Valentine’s Day. The first observed holiday to follow the biggest, most important Christian holiday of the year. Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the similarities shared by both?

The color red–Santa’s suit and valentines; poinsettias and roses

Both have roots in Christianity, but those roots seem to take a back seat to the celebratory spirit of the date.

Both are named after a saint, albeit St. Valentine’s Day was named after a martyr saint.

Christmas and Valentine’s Day were initially celebrated in the name of someone who was executed.

Winged figures flying around in the air. Angels strum harps, Cupid shoots arrows through hearts.

Candy is strongly associated with both. So is a special meal.

Gifts, or at the very least, cards,  are expected from loved ones.

Mass consumerism has taken over the original meaning of both days.

valentine card

I remember in elementary school, we were expected to make a Valentine’s box to display on Valentine’s day. I would wrap a shoe box, one that had been saved just for this occasion, in red paper. Then I would painstakingly glue little candy hearts and cut-outs on it. As a perfectionist, my box had to be unequaled. I spent hours putting the finishing touches on what was to be the the bomb of all v-day boxes. A rectangular slot was cut along the top so that anybody that wanted to could put a little card inside. valentine shoe boxMom once suggested that I simply cover a Kleenex box with tissue paper. “The opening is already there. It’s so much simpler.” Hell would freeze over before I would stoop so low as to to allow future husbands to put their declarations of love in a freaking snot-rag container!

The best cards were the ones that had a heart-shaped sucker attached.  Even better if your 4th grade crush signed it “love”. I would wait until I got home to lift the lid off my box and read the cards, in the privacy of my bedroom. Even though each kid got a valentine from every other kid in the class, just seeing the name of the one you secretly admired was the making of grade-school fantasies.

By middle school, Valentine’s Day became a popularity contest, with girls congregating in the bathroom or at lunchtime to compare who-got-what-from-whom. Being popular with the boys, I often had several heart-shaped boxes of Brachs chocolates bestowed upon me. I once received an anonymous box of chocolate-covered cherries. I still don’t know who gave them to me, but honestly, I think I’m one of the  few people on earth who actually loves them! (Ditto fruitcake at Christmastime.)

Now that HK and I have been married for 21 years (!), I don’t expect anything. Not flowers, not special chocolate, not dinner in a fancy restaurant. I would much rather have a nice bottle of wine in front of a cozy fireplace, snuggled with HK and our 3 pups. I know that the “reason for the season” is love, and seriously, isn’t that what it’s all about?.

all you need is love

kaleidoscope

Way Cool!

I don’t know who originally made this beautiful art, but I LOVE it!!! If you stare at it, it will take you away. I have this, and other super-cool photography (not mine) on my Pinterest site at http://pinterest.com/julesfredrick/

Stop by for a visit.

Are you on Pinterest?

As mentioned in my previous post, there was some plank-walking during our BVI sailing trip. Yes, we were overtaken by a Pirate on the high seas. Here’s how it went down…

Following a long and turbulent sail to the  island of Anegada, we caught a local taxi to Loblolly Bay and the Big Bamboo Restaurant and Bar. While noshing on a bit of conch stew,

Conch Stew

the local goat stopped by to say hello. Now, this was no ordinary goat. This goat was a  “spy goat”  equipped with a spy camera and trained to infiltrate unsuspecting rich American tourists. (more…)

beach, feet

Just Chillin’ in the BVI

I’m sitting in the head of our chartered sailboat, enjoying the sound of the Caribbean sea as it flows below me, when suddenly I am flung onto the unlatched door and find myself peeing on the floor of our sleeping berth.

“JIBE HO” whoops a voice from the cockpit, about 5 seconds too late.

Thanks for that, I think, trying to pull up my bikini bottoms while literally bouncing off the walls.  I grab HK’s shorts to wipe up the spillage.

HK and I are on a 40-foot monohull with 2 friends, spending 8 days sailing through the British Virgin Islands, or BVI.  We knew in the early planning stages we would face certain challenges. Do the math. 4 people on a 40-foot boat. Actually, less space if you consider that the area below deck is tighter. Assuming that’s about 300 sq. feet of living space, that gives you 75 sq. feet per person.  Right.

It is officially hurricane season in that neck of the woods. As we get closer to our departure date, several tropical storms develop. “Looks like an unusually early and active season,” the meteorologists declare.  Finger’s crossed. All eyes on the weather map.

We are 4 very strong, very distinct personalities.

‘Nuff said.

3 days before our trip, our 14 year-old terrier undergoes emergency surgery. Depending on how he responds, it could be a deal-breaker for me. The surgery is successful. Kismet comes home the day before we leave. I fully trust my house/dog-sitter, so the trip is on.

The day before we are to fly out of Atlanta, one of the friends has a passport crisis. It’ll just be 3 of us until that can get straightened out. Which, fortunately, it does the next day. Thank god we live in a city with a US Passport Agency. We pick our friend up at the ferry dock in Tortola, ready to begin what will either be an excellent or disastrous adventure.

HK is the captain, and I have graduated from “beer wench” to first mate. We all share time at the helm, among other duties, and the potential personality clashes remain non-existent. With the exception of a few “Oh Shit’s” and spilled beers,  bumped knees and bruised thighs, we avoid calamity.

It is of utmost importance, prior to a sailing vacation, to choose a pirate name, and stick only to that name during the trip.

My name is “Tiguan”, named, actually, after a make of car I like. It represents a cross between a stealth tiger and an iguana. (What, exactly, an iguana brings to the picture I’m not sure, other than it is a Carribbean reptile).

