365 – March Posts

365 Challenge: Day 19 – Competitive

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Competitive: as good as or better than others of a comparable nature

When I searched for the definition to add to the post, I was surprised. Yes, I agree with it, but I’ve always had a much darker meaning in mind when I thought of the word competitive, or at least how I interpreted it. Then I saw the synonyms listed were ruthless, aggressive or fierce. NOW WE’RE TALKING!!!

Well, I’m not that bad! But I am very competitive about certain things. And when I compete, I want to win with such passion. You’re probably thinking this sounds like the opposite of what I was saying yesterday about being cool with being average. But, competition is healthy when kept under control and infrequent. That said, I’m not even considering talking about sporting events where that’s entirely what the game’s about – who will win. I suppose it’s partially about who plays well and what new feats of strength are pulled off, but then again, who watches the sport to see their favorite team lose???

When I was younger, I was a little bit snarky when I’d lose. (Mom, if you’re ever reading this, I know you are laughing right now, thinking… “a little bit… you can’t stand to lose when you set your mind to winning.”

She could always tell when I wasn’t happy because I had a hard time containing it. I’d hint at why I didn’t win and what may have been unfair (embarrassing now that I think of it).

I never got that angry, but I was displeased. As I’ve gotten older, I’m much better about losing, but there are a few things that I expect myself to be top of game at — and never lose!

Playing cards is one of them. I grew up in a card-playing family; as a child, I would ask to watch my grandparents and great aunts and uncles playing various card games such as Follow the Queen, Criss Cross, Poker, Sevens, Rummy, Black Jack and others. I didn’t want to play with my cousins, go outside or even sit on the couch and watch TV or read a book — that is, when cards were being played! Of course I read all the time, but when those 52 pieces of perfection slid across the table, matched or had a wild card, it was as if I’d won the lottery.

But I kept it cool unlike my friend Christina… no one could know — and trust me when I tell you I have a poker face. I know how to look sullen and disinterested. I knew when to fake “I’ve got good cards and can’t hold it in look,” forcing my competition to fold and then I’d win the pot even tho I had a horrible hand.  Ooh, getting excited just thinking about it! :0

But it’s finally become fun competition for me – not frustrated competition. When it’s done, I let it go and move on. But during the game, it’s part of the environment, the ambiance, the action. It helps you get excited or hopeful — all healthy feelings when kept within the right parameters of friendly competition.

Luckily, I’ve never really crossed the line and gotten competitive to the point where you hurt someone else’s feelings or look like a complete and utter jerk. I may have come up close to it when I was younger, but it was always in trying to be humorous. Never any intention to be mean.

Sometimes there’s competition in the weirdest of places for me. When I would go out drinking with friends, in my mind, it was a competition who could drink the most and not get sick. Not that I ever really drank that much, but on a few occasions, it would be amusing. I’d think to myself, “oh, I had a few of this, half of that, 3 or 4 of those…” and I’d round up so it sounded like I drank more. What was wrong with me??? I needed to be the one who drank more and would exaggerate a little bit to win that competition? And the prize was, you guessed it,

That was the nicest way of showing you “vomiting” when you drink too much! I could have showed you a far worse picture I found on the GIF site, but that would make me a horrible person!

Another weird competition… who could finish painting a room the quickest. Two equal size rooms, same color paint, same start time. Who would finish first?  Now think about it… if there’s something you don’t want to rush to win, it’s painting a room. Because you’ll get sloppy. And then you have to live with it. Or paint it all over again. And you can’t just fix the places you messed up because the paint dries differently and you see shine in some areas. And then you live in an ugly room, all so you could say “I finished painting first.”

Maybe I did have a problem when I was younger. I suppose that’s what these 365 challenges are about. Discovering something I didn’t know. Woah!!! I bet I discovered something before you!  Nah Nah Nah Nah Nah!!!!  Ha. I win!

What’s my prize!??????

365 Challenge: Day 18 – Pale

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Pale: light in color or having little color, feeble and unimpressive

What an interesting word… do I mean my skin color is pale, as in light? Do I mean my personality is pale, as in boring? Or do I mean I am pale, as in comparison to others? Perhaps a little of everything… a bit vanilla and plain. But I’m good with that.

