Hummus-bi-tahini

To call this a recipe is almost a crime – there isn’t any real cooking involved, and it’s so easy our dog could do it if she had opposable thumbs. But, surprisingly few people actually know how to make hummus so we thought we’d share the recipe we use. We make this  once or twice a week, we consume it with baby carrots, sliced raw zucchini and all sorts of other veggies.

It’s a wonderful snack, and often is the one thing we grab when we walk in the door after a long day at the office.

 The history and debate behind Hummus is worth a read.

Ingredients:

1 16 or 19 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans

1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas

3-5 tablespoons lemon juice (depending on taste we use half a lemon)

3- 4 tablespoons tahini (can be left out but is the best part!)

1- 2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

Preparation:

Drain chickpeas and set aside liquid from can. Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor. Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas. Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Or

Do what we do – toss the entire thing in the blender and go!

Place in serving bowl, and create a shallow well in the center of the hummus. Add a small amount (1-2 tablespoons) of olive oil in the well, add some whole pine nuts and sprinkle with paprika … because it looks pretty.

That is it!

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Endive and Blue Cheese Salad!

We can’t understand why every restaurant we go to always carries the same two “boring beyond belief” salads. The Chef salad and the Cesar salad. Especially when there are such amazing options out there! Here is one of our spring and summer favorites – we find it tasty and fresh all year round. Yes, we are big consumers of the “salad” and over the next few months will share as many of the creative variety as we can muster.

Serves 6-8

For the nuts:
1/3 cup granulated sugar (we like to use maple sugar!)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. ground star anise or-anise seed
3-1/2 oz. (1 cup) walnut halves (also very yummy are pecans)

For the vinaigrette:
1 medium shallot, minced
1/2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the salad:
1 small head curly endive (curly chicory) or frisée, tough outer and large inner leaves removed and discarded, tender leaves torn into bite-size pieces (to yield 3 cups)
1 small head Bibb or Boston lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces (to yield 3 cups) – or Arugula – our personal favorite!
2-3 large heads Belgian endive or 2 small bunches watercress, sliced into bite-size pieces (to yield 3 cups) – again remove the thick center.
2 ripe Bartlett or Anjou pears
1/4 lb. Gorgonzola or Roquefort, sliced and crumbled

Make the spiced nuts: Heat the oven to 350°F. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, coriander, and star anise or anise seed. Put the walnut halves on a baking sheet and toast them very lightly in the oven, just 2 to 3 minutes. Meanwhile, set a large skillet over medium heat and put the sugar mixture in it, shaking the pan to spread it evenly. When the sugar starts to melt a little, add the walnuts while they’re still warm. Shake the pan vigorously until the sugar melts completely, turns medium amber, and coats the nuts as much as possible, 2 to 7 minutes. Keep a good watch; this happens fast. You’ll need to nudge the nuts with a wooden spoon to cover them as much as possible. (This won’t be a completely smooth caramel, and the sugar will adhere to the nuts in patches.) Scrape the nuts onto a plate to cool in one layer. When completely cool, seal in an airtight container.

Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, combine the shallot, salt, and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve. (The dressing can “age” a day or two.)

Assemble the salad: In a large bowl, toss the greens with your hands. Just before serving, whisk the vinaigrette to blend and toss it with the greens. Taste for seasoning; the salad may need a bit more salt and pepper. Mound the greens in the center of each plate. Slice the pears (we like to leave the peel on for color and nutrients). Divide the cheese and the pear slices among the plates. Garnish with the spice-candied walnuts and serve!

For a little twist add avocado and bacon!

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The Perfect Risotto? Easy!

We feel the error that most people make when cooking risotto is that they go overboard on the stirring and end up with a gummy blob not to mention making it FAR more complicated than it actually is. We have no idea why! Even our favorite chefs known for making things simple make this a tough one for no good reason. So – here is our gift to you … go ahead and wow your friends and family! Your secret is safe with us.

We have given you the Seafood version – but what is equally delectable is a mushroom risotto for those of you that like them or have a vegetarian penchant.

