Come on in and gather 'round the tree...I'm getting organized for Christmas Eve when family and friends will gather with us to enjoy our traditional menu of Tom's seafood chowder (a magnificent creation of scallops, shrimp, cod, red-skinned potatoes, bacon, and sauteed onion in a bechamel sauce), a crisp Caesar salad, loaves of sourdough bread, and various wines.
The table is set for the occasion. I changed out the gold accoutrements (see December 17 post) for silver all the way from the chargers to the chandelier decorations. A new centerpiece filled with silver and glass ornaments and lit from within by battery-operated mercury glass globes is surrounded by a small herd of sparkling reindeer standing among mercury glass and crystal Christmas trees.
This little tree functions as a place card holder and can be taken home by each guest to be used as a tree ornament.
Along with the old traditions of Tom's chowder and exchanging pajama presents on Christmas Eve, my nephew's wife suggested that we wear our pj's this year. I loved the idea but added "sweats" to the suggested attire for those whose bedtime nightclothes are either non-existent or R rated. Of course, this added to my dilemma of what to wear. I had already bought my pajamas for this Christmas (don't get me started on how we buy presents in our household -- I usually buy and wrap my own and just say thank you to him when I open them -- I've never been disappointed yet!) but they weren't appropriate for this gathering. Most of my current nighties aren't for public consumption, but neither did I want to wear any of the flannel pj's I save for ski vacations (don't ask when the last time was that we went skiing). And my sweats are seriously not pretty. But ah ha...found a long black "lounge" gown packed away that I bought on sale from Soma several years ago but never had the occasion to wear (when it's just the two of us, I don't drag out this type of look -- that's sad, isn't it? Why did I buy it and what the heck am I saving it for?). It will be perfect for Monday night...except what shoes/slippers to wear? And does one add accessories to nightwear if you're wearing it in public? Might have to go shopping...
The other new tradition this Christmas Eve will be the addition of a hot chocolate bar. I'd been seeing all sorts of pictures of hot chocolate bars on Pinterest such as the one below from the delightful blog, Dear Lillie.
I've done a hot chocolate bar before, but just for 20 preschoolers. This Christmas Eve cocoa bar will be for three-year-olds to eighty-one year olds so I've included an "adults only" section complete with different liqueurs for those who wish to amp up their cocoa -- after all, it might be a bit chilly outside.
I had a false start setting up the bar. Initially I placed it on a counter top in the kitchen, but I'm dealing with a small kitchen, so the bar got moved to a table in the family room just off the kitchen.
For anybody who might be new to the cocoa bar concept, it's a set-up with lots of different toppings, add-ins, or stirrers to be used with the hot chocolate. The cocoa is prepared first and then the children can point to what they want; the older ones can do their own thing. I'm placing a large coffee urn filled with hot water as part of the set-up so we won't need the stove to heat up the water while Tom is busy with his chowder.
- cinnamon sticks
- candy canes
- mini chocolate chips
- whipped cream
- white chocolate chips
- crushed mint chocolate Oreos
- cinnamon marshmallows
- mini marshmallows
- large marshmallows dipped in chocolate and red and white sprinkles (this is an activity I'll be doing with my granddaughter and great-nephew on Sunday)
- South Pole sticks (toffee sticks dipped in milk chocolate from WmSonoma)
- North Pole sticks (peppermint sticks dipped in chocolaty candy coating from WmSonoma)
Adults-only Section of the Hot Chocolate Bar
Adults-only section can include but is not limited to:
- Peppermint schnapps
- Baileys mint chocolate cream liqueur
- Creme de cacao
- Creme de menthe
- Creme de banana
- Chambord with fresh raspberries (could be my favorite especially with whipped cream)
- Grand Marnier with fresh orange peel (or maybe this one)
- Coconut rum
- Cognac with orange peel
- Butterscotch schnapps
- B and B
- Strawberry vodka
- Cinnamon vodka
I have a recipe for a huge batch of rich and creamy cocoa mix that can be used all winter long. I'm keeping the cocoa in the large glass jar with the red and white ribbon on it.
Hot Chocolate Mix Recipe
- 1 16 oz non-dairy creamer
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 8 qt box instant nonfat dry milk
- 1 2-pound can instant powdered chocolate drink
- Mix all ingredients well
- Place in large tightly covered container
- When ready to make a cup, place 1/3 cup chocolate mixture in each cup
- Add enough hot water to fill
- Stir well
- Top with mini marshmallows and/or other toppings