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Thankful Thursdays #55: true romance

Last week, I embarked on a new adventure in my Thankful Thursdays feature by taking the first of my top ten thanksgivings, and fleshing it out a little by sharing my testimony.  Continuing the adventure, I’m now moving on to the second thanksgiving on my list:

2. My wonderful, most perfect husband. I always tell him he is perfect to me, because although he’s obviously not literally perfect, he is everything I need him to be and honestly, I don’t think there is anyone in the world I could love as much. I feel that I have been blessed far beyond what I deserve, and I’m so thankful for it. He completes me.

I was corrupted by romance novels at the tender age of twelve.  (Is that a funny way to start telling you why I’m so thankful for Dennis?  Bear with me! lol)  My Dad has always had a hobby of buying and selling, well, pretty much everything, and I found a bookshelf lined with romance novels in our basement that he had been selling at the flea market.  I snuck them away one at a time, devouring them and wondering if I’d ever find a man as wonderful as the ones in the novels.  (I was corrupted, I tell you!)  They captivated me because they depicted such colorful and passionate people, and relationships (and details I really didn’t need to be reading!) that were so much different than the ones I observed in real life.

The men and women were gorgeous, of course.  Physically perfect.  The men were tall and strong, bold, brave, always stepping forward to defend or rescue their woman when necessary (which was alarmingly often), serious, brooding, forceful in a take-charge sort of way, and passionate.  Without realizing it, I came to believe that these men and these relationships were normal and what everyone had (except my parents, who I always knew weren’t normal-lol).  I decided I had to have this too.

Dennis with his cousin Mike and friend Coz

The first time I laid eye on Dennis, I was seventeen years old (he was 30, total cradle-robber! haha) and had just started taking a class called “Personal Efficiency” at the Church of Scientology.  Dennis was on staff as the Promotions I/C (in-charge) at the time, and we passed each other one day while I was exiting the church to go to the classroom behind it, and he was passing me to go into the door I had exited.  I smiled at him as I walked down the stairs to go to the classroom, trying not to let my eyes devour him and reveal how cute I thought he was, and then looked back over my shoulder to check out his butt as he ascended the stairs and I remember being impressed with what I saw.  It was pretty much lust at first sight for me! LOL!

Dennis and his friend Jack, the one who just got baptized!

At this point, I had never had a boyfriend, never been kissed by anyone other than my cousin when we were six years old, and was utterly convinced that I was going to die an old maid.  I was desperate, and thus began a relationship with someone who was very ill-suited to me (picture a gothic emo dude that cries to Phantom of the Opera while screaming his ex-girlfriend’s name), simply because he asked me on a date.  I was absolutely miserable in the relationship but was unsuccessful in my feeble attempts at breaking up.

Dennis, front left, with his band, Zencraft in 1992

Dennis worked with my boyfriend, let’s call him Dragon, and he started coming over for Dragon’s “Mage” fests.  Mage is a role-playing game like Dungeons and Dragons, and neither Dennis nor I was very much into it (OK, so I wasn’t into it AT ALL), so we very innocently started hanging out together instead of at the Mage parties, with no ulterior motive other than escaping Dragon’s crowd.  Dragon trusted Dennis and thought nothing of it when Dennis whisked me off to the movies every week.

Although the only time we had to talk was during the ride to and from the theater, I was absolutely thrilled and astounded that communication between a man and a woman could be so easy.  So relaxed and comfortable.  Dennis didn’t make me feel like I was an idiot, he actually considered what I said, and didn’t judge me.  I found myself able to speak my mind rather than keeping quiet for fear of sounding stupid, as I did with Dragon.  The exchange of ideas and thoughts was free and effortless, and just so…wonderful.

Dennis and I doing target practice (at my foot, apparently) in his parents' backyard, 1998. I want to make lots of excuses for this horrible photo, but I'll let it be. :)

After only a few weeks, my growing affection for Dennis, and the realization of how lacking my current relationship was, gave me the the strength I needed to end things with Dragon for good.  But what I got with Dennis wasn’t exactly the story-book romance I had always thought I wanted.

