Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why Responsiveness is Important in Close Relationships

Ever had the experience when you go to tell someone something major, difficult to tell or emotionally poignant and they give you a response that makes you long to retract what you just revealed or ventured in sharing?  Maybe leaving you feeling judged, or misunderstood.  Or worse, dismissed or not heard?  Its unlikely this was intentional on the responders part, but still, this can be crushing when someone doesn't respond with the attention/interest/care that we hope to receive, lending one feelings of regret for having taken the risk and opening up.  As well as lending one to potentially feel as though their loved one doesn't care so much, or have much interest in understanding/hearing/getting to know them.

Equally, most of us, even if not consciously aware of it, have likely been on the other side as well at some point.  Having given a response to a close friend/loved one that might have made them feel less than understood, deflated, not fully heard or just sad.  We may not even realize having done so.  But its likely, if not safe to say even certain, that we have all done this at some point.  And probably even several times throughout our lives and relationships.  Not given a loved one the attention/care/interest they have sought in some moments with us.

Part of this is just a result of being human.  Its hard, having or knowing the right thing to say in uncomfortable moments of pain or high emotion.  It is equally challenging, in fact its probably impossible, to ever be "on" and able to be fully responsive/a good listener in all the moments that we might be called upon by someone we care about for such.

However, unfortunately this is a tough and precarious thing.  Here is why.  On the one hand, its asking too much of people to expect they will always respond in the "right" way.  It just isn't possible.  Sometimes, we mess up or we aren't in the best moods ourselves, or we just aren't emotionally available in that moment to offer what our loved one needs in terms of a response.


But, on the other side of the coin, despite it not being realistic to expect that those around us will ever respond in the right way, what can happen when they (or we ourselves) don't or aren't able to do this? 

It can have a deeply hurtful, lasting effect.  Possibly even shaking our trust in that person, or giving us the feeling of not wanting to go to them again with something of such tenuous emotional nature.  Being given the wrong response just once, depending on how severe and the nature of such, can sadly, potentially even alter a relationship.

By how we respond to our loved ones/those we care about when they come to us with something important/big/emotional, these moments have the potential to make or break the connection.  These moments can either serve in accelerating or de-accelerating trust and closeness between the two people. 

It seems an unfair thing because as stated above, of course we will not always be able to respond in the right way, just as a result of life's general busyness, complexity and unpredictability.  With so many factors at play including our own moods, things like work pressure or dealing with an issue in ones own life at the moment, or, just feeling awkward and tongue tied when someone tells us something upsetting or uncomfortable.  We will sometimes mess up and not respond in quite the right way.

So, how does one learn to respond in such ways that will hopefully avoid this?  To respond in ways that increase, rather than decrease, connection.  How can one learn the art of being a great receiver when they are approached by loved ones in emotional need?

First, I feel its important to define connection.  If we want to best learn how to connect deeply with those we wish to be close to, we must understand what connection means.  The best definition I found is this:  connection is the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued.  When they can give and receive without judgements, and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.

I also feel a definition of responsiveness is important, as being responsive is one of the key ingredients to helping those close to us feel heard, seen and valued.  Responsiveness refers to the degree that both what you say and do correlate in responding clearly and directly to the other person and what they just said.  In being responsive, others know that you care and are listening. 

Responsiveness also means, at times, extending yourself for someone you care about at a crucial juncture.  For example, this can mean putting down what you are working on and instead, turning towards your loved one who has just come to you with something important.  Despite having other priorities competing for your attention, instead choosing to give it to this person in that moment in knowing its important.  Responsiveness can also mean, when someone you care about reaches out for help, even though it isn't a great time and you too are busy, dropping what you are doing in order to help anyway. 

Responsiveness is essentially turning towards the other person, as often as you are able, even if sometimes it isn't convenient.

An important note though: I am not saying that in order to be responsive, this means dropping everything at all times for those around you.  This would result in a life where you never got anything done, were ever living as a garbage disposal to others peoples trials and problems, and lived your life in accordance with pleasing others.  As well as not being a healthy nor realistic way to live or have relationships.

