Another Birthday

Birthdays are like jelly-beans—they’re colourful, fun, numerous and tasty. When we were younger, birthdays meant a happy day filled with laughter, family, friends and food–especially cake. Being young, we would anxiously count the years to 16 and our driver’s license; 19 and a chance to cast a vote; 21 and finally considered an “adult.”

Being older, we begin to look at birthdays a little differently. There’s a bit of tension when the 30s, 40s and 50s pass. Suddenly, you find yourself in the 60s and 70s. Where did the years go?

I have a different perspective. My mantra is “You’re only as old as you feel.” And, I feel like I’m still in my 40s–well, okay, maybe some days early 50s. It really depends whether I had a good night’s sleep and my nibble of dark chocolate.

Birthdays are an event that comes around every 365 days; 366 days if it’s a leap year and this year happens to be one. Who decided that we are older each 365/366 days? Why are we supposed to age? Whatever happened to being “young at heart?”  Hey, as long as one has good health, financially stable, a happy outlook and knowing you can do anything you want, (as long as it’s legal)–what more can a person need or want?

There’s so many things to tackle and not enough years to do it all. So far I have tried Jazzercise, Hawaiian Dancing. Burlesque-Fit, Line Dancing, Zumba, Nuline Dancing, Ukulele and Guitar–all of which trains the memory as one moves to music or play the music. It’s been fun and still is as a number the dance classes are social events as well as fun classes.

I firmly believe that we reach a stage in our life where you must enjoy what you have while you can. But one thing for sure, you have to keep moving, no matter what. I intend to keep exercising my body and mind; enjoying my family and friends; relishing every moment of being alive and knowing there’s more good stuff around the next bend. Remember birthdays are only a number and if you’re feeling younger than what the number says, then for goodness sakes, celebrate and enjoy!

It’s been a blast for me the last two weeks as I embrace another birthday and thankful I have family and friends to share the moment. Happy Birthday to all my January friends–keep moving and dive into that bucket list now!

 

Peanut Butter Cookie Challenge

I had this sudden yen for peanut butter cookies—a plain, simple, home-made peanut butter cookie.

So I dug out my collection of cookie cookbooks and did some quick research. Some books didn’t even have a plain, old-fashion peanut butter cookie, but they did have the cookie dressed up with chocolate chips, orange peel, extra roasted peanuts and all other combinations using chocolate, dried fruit and crunchy nuts.

The first recipe used up most of the jar of Adams Natural Crunchy Peanut Butter. It was a jar I bought by mistake as  I had reached for the Adams Creamy. The drawback with Adams peanut butter is that it requires mixing the peanut oil back into the peanut butter before it can be used. The recipe also called for 2 cups of all-purpose flour, but I decided to mix some whole-wheat, ground flax and wheat germ into the mixture as well. I was able to scoop spoonfuls of dough into a ball and flatten with a fork. When this batch of cookies cooled enough to sample, I noted it was a solid cookie that would travel well in a deep pocket, along with a bag of trail mix—perfect for a few hours of hiking or a power walk. It also needed more peanut butter as it barely tasted like a peanut had rolled through.

After looking over more recipes, I decided to add a bit here, omit a bit there and increase the peanut butter. Hubby doesn’t eat this kind of cookie and I had to eat whatever I made so it had to be super tasty.

The next recipe I found had fine coconut and dried cranberries which I omitted. I also generously increased the amount of peanut butter from its original 1/2 cup to a full cup. The results were a slightly softer cookie, tasted like it had peanut butter in it and was addictive–not because it was tasty, which it was, but because the size and shape felt good in my hand and with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee, it was almost perfect.

Today, I tried one more recipe and this is the one I’ll return to next time I get the urge for a good peanut butter cookie. These cookies spread big, were crispy on the edges and slightly soft in the centre. There was a distinctive taste of peanut butter and when these cookies were baking, the kitchen smelled like roasting peanuts. And the amazing thing was there were no dark chocolate chips or chunky chocolate in these cookies—simply a generous addition of a creamy-style peanut butter.  To burn off those darn calories and the extra five pounds of “research”, I now power walk twice a day but it was worth every single bite of those 50+ peanut butter cookies.  What we must do to scratch a yen. . . . .’til the next time.

 

Those After Christmas Sales

I sympathize with my California friend, Eva S, who lost a sock  somewhere in the stratosphere (www.notesfromthecupcakerescueleague.wordpress.com/). My loss has been much greater—I lost 3 giant rolls of silver and gold  embossed Christmas wrapping paper plus 2 boxes of sparkling-snow-scene-with-cute-puppies Christmas cards. I know I have them because I fell for that after Christmas sales of wrapping paper, bags and cards that were 75% off at the store. I felt I was a giant step ahead for next Christmas when I had my supply of cards and  gift wraps. And yes, I did put them away in a safe place so I could put my hands on them as soon as the month of December loomed into sight. It was tucked in such a safe place I couldn’t find it when I needed it.

