National Cheese Lovers Day: January 20

Food Holidays are a personal favorite of mine. Think of your favorite traditional holiday. Maybe it’s Christmas, or Halloween, or Thanksgiving. Whatever that day is and however that day makes you feel; I believe a Cheese day is it for me. I’m lucky in that there are a bunch, according to the plethora of food holiday calendars available online. But for the sake of today’s rantings, I give you National Cheese Lovers Day. Whereas there is plenty of discussion of how to celebrate, with recipes and sales and presentations at various markets, there is little on the history of how this particular day became such an auspicious holiday. The only link of cheese to January 20th, I could find was ironically my birth year – 1964. It was at the New York World’s Fair when the Wisconsin Cheese Foundation presented the world’s largest block of Cheese, weighing an astounding 34,591 pounds. 16,000 cows provided the necessary 17,000 quarts of milk for the unprecedented block of cheese. You read that right – 16000 cows!

http://www.nywf64.com

With no official origin of this Holiday, I henceforth personally choose to credit the 1964 World’s Fair with National Cheese Lovers Day. This can be added to equally notable World’s Fair introductions, like the Ford Mustang and Belgian Waffles.

So, as you go about your Saturday, take a cheese break. Stop to smell the Roquefort, so to speak. And, with all that is happening in the world, remember this one important fact: What is the word you say when asked to smile for a picture? CHEESE!  🧀 = 😁
B9856BF3-ADE9-4724-83E8-9D1C71302888

 

And today’s CHEESE is…

xoxo DDJ

P.S. A little shout out love to my Arepa family, Patti, Danielle and Karen, because what Cheese brings together, let no man put asunder. 💋

 

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A chilly silence

Cold Spring Harbor, NY

Silence

These days when I can see my breath

and deeply breathe the crisp, cold air

There’s  only beauty I can see

and only silence I can hear

With the seasons change coming soon,

this view will graciously change too

xoxo DDJ

Highly Sensitive Person-It’s a condition

hsp -kitty

A little while back I saw an article—somewhere. I recall it being about a condition called ‘highly sensitive person’. My gut reaction was—“an article about whiners? I don’t think so.” I never did actually read it. Recently, however, in one of my self-reflective—what the hell is wrong with me moments I let the concept seep back into my consciousness.

Perhaps it was because of uncontrollable crying while watching TV. Maybe it was the NEED to change the radio station during a “phone tap”- AKA prank, that caused  me horrible anxiety. It could have been one of those television shows like America’s Funniest Home Video’s–even THAT can make me uncomfortable. Though honestly, it very well could have been the overwhelming empathy that I have never been able to begin to explain.

Everyone knows I hate crowds—A LOT. Most people know I like to have very minimal lighting at home. I often watch TV with the sound extremely low or with headphones on so I can just turn it down or off and have complete silence. I sometimes just turn the sound off and READ the closed captions. I am completely incapable of watching commercials for sick children or abused animals. I MEAN INCAPABLE. I cry at happy events just as emotionally as I do at sad ones. I NEED to have scented candles to calm myself. The list of my secret weirdness is long and I have been this way for so long that I contributed it to everything from my being born a Cancer—and we are sensitive, to believing it could be depression that might have lingered… for geez… decades?

A couple of weeks ago, thinking that perhaps it wasn’t just the holidays that had me crying at Christmas shows, or commercials, I decided to spend a little time Googling whether this is depression or something else. I honestly didn’t think I was sad. Perhaps I am just going mad! To most people, no one would ever even notice these things about me. I am funny, outgoing, friendly and engaging. One would think that a “highly sensitive person” would be an introvert. I am NOT. I needed to understand what this “highly sensitive person” condition really is. I was excited to think I was getting closer to some sort of authoritative explanation for how I have always felt. I was not looking for a ‘cure’, though being able to watch a movie around people without balling my eyes out, certainly would be be a bonus.

