Tag Archives: Chocolate

Classic Post: The Love Trials

Image by Maura Nicolaita from Pixabay.

This post first appeared on February 10, 2016.

Even successful speed dating requires major time investment to identify Mr. or Ms. Right. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those longing for true love could detect it within one day?

Ta-da! My revolutionary concept, Love Trials, cuts to the chase. This approach will benefit all humankind, plus make me a few million dollars. Each participating couple will know whether they have found their soulmates after five short sessions in which they:

Trial #1: Pack a suitcase. The girl and guy are given one small bag. Not one each — one. She does her best, but it only holds a weekend’s supply of lipsticks. And is he really going to wear that?

Trial #2: Visit a buffet with one plate. When a woman’s salad vies for space with the guy’s giant nachos topped with five pounds of bacon, she may reconsider. His passion may cool when she doesn’t want his food touching hers.

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.

Trial #3: Dig a car out of a snowdrift. Even without debate as to who should have known about road conditions, speed and directions, this trial proves invaluable in unmasking polite claims of gender equality. She dubs him the stronger; therefore, he should push. He thumbs his nose at her so-called dedication to equal rights and claims superior judgment in rocking and rolling out of the predicament.

Trial #4: Hang wallpaper. Participants ask themselves: Do they really want to pledge their lives to someone who can’t distinguish a rectangle from a trapezoid?

This is the way they imagined remodeling together. Image by StockSnap from Pixabay.

Trial #5: Buy each other a $10 gift. She purchases an extra-long towel and embroiders his baby-in-the-bath picture on it (winning his mother over). He buys her a heavy-duty ice scraper.

Have the starry-eyed lovers fled the scene? If not, do they still speak? (Grunts count. So do weepy “how could you!”s.)

If so, light up a huge neon Congratulations! sign. Release balloons and confetti!

In the Love Trials, if he and she have not escaped to Mars and Venus, a relationship with a real, live human being has begun. Break out the chocolates, flowers, music and romance! This couple can celebrate true love until the next great Love Trial:

Planning a wedding.

Image by Pintera Studio from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What tried-and-true Love Trial would you suggest?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Extreme Hot Chocolate!

Image by DC Williams from Pixabay

O Lord, splurging on this one steaming cup of hot chocolate, I never realized one Aztec king, Montezuma III, drank 50 — spiked with chili peppers — daily. OMG, even this chocaholic realizes a person can want too much of a good thing! 

Image by brian261 from Pixabay.

Image by noname_13 from Pixabay.

Jack Frost: Terror, Trickster or Artist?

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

Given hurricanes and fires across our nation, why the drama about Jack Frost’s arrival?

I understand why his ancestor, Jokul Frosti, a scary old giant, made northern Europeans want to flee to Florida. However, I don’t get Jack’s German great-great-grandma, “Mother Frost.” What mom in her right mind would initiate the never-ending rituals of zipping coats and searching for mittens and boots?

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

The Jack Frost I encountered during first grade seemed friendly. Our teacher read stories about Jack painting trees’ foliage with brilliant colors. He froze mud puddles into brittle layers we stomped when mothers weren’t looking. He carved icy designs on windows we licked to see if they tasted as sugary as they looked.

Still, Jack never rated the attention we gave other holidays. The obvious reason for his lack of popularity: Nobody received presents or candy in Jack’s honor.

As adults, we harbor mixed feelings about him. Many welcome Jack’s fall arrival far more than spring visits, when gardeners cover freshly planted seedlings. In spring, according to the Fruit Growers News, some farmers even hire hovering helicopters to warm trees and prevent Jack’s mischief.

Yet we fall fanatics celebrate russet, gold, melon and chocolate hues Jack paints on hardwoods’ leaves. James Whitcomb Riley would approve of the silvery sheen he spreads on pumpkins.

Allergy sufferers like my husband welcome Jack Frost with open arms. Hubby also celebrates mowing less often.

However, Jack gets carried away with fall decorating. Not content to paint individual leaves, he arranges thousands to beautify our lawn.

Jack also seems to enjoy watching plant lovers like myself scurry around our yards like squirrels. We haul flowerpots inside — though where we will park 43 ferns and geraniums, we have no idea.

Image by Valentin from Pixabay.

Also, Jack is super-thin. Can I trust someone that skinny?

His arrival portends ice that isn’t as pretty as his window designs. Sooner, not later, his Jokul Frosti side shows up.

