spirits

The Orb

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Standing at the entrance to the girls' bedroom, Samantha watched her two little angels sleep. A smile formed on her face as five-year old Anna inadvertently put her leg over her elder sister Kelly, who had recently celebrated her thirteenth birthday.  She watched in silence as Kelly absent mindedly pushed Anna’s feet away, and turned to her side continuing to sleep uninterrupted. Samantha’s eyes involuntarily flicked towards her ring finger, which once boasted of a diamond encrusted wedding ring. All that was left now, was a pale circular patch where the ring used to be. And a feeling of emptiness in her heart. She missed Ryan, her husband and best friend. Throwing one final glance at the sleeping girls, Samantha turned off the lights. It was time for her to hit the bed too.

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Samantha woke up to the gentle pitter patter of the raindrops against her window. Apart from the luminous dials of her bedside clock, the entire room was cloaked in darkness. She glanced at the clock - the time was 0330. She tried to close her eyes and go back to sleep, but the light knocking of the raindrops against the window panes kept her awake. She slowly got up from her bed and walked up to the window. Parting the thick curtains slightly, she opened the window partially. As the gentle spray of the misty rain wet the contours of her face, she closed her eyes and inhaled deeply. The sweet scent of petrichor and freshly manicured lawns was exhilarating and brought a smile to her face, even at this hour. She’d always loved rain. In fact, Ryan had even proposed to her on a rainy night, when they were returning from a Knicks match. Oh, how she missed Ryan ….. especially when it rained.

A subtle buzzing noise from the garden snapped her out of her reverie. At first, Samantha thought she’d assumed it. But the buzzing continued. The misty rain and darkened sky made it next to impossible for her to see clearly. As her eyes scanned the almost pitch-dark garden, she noticed a lucent orange sphere fluttering near the fence. It seemed to be pulsating slowly - gradually growing in both size and brightness, before reducing to a dull amber shade the size of a golf ball. As if sensing her gaze, the orange orb suddenly stopped pulsating and whizzed off. A few seconds later, the letter box started to emit a pulsating orange glow. Despite being a tad alarmed about the sudden presence of a strange object in her garden, Samantha was curious. She grabbed hold of one of Ryan’s old baseball bats from the cupboard and stealthily made her way downstairs.

Taking care not to wake up the kids, she gently unlatched the lock to the main door and twisted the gold-coloured handle, opening it. The light breeze ruffled her shoulder-length curly hair as she walked slowly across the porch and peeked around the corner. Pitch dark blackness was what greeted her. The sphere had disappeared.

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"Crap! It must have shut behind me!” thought Samantha, as she tried the handle to the main door again. Somehow the door had shut and it was locked. Holding the handle tightly, she leaned into the heavy-set oak door and tried to use her shoulder as leverage to open it up. But the door wouldn’t budge. Muttering a curse under her breath, she ran all the way around the side of the house and stood below the window of her daughters’ bedroom window. “Kelly….Anna!” she called out loudly. All she got in response was a bleak echo of her own voice.  Panic starting to set in, Samantha picked up a rock from the garden and threw it against the window. Despite the loud crash of breaking glass, there was still no noise from their room. As she was about to turn around to make her way back to the front of the house, she heard the buzzing noise again. She looked around the garden, but the noise seemed to be coming from higher up. She looked back up at the girls’  bedroom and her jaw dropped in shock. There was an orange glow radiating from the room.

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“One more…and it’ll give!” thought Samantha, as she raised the bat behind her head. Summoning all the strength she could muster, Samantha brought down the bat hard. There was sickening crack as Ryan’s alloy coated Marucci baseball bat made contact with the handle of the front door. As the handle fell to the floor, the door swung open crashing against the inside wall from the impact. A set of four loud chimes from the hallway momentarily froze Samantha in her tracks. It took her a few moments to realise that the chimes were from the grandfather clock which had just struck 0400. Shrugging off the shock, Samantha clutched the bat tightly and rushed up the stairs. She called out the girls’ names as she burst into their bedroom. But there was no response. The floral curtains fluttered in the breezy wind through the broken window. Fearing the worst, she flicked the light switch in their room. The thoroughly ruffled up bed and duvets on the floor confirmed her fear - the girls were missing.