Dennis took me to my senior prom, 1999

Let me tell you, if you have been corrupted by romance novels like I was, please do not let the men in them be your standard for potential suitors!  If I had done that, I would never have married the most wonderful man I’ve ever known.  Dennis is strong, sure.  He has practiced martial arts since high school (check out his fab nunchuk skills–promise I didn’t speed it up–and part of his staff form in this video).  He also plays the guitar, so he’s got the sexy musician thing going for him too.  :)  He’s intelligent, witty, and kind.  But Dennis isn’t particularly tall, and although I find him very attractive, he’s not one of the tall-dark-and-handsome super-studs that parade through romance novels.  He’s easy-going and probably wouldn’t recognize if I ever needed to be defended or rescued until I’d already been slaughtered.  He’s a complete and utter goofball (you’ll also see evidence of that in the video), he snores to beat the band, is missing a tooth, tries to kill us every time he gets behind the wheel (or so I’m convinced), he lifts his pinky off his spoon when he eats soup, looks like Shrek when he wakes up in the morning, and his hair is thinning and going gray.  Where was that in my romance novels?

What I found instead was something real, and with time I’ve come to realize it’s so much better than fiction.  You won’t find any man in the romance novels suffering from food poisoning and curled around a toilet when his woman calls him and asks if he can bring her insulin to work because she forgot it.  And him have to change his pants twice before leaving the house to bring it to her, because, well, you know, accidents happen when you’re suffering from food poisoning.  (For the record, I did not know he had food poisoning when I called him!  I would never have asked him if I had known.  But he came anyway!)  No man in the romance novels ever whined like a baby at the suggestion that he try a new food, or threw back the shower curtain and started doing kickboxing while wet to air dry, or tried to pee without using his hands so he wouldn’t have to wash them afterward, and ended up making a huge mess instead (that he most definitely cleaned up himself, thank you very much).  I had no warning for what I got with Dennis, but my journey with him has been a complete joy.

Sometimes, as in the case of the Pioneer Woman (if you haven’t read her book, From Black Heels to Tractor Wheels, I recommend it highly!), real-life romance does live up to the novel and you get your beefy hunk that is so masculine that testosterone oozes from  his pores and your knees go weak if you even sense he might be within 500 miles.  Dennis and I did, and do even more so now, have a strong physical passion for each other, but it was never the driving force behind our love, like it seems to be in the romance novels.  It’s more like our souls are linked together and I need him in my life to be complete.  I crave him and relish our time together, no matter how it is spent.

What I got with Dennis is true romance.  I really feel I took the most perfect man alive away from every other more eligible woman, but I don’t regret it one bit!  He’s all mine, and I’m keeping him!  :)  And I really hope that every person reading this feels the same way about their partner.  Or that, if not, you will follow Jesus’ advice that I have to repeat to myself when Dennis is about to push me over the edge with his antics (believe me, they’re not all funny or adorable): take the log out of my own eye so I can see the speck in his better to help remove it.  (Matthew 7:1-5)  So far, I’ve kept myself so busy pulling logs out of my eyes that I haven’t had much time to try to remove any specks from his, and I’m pretty sure those specks I’m seeing are just splinters left behind from the logs in my own eyes!

So there you have it, the concise “story of us,” and why I feel such gratitude for the man in my life.  He proved to me that reality can be stranger (we’re an odd couple, all right!), and much better than fiction.  I thank God every day for him.

Dennis putting the finishing touches on a coconut cake he made for me. :)

At The Flying Pig before this back room was turned into the massage room.

Paddle boating on the Arkansas river

Dennis was doing some Kung Fu moves with this bat'leth (Clingon weapon for you non-Trekkies like me) before I snapped the shot.

Us today! :)


Cookie Love

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I may have mentioned before that my favorite food group is cookies.  In my perfect world, the food pyramid would have cookies at the bottom, dips next, then all other desserts, then all other carbs like bread, pasta, and potatoes, then fruits and veggies, and at the very top, to be eaten sparingly, would be meat.  Alas, that isn’t very balanced and eating that way would kill me, but a girl can dream. ;)

Funny that although I love cookies more than anything else, I rarely make them.  I may have also mentioned before that I rarely make treats that I REALLY like because I can’t control myself around them.  Seriously, it isn’t unusual for me to eat more than a dozen cookies when I bake them.  It’s ridiculous.

