Looking Back to 1776

It’s the 4th of July. Known also to most of us in this country as Independence Day. 

And no, I’m not talking about the 1996 movie in which aliens invaded the earth to destroy it. Although sometimes I do wonder if we have some aliens here already masquerading as politicians, but that’s a debate for another time.

Today for most people in our country is a day off. A day we use to celebrate with cook outs, beach or pool or other backyard parties, flying the American flag if we have one, and then ending the day either setting off fireworks or crowding into parks and other areas to watch firework displays put on by whichever city or town we live in.

Sometimes we even remember why we celebrate this day. 

But I don’t think enough of us, and I’ll include myself, really stop to think why we recognize this day as being important in the history of our nation. Because we’ve known nothing but freedom in this country for our entire lives. We don’t stop to think about how hard fought that freedom really was.

Our nation was founded on a concept of freedom from tyranny, from another country that wanted to make those who came to these shores to begin a new life continue to live their lives under that country’s rule. 

And after a while, the colonists decided they’d had enough, and it was time to separate and form a new country. And they did. They risked their lives to start this country, to set in motion their dreams for a better life for their families and future generations. And they succeeded.

Now here we are today, some 246 long and challenging years later. 

And I wonder what the men who started that revolution, who dared to defy a then-mighty country who controlled those 13 little colonies…I wonder just what they’d have to say about our country today.

I dare say they wouldn’t begin to recognize what we’ve become. A nation united now becoming strongly divided between two political parties. Between two sets of ideas for what this country should be, each side with basically no respect for the other.

In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Most likely they’d say our government has become too powerful; too over-reaching into our daily lives, and trying to control too much of what we do and how we do it. There are too many laws, both federal and state, which attempt to restrict the freedoms they fought so hard for.

And definitely too many politicians running the governments who are only out for themselves instead of the people who voted them into office. Too many egos saying what people want to hear, getting into elected office, and then going along with whoever can help them make the most money and get re-elcted.

I think the founding fathers would be appalled. And I wonder if they wouldn’t try to maybe start another revolution of some sort to get us back on the right track?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country. It’s not perfect, but it’s so much better than most of the others. 

We’re allowed to speak our minds when we don’t like what’s happening; many other countries don’t have that luxury. But we don’t have the right to riot, burn businesses, and use guns to kill those who disagree. Which is now happening far too often.

What would the founding fathers think of us now? They didn’t envision career politicians running this great land. They wanted everyday people to make those decisions. That’s not happening now.

Today let’s take a bit of time to reflect on what this day means, and what we can help do to get back to some of the basic ideas this country was founded on. 

I don’t know exactly how, but if all of us actually start to take the time to think about it, maybe we can accomplish something…at least for our children and grandchildren and all of the other future generations.

Thank about it. And have a safe and happy Independence Day!

Father’s Day Memories

Father’s Day has always been a difficult day for me. And for good reason.

Because my father died when I was only 8 years old. I don’t have a lot of memories of him. I really can’t remember celebrating Fathers Day with him, or Christmas, or my birthday. I was just too young, unfortunately. to have very many memories of him. 

What I do remember are bits and pieces. And why these particular memories stick with me I have no idea…except for the last one.

Like the time I heard him calling to my mom from our little chicken house in the back yard, “Rachel (my mom’s name), bring me my gun and bring it now! Don’t ask why!” I had no idea what was going on, even when I heard a loud shot. I found out later he’d gone out to the feed area to get the chicken feed for our little flock and a copperhead snake had lunged at him! Fortunately it missed him. And he took care of the snake so it wouldn’t ever be a threat to me or my mom.

I remember going out on the river in our hometown with him, just my dad and me, and going through a bunch of water lilies. They were so pretty. My mom didn’t go with us because she didn’t like going on boats. It was our time…my daddy and me. I had no idea at the time, and neither did he, that there weren’t going to be any more times like that.

I remember watching him in our garage when he was actually building his own boat. I wanted to help, but I was too little. But I watched him as often as I could, because I was fascinated with his woodworking. 

My dad was a talented carpenter who made some beautiful pieces of furniture for my mom, and a very special canopy doll bed that he had just finished and gave me for the last Christmas he was with us. I still have it, and soon I’ll be handling it down to our granddaughters; I’ve waited til they’re old enough to take care of it.

I also remember the last time I saw him. He’d been admitted to John’s Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore because of excruciating headaches, and they were running tests on him to see what was wrong. My uncle drove my mom and me up to see him, and they doctors let him come down to the lobby to see us and visit. I remember him standing there in his yellow robe, and him telling me they were trying to make him better so he could get back home. I still remember talking to him and hugging him goodbye. 