After Christmas sales, also known as Boxing Day Specials—can be a boon to some but disastrous to others. First of all, there is no such thing as a “bargain”–not unless it’s in the technological field and at least 80% off, if they want me inside their store. I remember my friends camping out overnight just to be the first through the door when the electronics store opened on Boxing Day. Back then, there were some great bargains.

My dilemma with the missing wrapping paper and cards came to the fore-front when Hubby and I walked past the card-shop. Yep, there were boxes and boxes of cards plus stacks of glittery, Christmas-y wrapping paper AND all for 70% off the regular price. I’m not falling for that this year–besides  it was a bit more reduced last year. Hubby and I walked on by.

I know I have at least 3 past post-Christmas sales of wraps and cards tucked somewhere in a secret hidey-hole. AND I just know that when I need some special occasion wrapping paper, my Christmas ones will fall out of the closet instead.

So Eva S–don’t worry about your missing sock. It’s probably with my missing wrapping paper and cards. Somewhere, they are commiserating with other misplaced items until their owners  finally reunite with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Chocolate Cherry Christmas

At my house, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas unless there was something under the tree that held dark chocolate tucked inside its wrapped package. This Christmas, Hubby and I hit the jackpot.

A few years ago, we received a box of dark chocolate covered cherries with such a deliciously appealing picture on the box, that our brain had already signalled our mouths there was a treat heading its way. And, it didn’t disappoint—that distinctive taste of dark chocolate; that spurt of liqueur bathing a plump cherry; that satisfying melding of dark chocolate, liqueur and a juicy cherry was absolutely heavenly.

After that, when we saw a box of chocolate covered cherries, we treated ourselves to it. But the disappointment was too painful to describe. Let me just say that the dark chocolate was bland and waxy; the syrup was too icky sweet and not a liqueur AND the cherry was a pitiful wizened piece of dubious fruit. After those disappointments, whenever we spotted a potential box of cherry treats, we stayed away—mentally kicking ourselves that we never made note of the brand of chocolate cherries  given to us, way back when.

Last week, I saw an unpretentious sealed foil bag with a clear window, showing the supposedly extra-dark chocolate cherries in liqueur, wrapped in its red and silver foil. I grabbed a bag. On Christmas, Hubby opened the sealed bag and immediately our noses sighed with pleasure as the dark chocolate scent of liqueur wafted out. Immediately,  our brains zinged the message to our mouths that something great would be coming. And this time, it didn’t disappoint.

Our mouths bit into a decadent piece of extra-dark chocolate that immediately squirted a shot of liqueur that had soaked a plump, juicy cherry. This is how a dark chocolate cherry should be always. And yes, I have made note of the brand. Thank you, Witor’s IL Boero–may you always prosper and keep making these wonderful Italian chocolate cherries. It made our Christmas even more special. . . .

Merry Christmas

It’s been a strange month. I knew Christmas was coming in another few weeks but that was a few weeks away. Lots of time to shop, bake, clean,–all the myriad stuff one needs to do when guests and family would pop in over the Holidays. So here I am, as ready as can be–the baked goods have been mostly devoured by us, after all, test-tasting is a very serious job. But now I’m confident that my chocolate pecan thumbprint cookies, shortbreads,  lemon loaf, cherry bombs,  petite ham quiches,  mince tarts and butter tarts are ready for my visitors. The only problem is to find the time to do more baking. . .

In the meantime. I would like to wish each and everyone of my faithful Readers a very Merry Christmas and all the very best that this Holiday Season brings.  May 2016 be a very Happy, Healthy,  Creative and Prosperous year for all of you. Best of all, may the Christmas Sprite inspire the creative juices to flow through the New Year and beyond.

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

 

Balbo, Chin Strap and Door Knockers

Being the month of November. a number of men in my City have been challenged to a good cause–raising funds and awareness for prostate cancer while growing a prize-winning mustache and/or beard. I’ve heard it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Among the younger generation, the “Soul Patch”–a  vertical strip of hair grown in the cleft of the chin or directly below the centre of the lower lip–is fairly common. My barber friend rattles off names like Vandyke, Chin Strap, Balbo,  Door Knocker,  Donegal, Royale, Mutton Chops and Stashburns–all referring to different styles of beards or combinations of beard and mustache.

I’ve always admired men with beards or mustaches. Not the scruffy beards nor the wispy beginnings of something, but a nicely trimmed Vandyke or a healthy full-blown “Shenandoah” beard. I remember my brother coming home for the holidays with the start of something on his chin. It never grew  into a lush beard but instead became skimpy chin hairs, very much like an ancient,oriental Fu-Manchu look. He took a fair amount of good-natured teasing whenever the family got together so his “new look” didn’t last long.