Serves 6-8 
7 cups hot chicken (or fish if you can find it!) stock
5 tablespoons olive oil
6 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped (leeks are a nice addition/alternative)
1 pound vialone nano or arborio rice
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 
1/2 pound clean squid (calamari) with tentacles, bodies cut into 1/3 to 1/2-inch-thick rings
1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and de-veined. 
You may want to add scallops, clams etc. or even easier get 2 small bags of frozen mixed seafood!
1 cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese 

Note: We get asked about salt. We find that the Parmagiano cheese is salty enough. Try it first without adding salt. If you find it needs it you can add it after and will know to modify the recipe to your personal liking for the next round. We consume too much sodium, so try and add saffron or a spice instead of salt. 

1. In a large pot, bring the stock to a simmer.

2. Meanwhile, in a large heavy bottomed pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened and translucent (medium heat – you are not browning them!), 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the rice and warm it about 2 minutes. Warming the rice will prepare it to absorb the stock. 

3. When the rice is warm it will start to become translucent – that is time to add the stock. Add the stock. Stir the rice gently and return the stock to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the stock is lightly boiling. Stir the rice from time to time to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan – but as little as possible! If the rice sticks reduce the heat a bit. Risotto should take about 20-25 minutes to become soft and most of the stock should be used. 

4. About 15 minutes into cooking the rice, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until softened and lightly browned about 1 minute. Add the squid and shrimp and cook, stirring, until the squid are opaque, 5 minutes. (Same sequence for mushrooms) 

5. After about 20 minutes begin to taste the rice. Risotto is ready when the rice grains are soft, but still a little firm to the bite, not mush and not chalky. When the rice is ready add the seafood and cook 2 minutes more. 

6. Stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter and the Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese until well mixed. 

Transfer to serving plates and serve!!See?? Easy!!! 

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Clutter Personality Types

We are minimalists, and although to date we have not shared with you what that means to us and how it all works – we thought we could share with you what we have observed in people who’s homes are filled with junk. 

Clutter personality types can fall neatly into any of these categories and in some cases two or more:

The Hoarder:  “This might come in hand someday!”

Hoarders need to remind themselves that resources will always be available.  Reassure yourself! Stuff will be with us always. Find magazines indexed at the library, kitchenware marked down at yard sales, and every small appliance known to man can be found (cheap!) at the thrift store.  Think of these off-site treasure troves as alternative household storage areas – costing less then storage space rental!   Go ahead and dare to dump it!

The Deferrer:  “I’ll think about that tomorrow!”

Deferrers need to be reminded that tomorrow has no more time or energy than today–and that deferring decisions drag down each new day with yesterday’s unfinished business. Since this behaviour is grounded in procrastination, apply the best remedy:  ACTION.  For Deferrers, simply making a start creates the momentum needed to finish the job.  Remember, it’s easier to keep a rolling stone in motion, than it is to pick it up and start it rolling the in the first place!

The Rebel:  “you can’t make me!”

Rebels need to remind themselves that the war is over.  They don’t live with Mom and Dad anymore–and they and/or their own family deserves an adult on the job, not a sulky child. Tell that inner Rebel, “It’s okay–I’m the parent now, and I want a house that’s nice to live in”. By switching places with the old authority figure, the Rebel can find a way out of ” You can’t make me!”

The Perfectionist:  “Next week, I’ll do everything … perfectly!”

For example, plastic food containers may be overflowing their cabinet, but the Perfectionist Clutterer won’t tidy up until he or she can purchase the perfect shelf paper, lid holder organizer, and color-coded labels.  As a result, the massed and crowded containers stay put, falling down onto the feet of anyone hapless enough to open the cupboard door.

Perfectionist Clutterers need to remind themselves of the 20-80 rule:  20% of every job takes care of 80% of the problem, while fixing the remaining 20% will gobble 80% of the job.  By giving themselves permission to do only 20% the Perfectionist Clutterers can finally get going.

The Sentimentalist:  “This is so cute!”

Problem is, there’s so much to remember that the truly endearing items get lost in a flood.  The Sentimental Clutterer needs to reduce the mass of mementos to a more portable state, changing mindset from an indiscriminate “Awwww!” to a more selective stance.

Ideas for reining in Sentimental Clutterers include scrapbooking the very best photos and papers, or photographing surplus sentimental clutter before letting it go. Sort it out, choose the best, keep the memories and dump the rest!

