He makes every day like Valentine’s Day for us.
Happy Valentine’s Day to my sweetheart!
Every year, with the boxes all around me and the tissue paper pushed back, I gaze at my life in ornaments and baubles and am in awe yet again at the wealth of memory and nostalgia that we place on the accepting branches of our chosen tree.
That gorgeous crocheted Santa, aptly named Lunar Santa, was made by my sister. It’s one of my most favorite ornaments. And I still have a handful or ornaments that my Grandma made for us. Every year when she came for Christmas, she would bring a box of her handmade treasures. They had tags on them, with our names in her perfect script. Several of mine still hold those tags, that memory of her permanently in ink. Some of the items on our tree were made by Griffin’s paternal Great-Grandmother too.
I love this faded and fragile paper Christmas tree, with Griffin’s tiny little face in the center. He made it in Kindergarten and I hope I never forget the look on his face when he brought it home to me. He swelled with pride when we placed it on our tree that year. Next to it, see that even more faded little paper chain? I made that in Kindergarten, thirty years earlier that the date on Griffin’s tree.
The year that Christmas almost wasn’t was when Griffin was three. It was a pretty hard time of my life and the ocean of sorrow that swirled around me left me almost broke and lacking much holiday spirit. A friend of mine refused to let me wallow, and said “You need to celebrate for your son’s sake.” They took me shopping and bought me a few ornaments, a tiny little tree and stand and a few groceries. Among the ornaments was a box of these old-fashioned styled glass baubles in all sorts of shapes and colors.
My family had some ornaments like this when I was very little and they reminded me of a better time of life, a time when we just had no clue as to the difficulties that lay ahead. Now, when I pull out the tin that lovingly holds this collection, not only do I remember some beloved childhood treasures, but I also recall the support and guidance of someone who gave selflessly to me at a critical time of need.
It really isn’t fully festive during our decorating time unless someone grabs the Santa-inspired tree skirt and dances around the house with it around their waist. Usually it’s me. This year it was Griffin and I almost collapsed from the hilarity. But shhhhh….don’t tell him I mentioned that here. He is 15, you know.
And me? I’m way beyond the need to shake the packages under the tree in a vague attempt to identify their contents, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the urge every year when they start to accumulate.
I hope that your Christmas is full of treasured people, whether it’s family, or the friends that feel like family. I hope there is delicious food, warm genuine smiles. I hope it is peaceful, because I sure know about celebrating Christmas when it’s the last thing you want to do. I hope snow is involved, if the climate allows, and twinkling lights fill your eyes. We’ll be staring at magical Christmas snow in amazing abundance this year. It is a VERY white Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!
This was done by a local couple about a month ago in St. Paul. It’s so awe-inspiring, joyful and free. A guaranteed smile-maker!
I’ve always considered myself a pretty flexible, go with the flow kind of person, and nowhere is that more evident than in the food that I will eat. I’m no gourmet and I don’t require an exotic or complicated meal ever; I’m just as happy to chomp through a grilled brat as I would be to sit in front of half a dozen fancy courses at dinner. No one has to worry about cooking me something amazing if I am invited to dinner. Even though I prefer eating healthier options, I’m OK with eating a wide range of foods, and flexibility is key to happy indulgence and peaceful co-existence. I never want to be considered a diva about food.
At one point in my life I was dating a very nice guy and it seemed like it might be getting serious. Then one evening for a meal, I suggested that we have salmon.
“Oooh, I don’t really like salmon.” Was what he said, or something like that.
This statement gave me pause.
“You don’t like salmon?” I said, gazing at him quizzically, mentally tossing out all those ‘permanent’ thoughts I was starting to entertain. How could I be serious about a man who didn’t eat salmon?
“It’s just too dry and flavorless.” (or something like that. It’s possible I may have blocked out some of this conversation to save my sanity)
“Hmmm.” I was scratching my chin and trying to think of something witty. But I couldn’t.
“Well, would you try it if I make it?” And thankfully he agreed.
It was a delectable Maple Glazed Salmon that the guy actually liked. A lot.
And apparently he liked a whole lot more too.
You see, there was a lot at stake in the appreciation of that piece of fish.
I can’t say that it was just that piece of perfectly cooked salmon that set in motion three lives to be intertwined forever, nor was it the multitudes of perfectly cooked fish that have crossed our plates since then. I just know that slightly more than 8 years ago, I met a man who didn’t much care for fish and with one plate of plump pink salmon, the future seemed pretty rosy.
And we sealed it all with a kiss.
I’m sure you could be wondering…. did he fall in love with me, or with my cooking?
I’m certain it was me, because at that point in my life, while I was a pretty good cook, it paled in comparison to what happens in my kitchen these days and it was that salmon that seemed to be the start of my epic culinary journey. I had concocted a delicious recipe for Maple Glazed Salmon and submitted it to a magazine, which somehow got them all excited and itching to talk to me, which led to a two-page spread about ‘Cooking Healthy for Your Family’ that included my Salmon recipe, photos of all of us and lots of nice words. This was in the Spring issue of Reiman’s Light and Tasty magazine way back in 2003. The following year, after submitting my most favorite veggie pizza recipe to a ‘Meatless Marvels’ contest and winning a Runner-Up prize, I looked at what I wanted in my life and felt like food was the key. Healthy food. Better for you food. Not your Mama’s food.