At least, meteorologists — unlike their treatment of hurricanes and blizzards — don’t give Jack a new name each time he appears. Frankly, I couldn’t take Arnold Frost seriously.

Despite mixed feelings, this fall fanatic continues to admire Jack’s exquisite autumn colors and stomp through frozen puddles in his honor.

But lick icy windows?

Probably not.

Image by Aida Khubaeva from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you see Jack Frost?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Not a TV Big Brother

Lord, thank You for my big brother. Not only is he older than I am (yay!) but he fashioned walnut wood from his acres into a lovely bowl for me. At one point, it was filled with yummy chocolate. But OMG, both You and he knew that wouldn’t last long. …

Classic Post: Soda Fountain Magic

This post first appeared on June 20, 2018.

Entering Zaharako’s soda fountain as a preschooler, I knew magic was for real.

I spotted curlicue iron tables and chairs my size. Glass cases held hundreds of chocolates, hard candies and jelly beans. Had I reached Heaven early? The adult friend who brought me confirmed this with ice cream I didn’t have to share.

I pattered across the gleaming, black-and-white floor to the counter’s red stools. They spun round and round! My friend’s objection didn’t surprise me. Even if stools were designed to twirl, grown-ups said you shouldn’t.

Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay.

A 1908 orchestrion — a self-playing pipe organ with drums, cymbals and triangles — fascinated me. Did jolly ghosts fill the high-ceilinged room with music?

Image by Michael Luenen from Pixabay.

Occasionally, Mama took us to Zaharako’s. How I longed for that pile of roasted cashews! But even a small packet cost too much.

My mother’s generation had frequented the place during their teens, so we cool adolescents of the 1960s avoided the fountain as if radioactive. Still, celebrating my first job, I treated my little sister at Zaharako’s.

I said grandly, “Order whatever you want.”

We ate huge sundaes. I played the orchestrion and bought cashews, toasty and delicious beyond belief.

Later, I chose fabulous Zaharako’s candies for my future in-laws’ Christmas gift.

Fast-forward several years to my mother’s visit. Adulting had drained away my coolness, so we visited Zaharako’s. The mirrors gleamed, but the near-empty soda fountain’s stained counter, dull woodwork and damaged tin-patterned ceiling didn’t brighten our day.

“Everyone came here after school. ‘Meet you at the Greek’s!’ we’d say.” Mom gazed at the broken orchestrion. “The fountain’s dated now. I guess I am, too.”

Decades later, I shared a similar feeling when I stopped for a treat, but Zaharako’s, a landmark since 1900, had closed. The orchestrion? Sold to a California collector.

Not long afterward, though, as I traveled past my childhood hometown, something sent me off the interstate.

Miracles do happen.

Inside Zaharako’s, red stools flanked gleaming counters, and mirrors glimmered amid rich woodwork. Pint-sized curlicue tables and chairs again held little diners. The original orchestrion played, grand as ever.

I sent yummy chocolates to my mother.

She couldn’t remember events of five minutes before, but she recalled Zaharako’s.

The soda fountain had worked sweet magic once again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite soda fountain treat?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Lovin’ My Neighbors!

Father, so glad You gave us the idea for our neighborhood S’Mores Night. What a joy, to share each other’s lives on a starry night! Will there be s’mores in heaven? Not sure, but OMG, the evening was a teensy taste of friendship we’ll savor with You and Your children. Every. Starry. Night.

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No-Temptation Birthday Cake

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No-Temptation Birthday Cake. O Lord, thank You that this pineapple upside-down cake turned out well for my husband’s birthday. And OMG, thank You that though it is his favorite, I can walk away from this cake without a pang.

But if it were chocolate. …

Chocolate Chat

“Nine out of ten people like chocolate. The tenth person always lies.” —Unknown

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay.

In case you didn’t collide with card, candy, and teddy bear displays, I’ll inform you: Valentine’s Day was Monday. Think in terms of a major apology gift. Half-price chocolates save money, but will they impress your lady?

Perhaps I can suggest tips for future reference.

At all costs, avoid the “I-love-you-every-day-why-should-I-give-you-a-gift-now?” defense. Like the adage, “It doesn’t matter who wins or loses,” it contains elements of truth. But you’ll lose, big time. Unless you think sleeping on the couch — or driveway — is fun.

The book my husband gave me for our first Valentine’s Day looked much better 47 years ago.

Fortunately, my husband figured this out. He’s come a long way since our first Valentine’s Day, when he gave me a history book. No, I’m not making that up.