The Gadgeteer Lover/Collector:  “It’s so cool!”

The Gadgeteer lives mostly for the new and latest “thing”. So the old are never looked at or truly enjoyed.  It is unrealistic to tell a collector or gadget lover to stop buying the new “stuff”.  It’s not in their nature and it’s doomed to fail.  Financially you may want to look at selling the old stuff on Ebay or pass on these collectables to someone that is truly a fanatic and your electronics to such organizations as Computers for schools and such.  You will be doing someone else a favour and freeing up your own space to enjoy the newest “it toy”.

Note: The Queen/King of knickknacks. Close relative to the Gadgeteer/Collector. A visitor to the Decorator’s home may develop stimulation overload. A Tosser would simply feel faint.

Accumulator-Tosser: “Now you see it all – now you don’t”

As unlikely as it seems, some people combine the seemingly opposite Accumulator and Tosser traits. A person with this hybrid clutter type generally let’s clutter build up until it’s no longer tolerable, and then jettisons it in a frenzy of tossing. Periods of clutter buildup and clutter tossing alternate in an endless repeating pattern.

Solution? We don’t have one.  It’s really a case of knowing that it’s a pattern and committing to doing a little every week instead or not allowing the “stuff” into the home in the first place.. 

The Dropper

The act of removing clothing so weakens the Dropper that they can’t possibly move that additional 2 feet to dispose of the item(s) in question properly.

Research indicates that children are most likely to be Droppers, and are the offspring of Tosser parents. A child reared by a Tosser probably never learned to pick up their toys, because the Tosser parent was right there behind them doing it on their behalf. Droppers, as adults, frequently marry Tossers, who are sometimes responsible for enabling the Droppers’ behavior.

Pay attention to your home dynamic, if this is you – then don’t enable the Dropper.  Sit down with them and let them know that they are now responsible for their own things.  There should be consequences for not being neat, tidy and respectful of their things and for not throwing out such things as old greeting cards, broken items etc. If they can’t take care of what they have – they don’t get new “stuff”.

Do you see yourself in any of these?

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Time to “Divorce” your Toxic Parent?

Almost everyone has whined about their parents at some point.  We blame them for everything that’s wrong with our lives, for all the bad decisions we’ve made and more.

We forget the simple truth: Our parents are human, just as we are. They err, have failings, don’t have the right tools for the job but do the best they can.  We often find them lacking and generation after generation believes they can do it better than those that came before them and that they/we have all the answers.  We swear up and down that we “…will not do/say that to MY kids!” only to find that we had no idea what the pressures of parenting were really all about and had grossly underestimated the task or rearing young.  Whining about parental mishaps keeps the therapeutic community employed. 

That having been said, this is not what this post is about.  

No today’s post is about something more insidious.

What if you have a parent who makes life truly unbearable? You can divorce an abusive spouse. You can call it quits if your lover mistreats you. But what can you do if the source of your misery is your own parent? What if over the years you have tried everything to have a relationship with them, but only ever encountered pain, mind games, abuse (verbal or other) and upset.  What if they bring more harm to your life than good?  Do you put up with it out of loyalty, or take the painful decision to cut them off?

It is a well propagated myth, and as such a commonly held yet mistaken notion, that adults are not vulnerable to emotional abuse. The concept of mental harassment or torment was born in the offices of Dr. Marie-France Hirigoyen.  Very early on, she was interested in this particular form of violence that had, until then, been impossible to spot and, most importantly, to name.  In her first book (not yet translated into English) Harcèlement moral, la violence perverse au quotidien (Mental harassment, the perverse day-to-day violence), she named the psychical sufferings bringing to light this real social phenomenon.

Her book explores the very real facts behind this most insidious form of abuse.  She tosses out of the window any truth to the old adage “Sticks and stones my break my bones but words can never hurt me” – It IS possible to destroy a person with just words, looks and innuendos: it’s called perverse violence or mental harrassement.  In her book she analyses the “how it’s done” and its effects on the victims and cautions against treating any of these claims with banality or triteness.  She illustrates that it’s a slow form of murder, whether within a couple, a family or in the workplace and that the victims are dragged into a depressive, even potentially suicidal spiral. The perpetrators do things this way as a method of getting rid of a person without “dirtying their hands”. It’s specifically perverse behavior in that it is masked.  It is the weapon of choice for perverse narcissists. 

