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Love is in the air

heart.gifFebruary may be the shortest month of the year...but it's certainly long on emotion. Embrace it, despair it; revel in it, curse at it... whatever your feelings on the holiday, Valentine's Day is almost here. This season, LearningLife offers Love 101 and The Fine Chocolate Renaissance--perfect for a double date, or for indulging in an evening or day to yourself. Plus, if you take both, you can receive a unique free gift! Read on for details, as well as some trivia treats about romance, candy, and the holiday we love to hate.

Love 101

Love_bk_cvr002.gifLove (101) is in the air on Saturday, February 11. The daylong course, led by Charles Taliaferro, St. Olaf philosophy professor and author of Love, Love, Love and Other Essays, will explore the myriad ways this complex emotion can be defined, as well as key questions suggested by cultural, religious, and personal expectations about love.

Through insightful lectures, lively discussions, creative thinking, humor, and frivolity, you'll explore what guides and influences the human heart in all of its absurdity and joy--and what we need most to live humanely, happily, faithfully, and well.

The Fine Chocolate Renaissance

The cartoonist Charles Schulz once said, "All you need is love...But a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt." Scientist and chocolate connoisseur Anna Bonavita agrees: she will be leading the two-session short course The Fine Chocolate Renaissance beginning Thursday, February 2.

Bonavita is the founder of Chocolate BonaVita, an organization that celebrates the joy and delight in artisanal chocolate, as well as increases awareness about the survival of the rainforest. So it is perhaps no surprise that the course will follow the winding journey from cocoa bean in the tropical rainforest to chocolate at the local candy counter.

chocolate bonavita.JPGParticipants will explore the history, geography, and economics of cocoa; meet the pioneers who started the chocolate revolution; and learn about a small number of avant-garde chocolate makers who are challenging the way we think about the "food of the gods." And, of course, comparative tastings of up to six artisanal chocolates per session will be included.

Celebrate Valentine's Day in style!

Want to earn a gift for your sweetheart? (Or maybe something for yourself?) All LearningLife members who enroll in both The Fine Chocolate Renaissance and Love 101 will receive a signed copy of Charles Taliaferro's Love, Love, Love and a sampling of artisan chocolates from Chocolate BonaVita.

Amaze your beloved with these Valentine's Day tidbits

Tastier than a vanilla nougat, and far less fattening...entertain your friends and loved ones this Valentine's Day with some of these trivia treats about romance, candy, and the holiday we love to hate.

  • Valentine's Day isn't as commercial as you might think. February has long been a month to celebrate love and its trappings: For the ancient Greeks, the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.
  • The Romans celebrated Lupercalia (February 13-15)--an archaic rite connected to fertility. And while Lupercalia was local to the city of Rome, the more general Festival of Juno Februa, meaning ("Juno the Purifier" or "Juno the Chaste"), was celebrated on February 13-14.
  • In 496, Pope Gelasius I abolished Lupercalia and established February 14 as St. Valentine's Day, in honor of two martyred saints, Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome.
  • The first recorded reference to Valentine's Day as a celebration of romantic love was in Geoffrey Chaucer's Parlement of Foules (1382), written to commemorate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II of England to Anne of Bohemia.
    For this was on seynt Volantynys day
    Whan euery bryd comyth there to chese his make.
  • The oldest known Valentine's poem still in existence was written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife. The poem was composed in 1415, while the duke was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
  • When you think of sweet foods and Valentine's Day, you probably think of chocolate. But the tasty confection wasn't always a decadent candy--in fact, for most of its history, chocolate was a beverage...and a bitter one, at that. Etymologists trace the origin of the word "chocolate" to the Aztec word "xocoatl," which referred to a bitter drink brewed from cacao beans.
  • Aztec sacrifice victims who felt too melancholy to join in ritual dancing before their death were often given a gourd of chocolate (tinged with the blood of previous victims) to cheer them up.
  • Chocolate first came to Europe in 1528, when Hernando Cortéz presented the Spanish King, Charles V with cocoa beans from the New World and the necessary tools for its preparation. Cortez also suggested adding sugar to the bitter drink--resulting in a delicacy reserved for the aristocracy. Chocolate was a secret that Spain managed to keep from the rest of the world for almost 100 years.
  • Joseph Fry is credited with making the first modern chocolate bar in 1847. He did it by making a moldable chocolate paste of melted cacao butter and Dutch cocoa.
  • Chocolate is an honored veteran of WWII! The U.S. government allocated valuable shipping space for the importation of cocoa beans, as chocolate was a quick source of energy, helping tired soldiers have the strength to carry their gear. Today, the U.S. Army D-rations include three, four-ounce chocolate bars.
  • Just the sight of chocolate can evoke a smile, according to a recent British survey. Sixty percent of women ranked chocolate as the most smile-worthy experience, edging out loved ones and other smiling people.
  • Phenylethylamine is sometimes called the "love drug" because it causes your pulse rate to increase a bit--similar to the feeling someone experiences when in love. It is also found in certain foods, including chocolate.
  • The Greek god of love is Eros (son of Aphrodite, or one of the primordial gods, depending on which version you read); his consort is Psyche. Together they had a daughter, Hedone (meaning physical pleasure or bliss). Eros' Roman counterpart is Cupid, son of Venus and Mars (love and war, respectively).
  • In a 2007 study of individuals in love, scientists found that men show more activity in the visual part of the brain, while women show more activity in the memory portion. The researchers theorize this is because men look for fertility features in women, and since women can't judge fertility in men by physical appearance, they must remember certain characteristics that will determine if he will be a good mate.
  • Giving a ring to your beloved is a tradition dating back to Roman times, but giving a diamond is relatively "recent": the first recorded occurrence of a diamond engagement ring was in 1477, when the Archduke Maximilian of Austria gave one to his fiancée, Mary of Burgundy.
  • Approximately 9,000 "in love" couples take out a marriage license each year...and then fail to use it.
  • The Roman physician Galen said passions were located in the liver and emotions in the heart. Aristotle also believed that the heart was the seat of emotions. Long after theories like these were rejected, the heart continued to be the symbol of emotion.
  • Did you know that if you register for both Love 101 and The Fine Chocolate Renaissance this season, you will receive a signed copy of Love, Love, Love by Charles Taliaferro and a sampling of artisan chocolates from Chocolate BonaVita?

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