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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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Boundary Breaking Turds: Containing the Stink

toilet-paper-shoeIn my late 30’s I became acutely aware of people who drained my energy. I’m sure you can relate.

As a natural caregiver, I was feeling drained by some of my family and friends. I was the go-to for help, but not the go-to if I needed anything. So I experimented with personal boundaries. I fell in love with them. They are flexible yet firm, and they love me back.

The more you care about someone, the more it hurts when those boundaries are disrespected, and yesterday that happened to me. Not for the first time, but for the last time. Every time I interact with this individual, they tromp all over everyone else’s boundaries like a rhino in a vegetable garden, ruining a lot of good stuff, and leaving destruction and a few turds in their wake.

I’m pretty relaxed, except when it comes to holding a grudge. I can hold onto a grudge forever. Not intentionally, it kind of sticks to me like a piece of dank toilet paper that I can’t kick off my shoe. It’s disgusting. And let’s be clear – it’s not my shit in the first place, it’s theirs.

So yesterday, my garden was tromped, annihilating the plans for someone I love (for the umpteenth time). Metaphorically, I stepped into their shit and it stuck.  It’s hard to shake off, and it tracks it’s stink everywhere.

When you point it out, people are disgusted by it too, but no-one’s going to help get it off because, well, it’s shit. It stinks, and it’s sticky, and they don’t want it stuck to them.

Deal with it. Get that shit outta here!

You know what I’m saying?

The only solution is to vent to good friends who are at enough of a distance not to catch a whiff of the crap. They can empathize and help you cope. The only solution though, is to avoid the shit. To stay away from the doggy park, if you know what I mean?

Whether it’s a bad boss, an annoying social acquaintance, or a family member who bulldozes everyone. Just do not engage.  At all. Or, at the very least expose yourself to their destructive ways as little as possible to avoid being the one with their shit stuck to your shoe.  Also keep your distance from people who have little or no self-awareness with regard to how much of that particular individual’s shit they are tracking through their life. Some people are just covered in it!

Boundaries are there to keep you safe from people who have no regard to how shitty they are. Keep your boundaries firm, and your shoes clean.

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New Year – Same Old You

New Year

Now that we’re officially on the other side of the ‘Christmas Holidays’ and the tail end of what was a particularly challenging 2018 at my house, I’m changing some things. Mostly my attitude….I hope.

I’m not doing away with the traditional cookies or opening gifts on Christmas morning. And I’m certainly not doing away with staying awake until everyone else is asleep so that I can lay out the overflowing stockings. Stockings are my very favourite part of Christmas morning.

What I think I’ll do away with is the expectation that when December 25 rolls around something will be magnificent. The reality is that the best part of Christmas is the lead up.

You know what I mean darlings; the dinners out, the gossip over coffee, the visits with people whom you should be spending way more time with because they make you feel special. By the 25th I figure that we’re all ready for the big meal, a good long nap, and a laugh. We mostly are ready for any expectation that people have for us to just fuck off and go take a nap somewhere with a big glass of rummy nog.

About mid-November every year I get the Christmas itchies. I put up the tree, decorate the house, and start setting up a wrapping station in the spare room. I like to be prepared.

What I don’t like to be is disappointed. As long as my kiddo is here on the 24th and 25th, it’s all good. The rest is gravy really, and I should, as a younger, hipper version of myself has often told me, just “calm my tits”.

What I’ve learned recently is that  I’ve put a lot of effort in to the holidays for people who don’t appreciate it.  I get drained and resentful. I’ve decided that as much as I’m willing to arrange get-togethers, I also expect to be hosted as well. I’ve decided that I’m making one Christmas dinner whenever the hell I want to. Since I’m the only one who makes it, decorates it and cleans it up,  I get to decide when it is, based on whatever priority I have. If someone in the flock doesn’t like it, I’m more than happy to show up to a decorated house,  a cooked meal, and leave afterward with a belly full and no offer to help clean up.

This year all I really needed was to have some of the kiddos favourite treats ready in small doses when he popped in to refuel for more socializing with his pals. I didn’t need to bake up a storm for anyone unless I really felt like spending the day in the kitchen. That leaves no resentment, only joy.

As the years pass, and what the Christmas season looks like changes for everyone.  I like to think that I can spend more time with friends, opening the door to those kindred spirits who like to talk about life, art, and experience ,deep into the night around a table of fresh food and oodles of wine.