That is the façade that needs revealing in order for the victims to find their footing again and stop being under the influence of the aggressor. As a Victimologist, Dr. Hirigoyen places herself squarely on the side of the victims and the aggressions they survive and gives them a voice.  She has also started a call to arms in the legal world (for now mostly in Europe) to have this “true murder of the soul” recognized in the courts, going so far as to say that suicides may not all be “death for no reason”. 

If you live with this – you will no doubt notice that friends, family and even therapists have a bias to salvage relationships, even those that might be harmful to a person. In addition there is a second assumption that adds fuel to the fire: that parent’s are predisposed to love their children unconditionally and protect them from harm.  Unfortunately this is not universally true. Add the sense of embarrassment and failure that comes from not being on good terms with a parent, and you have the reason why the vicious circle often remains intact.  

Confronted with this, we think that it is crucial to be open-minded and to consider whether maintaining the relationship is really healthy and desirable.

It may be time to consider divorcing your parent(s).

Is it a drastic measure?  Yes it is, just like a divorce from a spouse should be, perhaps even more so.  We would even suggest it may be akin to amputating a gangrenous limb – but it can save your life or at the very least your sanity.  You still can’t erase the damage done, or escape from all the negative feelings that will come with the fallout (guilt, anger, betrayal) but you can protect yourself from further harm, find real freedom and a chance to heal.

Dr. J. L. Herman, a trauma expert who is a clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said she tries to empower patients to take action to protect them without giving direct advice.

“Sometimes we consider a paradoxical intervention and say to a patient, ‘I really admire your loyalty to your parents — even at the expense of failing to protect yourself in any way from harm’ ”. 

A complete and permanent split? Easier said than done, because relationships are rarely all good or bad; even the most abusive parents can sometimes be loving, which is why severing a bond is so tough and even feels “unnatural” – because in many ways, it is unnatural.  We are social creatures, basically pack animals.  Research shows that attachment in the form of relationships through bonding, both in humans and in nonhuman primates, is something we are hard-wired for – yes, even to those who aren’t very nice to us.

Attachment is the sense of security, stability and comfort which people derive from their relationships. Attachment is designed to keep people together. The first attachment partnership we form is with our parent (s) so when that relationship comes to an end, people suffer a tremendous sense of loss. The loss of an attachment partner takes away one’s sense of security and stability. As such, this type of loss is one of life’s most negative experiences.

Attachment partnerships help create stability, but there is a downside. Attachments are less concerned that you are happy and more concerned that you stay together.  In addtion, love and attachment do not necessarily go hand-in-hand.  In fact, many people form an attachment to someone who they do not like as a person. It is quiet possible to form a deep bond to someone who is less than an ideal romantic partner for example – this happens everyday.

Interestingly, science has proven that prolonged stress can kill cells in the brain area critical for memory (hippocampus). The good news is that adults are able to grow new neurons in this area thanks to therapy and some of the new anti depressants available on the market today.  So, it’s no stretch, then, to say that having a toxic parent may be harmful to a child’s brain, let alone his or her feelings; but the great news is that the damage need not be permanent.

We believe that, sometimes, as drastic as it sounds, living a well balanced, healthy life means letting go of a toxic parent … or two. How you go about doing this should be looked at on a case by case basis and we recommend you include a professional (yes – a shrink).  Don’t do this alone.  Loss is loss and a support system is crucial for the divorce to work.

 If this is you – we wish you strength, self love and perseverance.

Other resource.

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The Scam that is Detox!

It occurred to us the other day that there is a word being bandied about, that doesn’t make sense. How can a shampoo “detox” hair, especially since hair is dead matter anyway? How can a detox kit make anyone loose that last frustrating inch of fat that just will not go away? Something is very very wrong – indeed it’s true, the word “detox” has been hijacked!

In the world of medicine, detox has only one meaning – it refers to weaning addicts off drugs, alcohol or eliminating poisons that have been ingested/injected. In alternative medicine the word detox has been come to include pills, powders, supplements, kits, diets, magic drinks, colonic irrigation, and yes, even shampoos and body brushes. What is troubling is that, no two companies selling “detox” products use the same definition (as say – crazy thought here – outlined by the Oxford English Dictionary). Conventional detox can be life saving; in alternative medicine, detox is a scam.