Instead, I am merely noting that how we respond and tune into those we care about and want to be close with...it matters.  Brushing someone off, even just once?  It can matter deeply, depending on how important the moment is.  However, its equally human not to be able to ever be "on" and always respond in just the right way to all the needs of those around us.  This would be unrealistic and impossible.  We will sometimes mess up and not respond to those bidding for our attention in the way they had hoped or needed.

With that said though, its of paramount importance in terms of building and maintaining deep connections with others, that we do so as often as we are able.  That, in knowing how important such a behavior is in terms of trust and closeness between people, that we treat responsiveness with the care and attention it deserves.  Knowing that being responsive has the power to either build or chip away at the closeness between people.  If we are consistently, more often than not, able to turn towards people we love, this is the glue that binds people together.  That builds a deep sense of love, trust and connection in relationships.  That leads to an immensely powerful sense of understanding, empathy and caring between people.  Its one of the most awesome and fulfilling aspects of human life, experiencing this kind of closeness and feelings of understanding with another person.  And in order to do this, the key ingredient?  Responsiveness.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Weekly Wanderings

Those cookies look pretty spectacular, eh?  With the Christmas season under way, my cooking buddy and I thought it only fitting to whip up some seasonal bite sized treats. 

The recipe for each can be found at the bottom of this blog entry.

The two photos above, from the Main street in Concord, MA.  How charming is this little café?  The downtown area, quaint and lovely.

Where I spent the day after Thanksgiving- and delightful if I do say so myself.

For this cheesy green bean/cauliflower/mushroom bake, super easy, healthy and tasty, here is the recipe.

An awesome evening at MFA (the swanky dance that Museum of Fine Arts holds on the first Friday of every month) with two people whom I love spending time with.  The night made even better by an unexpected surprise, which made my night.

Oh yeah.  My kind of magnet.

Robert, hangin in the paper recycling bin.  The best place to chill out, obviously.

My favorite evening spot at home <3

Finally!  Something that captures the general essence of how I feel about selfies ;-)

Pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust.  For a better photo, see just below.  And yes, believe it or not, both photos are the same cake.  Just different lighting and settings. 

One of the best cheesecakes Ive ever eaten.  For the recipe, click here.

Want to make this tasty pumpkin cheesecake treat?  Here's how to do so.

The above four photos, Umami in Northwood, NH.  An old barn converted restaurant/café.  I LOVE the interior.  Cozy but so rustic.  Inviting, romantic, very New Hampshire.  Highly recommend a visit here.  They have an extensive menu of café drinks, as well as some mouthwatering looking burgers and other homey dishes on offering.

I came here for tea/coffee and writing with a great friend, during which we wrote a recent blog entry that's been a fairly big hit: "Why Challenging, as opposed to Easy Relationships, are Ultimately More Fulfilling, Growth Inducing and Satisfying."

This book is excellent.  Ive almost finished reading it after starting a few days ago.  Its written in a personable, conversational tone that's engaging and fun for the reader, but enlightening and informative.  Highly recommend for anyone who likes to write.

Now this book was a surprise for me.  Both, in that I picked it up at all, and additionally, that I am really loving it.  Not the usual type of read I would go for, either in terms of writing style or topic matter.  But this is a great book.  Its fiction, about an old, semi washed up musician named Bad.  He has several ex-wives under his belt, a drinking problem and is a bit of a resigned loner of sorts.  However, by chance he meets a young woman, a reporter wishing to interview him, and the two are both surprised to find they seem to feel a unique click/draw between them.  Some things begin shifting/growing in Bad emotionally that even are surprising to him.

First, the authors prose is excellent.  The writing, superb, lyrical, really fun to read.  The story, unique and interesting.  I recommend giving this one a try, even if you aren't sure its something you would typically like.
With Maxx :-D

One of my very favorite places in all of Boston.  The library <3

Breakfast :-D.  Fried eggs in red pepper rings, chicken jalepeno sausages, and pancakes made from only the following ingredients: eggs, bannaas, vanilla extract and spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger).  They came out so fluffy and delicious though. 

