White Christmas Cocoa

White Christmas Cocoa

This recipe is a cross between a white peppermint hot cocoa and a White Russian. It’s perfect for an evening spent wrapping presents, a weekend day spent reading, or time spent watching so-bad-they’re-good Hallmark Christmas movies. It is delicious, and I hope to never know exactly how many calories are in it. (If you do the math, don’t tell me.) If you care even less about calories than I do, you can swap out some of the milk for half-and-half.

This recipe is for one (generous) serving so double or triple as needed if serving a group.

  • 1.5 cups milk
  • 3 oz white chocolate, chopped or grated
  • 2 drops peppermint extract
  • 1 ounce Kahlua
  • 1 ounce Vodka
  • Toppings: Whipped cream, candy canes, sprinkles or colored sugar
  1. Heat milk over the stovetop. Do not boil.
  2. Reduce heat to low and begin adding the white chocolate to the milk approximately 1 ounce at a time, whisking until dissolved, and then adding the next ounce.
  3. Add in peppermint extract.
  4. In each mug, add 1 ounce Kahlua and 1 ounce vodka. Pour in cocoa.
  5. Make it pretty with your desired toppings, take a picture for Instagram, and enjoy!

Recommended movie pairing: White Christmas (of course!)
Recommended book pairing: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Five Favorite Things: December

Five Favorite Things: December

Advent: I feel like Advent is the most special time of year. A time to look to God and His promises, a time to see the people who are invisible in our society and address their needs, and a time to focus on those we love. This year I am following Kate Bowler’s Advent devotional, which can be downloaded here. It’s beautifully written, thoughtful, and an overall joy.

Family: My sister and her family will be in Michigan immediately following Christmas, and I am so excited to see them. This year in particular, I miss the days when it was a given that I’d see all of my family on holidays because we all lived in the same place. And, as my dad gets older and more fragile, I don’t know how many holidays we will all have together, so I feel like each one needs to be treasured.

Holiday Decor: I am a firm believer in making everything festive in December and decorating all the things. As it’s a weird holiday season for me, I am overcompensating by decorating like a Hallmark Christmas movie heroine. You know, the one who has a sad conversation with her sister about whether she’ll find the time to get a tree this year while they are baking Christmas cookies in a kitchen that is exploding with Christmas garlands, with a mini wreath gracing each kitchen cabinet door? I’m her now.

Sweet July Fall/Winter Issue: I’m a bit of an Ayesha Curry fangirl. If you saw my gift guide, you’ll see her cookbook was on there. Curry, a cookbook author/entrepreneur/social justice activist/NBA spouse/mom of three, is a woman that I think is really inspiring. While most magazines are clickbaity in nature, hers just feels like a collection of things that interest her, so she’s sharing with everyone else. In this issue are holiday recipes, practical ways to address child hunger, profiles of innovators in the food industry, etc.

Halfway Down the Stairs: As a nonfiction editor of HDtS since 2005, I am excited to share our December issue, which is themed Storm. Some favorite pieces include The Women of Jerusalem by H. Neiling and Whiteout, by Mary Beth Hines (fiction); Quito Storms by Lorraine Caputo and Circle High, Shelter Within the Eye by Ellen Lager (poetry); and Home is Where the Heart Is by Ann V. Klotz and Storm Damage, by Diane Elayne Dees (nonfiction).

2021 Holiday Gift Guide

2021 Holiday Gift Guide

I have a bit of a shopping problem. My usual impulse buys include clothes, books, jewelry, and wine. I don’t always know when to stop. I have a similar issue with holiday shopping. I used to try to get all of my Christmas shopping done by Thanksgiving because shopping malls are a nightmare in December. I don’t do that anymore. Because I will always buy “just one more stocking stuffer” and then when it comes time to wrap everything up, I don’t always remember where I put it all. I think I like shopping for presents better than opening presents. It’s just such a quest.

So this is where I try to make my weakness your strength by offering you all sorts of Christmas and Hanukkah gift ideas. (You’re welcome.) Then in December, I am planning to post about gifts that you can make yourself. I have tried to include as many fair trade items as I could. As a former Ten Thousand Villages volunteer, I really love that organization. All of the artisan groups were established to give women and their families financial independence, and all of the merchandise is sustainable, with much of it recycled. I’ve also tried to include small businesses, mostly off Etsy. I am not an affiliate of any of the companies mentioned, and this post is strictly for fun.

Also, all images used here are product images.

Here are some codes I use throughout the list:

(S): Sustainable, eco-friendly goods.
(FT): Fair trade
(SB): Small business

For Him:

GAP men’s recycled half-zip sweater. (S) A more sustainable way to get cozy, and there is just something about a man in a sweater.