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A loud clap of thunder jolted Samantha from her sleep. She jumped up on the bed and looked around in the darkness. Despite the fan being on full-speed, she was drenched in sweat. Her eyes took a few minutes to adjust to the darkness of the room. The rhythmic beats of the raindrops against the window served as a reminder of what she’d just been through. She glanced at the bedside clock - it stated the time as 0245. Samantha was baffled. She was certain that the time had been 0330 when she’d been up last. Why, she’d even heard the old grandfather clock chime 0400. “Unless it had been a dream”. She slid off her bed and rapidly walked across to the kids’ bedroom. A set of gentle snores confirmed their presence in the room. Samantha was relieved. It looked like it was just a bad dream after all. She wiped her sweaty forehead with the cuffs of her pyjama top and walked downstairs to the kitchen to get a drink of water.

As she stood against the kitchen sink sipping a glass of cold water, Samantha suddenly heard a rustling noise. This was following by the now familiar buzzing sound. She glanced at the mirror she kept above the sink and was shocked to see someone standing behind her.  Clutching her glass tightly, she turned around. She breathed a sigh of relief as she realised it was Anna, her youngest daughter. The rustling was caused by the blanket trailing across the floor when she walked.

“Mummy…I think there is something upstairs...."  said Anna, as she hurried into her mother’s outstretched arms. Samantha felt the front of her pyjama top moisten from her daughter’s warm tears. “Don’t worry, baby! Mummy’s here!” she whispered to Anna, who was now starting to tremble. The sound of rapid footsteps drew her attention to the staircase. Samantha felt her muscles tighten in anticipation, as the footsteps drew closer. She smiled when she saw the person - it was Kelly, with a confused look on her face.

As Kelly joined her mother and sister in a hug, there was loud crash from upstairs. Though she wasn’t sure, to Samantha it sounded as if an object had smashed through the window and landed with a thud on the parquet floor of the bedroom. As a chilly breeze wafted down the stairs, Samantha quickly opened up the kitchen drawer and pulling out the largest knife she had. An orange glow had started to radiate from upstairs. For a brief moment, Samantha felt a sense of déja vu. "The dream!" she thought, as she pushed Anna and Kelly behind her.

A loud creak drew their attention to the staircase. The orange glow had disappeared, but they could hear light footsteps on the parquet floor upstairs. Tightening her grip on the knife, Samantha whispered to Anna and Kelly, "Don't worry! Just stay quiet - Mummy will protect you!". She felt her daughters grip her waist tighter, as the footsteps started to get louder. A short, shrouded figure was walking down the staircase, taking each step carefully. As the figure advanced towards them, Samantha held the knife out, ready to slash the person at a moment’s notice. The shrouded figure dropped the covering on the kitchen floor and moved closer.

“Mummy…it’s me. Anna!” said the new figure, moving into the light, her amber eyes pulsating like an orange orb.

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Image Courtesy - paranormal.lovetoknow.com