But I’m getting really excited about the upcoming cookie swaps I’m participating in.  There’s the one for bloggers, and there’s the worldwide cookie swap I’m hosting for non-bloggers (sign up here!).  I’m buying half-price Halloween candy left and right, justifying it with my husband by telling him, “this would be great in cookies!”

I thought I would share some cookie eye candy I’ve come across on Pinterest.  I haven’t decided which cookies I’ll be mailing for the swaps, but I’m saving the ones I’m considering for myself!  I want the person that gets my cookies to be surprised so there are no spoilers below.  Still, it doesn’t hurt to drool a little over these beauties.

How delicious and soft do these almond cookies look?

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

How cute would these be for Thanksgiving? Pumpkin-shaped peanut butter cookies!

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

Apple Cider Caramel Cookies. Just look at those chewy middles. I die.

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

Another adorable fall cookie–no baking required! Chocolate and Peanut Butter Acorns

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

Cinnamon and Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Pie Cookies (!!!)

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

These Oreo Pudding Cookies have Hershey’s Cookies ‘n Cream candy bars in the middle! Aaaaa!

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

Another easy but completely and utterly deliciously over-the-top cookie. I so have to do this.

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

And I even drool over healthy cookies, like these Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bakes!

Source: via Veronica on Pinterest

Now, after eying all these gorgeous treats, aren’t you in the mood to do some cookie swapping?  So far there are 18 people signed up (yay!) and I would like to beat my personal goal of 50 participants.  That would be 150 dozen cookies being sent in the mail-that’s a lot of love going around! :)  I have two participants from Germany and one from Australia, so if you are outside the US, please consider signing up so these guys will be able to participate (I only match people within the same country).  Ready to swap cookies?  Click here to sign up!

Have a blessed weekend!

**Update: just 20 minutes after posting this, we’ve got another Australian and now a South African, plus another handful of Americans, bringing the total to 25 – halfway to my goal. I’m really thinking we’ll beat my goal by the end of today! This makes me do a lot of this: :D This Christmas will not only be extra merry for everyone sending and receiving cookies, but for the postal employees (worldwide!) who have increased job security because of it.  Thanks everyone, you rock!*

Chocolate Torte

*A note before the blog: I have updated my cherry cordials recipe with notes on how to make sure the centers liquify and included a new picture from my latest batch with liquified centers.

Without realizing it, I scheduled a sandwich bread recipe to post today, Valentine’s Day, which included no mention of love or chocolate, or even an apology for giving a bread recipe on the international day of love.  So I hurriedly snapped pictures of our dessert today so that I could atone for my sins.  ;)

Usually I steer clear of desserts that don’t include real butter, sugar (preferably more than one kind), and white flour.  But I’m discovering that not all sweet treats need to be loaded with fat and processed sugar and flour to taste good.

I made this chocolate torte for our Valentine’s Day dessert and we both loved it with a little whipped cream on top.  It is soft, moist, and almost fudgy because of the dates.  The recipe was born of a mistake, having used dates instead of the prunes it originally called for.  I really liked the result, but will be trying it with prunes next time, which I think will give it more of a cake consistency.  With the dates, it’s somewhere between and a brownie and a cake.  It definitely tastes healthier than regular full-fat and full-sugar desserts, but not in an off-putting way.  It is probably my favorite diet-friendly dessert to date!  That it has natural, whole-food ingredients like dates and whole wheat flour is as an added bonus and makes me feel like I’m almost eating health-food.

Chocolate Torte

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/3 cup cocoa powder, plus 1 tsp for dusting
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup strong, hot coffee
1/3 cup whole-wheat flour
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tbsp egg substitute or 1 egg white
2 tsp vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350˚. Coat a 9″ tart pan with cooking spray. Dust with 1 tsp cocoa. Set aside. Combine dates and coffee in a large bowl. Set aside to cool. Sift remaining 1/3 cup cocoa, flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a small bowl and stir. To the date mixture, add sugar, applesauce, egg substitute and vanilla and stir until combined. Pour dry mixture into the wet and stir until combined. Pour into prepared pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out mostly clean, about 25 minutes. Cool completely before removing and slicing. Serve with whipped cream.

Serves 8. Per slice: 153 calories; .7 fat; 43 g carbohydrates; 4 g fiber; 3 g protein

Recipe source: adapted from Self

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