This may soon be a feature on Brooke and Maxxs Culinary Crafts... ;-)

Georgetown Cupcakes.  Possibly the best frosting in all of Boston.  I'm a serious advocate for the idea of their serving up frosting shots.  Cupcake, optional.  The cakes are quite good too though, but man oh man, this frosting.  The above photo?  A semi excessive decision that resulted in much moaning over their mouthwatering yumminess, lots of laughter and brief splitting stomach aches after the fact.

Peppermint cheesecake cupcake. The wildcard we sampled.  Agreeing that with the frosting on top, was too much.  But without it, would have been fairly decent.

A book I happened upon in the library that I've added to my ever growing "to read" list.

Our living room, all decked out for the holidays!  Now, doubly my favorite spot to spend time in when at home.  LOVE this.

And, as promised, the Christmas cookie recipes from the very beginning of the blog:

Brooke's Brown Butter, Honey Mascarpone Topped, Bomb Diggity, Bite Sized Ginger Cookies
2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
3/4 cup of browned butter*
1 egg
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of molasses
1 teaspoon of baking soda
About 1 tablespoon of ginger
About 2 tablespoons of cinnamon
About 1 teaspoon of ground cloves
About 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
For the frosting
8 ounces of mascarpone
5-6 tablespoons of honey
1.5 tablespoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1. Brown the butter first. Put the butter into a saucepan over medium heat. Watch it closely. As it boils, it will go from light yellow to having bits of light brown inside. A nutty smell filling the air. Its easy to accidentally burn, so remove from heat before you think its time.
2. Cream together the browned butter and sugar (with either a fork or electric hand mixer).
3. Mix in the molasses and egg with a fork by hand.
4. Now stir in the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, spices and vanilla extract.
5. Bake the cookies at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes. They will be soft even when finished. Thats just the way you want them.
6. Allow to cool before frosting.
To make the frosting, simply mix together the four frosting ingredients using a fork. Taste. If not sweet enough, add a bit more honey.
These cookies taste best near to room temperature, but should be stored in the fridge because of the frosting. They will stay good for up to about 3-4 days.

Maxxs Sugar Dusted, Cranberry & Chocolate Spangled Stars
For the cranberry jam
1/2 bag of cranberries (about 6 ounces)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
1/4 cup of juice from an orange
For the chocolate layer:
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted in the microwave at 50% power for 5 minutes.
For the cookies:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of granulated sugar, pulsed in the food processor for 30 seconds to make it superfine.
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of pure almond extract
3/4 cup of butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cranberry jam, combine ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering softly. Remove from heat and place somewhere cool to chill.
Now, make the cookie dough. Cream together butter and sugar. Add in the eggs. Then, stir in the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla and almond extracts.
Place the dough in the fridge to chill for at least an hour (wrapped in plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out), though overnight is ok too.
Roll out dough and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Bake at 375 degrees F for 7-8 minutes, though it could be 12-15 depending on thickness of cookies. Keep a close eye on them.
Once cookies are done, allow to cool before frosting. When cookies are cool, prepare the chocolate layer in the microwave. Then, layer chocolate on top of a cookie. Top the chocolate with a layer of the cooled cranberry jam. Top the ensemble with another cookie, ideally in the same shape. Viola! You've got your finished treat.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

A Few of the Most Memorable Meals of My Life

My favorite café in Frankfurt, Sugar Mama.  One I visited with routine regularity each week.  Loving their huge mugs of green tea, their fudgy brownies and chewy cookies, their towering, frosting laden cakes and cheese saturated grilled sandwiches.  Along with the cozy, living room like atmosphere inside.  It didn't hurt that the girls who worked there all knew my name by heart ;-) making me feel ever welcome.  For my full review and loads of photos of Sugar Mama, click here.

