You know how life is just a bowl of cherries?
Well, how about how life is just a strainer full of heart pasta?
I’ve been making pasta with my own red sauce for years and years now. 20 years to be exact... And pasta always sounds good to me.
And while I’ve never made such adorable heart-shaped noodles to go along with my sauce until this month, I’ve always put a lot of heart into the recipe and the act of cooking it.
Back during my sophomore year in college, I was able to room and board in the newest dormitory housing style available on campus at that time. Now formally named after a donor to the college, back then the building was simply called “The Townhouses” - and it was, and is, in my opinion, the best dorm on campus of the small liberal arts college I attended back years ago.
So, going from a tiny and basic dorm room during my freshman year, into a suite of rooms connected with a kitchenette inside a shared living room, my second year, I was living the very best life for me at the time. And I loved that dorm as much as I loved my studies there.
The other amazing thing about The Townhouses, was the basement sitting deep underneath it.
The building houses a vast and open traditional basement, set up feeling just like a house. Even complete with a full kitchen downstairs. You know, for all the scratch made meals, Thanksgiving dinners, and home-cooked Sunday brunches that college students make on a regular basis while doing their coin laundry next to the computer lab.
And while that kitchen sat empty and collecting dust much of the year. I was determined to make use of it.
Eager to cook.
And very desperate for a home-cooked meal.
So when I realized one of the benefits of living in The Townhouses was that I was allowed free-reign over that basement kitchen, I knew I wanted to get down those stairs to that windowless basement and make myself right at home.
And, standing there looking at this really fun feature of my dorm, I immediately knew I wanted to do something special.
So, instead of just cooking a simple dinner for one, or two, or for even all my suite-mates, I had this grand and elaborate idea of cooking for the entire cross country team.
If you’re familiar with cross country and track, then you know about the traditional Friday night pasta dinners that go along with it.
Many such events were hosted by our coaches and assistant coaches, or alums, each and every week throughout the long autumn season of NCAA Division III athletics.
Well, I guess I decided I wanted in on this long-standing tradition and fun cooking festivity and celebration. I had a kitchen... I had a kitchen and I was going to use it.
I told everyone... pasta party at The Townhouses.
And word spread fast.
Not via cell phones.
And certainly not even through simple messaging or texting.
Four years before Facebook was invented.
Literally - just word of mouth.
And, knowing that I had just committed myself to host a team pasta party, I had to get supplies…
With little money - no credit card, or even a debit card yet, and a bit of cash, I went shopping.
I remember buying lots of boxes of pasta noodles. And lots of cans and jars of all that tomato-ey goodness.
With no recipe to follow...
I was getting myself ready to make A.LOT. Of sauce.
But before I could start cooking, and become Chef Bean in the kitchen of my dreams, in the windowless basement of a large building, I had to do one more thing.
I probably shouldn’t have told everyone that I was going to be cooking pasta and sauce for them without checking that basement kitchen for supplies… Or even merely for some pots???
Yes, there was a kitchen, but it was only after the informal and casual invite went out that I then discovered there were no pots, pans, mitts, serving utensils. Etc. Something… anything…. essential to the meal preparation - essential to any chef. But all things that a college student on a meal plan would not ever need to be thinking about.
If I needed it to pull off Bean’s Basement Bash with success, it was NOT going to happen at this rate.
I needed to buy a whole lot of stuff.
And I mostly needed a pot...
And so, without access to a car, I was limited to walking distance of the college. And I went shopping.
I was in search of a kitchen supply store.
Naperville, Illinois is part of a small and gorgeous downtown - a very nice, upscale, expensive, and fancy, and wonderful downtown. And while I do very much love downtown Naperville, there’s not much shopping a college student could do there any day of the week.
Knowing I couldn't drive anywhere, I looked up kitchen supply stores closest to me, and found a place called: Williams Sonoma...
Ok? I hope that's really a kitchen store? …..
Never heard of it at the time.
I walked there.
I went inside.
And I immediately knew I was in big trouble.