The Ancient Board

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Part 1 : The Garage Sale

Anna shrugged her shoulders and followed Erik across the beautifully manicured lawns. She glanced at the duplex house that adjoined the garage and wondered if and when they’d be able to afford a home like that. Only if Erik stops spending all his money on random objects.” she mused as she slowly made her way towards the open garage where boxes after boxes were carefully stacked. There was already a large mass of people methodically sifting through the boxes looking for objects of value. Erik had disappeared into the depths of the garage in the hope of finding some hidden gems to add to his growing collection of random objects, in the basement of their rented home.   Not wanting to follow him immediately, Anna walked across the lawn and leaned against one of the cars that was parked by the side of the house. Lighting up her favourite menthol cigarette, she inhaled deeply. As the menthol vapours started to work their magic swirling down her throat and filling her lungs, she started to feel a bit more relaxed. She glanced at her watch and hoped that Erik wouldn’t take too long. The sun was already starting to set and they had another couple of hours of driving till they got to their destination in Denver. She decided that she would give him ten more minutes before she went in and dragged him out. She giggled at the thought. Erik was well over six feet and built like a wrestler. She was almost a foot shorter and weighed just over 100 lbs. There was no chance she’d be able to exert enough physical force to drag him out. Lost in her own thoughts, she looked around. They were in a rather quaint little neighbourhood, with rows of duplex houses lining both sides of the shaded street. They had been forced to take a detour through this neighbourhood due to an accident on the state highway. And Erik, who normally missed most signboards, had noticed the board advertising a garage sale and had coerced her into stopping for a few minutes.   Stamping out the cigarette with her foot, Anna decided to go find Erik. They needed to get moving soon. She walked up to the garage and peered in through the entrance. It was dimly lit, with a lone hanging bulb providing the lone source of illumination. There were boxes of all imaginable shapes and sizes placed haphazardly across the entire garage, blocking her view. Erik?” she called out, hoping to hear a response in some form. There was none. Anna hesitated. She didn’t really want to have to go in. She was claustrophobic and hated dark places too. She looked around on the lawn. The crowd was dying down, but Erik was nowhere to be seen. She sighed. She was going to have to go in and find him. Slowly and carefully, Anna made her way towards the back of the garage, through the maze of cardboard boxes and other knick-knacks. As she walked through the low-lit garage, she suddenly cried out in pain as her shin made contact with something wooden. Bending down to massage her sore shin, she stared at the culprit. It was a light-brown rectangular box which was made of wood. She bent over and tried to retrieve the wooden object, which seemed to be protruding out from a torn cardboard box. Curious to find what it was, she pulled at it with all the strength she could muster. Since the object wasn’t wedged in too tightly, it came free quite easily and she fell backwards, crashing into a rickety side table.   Anna picked herself up and looked at the rectangular box that now lay sideways.. Though the surface was coated with dust, she could make out a few strange markings on the surface, which on closer observation seemed like Chinese lettering, which looked oddly familiar. She tugged at the golden latch in front of the box and lifted the lid to find out the contents. Her eyes widened in shock as she saw what the box contained and almost instantaneously she threw the wooden box and its contents onto the floor. As the box hit the floor with dull thud, a small heart-shaped flat piece of wood flew out and slid under an old table, in the corner of the room. Anna stood frozen to her spot. She desperately wanted to run out of the garage, but her legs refused to move. Suddenly the hanging bulb flickered and everything went dark.

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Part 2 : Anna's Secret

“Anna, Anna…are you okay?” She heard Erik’s deep voice calling out to her. Anna opened her eyes and saw Erik and an elderly oriental woman standing over her, looks of concern etched on their faces. She slowly nodded, sat up and looked around her. It was dark barring an orange glow from the nearby street light. As Erik helped her to her feet, the old lady offered her a glass of water, which she happily accepted. “What happened to me?” she asked Eric, returning the empty glass to the woman. Erik looked at her questioningly, “I am not sure. I was hoping you’d be able to tell me that.I was discussing final price for the stuff with the owner, when we heard a loud scream from the garage. And when we reached there, you were lying unconscious on the floor. So we brought you out into the lawn and tried to wake you up”. Suddenly the image of the board came rushing back to her. She motioned Erik towards the car and said, “I think we should leave. Now!” Erik nodded and said “Okay, let me just pay the lady, get the stuff into the car and we’ll go”. Anna shrugged and walked towards the car, still feeling a bit groggy.

 

She slid into the passenger seat and lit up a cigarette. Wanting to break the eerie silence, she turned on the radio and closed her eyes, but the image of the box and its contents flashed before her eyes. A loud thud made her jump and she turned around to look. It was Erik. He’d just dumped his stuff into the boot and shut the trunk of the car. As he slid into the car and started the ignition, Erik looked at Anna and asked “Are you sure you’re okay?”. Anna just smiled and looked out of the passenger side window onto the mysterious neighbourhood.

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“Do you know what a ouija board is?” asked Anna out loud, over the glaring sound of the radio. Erik flicked a switch on his left side and the radio switched off. They’d been on the road for almost ninety minutes and this was the first time Anna had spoken since they left the garage sale. “I know of it. But I’ve never ever used it. I’ve always wanted to try it though” replied Erik, keeping an eye on the rearview mirror. Try? It’s not a game!” exclaimed Anna loudly. Erik looked at her calmly and said “Anna, I know it’s not a game. But just like most people, I’m curious.” Anna remained silent. Putting the car into cruise control, Erik asked “What’s on your mind Anna? You’re behaving a bit strange.” Anna continued to remain silent for a few more minutes. And then she spoke.