Waking up this morning, I realized I drank a bit more than usual last night and felt a little sleepy and lazy. I still pushed myself out of bed and began my day by 7:15. I thought to myself… “40 has hit you! You’re a bit of a lightweight now, eh?” [said with a thick Scottish brogue].

I remember I had 1 mixed drink and 5 or 6 glasses of wine over a 4-hour period. More than normal, more than one should, but not all that significant compared to many others. So, I suppose I do pale in comparison, in those respects.

I got out of bed, threw on some clothes and went to wash my face. When I looked in the mirror, I appeared washed-out… even more pale than usual. Almost like a ghost! Was that really me?

Yes, it was… you see… my skin is really, really light. Not translucent where you can see inside, but often you see the blueish colors of the veins (or is it arteries? wish I remembered high school science stuff) shining right on thru!

I’ve always wanted to have a bit darker skin… to actually have a sun tan; however, if I go anywhere near the sun, I burn within minutes. Probably that English, Irish and Scottish heritage deep within. Did my people just hide away in caves????

But while Stewie is in pain, he at least has a consistent color all about him. When I get caught in the sun, or if I purposely try to hang out on the beach to get a tan from time to time, it is never even. I look like the messiest splotch around. I don’t spread the suntan lotion properly. I’ve had a few cases of farmer’s tan. I’ve even burned just half my face. My skin is not meant to get near the sun. I must have vampire blood in me somehow. And that’s why I say I’m pale. There are some good things about being pale. Dark colors look extra good on me! Umm… can’t think of anything else tho, so maybe it’s not such a good thing.

As noted, pale can also mean bland, boring, vanilla, plain… leaning towards unimpressive and feeble. I’m not sure I agree pale could mean “feeble” but the dictionary says so, which means it must be true. I’m far from feeble… and that’s not thinking of the word in relation to age.

Pale implies ordinary, common. I find that to be a good thing. It means you don’t stand out, whether it’s to get attention or due to some unusual physical characteristic or behavior. I do think of myself (in about 80% of cases) as a bit vanilla and plain. I’m not showy. I’m not extravagant. I like to keep things in the “average zone” so as not to call attention to myself.

But there’s that 20% of me that’s not pale, not average, not ordinary. Most of it is behavioral. Some of it physical. Some you can see. Some you cannot. Some is temporary. Some is permanent. It’s always in flux. But it’s there. And those who know me well, know how and when it comes out.

Those who don’t know me, or meet me in a corporate setting, wouldn’t really notice it. Perhaps if they were intuitive, it might be a bit more obvious to them. I’m certainly not average in lots of areas, but when I am, I am comfortable with it, even if it means I pale in comparison to others. Knowing and accepting who and what you are, faults and all, strengths and all, is a sign of… well, intelligence!

Would I change any of it?

  • Yes to being able to get a bit of sun tan. Not too much as it could lead to cancer and other diseases, but I think having a bit of color is a more healthy look and feel.
  • No to being average. Life’s a balance of so many things, and I don’t want to stand out above others. It doesn’t mean I’m not competitive (that’s very different, and I am very competitive). It just means I’m comfortable with who I am.
  • Yes/No to being boring all the time. A few surprises are a good thing in life, and I have a good balance here most days.

What about you…

  • Do you agree with my self-assessment, those of you who know me?
  • Are you pale?

365 Challenge: Day 17 – Quiet

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Quiet: making little noise, carried out discreetly, secretly, or with moderation

I am a very quiet individual. It’s different than being shy, although both probably stem from the same general DNA that make me who I am. Being quiet is more a way of life for me, in many, many ways… even if I’m home alone, I still speak very quietly so as not to disturb anyone else. Even when I’m talking to myself (we all do it, don’t judge!). Not that I look in the mirror and say things like this…

My father jumps whenever he hears loud noises, and it’s gotten worse as he gets older. I’ve noticed the same thing is happening to me. I remember once back in high school Spanish class, I yelled at the teacher. In my defense, it was completely warranted. I really liked him, too. But whenever the class got too rowdy, he’d take off his shoe and hammer it on his desk. One day, he kept doing it, and my body would just jump every time. It shook me inside, was painful and pressed too many buttons (not sure why). I just shouted at him in front of the whole class “Would you please stop doing that? It’s really unprofessional.” At least I said “please.”

