I love . . .

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompts:  Party Animals? asks:  After spending time with a group of people, do you feel energized and ready for anything or do you want to hide in the corner with a good book?

I Love

I love a good party ’cause I love to talk.

I love to talk ’cause then I can get you talking.

I love to get you talking ’cause I love listening.

I love listening to you ’cause I love having you in my life if only for an hour or two.

I love having you in my life ’cause I love hearing about what you are having in your life.

I love hearing about your life ’cause I love that you’ll share your adventures with me.

I love that you’ll share your adventures with me ’cause I love knowing about you.

I love knowing about you ’cause I love finding out what we have in common.

I love finding out what we have in common ’cause I love feeling connected with you.

I love feeling connected with you ’cause I also love seeing what is different about us.

I love seeing how we’re different ’cause I love understanding you my sister and my brother.

I love understanding you ’cause that is one of life’s great joys.

Understanding is one of life’s great joys ’cause then we can feel kinship and friendship.

I love feeling kinship and friendship ’cause that way, whatever we’re doing, it’s going to be a beautiful time.

I love having a beautiful time with you ’cause that is my kind of richness.

I love that kind of richness ’cause it even makes doing the dishes after the party okay with me.

I don’t love doing the dishes though.

But it’s okay if you’re there and we’re talking.

That I love.

I’ll wash, you dry.

Unwashed dishes in a sink; an authentic situation.
I’ll wash, you dry.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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The Best Meal I Ever Had

Denver Nightscape

It happened in Denver (Photo credit: dagpeak)

The best meal I ever had is one I can’t remember. We drove to a place where the food was legendary, called the Fourth Story Restaurant, in a classy part of town. But I don’t have a recollection of what was on the menu. I know it was candlelit and we had a cozy table. I know there was a waitress and a glass of red wine.

We chatted, but really we were dancing an ancient ritual. Helping each other to go on and reach the point of celebration.  I know we ate a fine dinner, of something that tasted good.  And I know I was waiting in anticipation of the moment when my life would change forever.

When that moment came, ahhh that part is crystal clear! He gently got up from his chair and then there he was, knelt down on one knee.  “Will you marry me?” he asked.  And I said, “Yes!”

I had a beautiful ring and a smiling fiance and I myself was ecstatic with what love brought. Little did I know that the moment of his question and the joy that I felt returns to me each day so many years later. Just as it was then and yet more.

That was certainly the best meal I ever had, the one I can’t remember.

(Daily Prompt: Describe the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten in glorious detail.)

Wishing You Hot Ovens

The most memorable piece of cooking philosophy I ever heard was something I picked up when I was very young.  I have repeated it both in jest and in all seriousness.  I have definitely referred to it and used it to justify that burning something is not the worst thing one can do.  And I have told it as a simple anecdote about one of my favorite topics, Cooking Movies!

The profound and insightful gem was divulged in a short scene in the movie, “Sabrina,” starring Audrey Hepburn, William Holden and Humphrey Bogart.  The first time I saw this movie, I was probably around eight.  I didn’t think leading men Bogart or Holden were anything to get excited about—they were no McDreamy or McSteamy—so I didn’t see what the big deal was.  Audrey Hepburn, on the other hand, was totally awesome.  I loved watching her and I definitely wanted to be like her in many ways.  Including going to Paris to study cooking.

In the 1954 movie, Sabrina (Hepburn) the daughter of the Larabee family’s chauffeur, is infatuated with wealthy playboy David Larabee (Holden).  Heartbroken when David doesn’t seem to notice her, she goes to Paris for two years and comes back an elegant, sophisticated grown woman.  When she returns home, David finally takes an interest in her. But Sabrina falls for David’s more serious brother Linus Larabee (Bogart) and Linus falls for her too.

The memorable scene is in Paris where Sabrina is trying to forget her unrequited love.  She is attending culinary school and her souffle has fallen totally flat.   Fellow student, the Baron St. Fontanel says,

“A woman happily in love, she burns the soufflé. A woman unhappily in love, she forgets to turn on the oven.”

There you go.  What young woman would ever forget to turn on the oven after that?  I never did.

Coffee Man (sigh) My Hero

Coffee for Love

Coffee for Love (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is dedicated to my husband who is a hero in many ways.

I had never really learned how to make coffee.  Until about 2 BS (Before Starbucks*),  I didn’t even like the stuff and never drank it.  But it was about 2 BS when I went away to college and took to drinking a little coffee in the college cafeteria.  My appreciation for coffee grew during those college years (enhanced by caffeine-laden stay-awake remedies) until I graduated and was no longer eating in anyone’s cafeteria.

