Friday, January 23, 2015

Risky Winter Fun and My Mom's Hot Chocolate Recipe



I feel lucky to have survived the winter dangers of my childhood unscathed, despite not always heeding the warnings of my parents!

I remember brutally cold Canadian winters that were a lot of fun. Some of my best winter memories are of time spent outside after school and on weekends. Despite being cautioned by my parents, my sisters and I didn't give a thought to some potentially devastating consequences.

We didn't believe that suffocation, head injury or even frostbite could happen to us
 
We spent hours playing in snow forts, not believing warnings that they could collapse and we could suffocate. I would practice "figure eights" and spins on the skating rink my Dad made for us, until well after dark and all feeling had left in my toes, encased in the thin leather of my skates. Annually, my sisters and I shoveled a track down our snowy hillside and poured water on it, creating a course worthy of a bobsled. Practically airborne and helmet-less, we would sail down it on our toboggan, careening into the poplar trees if we veered off-course. We didn't worry about anything - we just had fun.

My sisters and I with one of our snowmen
Years later, while taking first aid classes to become an American Red Cross instructor, I realized how foolhardy I had been. Frostbite is a serious condition that can lead to gangrene, nerve damage and other complications if not properly treated. I dodged the proverbial bullet on this one.

"Frost Nipping at Our Nose … and Fingers and Toes"
 
During winter playtime, my hands were typically encased in hand-knit woolen mittens. These could keep fingers pretty warm, unless they got wet. Lugging overflowing pails of water from the house to our back hill to pour down our sledding run, I would also splash my mittens. Perhaps, had I not been so intent upon my task, I might have gone inside for another pair. Instead I would ignore the pain as the cold bit into my fingers. Finally, it would get too dark or dinner would be ready, and we would head indoors.

Wet wool mittens!
My fingers would begin to sting soon after as I entered the house.  It would take a few minutes to unwind the thick wool scarf wrapped several times around my neck and remove the layers of my hooded parka, snow-pants, and boots. I knew it was best to just tuck my hands inside my armpits to warm them. Too impatient for that, I would fill a sink with hot water and submerge them. An incredible burning sensation would result, sometimes accompanied by a feeling of pins and needles.

Eventually the pain would stop.

I had most likely experienced "frostnip" - a mild first stage of frostbite, that doesn't usually cause permanent damage to the skin unless allowed to progress to true frostbite.

Frostnip causes skin to:
  • initially become reddened
  • feel very cold
  • progress to feelings of numbness and prickling.
  • become painful and tingling when rewarming occurs
Fortunately, our hot water heater was never set high enough to inflict a burn. In my first aid class I learned lukewarm water can be used to rewarm a possibly frostnipped body part, but never hot. Decreased sensation of the area could cause an inability to know when hot water, a heating pad or other heat source is too hot, and a burn could result.

It is important recognize symptoms of frostnip or frostbite, and know what to do if they occur.

Immediate emergency medical treatment is important in cases of true frostbite.

Experiencing winter can be a joyful time for kids, but hopefully they heed the warnings and advice of their parents better than I did!


 “Marshmallows with hot chocolate”
I'm not sure my mom ever really knew how cold my hands would get - or the technique I used to warm them up.  I remember however, that when we came indoors she would frequently be at the stove, stirring a pot of hot chocolate - with marshmallows at the ready!


Do you remember hot chocolate before microwave ovens

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

24 comments :

  1. I love hot chocolate made on the stove top! I'll have to try this for the boys this weekend and see what they think. I remember my fingers and toes feeling the exact same way - but like you, we were having too much fun to come inside! We have had no snow this winter, so it hasn't been a problem this year!

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    1. Just make sure you have lots of marshmallows :) Wish I could send you some snow - although ours has been melting all week!

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  2. I love your winter memories, and share many of them! Funny how we managed to survive some crazy stuff as kids. And now I think I'm going to go make a cup of hot chocolate!

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    1. I've always said it is amazing that kids grow up! Hope the hot chocolate was good.

