Monday, December 6, 2010

Snow Place Like Home

What is it about freshly fallen snow that catapults me back so completely to my childhood? This weekend, we had all of one inch fall here in Raleigh, and the moment we returned home from out of town, I unleashed the dogs and sprinted through the darkness, finding our way by the silver light of the moon breaking though the clouds. Giggling and panting, my three dogs and I raced through the yard while my husband stood shaking his head nearby. Let him be the adult—I had a snow angel to make :)

When I think of the snow days past, somehow they always come to me through a Calvin-and-Hobbes-colored filter. A time when nature has gifted us with the best, most awesomist gift possible, and beyond the frosted window panes lays a vast, unspoiled winter wonderland, waiting only for a sled, a sturdy pair of mittens, and the over-active imagination of a child who’s been stuck indoors for far too long.

In the slightly fuzzy and rose-tinted memories of those glorious winter days when I awoke to the two greatest words a child can hear—Snow day!—one day in particular stands out. It was shortly after my family had moved from Georgia to Kentucky. I was in elementary school, while my sister knocked on the door of adolescence. Five years my senior, it was rare for the two of us to actually get along at that point. We argued, and fussed, and occasionally ignored each other all together, but with me in my annoying, tag-along phase and Kara in her too-cool-for-school phase, harmony was not readily found between us.

Until, one day, we awoke to the transformed landscaped sculpted by the winds and driving snow of a veritable blizzard. It was, in a word, magical. Icicles gleamed from the eaves, whole tree branches, encased in sparkling sleeves of ice, glittered as they swayed in the chill wind. Flush with excitement for the near foot-deep drifts of snow blanketing the yard, we three kids clamored into our quadruple layers of long underwear, clothes, mittens, and coats. We shrugged into bulky winter jackets, wound yards of scarves around our necks, and made faces as our mother fussed over us to make sure we wouldn’t freeze in the arctic countryside surrounding our house.

At last we were free, bounding through the shin-deep snow as we raced for the hill, newly purchased red disk sled in hand. We laughed with abandon, throwing handfuls of packed snow back and forth, our breath crystallizing around us like shimmering vignettes. Soon, the war had begun, and the sled was forgotten as, for once, my sister and I joined forces, digging out forts to shield us from enemy snowballs lobbed by my father and brother. When the ammo was spent, we gleefully reunited, the four of us rolling snow across the ground in an effort to build the elusive being known as a snowman.

Our cheeks brilliantly red among the sea of white, we remembered the sled at last, and sprinted through the drifts, stumbling and laughing as we raced for the disk. Despite the freezing wind and gray skies, excitement warmed our blood and before long, our jackets hung drunkenly from our shoulders, our gloves now discarded, and we wooshed down the hill in delight.

At first we took turns, sliding down the hill on the slick little disk, reveling in the frigid rush and warp speeds. Soon, we piled on together, forgetting our self-imposed rolls and delighting in each other’s squeals. Again and again we flew, hearts racing and laughter echoing through the frozen trees, skittering down the hill in a loop that replays itself from time to time in my memories, like a quicksilver slice of my childhood happiness.

At long last, Mom insisted we come in and warm ourselves by the fire. We denied being cold, but our rosy cheeks and chattering teeth betrayed us. Layer after sopping wet layer fell to the basement floor as we shed our winter armor and thundered up the stairs into the toasty little kitchen. Steaming hot chocolate, carefully poured into our matching red mugs and topped with rationed marshmallows, waited patiently at the table as we filled the small space to bursting.

Grinning, Kara and I relived the day for our mother, giddily embellishing and interrupting each other’s commentary. Mom smiled and nodded, watching her two girls, surely thankful for the winter magic which brought us together for a moment of harmony.

Within days the snow would be gone, and the sled stored away, but the memories would flourish for decades, brought to mind with every new snowflake, relived with every snow angel, and relished with nostalgic smiles anytime I watch fat flakes blanket the countryside while I hug my mug of hot chocolate closer and dream of enough snow to unbury my inner child.

My old Kentucky home :)

Did you live for the long-awaited snow days in your youth? Or did you grow up in one of those places where snow was so common, a snow day meant too much snow to actually get out of the house? And my biggest question of all – are you hoping for a white Christmas? I know I am!