Rudesheim am Rhine, about an hour from Frankfurt, and one of the most magical, scenic little towns you can visit in Germany.  I took a solo trip here one summer afternoon, hopping aboard the train armed with book and camera, ready to explore this little city for the first time.  I realize the memorable meal isn't pictured.  I had a slice of cheesecake and a green tea that afternoon, in a charming little café with an awesome view of the street in the last three photos just above.  So what was memorable wasn't the cheesecake.  It was the atmosphere in which it was eaten.  I returned to this city several times after with loved ones in tow to show them how gorgeous it all was.

This particular meal, while the food itself was totally forgettable, was otherwise poignant, emotional and very much memorable.  My very last night in Frankfurt, Germany, spent with my closest friends over drinks and food, much laughter, as well as punctuated with several quiet/somber moments in tune with my impending departure the following morning.

This place, ever remaining firmly secured at the top within my brunching dreams and most loved eating locales.  Roamers in Berlin, Germany.  Just, wow.  Everything about it.  From the cozy, California ranch/greenhouse like interior, to the beautifully plated food, each item a work of art in itself, to how delicious it actually tastes.  This place is almost worth a trip to Berlin just for brunch.  Cant wait to return and eat there again someday.

For an in-depth essay on brunching coupled by loads more food porn from Roamers, here you go :-D

The Danish Pastry House in Medford, MA.  One of my most loved sweet shops that I've ever happened upon throughout my travels.  And no, its not because I'm biased after having worked there.  Their sweets really are that good.  An authentic European bakery, and a phenomenal one at that.  I recommend any of the following: their gigantic cream puff, the Danish Chocolate cake, an icing snail, the fruit tart (in the first photo above), or their lemon raspberry cake.  All amazing.

These Paleo Carrot Pancakes are awesome.  For those put off by the descriptor "Paleo," ignore that, as it has no bearing on their being totally tasty.  Made with sunflower butter, honey, eggs and shredded carrots.  Topped with maple syrup, they make for a filling, addictive, sweet treat minus grains/gluten, dairy or refined sugar.  Mmmmmm.  Get the recipe here.

This pear gorgonzola gnocchi I sampled in Florence, Italy...wow.  Blew my mind.  Those two flavors playing off each other in the most synergetic of duets.  Loved it so much I went back a few days later for more.  Mmmmm. 

For the full blog entry, including lots of food and other photos, of my first solo trip ever to Florence, Italy for a week, here is the link.

These pancakes.  My childhood Saturday mornings right here.  Dubbed by my mom "Mighty Goods," my brother and I begged for them often, so, so good.  Heres my own spin on the same recipe.  Be warned though, they're really addicting.

Reuniting with one of the closest and longest friendships of my life, Lindsay Emery, after not having seen one another in person for a decade!  This was thrilling, absolutely awesome, SUCH fun, as well as comfortable and easy.  Talk about an outstanding and immensely memorable day with her and Kim, her fiancé.  From our starting out over a delicious lunch at Willows Plant Based Eatery (the food here is great), to wandering Concord, driving past some of our old haunts, and sampling sweets at Crust and Crumb.  Loved every second of it.

Bienenstich, my most sought after German dessert to be sure.  Though a Prinzregententorte competes as a close second.  When made right?  Bienenstich is a fluffy, vanilla cake, sandwiched with sweet pastry cream and topped with a layer of crunchy almonds and honey.  Though I've never been a big almond fan, this cake had me swooning at first bite and has had me hooked ever since.

Trdelnik!  The inspiration for my blog name, as its one of the traditional desserts of Czech Republic/Prague, where this very blog was born.  A sweet dough wound around metal cylinders and baked over an open flame.  When finished, the outside covered in any manner of toppings you so desire, including powdered sugar, cinnamon, nuts or Nutella.

Here is one of the first blog entries I ever wrote!  From back upon my arrival in Prague.

Edinburgh, Scotland with Judith.  First off, hands down one of my favorite cities in the world.  I love the haunting, dark, mysterious feel and aura to the city.  I could wander for days in thrill and wonder.  But man, oh man, the world famous scones of Scotland

I was eager to sample one, though dubious if they would live up to all the claim.  Its just a scone, how delicious can that be?  I wondered, in my typically finding scones to be rather hard, lacking moistness and flavor.  Like something akin to a tasteless rock.  I was bowled over though my this one, served up at the Sir Walter Scott Tearoom.  It was cakey, lightly sweet, heaven in the form of a breaded good.  Slathered with jam and the further traditional clotted cream?  I had to restrain myself from ordering a second, that's for sure.