When I’m on trains, the Long Island Rail Road in particular, it can get REALLY annoying. I no longer live there, so I’m mostly on it to visit family. My commute times tend to match up with people on their way in or out of NYC for events like a Rangers or Knicks game, or out to the bars and clubs. Yeah Yeah Yeah… I went in and out a few times myself to those events, but I sat in my seat, respectfully, kept myself occupied… sometimes talked to my friends or someone in the seat next to me. Quietly. Not as though the entire train had to hear me speak. But some people have absolutely no sense of boundaries and talk loudly on the phone, jump up and down like children, scream from being drunk and excited. I’m embarrassed for them. Didn’t your parents or teachers tell you to respect others around you? I’ve been there… I’ve been the one at a club dancing and singing and drinking… been a little too drunk at times, but I still knew better than to create an entire scene in public.  OK, rant over. Where’s my hair brush?

Part of me actually gets annoyed when I hear people being loud in situations when they obviously should not be loud. Am I a party-pooper? A Debbie-downer?

No, I think I just reserve the “crazy” for the appropriate time and place. Being quiet is more a natural state for me. I could stay home all day, not speaking to anyone, and still be happy. Reading, Watching TV, Gardening. I like people and I want to be around them at time, but being quiet and just content with my surroundings is enough for me. That’s why I’m an introvert. I wonder what it’s like for an extrovert who needs to be loud and constantly around people?  Help me understand…

I’m getting a little too loud with these GIFs, aren’t I? At least they don’t make noise! When I’m scrolling thru something on my phone and a video clip automatically pops up, and it makes some sound or noise, I tense up, look around to see if I’m bothering anyone, and then turn it down, frowning the entire time!

I like it quiet. And I cannot lie! But I absolutely love the beauty of sound and music. So what I’m really saying is I like the noise level to be appropriate for the situation. If you’re in an open field and no one’s around, be as loud as you want. But chances are, even if I had that luxury, I’d still be fairly quiet.

365 Challenge: Day 16 – Punctual

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Punctual: happening or doing something at the agreed or proper time; on time

You’re all in for a treat today… well, that may be overselling things. I’ve discovered and decided to add animated graphics and GIFs to my posts. I searched for a few fun ones this morning and will drop ’em in throughout today’s topic. And since I am a voracious reader as you recently learned, and well, this picture is just great, the first one, obviously someone intelligent checking their watch to see who is late and who is on time:

Bbc GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Who doesn’t love Sherlock?  Just started watching this TV show recently and posted a review on here, too! You can find it by clicking here. Back to punctuality.

Ever since I was a small child, I was fascinated by time. But get this, I never wore a watch. I don’t like things dangling on my arm or wrist… distracting… and then you have something else you need to match to whatever you are wearing (and I’m no good at that)… I digress a lot today. Time is so simple yet so complex.  The second hand clicks around 60 times, then the minute hand moves ever so slightly. Once the minute hand moves around 60 times, the hour hand has moved to the next of the 12 hours on the clock. It could be AM or PM. But so many people have such a hard time with being punctual. Forget DST… that could cause some people a trip to the asylum.

Adventure Time GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I have no sense of time when it comes to looking at the sun or the sky. I can’t tell what it means to set in the east or west, what shadows are being cast, et al. For me, being punctual is some internal clock that just knows what time it is.

I rarely use an alarm clock. Unless I’m sick or traveling, meaning time change hasn’t settled in quite yet, I wake up at the same time each day (usually about 7am) and start feeling tired about 10pm each night. I can tell throughout the day what time it is usually within 10 to 15 minutes, even if I haven’t looked at a clock in hours. And for those reasons, being punctual has always been innate in me.

It’s a sign that you care enough not to waste someone else’s time. It’s evidence that what you are showing up for is important. It’s considerate (ah…. remember that post!) by showing you took a few minutes to plan your arrival rather than just show up whenever.

Suits GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s not an option for me to be late. I get nervous and uneasy if I’m going to be late for some unavoidable reason. I get frustrated with train or plane delays because it throws off my timely plans. I feel like it says “he didn’t care enough.”