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Part 3 : The Ouija Board

As a single child, Anna had more than made up for her lack of siblings through her close-set of friends,  Tom and Helen. The trio was both adventurous and mischievous,  and often found themselves in sticky situations. Growing up in a close-knit conservative community in Abingdon, Virginia, they had limited exposure to non Christian beliefs.  However the arrival of The Changs had changed everything. Though they did nothing to provoke the community, everyone looked at them with suspicion. The Changs had moved here from the little hamlet of Lily Dale, in New York, which was more popularly known as “The Psychic Town”, where almost everyone claimed to be able to talk to spirits. The fact that they had rented the house right beside the church graveyard further fuelled the distrust.

 

Being kids though, the trio never paid any attention to what the adults thought about the Changs.  Instead they adopted 8-year old Trish Chang into their group. In a matter of months, the trio had expanded to the quartet, while occasionally letting her little sister four-year old Evlyn tag along. Having lived in a number of cities, the Chang kids had a wealth of experience to share with the trio, and an attic full of unusual toys to show them. It was during one such escapade in the attic that Tom stumbled upon an ancient wooden board with alphabets, numbers, some words and a strange engraving in the middle. When they had initially enquired what it was, Trish had pointed towards Evlyn and refused to answer. However the next day, when Evlyn was asleep in her parent’s room, Trish had explained to them about the Ouija board and how it had been a gift from one of their neighbours in Lily Dale to their grandmother, who used to stay with them. When Helen enquired about their grandmother, Trish mentioned that she had passed away and that was the reason they’d shifted to Abingdon.

 

Curious as they were, the trio did not enquire about the board any further. It wasn’t till one cold winter’s evening that they happened to discuss the board again. The four of them were sat in Trish’s bedroom on the second floor which overlooked parts of the cemetery. It was nearing twilight when they noticed a strange apparition towards the end of the cemetery. Though Trish wanted to use her binoculars to find out what it was, Tom, who was the eldest of the lot stopped her. Fingering the cross on his chain, he had pulled the window shut and latched it tightly. As they wondered what to do next, Trish fished out the ancient Ouija board from under her bed and asked if they wanted to play. She mentioned that her grandmother had taught her how to use the board to beckon free spirits and they could ask them questions.

 

Though they were afraid, Helen and Anna agreed to give it a go. But Tom refused. Quoting Father. Jones from the Church, he added that as true Christians they were forbidden from making contact with the deceased. However Helen, Trish and Anna ganged up on him and teased him, which eventually led him to agreeing.  Asking Helen and Anna to follow a set of instructions,  Trish disappeared downstairs to find candles and a matchbox without her mother noticing. By the time Trish returned with the candles, the room was in almost complete darkness, barring a bit of light from a nearby street light. The Ouija board had been arranged as Trish had asked and the planchette (a small, heart-shaped flat piece of wood equipped with two-wheeled castors) was positioned too. Helen was sitting beside the board with a notebook and a pencil in hand to try to document any message that they could potentially receive.

 

Trish carefully placed four lit candles around the table that the Ouija board was placed on. Then she sat down and placed one finger on the planchette. She motioned for Tom and Anna to do the same. Making sure Helen could see the planchette from where she was sitting, Trish whispered to Tom and Anna to remain calm and not speak or make any sound. She also added that her grandmother had told her to think positive thoughts during the process to make sure that only good spirits communicated with them. Taking a deep breath, Trish spoke out loudly requesting the spirits to make contact with them.

