It’s been quite a while since I participated in Tanya’s 5 Things challenge. The topic this week is: Italian food!! My favorite cuisine! It’s even a bit difficult to choose ONLY five of them!
Gnocchi with Vodka sauce
2. Gelato: This is the Italian word for ice cream, which is my favorite food, but somehow the Italians (or wherever it is made in their name) have it just perfect – rich, creamy, flavorful! I also like the sorbets.
3. Pizza – Who doesn’t love pizza? It is such a versatile dish – a variety of toppings, a variety of crusts, the combinations are almost endless! If you ask me what kind of pizza I want, I would say spinach (for deep dish), Hawaiian (pineapple and Canadian bacon, usually topped with barbecue sauce), margherita (tomato and cheese) if it’s very thin crust, and sausage and onion if ordered from a certain local pizza place.
4. Shrimp or Chicken Alfredo – I rarely order this because the alfredo sauce has about a gazillion calories (more than many other Italian foods, but most Italian foods are very caloric), but I still love it!
What’s the worst commercial you’ve recently seen (or heard)? Why was it so bad? This is a hard one because so many are terrible! Most annoying are the Liberty Mutual ads. I would not recommend this company to anyone due to their ubiquitous, stupid ads! Everyone I talk to hates their commercials as much as I do. Also ads for intimate products, like tampons or sanitary pads.
Since you crossed off “recently”, the ads for Folgers Coffee were awful. In one ad, a person says, “Is your coffee grounds for divorce?’ I mean, how tacky!! Another really old Folgers commercial bragged about the “crystals” in its coffee. Who wants crystals in coffee?? Just give me pure, finely ground coffee, please! No additives!
What takes a lot of time but is totally worth it? My hubby says, “love.” Awwww!
So I will say something else: the creative process of seeing a project through to the end. I spend long hours and weeks completing photo albums but I love doing it. I can say that a lot of my blog posts fall into this category as well. They’re time consuming, but fun to do. I’m in an art workshop – same thing. The camaraderie of other people who love art is part of it, but also dedicating 90 minutes a week to painting or drawing something is calming and fun, even if it takes weeks to finish it or to come back to. I’m in a writing group – same thing again. I have written a lot of things, and some of them are quite good, others not so much, but it’s worth the time because it is the creative process that is totally worthwhile, especially when producing a finished product I can be proud of!
Have you ever smiled at a stranger and then wished you hadn’t? Why or why not? Yes, but only because the stranger stared straight ahead and made no attempt to smile back. So rude. Fortunately, where I live now, everyone – whether we know them or not – smiles and says hello!
It’s good to be able to see smiles again after over a year of wearing masks!
What do you think is the nastiest tasting food? (This one might be a recycled question. It’s familiar to me anyhow) Olives. They’re so bitter.
GRATITUDE SECTION (as always, optional)
Are you at peace with yourself? Your world? Please share, whether you said “yay” or “nay”! Yes, pretty much. Most of the horrors of my life – the failures, dissatisfying experiences, vindictive people – are behind me. In the senior community where I live, we are all retired and we do pretty much what we want and like to do. Most people are friendly and pleasant to be with.
There are many problems in this world, and a few in my life, but I am overall happy and without regrets.
It is almost time to start planting my garden this year. My perennials are showing new growth and my irises should bloom within the next few weeks. Daffodils still abound. I love flowers but I also like to plant vegetables, because there is no tomato so good as one that is homegrown!
Last year, I had an abundance of cherry tomatoes (I bought too many tomato plants – I’ll have to cut back this year!) and also a couple of pepper plants, which were nearly buried by the tomato plants growing out of control! Even so, I did manage to get a few green peppers. For Becky’s Bright Squares, today I am posting a photo of my first harvest last year – the first tomatoes and the first peppers! They were so bright and cheery, and made me happy as I looked forward to warmer days and more home-grown vegetables!
Do you think psychic abilities exist? Yes, and I even know of a psychic octopus. I think some people have a high degree of sensitivity and connectivity to others. There are people who know when something has happened to one of their children, for example. I also believe some people can communicate with spirits. I don’t think that, in general, people can predict the future. But the psychic octopus did!
