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In the Kitchen With Granny

Today I woke up and took a good look in the mirror; Fingers padding lightly across my skin, as I lean in to really see myself. I look into my tired blue eyes and know that I look like both of my grandmothers.  I have the round, kind face of my Granny Dorothy, and the body of my Granny Eileen. It’ll just have to do.

The two of them were as different as night and day. Granny Dorothy was an educated woman who married late in life to a sour, strict, everyone’s-going-to-burn-in-hell-baptist.  Her wits and grit kept the bills paid, and her sense of humour kept her alive. Had she been born today, she likely never would have married. She would have worked her way around the world. Alas, the 1930’s had other plans for her.

Granny Eileen on the other hand, was on husband number three when I came along. She’d raised six kids on her own. She was a resourceful woman with a heart of gold who didn’t take a lick of shit from anyone, especially her husband.

Both of these women taught me to make something from nothing.  Whether it was in the kitchen, or out in the world at large. They taught me how a woman could be both strong and kind.

Every year, I keep them close as I plant my garden, and every harvest season, as I take to the kitchen. These rituals keep me close to them. I’m a sentimental traditionalist when it comes to my kitchen. During the summer, I find myself preserving the same things with the same recipes that they did all those years ago.  I throw in a few more odds and ends, just because I find comfort in the routine of being in the kitchen during harvest season.

This morning I slipped on a jersey knit dress that put me in mind of Granny Dorothy. She knew what she was doing with those old house dresses. Simple, tidy, and most importantly when you’re preserving; cool. I listened to interviews with authors as I sterilized jars, peeled and chopped fruit, remembering how my Granny Eileen’s gnarled up hands seemed to be able to create anything.

During the summer months, I yearn for the slow, simple days of childhood summers. I recall the flavour of each stage of the harvest; radish, carrots, and beans snapped straight from the plant and tossed directly into our mouths.  No garden was immune to kids raiding it for a snack. We sucked on sour rhubarb stalks, and cringed at the bitterness of currents. We raided the ditches and gullies, picking raspberries and blackberries when we were lucky enough to find them. Each ripening carried back to the kitchens of our grannies where it was made into something wonderful.

 

Except pastry. I learned how not to make pastry from both of my Grandmothers. Kind of like how not to choose a mate. As it turns out, Granny Eileen  insisted that if I followed the recipe on the box of Tenderflake, my pastry would be just fine. She also lied. Years later my aunt laughted at me so hard tears streamed down her face; Granny used pre-made pastry and was full of shit. Granny Dorothy on the other hand was honest with me but produced pastry with a texture so fearsome that the dog wouldn’t even eat it.  From this I learned that sometimes we don’t always get what we need from family. Sometimes we have to reach out to become wiser and better.

 

The quiet stretches in my kitchen necessary for the process of preserving and canning gives me time to commune with the spirit of these two women. They are with me here in the steam and heat, and smell of cooked fruit. They are with me when I take a jar of something I preserved from the pantry and serve it to my family and friends. My grannies are always with me at my table.

 

 

 

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Tacos with John Mayer

taco truckI was in New York City last night with John Mayer. I adore his music. This summer I’m headed out to my very first Dead and Company show, all the way south of our beautiful Canadian border.

Anyway, about last night. John, myself and a bunch of pals were at a buddy’s place in the city, and we were all jonesing for some tacos. I suggested a taco truck that I remembered was a short walk away from the apartment- kinda close to Times Square, but far enough away that it wasn’t right in the mix. It was this funky little truck, painted high gloss black with a scrolling white logo that took up the entire side. It looked neat, tidy, and clean; all good things when it comes to street food.

We all got a little side tracked just before we were going to head out. Someone handed me the most pudgy, little, white, kitten, and it was all I could do to put it down. I just had to have a cuddle, so I sat down, right where I was standing, and let the little guy stretch out on my lap for a belly rub.

The guys couldn’t resist. They all gathered around and bent down to give the little guy a pet. Some of the guys were  naked, (if the kitten weren’t so cute, I would have been distracted by their junk wiggling in my face). Whatever. I had a roly kitten to snuggle. Once you’ve seen a dude’s wiggler, there’s not much else you can be distracted by…except kittens. Hey, I’m over 40, I only wanna see the junk of men I adore, thank you very much.

giphy-4

Wait, where was I? The kitten…??? What happened to the naked guys? Where did John Mayer go during this whole kitten and men’s pubic hair fiasco? Why on earth was I bothering to go get tacos when just last week I vowed I’d had my fill of tacos for life? What I really wanted was a couple of really yummy authentic pork tamales. Oh, and that damn noise to stop….

…my alarm…

Turns out I wasn’t with a  kitten and a bunch of well-hung naked men. John Mayer was defo not just at the door putting his sneakers on to go find a taco truck with me in New York City.  Waking up to reality can really suck, especially when you’ve just been in NYC with your musical fave, fat kittens, naked men, and the promise of a really good taco.

Ah well….a lady can dream.