Happy GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

It’s not about counting the minutes or planning to the moment. It’s about ensuring you are not causing any inconvenience to other people. Punctuality helps things run more smoothly. You can often accomplish more as a result.

That said, I’m not 100% punctual. On occasion, if there’s no impact to someone else, I might arrive a little later than planned. For instance… there’s a party from 8 to 11. I tell the host I expect to arrive around 8:30. If I show up at 8:35, I’m not gonna freak out.

Panic GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

But if I am meeting friends for lunch and we say 12… you bet your ass I’ll be there by 11:55. Unless the person I’m meeting is always late… and I have a few friends like that… then, I… well, no… I show up at 11:55.

Some laughs for you about how punctual I’ve been:

  1. Created an itinerary for a 2-week trip to Italy. Arrival times and departure times were noted on a schedule to the minute. I never made that trip, but when I do re-schedule, I’ll be thrown off if I’m not on schedule. And one of those places was the Amalfi Coast where La Dolce Vita is the way of life: you just enjoy the beauty and forget about time. Ha!
  2. I once kept a log of all my times at the gym, noting when it was scheduled and when I actually worked out — each activity, set, rep. Wanted to see if I was using the time the best way possible. NERD!
  3. I’ve timed it so that I walk around the corner for a restaurant reservation so that I could walk right up to the host or hostess at the precise time. Yes, I am a little obsessive.

How about you frequently late arrivals?  What’s the scoop?

365 Challenge: Day 15 – Sarcastic

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Sarcastic: marked by or given to using irony in order to mock or convey contempt

There aren’t many good images for “sarcastic,” but I was able to find this one. I liked that it should have said “sometimes I’m asleep” or “sometimes I’m sleeping,” but doesn’t!

Today’s characteristic is an unusual one. By true definition, I am absolutely not sarcastic, as when I exhibit the behavior I’m thinking of, it never comes from contempt. My brand of sarcasm is always humorous, and either meant to fill in a gap in silent conversation or an attempt to be funny and show my affection.

I’ve never intended to use contempt; I actually don’t condone that behavior. If you truly dislike something or someone, have unadulterated hatred or anger over it, figure out how to deal with it in a positive way. Don’t take it out on another person. Try to explain to someone why you are angry, figure out a way to fix the situation or convince them what they’ve done is wrong. But don’t ever mock them or physically hurt them because you don’t like what they’ve done (unless you’re trying to stop them from being violent, etc.).

Back to sarcasm. To be sarcastic, you need to be witty and timely. You need to know when to repeat versus leave it at one brief line and let the humor unfold all on its own. My sarcasm often comes out when someone asks me a question that opens an opportunity for me to provide the ultimate silly or stupid answer, thus bringing about a moment of laughter and connection.

Often on the receiving end of my sarcasm is my mother. I love to respond with slightly sarcastic answers to basic questions. For example, when she comes over for lunch and asks what time we’re eating, my response would be, “as soon as you leave, I’ll probably have some lunch. By the way, how long do you plan to stay today?” Or if she wants to know what I’m looking for in the bookstore, I’ll say: “Not sure. Something with words on paper, most likely.” And we’ll banter for a few seconds, get a good laugh, and move on.

Actually, thinking about my history of being sarcastic, the person on the receiving end is almost always the 3 or 4 people I’m closest to… parents, partner, best friend… how interesting it should be those you love!

As I write this, and truly think about the definition, maybe I’m not sarcastic. I wouldn’t call myself witty. Perhaps I’m sassy? Although, sassy to me implies a much more boisterous tone, and I’m anything but boisterous. Any suggestions for the best trait to use here? <i>I’m sure someone as literate and intelligent as anyone, like you, reading my blog must know the word I’m trying to use…<i/>

I think about the people I’ve interacted with over my time and don’t really ever recall being on the other end of the someone’s sarcasm. I tend to not engage with people who come across mean-spirited or contemptuous, unless there is humor attached to it. Humor helps ease the situation, ensure words aren’t bitter, or as bitter as they could be taken.

