winter’s last gasp wishlist

Oh my god the snow, you guys, THE GOLL-DANGED BEAUTIFUL TREACHEROUS SNOW. About 4 feet so far up where we live, and that’s small potatoes compared to our friends in eastern Massachusetts. Ethereal, marshmallowy landscapes that create impassable roads and frightening ice dams on your roof. I love it and I hate it. I’m enchanted and yet I’m halfway to losing my mind.

In a few hours, it will be March. MARCH! The month in which Spring officially begins! Although it usually arrives in the midst of a giant snowstorm, I’m clinging to the knowledge that in these parts, the first day of Spring means that in about two more weeks, it will actually be Spring. Brown, muddy spring with almost no flowers yet, but Spring nonetheless.

So with that in mind, I’m trying to make the last few weeks of this seemingly endless winter go by more quickly with an end-of-winter wish list. Some wintry things I’d like to do before Old Man Winter finally eats it once and for all.

1. Make an Ice Cube Garland

ice cube garland

This picture is from a few Februarys ago – I can’t believe we could see grass at this time of year! Making an ice-cube garland is super easy and a great way to add a little color to the unrelenting whiteness around us. Just fill an ice-cube tray with water, add drops of food coloring to each cube compartment to make different colors, and dip a bit of twine into each cube with the end hanging out. Once they’re frozen, tie each one onto a length of twine and tie the ends to trees or whatever outdoor place you have to tie things to. The nice thing about doing this project when there’s snow on the ground is that as they melt, the colors transfer from the garland to the snow below, so you end up with a cool rainbow splotch pattern on the ground.

2. Read Snow Music one more time.

Oh, man. This is my favorite winter picture book. I’ve been meaning to write about it literally since I started this blog and now I’m so freaking sick of the snow that I can’t face writing an entire blog post about how magical it is. But seriously, this book makes it extremely magical. It perfectly captures the sounds of a new snowfall. I remember once in college, walking home from work on a snowy evening when everyone had already left campus for winter break, the streets were so deserted that as I crossed Lincoln Avenue, I could literally hear each snowflake hitting the ground. I was so struck by the magicalness of it that I just stood there on the median, listening. Lynne Rae Perkins perfectly captures it in the opening of Snow Music (“Everybody whisper: Peth peth peth peth peth peth peth peth”) and it just gets cooler from there. The music of a snowplow scraping down the street. The music of an escaped dog, running happily through the snow. The “k-tk” of a dried leaf blowing along the pavement. Just trust me folks, this is a good one.

3. Make Ina Garten’s Hot Chocolate.

gourmet hot chocolate

You really can’t enjoy hot chocolate in the spring, summer, or even fall like you can in the winter, so I’m going to go out with a bang. This Ina Garten recipe is the most decadent, yummy thing ever. It’s not my everyday in-from-playing-in-the-snow recipe, but it deserves to be drunk at least one more time before winter’s over. (As do we all.)

4. Make Swedish Snowball Lanterns.

I saw these the other day on The Artful Parent and posted excitedly about them on the facebook page, but my plans to make them the next day were foiled by some unforgivingly cold temperatures. Nonetheless, we still have plenty of snow (rueful laugh) so this is definitely on the docket. Maybe we can even make an ice lantern with the enormous chunks of ice I just had hacked off my roof. Oh New England, you beautiful snowy ice damming bastard.

5. Sugar on Snow.

sugar on snow

This is what spring in New England looks like, folks. You still have plenty of snow, but now with fresh maple syrup. Since we just finished reading Little House in the Big Woods and are entering maple syrup season, this is the perfect dessert of the moment. All you have to do is heat your maple syrup to 234F, drizzle over some fresh snow, and enjoy. Next, eat a pickle. Cause that’s the New England way. Other acceptable accompaniments: coffee and a donut.

6. Visit an Ice Castle

I probably have the only 4-year-old girl in America who isn’t into Frozen. (There was a brief period after we watched it last winter when she spent a lot of time playing Frozen. Which in her case meant pretending to be a dinosaur hunting and devouring Elsa and Anna.) However, I think any kid – hey, any adult – would be enchanted by these awesome ice castles. There’s a couple of these in our region, and I think they’re closing really soon, perhaps as early as next Sunday.

7. Pajama Muppet Show Marathon

What they lack in Elsa and Anna fan-dom, my kiddos more than make-up for in their devotion to the Muppets. Muppets were the only thing they asked Santa for this year. (Unfortunately they had to go and fall in love with the most obscure and un-merchandise-friendly ones: Beaker and Camilla… these kids never make it easy for me, I tell ya.) But Santa delivered, and muppets are right up there with legos, dragons, and dinosaurs for most played-with toys in our house at the moment. So while I love spending the morning outside playing in the snow, I’m keeping this idea in my back pocket for the next time we all just feel like hunkering down with a cozy blanket and having some laughs. I have a feeling they’ll all be excited about this:

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pineapple coconut chia pops

DSC02928Popsicles are one of those things you can pretty much make without a recipe. Take some sweet stuff, freeze it with a stick coming out, enjoy. So I feel a little sheepish sharing what is an extremely simple “recipe” – only four ingredients in fact, but these were way too delicious to keep to myself. It’s basically frozen piña coladas, with maple syrup instead of rum, and chia seeds for some extra texture/protein/hippie cred. The flavor reminds me of this amazing soft serve pineapple ice cream they used to serve at the Champaign County Fair back in my central Illinois youth. Creamy, tropical, and sweet, with just a bit of tang.

If you haven’t worked with chia seeds before (aside from making a terracotta-based shrubbery back in the 80s), they are totally weird. When you put them in something wet, they get this swollen gel-like coating around the seed. I’m making it sound kind of gross, but they’re actually quite yummy. Like a mix between a tapioca ball and a kiwi seed. But it takes a while for them to swell, so mix a few tablespoons of chia into one can of light coconut milk, and then stick it in the fridge for a few hours.DSC02849Meanwhile, chop up your pineapple.DSC02883Once you’ve cut off the tough outer skin, you can give your leftovers to your sous chef for her to practice her knife skills on.DSC02895Cut the bald pineapple into quarters, lengthwise,DSC02904and trim out the tough core. We don’t want any fibrous bits in our creamy frozen tropical heaven.DSC02910Cut into chunks and purée.DSC02914When your chia-coconut mixture is ready, mix with the pineapple purée, along with a goodly amount of maple syrup. How much you need depends on how sweet your pineapple is. Mine was super ripe, so I used only about 1/4 cup.DSC02926And finally, pour into molds and freeze over night, or at least 5 hours.DSC02936That’s it! Easy peasy. These are best enjoyed in a warm breeze, with eyes closed and some Ramito playing in the background.

Pineapple Coconut Chia Pops
makes 10-12 pops, or more, depending on the size of your molds

Ingredients:
1 can light coconut milk
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 pineapple
1/4 cup maple syrup, or more, to taste

1. Mix the chia seeds into the coconut milk. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
2. Cut the tough outer skin and eyes from the pineapple. Quarter it and cut the tough core out of the inner corner of each pineapple quarter. Cut into chunks and purée in food processor.
3. Combine coconut-chia mixture, pineapple purée, and 1/4 cup maple syrup in a medium-sized bowl. Stir until well blended. Taste it. Add more syrup to your liking, if necessary.
4. Pour into popsicle molds (or, if you don’t have any, paper cups with a popsicle stick stuck in for a handle will do just fine). Freeze at least 5 hours. To unmold pops, run hot water over the outside of the mold until the popsicle slides out easily.