I’ll say it: I like Valentine’s Day.
It’s an easy holiday to loathe. Super-saturated with frilly pink hearts, unreasonable expectations, gender imbalance, and overpriced candy (the horror!), I can understand why it might lead to feelings of grumpiness. But like many things in life, it’s about changing perspective. Eight years ago, my now-fiancé was the first person to ever take me out on what some consider the world’s most frustrating holiday. I didn’t really date much before I met Joe, and so my view of Valentine’s Day developed outside of the narrow frame that greeting card companies would prefer you to acknowledge.
As with Christmas, I feel like you have to strip away the over-commercialization and remember that holidays are just extra reminders to acknowledge and thank the people in your life who make it brighter. Whether it be co-workers that help the workday go a little faster, friends and family that bring you joy, or that special someone who makes you feel like the coolest person in the world, just say “thank you.” Remind someone that he or she makes a difference. Heck, go to CVS and buy some Batman valentines if you want to be silly. It’ll make someone smile.
And isn’t that really one of the best things in life, making people smile?
This time last year, I wrote about being grateful for the people who have impacted my life in a positive way over the last decade. How they made it possible to heal, grow, and accept that while life is never perfect, it is always hopeful. As Mary Oliver writes in my favorite poem, “Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination…”
So if you’re feeling down today and you really need a boost, just say “thank you” and share a smile with someone.
Oh, and make banana bread! (Come on, it wouldn’t be Neen’s Notes without a good recipe). Here’s what I made for some of the great people in my life today. When life hands you overripe bananas and ricotta leftover from making lasagna—but not enough to make another lasagna—make banana bread.
Truly Lovable Banana Bread
- 2 cups flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 3 bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp. almond extract
- 2 eggs
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugars together until smooth and then add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Add the ricotta, bananas, and extracts and mix just until combined.
Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed or by hand just until a batter forms and there are no remaining dry spots.
Spoon the batter into a greased 9×5 or 8×4 1/2 loaf pans and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Enjoy, my friends, and a happy Valentine’s Day to you all.
Ciao for now,