As my jaw dropped... at the prices….
Of the most beautiful copper pots my eyes had ever seen. I asked if they had anything less expensive? Oblivious, and not knowing anything about the store that I was standing inside.
The price tags sent me away in quite a little hurry. Actually, the price tags practically pushed me out the door and slammed it in my face.
But not before I took one last glance at the shiny, beautiful, and DREAMY copper pots. I stood outside the doors of the shop. Clueless. Shocked. And feeling very, very defeated.
Face to face with breathtaking pots, way over my price range, I said goodbye to Williams Sonoma. I said goodbye to a store that is now one of my favorite stores in any shopping mall it resides within. I may not own much of anything from there, still to this day… but I thoroughly enjoy looking at all the products when out and about. Browsing and dreaming.
And I didn’t know much about copper back then either. I just knew I liked the look of it. It brought back memories of Sunday with my father’s side of the family - the Italian side of my family. Sunday’s meant cooking in big old pots. And copper on the backsplash walls of my Papa and Grandma’s old kitchen - sitting inside their old house in the city of Chicago.
And also to this very day, I have a digital list on my phone, sitting in my notes app, entitled: Bean’s List.
I have lots of lists in my life:
I have Rory Gilmore pro-and-con lists.
I have grocery lists.
Two Week Plan lists.
I have lots of lists.
But my favorite list of all is Bean’s List.
Bean’s List is simply my ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING list. It’s my DREAM list.
It’s random. It’s anything I want to buy. And it’s everything I cannot afford.
It’s goals and wants and desires and dreams.
It’s my fun list.
And on that list - a list that I used to house on physical paper - sits a copper pot from Williams Sonoma.
Yes, I’ve now wanted a real copper pot for 20 years. 20 freaking years… Since the year 2000, during my sophomore year in college. Since Bean’s first Basement Bash held outside the walls of my family home growing up. Since my pasta party for the cross country team. Since that day I was in literal shock, and since the day my jaw sat on the ground as I dragged myself out of Williams Sonoma. Since the day I goodbye to the kitchen store of my dreams.
That’s how long I have wanted my own piece of copper to place inside my very own kitchen.
A beautiful, shiny, new, dreamy, and very large, copper pot. One that was sitting high up on the highest shelf in the expensive and wonderful Williams Sonoma.
Someday I will get that copper pot.
Even if I have absolutely zero space in my small kitchen to store it. I don’t care. I will sit it out on display somewhere. It can be housed on my stove top for all I care. That way I can stare at it. And dream of parties. Dream of cooking. Dream of cooking for other people. Dream of carb-loading for cross country meets. Dream of my grandparents house as a child. A small kitchen, with lots of food, lots of laughs. Italian Papa cooking the red sauce, Irish grandma talking with us kiddos. And copper hanging on the wall of the kitchen backsplash.
So that’s why a Williams Sonoma copper pot has been on Bean’s List for over twenty years now...
And yes, I ended up finding a pot for that party. And, I ended up hosting the Bash, just as planned. And yes, it was a fun night.
It was so fun that I never forgot that night. That Bash. At a place where any night and every night is a good night for a party - college. That night - was a great night.
And today, I don’t remember how well the food turned out? I don’t remember what ingredients I used in my first attempt at red sauce?
I just remember the joy of cooking. But mostly, I remember the joy of cooking for other people. And wanting for as many people as humanly possible to feast from that pot of sauce.
And that’s why red sauce is such an important meal to me, why we make it all the time, why we love it dearly, and why I wanted to share it with you today... Today - during the season of love… and during the month of Valentines… and red… and hearts. A time for simple - and shareable - red sauce.
But regardless of how many people one is cooking for. And regardless of the size of the pot. And regardless of the brand name of the pot that the meal is being cooked within. In the end, maybe cooking doesn’t have to be about any of that.
Maybe it’s about all the heart and soul that is poured, and grounded, and crushed, and chopped, and heated, and sautéed inside of that pot that really matters the very most.