This is what I learned. First and foremost I am NOT alone. Whether or not people understand or admit this newly recognized condition somehow didn’t matter to me because I have read the studies and they speak to me… In fact they scream to me to the point—you guessed it—I cried. It is not a condition that describes a personality type. Being a “HSP” is defined has having a hypersensitive nervous system. This would—in my case—explain my sensitivity to light, to sound, to extreme temperature and even smells! Dr. Ted Zeff, a psychologist and author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide, believes that HSP’s do best in nurturing environments. They are more likely to be artists, musicians, teachers, counselors and health practitioners. And, they’re likely to be popular because they’re so in tune with the needs of others. I wouldn’t say I am popular, but I do feel as if my empathy makes me a special kind of friend, even to people I might only come in contact with briefly.

From the outside, looking in, the majority of the world would have a hard time believing the sheer amount of tears I shed for an equal amount of happy and sad events. In fact, since I am so hyper aware of my crying at the sad, I try to avoid it, which of course has changed nothing.  I cry at every happy ending in a movie, at all ‘feel good’ stories on the news, the interview with the hero kitten rescuer, the lottery winner and just now on Fox and Friends Weekend—the interview with the woman who adopted a blind, 14 year old dog who had lived on the streets—YEP, balled at how loved that doggie must feel. I have often felt the anxiety of loving to dance, loving music but having a complete meltdown in a dance club, where my only solace is a few minutes in the restroom or walking outside with the smokers just to be able to calm myself. These are overwhelming emotions. I feel other peoples emotional pain, sadness and stresses. I am attuned to worldwide tragedy’s more than I understand. It is an amazingly intense kind of empathy, that I have often wished I didn’t have. Other times I am happy I feel strongly when I encounter people that seem not to feel at all.  The studies and articles I have been reading,  explain this in a way that I have begun to be less hard on myself for what I perceived as weaknesses or flaws.  I have long ago learned to cope with my feelings, if only to try and mask them to the masses. But, it is what it is. And apparently, it IS a condition. I admit that helps.

The article I read—Here, in The Telegraph—has helped me to understand why I love the quiet, and the dimly lit, the smell of lemon verbena to calm me, or even my love of children’s movies, where they rarely make people feel badly and always have a happy ending. This condition explains why I was never able to watch those early episodes each season of American Idol, where people were so incredibly horrible—I literally can NOT watch people do that to themselves. Don’t laugh, I cringe!, and if I didn’t change the channel I felt physical anxiety.

I am hoping that people that wonder why some of us just “FEEL” more, will realize it actually IS a nervous system condition. I put on the ‘tough girl’ persona as my mask. But being sensitive is just who I am, not something to be controlled, because it can’t be. To me, I feel as if it is no different than a sneeze. I can no more control these feelings as I could squash my sneezes. So if you see me sniffling while reading a book, or wonder where I went at the concert or why I can not stand Times Square… Know that I am just your Highly Sensitive Person—friend. Thanks for understanding.

Take the Highly Sensitive Person Test, here!

xoxo DDJ

The Express Lane

express lane

How long have I been meandering through this market? I look down into my grocery basket. I look up at the sign at the checkout line I’m in. “10 items or less.” Do I have more? Oh crap, I might have more. Grammatically speaking, less refers to singular mass nouns – a general term, as fewer refers to actual items you can count.  So, am I going to hold this grammatically incorrect sign to mean that “less” means I don’t need to count my items? Hmm. Were it to say 10 items or “fewer”, and someone actually counted my items, would I have a serious problem? Hmm. No. I am, in fact, okay with them using ‘less’ instead of ‘fewer’. It does not roll off my tongue to say ’10 items or fewer’. Besides, there are only 3 lines open. The other two lanes have people who are shopping for some apocalyptic party or have some disorder akin to OCD–where they absolutely must buy insane quantities of whatever’s on sale. Whatever the case may be, here I stand, in an increasingly long line of people holding baskets of, or just holding, “10 items or less”. I start counting. Are four of the same item, ONE or FOUR? A quandary I find myself in too often. You’d think I would ask someone.  The cashier has a void. Perfect. Now, a man, carrying a basket in one hand, and a single item in his other walks up to me. “Ma’am, I only have the three items and I’m really in a hurry. Do you mind if I cut in front of you?” Well, I have already been here for a while, and I am now sweating the number of items I have, and whether I will be caught by the “market police”. “Well, I think I have more than the 10 items, so…” He looks at me as if I had more than 10 heads and he clearly doesn’t care, so I oblige. Now, there is one person, being rung up, one person with their seven items on the conveyor belt—I counted, no doubles—and Mr. ‘I’m in hurry’ in front of me.