We all have our quirks and foibles–those little traits of habit we all do without realizing that we’re doing it. Or perhaps, we do know and do it anyway. One of my girlfriends would twirl a strand of her hair around her fingers when she was seriously  thinking of a solution to a problem. Another friend would resort to bread making the old-fashion way–sans bread-making machine–so she could pound out her frustrations. But, it’s some of my bearded friends who do  thing with their beards and/or mustaches.

Ethan has a “circle beard”–that’s a goatee with a mustache. It’s always neatly trimmed giving him a rather academic look. My cousin tells me when Ethan plays poker with the guys, everyone would surreptitiously check to see if Ethan is doing this thing of gently stroking his beard and giving it a tug, as he ponders whether or not to raise his bet. Ethan hasn’t figure out why he can’t bluff anyone with his so-called “poker” face.

Abe Lincoln’s beard was called the “Chin Curtain” and he was often seen stroking his chin as he contemplated the politics of his time. Charlie Chapin didn’t have a beard but he did sport his trademark “toothbrush mustache.” And yes, he did stroke his mustache occasionally–perhaps to check that it was still there. . . .

Anyway, I have a theory on why my hairy-face friends do this thing with their mustaches and/or beards. Can you imagine enjoying a plate of spaghetti and meatballs? Like having that darn spinach or bit of broccoli in your teeth–they have to make sure there’s no evidence of anything embedded in the foliage. Gentle and constant stroking encourages the follicles to bloom. It’s written in fine print in the “Beards and Mustaches Ownership Manual,” that all men have to caress and stroke their beards and/or mustaches at least 20 times a day. And lastly, if they have the right style with matching attitude, they can carry off that scholarly, thoughtful, philosophical, caring, helpful, humanitarian persona.

Weak chins have nothing to do with beards and mustaches. It is definitely a guy thing and can have a certain appeal to the opposite sex. The right beard and/or mustache lends character to as manly face. Haven’t you noticed the amazing difference in appearance when someone you’ve known and who always had a beard and/or mustache, decides to shave it off?

So, go ahead Guys—grow your Balbo, Door Knocker, Chin Strap, Goatee, etc. Raise  awareness and money for a worthy cause—after all, it’s your life. . . .

Smash Magnet

I’m convinced I’m a “Smash Magnet” and by golly, I would rather be a “Babe Magnet” or any other kind of magnet than what I’m destined to be.

When we bought the spanking new, blemish-free, silver Volvo station wagon  home, I was thrilled until I heard Hubby utter those ominous words, “This is our last car, Honey.  We’ll drive it until we can’t drive it anymore.” I think Hubby meant until we’re too old to drive.” I don’t think he meant when the car starts to look like a battle zone.

It really isn’t my fault that someone spitefully gouged one side of the car with their keys. Or, someone else ran their grocery cart into the Volvo’s rear end. Or that someone actually raced away when they backed into the Volvo, causing a caved-in rear corner. It’s almost as if the “Car Gods” were having a field day, chortling and jabbing each other in glee as I carefully drive away on my errands–in my repainted scrapes, carefully patched “wounds” on the Volvo. Even if I parked miles away from anyone else, the car will have new scratches and dents when I return. Honest to God—all those times were not my fault!

Two weeks ago, I made it home without a scratch until the concrete wall of the Condo’s underground parkade reached over and grabbed the Volvo. There was no one to blame except “Yours truly” and I was so angry you could fry doughnuts in my “sizzle.” How the heck did I ever do something so stupid?  The poor car really looked like it came from a fierce battle and lost, with its deep scratches and a huge dent along the length of the passenger side, that’s the right side. A phone call to the insurance adjuster and a visit to the body-shop followed. It didn’t help that the body-shop guy took one look and said, “Holy crap, that’s really bad!” and with a gleam of $$$ in his eyes, started tallying up the damages.

My “Loaner” was a Toyota Corolla that had just been returned by a person who had dented, scratched and mashed the front. With a straight face, the body-shop guy told me, “We didn’t fix it yet as it’s the only car we have left as a loaner.”  Huh! I knew it. My one-time  meeting with a concrete wall had me permanently labeled  as a “Smash Magnet.” If by any chance, someone runs into this Loaner car with their grocery cart or car keys, please note, this car already needs to be repaired and a few more bumps and scrapes won’t matter.

Meanwhile, I am beginning to become fond of this battle-weary Corolla—it reminds me of my beloved Volvo, still recovering in the car hospital.  Next time–yes there may be a next time—I’m picking out a truck, one of those big, solid testosterone  pickup monsters no one dares pick a fight with. . . .