While the meal may not have turned out perfect, the pot may have been old and scratched - a team of people still showed up to dine and to have some fun together. As they all sat inside of The Townhouses. Thinking about the upcoming run, and maybe even discussing the race taking place the following morning. But probably, and mostly, just chatting about that week’s episode of Dawson’s Creek. Or maybe The Princess Bride was being watched yet again.
And maybe while chatting over prime-time television, somebody was thinking of a pot… A pot made of copper, shiny and new; a large beast of a pot - taking up a lot of space inside the small kitchen of a very small apartment. And maybe while contemplating that shiny pot, the chef was dreaming of all the pasta-bilities yet to come. ~
Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
Do you use any copper pots in your kitchen? I would absolutely love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Also, y’all can check out these other delicious and comforting recipes from Bean’s Kitchen, here:
10) Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38) The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43) Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
47) Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
And, if you want to find out more about how I lost a whole lotta weight - completely naturally, and while utilizing the above recipes - plus, tips on maintaining weight loss, you can check out some stuff on all that right here:
7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act Of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
21) Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
37) New Year/New 007 ~ Here’s 20 Tips That Will Have You Seeing 20/20 In 2020 ~
A picture is worth a thousand words.
Or, maybe, a picture is worth just a few more words than that….
Happy Valentine’s Day y'all.
I want you to think of love.
I post to you each Monday and each Friday.
And today is Friday.
And as I do each and every week, I had been working all week on a post for today.
Sometimes, I write to you immediately after an experience - such as right after the Key West Half Marathon, or after Sea & Sky Jax Weekend, or Beaches for Australia, or my visit to the Southern Living Idea House, or lots of other events I attend and write about immediately thereafter...
And sometimes, what you receive from me is something else entirely. It’s something that I work at for a very long time. And it’s something that builds into what you eventually receive for publication when I deem it complete and ready.
Just like paint brought to a canvas…
I paint two ways. Sometimes, I paint long, and slow, and detailed, in many layers. And the painting builds and builds and builds over time. Over time equals hours, days, weeks, or months. Many, many months. Until I have a complete story displayed on canvas and ready for eyes to view it. To read the story of the painting itself.
But, sometimes, this idea, my story - my painting - comes to me immediately, in the blink of an eye. Literally. And I paint it, immediately. Quickly. Fast. I have to get it onto the canvas or my brain will burst from the passion coming forth.
Today, your post was going to be a completely different post than the one you are receiving and now reading. I had been diligently working and preparing the post as I always do over a matter of time. And then…
THEN, Valentine’s Day EVE came. Valentine's Day very late night EVE actually arrived.
And everything about that EVE - that YESTERDAY, and that TODAY - changed.
And EVERYTHING - means EVERYTHING.
In the blink of an eye. In the click of the camera. In the sight of a photo. Everything changed. And I had a new story to tell. A new story to write. Quick! Need to get the paint onto canvas. Brain is bursting and overflowing! Right. Now.
So today’s post that you are now reading is completely different - world’s away from the one I had planned to publish today for your reading pleasure and enjoyment.
On Valentine’s Eve, after coming home and entering my very cozy, and my very small, and my very basic, and my very, very perfect little apartment, I instantly changed once again. Merely because the LOVE I feel inside me grew bigger in that one second. That one moment in time.
I came home and received love and happiness. Something I am met with every night, the only difference is last night we took a photo of it.
I came home to my own Valentine love nest, and received love in return.
Valentine love nest.
Are you picturing two cute little feathery birdies yet? If you are not imagining birdies. Go ahead right now and queue up bird imagery in your head..
Will now proceed.
Imagine a nest.
A nest with cute little adorable birdies sitting inside it.
Maybe some red birdies? Or brown birdies? Maybe those birdies are sitting in an evergreen tree? They are sitting in their nest on a branch, and they are looking down on the world right now.
Or maybe that soft and cute and cuddly and quite feathery little birdie isn’t even an actual bird by the way.
Maybe the birdie is really a doggie.
