Love in all Forms

Valentines Day. The day to spread some love. The day to show appreciation. The day to share a kind thought, sweet treat, or simply share friendship with others. Valentines Day brings so many critics arguing it’s simply a money maker capitalizing on obligatory traditions of having a relationship, buying chocolates and flowers, going out to dinner, and playing on the consumer’s emotions. I choose to view it in a different way.

The way I view it, Valentine’s Day is an expression of love. And love, as we all know comes in many forms. Love can be the affection between a husband and wife who have developed a life-long commitment to each other, built a family together, and chose to fight through those moments of weakness and struggle, always holding on to the very vows that bound them together in the first place. Love can be that of a mother to her child, the unconditional love that is fierce, and indescribable. Mother’s have the ever-forgiving, thick skin of a strong human who created a human, raised a human, and are just that, human beings. One who learns from her mistakes, who is not perfect, but will always do her best and give her all for her child, regardless of their level of appreciation. There is the love of a sibling. Those who we do not choose, but are chosen for us. The ones who have that familial connection. The saying, “blood is thicker than water” comes to mind every time I think of that sibling love. You don’t have to always like them, but you will always love them is often connected to sibling love.

Then there is the love of a parent to the spouse of their child. This is sometimes a very undervalued relationship. This love is built solely on trust, as those parents are entrusting their son or daughter to be loved by the person they are giving them away to. To love, you must trust, and they have chosen to both love and trust this person with their most precious piece in life, a child. I pray every day that I will have the courage to trust and love the people my daughters choose in the future as my parents and my husbands have done for us.

The next type of love is that of a friend. Friend love is tricky love. It’s the kind that comes in different levels. The first level is a friend who is “friendly.” There is no intimacy, just fellowship, the type that is transferable and applicable to all you are professional with. This level of friendship is not permanent, and is not painful. These are the people who come into your life, you enjoy each others company and eventually exit due to changes in circumstances, changes in jobs, changes in emotional status, etc. These people have a purpose and a value, but it is not a long-term emotional commitment.

The second level of friendship includes the friends who we believe to have a level of intimacy with. Often times, we spend a few years developing these relationships. We think we can trust them, and sometime even share intimate details of our lives with these people, wanting more from them. Many times we have decent relationships with these people But the reality is, we cannot fully trust them, and end up feeling some sort of pain, disappointment or anger towards this relationship at one point or another. These people are good, too good really. A wise old friend once told me about the “Snowman Theory” (patent pending, he would always add.) The largest circle was the group of people who acted like friends. The middle circle was the group of people we think we can trust and rely on. And the smallest circle was the group of people we really could trust. It was his belief you have less than a handful of true friends in your life.

This is not to discourage those friendships and that form of love in the second level of friendship. These people play a valuable role in our lives, they are part of it and we must just learn to appreciate their value and not look for anything more in these people than what they can really offer. Which now leads me to the third and final groups.

The final group of friendship is the true love. These are the people in your life who may have entered in childhood and will always share a special bond with you. These people may go weeks, or even months without seeing you at times, and it doesn’t matter. They know you, they value you, and they understand you. These people are honest with you at all times. They are not artificial, and you never question what they say or do or purposely exclude you from. In many cases, you may not meet these people until later in life. You may also be blessed with these people all throughout your life. These are the people you group text at all times of day, confide your deepest secrets in, seek their wisdom and advice, and send group pictures of your glasses half empty after an incredibly trying day. Yes. These ladies are the friends you love. You know these women will always be in your life, regardless of where life takes you.

In my short 30 years I have felt the love, wrath, and value of all three types. Honestly, in the past year alone I have experienced the most intense versions of each, both good and bad. I have learned so much from each kind and will never forget the “Snowman Theory.”

Recently, you might have noticed an increase in the ever-trending Gal-entine theme. Galentine being the female alternative to having a relationship, feeling the pressures of commitment, and being scrutinized for the possible lack of a love life. If you’ve ever watched the movie, He’s Just Not That In To You the idea of Galentine is one of the major story lines playing through the movie. So today, I choose to celebrate you, my Galentines. My forevers, my lifelongers. You know who you are, whether you entered my life at the age of 8, 25, or 28.

So use today, as a day to celebrate all of the love in your life. It’s there, you just need to remember it comes in so many forms.

Cheers!

  • Whitney
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Valentines Day: Crafts and Treats

In honor of the upcoming holiday, we have spent the last several days celebrating in small ways. It began Thursday on a pleasant surprise of a snow day. After spending the morning drafting up an Individualized Education Plan for a meeting at school the following morning with one of my students and one incredibly peaceful 3-hour nap session, where both girls slept at the same time (yes, I was blessed with those fabulous sleeping children, some people could only dream about… don’t worry, I feel certain my payback is coming in the teenage years). I’m calling that a very successfully productive morning. The girls and I set out to make homemade valentines for loved ones and for friends at the sitter’s house. Now, I have spent hours scouring Pinterest for the perfect craft, clever saying, and “healthy” treat. But this year, I decided to simplify it, as this seems to be the theme for my year. I wanted the valentines to be personal, with some connection to a one and three year old. So, we tore of sheets of paper from the fabulous easel my in-laws bought my oldest daughter for Christmas, and got down to business. I gave each of the girls a blank sheet of paper, washable crayons for the youngest, and washable markers for the “big girl.” I told the girls to make the paper as beautiful as possible, adding every color of the rainbow.