Since then, I have sampled scones elsewhere, hoping for a similar experience.  Alas, I have found none that come close as of yet.

For a full blog entry of our adventures through Edinburgh, chock full of photos, here you go.

This brunch, at Café Marlette in Paris.  Hands down one of my most memorable.  The spread was expansive.  Soft boiled eggs, crusty French baguette, jams and butters, green tea and hot chocolate, moist banana bread topped with a river of chocolate, a platter of assorted meats and cheeses, just whoa.  Mouthwatering, luxurious, so yummy.

A recipe from my childhood and still one of my favorites.  Homemade macaroni and cheese, though I put a pumpkin spin on it.  Want to make it?  Super easy, you can do so at this link.

This pasta in Italy, sampled at 13 Gobbi in Florence, to die for.  Perfectly seasoned, atop a layering of stringy buffalo mozzarella.  Simple and classic but wildly satisfying and delicious.  The ultimate comfort food. 

For more recommendations for mouthwatering meals in Italy and loads of fantasy worthy photos, click here.

The green tea torte at Iimori in Frankfurt.  A longtime favorite and ever coveted cake among myself and a couple close Germany friends.  We visited this sweet little Asian inspired café weekly.  Loving it for both the atmosphere and the sweets on offering.

As Ive been asked this question several times (for recommendations), a listing of my own personal favorite cafes in Frankfurt.

This day.  A week prior to my departing from Frankfurt, one way, back to the US.  Two of my best friends (Judith and Melissa), a picnic to celebrate my birthday with just the three of us in attendance.  I loved this.  Much laughter, interesting conversation, each of them brought delicious food (homemade pancakes, fruit, muffins).  My heart ached, looking between the two of them, knowing that within days I wouldn't be able to see them weekly as I had been for the last years.  This was a special, emotionally moving, memorable meal for me, with these two.

This meal with Judith in Italy.  Will you check out that view of Tuscany behind us!?!  We were into it, as well as the desserts we ordered, ooooing and ahhhing over, along with an especially hilarious moment of my eating a whole mint leaf and Judith keeling over in laughter.  So much fun.

Ahhh yes.  Switzerland.  Cheese fondue, an authentic traditional Swiss dish, eaten in Zermatt.  Skiing the Swiss Alps.  Pausing for lunch at this chateau of a restaurant tucked into the mountainside.  All of it, utter magic.  A place I felt sure I would never have the chance to visit.  Zermatt, absolutely in my top three favorite travel experiences ever thus far.

For a plethora of photos and further description of the entire adventure, here you go.

Poffertjes in Amsterdam, the traditional Dutch pancake.  Pillowy, soft, sweet, so tasty.  They melt in your mouth.  Covered with a dusting of powdered sugar.  The dessert, coupled with the situation in which we ate these...(wink, wink, nudge, nudge ;-)), great fun.  My travel companion will remember such.  It was pretty hilarious and memorable.

This green tea cinnamon roll from Iimori in Frankfurt?  To die for.  Filled with a sweet cream AND red bean paste, plus green tea, an explosion of varying textures and tastes.  Incredible.

This brunch with Judith at England, England Café in Dresden, Germany was the bomb diggity.  Talk about luxurious, an awesome spread, and in the most charming of atmospheres.

Check out the full details here.

One of my favorite desserts ever.  Tastes like raw brownie dough, but made with no dairy, refined sugar nor gluten.  You can make this in mere minutes.  Its fudgy, indulgent, rich and semi-healthy.  Mmmmmmmm.

Here's how to toss it together.

Another all time favorite.  Matcha blueberry pancakes, made with buckwheat flour so these guys are gluten/grain free, dairy free and with zero refined sugar.  SO yummy, not to mention, pretty to boot.

