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Every year around this time I have a craving that hits me after nearly every run, gym session, or hockey game that I play. It is not an insatiable appetite for a large juicy steak. Nor is it a desire to stuff my face with a bowl of the finest pasta. Rather, my hankering is for something cold and thirst quenching. Most athletes would reach for a Gatorade to replace all those electrolytes lost in that orange sweat that streams down their faces.  No, for me, Gatorade just won’t cut it. Instead, what my mouth is craving is something colder, icier. My mouth wants a Slurpee.

I think it must stem back to my days of youth athletics. I blame my Slurpee cravings squarely on my parents’ shoulders. They, after all, were the ones to encourage my strange obsession. After most Little League Games, I ran with Mom or Dad to the concession stand and waited patiently in line. The hot, humid Michigan weather always left me sweaty and parched. While other kids were picking out slices of pizza, hot dogs, or candy, I shunned these things in favor of an icy cherry and Coke twisted Slurpee. A layer of cherry, followed by a layer of Coke, followed by a layer of Cherry, and so on until I had the perfect blend of flavors. The first few sips were always pure bliss as I gulped them down. Until the headache hit of course. It never deterred me though; I still choose a Slurpee 9 times out of 10 when it came to post game snacking.

I don’t indulge in my Slurpee cravings nearly often enough anymore. I can thank some of my fall off the Slurpee bandwagon to my grown up taste buds that have become a bit more sensitive to the sweetness levels in these drinks. Another reason can be thanked to the local concession stand at my hockey rink never being opened after my 9 P.M. men’s league games. However, this past Monday night, after our late game, my husband and I jumped into my Explorer and had a simultaneous craving hit. He looked at me, I looked at him, and at the same instance we shouted “I want a Slurpee!” I practically squealed the tires as I pulled out of the parking lot on a quest for icy-sweet-goodness. After pulling a quick run at the local 7-11, we headed home, smiles plastered across our faces as we sipped down our frozen treats.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Who knew that a Slurpee could make a mouth so happy?

2.) There are so many flavors to choose from, any combination of Slurpees can be mixed to form your own one-of-a-kind mix.

3.) On a hot summer day, sipping on a sweet, frozen treat not only satisfies it symbolizes summer in a cup.

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It was another long day. The new medical records computer system that went “live” just over a week ago at my office has not sped up the process of seeing patients and recording their medical data. In all reality, it has slowed everyone down. We are spending 20 minutes on each patient just trying to plug their meds into the program; by the time I make my way into the room their actual appointed time slot to see me is over. Therefore, I am running into and through the next patient’s minutes causing a snowball effect of each patient needing the time slot of the following patient, etc. etc. It is wearisome to have my fellow coworkers day in and day out complain and question the entire system. By the end of the day, I am completely exhausted and mentally drained.

The drive home is quiet and I think about my duties when I get home; someone has to make dinner. On any other day, I am usually excited to get through the day into my kitchen. It is a place where I find solace as I mix flavors and test out new recipes. Just as running and working out relaxes me, cooking also calms my nerves and makes me feel at peace at the end of the day. I feel like I am nourishing both my husband’s and my soul. We meet together at the end of a long day apart over a bowl of pasta or a plate of chicken and share our days with each other. However, on this day, the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen for any length of time prepping, mixing, and cooking food.

As I walk through the front door, I see a sight that erases all the problems of my day. There is my husband, a man who works more than 12 hours most days of the week out in the “field,” where he’s exposed to all the elements, standing over the sink washing dishes. He happened to have a rare day in the office and managed a light 9 hours of work today. He puts the dishes in the drainboard, gives me a quick kiss, and then says the magic words, “Don’t worry, I’m making dinner.”

In that sentence, I fall in love with him all over again. This man has cooked for me less than a handful of times in our entire 4 years of coupledom. As soon as he found out my love for the kitchen, he wiped his hands clean and let me step in and take over the food that entered his mouth. Not to say that I could feed him whatever I wanted (see “Soy Paradise” below for more on that), but I think he felt that if I enjoyed cooking why should he spend precious free time doing something he didn’t care so much about when I was so ready and willing? So on this rare day, I basked in his selflessness, and enjoyed being cooked and served for.