I’m someone who makes up stories about people in line at the market based on their purchases. It’s fun and it’s something to do while you wait. I do this because when I had a cat, and would get off the train late from work, I would stop by the market on my way home. I am pretty sure I was being judged when I plopped down a rotisserie chicken, 6 cans of cat food,  a packet of cat treats, frozen brussels sprouts and a pint of ice cream. Yes, that little array screams sad, single woman, with cats… I know. I could hear the silent pity. Now it is I who wield the title of Judgy McJudgerson. Let’s see. The person now being rung-up has a very large container of greek yogurt, toilet paper, pretzels, soy milk, organic eggs, tampons and the current issue of US magazine. That, my friends, sounds like a party! Actually, I am betting single woman, no date on this Friday night. I could be wrong. It’s actually not as easy to ‘read’ people in the express lane. The big cart filled to the brim is where the fun is at. You can tell if they have children or pets, or both. You can tell which they love more. 😉 You can tell if they are entertaining, or having a barbecue. You can tell if they like odd foods, and then you wonder if you should try them. I imagine as often as I am in my market, that my regular cashiers can likely spin quite the tale about me based on the weird and nonsensical cravings I accommodate. Oh well, I will not be deterred.

Finally, the manager has corrected the voided item, the cashier has rung up Ms. ‘got no plans tonight’, and now it’s Mr. ‘I’m in a hurry’. He’s an easy read. A gallon of milk, box of cookies, and that 12 pack of beer pretty much screams you’re watching the kids tonight. It’s not judgmental, by the way, it is merely observatory. I observe, I draw unsubstantiated conclusions, silently narrate my little story, and move on, feeling awesome about myself. On this very special—meaning unusual—day, I have a cart with fresh salmon, asparagus, a couple of tomatoes, an avocado, container of strawberry’s, multi-grain English muffins, jar of peanut butter and 4 different flavors of bottled water. (That’s either eight or eleven items.) I have long since placed it on the floor, since my eternal wait in this line has somehow made the basket heavier. I lift it up to unload my items, and feel especially proud of my healthy choices—and equally glad I bought the snack foods yesterday. I have my small-talk conversation with my always pleasant cashier—discuss the weather and the increasing daylight. I pay with my debit card. As he assists me in bagging my few items I look back at how long the line has gotten. Part of me is curious what that really good-looking guy has in his cart… but not today. Today—right now—I am going home to throw these items in the fridge and have the snacks I bought yesterday. I’m exhausted.   🙂

Have a great day, grocery shoppers!

Xoxo DDJ

 

Strategy

 

How about that rain?

how about that rain

There I was, standing among a group of strangers. Brought by a dear friend, who in trying to get me out of the house, dragged me kicking and screaming to a holiday party. I might be exaggerating the kicking and screaming a little–but not much. Once faced with party revelers, my kicking and screaming ceased.  The reality is, when faced with a situation I am uncomfortable in, I become strangely quiet. “Strangely”, because I am rarely quiet.