Back at my parents’ house, my mother, who was always on top of the latest food inventions, was convinced that freeze-dried instant coffee was the way to go.  I didn’t like that at all so I didn’t drink it.  I relied on the local diner.

As a young adult on my own, there were no drive-thru coffee places whatsoever except in the land of Seattle where we heard exclusive brands of coffee could be had in stores built just for that product.  This was in the newspapers.  Where I lived, one went to the corner deli or lunch counter and ordered a cup of coffee.  I drank it, but I still didn’t own a coffee pot.

Fast forward a decade or so and there I am, a mother and a wife and I still don’t know how to make coffee.  In fact, there were several years in there when I didn’t indulge in caffeine of any sort because I was nearly always pregnant and/or nursing a baby.  And there were many years when the only caffeinated drink I would take was a little green tea.

Eventually the hankerin’ for some coffee returned and it was off to Seven-Eleven for the best coffee around.  $.79 for a huge cup!

One time I got my own electric coffee pot.  I gave it a good effort—trying to make coffee as good as Seven-Eleven’s.  It wasn’t.  It tasted like coffee that could have been this:

Liquid Mud

I tried to make good coffee.  Sort of.  I tried other people’s electric coffee maker coffee too and didn’t like theirs either.  What I really enjoyed was going out or having someone go out to Seven-Eleven and buy it ready made.  I did this for about twenty years having sold my electric coffee maker in a yard sale.

I’m not sure when I came across my first retail designer coffee outlet, but it was probably around 20 AS (After Starbucks) when I started shopping for hot coffee somewhere besides at a gas station.  Starbucks had oozed out from the land of Seattle and had arrived in my neighborhood!

I got into it.  And even though it sounded absolutely CRAZY to think of making coffee and then “watering it down” to make something called an Americano, I got talked into trying it and loved it.  More and more of it.  With extra shots.  I was so hooked and it was costing me a fortune and making me feel like an addict.

Until finally I decided enough was enough.  I was determined to find a coffee pot that even I could make good coffee with.  I deliberated for a couple of years about this–all the while still ordering at good ol’ Starbucks and pooh poohing my old haunt, Seven-Eleven.

Mind you, I had by that time done a LOT of cooking and knew how to make all kinds of healthy foods, teas, medicinal remedies and drinks—but still not too sure how to make coffee.  So I went to my favorite gourmet cooking supply store, Williams & Sonoma.  They had so many coffee makers!  I didn’t even waste time looking at most of them because I intuitively concluded that the best kind of coffee pot for me was a French Press type.  This is the kind where you put the ground coffee in the bottom and pour very hot (but not boiling) water over it and steep it after which you press down on a plunger that sends all the grounds to the bottom and all the coffee is above the plunger and ready to pour.

There were beautiful French Press Coffee Makers on display all filled with whole coffee beans.  Hmmm I thought.  A young man helped me and showed me the different styles and I chose an excellent mid-priced model and asked him how to make coffee with it.

“Simple,” he said, “You put the whole beans in the bottom and pour the water on top and you have to let it sit for a while and stir it a lot so it will make the coffee, then you press down the plunger and it’s ready to drink.”

“Whole beans?” I asked.

Afrikaans: Geroosterde pitte van die koffiepla...

Roasted coffee beans  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I purchased the pot and took it home.  The directions didn’t really say anything about the coffee beans.  “Nah!”  I thought, “That can’t be right.  That doesn’t make sense.”  I was pretty sure you didn’t use whole beans but after all, this is Williams & Sonoma and they ought to know.  I called my youngest son and he set me straight.

So, the upshot of this saga is that the French Press Coffee Maker turned out to be a wonderful way to make delicious, fresh, non-bitter, heavenly-smelling coffee in minutes.  I save so much money and time!  And I can have coffee whenever I want, though I am no longer a coffee addict and don’t overindulge in caffeine anymore.

But about once a week or so, I get a visit from an All-American Super Hero who brings me a ready-made serving of my favorite Americano after he has driven not to Starbucks but to a local coffee specialty store that has the best.  And I always say,

“Coffee Man, (sigh) My Hero!”

(*The first Starbucks opened in 1971)

How the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs Got Started (With Romance Added)

Hey kids!  It’s story time! Gather ’round the campfire.

Campfire

Campfire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ONCE upon a time, there were two campers who were spending the night out in the woods up in Canada on a very chilly night.  Ralph–the first camper–brought his 4X4 with him to the campsite but decided he’d sleep outside and look at the stars before falling asleep.  So he got his gear all laid out, his sleeping bag unrolled and started building a fire. Ralph gathered up some dry sticks but he was pretty tired so he didn’t spend time going out to forage for some big pieces of wood for his fire.  Besides, Ralph had a boatload of old newspapers in his truck that he wanted to get rid of.