Detox products refer to the large number of toxins anything from cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes and pesticides to caffeine, alcohol and medicinal drugs. They talk of how these accumulate in the body, and of the extra burden this places on our natural detoxification mechanisms. And they point the finger at this toxic overload as being behind a host of ills including constipation, bloating, flatulence, poor digestion, heartburn, diarrhoea, lack of energy and fatigue.

Claims on detox products include “improve the functioning of your digestive system”, “flush away potentially harmful toxins from your system” and generally give your body a “spring clean” and “improve your general health and wellbeing and leave you feeling revitalised”. But in 2005, report from the Voice of Young Science Network (VoYS), reviewed 15 products from bottled detox-water to face scrubs and concluded that:

“…at worst, some detox diets could have dangerous consequences and, at best, they were a waste of money”.

This report was the topic of a discussion between Dr Ben Goldacre and the managing director of Detox-in-a-Box on the Today programme on Radio BBC 4. When asked if we ever need to detoxify, Dr Goldacre responded with an emphatic “No”. He went on to explain:

“..it is a purification ritual, it’s symbolic. The idea that you can fix things in just a month of healthy eating…is…dangerous because it means that people will imagine they are doing something quite useful for their lives when actually they’re not.”

There’s a grain of wisdom in detox diets, according to Jackson-Blatner. It’s true that the average person doesn’t drink enough water or consume enough fruits and vegetables.

“The problem is most detox diets are so restrictive that they’re ineffective for long-term use. And any weight loss that occurs during the diet is likely to be temporary. When people think about losing weight, they think about losing fat,” she says. “But this is water lost and water gained.”

Detox dieters may report a variety of benefits, but none can be traced to the idea of detoxification. Fewer headaches can be traced to other lifestyle changes such as reduction in alcohol and caffeine intake. Clearer skin can result from improved hydration, and less bloating could be a result of eating less food. Some detox dieters report a boost in energy and even a sense of euphoria. But doctors say that the feeling — also commonly reported by people who are fasting — is actually a reaction to starvation. It likely evolved as a way to help a person evade threats and locate food. There’s something to be gained from avoiding large quantities of alcohol, smoke, junk food, or anything to excess, Moderation is best, but these regimens are anything but moderate.

The use of laxatives in detox diets also raises red flags among dietitians, as laxative abuse is commonly associated with eating disorders. The belief that laxatives are useful for weight control is a myth, the National Eating Disorders Association notes. In fact, laxative abuse can cause severe dehydration and heart or colon damage, the association says.

“Colonic irrigation, another fixture of some detox diets, carries the risk of bowel perforation or infection, both of which can cause death.”

Detox diets promise a quick fix, but are in fact just another scam. “You can change your life in 10 days — but not through the Master Cleanse. Instead, use those 10 days to make the transition to a balanced diet with lots of fruits and vegetables — and then stick to that diet for good.” Says Peter Pressman, MD an internal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He adds that the science behind the detox theory is deeply flawed. The body already has multiple systems in place — including the liver, kidneys, and gastrointestinal tract — that do a perfectly good job of eliminating toxins from the body within hours of consumption.

In other words: If you are in eating foods which are bad, a branded pill or juice cannot save your liver from alcohol, your lungs from smoke or your face from make-up, pollutants in the air or over exposure to the sun.. If you eat naturally the body will take care of itself and if you do fill it with toxins there is no miracle cure to remove them that’s left to your over worked specialist detox organs.

All you can do is avoid those things known to be toxic such as alcohol, tea and coffee (in ecxess) and anything with caffeine in it. Real “evils” are the big bad tripple score “whites” white flour, sugar and yes … salt. Too much dairy, all processed and junk foods, all processed carbohydrates such as white bread and pasta are also on that list.

Instead of “detoxing” just try doing some of these: Eating raw vegetables, unsweetened fruit juices, brown rice, lean chicken and turkey, fish and drink plenty of water and you will be getting healthy foods that put a minimum of strain on your organs. Milk thistle to help liver function, soy BIO-K to boost probiotics in the gut.