I surveyed the room with one of my terminator glances, left to right with cyborg precision. Yup, nobody here looks interesting. This has the potential to be an excruciating event. Holiday time is stressful enough. I don’t want to talk about vacations, or gifts, or crazy families or perfect kids, or money or jobs.  But I said I would mingle. (What was I thinking?!) It occurred to me that I have a veritable arsenal of witty, interesting and somewhat compelling conversation starters depending on my audience. In this case, I immediately ruled out NASCAR, mostly because it’s off season. I ruled out football because I am a Jets fan and well… I am a Jets fan. I ruled out dining, because I often wind up with nothing to say to the health conscious, gluten loathing, palette broken exercise nuts. Music: too subjective. Movies and TV are always an option, until someone has the nerve to say they have never seen Blazing Saddles. So, none of that.

What to do! Honestly, synapse firing thoughts and ultimate decision-making takes place in seconds. At the moment I open my mouth to speak, an assembly line of thoughts has passed through my brain.

I speak. “Pretty cold out, huh?” Yes, with my plethora of knowledge and interests that span from food, to music; politics to literature, sports to Broadway, I settled in on weather. In my defense, I really am a weather fan. Dare I say, a bit of a weather geek? I had to act fast as to not have my new circle of strangers be bored into a holiday party coma. I used words like Derecho and Haboob. I spoke with delight of  the Aurora Borealis, thunderstorms and tornadoes.  I shared information on my abundance of weather apps.  I think they were riveted. (I often imagine stuff, so who knows.) You see, I had an option when I opened my mouth to speak. I had control of what a group of strangers would think of me. I could have been the girl who knows everything about sports, or that chick who no one agrees with on politics, or be that snooty literary chick… maybe even that girl that everyone remembers for her love of broadway. No, I opted, in this instance to be a weather geek. For the record, rooms of strangers you will likely not see again are great for trying out conversation “material”.   🙂

My moment in the sun—pun intended—was brief but satisfying.  As happens with topical conversation, ours veered off and inevitably led to ALL of the conversations I didn’t want to have. The weather in different parts of the globe led to where people were traveling for the holidays, and  that somehow morphed into “winter foods”, and I don’t know how but—oh dear—global warming.  I decided to slip out of the circle of strangers, feeling proud for having partaken in pointless, time killing conversation.  I was a success, in my mind anyway.  Yes, weather is my friend, and as dull as it might seem and contrary to Oscar Wilde—“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative”—Hogwash!—I can stand proudly when I say I survived a holiday party because of my weather nerdines. ♥

There is a lesson in here, and it’s not just that when your gut says stay home, you should. It’s that sometimes you can have a blast just trapping people into listening to what YOU love. Maybe that’s not the lesson. Maybe, it’s that everyone has a conversation in them if they speak with enthusiasm about the weather. Maybe not. Does it really matter? I survived, it was fun… the end.

xoxo DDJ

A Slightly Different Sunday – Helper for a Day

catering gig

I have been going through something of a transformation of late. Not one of my choosing, but as it turns out, a transformation thrust upon me that appears to be changing me in a profound way. I was helping out a friend yesterday and while on our way to the wholesale club, BJ’s I went on a tangent—as I often do—about a kitten I had named BJ, (Bumper Jr.—a long story, and I was A KID.) Since there was the BJ theme, (hold the snickering, please), I followed up that superb piece of nostalgia with my rather strange infatuation with a television show, BJ and the Bear, a big hit from 1979 to 1981. Ok, maybe not a BIG hit… but it was on TV for 3 years!  And yes, I watched that show. Honestly, I had a bit of a crush on Greg Evigan. The monkey sidekick was a bonus. Strange how life tends to skew how we see things. Television helps in that respect. I thought driving an 18 wheeler looked so ‘glamorous’. Again, having a monkey sidekick didn’t hurt. But when I look back, I thought this was a cool job with what seemed like endless possibilities of fun. I realize that somewhere between an idyllic childhood and a cynical adulthood my opinions changed, reality took over and maybe my driving a big rig was not as glamorous as I thought. Clearly, I could not be wearing my pair of Donald Pliner couture boots in that particular job. Today I would look at being a travel expert or a food critic or fashion buyer as my slightly more tangible yet wholly unrealistic job choices.  As a kid, where others wanted to be a fireman or nurse, a doctor or a policeman, I was pretty sure I wanted to drive a BIG truck or a Zamboni—holding out hope I could work for the New York Rangers. We are taught that these aren’t necessarily the best jobs at all! At least, not if you want to make a lot of money and a lead a thrilling and glamorous life. Though, sometimes I still think having a truck and a monkey beats almost anything. But I digress, as all of my BJ and the Bear talk actually brings me to a point.

