Pressure Drop—Lessen the Stress for the Perfect Valentines Day

Two HeartsEverything you see this week—in the papers, on-line, on TV—will not so gently remind you that Friday is Valentines Day. Yes, the pressure is on for so many people, particularly the guys, to get their romantic gestures just right. You gotta get flowers, or maybe it must be chocolates, or both. Or you have to arrange for the most perfectly romantic dinner or find just the right item of jewelry (not that I am opposed to any or all of those gifts ☺).

SweetheartsAnd you better surprise them! What pressure! Yes, you want to show your partner how much you love them, and I certainly agree that you should on Valentines Day (and every day of the year). But do you really know what they find romantic? After all the stress of planning what you think is the perfect Valentines Day, are you giving your love what he or she wants? What you might be surprised to find out is that what your partner wants isn’t necessarily what you think.

Berry HeartsSo I have a bold idea, ask them! Ask your husband, wife, partner, fiancé, fiancée, love, whoever, “What do you want this Valentines Day?” It kinda doesn’t sound very romantic. But think about it, wouldn’t you love him or her to ask you what you really want for Valentines Day so that you get exactly what you want? The answer you get may be an honest “I want you to surprise me and it better be romantic” in which case you are on your own (though not really because you probably know at least a few things that make him or her happy already, right?) I suspect, however, that when you ask your love what they want, you might be surprised. At the very least, by asking a simple question, “What do you want”, you will have a great conversation. Most likely you will both be rewarded with learning a bit more about what each other wants and needs in your relationship.

Lollipop LoveSo don’t let the pressure for romance perfection on Valentines Day get in the way of enjoying time with the one you love. Take advantage of this holiday to find out what your partner wants and needs in the way of romance. And don’t forget to tell them what you want! Together you will create a very loving day that lessens the stress for everyone. Happy Valentines Day!

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XOXO RachelM&M Love

Magical Moment Mondays: Chocolate

Chocolate heartWith Valentines Day just a few days away on Friday, I have chocolate on my mind. Most people like chocolate. And then there are some people who love, love, love chocolate. You know who you are. They make hints about chocolates to the ones they love around Valentines Day or any holiday for that matter. They can’t get enough of it. Maybe they prefer rich dark chocolate or perhaps they like milky smooth varieties. Just give them chocolate!

Molten chocolateI’m partial to melted chocolate. To me, there is something quite magical about ooey, gooey molten chocolate. The two variations that frequent my mind are chocolate fondue and just-baked chocolate chip cookies. I don’t have chocolate fondue very often but it is a really fun venture. Use a sturdy pot to melt together some good quality chocolate and heavy cream. You can add flavors or liquors if you like though I prefer mine unadulterated. Have chunks of pound cake, pretzels, almond biscotti, strawberries, oranges and maybe best of all, marshmallows ready to dunk into the pool (which reminds me that I love smores as long as the chocolate is next to the warm marshmallows long enough to soften sufficiently). Fondue making and savoring is a perfect activity for Valentines Day whether you are on your own or with another.

Chocolate Chip CookiesAs for chocolate chip cookies—well—I could go on and on about them (and I have in an Ode to baking chocolate chip cookies). The moment that you take a warm cookie and break off a piece to discover little soft peaks of liquid chocolate is magical! Happy Valentines Day all week long!

A Poem for Will Baking
By Susan Rich

Each night he stands before
the kitchen island, begins again
from scratch: chocolate, cinnamon, nutmeg,
he beats, he folds;
keeps faith in what happens
when you combine known quantities,
bake twelve minutes at a certain heat.
The other rabbis, the scholars,
teenagers idling by the beach,
they receive his offerings,
in the early hours, share his grief.
It’s enough now, they say.
Each day more baked goods to friends,
and friends of friends, even
the neighborhood cops. He can’t stop,
holds on to the rhythmic opening
and closing of the oven,
the timer’s expectant ring.
I was just baking, he says if
someone comes by. Again and again,
evenings winter into spring,
he creates the most fragile
of confections: madelines
and pinwheels, pomegranate crisps
and blue florentines;
each crumb to reincarnate
a woman – a savoring
of what the living once could bring.

What’s your favorite chocolate goody? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!

XOXO Rachel

Flower Fridays: Alstroemeria

Alstroemeria bouquet from MomLast week Andy and I received a lovely surprise from my mom—a flower bouquet delivered to our doorstep! And what a beautiful bouquet it is. There are little tea roses, carnations (perfect given the letters last week between my mom and me—Flower Fridays: Carnation) and the star of the bouquet, alstroemeria. Alstroemeria is great for flower arrangements because you can find them absolutely every day of the year and in almost any color you can imagine. I can’t do justice to the shades available in the photos in this post so do a quick search for images of alstroemeria and you will be amazed!

Pink AlstroemeriaHaving never grown them in my garden I wouldn’t know this, but alstroemerias grow in an interesting way. Their leaves grow upside down and twist and turn as they mature. Because of this they are said to represent friendship and devotion with all the change and ebbs and flows of a long-term relationship. They are also said to symbolize wealth, prosperity and fortune. I will take all of the above! Alstroemeria is also called Lily-of-the-Incas or Peruvian Lily because they look like tiny lilies. With all these names available I thought I finding a poem would be easy. But it turns out that the one poem I did find was for the name alstroemeria and it is lovely (and there are several flowers in this poem). Enjoy!

