A couple of weeks ago, we were all watching the news for the weather report. It was back when the kids were excited about possible snow. I usually DO NOT allow my children to watch the news, but this was only for the weather, so we watched. The story that came after the weather was about the Central Florida Railway, our rail line here in Eustis that connects to Mt Dora and Tavares. The report was about how the rail ties were over 30 years old, and it was unsafe for the trains to run with passengers. The current owner of the railway can not afford the $100,000 it will cost to make the repairs, so he was pleading with city officials to help financially. The debate was whether or not it is worth the tax payer dollars to pitch in, or if the railway should just be shut down and stop running completely. Steven did not say a word to me or George, as we sat waiting for his reaction. He went straight up stairs and started crying on his bed. I went up to try and calm him down, and his first question was if we could go and write a $100,000 check to help. Ummmm....no honey, we do not have that kind of money just sitting around. His next idea was for us to sell hot chocolate and collect donations. How could I say no to that? That, we could do. So, he dried his tears, and made a donation bucket. I broke out the old cricut and helped make signs to promote our cause. We set up shop on one of the coldest Friday nights, right outside the restaurant. Steven gladly made hot chocolate for lots and lots of our patrons. George sent them all out to our stand after they checked out. They were all so nice, some even donating without having hot chocolate. We had friends come out to support Steven, and that really meant a lot to us. Even a couple of the ladies from his school came by. He raised over $90.00, and the highlight for him was taking it to the train station the next morning. The folks at the station were very excited that Steven had been moved to action. We are still waiting to hear if they will get the Federal Grant they have applied for that would help pay for the repairs. Steven did ask to go sell hot chocolate again this weekend, but we had a lot planned. All who know him, know he has LOVED trains since he first picked one up at 18 months old. The rail line here in our home town is really special to him, because he has ridden it for several events including his 5th bday party. And, because we have chased it around town for years. Even though he is getting older, the trains are still close to his heart. He is such a sweet kid, and George and I are so proud of his giving nature.
Here is our hot chocolate recipe for a cold night. It's an adaptation of Melissa Lessters.
ALMOND HOT CHOCOLATE
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup white sugar
pinch of salt
1/3 cup boiling water
3 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 cup half and half
Combine cocoa, sugar, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Add the boiling water and stir over medium heat until the sugar melts, and you acheive a thick liquid. Stir in milk and heat until very hot, but not boiling. Stir in both extracts and half and half, and remove from heat. Divide hot chocolate between 4 mugs and add a dollop of whipped cream. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon and enjoy.