My holiday plans and expectations are different, but as the new year rolls in, I realize I’m the same old me. Happiest surrounded by the friends I call my family, having creative vision and goals, and still mumming my kiddo even though he’s all grown up.

 

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T’was The Night Before Christmas

…and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, except for mamma. Mamma’s are always stirring. Mamma’s are Christmas.

My Mumster always told me that it is the mum who makes Christmas happen, and she’s right. Regardless of the twaddle that our families (biological or of choice) throw at us about not fussing, not having any special baking or meal requests, when you fail to make every single Christmas treat that they like throughout the month of December, you inevitably get the disappointed face asking, “Where are the butterscotch squares,”?  And you feel as if you’ve failed. Coloured marshmallows and butter are my secret weapon…and sprinkles…maybe also rum and a little bit of ameretto.

This year has been different around our house. So much so, that waking up today doesn’t feel like Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve day is my favourite day of the year. I love it. It always begins with a mom-son breakfast, carries on with cookie baking, movie watching, lots of relaxation, decadent food, supper heated from a box (because I’m too busy prepping for Christmas dinner and the throngs of people I feed), and finishes off with a trip to church, with the grand finale being the singing of Silent Night by candlelight.

But not this year. Oh no. This year involves a trip to the airport to pick up my kiddo (who’s flight is now officially delayed) and giving a bed bath to my partner who is unable to move. I can’t lie, if this flight is cancelled or late, I’m going to be searching pretty hard for goodwill-unto men. I’m also kinda over giving bed baths too.

Christmas Eve

In lieu of church, I think I’m going to get loose with eggnog and rum, or perhaps I’ll keep it simple and drag  the Santa gifts out after a few glasses of wine (a few glasses = a bottle). Perhaps this year old St. Nick will be swigging a gin and tonic and enjoying some Branston pickle on cheese…hey, whatever gets you me through the night. I may even get in those hours of editing I’m so badly craving.

I have not been out to the Christmas sock party, the Christmas ugly sweater party, my work Christmas party, my usual friendly visits, or romantic Christmas rendezvous. I will not be going to the annual boxing day open house in Stratford that has on more than one occasion found me  dancing until dawn on the 27th and charming some poor soul into falling in love with me. No. This year is different.

This year, it’s a small, quiet Christmas. As such, I have splurged on the cats. their stockings will be bulging with cheap toys, treats and stale catnip from a bag. Fa-la-la-la-la…..la-la-la-laaaaa!

Yesterday I made rum balls and took the temperature on the stock of supplies for our tiny Christmas meal.  By tiny I mean this is the fewest amount of people I have ever cooked for at Christmas time. Although our mother-son breakfast will be delayed, and I’m not stressing over space to cook for a pile of people, this Christmas is going to be wonderful. Because I’ve made up my mind that it shall be so.

But next year, oh, next year! My social media feed will be rife with the jolly stress of an over-worked, over-tired, over-done-it mamma who can’t wait for the last piece of turkey to be gobbled down so she can get back to a quiet life of not dodging Christmas decorations while trying to bake everything under the sun before heading out to see the lights. I will be revelling in the exhaustion, excitement and over-doing-itness of the season.

But for now, here’s to a silent night, a quiet night, tucked in by the fire with my most favourite creatures on earth.  May you all be so lucky as to have your loved ones close.

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It’s Difficult Loving a Snoreman

duct tapeI woke up this morning with the bloody evidence of a restless sleep. In my ear  no less. From trying to block the loud sleep-purr of my man.

For two years ear plugs have kept me from two things: chronic sleep deprivation, and killing my partner in his sleep.

For years I lived alone.

Only in retrospect have I discovered that it was ‘blissfully’ alone.

HA-ha! HA-ha-HA-ha-HA!

Just in case you couldn’t tell, that is the delirious, sleep-deprived laughter of a woman who now shares her bed with a chronic snorer. A snorer supreme. A snorosaurus. A snorenado if you will.

Every night it’s snormagedon. And I’m sooooooo t i r e d.

This morning, a contractor needed to get into the building where I worked before we opened, so since I was awake all night anyway, I went in early to unlock the doors.  I rolled out of my car yawning at the same time as the contractor pulled up.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, finishing up a big, wide-mouthed yawn, “I”m not much of a morning person and the love of my life snores like a bulldozer.”