The girls were thrilled! They colored for a solid twenty minutes, giving me plenty of time to cut and write on each of the valentine bases. Once they were finished, I followed the craft up with some excellent bribery puff corn treats, to extend the state of contentment long enough to finish the valentines.

While the bribery worked it’s magic, I took each of the girls artwork and cut out a series of simple hearts. I then glued the hearts to the cards cut out while they colored. I love the idea of everyone they love receiving a piece of artwork they actually made. Who expects to receive a piece of art from a 15 month old? I was pretty please with the simplicity of the final product!

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The girls then continued to snack as we decided Daddy needed his own special Valentine. So his was a larger version of the same style of art. One heart colored by the older in bright vibrant marker, and a slightly smaller heart colored in the softened colors of crayons. Insert sweet sentimental message and a date, and Voila! You have a Valentine created by two sweet little Daddy’s girls!

A few weeks ago the girls and I baked heart-shaped sugar cookies to deliver with the cards. Its an amazing recipe that holds up incredibly well once converted to Gluten Free, with a few slight alterations. I will share a series of my family’s favorite cookie recipes in later posts. But using the classic sugar cookie recipe of my Mother-in-law’s added to the sentimental theme that has been recently pulling at my heart strings.

Now, today is the customary closest Saturday to Valentine’s Day date night; however, my husband and I have postponed our evening out together for a week, and chose to spend the weekend home with our girls. Sometimes I feel like the days that are completely unscheduled leading to never leaving your house end up being the days you never forget. Today was one of those days. We had a simple lunch together with every food cut out with a heart-shaped cookie cutter, leaving my lunch looking a bit like a pile of scraps! But the girls loved it!

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Nothing like the left-over scraps of a cutie’s lunch!

After lunch we spent a small amount of time relaxing and cuddling before heading off to naps!

I love nap time. And what mother doesn’t? It’s always a 50/50 toss up for me. I’m either super motivated to punch through as many to-do list items as possible in whatever window of time those little ladies permit me, or I find myself on the couch binge watching all of the most recent episodes of Fixer Upper. God I love Joanna Gaines. I’m a devout fan since season 1. Unfortunately, Joanna was not on my radar today. After going live with my blog, I began to think about what recipes I already love, and what a scattered mess my pinterest boards, and binder of recipes were. So today I would organize these. While flipping through recipes I loved, recipes I tried but HE didn’t love, and recipes I never bothered to make, my recipes began to looks a little less like my 9th grade English students clutter of class binders, and more like the meticulous organization I picture Martha Stewart to have. God I love her too. But in the shuffle of papers I cam across an older recipe that I made for several Valentines Days in the past. These decadent, rich Red Velvet Cream Cheese brownies are AH-mazing. Seriously, like eat-the-whole-pan amazing. So I was off to begin baking.

The smallest was the first to wake today and we found ourselves spontaneously creating a batch of my most favorite Valentine treat. I love when I get some down time with just this little lady, because it doesn’t happen too often. Her oldest sister spent countless hours helping me bake from the time she was 9 months until today. But this little crazy was slow to the draw, balancing two children precariously around a mixing bowl, and keeping my sanity was not a small feat. As she has begun to age a little it’s much easier to bake with both of them.

But today is a day for my littlest lady. So we begin by melting chocolate and butter, and mixing up the red-velvet layer of the brownies first. Once the chocolate and butter are melted in a small bowl, and the eggs, sugar, vanilla and food coloring are whipped together in a separate bowl my little assistant did an excellent job combining the two and dumping in the scoops of flour to bring our batter to it’s delicious rich consistency.

After mixing up the Red Velvet we mixed up a creamy cheesecake swirl for the top.

We then poured the red velvet into a grease odd shaped glass pan. I normally use a 9 inch square pan, but it has vanished. Literally, it’s gone.

I then swirled the cheesecake with a butter knife after dropping it in to the red velvet by spoonful (ok… one spoonful to me, one to the pan…). Then we popped that bad boy into the oven!

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By this time the oldest little lady had begun to stir so the timer was set to 35 minutes (I ended up needing to bake it an additional 7 minutes, due to the weird shaped pan, and extra thickness it created in the brownies).

Once both of the little crazies were running around I began to work on dinner anxiously waiting for these Ah-MAZING brownies to cool. And I must say, that the Gluten Free Chicken Broccoli Alfredo Casserole we ate for dinner was inspired by Lil’Luna’s recipe linked HERE. It was pretty delish as well.

So… Chicken Broccoli Alfredo, GLUTEN FREE Red-Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, and artwork with my kiddos. This could be the best Valentine’s Day holiday yet! Up next: Date weekend with the hubby.

Cheers!

  • Whitney

 

Gluten Free Red Velvet Cheesecake Bites

2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 c. butter

1 c. sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 red food coloring

2/3 c. Pamela’s Gluten Free Artisan Blend flour

 

1 – 8 oz block cream cheese

1 egg

1/3 c. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

 

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate. Set aside. Cream together eggs, sugar, vanilla, and food coloring. add in flour.
  3. Cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and vanilla.
  4. Pour the red-velvet mixture into a greased 8×8 or 9×9 square baking pan
  5. Spoon on the cream cheese topping, swirl with a buttet knife
  6. Bake 35 – 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean and cheesecake layer is set.