Today’s Simplest Pleasures:

1.) Sometimes it’s o.k. to relax and let someone else help you carry the load. Us women tend to want to do it all, but in reality, we all could use a little helping hand.

2.) Appreciate the selfless acts in life.

3.) Food prepared by another hand can taste so good!

I tricked my husband. Yup, sure did. He came home from work the other night thinking he was going to have spaghetti with meat sauce waiting for him for dinner, and I tricked him. Before I get to how I tricked him, you must first know that my husband is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. When I first started dating him he would eat steak, potatoes, french fries, and sub sandwiches filled with meat. Ok, he’s probably not THAT picky, but he often shuns the sides of veggies or fruit I make in favor of extra potatoes or french fries to go along with his chicken or beef.

I; however, could easily be happy living my life as a vegetarian or close to it. I usually choose fish when I go out to eat, since I don’t cook it very well and my husband won’t eat it. I haven’t met a tofu dish I didn’t like, and I happily pile my plate high with fruits and veggies. Yes, we are completely opposite when it comes to food preferences. I do like a good chicken breast, especially with BBQ sauce, or an occasional turkey sub though. But sitting down to a big steak just doesn’t do it for me.

The night I tricked my husband, I came home from work and realized I had forgotten to thaw out the ground beef. He does let me get away with using ground chicken and turkey when it’s mixed into a dish, so this helps me limit his cow consumption somewhat. Looking into my freezer, I realized I had purchased a bag of Morningstar Farms crumbled soy “beef.” I had tucked it deep into the bowels of my freezer, so my husband wouldn’t see it and become suspicious of me using it on him. Without hesitation, I threw the package into my pan along with some tomato sauce, garlic, and mini Portabella mushrooms. When he walked in the door, I had just drained the pasta and made the last stir to the “meat sauce.”

I really had planned to tell him that the “meat sauce” was really “soy meat.” We sat down to eat, and I lost my nerve. Instead, I innocently began eating my plate of pasta and occasionally glanced his way to see if he was making strange faces, spitting it out, or choking. Nope, he was shoveling it in. No hesitation whatsoever. Remarkably, he ate his entire bowl without a word. I couldn’t believe what I had just done! I got my husband, the carnivore, to eat an entire tofu dish. This is the same man who has refused on every occasion, for the past 4 years, to try a bite of anything that remotely resembles a soy product. Better yet, after he finished he plate the said, “Thanks for making dinner. That was really good.”

It is a few days later now, and I didn’t tell him. I actually do not feel bad about the little white lie I am carrying around. He’s had elevated cholesterol levels before at the doctor’s office that haven’t deterred him from gobbling down the meat whenever he can. I figure I can get away at least once a week adding some ground “beef” to a meal without him noticing and maybe it will help improve his health, too. For now, the secret is safe, and I will keep my fingers crossed he doesn’t come across the empty Morningstar Farms bag in the garbage can.

Today’s simplest pleasures:

1.) Dare to try (and enjoy!) a new food; you never know, it may become one of your favorites.

2.) Lying is not recommended but sometimes ignorance IS bliss!

3.) Embrace tofu! Tofu is such a great alternative to daily meat consumption. It tastes great when combined with many different dishes and flavors, and your arteries won’t miss the saturated fat.

Anyone else out there ever tricked a friend or loved one into trying a vegetarian dish or new, exotic food?

“Hello. My name is Sharon, and I am addicted to peanut butter.” Yes, it is true. I cannot hide behind the empty peanut butter jar any longer. It is one of my strongest weaknesses. Some people love their steak, some love their potatoes, and I love my peanut butter. If I had to choose what to take with me on a deserted island, I would choose peanut butter. Ok, I’m sorry, I would choose to take my husband. If he found out I’d choose peanut butter over him, he might never forgive me. That, or he’d never let me buy another jar of peanut butter ever again, and that is one risk I am just not willing to take.

I have loved peanut butter for as long as I can remember. My babysitter fed it to me as often as possible when I was a child. I had been born prematurely, so I think she felt obliged to my parents to try and get me to grow and fatten up a little. She alternated lunches of peanut butter and butter sandwiches with macaraoni and cheese, buttered noodles, and hot dogs. Not the healthiest fare; especially when you think of the number of fat grams in a peanut butter AND butter sandwich! I have never been overweight in my life though, so I guess all my running around outdoors as a child burned off all those tasty calories. Needless to say, it didn’t take long for me to start choosing peanut butter sandwiches over any other meal when asked what I wanted for lunch.