Two days later my mom got a call in the middle of the night that they were going to do surgery on him, and she needed to be there. My uncle took her up there while my aunt took care of me.

The next thing I remember was seeing my mom walking up to the house with my uncle holding on to her. She was crying. And I’ll never forget her words to me: ”Your dad isn’t coming home anymore.”

I missed out on so many wonderful times we could’ve had, but so did my dad. He missed birthdays, Christmases, dance recitals, piano recitals. He missed teaching me to drive, my high school and college graduations. He missed out on walking me down the aisle, and probably would have kept me from making the first two wedding mistakes. He missed meeting his granddaughter Ashley, who he would have adored as much as my mother did.

My mother missed out on so much as well, being left to raise me by herself, while working full time and even going back to college without the help of her husband.  But she did it on her own, and I am still so very proud of her for it. 

She missed so many years of marriage with the only man she’d ever loved. And I missed out on having two parents who adored me. And in that time, some 60+ years ago, that was very unusual.

My uncle stepped in and acted as a surrogate father, and I loved him dearly, but he couldn’t totally take the place of my own daddy.

So on this Father’s Day, I want to remind all of you to cherish your dad, and your granddad, if you’re lucky enough to have him as well. Love them, celebrate them, and be thankful for them. Life is short, and tomorrow is not promised 

I know I will see my dad again one day, and I’ll share those moments with him that we missed, although my mom has most likely already filled him in.

Daddy, I love you, and I’ll miss you forever…until we meet again.

Happy Father’s Day!

A Memorial Day for the Fallen

Today is Memorial Day. A day set aside to honor those who have given their lives for this country. In countless wars and overseas conflicts. Brave men and women who gave their all.

They gave their lives to protect our freedoms. They went where our country sent them, and did what they needed to do. 

Did they question their reasons for going? I’m sure many did. But they went. Some returned and some didn’t. Today we honor those that didn’t return.

But I cannot help but ask us all to add another couple of categories of our citizens to remember and pay our respects to on this Memorial Day. Citizens who left home one day as usual and never returned.

Let’s remember the hundreds of first responders, police and firefighters as well as EMT’s who have also given their lives to save others. Oh, I know right now the police are under attack again for not doing what they’re supposed to do. It’s become a o popular sport in this country, unfortunately. And there will always be those officers who are in the wrong, but the majority are good people, who’ve dedicated themselves to such service, and those of them who’ve given their lives in the line of duty should be honored as well. It’s a job I wouldn’t want to do, and I am thankful for each and every one of them that have chosen to do it.

But I want us to also remember another group of people…innocent people who’ve been senselessly murdered by cowardly people with guns, out to spread their hatred and violence for whatever twisted and deranged parts of their minds that were urging them forward.

Innocent children. Worshippers in their chosen houses of God. Innocent shoppers in malls and grocery stores. Innocent concert goers who were enjoying a night of music. 

They unwillingly gave their lives because someone they didn’t even know decided they didn’t deserve to live.

And we continue on with our lives, thankful it wasn’t us.  

But such violence touches all of us in some way. It forever changes a part of us, and sometimes we don’t even realize it.

The awfulness of the last few days in this country will eventually be forgotten by the majority of the country, but never by the families and communities which have been devastated by the tragedy. Just like the families of our servicemen and women who were lost in combat, they will NEVER forget. Not a day will go by without a memory sneaking into their mind, and those memories are all they have left.

Today as most of us gather together with friends and family for picnics and parties, or go out to grab up the best Memorial Day sales, let’s take the time to remember those families who are grieving over their loved ones who will never attend such events again.

Remember the fallen, because they deserve never, ever to be forgotten. And remember the families who will also never forget.

Still Missing You

It’s now been almost sixteen years since I last spoke to you. Since I was last able to hug you and kiss you. Talk about life and share stories.

It’s been too long since I was last able to talk to you about things I was going through; that I needed your advice about. And there have been so very many times in these last almost 16 years that I’ve needed to talk to you. To tell you what’s going on. 

To tell you about our happy times. About your granddaughter’s wedding and her wonderful husband. To tell you about your two beautiful great granddaughters, one who’s named after you.

To tell you about your friends and what’s been going on in their lives.

To ask for your guidance and advice, because even though I’m an adult, and now a grandmother as well, I still want so much to be able to talk with you and ask for your help. 

Although I’ve been on my own without you for all this time, it doesn’t mean that I don’t still want your insight on life. I miss being able to talk about my problems with you. Because you always seemed to have the right answers, whether I understood it at the time or not.

