The Christmas Grocery Shopping Lists; A Guide for Men

man in storeLet’s face it; it’s always one person who bears the brunt of domestic planning. In my home, it’s me. I have lists for groceries, lists for toiletries, lists for separate stores. It takes time, and effort, so trust me when I say that if it’s on a list, there’s a reason.

At this time of year, the last thing I need is someone arbitrarily deciding what we don’t need. What I need is a housekeeper and two months off and exactly what’s on the damn list.

Unfailingly my better half asks me for a grocery list whenever he’s popping into the store. It’s very thoughtful and I appreciate it more than he knows. There is one problem however, quite often he arbitrarily decides that one or two items just simply are not necessary.

This is the core of the secret to executing the list and I’m about to share it with all of you lovely gentlemen out there. The items on the list are dependent on one another. They are a team you see, each playing an important role in a recipe.

rotten zucchiniWhat is a zucchini without eggplant when making ratatouille? It is simply a lonely zucchini, waiting to weep it’s sticky brown death juice into the bottom of the veggie crisper because it’s calling has not been fulfilled.  When that happens, it becomes part of another list; clean out the fridge and likely, get-your-arse-back-to-the-store-and-get-what-we-needed-in-the-first-place.

It’s not just about handing over a checklist of items to be purchased and brought into the house. The food that we share creates an atmosphere at home, whether it’s a cozy night in for the family, or an evening of hosting guests. It takes time and energy to dream up what might be pleasing and enjoyed. When you decide that the list isn’t important, you’re essentially diminishing the significance of the homemaker. It’s a way of telling them  that their work is insignificant.

A long time ago, a spiritual mentor spoke these wise words; “Our partners do really do just want to make us happy.”

If this is the case, buy what’s on the list.

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Christmas Survival Guide for the Lost Woman: Delegate

opinions

My friends have let me down. I’ve let them down too.

At some point women give up their own selves for the selfless, and mostly unrecognized emotional work of maintaining a home (creating the atmosphere, remembering birthdays, preparing for holidays, and bearing the greater responsibility of relationship nurturing).

Don’t be her. Don’t be the woman we all become at one point or another; a frumpy feeling, sad, uninspired woman who feels like the dishrag that society treats her like.

This Christmas I’m challenging you to connect with your pals, and I’m also challenging myself. In order to make more time for me, and to enjoy the preparations for the holidays, I’ve come up with a few strategies.

 

  1. The word of the year this Christmas is; Delegate.

Make lists….and then give them away. I mean, you single-handedly make the magic happen, at least save some time not shopping and not running errands.

shopping list

 

2) Clear out the clutter.

No, not stuff, people. If you need the whole house so you can spread out the holiday decor,  but your lovey insists on being sprawled on the couch watching the boob tube and basically being useless, ask them to leave. Unless they’re helping, they’re hindering. Vamoos!

joy

 

3) Bake ahead, and if you don’t like baking, don’t.

This year I’m googling ‘christmas cookies that freeze well’, and I’m going to use it. I’m also stocking the freezer with some frozen cheater meals so that I can enjoy my time off throughout the holidays, without cringing when I’m asked, “Have you thought about dinner”. Also, it’s so I don’t tell them that prison dinner might be worth it since I wouldn’t have to cook or do the damn dishes. My eggnot loaf is currently cooling on the counter so it can be frozen.

eggnog loaf

 

4) Be the one who puts a stop to gift exchanges. Other than a few things under the tree on Christmas morning that my loved ones need, will have sentimental value, or are a true ‘Santa’ surprise gift, gift giving falls a long-distance second to just spending time together.

get together

 

5) Make some gal-destinations a priority. Whether it’s a spa date for candy-cane mani’s, or a local church craft sale…make an excuse to get out, wander through all of the delights of the season, and make it a date with someone you’ve been meaning to get together with but haven’t.

one of a kind

 

 

Whatever you do this Christmas season,  make sure you make time to slow down and take in some of what brings you joy.

 

 

 

Soldiers of Love; Little Old Ladies

Happy smiling senior woman showing her apricot tartI’ve been accused of acting like an old lady.

This was only after I’d gone (what seemed prematurely) through my own mid-life crisis…in my 30’s.

You see, mine has been a full life; a career where I’ve seen more trauma, death and mystery than any binge episode of the most popular television series,  a made-for-tv-movies childhood and a plethora of mischief with lovely men.