After 47 years, though, he’s a master gift giver. Hubby should offer lessons on finding cards that make a wife’s heart sing. However, he faced a common February quandary: I adore chocolate, but I’m dieting. Should he give me only a card?

Some men bypass the obvious solution: flowers. Instead, they buy their ladies lingerie.

Image by Vidmir Raic from Pixabay.

Seriously? When women are hating mirrors, are suffering from starvation, and are pushed around by skinny exercise gurus wearing Spandex?

Admittedly, it’s a cruel dilemma — only one of thousands women inflict on men.

Guys should blame marketing geniuses of the late 1800s and early 1900s who married chocolate and Valentine’s Day.

During the 1860s, beverage manufacturer Richard Cadbury discovered the answer to his own dilemma: how to use cocoa butter that remained after processing chocolate drinks. Before his descendants manufactured the eggs associated with his name, Cadbury marketed valentine candies in beautiful boxes he designed himself.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Milton Hershey reinforced the Valentine’s Day-chocolate connection when he began selling tear-dropped chocolate “kisses” named for smoochy sounds chocolate made during processing.

For a time, chocolate equaled milk chocolate. When I, a second grader, received my first Valentine’s Day chocolates from towheaded Paul Henry, I didn’t nitpick about milk chocolate, dark chocolate, bittersweet, or semisweet. Unlike modern connoisseurs, I didn’t debate whether white or ruby chocolate are true chocolate.

Question free candy? Stupid.

Speaking of stupidity, some gourmets have “diversified” chocolate. They’ve invented a chocolate éclair hot dog. Chocolate and black pepper goat cheese truffles. Even chocolate calamari soup.

I told my love, “While I crave both seafood and chocolate, please don’t get creative on me this Valentine’s Day, okay?”

Image by Allan Lau from Pixabay.

“Since when have I been creative?”

True.

“By the way,” Hubby continued, “why should I give you chocolates, when you’ve only given me cards?”

Touché.

However, he, too, has been avoiding seconds at dinner. Toughening up with weights.

Should I give him the ultimate symbol of my love and concern for his health: broccoli dipped in dark chocolate?

Maybe just a card. …

Tune in February 14, 2023, to see if these old lovers learned anything during their chocolate chat.

Image by Gabriel Alva from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What does Valentine’s Day look like at your house?

Not on My Bucket List

Have you made a bucket list?

I haven’t. Lists demand thought. Strike-throughs. Check marks.

(Yawn) Sloth — er, contentment — is so much more relaxing.

So is staying in a rut, retort alpha personalities.

Okay, okay. To inspire my grandchildren, I should aspire to higher objectives than counting dust bunnies.

After all, a fascinating world awaits me. Places to go. Things to do. Possibilities swirl through my brain like flocks of starlings. How can I choose a few among thousands of flapping, chirping alternatives?

Finally, I settle on a first step . . . what not to include on my bucket list:

  • I will never run for President. I’d spend 90 percent of my term trying to elude the Secret Service. Who wants their President to live in a dumpster? Bad deal for everyone.
  • I won’t brush with eggplant-flavored toothpaste.
  • I don’t plan to train as a snake milker.
  • I’ll never embrace a low-carb diet. Life without spaghetti? Home-baked bread? Surely, you jest.
  • Nor am I obsessed with memorizing all 49 Vice Presidents.
  • I will never — and no one else had better — line up Metallica to sing “Happy Birthday” to me.
  • Many wish to run with the bulls in Spain. Should this mad urge to sprint with bovines overwhelm me, I can always run with cows in Indiana.
  • I will never don skinny jeans. You’re welcome.
  • I’ve considered visiting England as a for-real bucket-list item. However, I won’t enter the World Worm Charming Championships in Willaston. There, hundreds of participants not only jab with pitchforks, but play ukuleles and clarinets to bring squirmy little friends to the surface. And, no, I am not making this up.
  • You will not see me drive in a NASCAR race. Walmart parking lots provide sufficient excitement.
  • I will never run a marathon in stilettos.
  • I refuse to cultivate Venus flytraps. Plants with teeth give me the willies.
  • Nor will I kiss frogs. I like kissing my husband too much. Besides, he’s already a prince.