You and I survived the untimely loss of my father together. You were there for me while your own heart was shattered into a zillion pieces, and while I didn’t totally understand the whole situation and what it meant, since I was only 8 years old, you hid so much pain from me so I could have as normal a childhood as possible, with you being mom as well as dad to me.

It wasn’t until I lost you that I discovered all the challenges and problems you faced during that time. You never told me, and I’d never asked.

You helped me through two painful divorces and never once criticized my choices. You helped me through heartbreak and encouraged me that I’d eventually find the right one. And you were right.

You were with me when my husband Ben went through his first open heart surgery, at a time when that was not a common operation. You were probably as worried as I was, but you never told me. You only encouraged me and assured me he’d be okay. And he was.

You supported me in the pain of infertility; you rejoiced with me when I finally got pregnant and gave you a granddaughter. And you suffered with me when I had a tubal pregnancy which caused me to lose the babies I was carrying, and almost caused me to lose my mind. Because you knew exactly how I felt, because you’d had the same problems, but had kept them all to yourself.

You loved your granddaughter unconditionally and did everything you could for her. And you would have been so very happy to see her married and now with two little girls of her own.

So many times I’ve wanted to be able to tell you. To share with you, and ask what advice you could give in so many situations. Or just listen to me share my joys as well as my worries.

I miss you so much. Holidays and family times are still not the same without you. I still miss your smile, your presence, and your unconditional love. I still dream about your being with us, and wake up wondering if that dream was sent to me to remind me you’re still watching over me. There are even times, when out of nowhere, I clearly hear your voice saying my name. 

I will continue to miss you because we are part of each other. I will always love you. And I will never forget you.

And I know the day will come when we are together again. Until then,

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.

It’s Not About the Bunnies

For the last several weeks, all I’ve seen are these cute little bunnies, colored eggs, decorative Easter baskets, tiered tray designs with marshmallow peeps and chocolate eggs, and all kinds of other decorative items. All my favorite craft stores are full of bunnies and baby chicks, colored plastic eggs, garland and all manner of craft ideas. Then there are the grocery stores and candy stores with all the chocolate bunnies and chocolate eggs and more marshmallow peeps, you know, that colorful nothing-but-sugar concoction that’s been around since we were kids! I didn’t like them, then, either.  But I do like those Cadbury eggs!

And you can even buy or make Easter ornaments and decorate your own Easter tree, sort of like a Christmas tree. As you may have seen, I decided to make styrofoam Easter trees this year with mini Ester eggs and decorative grass, They turned out great, and I even made two for our grandchildren.

Then there’s the Easter Bunny. Our granddaughters haven’t been real fond of having their pictures taken with him in the past, and this year hasn’t been any different. But we do like the memories with those not so wonderful pictures, and I’m sure they’ll get a laugh out of those pictures in the next few years. Or maybe not.

Yes, it’s almost Easter. And EVERYONE associates bunnies with Easter, right? Along with the colored Easter eggs, of course. And those previously mentioned marshmallow peeps. In all the colors. And now there are new flavors, I hear. Please, no.

But, as I like to remind us all every year at this time…it’s not about the bunnies. Or the colored eggs. Or the Easter egg hunts.

From what I’ve been able to determine, the legend of the Easter Bunny bringing eggs seems to have been brought to our country by settlers from southwestern Germany in the 1800’s. Since that time the Easter Bunny has gradually become the commercially recognized symbol of Easter.

Folklore tells us the Easter Bunny brings baskets filled with colored eggs, candy, and sometimes even toys to children the night before Easter. Sometimes the baskets might be hidden, and the children have to go and find them. Most likely, that’s how the tradition of the Easter egg hunt began.

But it’s still not about the bunnies. And here’s where I take a few minutes to express my feelings

To those of us who are believers, Easter is about one thing. The resurrection of Jesus Christ. The very name of the holiday may have come from an ancient holiday depicting the rites of spring, or rebirth from the bleakness of winter, but to us, it represents much more than a rebirth of the world. Easter is a celebration of the eternal life we have waiting for us when we leave this earth. In fact, our belief in the resurrection is the very foundation of our faith.

John 11:25-26 “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

While Jesus was conducting his ministry on earth, He told His disciples what would happen to Him in order to fulfill the ancient scriptures, but of course, they really didn’t believe Him, and even tried to prevent it. Until they saw the truth for themselves.

We have read about the agony of the crucifixion. We have seen it depicted in countless movies and plays, sometimes in such a gruesome manner we have to look away. But the real crucifixion was much more gruesome than can be portrayed in a movie or a play. And our Lord suffered the most horrific pain, so we will be eternally with Him in heaven, along with all of our friends and family who also believe.

