I had wanted to come here today to write about Christmas baking and how much I was looking forward to some time to relax over the holidays, but after the heartbreaking events that happened on Friday in Conneticut, it all seems so trivial. I almost didn't post this at all.
I don't usually get so open and emotional here, but I have been much more affected by this event than any other disasters or tragedies in recent times, even those that happened much closer to home. I was in tears as I read about the heroic teachers who protected their young students, including Victoria Soto who was not much older than me and showed bravery I'm not sure I could have if I were in her shoes. Twenty young children were taken way, way, way too soon. And imagine how traumatic it was for all of the children who managed to hide and survived.
All of those people went to work/school on that completely normal day without even an inkling of what was about to happen. Everyone in that small town is now changed forever, especially the families and friends of the victims. I'm tearing up a little again as I write this. I hope and pray that their souls are at peace in heaven, and that senseless crimes like this could somehow be stopped for good.
I think it's so important to tell the people you love that you care about them. We're all so busy with our own lives and all the stuff we think is important, but I for one am going to make a much greater effort to give my friends a phone call when they cross my mind, and spend time with my family way more often than I currently do. Life is just too short to hold grudges, anger and resentment. Friends and family are invaluable, and what better time than Christmas to make sure they know you love them.
At Christmastime I try to give edible homemade gifts, because they truly are made with love and I think it shows. These marshmallows were pretty darn delicious, but didn't quite work out as I'd hoped so I will keep working on the recipe before I share it with you. But the star here was the Mulled Wine Syrup! A bottle of wine was simmered with sugar and spices (you can use whichever ones you like) to create a wonderfully ambrosial syrup that I think would make a lovely gift because it's so versatile. Use it as a topping for ice cream or poached fruit, as the base for a delicious sangria or even as a glaze for ham or duck.
I hope this inspires some of you to show your loved ones that you care - whether it be with a phone call or a homemade Christmas gift, and to pray for the people who lost their lives, and all those affected by the Sandy Hook tragedy.
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Mulled Wine Syrup
Note: For this recipe you can use any leftover wine or an inexpensive bottle. I got a cleanskin for $5 from my local bottle shop. The spices I have used are just some of many possibilities and you can change them up according to your own preferences. Other spices you might want to try include star anise, peppercorns, cardamom, a thumb-sized piece of ginger, a few pieces of orange or lemon peel, nutmeg, etc. PS, It smells amazing as it simmers away!
- 1 bottle (750ml) red wine
- 1 - 1 ½ cups sugar, to taste
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 5 whole cloves
- ½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
Place ingredients into a saucepan over medium heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer for 30-40 minutes or until liquid is syrupy. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Use immediately or strain into sterilised bottles or jars to give as gifts. Lasts indefinitely in the fridge.