Using a little of the newspaper to get the fire started, Ralph had no trouble getting his pile of sticks lit up.  Now all he had to do was keep feeding his newspapers to the fire and he’d be warm enough.

Lucille, on the other hand, had set up camp about 500 yards from Ralph’s campsite.  She too planned to sleep outside and look at the constellations.  So she too went out to gather fuel for her fire to keep herself warm.  Lucille had a more traditional approach.  She had started setting up camp early so she would have time to forage for fire wood.  She took her time, enjoying her walk through the woods and finding nice hard wood–mostly hickory– to burn in her fire.  She got the fire set up with tinder, kindling and the dry hard wood and went  over to her VW Bus to grab some newspaper to start the fire with.

Lucille had made a wonderful campfire!  She liked it so much she took a picture of it!  (The one at the top) And then she settled back in her sleeping bag gazing at the stars and adding a log here and there.  Oh, it took a while for that campfire to really get roaring.  But once the fire got going, it burned through the night and Lucille fell asleep and was warm all night long.

And then . . .

Getting back to Ralph, Ralph did not have such a relaxing evening.  In fact he was busy all the time and hardly had any sleep or fun looking at the stars.  Poor Ralph.  He would get that pile of newspapers and throw some on the fire and whoosh!  Big flames!  But they would die quickly and he’d have to go get more newspaper.  Again a big flare up (very dramatic looking) and the big cool down.  If Ralph was going to stay warm and get any rest that night, he’d have to think of something else.

And he did.  Ralph was a very bright fellow!  Ralph figured it out that the newspaper was just too thin and burned too fast.  So he went and got a really big pile of it out of his 4X4 and got some string and started rolling that paper up into tight, tight logs and tying them to hold their shape.  Why those logs were denser than cardboard!  And boy did they burn better!  Ralph kept making those paper logs and they burned for at least twenty minutes each.

Ralph was happy with his discovery and he even decided to experiment more with his idea when he got home.  He figured out more tricks like coating the paper logs with wax and putting good-smelling stuff in it so it would smell like pine or hickory. And Ralph invented machinery that could roll the paper up so tight that those logs were guaranteed to burn for an hour.  He thought, “I’m selling these babies because most people don’t want to have to get their own fire wood for their fireplaces.  They’d rather have something simple and convenient like my paper logs.” (Ralph got rich doing this, by the way.)

The moral of the story here, kids, is that different types of fuel burn at different rates and sometimes the fuel that burns the longest also takes more work than the others but in the long run, provide the best fires.

The end.

No, not the end!  What am I thinking?  There’s more I wanted to say.  Oh yeah, I wanted to say that there is something more basic to know about eating sugar than just how bad it is for you.  And there is something to know about another ingredient in many of our foods that acts just like sugar in your body.  It is refined carbohydrates.

How could these be the same?  Well first you need to understand that sugar and starches (any kind of starches refined or not) are both carbohydrates and when you eat them your body breaks them down into glucose.  The glucose then raises your blood sugar level and triggers your pancreas to secrete insulin to balance the blood sugar level out by sending the glucose to your cells to be burned off as energy.  This is one of the two main ways you fuel your body.

If you already have enough fuel in your cells and don’t need more at the moment, then the insulin tells your body to store the fuel for later in the form of fat.  This is just the way your body works and there’s nothing wrong with that but you should understand it because it is also how carbohydrates got such a BAD reputation and why so many people think that they have to forego carbohydrates almost entirely in order to lose weight.

Are they right or not?  It all hangs on whether they understand the differences in the types of fuels they are using.  A refined carbohydrate, such as white sugar, white flour and most of the gazillions of food products made with them provide fuel like Ralph tried to use at first.  Quick energy, quick burn out.  Blood sugar up, blood sugar down.  Insulin up, insulin down.  It’s enough to make you dizzy (maybe for real).  And if you eat enough of these refined, processed carbohydrates, your cells have had enough and then all the rest of it get turned into fat.  And you’ve got a cheap energy source that doesn’t last and that puts your hormones on a rollercoaster ride and yes, makes you gain weight.

No wonder “carbs” got a bad rap!  But the food industry has been taking care of that.  They have created all kinds of “new and improved” food products that look a lot more like real hard wood logs and a lot less like loose newspaper.  Just like Ralph invented his rolled up paper logs!  (This is called a metaphor.  I’m not suggesting you eat either loose or rolled newspaper, silly! Just stay with me here . . . )

A variety of foods made from wheat.