What a wonderful, unselfish, beautiful story. As wonderful as the Christmas story is, the Easter message is so much better. Because in this story, death is defeated for all time. The baby that was born at Christmas has grown up, became a man who is the son of God himself, and gave His very life to save ours, and has now defeated death itself.

Just imagine…the loved ones we have lost we will see again, and be reunited with them. We will know them, and they will know us, and we will be together. We will be eternal beings along with the Lord. And what a glorious day that will be! And just think of all the catching up there will be; and all the family members we will meet that we never knew before.

Many of us have lost family members and friends over the past couple of years, as well as many years ago. And I admit there are still times that I think about those loved ones, and how wonderful it will be to one day be with them again. To enjoy the serenity and peace of that heavenly home with those that I love the most. Because the Lord has said it, and I believe it.

You may choose to believe, or not. That is your choice, But I do believe, and I know in my heart there is so much more to come that we cannot imagine, because of what happened during this Easter season. No, it’s not about the bunnies. Yes, they’re cute and cuddly. But the true Easter story isn’t cute and cuddly. It’s real, and it’s not pretty. But it’s also the greatest love story that ever took place.

Crafting an Egg Tree

An Easter Egg tree, that is!

After doing my wine cork Christmas trees, I still had a few styrofoam cones left over and was wondering if there was anything I could do with them besides save them for next year.

Then I looked on Pinterest. There were a lot of Easter Egg trees in there, but they were either all made with pieces of ribbon or those big plastic colored eggs that open up to put candy in. That didn’t really do it for me. Too big and bulky.

So now that I had an idea…how to carry it out? And when I have an idea, I don’t rest until I figure a way to do it.

So I decided to check out my first go-to stop for non-jewelry making projects. Dollar Tree, of course. And luckily they had bags of small pastel colored foam Easter eggs. How perfect! I didn’t have a clue as to how many I’d need, but I figured I’d make several different sized trees, so I’d start with 12 bags. Each had a dozen eggs in them, so I figured I was good.

Then I realized I needed something for the top. I couldn’t use my leftover Christmas tree stars for Easter, but I found some Easter bunny heads on dowel sticks, probably designed for sticking in flower pots, but they were perfect for my trees!

Pleased as I could be with my purchases, I went home and planned my tree. The next day I set up on my kitchen counter and got to work. I don’t use hot glue in my craft studio because it’s too messy and my craft table has a tablecloth on it, and well, you can imagine what a mess that could turn out to be!

Gluing on the eggs was fairly simple; just time consuming. I hadn’t counted, though, on the glue dripping slightly through the eggs on the bottom row and sticking to the counter (it didn’t do that with the wine corks!). Fortunately dried hot glue isn’t that hard to get off if you do it quickly.

What I  hadn’t thought about, though, was how many of those little eggs it took to complete a tree. I’d started making a medium sized one which was almost finished when I realized I probably hadn’t bought enough eggs to quite finish two trees. Oops!

Then I remembered I’d bought over half of the bags of eggs they had at the dollar store, and I knew if I waited, I wouldn’t be able to get enough to make all the trees I wanted to do.

So I headed back to the store and got…eight bags. All they had left. Now what?

Fortunately there was another dollar store a mile or so away so I headed there, hoping they still had them. And as luck would have it, they did!

I bought 32 bags. Almost all they had in the store! I think the cashier thought I’d lost my mind. And I probably had.

But now I had enough to make another set of three trees as well as two more small ones for our granddaughters!

Egg tree assembly is really fairly easy as you can see from the pictures below. You just glue the eggs on in a row starting from the bottom. There will be gaps because of their shape, so I used bits of green moss to fill in the areas where the foam showed through. It’s a bit messy, but when the hot glue dries, trim the moss up as needed. And now you’re ready to put your bunny toppers on. I cut the dowel sticks off the bunny heads from the dollar store and substituted floral wire to make it easier to stick in the foam. And please pardon the quality of the pictures, because I just don’t get the best pictures when I’m creating at the same time!

And one last hint. These take a lot of hot glue, so be sure you have enough glue sticks on hand! I lost count of how many times I had to refill my glue gun! But at least it’s now ready for my next project!

But I’m Not Irish

No, I’m not. And personally I’ve never understood the big deal about St. Patrick’s Day, except for the party side of it.

I’m not Irish. I don’t really like corned beef and cabbage. And I don’t drink beer very often, and I certainly don’t want to drink GREEN beer.

But it seems a lot of people we know think it’s a big deal, so I decided to see if I could figure it out by researching on line.

