sipping sanity away

The other night my son’s malaise conveniently coincided with apparent late-breaking news. As I stumbled from my middle-of-the-night daze (awoken by my child’s hoarse plea for help) and began going through The Mother’s Autopilot Setting of dispensing Tylenol, getting cold water, checking the forehead and slurring a word or two of comfort to my feverish and cranky five-year old, I realized something was amiss.I lay with my son, cuddled and crunched in his Lightning McQueen bed, trying to lull him back to sleep when I realized there was another very loud noise I was not accustomed to hearing at 2 o’clock in the morning. It was a persistent buzz, like a mosquito that zeros in on your left eardrum and won’t give in no matter how many futile swats you give. Only this was a very, very loud mosquito. My curiosity regarding this sound’s identity drew me further and further away from my content and ignorant world of sleep, bullying indignant neurons in my brain to begin shooting away in desperate attempts to decipher the origin of the noise.As Jonathan’s crying was replaced by heavy (and quite congested) breathing, I concluded that the annoying sound must be some sort of pest-spraying airplane destroying the latest plague of insects to reside in our sub-tropic town. It was either that or another Al-Qaida cell had been discovered, which, given the track record of terrorists residing in this part of the U.S., wasn’t as far-fetched as one would like to think. Still, my sister’s complaints of mosquito bites earlier that evening where fresh in my mind, guiding it towards this agricultural conclusion.”Those must be some killer insects”, I thought to myself, as the noise grew louder and louder and louder. Thirty minutes later, I realized it couldn’t have been an airplane because it was too consistent and did not come and go as an airplane spraying would need to do. It must be a chopper.Resigned to the fact that even though my son lay sleeping I would not hold such lucky fate, I got up and headed to the living room to further investigate. I found my entire backyard was flooded with a bright white light that originated from a menacing black helicopter circling the perimeter of my house with anxious promise. I knew this must be something big. The noise had been going on now for over an hour and whoever did whatever, it must be bad enough to warrant that long a search on them. That or I’d expect to see a very disheveled Harrison Ford run through my yard in a bright orange jumpsuit working on a long-forgotten sequel. It was time to call the police for some information. The chipper operator that answered my call informed me that the police where “in active pursuit”, and if I saw any suspicious behavior I was to call them immediately. “Suspicious? Like, a person?” I asked. I figured they should be giving active seekers as much information as possible as to what we were supposed to be looking for, especially if whatever that was may make an appearance in ones’ backyard at 2 a.m.”Anything suspicious: a person, a vehicle, anything out of the ordinary that shouldn’t be there”, her voice automatically cantered back.With that comforting tidbit of information, I said goodbye and was left just with more anxiety, two phones in hand, and a bra on in case I had to escape into the night with my two young children in tow as the SUSPICIOUS UNNAMED OBJECT invaded my house (which, by the way, at this point I am vividly aware the assortment of busted locks and weak door hinges the husband who was more than five thousand miles away in Slovenia never got around to fix. Eventually (two hours later), the helicopter stopped and my patch of suburbia grew dark again. I remained on high alert for another twenty minutes or so, roaming from room to room, peering out into the darkness looking for my suspicious assignment to no avail. I never did see anything, nor did I find out what was going on. Sleep luckily got the best of me, only to be riddled with strange dreams of crime and pursuit (how predictable, I know) which I may have avoided had I benefited from a nice, hot, soothing drink during my moment of crisis. With Christmas around the bend, eggnog seems to be the drink of choice and I would have gladly slurped a glass or two had this excitement occurred in the daytime when South Florida is overwrought with its standard dosage of heat and humidity. Given that this suspicious activity was nocturnal, something warm and spicy seemed more appropriate to fight off that South Floridian bone-chilling 55 degrees evening air. My recent trip to Mexico and the fabulous hot chocolate I nourished myself with while there captured my mind, and once it did, I could not think of a better beverage to soothe me over the next time a fugitive is on the run in my backyard.MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE(Self Magazine, December 2007)2 cups reduced-fat (2 percent) evaporated milk1/2 cup whole milk1/2 cup chocolate liqueur
1 teaspoon vanilla extract1/4 cup sugar1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder10 cinnamon sticks1 dried red chile2 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces1/4 cup heavy whipping creamPreparationWhisk evaporated milk, whole milk, liqueur, vanilla, sugar, cocoa, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and chili powder in a heavy saucepan. Add 2 of the cinnamon sticks and chile and cook gently over medium-low heat until warm. Add chocolate and cook, whisking until melted. Gently bring to a high simmer; reduce heat and simmer until liquid thickens and reduces slightly, whisking often, 10 minutes. Combine heavy cream with remaining 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and beat until peaks form. Ladle 1/3 cup hot cocoa into each of 8 teacups; top with 1 tablespoon whipped cream and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

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sipping sanity away

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