People often use sarcasm as a way to avoid the truth or intimacy, a detraction from something they are uncomfortable with. I’ve done that a few times. Someone asks a question that requires you to reveal or respond in a way you would prefer not to. So you deflect with a sarcastic comment and hope to end the conversation. It’s rare I will use it, as I believe I mentioned very early on in these daily challenges that I am honest, and prefer to just say what I’m thinking. But sometimes you just don’t want to engage in a specific conversation for any number of reasons.

If someone often brings up a negative item (constantly referring to themselves as overweight or not intelligent, etc.), and you’ve tried to convince them otherwise many times before, sarcasm may come into play. You can change the topic, or say something sarcastic about yourself to level-set the conversation and hope it moves on. Not in any grand manner, but in the hopes you don’t have to repeat prior discussions or soothe someones mind yet another time. I don’t mean this to be insensitive, but you can only help someone else as much as (s)he is willing to be helped and you are educated.

So… sarcasm can be a handy tool for good reasons, which perhaps means I am considered sarcastic. Ugh, I’m just talking to myself on this one. Like you’d know, right?

365 Challenge: Day 14 – German

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German: containing roots from Germany

It’s the 7th day of this week’s challenges, which means it’s time to choose a physical characteristic; and in keeping with the theme of discussing my nativity, ethnicity and heritage, you should know that I’m about 33% German, although my Ancestry DNA test seems to think I’m more around 10%. I think it’s just lying to me. Science can’t always be right, can it?

Based on the last names and documents I’ve located going back to about 1800 on most branches of my family tree, close to 50% of people seem to have emigrated from Germany or a pre-Germany state that was part of the German empire. I think of a few of them were probably from Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, so I sort of merge those with the 10% I saw from Ancestry DNA. That said, something is still not adding up based on known facts, DNA and available documentation. Therefore, I’ve settled on about 33%. Someone is lying about their home country, or someone may have had an affair and passed the child off as her German husband’s kid… I’m not sure, but I love a good scandal!

And I have one in my German side. A great-grandfather’s last name was as German as they come: Mück, possible Müeck originally. But when he emigrated to the US in the 1870s, it was translated on some documents as Miick. He married and had 3 daughters, but later suspected his wife was actually moonlighting as a prostitute. He claimed the younger 2 girls weren’t his and divorced the first wife. He managed famous boxers in NYC around this time, and suddenly one day, he disappears and changes his last name to Reynolds. He then marries another woman, an Irish one this time, and has 6 more children. But he’s no longer involved in boxing and has become a big-time beer brewer. I wish I knew the real story behind all of this, but there’s some scandal doing on there. Unfortunately, there are strong physical traces between him and subsequent male members of that branch, including me, so I know the German roots are real on that side!

As a fun sidebar, just like last time with the 4 Irish stereotypical traits, I found 9 German ones from a new site called “FluentU.” Let’s see how I compare:

  1. Direct
    1. Yes, for the most part. I often say what’s on my mind, but I always use a filter.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  2. Love rules, organization and structure
    1. I invented rules and now I can’t live without them. I’m crazy when it comes these things.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  3. Punctual
    1. Yes, and punctual to me actually means a few minutes early.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  4. Love soccer (football)
    1. Not a sports guy.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  5. Well-insured
    1. This one was odd… so I am going to say probably not, I tend to only buy what I need.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  6. Distant
    1. Unfortunately, yes… most people would say I can be a little cold and distant about things. I know how to remove my emotions when I need to.
    2. Score: 1 out of 1
  7. Love beer
    1. Eh… if it said wine, I’d agree. But I only drink beer from time to time and not very excited about it.
    2. Score: 0 out of 1
  8. Always making bread
    1. I love bread. I eat it all the time. But I rarely make it. Let’s split it evenly.
    2. Score: .5 out of 1
  9. Love sausage
    1. Not so much. I’m more a red-meat guy. Skirt Steak, Filet Mignon, Tartare, Beef Wellington…
    2. Score: 0 out of 1

And keeping with the statistics game from last time, my score would be: 4.5 out of 9, which is 50%. See… all the records I’ve found are correct. Take that, Science and DNA!