“So do I, ” he said, and then he laughed.

He laughed.  Asshole.

I had the same response from the lady who served me at the liquor store tonight. It was my one and only stop on my way home from work. The only thing I wanted was a big bowl of my auntie’s recipe for 3 in 1,  an intravenous feed of red wine, and a full-bellied-red-wine-induced-nap in front of the fireplace.

And that’s exactly what I had.

Until my well-rested horror-snorer came barging through the door. He was full of energy from having a full night of sleep.

Just to be clear to all of the snorers out there-we hate you.

You see, until now, I thought I had a solution. I had adopted the wise sleep habit of my bestie – using earplugs. Trust me, once you start wearing your long nightie to bed with socks, the ear plugs come next. The good news is when you reach this stage, you have simply come into your own power. You are silently creating your very own space. Everything about you, including your self-induced hearing impairment does not invite anyone into your space, not even subliminally. Your entire vibe is fuck-off-and-let-me-sleep. The flannel, the socks and the construction orange ear-plugs are sleepy-time-thug-gear.

Until you wake up with a bloody ear from wearing ear plugs too often.

The only solution I can come up with right now is to learn how to accessorize an orange jumpsuit.

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Saying Good-Bye to Christmas: A Beautiful Mess

peaceIn the quiet stillness of the-day-after, I sit alone looking at the lights on the Christmas tree.

The house is finally empty and I have my first few minutes alone.

Putting together the holiday for everyone feels like nothing short of a miracle some years, but this year was different. I was happier and more relaxed. Exhausted still, at this point, I am spent.

The evidence is all around; an errant ribbon on the table, a Shriner’s fruitcake card atop a red velvet jewellers box, gift tags that got left behind, a bottle of wine reflecting the lights on the tree. There is one gift bag left unopened, intended for someone who didn’t make it over in time for the festivities, and a piece of art behind the tree that the kiddo forgot to tuck away.

All of this beautiful mess here and there makes me happy. It is proof that family and friends were here, cozy, happy and fed well. Hopefully everyone felt connected and loved.

It’s over for another year, and perhaps, the beginning of some new traditions for everyone.

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Everyone is a Kid at Christmas

kidsThis is for teenagers, young adults, and parents.

Let me tell you a short story. Today was my day off. I work long hours, at a very (physically & psychologically) demanding job (which I love). Even so, I L-O-V-E my days off.

No-alarm-clock days are luxurious. After all darlings, I have mastered the art of living and relaxing. But today I set my alarm for 6 a.m. You see, my kiddo had to get up and out before 7 a.m., and I wanted to give him a drive.

Yes, he’s old enough to get there himself. Yes, he knows how to pack his own lunch, cook, clean and do his own laundry. Despite the kiddo’s protests,  “Mom, why do you want to drive me? I’m fine on my own. Go back to bed“, I often get up even on the days I work a late shift.

Why? Well, as any parent will tell you, they cherish those moments with their children, and those moments come fewer and more far between as our children grow up.

The Christmas season offers many opportunities to argue, fight, and to feel annoyed with one another.

When we want to be with you to decorate the tree,  have dinner with friends, and participate in family traditions, please remember that it’s not intended as a form of torture.

When we ask how your day was, we’re not so much checking up on whether you were a stand-up human being, we want to make sure you’re ok. Ok as in, we’ve been there, and we know that the world can be cruel and hard. We want to make sure you never leave for the day, or go to bed at night feeling, ‘less than’.

When we pack you a lunch, or suggest you take more food, we’re not criticizing your menu choice. We don’t want you to be hungry.

When we make sure you have a winter coat for the season, and suggest you take a hat or gloves, it’s not because we want to send you out looking like an over-grown toddler or out of style. We don’t want you to feel the cold.

When we ask you about your first crush, we don’t want to give you a moral lecture on sexual behavior. We want to know if your crush is treating your tender heart with care. We don’t want you to feel heartache.

When we ask you what you want to study or what you want to be be when you grow up, we don’t care if you have a definitive answer. We want you to go after your dreams.

We don’t want you to suffer; to feel pain, cold, hunger, loneliness or sadness.

No matter how old you are, if you are lucky, you will always be someone’s little boy or little girl. At a certain point in life, the roles reverse, and like I feel about my mumster, you’ll want to swaddle us in protective love too.

Wishing kids of all ages, a very happy holiday.