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  3. Oh my goodness! I can't believe how similar your childhood was to mine! Even to the recipe for Hot Chocolate! Our Moms must have gone to the same school. I remember getting chilblains in my fingers and toes. The first time they swelled up, I thought they were going to explode! Mom simply shook her head, told me that I had let my hands get too cold, and handed me a mug of hot chocolate and the bag of marshmellows. How little we knew . . .

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    1. One of the reasons I love your blog so much Diane is that you often write stories I can relate to! It's like hearing from a friend of my past. I never got chilblains - but I have heard how painful they can be. I think there may be some truth to the statement “What you don't know won't hurt you.”

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  4. Growing up in western NY, I experienced lots of sledding and lots of cold hands. I can remember that feeling of warming them back up well! I still love hot chocolate and have it often for dessert after dinner.

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    1. I had hot chocolate for dinner, the night I wrote this post!

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  5. I grew up on the west coast so my Canadian winters were much different. Mostly rain and mild. Did get snow but sadly it would last for only a few days. My trip to Ontario this week was an eye opener. -21. But lovely and sunny. I love your mitts in snow photo. Oh and those parkas you were when younger!

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    1. Glad you had sunshine on your trip - it makes subzero bearable. My mom knit those mitts many years ago- I will pass along the compliment! Oh - and that parka! Looks like it was close to being outgrown! This photo remained buried for many years - amazing how time passing can soften your judgement of your appearance in the past.

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  6. With the benefit of the twenty-twenty vision that goes with hind-sight I am amazed that we survived. Frost-bite wasn't the issue, but we did take some incredible risks.
    Aged about ten my parents forbade me to ride my bike to a playground I wanted to go to, as it was too far. So I rode my bike down to the lake and swam across (well over a mile), played in that forbidden playground, swam back and rode home...

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    1. Oh my! A mile across the lake, alone?! You must have been a good swimmer at 10!

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    2. Not as good as I thought I was. No training, and largely self-taught.

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  7. And now, here in Ontario, they want to ban sledding....unsafe you know....sheesh. Yes, I remember hot chocolate before microwaves. I actually made it. And it DID taste better.

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    1. Ban sledding - really? That might be tough to inforce! However, after having broken my leg sledding (12 weeks in a cast) - I am a little more cautious about it now!

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  8. I remember skating on a pond and it cracking...yes, risky business back in our days ;-) I still like to make hot chocolate with warmed milk from the stove top (it's healthier that way, right?) Now my kids enjoy making it with the Keurig. Thanks for the memories Susan!

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  9. If I had a penny for every time my parents warned me not to go out on thin ice, I could buy something nice! I hope you weren't submerged! Glad you enjoyed the memories - and thanks for the glimpses of farm life you provide on your blog!

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  10. Isn't it funny how we try to protect our kids from the crazy things we did as a children. Maybe they would be better off if they just discovered it all the way we did. I don't remember my parents warning me very much about the cold and I have survived. In my day we weren't even allowed to wear pants to school and we always walked to school. I was raised in Conrad, MT, and the winters were fierce. No television so we were outside all of the time. I miss being that tough. I am such a wimp now!

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    1. Winter in Montana requires a degree of toughness - even in midlife I have found, Lynn! But that is why I enjoy living here :)

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  11. There is nothing better than making hot chocolate on the stove but I have fallen in love with hubby's Keurig machine. I picked up some at the grocery and it is fast and ready in about a minute. I still love making it the old fashioned way. It's amazing that any of us survived our childhood's intact considering the things that we have since learned!

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    1. I haven't tried a Keurig yet, but it seems like once one does, everyone loves them!

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  12. This was such a fun post to read - I grew up the same way, crazy tunnels of snow and all! Thanks so much for linking up to Awesome Life Friday - I hope we'll see you again this week!

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  13. I love the winter memories as a child! I never had a nice warm mug of hot chocolate waiting for me when I can in though. Now when I go outside I scramble as fast as possible to get back inside. lol I love hot chocolate and tons of marshmallows! Thanks for linking up at the Sunday's Recipe Wrap-up!

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