Early Earworm: John Roderick and Jonathan Coulton

It’s Winter Break and no one knows what day it is anymore.

Just kidding. I know today is Friday. I looked it up.

This is a song I would make into an earworm, but it’s really more appropriate for right now than for Monday, which will be New Year’s Eve, so I’m posting it today. It made it onto my 12 Days of Christmas Music list back in 2014, too, but it’s just such a good song, let’s have it again. Nice and mellow, for one of those days when you’re between social engagements and doing something ordinary, like cleaning your office, and it’s relaxing because it’s productive and not stressful, because it’s Winter Break.

I might be projecting.

Either way, this song is keeping me company right now, while I handle the filing and organize my journals.

12 Days Of Christmas Music To Knock Your Socks Off (Day 12)

Let us not forget, in this time of recalling the story of the Nativity, the one very human person who made it all relatable to a human audience. Here: a soothing, musical meditation, dedicated to all the mothers who actually make Christmas happen in so many homes where emotional labors are left to women, either by necessity or by choice or by neglect. Merry Christmas to all of you, and to all of you.

12 Days of Christmas Music To Knock Your Socks Off (Day 11)

I love this arrangement of “Winter Wonderland” and also love the way Harry Connick, Jr, plays it. I love the piano and love playing the piano. I loved the movie When Harry Met Sally, from whose soundtrack this song comes. And I love Christmas. I am filled with love.

12 Days of Christmas Music To Knock Your Socks Off (Day 9)

Happy Solstice, everyone! This entertaining song comes to us from Dar Williams, one of the best most-underrated singer/songwriters ever. Watch for more of her work in my earworm series in the new year.

And special thanks to my dear friend Amber who turned me onto her music in the first place.

Forbidden Cookbook: Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for Grown-Ups

So if you’re in need of a simple but delightful gift for anyone who might drop by unexpectedly on Christmas, or that cousin who has everything and is difficult to shop for but not difficult to love, or maybe your kids’ teachers — and if you have half an hour to put this all together — you might like this hot cocoa recipe I just developed tonight.

I started by researching other homemade hot cocoa recipes all over the Internet and found maybe a gazillion. I read as many as I could until my eyes glazed over to glean the basic mechanics and to figure out the common denominators that make homemade hot cocoa mix successful. Interestingly, every recipe I read had a relatively different ingredients list. They were all unique from each other in unexpected ways. So I came to an understanding of the baseline necessities, and then I put an ingredients list of my own together. I tested it and tasted it and added a few more things and tweaked the measurements, et voilà! Here’s what I finally landed on.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix for Grown-Ups

This recipe isn’t “for Grown-Ups” because it contains anything that kids can’t drink. Rather, this cup of hot chocolate has a less cloyingly sweet taste than store-bought mixes and a teensy bit of a festive kick to it, so you won’t feel pre-diabetic by the time you reach the end of your mug.

And since I was, in fact, making this batch to put into little jars to give to my kids’ teachers, the recipe is generous and yields probably at least 40 servings. Store it in an airtight jar.

*  3 c. nonfat dry milk powder
*  3 c. powdered sugar
*  1-1/2 c. Dutch-process red cocoa powder
*  1 (11-oz.) bag white chocolate chips
*  1/2 tsp. fine-grain salt
*  2 tsp. cornstarch
*  1 (11-oz.) bag vanilla baking chips
*  3 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk all the ingredients together in a very large bowl. Then pulse small batches of it in a food processor until the chocolate and vanilla chips are finely ground. Add 2 generous tablespoons to 6 oz. of hot water, stir, and enjoy!

A few notes:

I recommend mixing it with hot water rather than milk — although you certainly can use milk if you want a really mild, help-you-off-to-sleep kind of taste — only because water won’t dilute the flavor.

Prepare for your kitchen and you to get really dusty with cocoa powder. It’s gonna happen.

Spoon out a few servings into a decorative glass jar and put a ribbon on it to make a charming and delicious gift for pretty much any fall or winter occasion!

12 Days of Christmas Music To Knock Your Socks Off (Day 6)

This song is a little less traditional. I know it from the Barenaked Ladies Christmas music album, but I only just discovered tonight that it was from the soundtrack to one of the live-action Grinch movies, probably the one with Jim Carrey. I didn’t remember it from seeing the movie back in the day. Ah well. I like the song, at any rate, and since we’re currently experiencing a slight warming trend here in Houston (kind of a bummer, not gonna lie), we’re going with it.

12 Days of Christmas Music To Knock Your Socks Off (Day 5)

This one is for all of you traditionalists out there.

I loved this song when I was a child and used to sing it all the time. The record my parents had with this song was a collection of carols sung by Johnny Mathis, but I recently heard Nat King Cole’s version on the radio and thought it was pretty special. So here you go.