In the summer of 2010, we were in Spain during the World Cup, which was taking place in South Africa. The Spanish team was doing very well and everyone was super excited. During the semi-finals and finals, there was an octopus named Paul – he lived in Germany, I believe. On the evening before each of the semi-final matches, two little flags would be affixed to the side of two containers in which there was the favorite octopus food, mussels. Each contained a few mussels and both were placed in Paul’s tank. Every game – and this is really true – Paul would eat the mussels from the container of the winning team, that is, the team whose flag was attached. Unfailingly, he predicted every game. Sometimes he might take a mussel or two from both containers, but always selected the majority from the winning team’s container. And, the night before the final, his food selection predicted that Spain would win. By now, nearly everyone believed in the octopus. And, in fact, Spain DID win the World Cup final – it was the first (and so far the only) time they won this coveted award.
After the game, people poured into the streets from the bars where they’d been watching, and there was an all-night party in the streets of central Madrid. A few days later, the team members arrived home from South Africa, and all along the Gran Via (a wide thoroughfare in central Madrid) people gathered, wearing red and yellow – the colors of the Spanish team (and flag) – to wait for the bus that would bring the victorious players down the avenue for the benefit of everyone’s adulation. One of the things people wore were yellow octopus hats! Because Paul had predicted their victory, he was inextricably linked to the 2010 World Cup.
How would you describe peanut butter to someone who didn’t know what it was? A very sticky substance combining pureed peanuts and butter, that you use to spread on bread or to add flavor to a stalk of celery. (My dad had a hilarious joke about peanut butter – well, it was hilarious to watch him tell it, as it required some “acting.” But his description while telling this joke would give the person a pretty good idea of what peanut butter is like!)
Why does an octopus squirt ink? To protect itself from predators – the ink hides it from view and may be an irritant to predators.
Who are two of today’s greatest entertainers in your opinion? (can be actors, musicians, singers etc) I always am reluctant to answer this type of question, because my tastes are out of the mainstream for the most part, and I don’t even recognize the names of the current mainstream of entertainers! However, Stephen Colbert of A Late Show is one we watch regularly, and he got us through 4 years of Trump! In a similar vein, I also like John Oliver, who takes on serious subjects but he always gets a few laughs out of me and I love his accent!
GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)
Please feel free to share a moment of gratitude in your life! The unseasonably warm, beautiful weather we have been given the last few days – flowers are blooming and I’m wearing sandals and short pants!
What is knowledge? Google’s online dictionary has two definitions for knowledge (definitions are from Oxford Languages): 1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject. 2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.
Being smart is not the same as knowledge, but “street smarts,” for example, is a type of knowledge from definition #2. However, I usually think of definition #1 when thinking about what knowledge is.
How do you define consciousness (self awareness)? Consciousness is being cognizant of your surroundings, who you are, and what you are doing. It’s also possible to be conscious without an awareness of one’s surroundings, such as the things you do without thinking – your mind is elsewhere. Often when we drive, we do it so automatically that we don’t think about it as we are doing it – but an unusual situation on the road will usually bring us back to that awareness. (If not – and this happens often enough – likely one will get into an accident.) It is difficult to be aware all the time – this is called “mindfulness,” distinct from consciousness in that we are constantly aware of our senses in the present.
Mindfulness takes a lot of training in self-control to keep one’s mind from wandering. I would like to be more mindful – appreciating the sensations, for example, in eating a tangerine: how it looks and smells, the sensation in my fingers as I peel it, and then really noticing it when it’s ready to eat: each section has little sacs in which the juiciness resides; there is some stringy residue of the peel still clinging to the outside. Smell it, taste it, be aware of how wonderful it is to eat a tangerine. We don’t do this enough. I tend to eat without even thinking about it, and then when I’m done (I eat too fast), I look at my empty plate and realize I didn’t have an appreciation for what I ate. The food is gone and I ate it without awareness.
So often consciousness involves one part of the brain paying attention to one’s surroundings as the person goes about doing routines automatically, while another part of the brain is distracted – thinking about something else altogether. Mindfulness, existing in and appreciating the present, is a richer experience than consciousness, I believe.
Is it possible to prove that other people besides yourself have consciousness? Of course – they are conscious if they are engaging in the world around them, whether they are being mindful of it or not; it’s still consciousness. If you ask your partner, say, if he is asleep, and he answers “yes,” then he is probably lying. Sleep is our brain’s rest from consciousness. But are dreams simply a different level of consciousness?
Would you be able to tell if time had been altered in some way? You mean, like a time warp? Yes, if I got into a blue English phonebox called the Tardis, and emerged from it in medieval Europe, or in a futuristic world, I would definitely be able to tell time had been altered!
