night’s sleep since February, right?

3. Honeyed Hot Chocolate, which I will get to in a bit.

4. I’m actually back to work–teaching a class here and there, doing all kinds of recipe development with exciting new ingredients (more on that soon), and realizing that the importance of having some kind of creative project going can’t be overstated, especially for moms. Even within the madness of mothering two small people, making my own creative life a priority has supercharged me in a whole new way. I feel like a better version of myself, a better mother, generally just more excited to be in the world. I can’t help but wonder what the world might be like if every mother took the time to nuture her creative self as much as she does her children. With the way we mothers can multitask, can you imagine the results? We could start a revolution! And here is where I get a little Oprah on you for a sec.

So. I totally realize that it’s much, much easier said than done to take the time to daydream and then somehow carve out even more time to work towards something that’s All You when your life feels like All Kids. But as long as you’re out of the Hellish Newborn Stage (let’s not make lofty goals in the first three to four months, okay?–just work on peeing alone sometimes), and you’re steely in your resolve to block out even a little time (30 minutes? 45? Should I even speak of the possibility of an entire HOUR to yourself?), it can be done, and it’s life-changing to do so. I waited until my daughter was nine months to figure this out (and had the depression to show for it), and the second time around made dang sure I didn’t wait that long to heed the hungry rumblings of the creative beast inside. I know myself better now.

Now, I’m no Tony Robbins or Tobias Funke here, but consider this: Ever the late bloomer, I’ve finally found my kind of passion projects (and have even started writing books because of it, what?!) at the age of thirty-plthtplthplth, only after I started having kids. As I write this, I am stopping every seven words to keep my baby out of the dog dish. If I can do it, you can do it, is what I’m saying.

Look, I know how hard it is to get going on a special project or goal you’ve set for yourself, especially when you’ve got little ones (see that Not Sleeping bit in item #2 above). I know how much easier it is to say no to yourself than to say yes when your schedule is built around busy little bodies and hungry little mouths. There are days when the term “passion project” just sounds like something for childless hippies who don’t live in the real world and I want to punch that phrase in the face. I get it.

But I’ve found that it really just takes an hour here and there to let yourself daydream and make some notes and just THINK for a moment–no rushing to the next thing, no cleaning up after people, no flippin’ around on Facebook. In fact, no exercising during this time, either, unless you’re the type that can honestly take a long, lazy walk and not give a thought to the health or calorie-burning benefits (I am not this type).

This time should be about letting yourself physically rest so that your creative self can come forward and you can get the ideas out and recorded. A creative Master List, of sorts. This should be your personal brain time in a life that can feel like you’re always sharing everything, including your brain, with other people. I’m talking about dusting off your brain, redirecting your thoughts to something creative and personally fulfilling, and over time, turning it up to 11.

So maybe try this: The next time your husband, partner, or babysitter takes the kids out of your area for a chunk of time, even just a small one, retreat to a quiet room with a notepad and a pen and something good to drink and just jot some things down. Whatever it is you dream of doing, no matter what it is. Know that seeing it in writing may freak you out–writing things down has that effect sometimes. But press on–no fear! No one has to see this list but you. What sounds good to you? What makes you open your eyes a little wider, sit up straighter?

photo (50)

It is food, fashion, art, yoga, animals, charity work? Have you had a business idea rattling around in your head for years? Do you love reality TV so much you could write or talk about it all day? I’m not judging, here. If that’s your thing, could you expand on that a bit by writing some interesting commentary about the Real Housewives of Nebraska for a blog that you start,  tweeting your witty observations, or maybe even starting a podcast about it? Don’t let yourself leap ahead and question if anyone would read it or retweet it or listen to it–that’s not the point. I’m not talking about making a full-time thing out of this passion. I’m talking about honestly considering something that you can plan for and think about other than a day-to-day life that usually involves planning and caring for someone else’s life. Small steps! That’s all I’m talking about. Small steps towards making something just for you. Maybe it can snowball into something bigger down the line, but don’t trip yourself up by going from A to Z like that, it will make you stop before you even start.