There are few things I feel that I yet need to do.  The very saying, bucket list, makes me cringe. What a bunch of pretentious, assuming crappola. Every day should be your bucket list, without assuming you have time to carefully plan a list.

What I’ve come to understand at this stage is that little old ladies are often zenned out in their own little worlds of comfort; cooking, crafting, singing, baking, volunteering, doting on their children and watching Hallmark movies. They live for gentle moments of comfort.

This reality hit me when I was speaking to some younger women at work who had inquired about my career. It’s been a wonderful winding road that served my role as a mother very well. But there’s been an unusual amount of exposure to trauma, violence, and death. Which entitles me to take comfort in ‘little old lady things’, like baking.

Women who like to live their lives amidst creating a comfortable, quiet home life are sometimes the toughest broads on earth.  Like me.

We have been given the misnomer of the weaker sex  all the while proving that really we are the strongest. This is  despite gender inequality, violence, sexual abuse and economic discrimination. It is the women who are strong enough to offer our families the unrecognized emotional work required to create the sanctuary of  home where we recharge with love and kindness.

Never underestimate the power of little old ladies, especially the ones who arrived at old-ladyhood prematurely. Underneath the homemade cookies and blankets, we are fierce.

What To Do?

fallkittenI’ve been known to publish some really great seasonal To-Do Lists.  Except this year.

I didn’t do that.

Not for you and not for me.

But I’m ready for one. You see, I have a Protestant work ethic, and am a firm believer in work first, and rest when the work is done.  Which, of course, often leaves me desiring, but exhausted and out of time.

Alas, the really hard work of this year is pretty much complete, and I am left with time to rediscover more leisure pursuits.  Instead of providing you and I wish a seasonal to-do-list-on-a-time-line  of such tomfoolery that we think is Instagram-worthy, such as pumpkin patch visits, applie-pie baking and haunted house touring, I am going to provide you with a list of things that I want to do.

And I hope it inspires you to make a list of your own. Even if you don’t get to it, you’ll be reminded of what it is that makes you happy, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll take a little time for yourself to make your soul smile.

 

Here’s my list;

 

1. Successfully complete NaNoWriMo. Yah, I officially registered to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Why not? After all, I want to finish my damn novel, and I work well with a time-line. This may very well should  be the only thing on my list, but should’s have no place in my life right now.

onceupon

2. I want to go back  to wander the Guillermo Del Torro exhibit again at the AGO. It was so inspiring; a look at the inner mechanisms of a creative genius. Going back is a desperate attempt to have some of that genius-energy rub off on me.

deltoro

3.  A road trip to see the beautiful fall landscape (I’m thinking Collingwood with a side trip to a pal’s place in Thornbury, and the outdoor spa).

Hockleyfall

 

4. A visit to Hinterland Winery. In my opinion a hidden gem that deserves more of my attention. Here I come Les Etoiles!

hinterland

5. Chistmas shopping. Yes,  you heard it. I want to go Christmas shopping. That’s only because I avoid shopping in December like the plague. It sucks, people’s attitudes suck, and all of that makes me cranky. Make it a December to remember (create some memories with your loved ones – do not spend the month craving valium and flipping people the bird in parking lots).

decembertoremember

 

 

6. Cross Stitch. Oh yah. I want the luxury of  enough time to curl up with a hot cup of tea and a few hours of nothing but some needle and thread.

bring me tea

 

7. I would also very much like to make my super-duper-Hallowe’en-popcorn. I make it for my colleagues and my kiddo because even though we’re all grown up, on October 31st, we’re all still little kids just waiting for a treat.

Halloween-Caramel-Corn4-600x400

NaNoWriMo – My First Time

writersclockI’ve been writing, and chiding myself for not writing enough for what seems like a life time.

Often my blogs are a ritual of sorts before I get down to the real business of writing my novel.

My poor novel.

It’s been neglected for a couple of years now, and it’s time I either gave it wings, or set it free to find someone else to write the story. I am a believer in the vision of creativity that Elizabeth Gilbert explains in Big Magic ; Either use it or lose it, and I’m on the very precipice of losing it.

Already there is a movie in the theatres called, Mother. That’s the main character of my novel, and just a couple weeks ago I met a dog named Clover…another character in my novel.