Nothing Stays Put
by Amy Clampitt

In memory of Father Flye, 1884-1985

Orange AlstroemeriaThe strange and wonderful are too much with us.
The protea of the antipodes–a great,
globed, blazing honeybee of a bloom–
for sale in the supermarket! We are in
our decadence, we are not entitled.
What have we done to deserve
all the produce of the tropics–
this fiery trove, the largesse of it
heaped up like cannonballs, these pineapples, bossed
and crested, standing like troops at attention,
these tiers, these balconies of green, festoons
grown sumptuous with stoop labor?

The exotic is everywhere, it comes to us
before there is a yen or a need for it. The green-
grocers, uptown and down, are from South Korea.
Orchids, opulence by the pailful, just slightly
fatigued by the plane trip from Hawaii, are
disposed on the sidewalks; alstroemerias, freesias
fattened a bit in translation from overseas; gladioli
likewise estranged from their piercing ancestral crimson;
as well as, less altered from the original blue cornflower
of the roadsides and railway embankments of Europe, these
bachelor’s buttons. But it isn’t the railway embankments
their featherweight wheels of cobalt remind me of, it’s

Blushing Peruvian Lilya row of them among prim colonnades of cosmos,
snapdragon, nasturtium, bloodsilk red poppies,
in my grandmother’s garden: a prairie childhood,
the grassland shorn, overlaid with a grid,
unsealed, furrowed, harrowed and sown with immigrant grasses,
their massive corduroy, their wavering feltings embroidered
here and there by the scarlet shoulder patch of cannas
on a courthouse lawn, by a love knot, a cross stitch
of living matter, sown and tended by women,
nurturers everywhere of the strange and wonderful,
beneath whose hands what had been alien begins,
as it alters, to grow as though it were indigenous.

But at this remove what I think of as
strange and wonderful, strolling the side streets of Manhattan
on an April afternoon, seeing hybrid pear trees in blossom,
a tossing, vertiginous colonnade of foam, up above–
is the white petalfall, the warm snowdrift
of the indigenous wild plum of my childhood.
Nothing stays put. The world is a wheel.
All that we know, that we’re
made of, is motion.

Lily-of-the-IncasXOXO Rachel

Wedding Anticipation—Make getting there at least half the fun!

Planning a wedding—or planning any large event for that matter—takes a lot of time and energy. The number of long to-do lists can be overwhelming at times. But you might find, like I frequently have with many experiences in my past, that the anticipation of the event is often as wonderful and fulfilling as the actual event. So why not make your year or 6-months or even 2-weeks of planning up to your wedding more fun? Here are some ideas to get you going.

Fun and colorful bowling ballsEmbrace the silly!
I am going on a limb here when I suggest you do some just-plain-silly things while planning for your wedding. How about throwing an impromptu party with your friends where you have to dress as your all-time favorite bride or groom? Or gather your family around and sing your favorite love song duets. Or go bowling with a group of friends while in costume. I am sure you can list at least 10 silly things you love to do.

Practice your dancing skillTango anyone?s!
I don’t mean take a ballroom dancing class at Fred Astaire Dance Studios (though that could be fun too). What I’m talking about is getting out your IPod and creating a wedding worthy playlist of songs to dance to. Be your own DJ and select all things danceable then let the music play and dance your heart out.

Skeeball!Can you say arcade?
Find yourself an arcade and let your pinball wizard out. Or maybe you prefer Dance Dance Revolution or Pump It Up (see dancing skills above ☺). Or one of my favs, Skeeball! Or climb aboard a Racing Car game and show off your nimble driving skills. Sure you might have a gaming console at home, but there is nothing like the energy and fun of an arcade. This has nothing to do with weddings, but it is fun!

Yummy cakeWedding cake contest!
What, you may ask, is that? Well, I just made it up but the idea is to have your own wedding cake tasting event. This is just for fun since you are gonna hire a professional baker for your wedding cake, right? So get your friends to come over, break out the cake baking ingredients (box cake mixes and pre-made frosting allowed) and bake. Make lots of different combinations of cake flavors with gobs of frosting in more flavors and let the tasting begin!

As I am writing this list, I realize that there is no reason why anyone—even if they aren’t planning their large wedding—should not take the advice of this blog and have more fun. We have plenty of heavy moments in our life that provide so much depth to life. Having fun also provides depth and meaning to life so go out and play! You will be rewarded with laughter and smiles.

What’s your favorite way to have fun? What silly things do you like to do? Tell us below in our comment section.

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XOXO Rachel

Magical Moment Mondays: A Hug

A hug—what’s not to love about the magic of holding another? There is either very little to say about hugs or magnitudes of things to say about hugs. There are so many words for hugs: embrace, cuddle, squeeze, clasp, hold close, and perhaps the best—a bear hug! The simple act of a hug conveys so much. For me the warmth of an embrace trumps almost any other gesture of love. Not that I don’t love a kiss or hand holding, but there is something so magical about the exchange of energy with a hug. And hugging has no bounds—hug your mom or dad, your child, your friend, your brother or sister, your dog, cat, horse or other animal and of course your love. You can even hug yourself. So go forth and hug everyone!

Hug O’War
by Shel Silverstein

I will not play at tug o’ war.
I’d rather play at hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

XOXO Rachel