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Flake? I’ll Be The Judge of That.

flake

I’m typing this in a dark corner of the living room, having been stirred to wakefulness again by a 2018 article about pairing champagne (one of my faves) with french fries. Yummmmm! This my friends, is what keeps me up at night.

After having slipped my love a valium, and being irritated from sleepiness to being wide awake by his snoring, I got up to find some ear plugs. Which took me to the living room, so I could  record notes for a to-do list tomorrow. You know, follow up on doctor’s appointments, what I need to buy at Ikea, reserving my space at yoga classes, and how I’m going to rearrange the spare room and my writing area.  Inevitably I checked my phone, and voila….the social media vortex had me.

Left wing aside here…he knew he was taking the Valium. It’s like an unspoken compromise. Silently it says, “Yes, I will shut up so we no longer have to engage today.”

Tapping out my to do list for tomorrow kinda worked up an appetite, or maybe it was just the  knowledge that there was a Costco sized bag of fully-loaded-nacho-flavoured Doritos in the cupboard. And a mini Flake bar (another personal favourite, this time in the chocolate bar category). All tempting leftovers from when the kiddo was home. Nachos and a piece of butter bread…and the flake. Oh, sweet, sweet, middle of the night carb cravings, have you not had enough of me? Apparently not.

This morning during  CBC interview, it was noted that people with bad short-term memories are actually smarter, because somehow this lack of short term memory makes more room to learn more things and improve long-term memory. My short term memory is absolute shit.

This little radio spot vindicated me. I am not a flake. I am a genius. According to a childhood assessment, I actually am. But that’s a story for another time.

giphy-3It is during these wee hours of the morning when my mind is whirring and I’m trying to capture my lists and ideas that I am at my most creative. I have the most energy for things that really excite me at a soul level (and I’m not talking about the Doritos).  As I take a giant swig of what I thought was iced tea (I’m colour blind – turns out it was some kind of blue jungle juice leftover from the kiddo today), I begin to wonder if I’m the only woman who does this? This middle of the night, burning the candle at both ends life?

I wonder, and every once in a while, I get an answer back from out of the still, middle-of-the-night darkness. It usually comes in the form of a message, or text or a few beautiful lines of poetry. Tonight it was a message from an author whom I admire for more than just their writing style. I admire what they stand for. These are the signs that reassure me I am not alone in my hope, my dreaming, and my creative genius.

Costo. Doritos. Leftover something-juice.  It works. Oh,and so does the valium.

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Making Room in My Jeans for Enchantment

distractionBecause of my inability to focus, my jeans are getting snug.

As in, I’ve gone beyond muffin-top to mid-section-souffle. I’ve been home a lot lately, and although I’m busy as stink caregiving, I have lots of time on my hands while I stay up way too late and overthink everything.

Today, while having a meltdown (likely a bloodsugar low), I ate another of my beautifully decorated sugar cookies, gave myself a tummy-ache and got to thinking while I laid down to sweat it out. Perhaps I should just really focus on what makes me feel good.

And what is that?

Well, it’s my writing, my inspiration, or ‘enchantment’ as Elizabeth Gilbert refers to it in her book, Big Magic, (a book every creative soul needs).  Given that my nervous baking habit has made me pack on pounds and feel like crap since I’ve been at home for the past number of weeks, I couldn’t help but listen when my nauseous tummy and tight waistband went from a whisper to a scream; “QUIT BAKING THIS SHIT!!!”…and in a much more kind, caring voice, “Do what you love sweetheart.”

One idea from Big Magic that stuck with me the first time I read the book is,

However, I’ve always had the sense that the muse of the tormented artist – while the artist himself is throwing temper tantrums – is sitting quietly in a corner of the studio, buffing its fingernails, patiently waiting for the guy to calm down and sober up so everyone can get back to work.”

I have a lot of interests; baking, cooking, reading, writing, yoga, gardening, being an enthusiastic sports mom…and the list goes on. These are the equivalent of my temper tantrums. Convincing myself that I don’t have enough time to write is akin to a temper tantrum.

I’m so funny.

I have time to do most of my hobbies, except write.  Why??? the only explanation I can come up with is that my upbringing as a hard-working-protestant-country-girl saves the best for last. “I’ll write after I…..” And then the day is finished. I have no energy left for the good stuff.

It’s hard to think of a tortured artist baking and decorating cookies, but it’s my very civilized-flirting-with-diabetes form of torment. But it is no more. No more half-hearted attempts at making slippers, meringues, paintings, blankets or any other whim I get snagged on while cruising Pinterest.  No more tummy aches and sugar lows. No more cursing myself for my jeans getting even smaller.

In Big Magic, Ms. Gilbert talks about enchantment, and whether you meet it with the resistance of the stereotypical tortured artist or like gracious host who makes room for it.

I’m going to try and be the gracious host. And that includes not wearing pants that are way too tight.

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What Are You Good At – Maybe Everything!

catslipper.jpgLast year I attempted to make slippers for my son’s giant feet, but after two tries, I ended up with what looked like a crocheted sleeping bag for our cat. The fat one.

Projects and hobbies are so necessary for me, that I couldn’t imagine my busy life without them. Having lived an adult life filled with responsibility, these small, creative outlets bring me immeasurable joy.