Perfect hot chocolate doesn’t have to come from a packet. For one of the simplest treats in the book, give this a try:

1 cup milk

2 Tbsp cocoa powdered (natural unsweetened)

1 ½ to 2 Tbsp sugar (per your taste – I like less sweet)

1/8 tsp of either vanilla extract, mint extract, OR peppermint extract (optional)

Heat milk in microwavable safe container for 2 minutes. Add cocoa and sugar to bottom of a mug, stir to break up clumps, then pour hot milk over top. Add optional flavorings. Mix with either the drink mixing attachment of your hand mixer, a small whisk, or a fork. Top with a dollop of whip cream and a few marshmallows. Enjoy!

AND THE WINNERS ARE: Catherine Gayle and Rhonda! Congrats, ladies :) Please send your USPS mailing address to Let me know whether you prefer chocolate or red velvet cake, and if you have a preference for frosting.


  1. Fun memories Erin! Brought those snow day memories right back. It's also fun to picture you and Kara as bratty sisters:)

    We got snow November to March in Michigan, but there's nothing like a true snow day when school is canceled - Ryan and I lived for them. We usually had between 3 and 6 a winter, and it was GLORIOUS when our mom came into our bedrooms at 7am to tell us "back to sleep, it's a snow day." HOORAY FOR MORE SLEEP! Our parents would sometimes go to work, leaving us at home (I was middle or high school aged by then), to sled in our backyard where we had our OWN PRIVATE SLEDDING HILL! Our dog Chip would run around in the snow, loving it as much as we did. And hot cocoa after a long day in the cold is just what the doctor ordered. I prefer mine with a candy cane stirrer, so it gets nice and minty :)

    I heard that many states are going to opt out of snow days and do "e-days", where kids have to do work via the computer. Poor kids, there's just nothing like a get out of jail free card day.

    And yes, very much looking forward to a white Christmas! I'm sure your sis is, too...she's a big snow-angel maker :)

  2. We don't get much snow in Alabama, so I have very vivid memories of the snow days we actually have gotten. My best memory is from last year. I watched my kids, completely unprepared for snow, play in the few inches we got for hours. Their noses were red and dripping, their gloves and pants soggy, their shoes absolutley soaked, but their smiles were so beautiful and the excitement in their eyes made every freezing moment I stood outside worth it!

  3. A lovely story, Erin. :) The moment it snowed here the other day I baked a cornbread and put the milk on to heat for hot chocolate. My son played and played, then inside cozy and warm we feasted. My snow-day treat since I was a wee bairn.

  4. Wow, Lindsay, four months of snow! Thank goodness you and Ryan got *some* snow days in all of that :) I hadn't heard about the e-days - that's the most depressing thing I have ever read! Evil modern school people... I guess kids will just have to hope for a power outage or two (just a few hours of course - I don't want anyone to freeze!).
    Here's hoping we see snow at Christmas!

  5. Aw, Julie, what a sweet picture! Well, aside from the dripping noses, lol :) I think the rare snow is one of the very best kinds - no one is going to take it for granted!
    Thanks so much for stopping by :)

  6. Interesting, Katie - I have never heard of cornbread and hot chocolate together as a snow day treat. But... I love them both, so maybe I will give it a try next time :) So glad your son got to enjoy the snow - fleeting though it was. I have to admit, I am already hoping for the next one :)

  7. Oh, Erin, I love your descriptions, esp the Calvin and Hobbes filter. LOL! Growing up in Texas, we didn't experience much snow, so even a threat of icy weather is enough to cause a city-wide shutdown. I think my fave snow memory is of Zach and Olivia building a snowman out on the marina during our snowy weather in New Bern last year.

  8. You know, Sarah, for years I have dreamed of having a big enough snowfall to recreate one of Calvin and Hobbes' hilarious snow scenes. I particularly love the one where the mini snowmen have brought down the big one and are staking him down, lol.
    I love the image of your husband and daughter playing in the snow beside the gorgeous waterfront - how cool! I hope you got pictures :)
    Thanks for dropping by!

