On Crying After a Party, Chocolate Peppermint Cake, and Lovely Links (With Lanier’s Advent Poem!)

I’m hiding in my room today, thanks to a wicked case of poison ivy made worse when I “eat fire,” Luke’s word for where I sit when I’m in the den–so close to the hissing flames my back turns bright crimson and I thirst for a gallon of water. Back here, propped up against a mound of pillows, I’ve got a fir-scented candle and Robert Shaw in my headphones. The twins are baking up a perfect storm in the kitchen, and Sadie’s running loose. (Another reason to hide–if she sees me with my laptop she marches over to shut it. She does not care for screen time–unless it’s her screen time.)


These glad and golden hours are flying fast, my friends. How I wish it all would slow down! And how I’m already mourning what has passed! Last night, Lanier threw a gorgeous, black-tie party for our couples reading group, Notions. As Luke and I pulled ourselves away at midnight and I looked back at the glowing Ruff House from the passenger seat, I sniffled a bit. Did the evening really pass so quickly? From the pear-champagne punch to the roast beef with caramelized shallots to the late-night laughter as guests stood in the hall buttoning coats, how could I not cry when we stepped out into the cold darkness? Such is to be expected. I am the same Laura who, at four, threw a tantrum when the curtain closed on the first play I was taken to, a community theater production of Winnie the Pooh. I was always startling my poor mother. What’s wrong? Didn’t you like it? she wondered. I loved it. But it’s over! I keened.


Over, the worst word in the English language.

Such a silly girl.

But I’ll take the highs–they are so delicious! Funny how during Christmas–and, I suppose, all year round–it’s often the quiet, small things that send me soaring. This week it was sipping a gingerbread latte with daughter Emma, watching a cheesy Hallmark holiday movie with the twins, whipping up a batch of Ina Garten’s chocolate orange mousse–somehow I’d never made mousse before–and taking a cold-weather walk with Sadie and admiring the neighbor’s life-size nativity scene. Baby Jesus! Sadie cried. She loves her baby Jesus sightings.

Here are a few small things on the web worth a peek this week:

Emma’s home from her first semester at college–and her baking blog is back in business! Emma has an uncanny knack for using a recipe for its “bones” and then completely making it her own. Her oatmeal and cacao nib cookies with bittersweet chocolate chips and toasted pecans (and “secret” ingredients maple extract and molasses) are Emma’s Christmas triumph–she’s sending a tin-full to my brother, Brian, and his wife, Jenni, in Kentucky and making gifts of them for friends. And, of course, Emma’s creation will be on the cookie tray at my parents’ house Christmas Eve. Have I not told you about our cookie tray? Since time immemorial, we’ve used an enormous silver platter to display a dozen or so types of homemade treasures to be passed around after Christmas Eve supper. We have a fancier dessert, usually a buche de noel, on Christmas Day, but I’ve always loved the cookie tray best. I used to have the job of arranging The Tray, but that honor was long ago handed to my girls. Check out Emma’s Sugar Dust for the cacao nib cookies (and more).

Photo/Emma Boggs

I doubt you need me to tell you about Anthropologie. But Anthro’s worth a look right now– I’ve noticed they’ve had a number of deep sales this Christmas. I picked up this little number for a song to wear to the Notions dinner.

This is NOT me.

Paired with cream-colored tights and cranberry mary janes, I think I did alright. Anthropologie is doing 30 percent off clothes, shoes, and accessories right now–“for a limited time,” whatever that means. If you visit, tell them I said hi! (My husband does not love the fact that the clerks at our local store know my name.)

GH Strategerist Philip and faithful friend Bonnie

It’s not often very cold in Georgia, so I was delighted when the thermometer dipped into the thirties last night, chilly enough to wear a proper coat (similar) and my black fur muff.

Don’t forget you can follow Golden Hours on Pinterest! I’ve been awfully picky with my Pins — only the best for GH!

Lanier is a podcast princess! Here’s one she did on celebrating home for Refracted Reality along with the wonderful Sarah Clarkson (more on Sarah later). The podcast features an audio version of Lanier’s essay, “In Praise of the House Party,” complete with music and sound effects.

High church fans, don’t miss this Christmas Eve MUST: The annual live stream of Nine Lessons and Carols from King’s College–airing at 10 a.m. EST. Blast it throughout the house while you wrap, bake, set the evening’s table–whatever you’re doing. From the processional “Once in Royal David’s City” to the “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” descant, the service is sublime.

Check out this rediscovered J.R. Tolkien (!) Christmas poem, “Noel.”

If you know me, you know I abhor salad. Rabbit food! But normal people like it, I’m told, and Lanier is making this pear-apple-pomegranate-pine nuts wonder for Christmas morning breakfast. To each her own.

Lanier says she decided to “make it easy” on herself for the Notions meal, entrusting most of the menu to an Everyday Food spread from 2004. “I never do that,” she says, “always preferring to assemble my own recipes and keep things as complicated as possible.” Yep, that sounds about right. I, for one, am glad our hostess went the simple route, taking advantage of the magazine’s accompanying timeline and dividing up the food prep over days, making it all quite manageable. The chocolate cake with peppermint icing was “crazy-easy,” Lanier says, but earned rave reviews. It’s like a brownie, only lighter, or like a torte, only denser. Got that? Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate-Peppermint Cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces, plus more for the pan
1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour an 8-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper. Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder.
In a medium saucepan, bring 2 inches of water to a boil. Place butter and chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl and set it over the water. Turn off the heat, and let stand until the chocolate is melted, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir to combine. Remove bowl and cool five minutes.
Whisk in sugar and vanilla until combined, then whisk in eggs and buttermilk. Fold in flour mixture until combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake until cake pulls away from sides and a toothpick inserted near the center has a few moist crumbs clinging to it, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Cool in pan 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge and invert onto a wire rack to cool completely, about an hour. Coat with Chocolate-Peppermint Icing.
Chocolate-Peppermint Icing
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. In a small saucepan, bring cream to a boil over high heat, then stir in peppermint extract. Strain cream into the bowl with the chocolate chips and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth. Cool until mixture falls in ribbons when spoon is lifted, 2 to 6 minutes.
Set cake on a stand and tuck parchment paper under the sides (to keep the cake stand clean). Pour icing onto center of cake and use a dinner knife to spread evenly over the top and down the sides.Let set 30 minutes, then remove parchment.
The cake can be made up to two days ahead, and the cake can be iced up to one day ahead. Keep covered at room temperature.
This recipe originally appeared in Everyday Food, December 2004.
Ah, but I’ve saved the best for last. Lanier wrote a breathtakingly beautiful Advent poem for The Rabbit Room, and illustrator Jonny Jimison did the piece proud. Read it here. Twice.




  1. Laura, your wrap up of a day in the life of friends and family made me smile so…. And a photo of Phillip–thank you. (I’ve always wondered what he looked like 🙂
    I’m going to click on over to Emma’s food blog–yum! May God be with you and your family in these Golden Hours, spilling over into the new year.

  2. I decided to reward myself tonight for having everything done—cards posted, gifts wrapped and mailed, cookies baked, house cleaned– and I settled down next to our Christmas tree with a glass of sparkling wine and my laptop and spent a delightful evening on the Golden Hours Pinterest page. Such a treat! Thank you!
    (I hope y’all can do at least one more podcast this Christmas season!)

  3. this post made me so happy. you all work on creating such beauty for your community of friends – you have something that is increasing rare, not only community but a love of tradition and beauty.

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