Sunday, February 19, 2012

Valentine Day 2012

This year, I had one of the best Valentine Days of my life.  I spent most of the day with the most amazing man.  A little man--my awesome, almost 2 year old grandson.  His mommy invited me to go with them as they delivered Valentines to his great and great/great-grandparents on our side of the family.  I absolutely loved spending the day with him.  I just love him so much. 
It was so neat to see him go up to each grandparent and hand them a Valentine.  At every house, he remembered the things that he liked about it the last time he was there.  At his Great Grandpa and Grandma Scott’s house, as soon as he handed off the Valentine, he went straight to the toy closet and grabbed the first thing he could find—some blocks.  He dumped them all out and then was done with them.  Next, he wanted to pick up every picture frame and identify the people in the picture.  They were so impressed that when it was time to go, he happily picked up all of the blocks and put them back in the closet.   
As soon we pulled into his Great-Great Grandma Holmquist’s driveway, he remembered that there are horses in the corral and started saying, “Horse, horse, see horse!”  She loves to give the grandchildren a balloon to play with and it was so much fun to see the delight on his face as he played with it.  Grandma was very happy that we came.  Especially when she found out that we brought her a KFC Chicken Fried Steak meal! 
At his Great Grandma Susan’s house, he walked in the door, grabbed the first and only toy that she has in plain sight--a Nerf gun, and immediately wanted to shoot it.  He also asked to see the kitty that she had been nursing back to health on her back deck the last time he was there, but didn’t get upset when she told him that the kitty went away. 
He loves to go to “Grandma” Colleen’s house because we always stop to buy lunch to eat with her and he gets to have his favorite “nuggets”.  Even though we always do it, she acts so surprised that we bring lunch and is happy with whatever we get for her.  She is a big fan of ice cream, so we always get her a shake.  While we are there she tries to think of treats to give him because she thinks the world of this little guy and loves to spoil him.
He was a good boy at each house and his mommy was so proud of him.  I was too.  He is such a lucky little boy to have three great-grandparents, two great-great grandparents, and an adopted “Grandma”, on our side of the family. 
We are all as blessed as can be to have HIM. 
That night it was very cool to get my Grandparent Valentine Day Visit from him (and his mommy and daddy).  He gave me the cutest Valentine.  His hand was traced and then the paper fingers were bent into the sign language symbol for “I Love You”.  It was great!  He was so funny because he wanted to have the sucker that was taped to the back of it.  He pulled it off and his parents told him that the sucker was for Grandma because it was her Valentine.  So, he put the sucker in my mouth—with the plastic on it.  We all laughed.  He is such a cutie. 
Right now in my life I can honestly say that there is not much better than being a Grandma.
The day before Valentine Day, my other man—-Hunter Man brought me two beautiful flowering plants--a Calla Lily and a Flamingo Flower.  He said he wanted to give me flowers that wouldn’t die.  (I laughed at that because lately, life has been stressing me out so much that I have been neglecting all of my plants and they were all on the verge of dying). 

He has always been the guy who gets the gift a day or two before the holiday—just to make sure that he isn’t late.  Quite a few years ago, (24 to be exact) he brought me a bouquet of beautiful yellow roses on January 14th, thinking that it was Valentine Day and that he had almost missed it.  Then, he found out that he was one month early!  That was the earliest he has ever been.  He always makes me laugh when he brings me my gifts before the holiday because I always think that this year will be the year that he will actually wait until THE DAY.  It makes me happy that he thinks about me and that he tries really hard to remember to do something nice. 
The weekend before Valentine Day he mentioned that he used to love to get Linguine with White Clam Sauce at the Spaghetti Factory.  We never go there, so it has probably been over 20 years since he has eaten there!  I have made my own version of this at home before, but it must not have made much of an impression on him.  I decided to try to make it again as his Valentine Day dinner.  I looked up a bunch of recipes for it online and then tweaked them with the recipe that I had used before. 
Success!  He liked it and said that it was the best that he had ever had.  I thought it was very good, too. 
My Linguine with Clam Sauce
3 T. butter or margarine
1 package sliced, fresh mushrooms
tsp. garlic paste
3 T. butter or margarine
1 cup half and half cream
3 – 6.5 oz cans minced clams with juice
cup red cooking wine½ T. dried parsley½ tsp. dried basil¼ tsp. dried oregano¼ tsp. black pepper
2 pinches red pepper flakes
2 T. lemon juice
tsp. thyme½ tsp. onion powder¼ cup. grated parmesan cheese
8 oz. linguine pasta prepared according to package directions.
Melt butter over medium heat.  Sauté mushrooms and garlic paste in butter.  Mix in 3 T. flour.  The flour will coat the mushrooms.  Add cream.  Stir gently for about 2 minutes, and then add clam juice from all 3 cans of clams.  Stir in the cooking wine.  As the sauce thickens, add the rest of the spices and lemon juice.  Add the clams and parmesan cheese last. 
Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes.
Serve over linguine pasta.

I made the traditional Valentine cookies earlier in the week and for some reason, even though I have used the same recipe for quite a few years now—this time the cookies turned out better than they ever have.  I think it was because I just didn’t have the patience to roll the dough out and cut out each heart with a cookie cutter.  I just rolled the dough into balls, flattened them and then shaped them into hearts by hand.   The cookies turned out thick and soft.  I frosted them with pink cream cheese frosting and red sugar sprinkles and that was just the right finishing touch.  (Sorry, no pictures—they all turned out blurry!)
1 c. butter or margarine
2 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 c. plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla
tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
to 7 cups flour¼ tsp. salt (I usually just put in a tiny pinch of salt)
Cream butter and sugar.  Beat in eggs, one at a time.  Mix in yogurt, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Add 6 cups of flour.  Then, judge how much more flour to add by adding a little bit at a time.  The dough will appear to be a little bit too moist, even though it is not.  I like it to have just enough flour in it so that if I roll it into a ball in my hands, it just barely makes my hands feel sticky, but not so much that I can’t do anything with it.  You don’t want them to be too dry.
Roll dough on floured surface to ½ inch thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters.  Place on cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  (I like to use an Air Bake cookie sheet for these sugar cookies).
Or, do what I do when I am in a hurry (or lazy) and roll them into balls and flatten with the bottom of a glass.  If I am not going to frost the cookies, I like to put a damp paper towel around the bottom of the glass (secured with a rubber band) and then dip the bottom of the glass in sugar before I flatten them. 
Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Cookies will be very soft and just barely light tan on the bottom.  Then, let them rest on the cookie sheet for 2 more minutes before removing them to the cooling racks.
Frost the cookies, if desired.  Store in air-tight container after the frosting has set.

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (I usually use the lower fat Neufchatel style of cream cheese).
4 T. butter or margarine
tsp. vanilla
½ c. powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients together until well-blended and smooth.    

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