In conclusion: Your body can detoxify itself but you can help with healthy living, thus aiding your organs to do what they were designed to do without the help of a pill. When it comes to detox products, in the words of Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst from their book Trick or Treatment; the only substance that is being removed from a patient is usually money”.

Related sites worth the read here and here.

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Bring back Lupercalia!

Before we begin, we’d like to note, this isn’t the rant of a single person hating the holiday out of jealousy, loneliness or lack of a “date” on February 14th. We believe it is obvious and abundantly clear we are happy, crazy in love and grateful for each other every single moment.

So, on that note, if we could get our hands on the schmuck who turned a quiet mid-February day into the worldwide shopping phenomenon it has become, we’d love to (insert appropriate action here).

Valentine’s Day has been around for decades so whomever first saw dollar signs in love hearts is no longer of the living, yet this legacy and lunacy prevails. Retribution for this abomination is thus, unfortunately out of our hands.

If only people would stop, and see this schmaltzy garbage for what it really is – useless teddy bears, awful candy, overpriced balloons, lingerie, heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and bank-breaking bunches of roses soon to wither and die – please people, you’re being sucked in. As minimalists we can’t help feel that the plastic, Wal-Mart and dollar store products are not just an abomination against love and good taste, but also against the planet and its limited resources.

Like all these big shopping occasions, Valentine’s Day had humble beginnings. Long before it was actually called Valentine’s Day, there was a pagan festival, associated with purification and fertility called Lupercalia. It was held in ancient Rome at the beginning of February to honor the god Pan and herald the arrival of spring. There was ritual, feasting, raucous drinking and yes … sex. Then during the middle ages, February 14 was traditionally thought to be the day that all the birds paired up for the year. In other words: mating season.

The early (and very prude) Christians decided to put a stop to all the unbridled eroticism and overt sexuality around that time of year, and changed the festival of lust to one of romantic love and in the process killing any real meaning. In those days when there was little room or time for such courtly behavior as romantic love one can only wonder how this concept even survived. Yet it did. They grabbed hold of a fantastic public relations opportunity in the shape of Saint Valentine.

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three people called Valentine, who were martyred, so the Valentine story could be about any one of them… all of them… or most likely, none of them.

The most common legend is that the ruler at the time, Emperor Claudius II, decided to outlaw marriage and engagement because he wanted more men for his armies, and the locals preferred to “make love, not war”. Valentine carried out secret marriages, and the occasional miracle, until he was caught in the act and imprisoned. Rumor had it that while incarcerated, he fell madly in love with the jailer’s daughter, who visited him often (because that’s very Christian behavior). One story says that he was beheaded, and the night before his execution, he sent his true love a note that he signed “from your Valentine.” Other stories say that he just got sick and died in prison.

The oldest known Valentine card still in existence dates back to 1415, and was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was also imprisoned – but this time in the Tower of London. Our guess is they probably didn’t have a romantic meal later that evening. Either way, all the crappy and cheesy Valentine day cards are his fault.

Although its origins are a bit hazy, historians agree that it has something to do with a Christian, some soldiers, a hot babe and a love letter… possibly. No mention of romantic weekend breaks or expensive candle-lit dinners. Oh no, it’s the shopkeepers and marketing managers who brought this commercial hell upon us. Florists giggle in glee with gratitude as their pockets fill with cash and restaurant owners cackle with delight as desperate fools haggle for their best table.

The result? Cash-strapped, indebted people go further into overdraft just to make their “love” feel wanted. It’s without doubt the worst day of the year to “show your affection” for your partner in this way; everything costs three times as much as it normally does and because you were told to do it on that specific day, it negates any sense of romance. Meanwhile, on February 15th, these shop owners skip happily to the travel agents to book their winter holidays.

To all those couples out there … if it was real, spur-of-the-moment love it would be fine but it’s not, its manufactured affection. It’s about as “real” as Vegas. It is frightening how many people have only this day, a birthday and an anniversary as romantic highlights in their year. It’s sad. There is no imagination, no reality in any of the gestures. Nothing says I love you more than a night out, a thoughtful gift, a backrub, a shoulder to lean on, a supportive word in difficult times and so much more … on any other day!

For us, every day is Valentine’s Day. We don’t need a contrived special day to underscore the natural love in our relationship.

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