 

Nothing happened for the first few minutes. Helen impatiently tapped the pencil on her notebook making a dull knocking sound. Trish glared at her and motioned her to be still. And then she made the request to the spirits again. A very mild cool breeze swept across the room, sending a chill down Anna’s spine. She looked around. The windows were still locked and the door was shut too. The air suddenly became heavy and Anna found it difficult to breathe.The flames of the candles started to flicker and then it stopped, almost as instantly as it had started. Certain that there was a spirit in the room, Trish requested the spirit to reveal it’s name. There was no response for a few moments. And then the planchette suddenly started to move across the board. Anna’s eyes widened and she looked at Trish and Tom, who both looked equally shocked. With their fingers still touching the planchette, it slowly rolled across the board and stopped over the letter R. Helen, who had recovered quickly from the shock, made note of the letter. It continued to move across the board, stopping briefly at letters “U”, “T before finally stopping at “H”

 

There was more silence as the quartet looked at each other, their mouths open in shock surprise. Both Anna and Tom motioned for Trish to stop. Instead, she continued, asking the spirit to reveal how they died. Suddenly the cool breeze engulfed the room again and the flames started flickering, one of them getting extinguished in the process. And then the planchette began to move again, slowly rolling over the alphabets turn by turn. Helen quickly jotted down the letters and as the message began to form, her eyes widened in shock. Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door and Anna inadvertently lifted her finger from the planchette, followed quickly by Tom. Though Trish’s finger was still on the planchette, it started vigorously moving across the board. Trish used her free hand to pull her finger off the board and quickly stood up, gesturing the others to do the same. The knock was followed by Mrs. Chang’s voice asking the kids to come downstairs for dinner. The quartet quickly glanced at the planchette, which had now stopped moving. But strange engraving on the middle (which Trish referred to as a Pentacle) had turned black and charred.  Trish replied to her mom that they were coming, grabbed the note-book from Helen and threw it onto the floor without bothering to look at the message. Quietly they exited the room, taking care to close the room behind them.

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After dinner, the quartet huddled together wondering if they should go back to the room. Anna noted that Helen had been particularly distraught during the meal. She looked like she’d wanted to say something, but Trish had warned them about not speaking about the Ouija board in front of her parents. Motioning them to follow her, Trish quickly climbed the stairs. As she reached the landing, she noticed that the door to her room was open. Without waiting for the others, she walked into the room. As the trio were starting to follow her up the stairs, there was a blood curdling scream from the room. The trio rushed up the stairs promptly followed by Mrs. Chang. Anna was the first to reach the room and she almost fainted at what she saw. Trish was huddled over beside the table which held the Ouija board. Near the table lay, little Evlyn clutching the planchette in her hand. As the rest of them rushed to help Evlyn, Anna walked up to the notebook that Helen had been scribbling the messages on.

 

It read “Would you like to SEE how I died?”

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It had been a whole month since anyone had seen the Changs come out of their house. The trio stopped by the house almost daily to try to find out what had happened to little Evlyn. But Mrs. Chang refused to let them in, just sending them off with the message that Evlyn was being taken care of. Trish had stopped coming to school too. Gradually, they stopped dropping by. The incident had petrified them and they couldn’t speak to anyone else. The entire community had been secretly accusing The Changs of indulging in voodoo and black-magic, but only they knew the truth. Unable to take it any longer, the trio had confided in Father Jones, who had promised to speak to their parents and make sure the names of the Changs were cleared.

 

A few weeks later, the trio watched as the Movers’ van sped out of their community gate loaded with the Changs' furniture. That was the last anyone in Abingdon had seen of the Changs.

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As Anna finished talking about her childhood and the Changs, Erik who had been silent up to this point,  asked , ...and how is this related to what happened today or your blacking out in the garage?" Anna took a sip of water from the water bottle. Her throat felt parched. "The Ouija board!” she exclaimed, "I saw it at the garage sale. It was the same one. It even had the black burn mark on the pentacle”  Erik remained silent as he pulled into his sister’s driveway in Denver. As he shut the engine and got out of the car, Anna too exited from the passenger side. They both walked towards the trunk of the car to pick up their luggage. As Anna pulled out her overnight bag, she glanced at the cardboard box of objects that Erik had bought at the sale. She froze as she saw an ancient wooden Ouija board staring back at her.