I had a most interesting, enlightening and rewarding experience this past weekend. And it was really just as a favor to a friend who has an emerging catering business. This was clearly not the same as driving a big rig with a monkey or giving the Ranger’s an ice resurfacing they could see their beautiful faces in, but it was the same in that it was something I had never done.  My friend is a wonderful cook, with years of catering experience. She needed a helper for the day of the event she was catering and without a great deal busying up my social calendar, I offered to help. On the day before the party, as she prepared oodles of food, I kept her company. I would love to say that I was a sous chef to the master as she prepared culinary delights, but reality is I was mostly moral support as she literally plowed through six dishes in no time at all.

For the day of the event, I helped her load the food, all the trays, and accompanying accoutrement into the car in what is probably my forte—organization.  I didn’t know what to expect. I have never worked in food service of any kind. Cooking for family and friends is vastly different. Like a seasoned pro, she had me and another woman, (whose ginger cookies were a big hit), helping in the set up as she got ready the appetizers. I was doing my best to aid her, but mostly just tried to anticipate anything she might need and do my best to stay out-of-the-way —even though the warmed brie with brandied pecans seemed to be screaming my name. NOT sneaking food was also a first for me. J

This was a surprise party for a golden anniversary couple. It was the bride who was unaware as the groom was in on the planning. I had my first tray in my hand as I floated through the kitchen and living room presenting nibbles of food to happy guests. The family was all there just awaiting what would be the very surprised woman of the house. I would not have considered myself much in the way of a people person, but found myself graciously offering stuffed mushrooms and tiny pigs in blankets, effortlessly holding a tray in one hand as my other held the fanned out napkins to take with ease. I think I had my epiphany as I knelt down, tray in hand, to offer some much appreciated food to a lovely 92-year-old woman. There it was–appreciation. It turns out I am very capable of smiling and walking around with food. I am equally—it seems—engaging and courteous. I mean I’m REALLY pretty good at it.  It is very possible I am making myself sound WAY better than I was, but everyone seemed quite pleased with our professionalism as well as the quality of my friend, Jenn’s, superb food. I can see where she gets such joy from her business, even though it is a GREAT deal of work to pull off a perfect party.  I saw instantly, the gratification on her face when we were finally packed up and heading home. I understand it. As with anything that you put your heart and soul into, that is as personal as your cooking and putting on a party, there is a level of satisfaction that is acutely apparent—and it WAS. I felt such admiration for her hard work having been received so well, and to be honest… I patted myself on the back a little for not having screwed it up.

I have worked in an office my whole life. There are so many other places to be. And I have to say that seeing how happy people are who have fewer headaches to deal with in putting together a party–like food prep, service and clean up–it was pretty gratifying.  It certainly helps that I am a self-professed foodie who loves to cook—and eat!

I always felt as if this was a job for other people. Mostly because I didn’t see how I would ever manage to prepare, transport and serve a feast, but now that I know it IS possible. I have a friend who loves it so—who is very good at it, and I truly hope she asks me to help out again. It was a pleasure getting out of my comfort zone. It was a pleasure working with a pro. It was a real pleasure getting great feedback.

So, that being said. If you have any need for an amazing caterer, and you’re in the general vicinity, check out:

Simplicity-Catering.com

Tell her Red sent ya!

xoxo DDJ