I will never aspire to:

  • Rollerblade down Mount Rainier.
  • Chase tornadoes. I also prefer they don’t chase me.
  • Join Chocolate Haters of America.
  • Finally, though I like eating grits, I’ll never enter the Rolling in the Grits Contest in St. George, South Carolina. There, a contestant weighs, then hops into a kiddie pool filled with 27 cases of grits. The goal: to fill pockets and baggy clothes with the sticky Southern favorite. One champion emerged from the kiddie pool 66 pounds heavier! That alone convinces me it doesn’t belong on my bucket list.

This exercise only cuts my bucket list choices from a gazillion to a billion. But, hey, it’s a beginning.

And (yawn) so relaxing . . .

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you compiled a non-bucket list?

Things Have Changed, and I’m Glad

I finally stopped refusing senior discounts. (Who was I kidding?)

Now, I find it tempting to diss the present and reverence the “good old days.” One morning, a Grouchy Old Gal stared at me from the mirror. Did I really want her to stay?

Instead, I booted her out and listed things I like about 2021. Plus a few I do not miss from the past.

  • First, permanent press is a gift from God. My mother spent hours starching and ironing my puff-sleeved dresses, dresses I wore while emptying mud puddles. I iron now only when I can find mine. The best thing about a no-iron worldview? Though manufacturers lie that their clothes don’t require ironing, everyone pretends it’s true.
  • In this millennium, we enjoy a whole new excuse for playing hooky: the computers are down.
  • Email is cheaper, simpler and faster than snail mail. Unless the computers are down.
  • Microwaves, once a figment of sci-fi imaginations, have forever banished the sinking realization: “Ack! I forgot to defrost the meat!” Okay, so they sometimes produce meals the consistency of cement, with comparable nourishment. Still, speedy microwaves helped feed my skinny physician husband at all hours. They removed gunky warm-up pans from my kitchen’s décor. Nowadays, a microwave suits our lifestyle — that of college students without food service.
  • Few potlucks still feature 15 kinds of marshmallow-Jell-O salad.
  • I’ll take Susan Boyle’s singing, as opposed to Carol Channing’s, anytime. (See YouTube — another current convenience that can take us down Memory Lane, as well as make us glad we don’t live there anymore!)
  • Thanks to technology, we no longer miss favorite programs or movies. We need not suffer withdrawal symptoms when leaving before finding out whodunit.
  • Being a grandma is way more fun than being a mom.
  • In a related thought, little boys’ clothes today are much cuter than those in 1970. This grandma lauds that aspect of gender equality, as I have six grandsons.
  • In a somewhat related thought, I appreciate bicycle helmets. Seat belts. Even kids’ car seats that demand an engineering degree and an acrobat’s body to buckle.
  • Few people drive Pintos anymore.
  • Blow-dryers and curling irons have replaced the overnight torture of brush rollers and orange juice cans. Guys, if you don’t “get” the orange juice cans, ask your wives how they prettied up for Saturday night during the 1960s. Check online photos — if you dare.
  • Men rarely get permanents today. During the ’70s, much of the male population appeared to have been replaced by alien poodles. Wearing leisure suits. And platform shoes.
  • Cigarette commercials now feature cancer victims rather than cool cowboys. In restaurants, puffing and blowing occur only when your food’s too hot.
  • I applaud painless antiseptics that soothe cuts, as opposed to this-is-gonna-make-you-scream Mercurochrome.
  • Experts now assert that chocolate and coffee are good for us.
  • I hate to admit it, but cell phones do keep us safe on the road. Also, if not for cell phones, thousands of husbands might still be wandering Meijer’s aisles, seeking the correct brand of pickles.
  • No more waiting for photos to develop. No more paying for them, either.
  • We now realize God can say both “you” and “thee.”
  • Homemade, homegrown and handcrafted items — food, clothing, even coffins — have become special again.
  • Using an effortless stain stick beats scrubbing grass stains with an old toothbrush. Just ask my kids.
  • Finally, no one sings about yummy love in their tummies anymore.

That last extinction alone brightens the 2021 landscape.

My late father, who loved classical music, would have agreed.

Perhaps I inherited my outlook from Dad. He disliked many modern trends, but he also declared the “good old days” a myth. Dad plowed too many fields behind a mean mule to romanticize the past. Riding a John Deere mower was way better.

Recalling Jim Crow laws in the South — written and unwritten — he celebrated dining with both white and African-American friends without fear.

Occasionally, Dad allowed Grouchy Old Guy to stick around.

I sometimes hang out with Grouchy Old Gal.

But mostly, I celebrate life here and now.

And welcome all the senior discounts.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What don’t you miss from the “good old days,” and what are you thankful for now?