  9. One of my favorite snow memories involves the McLeroy family. The blizzard of 1994! I was snowed in with you for several days and I'm pretty sure we left the basement only to play in the snow and eat. Your dad also taught us about ice crystals on the snow and that the Buick really was an incredible machine. I have no idea how, but your dad and Andy got that thing out of the neighborhood to go to the grocery. I can still see it bouncing about through the snow drifts. Who doesn't love a snow day?

  10. I LOVE SNOW!!! And I love this story...thank you for bringing a memory out of a dusty closet and polishing it all bright and happy for me:) That was indeed a glorious day! Maybe I love snow so much because I didn't get to have it (living in Florida, Ga & NC) as a little kid...I was 12 the day of that great snow day when we moved to Kentucky. And it's true, I was too cool for school...I can remember not wanting to wear a hat because it would crush my poofy bangs! But something about the snow called (and still calls) to the very young child in me -- makes me forget all about being cool and grown up and beckons me to put on clothes I normally wouldn't be caught dead in...I think I wore Dad's sweatpants over my jeans. Caution was thrown to the winter wind! And yes, Lindsay is right, making snow angels is my absolute favorite. I love the crisp apple crunch of the snow as my arms slide over it, love the view of the flakes falling towards my face...the beauty is almost too much! I CAN'T WAIT FOR A SNOWY CHRISTMAS:) And thanks to Jennifer for the reminder of the blizzard of 94...that one got me out of college classes for a week and I remember being home with you guys, and once again I was a kid...trying to sled on a black trash bag! Ha! Great post, EK:)

  11. P.s Those pictures are AWESOME! I have one from that day...but I don't think I've ever seen the two of us on the sled together! So great:)

    Also, I love mom's hypothesis that you love snow so much because you were baptized during a freak blizzard in North were always meant to be a snow baby!

  12. Marquita ValentineDecember 7, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Doesn't snow bring out the child in all of us? I know I always stick out my tongue to catch a falling snowflake...just did it this weekend, lol!

    Hopefully we'll have some more snow for Christmas...worthy of snowman building. At least that's the request of my kids.

  13. Holy cow, Jennifer, now that was a big fat trip to way-back! What a fun week that was - and what a behemoth of a car the Buick was. Heck, it's probably still out there somewhere, chugging along in all its seventies glory, lol!
    Thanks for the reminder of a great time :)

  14. Glad to share the memories with you, Kara :) Yes, snow is just about the greatest thing in the world if it could get you to flatten your boof and don men's sweatpants, lol!
    As for the garbage bag sled of later years, I actually wrote a paragraph about that that got edited out. Don't forget the garbage lid and inner tube, too! Man, we come by our redneck roots honestly ;)

  15. I can't believe I forgot to catch snowflakes on my tongue this weekend, Marquita! I guess me and your kids will both be hoping of enough snow to build a snowman... and to taste a few flakes along the way :)

  16. great post ek :) j. favorite part of snow is eating it...we were at your parents house last weekend and j. picked up a big handful (checking first that it wasnt yellow :) i was telling her how much j. loves to eat the snow and she smiled (with her mouth and her eyes) and said that you (ek) always did the same thing :) such a sweet memory for her im sure...

  17. Great post! There's something so liberating about playing in the snow like that when you're a kid. It makes you feel adventurous, yet you have the security of mom making you the great treats to feast on later.

    I forgot how we liked to make "snow ice cream", which I thought was an awesome recipe when I was a kid, but I think it pretty much consists of milk and sugar being added to snow. LOL

    Nowadays I like the snow when I can stay home and watch it from inside a cozy warm house. :)

  18. We made snow ice cream too! A big silver mixing bowl full of fresh snow mixed with sugar and vanilla and a little milk I think:)

  19. Aww, Anon, I love that J shows those 'Erin-like' qualities now and again :) There is nothing like the taste of freshly fallen (white) snow! I can't wait to come home after Christmas and hopefully be able to play alongside with her in the snow!
    Thanks for dropping by!

  20. I forgot all about eating snow icecream, Donna! As Kara said, our 'recipe' was much the same as yours :) What a treat that used to be. And though I still love playing in the snow, it is absolutely wonderful to head inside to the cozy warmth of the fire at the end of the day :)
    I hope you aren't getting tooo much snow this season!

  21. hey Erin
    How can i get in touch with you?
    i mean can i have yo email address?
    its kinda important...plz