“Zephyrus” represents the Greek God of the west wind.  Following a couple of beers, Zepher decides last minute to join me on a swim back to the boat. Just as she runs full-on into the surf,  I point directly in front of her at the jagged rock shelf. It’s too late.  She busts her ass and cuts her foot open. Her heel squirts blood. The sharks circle. (Not really, but, hey, it could happen.)  I swim as fast as I can away from her, toward the safety of the boat.

“Hawkeye”  has the best vision of all of us, and takes his duty of watching out for fish traps very seriously.  His propensity to fall in to-or out of -the dinghy is impressive, both to our crew and those on shore.

“Bo-Diddy” is a combination of “boat” and “Diddy” (the puppies name for HK).  Running a long stretch of beach before making a graceful “dolphin-dive” into 6 inches of water leaves sand-burns along his forehead and cheek, yet he continues to smile and pretend it doesn’t hurt as bad as it looks. As our Captain, he threatens us with walking the plank lest we so much as giggle at him. (And yes, there was some plank walking-video to come soon).

From feasting on 3-lb lobsters on the beach at Anegada to endless games of Password (yours truly is grand champ) and belly-aching laughter, our 8 days in paradise ranks as one of our best trips yet!

While I put together my photos and more memories of the trip, take a few minutes and enjoy this clip.

Do you like street food? Have you even had street food? If you live in the South, chances are you haven’t.

Well, that is all changing, now. For the past several Thursdays, I have made the 8 block trek from my home in Midtown, Atlanta to the street food trucks that gather across from some of Atlanta’s high-rise businesses.  Finally, I feel like we’re living in the “real world”, and have more options in dining besides the myriad of over-priced sit-downs or crappy fast food restaurants that we have relied on for a meal out.

When HK and I travel, especially out of the country to parts of the world like Asia or Latin America, we love to immerse ourselves in the throngs of locals who order from a free-standing vendor, then take our meal and sit somewhere nearby to catch a glimpse of the community vibe.  OK, there have been the few occasions when the cuy perhaps wasn’t so fresh, or the kanom jeen a bit ripe, but for the most part, out experiences have been positive.

Roasted Cuy


Asian Food Stall

Atlanta’s local permitting process seems to have had some glitches, and some (most) food trucks were forced to close up shop at the Atlanta Food Truck Park, although none of the closures had anything to do with food safety. (It was a bunch of bureaucratic bullshit, according to at least one vendor.)

Anyway, I’m thrilled that we are catching up to the rest of the country (and world) in finally getting what I think is gonna be an Atlanta tradition.

food trucksAtlanta Food Truck Park

This past weekend, I traveled to my hometown of Harlan, Ky, to spend some time with my family. My parents have lived in the same house for nearly 50 years, and they have finally decided that it’s too much house. They spend winters in Florida, anyway, so why not make the move?

They have put the old house on the market, and my brother and I were collecting what stuff we may want to take to our own homes. After having not lived there since my high school years, and returning only yearly as of late, it was really a trip down memory lane.

We took a drive out to the Harlan country club, to view the remains of the clubhouse that recently burned to the ground. As we walked around the grounds of the charred remains and the long-neglected swimming pool, memories washed through my head.

Many, many days of my childhood were spent here, learning to swim, then to dive, usually belly-first, off the diving board. Laying on the hot concrete swathed in baby oil and iodine, prematurely aging my skin while wishing for larger breasts and a boyfriend. Our mothers were golfers, so the best babysitter in town was the lifeguard.

Charging lunches consisting of Mrs. Williams’ ‘minnow cheese, sweet tea and a Hershey bar, my friends and I were left to our own devices for most of the day, no worries about any more harm coming to us than a skinned knee or bad sunburn.

Thursday night was family night at the club, and the lot of us would band together and ride the golf carts around the famously mountainous golf course, scarring each other on the rickety old swinging bridges. After- dark card games kept us occupied while our parents put away copious amounts of liquor, illegal in Harlan County until 2011.

Most of those people have long-since left the mountains of Eastern Kentucky, and my only association of long-ago friends is now through Facebook. I doubt that I will return to Harlan when mom and dad leave for the last time this Fall. Seeing the country club in it’s state of ruin seemed to close a door for me. Saying goodbye isn’t easy. I’ll keep the memories burned in my brain of a carefree childhood and far away friends.

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RIP

Yesterday I was taken by surprise-shocked, really-when a friend called to let me know that a friend and neighbor of ours had been killed in a tragic accident.

Let me preface this by saying that this person that died wasn’t what I would consider a “close” friend, not someone I would call on the phone to chat or enjoy family-style dinner with, but a friend that always greeted me with a warm hug and a kiss, and genuinely showed interest in how and what I was doing.

I’ll call him John, because that was his name.

John was a central figure in our Atlanta neighborhood. He and his wife were the first people HK and I met when we moved here 15 years ago. They encouraged us to get involved in neighborhood activities, of which there are plenty, and his was always a welcoming face in the crowd.

John’s generosity was phenomenal. He volunteered countless hours for events here and in the community. We regularly passed him and his wife, who often walked hand in hand, in our neighborhood park, on their way to or from feeding the ducks.

I have not been able to erase his smiling face from my mind since I heard the news, not that I want to, anyway, but the thought of not seeing that smile, feeling that warmth, greatly and deeply saddens me. As with probably everyone that knew him, I can’t believe he’s gone. It wasn’t his time. It wasn’t our time to lose such a selfless man. I’m sure he knows that he took a little piece of our hearts with him when he left this world.

The fact that no one, and especially his wife, got the opportunity to say goodbye to him is a real gut-punch. And a reminder to me to let those that I care about know that they are special. Tell loved ones that you love them. More importantly, SHOW them that you love them. You never know when it may be too late.

With love,

Jules

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