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It is almost the middle of January, and it finally feels like winter here in mid-Missouri! It was 1 degree when we woke up this morning. I would not mind the low temperature if there was snow on the ground to go with it. But there is no snow, and none is forecast for the next several days.

When it is the dead of winter, as it is now, Jim and I wait for a sunny day to go out and “visit” winter. One of our favorite places is Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in West Alton, MO. The ponds and the bay in the wetlands have ice on them, but the Mississippi River is still flowing freely. We decided to visit the sanctuary and see how the birds are managing to keep warm in this frigid weather.

We saw several different kinds of ducks, a large number of Trumpeter Swans, and some geese, and a few white pelicans. I was so cold, and yet the birds seemed okay with the windy gusts and the temperature…it’s those feathers!


This White Pelican, on the shoreline of the Mississippi River, is fluffing up his feathers. When he puts his wings down, those fluffed feathers will give him extra insulation against the cold and the wind.

The ducks on the left are hunkered down, staying warm. The ducks in Ellis Bay also look like little balls on top of the ice. The swans, however, are swimming in what open water they can find. The mallards in the picture on the right seem not at all to mind the cold water of the Mississippi River.

Sometimes, after being out in the cold, after “visiting” winter, or just taking a walk down our street, both Jim and I love to have a cup of good hot chocolate. This afternoon I took a walk and came home freezing. I made some hot chocolate, and it was wonderful. It went a long way is warming my body and my soul!

Hot Chocolate

Many years ago, I bought a cookbook at the Amana Colonies in Iowa. It has a recipe for hot chocolate that is rich and silky, while not being so very sweet. I have tweaked the recipe a bit, but it remains that silky texture I found in the original recipe.


Hot Chocolate

  • 4 heaping tsp. cocoa (I use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
  • 8 tsp. sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3 1/4 c. milk
  • 1 tsp, vanilla
  • 2-3 tsp. espresso powder (optional)

Mix the cocoa, sugar, salt, and water in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan. Bring mixture to a boil and stir. Bring to a boil twice more, stirring after each time. Make sure the mixture does not become scorched. Add the milk, the vanilla, and the espresso powder and heat to desired temperature. This recipe makes 1 quart of hot chocolate. Enjoy!

The bread we enjoyed with our hot chocolate is Zucchini Pineapple Bread. You will find the recipe for the bread on my post, Antelope Island State Park…and Dutch Oven Zucchini Pineapple Bread.

The cookbook I referred to is From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens, by Phyllis Pellman Good and Rachel Thomas Pellman. It was published in 1998, by Good Books, Intercourse, PA.

* Just a note about my blog. During the month of January, I am trying to improve this blog of mine that I started a year ago. When I began, it was just to share our travels, and the many wonderful recipes I have found along the way. But as time has gone by, I found so many other things i wanted to share. So I have changed the name to better reflect where i want to go with the blog in the future. Recipes and our travels will still be my primary subjects, but I will also be expanding to other topics from time to time.