Coconut Turmeric Pancakes.  Fluffy, light, sweet, totally tasty and filling.  Made with coconut flour, so zero grains/gluten, no dairy nor refined sugar.  These are a cinch to make and even more fun to chow down on.

I know, I know, just one more pancake recipe.  Moody Berry Pancakes, made with a mixture of dark berries, for a tart, sweet, tasty treat.  With buckwheat flour so gluten/grain free, as well as without dairy or sugar.  These make for a perfect brunching entrée.

And man, oh man, for pizza lovers, talk about a life changing recipe right here.  I was hesitant with regards to cauliflower crusts but after sampling this one?  Complete change of tune over here.  This one is cheesy, well herbed, satisfying and totally comfort food-y.  Just, YUM.

This dinner was an especially memorable celebration for meMy first dinner party ever, hosted entirely solo.  Surrounded by several of my closest friends, and a few new ones.  What a hit!  Well over five hours, loads of laughter and awesome food.

Budapest, Hungary stunned me with its offering of, hands down, some of the best food I have ever eaten in my life, and for mere euros.  Whoa.  Does Budapest know how to get down in the food department.  This is a city worthy of travel purely for the chowing down aspect.

This chocolate cake.  One of the best Ive ever inhaled in my life.  And I do mean inhaled, both fortunately and unfortunately ;-)

For the recipe, more photos and such, here is the link.

Harry Potter World with Sarah, back several years ago.  SUCH fun.  We could not get enough of that Butterbeer ;-) nor venturing into the castle for their jaw dropping, heart pounding, incredibly awesome ride.

Crepes in Paris.  Enough said ;-)

This bread in Portugal, my god.  I still dream about it.  Want to know what its called?  Where to get it?  What does it taste like?  Read here for all the delectable details.

This was an incredibly exciting, highly anticipated dinner for me.  My first time back in the US after 2.5 years of living in Germany.  This was my first visit back, since moving away.  Dinner with these close friends of mine (and even especially awesome, Judith, on the far left, decided on visiting Boston from Germany at the same time I was there so she met up with us!!!)

The pre party, if you will, to the black and white photo above with my three girlfriends and our reuniting dinner in Boston.  First, Alex and I hung out at the bar where we demolished a box of Georgetown Cupcakes alongside a few margaritas.  Talk about a fun way to get tipsy, catch up and reconnect.  Our conversation was especially engaging, personal and fun this day as well.  Loved that time with her.

The above five photos, my birthday party one month prior to moving to Europe.  While low key, it was memorable and emotional for me in that it was a last celebration of sorts with several close friends at my moms rustic little lakeside cottage.  A smattering of sweets laid out in array, coupled with lots of laughing, game play and interesting conversation, this day was sweet and special.

A favorite dessert recipe in my arsenal, though I haven't made it in years.  Red velvet cupcakes with white chocolate frosting, man are these guys good.  Moist, sweet, so tasty.

This is my 23rd birthday, spent in Paris with my mom.  Having just finished studying in Italy, she flew over at the tail end of my time there and we traveled a bit together.  Her own first time in Europe as well.  This dinner, while the food was forgettable, both the company and atmosphere are what made it magical, poignant and unforgettable.  We had a view of the Eiffel Tower as we ate.  Giggling, chatting, just an awesome time together.

This picture was taken in Venice, Italy during my time of studying abroad.  My first time ever in Europe :-D.  This cheese pasta, while simple, I remember it being rich and absolutely delicious.  With just a drizzle of balsamic on the side, the two went together amazingly.  Swirling the cheesy pasta through the sauce, mmmmmm.

With Alex and Leanne.

Though I don't have a photo of the actual restaurant, meal nor scene, this night was awesome.  A weekend in New York City, six of us, we dined in Times Square at the top of a skyscraper in a revolving restaurant!  Yes, the restaurant actually turned, albeit slowly, a complete 360 degrees every hour.  Offering diners a slow moving but complete panoramic view of Manhattan, glittering and laid out below.  This dinner was especially entertaining as well.  The food spread, a huge one.  Lots of giggling, funny conversation, playfulness, just really fabulous.