365 Challenge: Day 13 – Culinary

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Culinary: of or about cooking and preparation of food and kitchens

It took me a few minutes to decide the best word to describe my relationship with cooking. Was it “cookery,” “chef-like,” or some other monstrosity of a description. Then culinary popped in my mind. I’m culinary. Not that I am by any means formally trained or an exceptionally talented chef of any sort; however, I enjoy cooking, seem to have a natural talent for it and can usually do things without needing a recipe.

Actually, I don’t know that I’ve ever cooked something using the recipe exactly as it was written. I feel the need to change either the temperature, the ingredients or the order of how I choose to go about preparing the dish. Some might say I can’t follow instructions; that’s definitely not the reason. I think I see recipes as “guidelines” we should use as a starting place to figure out on our own how to make something delicious.

Culinary is a fancy word, at least in the way that I think of it. And I’m not really that fancy, so in some ways, culinary doesn’t apply to me. I also don’t know all the basic rules of cooking, so there are times when something I create comes out completely wrong because I didn’t know you were supposed to blanch an ingredient first, or it needed to be slightly cooler before you started the next step. Or why you’d use unsalted versus salted butter. I should know these things, but I don’t. That would stop me from going on any of those TV cooking show challenges; and I’ve already explained how much I enjoy doing some sort of challenge.

My favorite attempt at a challenge was when some friends and I would create our own version of the show “Top Chef.” My cousin and friends pick out the ingredients, place them in a box, then give me anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to prepare a dish using those ingredients, plus anything I have in the kitchen. At the time, I was living in the suburbs, so I had a fully stocked kitchen most weeks. I couldn’t do it in NYC now because I tend to only cook on weekends, and then I buy the ingredients when I need them. In my box on one occasion was lemongrass, peanut butter, pignoli (pine) nuts, clementines and mussels. I had to CLEAN the mussels and create the whole dish in 30 minutes. It was insanity but I finished, and it turned out to be amazing! I had coconut oil and heavy cream. I made a beautiful Thai curry sauce and a side salad with a peanut butter and pine nut dressing. Yum!

Being culinary requires creativity and cooking knowledge. I have some levels of both, not enough to be a master chef by any means, but enough to be dangerous. Some days it will turn out amazing, others I can see the look of fear on the face of whomever is having the meal with me. I’m particularly bad when it comes to baking, given that I don’t always follow a recipe. I’ve had a really flat cake that was supposed to be super moist and tall. I’ve also had a Swiss Roll that was so squishy, it couldn’t hold any filling. Tasted great, looked like a candle that had melted beyond repair.

Cooking helps you express your creativity while balancing the basic skills you need to prepare and assemble something from scratch. I’ve started watching the Great British Baking show because it has 3 challenges that appeal to me: (1) make a dish with directions from the show’s 2 judges, (2) a technical challenge to re-create a dish the judges made first and (3) complete freedom and creativity to make a dessert that is equally as tasty as it is inventive in appearance. I’d rock 2 of those 3!

The other fun aspect of being culinary is how you can use all 5 of your senses. Touching the ingredients, smelling the creation, seeing the beauty, hearing the sizzle, and tasting along the way. Very few other hobbies or activities can truly engage you on all levels. And when you get it all right, it’s a masterpiece. A slight change can create something completely new and decadent, but it can also lead you astray to a disaster. It can be accomplished on your own or as a group activity. You can take cooking lessons. You can write about cooking. You can do videotaped shows on how you cook. There are so many possibilities.

For me, it’s always been something to do on a third or fourth date; showcase your prowess in the kitchen. Or if you’ve got friends or family coming by for a night of games or movies, cook up a few special dishes or appetizers. And cuisines are so wide and varied. Italian, French, Spanish, Indian, Greek, Chinese… I’m not big into American dishes, cooking them, that is. I’m not much of a hamburger and hot dog kinda guy. But I do love and make a delectable meat loaf with a few surprise and secret ingredients.

How does cooking relate to your personality? For me, I’m orderly and clean, and so are my flavors. I prefer something new and unique. I’m certainly unique, but aren’t we all? It takes patience and time to get it right… and so do all of my attempts at these daily posts.

I suppose that’s quite in line with what you’ve learned about me so far in twelve days of the 365 Challenge. Do you cook? What’s your specialty? Give me some ideas and let’s share something delicious.