My mom made my lunches when I went to grade school. She tried to sneak in an occasional turkey sandwich, but I think she gave up on that pretty quickly when I told her I was trading them for peanut butter and jelly with my friends at lunchtime. I would do whatever it took to get my hands on one of those sweet, creamy sandwiches. One time, I even traded Halloween candy for a friend’s sandwich. What can I say? I was desperate and in need of a fix!

As a professional adult, I have diversified my palate, but I still need my regular peanut butter injections to keep me happy. Today, I savored a more sophistocated version of my childhood sandwich; peanut butter and honey. On the side, I did what any responsible adult would do, ate a salad to make me feel less guilty for eating such a sweet treat for lunch. If it’s not on a sandwich, I find other ways to sneak in some peanut butter each day. An occasional peanut butter english muffin with breakfast. Some peanut butter smeared on my apple for a healthy snack. My personal favorite is just an open-the-lid-and-dip-a-finger-in-the-jar for a quick taste. I can get away with this any day, since my husband despises peanut butter. He says, he ate so much pb&j growing up as a child, that he is totally turned off from the sight or smell of it. “Good!” I tell him. “More for me!”

Today’s simplest pleasures with peanut butter:

*peanut butter and jelly (or banana, or raisin, or honey) sandwiches

*peanut butter ice cream or fro-yo

*peanut butter cookies or no bake cookies

*peanut butter on apples (or carrots-thanks em!, or celery, or bananas)

*peanut butter mixed into smoothies

*peanut butter smeared on wraps, english muffins, hamburger buns, or bagels

*peanut butter fudge

*peanut butter and chocolate brownies

*peanut butter mixed into oatmeal

*peanut butter as a dip for crackers, pretzels, or crunchy breadsticks

Feel free to share your guiltiest pleasures with peanut butter, or recipes under the comments section!

My internet service is going down on Friday, because I am changing internet providers, so I am posting Friday’s blog message Thursday night…

My boss brought two huge vats of freshly picked blueberries into the office the other day. Her husband is a blueberry horticulturist; he tries to develop and grow the biggest blueberries for a living. Needless to say, these were not your every day grocery store variety. Plus, they were free! My co-workers and I scrambled for every tuperware container and ziploc bag we could find.

As I was filling my containers with these juicy, blue jewels, I couldn’t help but remember the summer days of youth when I was out in the blueberry fields picking berries with my mom and brother. We always visited a farm that was outside of town, not far from Lake Michigan. My brother and I were always competitive with each other growing up, but when it came to blueberry picking we each had different goals. I aimed to pick the most blueberries possible; he tried to eat the most. The sweltering heat never deterred us, we hardly seemed to notice as we stuffed as many luscious berries into our mouth as we did our buckets. Within an hour, I usually had 2 full buckets; my brother would have one full stomach. He always creeped up behind me and quietly grabbed berries out of my buckets by the hand full in order to make his bucket appear like he’d done some actual work. My mom and I would catch on to his tricks, and we would all start laughing and make fun of his blueberry stained lips and tongue.

When we got the berries home it was like breaking open a treasure chest. Everyone wanted a share of the wares! My dad would gobble down blueberries by the bowl for a snack. My mom would make hot blueberry muffins. My favorite though were the juicy fruit salads we’d often eat with dinner filled with the berries along with thick cubes of watermelon, tart strawberries, and sweet cantaloupe. I could have eaten the fruit for three square meals a day if my parents had let me.

Now, as I sit eating blueberries picked by another hand, it makes me appreciate how much hard work and sweat went into grooming these especially plump berries. I hope to get back out the fields someday and pick my own. The berries I pick just always seem to taste years better than anything I can just buy off a shelf.

Friday’s Simplest Pleasures:

1.) One of the greatest pleasures of summer is enjoying the bountiful harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables.

2.) Picking fresh fruit is a wonderful tradition that can lead to nostalgic memories for a lifetime.

3.) Harvesting your own blueberries is as good for the soul as it is for the stomach.

Whatever you may choose to do this weekend, be sure to enjoy it…

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