Or maybe our little, figurative, and way too cute birdie is your spouse.
Your significant other.
Your furry critter.
Your friend - who lives many states away. Your friend you just had to say goodbye to. Your friend who hopped on a train to ride the rails to a far off land. That friend - who just visited you at work. Your workplace being her final stop. Her final stop on a very important visit to a very important place. And she came to your work to say goodbye to you upon her departure. And as you hugged each other. As you took one last selfie. And as she walked away to go drive to the train station…. you both yelled out “I LOVE YOU!” In front of a million strangers. But neither of you cared. Because your love for each other and the experiences you’ve shared together matter more than what any stranger could ever think of you shouting out your expression of love. Of one another. And of life itself.
Maybe, you came home last night from work, and you were met with love. That love from your turtle. Your guinea pig. That love from your critter. The love from another. The love from yourself. The love from God himself.
Love in all its forms.
Maybe, the love from our dearly departed filled your home. Maybe they were watching you eat dinner. And you felt their presence inside your warm house. Knowing full well they are always with you.
Maybe you came home to your dog who missed you dearly while you were away for nine hours.
Maybe you sat down with your doggie and hubby and you watched Blue Bloods and ate a quick late night dinner from Wendys. A burger with no mayo at 510 calories. Maybe you watched Danny Reagan kick a few butts. And maybe you watched Jamie Reagan change the word in 42 minutes and 30 seconds flat, as he tends to do every episode. Maybe you watched Danny Reagan eat his Sunday dinner while you ate your Thursday night dinner.
Maybe Danny Reagan had to say goodbye to his eldest son, who was leaving to go off to college in Season 9.
Maybe the Reagan family opened their home to the newest member of the family.
Maybe while the Reagan’s had to say goodbye to Jack, they said hello to Eddie. And Eddie now eats dinner with the Reagan’s each Sunday. An empty seat is filled by another. Love all around. Love in the air.
So, getting back to our love nest. And the cute birdies sitting in the tree in their own nest.
Because that’s what happened to me last night. I went home. And I was met by my own birdies in my own nest.
I came home, after a long and wonderful and blessed day, and I was met with the birdies who share that nest with me.
My birdie was brown!
It was a SHE!
Oh wait… and a HE!
My birdies in my very own nest were my very own brown doggie. And my husband.
I came home to them both - and it was Valentine's EVE.
I had a great, and a long, and a fabulous day yesterday. As I do each and every day. I told you each day is the best day of my life, right?
I worked all day. Then. My husband picked me up. He had a load of groceries in the back seat, by the way.
And we went home.
And at this home, it had been a very long day for a little doggie to be parted from her Mama as usual.
Upon walking in the door, my precious little doggie greeted me as she always does.
But one thing was different about that greeting last night. That one thing is the reason you are now reading this story instead of another one.
I sat down on the kitchen floor.
To receive the love from my dog straight on. And at her height level.
And we cuddled as usual.
But it was just so very cute.
And I became so very curious?........
I asked my husband to take a photo of my doggie.
My doggie was giving me a big hug. And I always wonder. How does my little birdie in her nest look out at the world beyond me when she is hugging me? I can’t see behind me, of course. I want to know what all that love she gives me looks like from behind?
And my husband was standing in our kitchen with me and our little birdie angel. He was unloading the groceries he had brought home. Loading them onto the counter top, behind Me…. And I said to my husband… What does our little doggie angel look like when she hugs me? Here - take a photo for me would you please?
I reached into my stuffed pockets. From my heavy and thick and full and very dirty work pants.
I grabbed my iPhone out of the big pocket. And handed my phone to my hubby to take a photo.
And he did just that.
And that photo is why you are receiving this post today instead of something that’s been since erased.
Happy Valentine’s Day WORLD.
Today, I want you to love yourself. I want you to love others. I want you to love your Valentine. Love those who live in your love nest with you. Better yet, love those who live in other love nests that surround yours - all the nests sitting in the very same tree, but just sitting and resting upon different branches. Or merely different twigs.