So just start with those little blocks of time when you can get them. Think of them as mini-workshops. Free write ideas for what you might want to make your next big passion project. The next time you get a little chunk of time (it could be a whole week later, let’s be real, here), go over your list. Think a little more. Maybe pick something to start the next time you make time for yourself. Carry a little notebook with you or use the notepad on your phone in between your mini-workshops so you can get sudden ideas written down before you leave the Target parking lot and get swept up in the house and and kids and dinner duty again and forget all about your inspired moment. Work within those tiny spaces of time to chip away at whatever it is that puts a sparkle in your eye and lets you take a big, accomplished breath in a crazy life. And then see where it takes you. Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.

And having some of this Honeyed Hot Chocolate with you while do it certainly won’t hurt a bit.

Honeyed Hot Chocolate
Serves 2

This hot chocolate is positively brilliant–lightly sweetened, a great interplay going on between the fruity dark chocolate and the sort of flowery honey. The most fantastic thing is the fact that you can use low-fat milk, and with the addition of a little cornstarch, you get something so unbelievably silky, you’d swear you were drinking something with a pound of chocolate and a gallon of cream. Phenomenal!

2 cups low-fat milk
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60 to 70% cacao), chopped
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
Generous pinch of kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

Put about 1/4 cup of the milk into a small bowl. Whisk in the cornstarch until dissolved and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the remaining milk, chocolate, 2 tablespoons honey, and salt. Place the pan over medium heat. Whisk often until the chocolate has completely melted. Stir in the cornstarch mixture. Continue whisking occasionally until the hot chocolate looks as though it’s just about to come to a boil–you’ll see the surface of the liquid start to rumble from within just a bit. A moment later, the cornstarch should start to do its thing, and you’ll notice the thickness of the hot chocolate suddenly change (you shouldn’t need to bring it to a hard boil for this to happen). Remove the pan from the heat and cover to keep warm.

To make the honey whipped cream, pour the heavy cream and 1 teaspoon of honey into a medium bowl. Use a handheld mixer to whip the cream to sfot peaks. Pour the hot chocolate into 2 mugs, and top with the honey whipped cream.

  • What a gorgeous drink to go with your very inspiring words!

    • Thank you, Jan!

  • “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” This has been the sentiment of my husband and I for the last few months about working on our creative endeavors. We don’t have kids, but it is so easy to waste time and not make time for creativity, even though we want to. Thanks so much for your post, it is such an inspiration to keep at it!

    • Hooray! A mantra for the ages.

  • Love the idea of putting honey into my hot chocolate.

  • What beautiful encouragement, Shauna! I can tell you that my youngest is 19 years old and I am 43 years old and we are empty-nesters(right now until the kids come home from college break) and this is inspiring me to jot some things down. Thank you 🙂

  • Wow! I feel like you’re talking right at me. This is so me right now. 5 month old and 3 year old taking all my attention. I just booked in a hair cut for tomorrow..the first in over a year! I packed my notebook into my bag to take with me and get some ‘me creativity’ going. Thanks! Can’t wait to see what your new book is about too 🙂

  • […] I don’t know what I love more, the writing or the recipe. Both are equally divine […]

  • Sans kids, the master list involves colored post its donning our hallway wall. Trust the process- I’m funneling the creative urge into specific post-its. They’re nagging at me from the walls like a good friend.

  • Just found you through sassypants Billy @ Wit & Vinegar and I think I’m in love. I can’t bake for shiggity, but I adore people that can. And I am thoroughly enjoying your prose. Will def be back! 🙂

  • Just in time for Christmas!

  • Shauna, I’ve been following you since your oldest was toddling, and you always say exactly what I’m needing to hear! I’ve got a 2.5yr old and an 11 month old now and I’ve just started clawing out some time for creative breaks. I can’t believe how much they help, even 15 minutes at a time! Just giving myself permission to sit still and not DO things, and more importantly, not even THINK about those things I should be doing is amazingly liberating. Thanks for validating that need!

    • Hooray! Oh, how wonderful to hear this. And you deserve a medal–that spread is tight! With my kids being 4.5 years apart, I feel like a crazy person. I can’t imagine having two so little! Best of luck. xo

  • I’m so loving the idea of the cornstarch to make it extra silky. I need to try this!

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