We alter time twice each year, when we go on and off Daylight Savings Time. (Personally, I’d like to stay on DST all year.) It is then that I realize that time is an artificial construct that we impose on our world to establish order, a conformity that everyone in society lives with. Time is, of course, related to the cycles of the moon, the rotating and orbiting of Earth around the sun. Either it is light or it is dark. We behave differently and have different expectations of ourselves and others at night than during the day. Some people say they have trouble adjusting to going on and off DST, but I think, really? It’s just an hour, and during that hour – or missed hour – we are usually sleeping anyway. It is noticeable, sure, when we are used to leaving for work in early daylight, but suddenly, it’s dark out when we leave our house at 7:00 a.m. That’s a drag – and I’m very glad I’m retired and no longer have to worry about it!
Another time when we notice time changes is when we get into an airplane and fly halfway across the world. Our bodies continue on the time zone we were in when we got on the airplane, and yet when we get to our destination, it is a completely different time of the day. We may be tired, because back home the night was just beginning, but where we are now, everyone is very much awake and going about their daytime activities. In 2022, we are going to Australia and New Zealand, so we will cross the International Date Line and – presto! – although 12 hours have gone by, it’s the next day over there!! And we gain that day back when we return: It was Tuesday when we departed Auckland, and now we get to live most of Tuesday again at home on the other side of the world!
Do you like potato chips (they’re called ‘crisps’ in Europe I believe)? Four “profound” questions that require real thought, and now you ask whether I like potato chips?? How mundane!! Yes, I do like them, but I try to avoid eating them, because like the commercial says, “so good, you can’t eat just one!” I make allowances on special occasions (noshing at a party, for example) or when I have only a small portion of chips on my plate and cannot eat any more!
GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)
On this side of the world it’s coming into Springtime. Celebrate Spring by sharing an image or anecdote that shares “Spring”! Alternatively, it’s coming into Autumn on the other side of the world. Please do the same for Autumn! Thanks!
Daffodils, the heralds of spring, are blooming everywhere!
PC Guy IV poses the following question for his weekly Truthful Tuesday challenge:
Whether it’s soups, stews, or chili, are there certain foods that you consider “winter fare”, only suitable when the temperature dips low enough to turn the furnace on, or do you just eat whatever whenever?
I think it’s natural to prefer certain foods in winter, as opposed to summer, especially living in a climate with cold winters. It’s nice to hunker down with hot chocolate or apple cider to drink, and to choose soups for winter lunches. But I don’t like to give up on summer fare just because it’s winter. Dale went to Costco a couple of weeks ago and looked for Sangria – their brand is our favorite. Finding that they weren’t just out of it, but had actually taken it off the shelves, Dale asked an employee why and was told that “sangria is considered a summer drink.” OK, I can understand that – it conjures up lazy nights at outdoor bars or cafes in Spain following hot summer days – but we like to drink it all year! Apparently we weren’t the only ones to complain because within two weeks it was back in their wine selections!
Ice cream is another one – I do love ice cream in the summer and am more likely to have it in the summer, but if it’s on the menu as the dessert of the day, I will choose it no matter what the season!
I’m a member of a wine club that allows me two bottles of wine per month, and in the winter I sometimes get what is called “Winter White” or “Winter Red.” Of course these wines can be drunk chilled or at room temperature, but I like to heat them up and add a few cloves or cinnamon sticks!
In contrast, I hardly ever eat soup in the summer, but I have it almost every day for lunch in the winter – it’s easy and good. I love salads year round, and don’t mind fruits and vegetables imported from South America. Chili is great in winter too, although it’s rarely offered here; I’m not sure why.
But in the winter, what I most look forward to is movie night in front of our TV, with a winter snack of microwave popcorn accompanied by Mexican hot chocolate!* This hot chocolate is prepared with milk over the stove, stirring in a piece of a bar of chocolate usually flavored with cinnamon. I use a whisk when stirring to make it frothy! While normally I am content to have No Sugar Added Swiss Miss or hot tea in the evening, I’ve got chocolate bars made in Mexico on hand for those special movie nights!
I find it harder to lose weight in the winter than the summer. I don’t exercise as much (especially with limited access to fitness centers during the pandemic) in the winter. Perhaps it’s a sort of instinctual need to hibernate like bears. Put on a layer of fat and sleep the cold away!!
*You can find fancy recipes for Mexican hot chocolate online, but I make it very simply, the way I learned in Mexico:
2 tablespoons or approximate Mexican bar chocolate (easy to find in Mexican stores or ethnic aisles in supermarkets) Ibarra brand. (But any brand will do.) This bar chocolate has a grainy texture and is already flavored with cinnamon. (See photo below.)