And, maybe your nest has more than one birdie sitting inside it. Just like mine does.
After I got home. And after I received the unconditional love from a dog hug. After my husband snapped a digital picture. And after a story came to me in a flash. In the blink of an eye. There was one more surprise waiting for me at the end of the night last night.
I was gone from home yesterday all day. I was very messy and I was very dirty. I felt love and life and God himself inside me though.
So as I sat on the kitchen floor.
And as my brown doggie greeted me and hugged me.
And after husband took that photo that I requested… He said...
“Happy Valentine’s Day”
And, all three of us turned to face each other. Me. Husband. Dog.
And Hubby handed me a bouquet of beautiful pink tulips.
Flowers for HIS own Valentine Birdie. I guess I’m a bird too? I instantly grabbed the flowers. And I cried of happiness.
So there we all sat.
On the kitchen floor, of the nest, in our second story tree house villa.
Brown Birdie was hugging Mama Birdie.
Husband Birdie was handing Mama Birdie some flowers.
Mama Birdie was very hot, very messy, and very sweaty. Spills and stains and hours of that sweat all over her dirty clothes. With hugs and flowers. And lots of happiness. And lots of endless love.
And Husband Birdie took the picture.
The picture worth a thousand words… Or, 1661 words to be exact.
Happy Valentine’s Day, from my nest, to your nest. And to all birdies, and all the eggs, in all the nests, resting on all the branches, in all the trees, in all the World.~
What do you love the most about Valentines Day? I’d love to know. Tell me with a comment down below:
And. By the way… Here’s some more STUFF for y’all:
2] 3 Wow’s Plus 1 Piece Of Magic I Experienced At Jacksonville, Florida’s Cummer Museum Of Art & Gardens
11] Eleven South Bistro & Bar ~~ Supper Club Of The South
18] Sea & Sky Jax Weekend ~ Fun In The Florida Sun, Sea, Sky & Sand
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
23] Faith ~ And Life Lessons Learned Living With Wild & Untamable Hair
24] In Real Life ~ My First Visit To A Southern Living Idea House
26] Deck The Chairs ~ BE THAT CHANGE YOU WISH TO SEE IN THIS OUR VERY OWN AND SHAREABLE WORLD
28] The Scent of Christmas in the Air
34] Merry Christmas ~ And How To Buy For That Person On Your List Who Saved Your Life ~
36] The End Of A Decade & My New Year’s Wish To You ~
48] Love & Donuts In The Air @ Beaches For Australia
*Part of - Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge - series
It’s that time of year again, my friends. Love is in the air. Valentine’s Day is upon us. Whether you have a Valentine in your life or not, go ahead and celebrate. Be your own Valentine if you must. Love yourself as much as you love those around you… Or, at least love yourself as much as I love donuts.
And so with donuts in mind, if you haven’t been to the Mini Bar in Jax Beach, it’s time to seriously consider the following question:
What else on Earth are you waiting for?
In my case, I guess it was the fires in Australia that finally led me to the land of the most magical and mini donuts.
I know, I know. I live in Jax Beach. The Mini Bar is located in Jax Beach. I love donuts. I love coffee. How - How is it humanly possible that I never visited this establishment before now?
Believe you me when I say that I had been wanting to go to The Mini Bar for quite some time. I had even popped my head in back in the past. It was on a busy day, and I had been next door at the Dollar Tree running errands. And curious about this amazing looking place, I glanced inside before popping back in my car.
So I had seen, but I had not tasted. I never took a seat, and never ordered a coffee, and most importantly, never ordered the donuts, yet.
I had just never got around to it, as they say.
But when I saw the Facebook and Instagram posts telling me about an event at both The Mini Bar and Southern Swells to raise funds for the wildlife affected in the Australian fires, I knew it was finally time to officially check the place out.
On Saturday, February 8th, both The Mini Bar and Southern Swells co-hosted the fundraiser, along with a variety of local vendors set up in the outdoor courtyard area surrounding the businesses.