A variety of foods made from wheat. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

They invented all kinds of “healthier” food products like white sugar coated with molasses to make it brown – the ultimate color of “health” food. They introduced products with various types of sweeteners that sound much healthier than plain ol’ sugar and labeled them “natural.”  They made breads with “wheat flour” in the ingredients and touted that it is “wheat bread” even though most all the white flour also came from wheat and could be called “wheat flour.”  They even have foods with a percentage of unrefined carbohydrates (aka the hardwood logs that burn a long time) mixed in with the sugar and refined flour.  And alas, a lot of these foods go right to the belly or hips for storage.

Then there are some folks who know that if they stick to unrefined, whole grain foods, they can eat some carbohydrates with no worries.  This is your hardwood fuel.  This is the stuff that lasts a long time.  Why?  Because whole grains retain most of the layers of the grain which includes all the fiber and minerals and protein. (Yes, there is protein in things like brown rice and other whole grains.) Let’s take rice as an example. Unlike white rice which is stripped of all those good layers and burns faster than one of Ralph’s paper logs, brown rice breaks down slow and easy.  It doesn’t cause a sudden increase in blood sugar level and trigger rapid increases of insulin. It’s a nice long, slow, steady burn that gives your body time to use it and not have to store it.

Whole grains and unrefined whole grain flour are something we can really live with!  They are a bit more trouble (but lots of fun) to prepare but they have so much more flavor and are so satisfying because they provide actual nutritional value and take a long time to burn.

AND THEN . . .

However there is more to this story saga.  The more people spotted the fact that carbs might have something to do with gaining weight, the more they shouted “Low carb!  No carb!”  Food manufacturers had to do more than make paper logs–oops–I mean healthier sounding flour products and sweeteners.  They had to take people’s attention off their carbohydrate products and enlighten the consumers about the evil fattening ogre–FAT!  Why yes!  Even the name “fat” is, well, “fat.”  Perfect for the campaign.

So the manufacturers themselves started the campaign against fat and even made their own brands of new and improved fat-free and low-fat products.  Just listen to them explaining that fat makes you fat!  It’s so easy to believe because, after, all fat is not what we want to be.  And you are what you eat, right?  So don’t eat fat.

Who cares if fat is the other major source of fuel for your body besides carbohydrates?

But they had a problem when it came to making these reduced and no fat foods.  Taste.  Ugh. Taking the fat out makes their food almost unappetizing.  But they knew what to do!  They knew what makes food taste great and what will make people come back to purchase them time and time again!  Can you guess?

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose)

Macro photograph of a pile of sugar (saccharose) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s sugar of course!  Sugar in all it’s glorious forms.  Just mix it in with a bunch of other additives using words like “maltodextrin” and “fructose” and whatever-ose.  And you will probably agree that the new, improved low-fat and non-fat products “Don’t taste too bad.”  (Only slightly bad.  Are you going to settle for that?)

And this, children, is how the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs was started.  And the war rages on and on.  All the while, the clever food manufacturers and their henchmen have convinced you that you have to take a side in this War and that they, after all, are the experts who can “help” you to know what’s best to eat.

And what of Ralph and Lucille?

Well, they were only 500 yards away from each other at that campsite.  Ralph was getting tired of making his paper logs and saw the light from Lucille’s strong, steady fire and went over to see what she was doing.  Lucille was so vibrant and healthy, she glowed even brighter than her wonderful campfire.  It was love at first sight.  And after all, Ralph was trying to do something better than use loose newspaper–he was on the right track and innocently so (not like the food manufacturers). Lucille loved how creative Ralph was and she loved that fact that he openly showed her so much admiration for her fire-building skills.

Pleiades Star Cluster

Pleiades Star Cluster (Photo credit: Wikipedi

Soon they married and began eating unrefined whole grains and whole food together and spending many a romantic evening gazing at the stars together and cuddling before a beautiful hardwood fire.  And they lived happily and healthfully ever after and they also became activists and protested the Galactic War Between Fat and Carbs every chance they got.

~~~~ The End ~~~~

And if you got all the way to the end of this big ol’ post and read it and understand it, then you are one smart cookie  rice cake!

Show your L O V E

It’s Valentine’s Day and it’s also a Tuesday which is a big workday for me.  Not that I don’t take time to appreciate my special peeps and my very own special Valentine Hunny and make sure that they’ll all still “Be Mine” for a while longer . . . .

I’m sure we can find a little something to show our L O V E!

Typically people at least get Valentine’s Day cards for each other and so for you, my friends, I found these in the way of a Valentine’s Day greeting!  Hope you’ll be inspired to do a little something special in your kitchen to show your love (or at least find something fun to eat together!)