2 cups of milk (I use skim – use whatever you prefer)
Using a small saucepan on the stove top, add the milk and the chocolate chunks over medium heat. Do not allow it to boil by constantly stirring with a spoon, until the chocolate is melted. Then use a whisk to froth the mixture.
Day 23: Gathering We have been warned by Dr. Fauci and the CEO’s of our senior community, to STAY HOME and not go to gatherings! But we are sort of obligated to go to a gathering of seven people on Christmas Day. Our daughter and son-in-law are cooking and our son-in-law’s brother and niece have come from Florida for the holidays. (Probably not a wise thing to do this year, but there was nothing we could do about it!) Also our son will be there; otherwise he’d be alone for Christmas which would worsen his depression. So we are going to sneak out and employ mitigation methods while there – masking wearing, social distancing, etc. We had a COVID test last week and it came out negative. I may go and have another one done after this Christmas Day gathering!
Day 24: Presents Some people have the tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve. My family’s tradition was to open just one gift on Christmas Eve, so I tried to choose wisely. In my favorite Christmas movie, Love Actually, there is a scene in which a family is gathered around on Christmas Eve to select one gift to open. We see the mother (who has already accidentally seen her husband buy a gold necklace at a department store) reaching for a small square box under the tree that she believes to be the necklace. Although she had just recently had a conversation with her husband about how much she loved Joni Mitchell, she tries hard to hide her disappointment when the gift turns out to be a Joni Mitchell double CD. Her husband, unaware of her knowledge of the necklace he bought for his secretary, smiles and says, “for your emotional education.” Holding back tears, she excuses herself and goes upstairs to her bedroom to cry.
Day 25: CHRISTMAS DAY! Food Traditional Christmas dinner food is a lot like Thanksgiving food. At this moment, I can hear Dale rattling around in the kitchen as he prepares his green bean casserole. We are sneaking out to go to our daughter’s house for Christmas dinner, because she and her husband are cooking and there will only be seven of us there. The main dishes they are serving are beef Wellington and ham. Meanwhile, my mouth waters just looking at the wonderful cookies my niece baked for us! This is her gift to us every year and I always look forward to it! There are standard holiday shaped sugar cookies, wreaths made with corn flakes and marshmallows (dyed green), and my favorite: chocolate brownies with peppermint frosting, which I have already talked about in a previous post for this challenge. Don’t they look scrumptious?!
And now the Countdown to Christmas is done! Thank you, Tourmaline, it was a lot of fun! I’d like to end with some holiday cheer:
What is your favorite type of cookie (they’re called biscuits in Europe I believe)? If you mean Christmas cookies, it would be a tie between the sugar cookies in different shapes with frosting and a brownie with peppermint candy frosting (not technically a cookie, but my niece makes these every year as part of her gift of cookies).
Outside of holiday season, it’s homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven! I don’t bake cookies in general, so we buy Tates – their chocolate chip cookie is thin and crispy.
If you could choose one age and remain that forever, what would it be and why? 65 – young enough to still have the energy and drive to travel and explore new things, and also be eligible for retirement and Medicare.
Do you have a traditional drink during the holiday season? Not this year, because we are not gathering as usual with our family, but normally it is Jolly Jolt. Jolly Jolt is basically warm apple cider with cinnamon cloves. My sister prepares it in a large coffee pot and everyone helps themselves! This year, I suspect it will be Cooper’s Hawk’s Winter Red wine, which we have a bottle of in our garage – also best heated.
Are you able to still believe in holiday magic as you did when you were a child? No, not really. Warmth, maybe, magic, no. When I was a kid, holidays like Christmas were always extremely exciting. We kids got to do the fun stuff, like picking out and decorating the tree, helping put up the creche, and singing Christmas carols. As an adult, there’s the work side of it – things don’t magically happen! I do very little decorating, except to put up my collection of creches and hang a Santa Claus on the door. Usually I have a Christmas tree but haven’t had one for the last three years. I do more decorating if we’re having guests.
The most magical and exciting moments during my childhood were early Christmas mornings. My dad put up a portable screen so we couldn’t see into the living room until my parents got up. So we kids would climb partway up the stairway to peek over the screen to find our stockings and all the presents my parents had added during the night. This is what I think about when I’m asked about holiday magic!
Now I look forward to simple gatherings of families and friends, noshing, drinking Jolly Jolt and playing games. It gives me warm feeling, but not the magic of childhood.
Gratitude section: I’m grateful to be alive and reasonably healthy! And I’m grateful that 2020 is almost over!