Photo above: US Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
Photo below: Moi.
This is the strange looking beast that creates the wonder we know as chocolate...the Cacao pod.
More on that in a sec, and its lovely winter sister - hot chocolate - a la moi, above.
Crisp sunny winter days call for tobogganing. Even at -15.
We are blessed to live across from our school yard which has a fantastic hill - fantastic for me, anyhow, since there is little possibility of bone breakage. If you watch out for the basketball net and the trees, of course. Cassels Park is our other local place of winter wonderland-ness - where carollers meet in December, where dogs are allowed off leash, where kiddies frolic year round - in the splash park in summer and ahem - on the toboganning hill in winter. Lovely park. Deadly steep slippery in winter. I can barely set foot in the park when they are toboganning.
Not to say toboganning isn't "fun", or "active" and all that good stuff- but frankly, since I grew into a tall person, it scares the cookies out of me to fly down a hill on nothing but a thin freezing sheet of plastic crafted in a country where 99% of the population does not toboggan. They are too busy working in plastic factories to have fun. But then I also do not like roller coasters, fast cars, or, well, escalators for that matter. I prefer terra firma, not terra-moving.
(Ok, I will get to the hot chocolate, promise).
But here is why my heart leaps a bit every time. Last year, on a snowy day right before the kids were to return to school from Christmas break, my friend Val, her kids, and me and mine went off to Cassels Park to toboggan. Well, we mums watched. Kids careered down the icy slopes, freaking out with glee. Very icy and fast. Fantastic. We always watch one of hers very closely - since he had a stroke at 6 years old, and worry about him. And we do not appear to be helmet heads for our kids. I survived. No doubt they will too, even if it is slightly more hair-raising as I age and I am no longer the kid, but the mum.
So we watch as Val's said child doubles over, with a hurt something. We rush over, all slightly panicked. Then when we find tears but no abrasions, I look over to see my own son, lying, not moving. When I call to him to get up, a brave whimper. Well, turns out, those GLOVES he wore were a bad idea - since apparently, appendages in gloves can get stuck in wire fencing as said appendages career down the slope and pass by said fencing at lightening speed. Yup, broken finger, right at the joint. I did not know fingers could bend that way. It still makes me queasy to think of it. Yes, the doctor made me lie down when she had taken the biggest needle in Creation and poked it deep into Owen's hand. Ever the polite boy, he screamed PLEASE STOP, PLEASE PLEASE STOP. Who would not want to faint dead away? Only a steely heart, I say.
Ok, how does this tie in with hot chocolate?? It is a tenuous link, I admit.
But here it is: we went toboganning today, met up with some friends, and after, piled in the house and made the yummiest hot chocolate. Rich, creamy, laden with mini marshmallows. I had beer, because if I am going to have calories like that, I would prefer there is alcohol involved. But the kids drink it like water.
And so - a brief history of this beloved liquid. But why re-invent the wheel? Here is a perfectly serviceable brief history.
My advice: wear mittens when tobogganing. That way when you are done you can wrap those safe unbroken digits around a large fluffy gooey cup of hot chocolate.