St. Patrick’s Day is the feast day of the patron saint of Ireland, who lived back in the 5th century. It is said he was born in Roman Britain, kidnapped and brought to Ireland as a slave at age 16. He eventually escaped and returned home, but then returned to Ireland where he is credited with bringing Christianity to the Irish people. Interestingly enough, he was never officially canonized as a saint in the Catholic Church. His feast day of March 17, the day we celebrate, is said to have been the day he died.

There are many legends about him that have grown through the years, including the one about him driving all the snakes out of Ireland. However, since Ireland is an island, there really weren’t ever any snakes there because it’s surrounded by water. 

And St Patrick wasn’t even Irish? Go figure.

The holiday has been celebrated in Ireland for centuries. Then as people immigrated to other countries, their traditions changed to blend in with their new surroundings, including how St. Patrick’s Day began to be celebrated. Parades, the popular Irish meal of  corned beef and cabbage, wearing of the green, and other ideas gradually found their ways into our culture, as well as in other countries, and the Irish traditions evolved to reflect various cultural activities of the countries doing the celebrating.

Why wear green? Not sure, but most likely it’s because back in the 1800’s supporters of Irish independence wore green to represent their cause, and it just sort of evolved from there. Now I do like the color green, and I have made a number of green bracelets for my jewelry business. I do know that people try to pinch you if you’re not wearing green on March 17, which to me is a bit strange. Then I discovered legend also has it that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns who would pinch anyone on St. Patrick’s Day not wearing green.

Now about those feisty leprechauns. What are they really? Well, they’re a part of Irish mythology and are said to be mischievous fairy-like creatures (both men and women) who make/repair shoes and spend the rest of their time hiding gold coins in hidden pots at the end of rainbows. It’s also said if you catch a leprechaun he has to tell you where that pot of gold is, but since you can never really find the end of a rainbow….what does it matter?

They’re also supposed to grant three wishes to humans who capture them in order to escape. Obviously, I wouldn’t know because I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting one.  But since they’re Irish, naturally they’ve evolved into part of the St. Patrick’s Day lore.

Why St. Patrick’s Day parades? The first one is said to have been in what is now St. Augustine, Florida in 1601.  But what really started the tradition was held in New York City in 1772, when Irish soldiers, homesick for their native country, marched through the streets on March 17 to honor St. Patrick, and the tradition gradually evolved and spread to other cities. In Dublin however, the first St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t held until 1995.

Today we see all manner of celebrations for this fun-loving day. In my opinion, it gives us a good excuse to act a little crazier than usual, drink green beer (did you know that pubs in Ireland were forced to close on St. Patrick’s Day up until the late 1970’s?), dress a bit crazy (sometimes with green wigs, green hats, green sunglasses and lighted green shamrock necklaces), and just have a party with friends. At least that’s how I see it. And fortunately the restaurant we go to every year for corned beef and cabbage is actually an Italian place, so I can get something I like much better! (And yes, their corned beef and cabbage is excellent, according to everyone who goes there for it, including my husband!)

So maybe on March 17, I could be just a little bit Irish!

Without the green beer, that is.

Guiness Cupcakes

I may not be Irish, but you do know that St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner. And sometimes you just have to go with the flow and make something creative for a holiday known for certain foods, such as corned beef and cabbage, green beer, Guiness, etc.

Well I do not like green beer. I don’t really like beer, but I have been known to drink it on occasions. Which is another story.

Corned beef and cabbage? I’m not much of a fan. And I know I probably wouldn’t do a very good job at making it, so that’s a bit much, as far as I’m concerned.  Besides, there’s a restaurant we go to every year so my husband can have it, and since they have other items on the menu that I like, I’m fine with that.

But I figured there had to be something out there I could make for the occasion. But it really had to be something I’d enjoy. Since I enjoy baking, I thought I’d see if I could find some Irish cookies or something. But all I found were cut-out cookies of shamrocks which also required their being frosted. Even though the frosting had Irish whiskey in it, I knew they were well past my talents, which doesn’t lend itself well to either frosting cookies OR icing a cake.

Even if I were going to serve them with Irish coffee, which I do like, it really wouldn’t be my best experience. I do know my limitations.

But then I found a recipe that didn’t look too hard, even though it did require using my inadequate frosting skills. But maybe my husband and my best friend could overlook what they looked like, as long as they tasted good. The grandkids don’t need to try these!

So here’s what I’m going to try this weekend. They look fairly easy, and somehow I can probably figure out a way to do the frosting, although I can assure you they won’t look like the picture I found of them. I do have some St. Patricl’s cupcake wrappers, though.

Then again, it’s worth a try. If they aren’t really presentable, I can always blame it on the Irish coffee or the sip or two of Bailey’s I may have while I’m making them!

