Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Best Valentine's Day Ever

I'm a Valentine's Day cynic. Even as a very happily and securely married gal, I just don't like the holiday. It's no secret, either -- I'm open with everyone about just how ridiculous I think this day is. Even the worst relationships get patched up with roses and chocolates and fancy dinners for this one day of the year, only to return to their normal unhealthiness the next day. Promiscuity, adultery, poor pairings, and abuse are some of the issues I see glossed over with a glittery band-aide on Valentine's Day. Do people really think that a box of candy and a delivery bouquet will solve all the problems of a bad relationship just because Hallmark says so?

In my estimation, Valentine's Day is a sappy wallet-drain as dictated by our Hollywood-idiolizing consumption-crazed culture. It's a day of meaningless yet expensive fluff. And, as much as I believe all of the above . . . I still -- quite perversely, I know -- want a happy Valentine's Day for myself.

I've always wanted the same thing since I first discovered romance and boys as my high school-aged hormones awakened. And every year, I'm always disappointed. Always let down, depressed by the rampant commercialism, my cynicism and bitterness surrounding the holiday always reinforced.

Until this year. This year, I had the best Valentine's Day ever. It was so wonderful, a low-key day of celebrating my relationship with the most amazing man in the universe, my hubby. It was such a fabulous day, in fact, that I want to share it with you. So here it is -- my very first not-so-cynical Valentine's Day. I hope that your holiday, regardless of your romantic relationship status, was just as lovely.

Since it was Saturday, we started off the day like any other Saturday -- with a sweet treat over a game of Scrabble. We headed to Le Petite Outre, a French bakery, where I purchased a brioche and an Americano coffee. I love their brioche -- light and fluffy, savory topped by a crunchy layer of subtly sweetened ground almonds. The fact that it resembles a swanky muffin only adds to its yum-factor.

I took my coffee and bag of patisserie spoils to Bernice's Bakery. There the hubby ordered a long-standing favorite, the caramel roll. I helped myself to a bite, but was extremely satisfied with my brioche. Then we played a game of Scrabble in which I got magnificently lucky to draw nearly all the high-scoring letters in perfect ratio to usable vowels. It was a great game, and the best part was being able to laugh over it with my wonderful husband.

Just how wonderful is this man that I married? Well, to give you an idea, he made me the most fabulous Valentine's dinner. He baked marinated tilapia, paired with sauteed cucumbers and mushrooms. I love it when he cooks, because he's the fish master in the family. He enjoys trying new marinades and sauces with fish fillets, and they're always delicious.

He said something really sweet yesterday while cooking up a storm. As you know, I'm coming out of a long battle with anorexia. One of the side effects of this is that I still mistrust fats, including oil and butter, and even healthier butter substitutes like Smart Balance. I knew that the Best Husband Ever would be using some oil in the fish marinade, but I had made my peace with that and was quite okay.

When he put a dollop of Smart Balance in the pan for the vegetable sautee, though, I balked. What do you think he did? He took that Smart Balance right out and put it back in the tub without a second thought. I felt bad, then, so I told him to forget what I had said and cook according to his original plan. He wouldn't, so I said that I felt sad that I had ruined his dinner. He looked at me and said, "I'm making this for you. I want you to enjoy it. So I don't want to put anything in it that will make you not like it." You can see why I call him the Best Husband Ever.

Cody (the white pupper) and Jackson oversaw the dinner-making. Check out Cody's bemused expression. I wonder what he's thinking about.

Despite the dogs' attempts at assisting the Best Husband Ever, the tilapia turned out beautifully. I'm not a fan of fish, but I always love the fish dishes that my hubby creates. Like I said, he's the fish master!

So you can see, even though we didn't spend exorbitant amounts of money on a fancy-shmancy dinner or flowers or chocolates, we had a really awesome Valentine's Day. The best I've ever experienced! I think our secret was that we just simply relaxed, enjoyed each other's company, and tried new things without going over the top. No gourmet restauarants required!

Of course, the service at our meal left something to be desired . . . .

Even though we didn't go over the top with our Valentine's Day plans, the Best Husband Ever and I did splurge a little bit. Following our amazing dinner, we returned to Bernice's (twice in one day? wowza!) for dessert. I got one of their holiday cupcakes, and he got another caramel roll. This dessert was an interesting experience. I had had my eye on these cupcakes for quite some time. I used to have a massive sweet tooth, and these look so sugary and absolutely beautiful to boot.

When I finally had my treat plated before me, I tried a bite of cake first. It was delicious. Usually, I'm all about forgoing the cake for the frosting, so last night I wanted to get the cake out of the way first. Then I tried a bite of frosting. It was -- okay. That's right. Not amazing, not blow-my-mind out-of-this-world, but just okay. As I continued my cupcake consumption, "okay" quickly turned to "overly sweet." I finished it, but didn't enjoy it as much as I expected to.

I guess that what health experts say is true -- once you stop taking in so many refined sugars and switch to whole foods, your body stops craving the junk. My taste buds have grown, matured, and transformed! Now my cravings are more in line with what my body requires (fresh produce, whole grains, protein and healthy fats) instead of what my mind says it wants (candy, pie, doughnuts). That's not to say that I'll never eat one of those less healthy options again -- in fact, I'm sure that I will. But I realize now that I no longer feel deprived when I choose to pass on a peanut butter cup. And, on the flip side, I also don't feel guilty when I indulge and have one scoop of ice cream. Moderation is key, right?

So Valentine's Day 2009 rocked this muffin chick's world. I got to spend some beautiful quality time with the man that I love. We enjoyed good eats. I even got some yoga in and came to some important realizations about what's truly valuable in this world, nutrition and balance, and myself. I don't expect any post-Valentine's angst or cynicism this year, you can be sure!

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King