The universe is sending me signs that it’s time to write or drop my pen. So, I’ve decided I must make a serious commitment to my writing.

This is the year I commit to NaNoWriMo. This is the year the rest of the things that tug on my shirt tails for attention get a swat.  This is the year that I re-establish myself as a regular at a local coffee shop and get lost in my own little world of characters and creativity.

…and all that I can think is…YAY!!!

Why I Open My Door At Thanksgiving

give thanks…because I’m truly grateful for the abundance of friends in my life.

My Thanksgiving celebrations are always potluck, jeans and t-shirt style. I put on the turkey, and everyone else brings something to share. That way no one has to do a lot of work and I’m not too stressed out to enjoy my friends.

Potluck is also a good conversations starter; Mmm! I love this! Who made it? What’s the recipe?….and the conversation goes on from there.

That’s what life is about.

I’ve been through hell and back as a child and as a young woman. Throughout all of it, I’ve had wonderful friends who are each, in their own way, unique and perfect.

Holiday times used to be sad for me, lonely even . I was often new in town, without family, and I felt very alone. As time went on, my new friendships deepened, and although I went through times of despair and loneliness, my friends would always show up in ways that helped me understand what was really important.

So at Thanksgiving, many people are caught up in family tug-of-wars about who goes where and who is hosting what. Or, maybe they have no family at all.

Autumn is the time of year when we start turning inward. The changing colour of the leaves wave us into shorter days and cooler nights. We cozy up inside, in big sweaters and under cozy blankets. We begin the journey into a season often spiritually described as one of mystery and hope.

I open my door at this time of year so that friends have a place to come and relax. My friends are my family, and I love them all.

I don’t have much, but I hope I offer a safe space to be yourself, laugh, and be nourished; both body and soul.

 

 

 

Dare to Be Donald

donald

Not the infamous, Asshat Donald.

Today I”m talking about Donald who works at my local book store.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the phone to make sure that they had a copy of my book-club-book in stock before I fought Toronto’s ridiculous traffic to pick it up on my way to yoga class.

Yah, I know. First-world-problem-enough for you?

Anyway, when I called, it was early and I expected a worn out part-time employee’s weary voice on the other end, with just a hint of why-don’t-you-just-order-online sarcasm.

Instead I got Donald.

“GOOD MORNING! You’ve reached your local bookstore, and my name is DONALD! How can I make your day better?”

We chatted about what I was looking for, he put me on hold as he verified he could lay hands on it, and then came back and shared words to live by in his farewell address;

“Don’t eat too much cake today at the party because we’re going to celebrate with bubbly after that!”

We need more Donald in our lives. We need to challenge his enthusiasm, joy, and whatever help he gets by with.

Go out into the world today, treat it like a party, and dare to be like Donald.

Mean People Suck: Don’t Let Them Suck the Life Out of You

ugly buzzardNice and mean. Two simple words not often given enough credit for how important they are.

Nice matters. Mean sucks.

Today I’m going to be writing about mean, because recently someone has taken all of the vulnerability I shared with them, and been very mean.

In the past 24 hours I have been told that my friends and family are crazy. That’s pretty damn mean when the person spewing bile knows that mental health struggles that have gone on due to physical, sexual and emotional abuse throughout my family and friends lives.  The security of my home has  been threatened and I’ve been told some nasty, nasty things from a person who was dear to me.

But I’ve done mean. I survived it in my childhood home, in the workplace and even relationships. Which is to say, that my ability to overcome it is great. In other words, when someone is mean, the only thing I know that I can do is to disengage, and enter survival mode.

And how much fun is that? It isn’t. And I’m too old for this shit quite frankly. I’m due for some free-spirited, joyful living, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

When someone shows me how ugly their spirit really is, I choose not to invest my time or energy there. After all, I’ve got more important shit to do, like create a non-fiction masterpiece, and have wine-soaked discussions with kindred spirits. Fuck mean.

If you’re out there with someone who is a nasty little troll, whether it ‘s at home, at work, at school or in the community, try your best to disengage. Try your best to identify the hardest times to control your reaction. Focus on what you love; your art, your job, your pet, your kids, your daily walk around the block….

beautiful birdMean sucks.

Remember, mean belongs to the person spewing hate. It doesn’t belong to you, so don’t carry it. Take a deep breath, envision yourself surrounded by light which protects you from anyone else’s bullshit, and step forward into your own life.