So here’s the recipe for Chocolate Guiness Cupcakes. Wish me luck!

  • 1 1/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • i cup Irish stout beer (Guiness preferably) at room termperature
  • 1 tbl vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking pwder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 3-4 mini-muffin tins or cups with paper liners. (I think I’d do regular size and just adjust the baking time.) This says it makes 66 mini cupcakes! That’s a lot!

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add cocoa powder and whisk til smooth. Stir in beer and vanilla. Reomve from heat and allow to cool.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and sift into a large bowl. Mix in sugar. Add beer mixture and stir til thoroughly combined. Add eggs, stirring until well incorporated. Spoon into prepared muffin cups, each about 3/4 full.

Bake in preheated over until tops spring back when lightly pressed (10-11 mniutes (for mini’s; check while cooking for regular sizes). Cool in muffin pans for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile make the frosting.:

  • 1 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 3 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

To prepare, beat buter and confectioners sugar in a bowl with electric mixer. Add the Baileys,, a tablespoon at a time, and beat until light and fluffy, and white, in color, about ten minutes. Top cooled cupcakes with frosting.

It’s February 14

What does that mean to you?

Notice I didn’t call it Valentine’s Day. 

Or Galentine’s Day. 

Or Single Awareness Day. 

Or International Quirkyalone Day (Yes, that’s real. I saw it online. It’s been around since 2003 and is for singles and those in platonic relationships.)

Or Let’s Make This Day Go Away Day.

Tell Someone You Love Them and Forget Them the Rest of the Year Day.

Pretend You’re Still in Love Day

Try to Impress Her Because You Really Screwed Up Day. 

A lot of people “celebrate” it that way, you know. As our daughter says, why the big fuss over Valentine’s Day? If you love someone you should tell them all the time. Not just one day a year. She’s always felt that way, even after being married for almost seven years with two kids. 

She does have a point, you know. We should tell those we love how we feel a lot more often than we do.

Of course, she makes sure her daughters have Valentine gifts, and helps them make cards for their friends and grandparents (us), and buys them valentine themed shirts for pictures. One year she even had a valentine photo shoot with them.

Don’t get me wrong. I do enjoy Valentine’s Day. My husband and I exchange cards, sometimes balloons or flowers, and go out for a great dinner. 

I’ve even started decorating a few areas in our house for Valentine’s Day; our kitchen table has a Valentine centerpiece collection, our foyer table has a few little valentine nuggets, and since I still work remotely, my home office has Valentine gnomes spread around. (I really don’t like gnomes but these are cute!) It’s fun and gives a bit of color and whimsy that’s so needed after all the glittery Christmas decor is put away.

A lot of women authors are beginning to recognize that Valentine’s Day is also a holiday that needs to be explored a bit more. I recently read a novel called “The Holiday Plan” by Emma Lynden about a woman who totally wanted to avoid Valentine’s Day and everything involved with it. She wanted to avoid it so much she booked a weeks’ vacation during Valentine’s week at a resort away from everyone. Except unbeknownst to her, there was a huge week-long event there for singles in honor of, you guessed it, Valentine’s Day. It’s a great read, and I highly recommend it. Whether you’re in a relationship or not.

The thing is, no matter how you feel about it, how you celebrate it, or not, it’s a day that’s here to stay. 

So if you’re not in a relationship spend the time with other friends in the same situation. Send each other flowers. Go out to dinner together, or arrange a private dinner at someone’s home. Or maybe even do a “chick flick” movie night/pajama party.

And if nothing else, just remember all that leftover valentine chocolate will be half price on February 15!

An Unconventional Valentine Treat

I’ve been searching for something to make that’s different (and easy) for Valentine’s Day. Yeah, I know we can do brownies from a box mix and add white chocolate and pink M&M’s to the batter, and then maybe put frosting with sprinkles on them after they’re cooled. We can even bake them in a heart shaped pan.

Or the traditional chocolate chip cookie, again possibly with pink M&Ms or white baking chips rather than the traditional chocolate chips, but that’s still a bit too commonplace. Yes, they’re delicious but I kept thinking there had to be something a little more unique. And easy.

I do like to bake, as I think you all know, but that doesn’t really give me much leeway to improvise, since for me, baking has to be sort of precise or I’ll screw the whole thing up.

Now my husband really likes rice krispies treats. You know the ones made with marshmallows and such. But I’m really not a fan. One of his clients actually gives him a couple of the pre-packaged ones each week, because they know how much he likes them. Works for me.

And the other day she surprised him with a bag of heart shaped rice krispies treats that’s she’d dipped in chocolate and added red sprinkles.

Which was good, since I didn’t have to do it!