Creativity is essential to the human condition. If you feel listless, find something that makes you smile, and go out and make it. Don’t worry about how long it takes or what the end result is, try to enjoy and trust the process.

Someone once asked me if I was good at anything, given I had so many interests.  It wasn’t a question asked in ernest or with good intent, no, it was sarcastic, and in my twenties, it hurt.

Now that I’m in my forties, I can honestly say that I’m good at a lot of things.  I love doing things that I’m good at, but just as much as doing something I know that I’m good at, I adore figuring out new projects.

This month, my new project is refinishing my old desk (I’ve had it since I was 13). My office at home is completely different than where I work (I’m a funeral director).  My vision is a bright, unmistakingly vamp-fem space where I can work on making people feel their best.

At first I imagined an aubergine desk;

purple

 

That was until my little Pinteresting fingies found this gem;

pink-dresser-desk

 

My colour pallette now looks more like this;

watermelon pink

Va-va-va-voom! “And how can I help you?” I imagine myself asking from behind this little piece of heaven.

Even better than finding the picture,  I found the instructions on the www.allthingsthrifty.com website, including the paint colour and brand (Krylon)

Can I get an, ‘AMEN’?!

Having a hot pink desk would not be a professional decorator’s idea of fine decor, but that’s not what matters to me at this stage. What matters is how I wish to reflect my personality in my home and personal business space, and hot pink it is!

Yes, there will be eye-rolling by my partner, my adult son, and anyone who has zero joi de vivre. Alas, I feel a pink desk coming on.

 

 

 

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You Are a Goddess Born for the Act of Creation

danu
DANU  – This multi-faceted aspect of the Divine Feminine is experienced as the air we breathe, as the river that nourishes all of life, as the bounty and abundance of earth and as the cosmic energy of universal wisdom.
A Triple Goddess, which means she is able to take the form of the Maiden, the Mother or the Crone, and a Divine Lady who is the essence of the earth, the air and the essence of water, Danu is able to embody the form/energy suited the situation.  Here she brings the power of versatility and teaches us to honor and respect diversity within ourselves and within others and reminds us to honor each stage of our physical life.

Collage therapy, Goddess meditation, writing prompts, textile arts, embroidery, pottery…

All of it. I want to get my hands mucky and dirty and calloused and spend my time doing aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll of it.

Or at least pulling myself out of a career of death and dying. Not completely of course. I mean, I’m in my forties for goodness-sake! I’d be foolish to leave the stability of a pension and good benefits (not to mention an awesome team of colleagues). this I know to be true, and we (you know who you are ladies) need something else.  Something  that we can find joy in which allows us to sip from the spiritual fountain of youth, or make a few extra bucks to fund what we would all like to become our annual Central-American-Beach-Rehab. Ok, that’s my dream, but I’m sure you have your own.

Being creative is generally frowned upon in our culture. Go out of the house with wild hair? Wear something unique? Sing your way through the work day? Yah, not so cool, and possibly a good way to have yourself committed.

I think most women at my stage go through this. Whether you live in a hovel or a palace, life becomes routine. There is comfort in routine, but there is also stagnation. We become sexless, and our femininity is starved. Being spiritually and emotionally vibrant goes a long way toward health.

My daily challenge is to let-it-go.

Letting go of all of the time-gobblers that suck the life out of me.

The time we’re  not at work too often becomes perfecting the comforting space of domesticity. Food prep, folding  laundry,  tidying up; It’s become the hole in my spiritual bucket.  Yours may be binge-watching, trashy novels or napping.

Let me be clear. Our need  to create is not a whimsy, or modern construct. There is evidence of creativity dating as far back as our human history.  It is part of our essence.

My need to create is always there though, simmering under the surface, sometimes boiling over and making the kind of mess that anything repressed tends to do. Goodness knows I don’t need any more messes to tidy up.

I will continue my daily struggle to find balance between being a responsible adult and a wild-at-heart free-spirit, why don’t you join me?

Let yourself transform into the creative goddess that you are; let your hair grow, buy the funky jacket, relax into comfortable flip flops, and damn it, spend time in the comfortable, wild space of creativity.

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Writing Prompts: What I Go To

pickyFor a quick insight into my own process when the fire has died, I offer you this;

  1. The newspaper. Yes. Paper. Go buy a print copy and flip to the editorials and opinion sections. Browse the arts and see what other fearless creatives are doing. Write about your thoughts.
  2. Daily meditation. I used Goddess 365. Sometimes I’m faithful, and other times she waits a week or two before I give her any attention. Ah, but she is faithful and patient. Read, give some kind of offering even if it’s a silent tribute of gratitude or visualization. If you need altar supplies, I suggest Wonderworks.
  3. An oldie, but a goodie, especially for sensual writer-types; Fruit Flesh

Don’t forget to carry a notebook. Take yourself for a walk without being plugged in to a playlist or a podcast. Let your mind relax and wander all on its own. But most importantly, put pen to paper. Doodle at first if you must, but don’t give up.