 

 

Summer: Does Pumpkin Spice Belong Here?

pumpkinspiceThe end of summer has a natural melancholy about it, nostalgia seems to like the golden light of sunset and my pumpkin-spice-swilling-compadres seem always ready for the next consumer fix…ho-ho-hold off on the winter holidays please. I’m still trying to sip my September dream of October.

I missed day-one of the Pumpkin Spice season at Starbucks, but you can bet your syrupy sweet, sugary ass that I made it there on the second day.  We are an odd bunch, craving fall when it’s still peach season.

Does pumpkin spice belong here before the kids go back to school? Who’s to say. I mean, it was a marketing campaign that changed the face of how we end our summers, but maybe we can come up with some new ideas;

Peach tea lattes ( I know, it’s been done, but they are damn yummy), please don’t leave me plum lemonade, late summer boo-hoo berry or  harvest melancholy melon???

Perhaps is was Toronto’s above average rain fall and below average temperatures that fooled me into thinking our season had to be longer, or that September would bring with her some sunshine and dry heat.

For a gal who loves her some festive, pumpkin-spice lattes, I wasn’t prepared this year. Nor was I prepared to walk into a shop yesterday and find myself surrounded by Christmas decor, the  Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en stock already having been pushed to a corner.

Late summer is a mix of hanging on to the carefree days of summer, new beginnings and connecting to our ancient rituals around the harvest.

Every year, my middle-aged mom social media feed is awash with ladies celebrating the return of the syrupy-sweet-caffeine-laden coffee that is our generation’s valium. And every year, I contribute to the madness. I covet  no-whip-half-sweet-non-fat-pumpkin-spice-lattes. It’s like a small booby-prize for growing older but not up.

 

 

 

 

For Women Only: Tips For Staying Youthful Looking

Granma-hippieWaking up and checking our smartphones is a sign of the times I think.

I check to see if my kiddo needs me. I check to see what the schedule is like at work, the weather, how many of you read my latest post, and what some small-minded arsehole of a man has decided I need to know about making myself beautiful.

Ok, the last point – I really don’t wake up to read that. I am exposed to it.

This morning, while scrolling through my feed Cheech Marin shared a post that suggested what not to do to stay youthful looking. Some of the tips included;

Do not wear jersey anything

Do not wear long hair.

Don’t wear loose fitting anything, but don’t wear skinny jeans either

Don’t wear chunky, funky frames for your glasses.

Don’t wear a specific shade of pantyhose.

Although some of the suggestions may feel right to some of the women out there, it all felt a little too 1950’s-keep-your-ankles-crossed to me.

And really, Cheech Marin is sharing this? Cheech, I’ve got news for you; grown women don’t give a shit what you think, and perhaps you might take a look in the mirror? Oh, no, I’m not going there and being nasty about his looks. Nope. That’s not what this is about.

Cheech, like everyone else on the planet is beautiful because of his smile, his authentic style, and his way of being Cheech, nothing more and nothing less.

Which brings me to the essence of what I want to say; screw everyone else’s ideas. For instance, I demanded a small piece of chocolate cake for breakfast…

Ok, maybe make healthy choices for yourself so you don’t end up with gout, but do be (doo-be-doo) sure to enjoy this life.

phyllisMy suggestions for staying youthful for women and men;

Don’t let your weight hold you back from anything. Back fat and belly rolls do not mean you deserve to be holed up in the house alone. Laughter and curiosity are healthy, no matter what your size.

Wear your hair however you damn well please, and don’t worry about it all day long.

Make-up: Do whatever makes you feel good. Some days I’m glam, some days I’m  ma’am.

Clothing; Are you comfortable? Yes? Then that’s good.

Pantyhose – do whatever floats your boat – men, women and everyone on the spectrum.

Jersey fabric – absofreakinglutely.

Eyeglasses; You likely will need them as you age. Wear something funky, wear something classic, just fucking wear them so you don’t have to ask someone else to read menus or street signs to you.

Do not be so infatuated with yourself that you miss out on the wonderful world around you. Do not be a navel gazer…

And that my darlings is your list to help you stay youthful. Look outward. See the world, and engage in it. No one cares about your hair, or your panty hose, or the shade of your frames. We do care that you are clean, authentic and kind.

Don’t stink.

Be true to your personal values.

Be nice.