But still, there had to be something else unconventional I could come up with.

There are always the traditional pretzel sticks drizzled with chocolate or white chocolate tinted pink, but neither of us are really into pretzels.

Then I came across several recipes for Valentine’s Chex mix snacks. Well, I like sweets as much as anyone, but I also like salty as well, so this sounded like a great combination to please everyone.

So why not?? Anyway, I’m sharing the recipe now, and I think I’ll get my husband to make this one with me. With the Super Bowl this weekend, it sounds like a great addition to our junk food snacks that we’re planning, so why not see what happens?

Let me know if you try it as well. It’s always interesting to compare notes!

Valentine Snack Mix

  • 2 cups corn chex cereal
  • 1 cup mini pretzel twists
  • 2 cups rice chex cereal
  • 2 cups Honey Nut Cheerios
  • 1 bag valentine M&M’s
  • 3 cups white baking chips
  • 1 1/2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Valentine or colored sugar sprinkles.

Prepare large sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.

In a very large bowl combine cereals, pretzels, and M&M’s. Stir to combine well.

In medium bowl combine 3 cups baking chips and vegetable oil. Microwave 30 seconds; stir and microwave another 15 seconds. Stir until melted and smooth. If needed, microwave another 15 seconds, stirring for 10 seconds between each time. Pour over snack mix.

Working QUICKLY gently stir until all ingredients are coated and then quickly transfer to prepared baking sheet, spreading into one even layer. Immediately add remaining M&M’s on top and additional sprinkles. Add a bit of additional melted baking bits if desired. Allow chocolate to firm up and harden either on counter or in fridge. Break into pieces and serve.

Please note: I found this recipe online at chelseasmessyapron.com. So it’s not my own creation.

The Flamingos’ Valentine Creations

So you’ve read about the flamingos’ pink chocolate baking party, so now it’s time to post some of the winning recipes. After all, how could we really select just one winner from all the goodies?

And if you haven’t read about the party, which was published on January 27, be sure to read it here before you go any further!

We had a tough time deciding which desserts were the best. All of the flamingos did a great job. In fact we didn’t realize that flamingos were so talented when it comes to baking! (We may have to hire them if we’re ever able to have another one of our flamingo pool parties!)

The pink flamingo cakes were gorgeous and beautifully decorated. It was a lot of work, but we decided we’ll have a cake decorating party one of these months and we won’t have to cut them to taste them and mess them up!

So it was a difficult decision, and required quite a bit of tasting, but….someone had to do it!

Here are the top three winners. We’ll let you decide which one won first prize.

Hint: all the flamingos agreed as to who the winner was!

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Fudge (The flamingos borrowed this from Taste of Home Magazine)

  • 10 oz package white baking chips
  • 1 tsp softened butter
  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
  • 1/8 tsp salt

Place while baking chips in single layer on small baking sheet; freeze 30 minutes. Line 9″ square pan with foil; grease foil with butter.

In large microwave safe bowl combine dark chocolate chips and milk. Microwave uncovered on high for 2 minutes. Stir. Microwave in additional 30 second intervals, stirring til smooth. Add liqueur and salt. Add white baking chips and stir just til partially melted. Spread into prepared pan and refrigerate one hour til firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Remove foil and cut fudge into 1″ squares. Decorate with pink sprinkles or pink sanding sugar (very important). Store in airtight container in refrigerator. They won’t last long!

Pink Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, slightly softened
  • 1 pouch sugar cookie mix
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (Noite: you can also use white chips or a combination of the two)
  • Red food color gel

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream butter til smooth, not soft, Using toothpick add food color gel, one dab at a time until it reaches the right shade of pink. Add cookie mis until well blended; add powdered sugar and beat til blended. Note: dough will be crumbly, not smooth. Stir in chocolate pieces by hand.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake 12-14 minutes. Remove from oven when slightly brown around edges but not squishy in the center, Cool 1-2 minutes on cookie sheet and then remove to wire rack for final cooling. Serve on plate decorated with pink hearts.

French Macaroons (borrowed by the flamingos from AllRecipes.com)

  • 3 egg whites
  • 6 tbl superfine (caster) sugar
  • 1 cup finely ground almonds (almond meal)
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely ground almonds for garnish
  • 1 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • Food coloring

Preheat oven to 320 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon mat.

Whisk egg whites in a clean metal mixing bowl until thick, about 5 minutes, Whisk the superfine sugar into egg whites until thick, glossy and mixture holds soft peaks, 5-8 more minutes. Place a sieve over the bowl containing egg white mixture. Gently fold the almond meal and confectioners sugar into the egg white mixture, retaining as much air as possible.

