Rose are red, violets are blue

My Valentine’s Day card game is strong this year. I mean, I really picked a winner: clean, simple but elegant, sweet message. Just right in that Goldilocks kind of way.

Why the success? I had a coupon for $2 off V-Day cards from Kroger and I was afraid I would forget about it — “it” being the coupon, not the Valentine —so I went in January.

Not that romantic, perhaps, but I think we’ll agree on two things.

One, greeting cards have become shockingly pricey. If you’re not careful, you’re spending $8.99, which, even if it is for love, is $8 too much for me.

And two, successful Valentine’s selection requires some planning ahead. It’s a desperate day when you throw yourself into Kroger’s card aisle and all you see is a sea of empty pink envelopes, am I right?

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Foodie nerds: this one’s for you

Every winter, my passion for cooking intensifies, and it’s usually around this time, right at the beginning of February, that I fall in love the hardest. I discover new spices. I resume my ardent affair with my cookbooks. I research ingredient availability. And every night as we sit down to dinner, with the kitchen steamy, my fingers smelling like garlic, I feel a soul-deep satisfaction.

Happily, I’ve picked up a few tricks this year that have made my cooking life even happier. I’d love to share these with you.

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Let me count the ways

A few months ago, one of my friends admitted that she hates winter. It’s not the first time I’ve heard the complaint, and I do understand it. It’s cold, after all. It’s mostly brown and dead. And, for those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder, all of it can be become rather depressing.

But, in Kentucky, winter is my favorite season. In turn, I decided to send my sweet, smart friend a list of reasons as little pick-me-ups as she fights her way to spring. It’s occurred to me this list might be useful to you, too. So, here we go:

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The writer I want to be

On a daily basis, the only times I speak to another person are in the morning when I wish my husband a good day and at night when he returns. Of course, I’m constantly talking (and singing) to the doggies, but as much as I’ve petitioned for it, they aren’t yet classified as “people.”

I was musing about this with my husband last night, and he pointed out that my writing day might be a bit chattier if I actually left the house. He then painted a picture of me in a coffee house, sitting in a quaint corner, typing away on my laptop, until someone I knew walked in.

“Think of the writing material you could gather just observing people around you,” he said. “Think of how nice it would be to run into someone you know and actually have a conversation. In the middle of the day.”

Immediately, I did think about it. I imagined myself sitting in the chair, looking out the window, words suddenly spilling out of me and onto my screen, so inspired was I to be in the real world instead of closed up in the basement.

I went to bed last night already feeling re-energized.

But then, I woke up.

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Perchance to dream

Listen. I promised you a long time ago I would never write about my dreams, since, whenever anyone starts telling me about one of theirs, I have to fight hard to stay awake.

But I’ve gotta tell ya.

Lately, I think I’ve earned a master’s degree in conjuring stressful scenarios in my sleep. Sometimes I wake up and I’m actually impressed.

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Eating a car for lunch

A few weeks ago, I was walking back to my car after a not-fun errand at Walmart. I looked at the sky, which was grey, and then I looked at the pavement, which was grey. I walked faster as I approached my car, which is white.

But then I looked more closely at it. There was grey there too, around my bumper, just around the wheel well. I bent over and saw a long series of nicks — almost like a zipper — in the paint job, ones so deep they had removed the paint.

Not good.

I looked around, wondering if this had just happened. But what kind of vehicle could have caused this kind of injury? It wasn’t a case of someone rubbing it as they pulled out, as that would have caused a dent and a scrape. But these were nicks, almost like cuts.

At that moment, I decided two things:

  1. Somehow, some way, I must have done this to my car, though I had no memory of it.
  2. I was going to wait until my stepdad Peter arrived for Christmas before I said anything to my husband about it.

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The greatest gift

At 3:19 a.m. on Dec. 22, I received a text that said, “We’re here!”

I had been sleeping on the couch with the doggies to try to keep the rest of the household — my parents in the basement; William, who had to work in the morning, in our bedroom — sleeping despite this late-night arrival. I looked outside and saw a sight that has happened about eight times since I moved to Kentucky: my little brother Matthew standing in the driveway.

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The most edible new tradition

For the past few holiday seasons, I’ve been making the deliberate effort to start some new traditions. The sweetest of those takes place in a tent. Features a woman named Prue. And constantly makes me want to pack it all in and move to merrie olde England.

I’m speaking, of course, of The Great British Baking Show.

If you haven’t seen it, let me quickly fill you in on its concept. It’s a baking competition between a group of amateur bakers asked to make sometimes traditional, sometimes outrageous confections by judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. As with the case of Survivor, one baker gets eliminated at the end of every episode until just one remains standing.

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Luxe Kentucky, courtesy of Jon

When I saw a picture of the amaryllis bulb, as big as a pomegranate, as pale as parsnip, posted on Jon Carloftis’s Instagram feed, I knew I had to have it. To think that I could own the giant, splashy flowers that grew out of it, that I could watch them bloom year after year, at Christmas time, no less, was just too glorious to resist.

It would be for sale at Rockcastle River Trading Company’s Christmas Open House. And baby, that was terrific news indeed.

If you haven’t been to this charming gift store, complete with gorgeous gardens, you’re missing out. The writers of Southern Living have actually likened it to Eden, and it’s only about a 30-minute drive from Somerset.

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Hankering for Old El Paso

“It is nostalgia. Everyone knew what that Old El Paso box meant.”

So said the ever-wise Jessica Crockett as we conducted a conversation about last night’s dinner.

I had had a hankering for tacos. But not el pastor tacos. Or lengua or chorizo. Heck, not even chicken. The truth is, I didn’t want today’s terrific tacos at all.

I wanted tacos from the ’80s.

You know, the ones with cheddar cheese. And iceberg lettuce. And taco seasoning poured from a pouch.

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