While all those koala bears seem so far away to me, it doesn’t mean seeing their burned hands hasn’t had me wondering what can I do to help. The images of all those homeless animals hurts my very soul. A huge animal lover in my heart, it crushes me to see our Earth’s defenseless creatures not being able to survive and thrive on their own, let alone their entire houses - their natural habitat - being utterly destroyed. And, if I can contribute even a tiny bit, each person doing their part makes a difference. So I knew I wanted to attend.
And I’m very glad I did. I love seeing all the local small businesses that attend these types of events. But mostly, I just enjoy checking out the atmosphere. Seeing new establishments and shops that I’ve never been to before. And of course, looking up at all the donuts in the sky.
I really enjoy checking out how a variety of local small business owners such as jewelers and artists incorporate local coastal treasures into their designs and wares for sale. Local honey, local seashells and oyster shells, local sea glass, local clay molded into jewelry. We even have a local dog park here at the beach y’all! Sign up to become a member why don’t ya. And my favorite item of the day, locally poured soy candles.
I purchased a very generously sized two-wick candle from Lumi Bean. Vegan, soy, and locally poured in Jax. I’ve been drawn to anything citrus scented lately; whether it’s been citrus candy, citrus all-natural household cleaning spray, or citrus body wash, etc... if it’s citrus, I’ve been wanting it. So I immediately grabbed the citrus candle, breathed in the refreshing and clean scent, and knew that’s what I wanted to purchase at the event. Candles were $18.00 or 2 for $30.00. I went with one of the 16 oz. large candles, and am quite excited about my purchase.
After checking out all the vendors in the courtyard, we then went inside The Mini Bar to finally purchase a box of their signature mini donuts.
‘Treat Yo’self’ lit up on the wall, and donuts served out of an orange and white automobile, the vibe inside the Mini Bar is one of modernity, openness, clean, and fun.
Coffees, teas, and local beer on top, the menu is broad and basic at the same time. It’s coffee and donuts… or donuts and beer… or… whatever you like. Either way - get the donuts.
We purchased a small hot latte for myself, and hubby ordered the 16 oz. nitro cold brew.
And we also ordered a box of 16 mini donuts. They have boxes of 4, 8, 16, and 24 to choose from. We chose 8 of the classic cinnamon sugar donuts, 4 of the Boston creme, 2 espresso buttercream, and 2 bulls eye - which consisted of powdered sugar and a dollop of raspberry jelly on top. With my favorite of the day being the Boston creme and the cinnamon sugar… I know, that’s two favorites - not one favorite, but trust me, I couldn’t pick just one, I love them both equally.
Quite happy with this selection, I would so order this exact box all over again. However, there are so many flavors to choose from - that I’m sure I won’t be 100% completely satisfied until I try them all. I’d call this a good and solid “start” though - I’ll definitely be back.
If you haven’t been to The Mini Bar, get yourself over there. You won’t be sorry. And I’m 100% sure of that.
Treat Yo’Self. Look up and see all the love in the air... And all the donuts in the sky.
Buy a box of fried goodness, and bring it with you to the beach. Walk barefoot in the sand, sip your latte, as you hold hands with your Valentine.~
P.S. ~ Did you know? Leftover donuts are a very good thing to have sitting inside your house.~
Have you been to The Mini Bar in Jax Beach? What’s your favorite donut they serve? Let me know in the comments down below:
If you’re enjoying my Floridian Dreams, check out some of my other adventures living and dreaming in The Sunshine State:
9] Sago Coffee: A Cup Of Friendly & Flavorful Florida
*Part of ~ Bean’s Coffee Shop Challenge ~
14] Finding Trinkets & Treasures @ The Jax Beach Vintage Flea Market
21] Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
22] Saturday On San Pablo Island
31] Tuesday’s On First Street ~ The Jax Beach Art Walk ~
39] The Very Official & Quite Serious Donut Debate Of 2020
44] Nothing Finer Than Coffee In The Keys ~ The Coffee Plantation Cafe
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