Sloe Gin & Hot chocolate

Around this time of year there are only two drinks that are in my mind. A hot chocolate or three and homemade sloe gin. There’s almost nothing better when its cold that a nice hot chocolate to warm you up. Shockingly despite my Englishness I’m not really a tea drinker. I know its mildly upsetting that I am failing in my Britishness. I like peppermint and a builders tea about twice a year. I dislike coffee so its all about the hot chocolate!

I now tend to make my own with cocoa powder,a  dash of sugar or honey, milk and water. Occasionally I add a bit of almond milk as its creamier. If I want to be really indulgent then Honestly Healthy’s coconut milk hot chocolate is the best thing ever!!! Coconut milk, cocoa powder, something sweet, heat up, Boom- chocolate coma!

The only other Christmas drink that will do is sloe gin! Now you cant really buy good sloe gin unless you can find a little country market selling home made goods, store brought is syrupy and horrid. Home made sloe gin is possibly the best thing ever!!! As is damson gin too.

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I spent a good five weeks scouring the landscape around me hunting for sloes. They do grow in North America, however the problem is there aren’t really native hedgerows here – there aren’t really any hedges at all. We even visited an arboretum in the hope a blackthorn bush or three might have been planted. Alas it wasn’t to be so. Not to be deterred by a little thing like missing the key ingredient I had to think outside the box. And ta dah….. the internet is an amazing place. I managed to find some freeze dried sloes that could be shipped to the states. Hurrah Christmas is saved. Ok so this maybe a little extreme but I couldn’t not make sloe gin just because I’m the other side of the world now could I!

Any way a week later the sloes arrived, I rehydrated them and bottled up some home made slow gin, I’m pleased to say its working well so far! It needs to be left a few weeks but it was ready just in time for a Christmas tipple over a game of monopoly!

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Fudge & football

Recently Kiwi and I attended another American football match watching the Fighting Irish, I think they lost again I cant really remember. My favourite part about the games are the soft pretzels – but absolutely not the weird gloopy ‘cheese’ pots they come with – the ‘cheese’ is fake orange stuff like the square ‘cheese’ you get to go on burgers, and the marching bands! I kid you not, they are a marvel to watch, there’s a million people all co-ordinated at the start and at half time. They played a rendition of Swifty’s latest track which was quite amusing. And then the match is in progress they are on the sidelines ready to burst into song the moment play stops – which is a lot of moments!

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I’m beginning to understand the game a little better, its still unbelievable long and sometimes with the commercial breaks and flags being thrown I have no idea what just happened.

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The student stands are also fun to watch, this game was a little chilly but the now ha melted after a two week freeze, the students looked a little cold so to warm up they had a marshmallow fight. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many marshmallows – it looked like it was snowing on a quarter of the stadium, they looked like they were having a lot of fun.

Just to top it of we also visited Kilwins and a random ‘street’ Italian place. Kilwins is becoming a favourite not least because the fudge is amazing, its a chocolate/ice cream shop :-)

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Nubs Nob – Ski Michigan

Over Thanksgiving we thought we would make the most of a little holiday time and of all the recent snow. I mean if its going to be cold and snowy what better activity is there than ski-ing! Also we weirdly find ski-ing really relaxing, something about being out in the fresh air, moving and being active all day, hot chocolate breaks…. what’s not too love!

We did a little research into skiing in the local area, and Michigan came out as a pretty good little destination for ski-ing and local breweries – win win! Keen to explore more of the area we went on a little road trip. We drove North for 5 hours stopping at Grand Rapids and Petoskey. (We want to say it with a Russian accent!). Petoskey offers some great budget accommodation options and we were pleasantly surprised to find a jacuzzi bath in our room perfect after a day on the slopes!

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The to main resorts are Nubs Nob and Boyne Highlands. We went for Nubs on the first day, I think a few friends once looked up at that hill and thought, I reckon you can ski down there, lets give it a go, and a ski resort was born. Nubs prides itself on awesome snow and quality, the ski rentals were brand new, and the snow – both natural and made was fantastic, not all of the lifts and runs were open just yet but there’s a decent days ski-ing here.

Our second day we popped to Boynes – this resort is split into mountain and highlands, the second half is about a 40 minute drive south. This resort is more traditional and has a real charm about it. The runs are slightly longer, sweeping around the mini mountain, and we enjoyed ‘Olympia’ for a decent run. Both resorts make a great weekends ski-ing, and are perfect for beginners or skiers looking for a chilled weekend. They are also pretty affordable with lift passes at $40 a day pre season. Hiring gear is a little cheaper outside the main resorts and there are a few options at Petoskey or Harbour Springs. Both resorts have tasty food and hot chocolate along with good options for sitting and warming up again.

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As for Apres ski, the area is famed for cherry pie and has some great Breweries for a drink and food options. Both Harbour springs and Petoskey have adorable ‘high streets’ with some shopping and cosy restaurants. Perfect for a round of Pirate flux! We had a fantastic weekend and are looking forward to going back!

Hot chocolate and baked brie at the Emporium

A few weeks ago after a lazy morning we went for a walk along the South Bend river. This river way has a purpose built walkway with a couple of different loops that can take you 30 mins to just over an hour or so. They run along the river and have pretty views, just the ticket for getting some fresh air on a frosty day. This time of year the trees are spectacular. After trudging along and stretching our legs we popped into the Emporium. Set along the river this rather grand building looks pretty impressive and has a nice beer garden that was bathed in sunshine. We intended to stop for a quick drink but having consulted the menu decided we had to order food too, they had too many types of delicious cheese based dishes!

Kiwi tried a couple of local beers and stout, whilst I had a glorious Belgium hot chocolate. There really isn’t anything much better than sitting outside enjoy a little sunshine with a good hot chocolate! Especially as this could be the last of the sunshine for a while! Unless of course you add cheese. We ordered a baked brie with almond, marinated shrimp and a cheesy aubergine dip all three were delicious! Especially the bake brie which we devoured in seconds. the other dishes also looked mouthwatering with lots of fish and fresh yummy choices.

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Chocoholic… me?

Obviously one of the first places I wanted to visit was the chocolate cafe…. there is a chocolate factory but we were a bit late for the tour – but that’s ok as we visited the cafe instead. the cafe was random to say the least! it had three cafes, and a grill, and a huge chocolate counter. The cafe sold many hot chocolates, normal white, dark and cherry. Sadly they weren’t quite as exciting as I expected – I thought Thorntons crossed with Cafe Nero hot chocolate mmmm. But the cafe was cosy and cute so I might try again. There was even an additional chocolate shop attached, with chocolates, sweets and a giant moose in the middle of the shop…. obviously!
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