Today is officially Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and also the entrance of winter. As I look out our living room window, all I can see on this first day of winter are blue skies and palm fronds waving in the warm breeze.

It saddens me to be in a place with no snow or discernible season change. Then again, there are several things I can do without for at least this winter:

+ calling AAA once a week for a jump;

+ shoveling and scraping off inches of snow and ice from my car every morning;

+ wind so cold and fierce it makes your eyes water, and then immediately freezes the tears to your face;

+ having to walk four steep blocks to the bus stop every morning, praying I don’t slip and smash my computer/phone/iPod/head on the pavement [and look like an idiot];

+ constantly numb fingers and toes [wait, I still have that regardless of the temperature outside — d’oh];

+ winter storm-related power outages;

+ the gross grey and brown slushy snow in parking lots when everything finally starts melting.

But as much as there is to gripe about, winter for me could never do so much wrong that I’d quit longing for it year after year. It’s more of a feeling than a season to me. Something that conjures images of roaring fires, cozy sweaters, warm drinks, long books, holidays with family, twinkling lights, nostalgic sweets. There are few things that rev me up more than taking an early morning walk on a chilly winter morning — delicate snowflakes catching in my eyelashes, winter birds huddled up in fir trees, the soothing calm of a world still fast asleep. Sigh.

We fly to snowy Wisconsin on Thursday morning, home just in time to celebrate on Christmas Eve with my family. Three more days! Can’t wait to be reunited with our families and my white winter.

To cool us down as the temperatures rise and then warm our hearts from the inside out, little glasses of Christmas spirit[s] — homemade Baileys

It’s got a serious kick. potent potable, if you will! Would make a great Christmas gift, and is delicious in Pots de Crème

Homemade Baileys [makes 1 quart]

Printable recipe

4 fresh eggs

1/2 t almond extract

1 t vanilla extract

2 t dark chocolate syrup

2 t instant espresso granules

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 c good bourbon/whiskey [more or less to your taste]

1 c whipping cream

Blend all ingredients in a blender or in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Store at the back of the refrigerator, where it’s coldest. Shake well before serving, and serve over a cube of ice, stirred into a cup of coffee or — if you’re like me and have a hard time drinking anything with liquor in it — mixed with milk [and I’m talking an 80:20 ratio!].

Note: This recipe will keep for 4-6 weeks.

Adapted from Eat Boutique