I don’t generally post many photos on my blog, but today I have to. You see, on Tuesday, Lola and I had our Second Annual Valentine’s Day Cook-Fest. This is the second year in a row that her mid-winter break from school falls during Valentine’s week, and since Eve and Bubba are stuck in their regular routine, Lola thought it would be cool for us to concoct a feast for them. She is my little chemist, so for her, cooking is fun. So is making a godawful mess in the kitchen.

As soon as we dropped Eve off at her carpool meet-up point, we headed home to start baking. First on tap, the flourless chocolate cake. Lola delighted in using the biggest, sharpest knife we own to shred an enormous block of chocolate. She also loved licking her fingers and swiping them across the counter to pick up rogue bits that had leaped off of the cutting board. Separating eggs is fun, too. Since she used her fingers to filter out the yolks and got to be “all slimy.” Whipping egg whites was harder than she anticipated, so I stepped in to save the day, but she insisted on being the one to fold them in to the mixture at the end.

Once the cake was in the oven, we got to move on to our next dish – gluten-free potstickers. We discovered this recipe last year and it was such a hit that we knew we had to do it again. We also remembered how much work it was, so we bought some rice paper wrappers to make spring rolls with the leftover filling. Mixing dough was a riot – Lola loves to get her hands in there and squish it all together. She had a ball chopping chicken and cabbage and green onions and, later, rolling out the dough and pressing it in the tortilla press.

Then it was time to make the broth for pho. We roasted spices with onion and garlic and ginger under the broiler and put it in the crock pot with broth to steep all day long. The last few photos are of the table Lola set, the noodles and beef just before we poured the boiling broth over the top, Lola rolling a spring roll, and the fabulous flourless chocolate cake.

I already know that next year, Valentine’s Day won’t fall during mid-winter break, but Lola and I have decided to make this a tradition (and Bubba and Eve aren’t complaining – they were looking forward to dinner all day long). Although we made an unholy mess of the kitchen, I don’t remember when I’ve had more fun and I’m already looking forward to next year’s adventures in the kitchen.

I have decided that I think Valentine’s Day ought to be bigger than it is. No, I don’t work for Hallmark or Future Florists of America or even Theo Chocolates.

As a kid I loved Valentine’s Day. I can remember hand-picking which store-bought card went to which kid, lamenting over the excessive number of “Be Mine” messages since there were so few boys I wanted to send that particular card to. The construction-paper-decorated shoeboxes and certain knowledge that I would receive more than my fair share of Hershey’s kisses, along with the party that kept us from doing any work all afternoon were indeed something to look forward to.
As a teen, my perspective on this holiday was based on whether or not I was currently dating anyone. If so, I was thrilled to have someone who would “be mine,” and a little nervous about what exactly to give a teenage boy for Valentine’s Day. If I was single, I sought solace in my other single girlfriends and we tried our hardest to avoid looking at the couples exchanging soulful looks and stealing kisses.
As a mother, I questioned the commercialism of the day, especially when the decorations went up on January 1st at our local drugstores. I encouraged the girls to craft their own cards for family members and schoolmates, but we all quickly ran out of patience with the glitter and glue and trying to find unique messages for each recipient.
One year when I just couldn’t get it together to mail Christmas cards out on time, I found a sweet photo of Eve and Lola and ordered Valentine’s cards for all the families on my Christmas card list. I think that was when it occurred to me that I had been limiting my notion of Valentine’s Day unnecessarily.
Then I met Carrie. She is the embodiment of love. She is funny, honest, blunt, open and a true gift in my life. And her birthday is February 14th. And that was my tipping point.
I still craft special sentiments for Bubba and the girls every Valentine’s Day. But I have expanded my celebration of February 14 to include every person in my life that I love. I am embracing Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to stop and recognize how rich and full of love my life actually is. It isn’t about sending cards or gifts to everyone I know, and more about stopping several times throughout the day to think fondly of my friends and family and consciously send love out into the Universe. And that is why I think Valentine’s Day ought to be bigger than it is. What if Valentine’s Day was about love, period? Romantic love, platonic love, love of self, all of it. As far as I’m concerned, that makes it much more important than St. Patrick’s Day. And I’m married to an Irishman…