Shinola Utility Bi-fold Wallet. This local (Detroit) company offers monograming on all leather goods. And who does not enjoy monogrammed gifts?

For Her:

Be Resilent necklace from Ten Thousand Villages (S) (FT). This necklace is not only dainty and pretty, it has quite a story behind it. The artisan group from Cambodia that makes this line of brass jewelry uses brass bomb casing, leftover from decades of war, to create jewelry that promotes peace. Which your friend will either find to be either inspiring or horrifying.

Chelsea sweater-blazer by J. Crew Factory. There are two things I love about this. First, it’s dressier than your average cardigan, but comfier and more casual than a blazer. Second, it is appropriate for women of all ages. I could see a younger woman dressing up leggings with this. At 43, I would wear this to work with skinny pants. I could see my seventy-something mom wearing this over a black dress and heading off to church.

For a Preteen or Teen:

Checkerboard Vans slip-on. This fun unisex shoe will be appreciated by all the teens in your life.

Indoor/outdoor axe throwing game. It’s very possible the adults might join in on Christmas Day too.

Beats Earbuds. If the teen in your life doesn’t own high-quality earbuds, it is guaranteed that it’s on their wish list.

For the Person of Faith:

A Rhythm of Prayer, edited by Sarah Bessey. This collection of prayers and essays on prayer is a guide to getting through dark times. Full review here.

For this and all other books on this list, please support independent bookstores if possible given your budget and where you live.

Tree of Life Menorah from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). This beautiful and intricate menorah is made by an artisan group from India, which is devoted to providing education and medical care for artisans and their families.

Olive Branch Dove Ornament from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). I think every family member I have has been gifted this ornament simply because I think it is so pretty.

For Your Environmentalist Friend:

Palm Leaf Bike Basket from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). Have a friend who prefers to bike around town to reduce their carbon footprint? They will adore this cute bicycle basket perfect for trips to the market.

The Puma Years by Laura Coleman. A memoir about how one woman moved from caring for a rescued puma to becoming a voice for environmental justice. Full review here.

Felt Dryer Ball Set by Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). For a friend who doesn’t mind a practical gift. These felt balls will eliminate the need for dryer sheets and lower your energy costs.

For the Self Care Queen:

Deep Sleep Bath Bomb from Lush (S). A bath bomb perfect for unwinding after a difficult work day. Great gift for the stressed out teacher, therapist, nurse, etc. in your life.

Dead Sea Mud and Olive Oil Soap from Ten Thousand Village (FT)(S). I know, I know. Mud sounds terrible like a terrible soap ingredient, but it’s great for your skin. This artisan group employs a group of Arab and Jewish women working together for peace and economic development.

Cat Nap Velvet Sleep Mask by Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). Because sometimes beauty sleep demands a cute mask. This artisan group provides employment opportunities for women in Bangladesh.

For Your Friend with a Green Thumb:

Elephant Planter from Ten Thousand Villages (FT) (S). This cute planter would be a great addition to a home with boho decor.

Wild Interiors by Hilton Carter. This gorgeous coffee table book provides inspiring interior design and plant styling for the plant parents out there.

For the Foodie:

Plenty by Hannah Howard. The memoir of Hannah Howard, restaurant manager turned food writer, is a celebration of women in the food industry. The full review for this memoir can be found here.

The Full Plate by Ayesha Curry. This is my favorite cookbook that I purchased in 2021. Everything I have made from this has been delicious, easy, and approachable. Favorite recipes include the Baked Scallops with Cherry Tomatoes and Parmesan and the Sheet Pan Salmon with Pesto Butter, Corn, and Tomatoes.

Silpat Perfect Cookie Non-Stick Silicone Baking Mat (S). A more sustainable replacement for parchment paper for the baker in your life.

For the Bookworm:

Troublesome Book Woman t-shirt from Out of Print. Just the cutest!

The Guncle by Steven Rowley. A hilarious read guaranteed to brighten up their January. Full review can be found here.

For the Film Buff:

The Cinephile game from Uncommon Goods lets them put their extensive knowledge to the test.

100 Movies Scratch Off Poster from Uncommon Goods. Movie bucket list turned art.

For the Body Positivity Activist:

The Joyful Movement tee from YourBodyIsGood celebrates movement for all body types. (SB) The entire Etsy shop is adorable, and I am considering buying this mug for myself.

For the person you don’t really know but have to buy a gift for anyway:

Holiday cocoa bombs from AnhLineShop (SB). Great for bosses or your brother’s new girlfriend who you’ve only met once.

Winter Warmth candle by ShadowAndSpectra (SB). The gift of hygge.

What are your go-to gifts?