And to think that all that love, that nurturing and contentedness, and 8 years with a great guy (nearly 7 of them married), all that started somewhere back around a piece of fish, with a willingness to be open to potential and the flexibility needed to understand that life isn’t always the way you might imagine. Or remember.
This recipe is quite simple, and stands up well to the assertiveness in salmon. I don’t recommend it for lighter and mild fish such as tilapia, halibut or mahi mahi, but it would be equally welcome on pork or chicken if that suits you. Use top quality maple syrup too.
Kate’s Maple Glazed Salmon
2/3 c. pure maple syrup
1 T. worchestershire sauce
1 T. brown sugar
1 T. ketchup
1 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. ground mustard
1 salmon fillet, or two steaks
In a small saucepan, blend all ingredients together and bring to a gentle simmer. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened and darker in color. Pour into a heat-proof container, such as a pyrex measuring cup, to cool, whisking regularly. You can speed up the cooling process by placing the container in a bowl of cold water and whisking briskly.
Brush about half the glaze onto the salmon and allow to sit for up to 30 minutes. Heat a skillet to hot and place the coated salmon, glaze down in the pan. Allow to cook until nicely browned and the glaze is bubbling. Carefully turn over, brush on more glaze and cook over lowered heat until cooked through, but still tender. Salmon can be served drizzled with remaining glaze.
The side dish in the photo is a blend of cooked barley, wheatberries and spinach, with plenty of shaved parmesan cheese.
I’m no fan of Valentine’s Day. I don’t know many people who are. It stands, in it’s cheesiness and hype often regarded as the very pinnacle of love, but in reality I can’t think of anything that is as antithesis to romance as February 14th.
I’m jaded, admittedly; jaded by men who pulled out all the stops on the 14th- dinner, chocolate, googly eyes, maybe a card with hearts on it or flowers of some kind, hand-holding or other forms of surety to their affections, deodorant- and then the moment the gong strikes twelve midnight, went right back to the insensitive clod of a guy they were on the 13th. And somehow, they think this is acceptable. What’s worse is that this type of behavior is what fuels this holiday in all it’s Hallmark glory. There are guys out there who feel it’s perfectly fine to show their ‘romantic’ side once a year by doing something nice for you on a specific day, and sitting back in their chivalrous glory for the other 364. This is precisely what’s wrong with Valentine’s Day.
Of course this isn’t the norm, and really, there’s nothing wrong with a guy who shows his lady some love on the 14th as long as they know that this doesn’t give them a ‘Bye’ the rest of the year. And there are plenty of really great guys who do this. I commend them. I even know some of them.
Mine isn’t one of them.
But I’ll tell you something- I couldn’t care one bit. This man- my husband- while being quite possibly the least romantic man I’ve known, is far and away the best, most consistent and loving husband a girl could possibly ask for. I’ll take that over a box of chocolates any day.
So we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.
Interestingly enough, there is so much historical confusion over who exactly this martyred saint was that no source I read seemed to come to any conclusion. It was generally agreed that the modern version of the holiday is tenuously related to the pagan celebration of Lupercalia, or Wolf Festival. This was a brazen and ribald celebration of the she-wolf, or Lupa, that apparently sustained Romulus and Remus of ancient mythology. Men of rank would run naked through the streets, striking at women with goat skins drenched in sacrificial blood. This was a desirable aspect of the celebration as it was believed that any woman struck by the skin would have increased fertility in the coming year. That sounds so romantic, doesn’t it? Line up ladies!!
My husband does so much for me all year round, and it’s exactly why he happily gets to ignore all things Valentine related: He takes care of my car- getting the oil changed, replacing the burned out headlight (and then washing the winter muck off it) buying the right wiper blades and sometimes surprising me with a full gas tank. He makes sure my computer runs beautifully. He has a pot of coffee ready around the time I roll out of bed in the morning, and if there isn’t a fresh one waiting, as I am coming down the stairs he is putting one together, with a smile on his face. He recognizes when life is straining the very blood out of me and encourages me to slow down. He sees pain in my face and asks me how I am, and he genuinely wants to know. He understands my need for tactile love without words, drawing me into his lap or placing his arms around me just at the right moment. He pulls me back into reality when I’ve gone too far into my own head. He sees solutions to problems when all I can see is a huge mess. He is amazing when I am sick. He works very, very hard for us and soothes me through my struggles to gain employment. He makes me laugh every day- hard. He gets me on a level that I sincerely have never known in my life and is fully committed to the happiness of our union. And after a few days of me wistfully wishing for chocolate to stem a sweet craving, he comes home from picking up Griffin and quietly drops a bar of good dark chocolate into my lap. With a smile.