 

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[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "On a weekend road trip, far away from home, you stumble upon a garage sale in a neighborhood you’re passing through. Astonished, you find an object among the belongings for sale that you recognize. Tell us about it. ”  ]

 

Image: http://www.morguefile.com/creative/bigal101

Christmas in a glass

Okay, so this really isn’t a “post” post. It’s a food post. Rather a drink post, if you will. But after all, it is Christmas. And keeping in mind the “spirit of Christmas”, I felt I should share a quick fire recipe for one of the “spirits” of Christmas - Mulled Wine. My first tryst with mulled wine was about five Christmases before, at my wife’s office party. Needless to say, I was hooked from the very first sip. If I were to describe the feeling, I’d say it is “warm and fuzzy”, and hence a perfect drink for the cold weather.

Now, mulled wine is a warm drink which is traditionally as Christmassy (is that a word?) as Egg-Nog. And it can be both alcoholic or non-alcoholic (it depends on the wine). Now, in most Western countries, mulled wine is available as a bottled product across the counters. However, nothing beats a good home-brewed mulled wine. So here’s the quick recipe for it. Oh, and for the purpose of the post, I’ll spare you the trouble and advise you to buy a bottle of red-wine, rather than make it.

It goes without saying that the taste for wine is usually acquired. You have to sample them, and let your taste buds get accustomed to the flavours that characterise the wine. Although the same goes for mulled wine, it's rapid acceptance is mainly due to the right blend of spices and sweetness.

Equip yourself with:

  • A bottle of Italian medium-bodied red wine. If you can’t find it or need suggestions, I’d say Zinfandel, Merlot, Chianti or Cabernet Sauvignon). I personally prefer merlot for this. Sometimes Shiraz can work as well because of the “berry” flavours

  • Couple of Oranges or Clementines. Keep one of them whole. The others can be cut. Use more if you’d like a more tangy flavour. I’d say two is a good number

  • Lemon x 1; Again you can use more, if you need the tangy and sour feel. But I’d recommend to use just 1

  • Cloves x 20 buds

  • Cinnamon sticks; I’d say 5 pieces should suffice

  • A small piece of ginger. It’s not mandatory if you don’t like the taste

  • A handful of raisins

  • Sugar to taste

Optional extras:

Vanilla Pod Star Anise Nutmeg (Needs to be whole, as it will need to be grated) This should ideally take about 10 minutes of preparation and 20 minutes on the stove

How to: 

  1. The best way to reduce the spiciness of the cloves is to stick them into “whole” orange. The rest of the oranges and lemon(s) can be cut into quarters and kept aside.

  2. Pre-heat a reasonable sized saucepan to medium heat. Add the whole clove-infused orange along with the rest of the orange and lemon pieces to the saucepan. Mix the cinnamon sticks, ginger, raisins and any left over cloves with the orange and lemon pieces.

  3. As soon as they start to slightly sizzle (which will take no more than 30 seconds to a minute), pour half the bottle of wine over this fruit and spice mixture. Just pour enough wine to cover the mixture. It’s important to create a syrupy base first. If you add the full bottle of wine, you would have burned off a lot of the alcohol content.

  4. Make sure the saucepan is on medium heat. Once you start to see a bit of steam rising, add the sugar.  I’d say use 6-8 teaspoons of sugar. You can add more slightly later. Give this a good stir, to ensure it mixes well. If  you do need to add the vanilla pod, star anise and nutmeg, this is the ideal time to do so.

  5. Reduce the hear to low and let the wine simmer. After about 5 minutes, you should start to see bubbles forming and more steam rising. Stir well and then leave on the low heat for about 10-15 minutes, for the flavours to infuse.

  6. After about 15 minutes, take a taste and if it is still too acidic for you, add a few more spoons of sugar. Add the rest of the wine and simmer it for about 5 more minutes.

  7. Once you’re relatively happy with the taste, take it off the heat and leave it aside to cool for a bit. Remember, mulled wine is a drink that’s best served warm or hot, so don’t let it cool down a lot. Carefully remove all the large pieces of fruits and other spices into a large bowl. Then empty the liquid wine onto the bowl as well.

  8. Using a sieve, carefully ladle out the wine into glasses which can withstand the heat. Add a cinnamon stick, some orange zest (and cherries if you have them), and you’re done.

Image courtesy TripAdvisor

There you go; You’ve just been served Christmas in a glass :)

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