Tint dough the desired color of pink and add a drop of flavored extract, if desired. Spoon meringue into a piping bag fitted with a 3/8 inch tip. Pipe 1 inch disks of meringue onto the prepared backing sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies, (This wasn’t easy for the flamingos, but they did it!)

Let the cookies stand at room temperature for 15 minutes to form a thin skin on top. Pick up the baking sheets and let drop fromseveral inches above the work surface to adhere cookies to the baking sheets. Yes, that’s what they did!

Bake in preheated oven til tops are dry, about 15 minutes; let cool completely on baking sheets before peeling off the parchment paper. Stick together with a small amount of raspberry jam, if desired.

How Did Valentine’s Day Become a Thing? Part Two

Yesterday I started writing about what I’d found on line about how Valentine’s Day started and became what it is today. If you haven’t read it yet, I’d actually suggest that you do before you continue.

From what I discovered, it certainly didn’t start out in a very romantic way. Not when people were being imprisoned and beheaded.

So let me continue the story.

I had mentioned Chaucer writing that poem “Parliament of Fowls” for King Richard II, which evidently caused romantic ideas to become more popular. And no, I haven’t read it. Chaucer and other writers of the time celebrated romance between knights and their ladies, many of noble lineage, who could never marry. (Which was usually because the lady was already married, but that’s a whole other subject.) And by the 1400’s these nobles had begun writing poems known as “valentines” to the ladies who were the subject of their attention.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a guy write me a poem, and based on some of the writing I’ve seen from that era, I don’t think I’d want one. But that was a different time. Plus, since the literacy rate wasn’t real high then, could the subjects of their attentions even read them? And did those knights actually write them themselves or pay someone to do it for them? Food for another blog.

But the holiday slowly developed and evolved, with traditions that are still around today.

Exchanging cards didn’t become popular until the 1840’s when the first mass produced cards were made in the U.S.  Now, did you know that these first cards were sold by Esther A. Howland, known as the “Mother of the American Valentine”? She is evidently credited with commercializing Valentine’s Day cards here in the U.S. Although I’ve never heard of her, and probably you haven’t either, my source says she is remembered for her elaborate, crafty cards made with real lace, ribbons, and colorful pictures she called “scrap.” So, Hallmark, you have Ms. Esther to thank for a lot of your success! According to the last figures I saw, 145 million valentine cards are exchanged every year, not counting the homemade ones.

Which brings us to Cupid. I’d always wondered about that little guy and how he came to be associated with Valentine’s Day. After all, who goes around nearly naked with a bow and arrow shooting people, and that’s supposed to be a symbol of love?

Well, Cupid actually evolved from the Greek god of love named Eros, who was said to be a handsome immortal man with the power to make people fall in love, although I’m not sure it involved a bow and arrow. Sometime in the 4th century BC the Romans adopted Eros into their mythology, re-named him Cupid, and made him into the image of what we know today. And because he was originally known as the god of love, it sort of figured he’d become associated with Valentine’s Day, even though that didn’t happen until around the 19th century.

What about red roses? Giving flowers didn’t become a popular custom until the 17th century, It’s said that King Charles II of Sweden learned about flowers being paired with specific meanings on a trip to Persia, and when he returned home to England he introduced the tradition to Europe, and the act of giving flowers on special days, including Valentine’s Day became popular. And of course, red roses with their rich deep color, were sent to symbolize a deep love for the recipient.

Then there’s chocolate. Everyone I know loves it, and it’s especially important for Valentine’s Day. But did you know the first heart-shaped box of chocolates was created by Richard Cadbury who was the son of Cadbury founder John Cadbury. How did he come up with the idea? To increase sales, of course. The first heart shaped box of chocolates was introduced for Valentine’s Day in 1861, and today more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold each year.

Guys, are you paying attention here?

Now one more important item to discuss; those cute colorful little valentine conversation hearts. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t either received them or given them for Valentine’s Day. But do you know their history? It’s not really romantic.

It all started when Boston pharmacist Oliver Chase invented a machine that simplified the way throat lozenges were made, which also resulted in America’s first candy-making machine when Chase decided to shift his focus to making candy instead of the lozenges. He founded the New England Confectionary Company, today known as Necco. Sound familiar? And in 1866 the first messages were printed on Necco sweetheart candies. Although those were bigger than the version we have today it sure started a trend, didn’t it?

And one of the first messages? “Married in white you have chosen right.” Well, it was 1866.

So now you have all the information you’ve possibly wondered about Valentine’s Day.

But you can also research all of this yourself as well, and if you find anything different, it’s most likely because you’re looking at a different website. Let us know if you find something else.

Happy Valentine’s Day!