I could seriously go on with more accolades, honor and praise for this man, this thoroughly unromantic man who balks at the very mention of flowers and Valentine’s Day, but you get the picture and I don’t want to sound too mushy. Even though I am. He’s all about the day-to-day living; he’s the guy who shows me through his actions every single day, no matter how mundane or insignificant they may seem, that he loves me, he chose me above all others to be the one to receive his love, and that he can’t be happier with his decision. We’ll celebrate seven years of matrimony this year, and I still have days where I gaze at the rings on my hand in awe, still trying to wrap my oft-dreamy brain around the fact that I am married, and how beautiful this union has turned out to be.
My sweet husband reads my blog whenever a new post goes up so I know he sat down today and saw my words. Mike, I love you so much and am so happy being your wife. You bless me each day with your love, grace and kindness and I would marry you all over again, in a heartbeat, if given the choice.
Love should be celebrated year-round, daily and with a happy heart. Enjoy today if it’s your thing, but show your loved one tomorrow, next week and all year long how much you love and care for them. That’s my plan.
As a prelude to tomorrow’s ‘holiday’- and a precursor to my gushing post about my wonderful spouse that you can read then, I thought I would relate our ‘How We Met’ story because, well for one thing it’s pretty neat and secondly, in our current snug economy, where everything is so much more about what you can do for the least amount of cash, I’d love to tell you how a simple $20 that I spent in 2001 is still giving me awesome returns nearly seven years later.
In 2001 I was a single mother to a 7 year old. My life was work, home, errands, home, sleep, work, home, fun playtime!!!, maybe some sleep, more play!!!…..you get the picture. It was all about my little boy, and that really was fine but somewhere in me I wanted something, even a simple martini on a breezy restaurant patio, that was only for me. After seven years of creating only two tracks through life, one from feet that were so tiny and fresh, I felt like there needed to be more. Griffin had one night a week where he left my side and spent time with his Grandma, and I enjoyed the quiet hours without him, but part of me, the place in my heart that wanted a stronger and loving hand always willing to hold mine, was empty.
At that time, Internet dating was kinda shrouded in dork-dom. You turned to the Internet to find a date only because you were desperate. I wasn’t desperate, just bored. I had no places in my life where I could cross paths with decent guys, and the online dating sites gave me at least a chance to check out someone, often in anonymity, before setting anything up. My spot of choice was Match.com. You placed your profile, uploaded a photo and could search other profiles without paying a dime, but if you wanted to contact anyone on the site, you paid a fee. I had several dates with others from Match but it just didn’t set off any fireworks. It just alleviated the boredom. Match.com had a feature then called Venus Matches. The site generated a percentage for you of compatibility based on your profile and what you listed in it when compared to others. Every time I logged into my Venus matches, at the top of the list, with a surprising 97% compatibility, was a photo of an very nice looking guy.
Obviously you’ve guessed by now that it was Mike- you’re smart that way. I kept looking at that photo until one day I threw caution to the wind and said ‘What the heck…’ , inserted my credit card number in the appropriate spot and when I was finally in the site’s good graces, I sent him a message. We messaged back and forth a few times and I liked what he had to say in his emails. There were no spelling errors, no run-on sentences and he was concise and eloquent- true signs of intelligence and thoughfulness behind the bright photogenic smile. Eventually he sent me his phone number, and I was slightly surprised to see it had the same prefix as mine so when I called him, I asked him where he lived.
The address he gave me was a block away from where I was living. I could see the roof of his house from my patio.
This all occurred on that amazing device known as the world wide web. Here was Mr. 97% Compatibility and he was in my backyard. I likely passed him at the grocer, maybe at the gas station or even on the street. That was the first light tap on the outer level of my consciousness that something way bigger was beginning to circle around me and if I wanted to see where it was going, I needed to get on board.
We met face to face on Mothers Day 2001 and his smile was as brilliant in person as it was in his online photo. Our first date was the next day, May 11th and it was barely two months later that I looked at him and said to myself ‘I’m going to marry this guy’ . It was a frighteningly wonderful thought. Our wedding took place on August 17th, 2002- a relatively cool but brightly sunny day. It took me months -no, years- to stop looking at my left hand 100 times a day, in awe and in love with what had happened to me, and dazzled by the sparkle there that told the whole world of my joy and commitment. Every young girl dreams about marriage and has some idea of how it should be; despite many years of my life where I aligned myself with the wrong guys due to a deep sense of emptiness, I never let go of those ideals and am thrilled beyond measure that most of them have come true in my marriage to Mike, a lifetime for a simple $20.
Since then, when I tell this story I can’t believe how many people quickly light up and tell me of someone they know, or someone that their friend or sister or co-worker or their dog’s veterinarian know who found their spouse on the Internet, on Match especially. Internet dating now is far more acceptable and less dork-minded because, when handled correctly and with a finely tuned eye, it really works, and there are millions of couples out there to throw their testimony in with mine.
So tomorrow, for my actual Valentines Day post, there’ll be more, some slightly mushy but all of it worthy of celebration.