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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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Blowing Out the Candles

candlesOn the eve of my 4o-plus-somethingish birthday, I cannot help but reflect upon the lessons I have learned this year. In theory I’m an expert.  In practice, however, that’s another story.

I do believe that the difference between theory and practice is the key to successful living though darlings, because bridging that gap is the difference between annoying should-sayers, and the people who shine brightly and inspire the rest of us.

Grace has been a concept I’ve wanted to put into practice  throughout the past few years. There are  times I have failed miserably; my birthday breakdown at a bar while trying to sort out my mother issues; my insecurity as a partner, my ability to maintain a positive attitude in light of the every day demands of living. Yah, I’ve failed a few times.

But I have learned a few things from all of that bluster, and I’m old enough to take the liberty of sharing them with you;

  1. I have spent way too much time on my hair.
  2. We allow ourselves to be led by a false economy and fabricated news. Does it feel right? Do it. Does it feel wrong? Don’t. The world would be a better place if we all followed the golden rule.
  3.  If you love your body, it will love back. At a certain point you realize your body feels better when you eat this and not that; when you do this and not that.  It loves water and apples and decadent butter cream chocolate from your favourite Chocolaterie. It does not like to listen to people incessantly rambling about fad diets or extreme routines. Love your body, let it gently communicate to you, and it will love you back.
  4. Kindred spirits aren’t terribly hard to find, but it’s terribly hard to be vulnerable enough to get to know one.
  5. Create things. Anything. Creativity is your human spirit making itself present in the world. Let it sing, paint, write, carve, stitch, bake….whatever! Let your mind wander and your spirit reveal itself.
  6. Do not let bitchy people ruin your day. Attitude is contagious – be sure to protect yourself.
  7. Nobody’s watching. Seriously. Just relax.
  8. Change is scary, but constant. If you can be excited through the fear, you have life licked.
  9. You need friends of all ages; older ones and younger ones, and people who transcend age. You need nurturing and affection and the awesome healing power of human touch.
  10. Flannel jammies, hot tea and a good hobby to keep you occupied are three simple things that are highly under-rated.
  11. Always, always, always buy the shoes.
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Midnight Visits from the Ghost of Granny; Living with Intention & Gratitude

There were many nights that I used to get up in the middle of the night and see my Grandmother at the kitchen table.

I thought of her last night, when the rest of the world was in slumber. I know that  she had her own heartache and troubles, but she inspired me with her courage and zest for life.

Inspired by the woman who most inspired me, I have decided to go about my day with intention. Beyond the BIG things; my son and my home, there are little things that I am grateful for every day. So I give to you a list of things that make me happy/am grateful for, and I hope that it may inspire you.

  1. A good pair of tweezers. Oh yah baby. Women of a certain age can appreciate this as much as a man appreciates that little do-hickey end of a hair trimmer that removes ear hair. Sometimes it’s just the little things.

tweezers

2. The friends who love me. Like really love me, and manage to keep the flame of silliness burning alive and well within me. You know who you are; The Lovely L., The Amazing C., The Rolicking R., The Daring D.,  the Mumster and the Fearlessly Creative C.

Sennett-Bathing-Beauties-1915_thumb

3. Creativity and the friends who value creativity as highly as I do…

drum beating

4. The legacy of a kick-ass granny, who knew how to balance compassion and strength, especially on the days when you felt like giving up. Her fearlessness and curiosity always give me a kick in the bum.

grandmothers

5. Sports. For instance, this year, the Toronto Blue Jays are playing in the semi-finals. Sports give us something common to be emotionally invested in, talk about and bond over that isn’t too personal. Sports give us easy, enthusiastic conversation without the monotony of the curse of middle-age; talking about work, our failed marriages or how we still don’t have a clue what’s going on. Sports are highly under-rated.

octoberbaseball

6. Witnessing the evolving relationship of couples who love each other. They know the value of what it means to love when it’s easy, and when it needs to be fiercely fought for. Depth never came easy. Kuddos to my pals, the Kick-Ass Ms. K and the Debonair Mr. D. I admire your commitment to one another…

karen-and-dennis

7. Junk Food. Oh yah. The ultimate narcotic.

caramel-corn

8. My cleaning lady. Yes, my granny would swat me behind the ear for not cleaning my own house, but some things change.

cleaning-lady

9. Feeling motivated to get back to the gym. Anyone who is a little on the pudgy side knows the anxiety of being seen wearing spandex in public.

gym

 

10. Bread, blue cheese and red wine. Accompanied by thoughtful, fun and intelligent conversation makes it even more delicious…

glass-red-wine-blue-cheese-15246901

 

 

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Being Jolly on a Budget

Each year I come up with some grand ideas about how to spend time with the ones you hold near and dear without breaking the bank.

I mean really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Spending time together is my very favourite gift.

So, this year, I bring you a list of ideas for being jolly on a budget, and I encourage to you to do at least TWO of them.

 

  1. Have a Christmas movie marathon. Define that however you like, but it implies watching more than one movie. It requires that you snuggle under a cozy blanket and sip hot cocoa laced with something that will make you giddy.

snuggle up

If you’re not sure which movies to watch, try one of these;

White Christmas

Holiday Inn

The Holiday

It’s a Wonderful Life

Miracle on 34th Street

2) Wander through a Christmas Market – no purchase required, except for a minimal entrance fee and optional hot cocoa or eggnog. If you go on a cold night, all the better; it’s a great excuse to snuggle your sweetie.

distillery market

3) Attend a local carol sing. Usually the admission cost is a bit of food for a local food bank. What better way to celebrate the true meaning of the season?

Children's Christmas Pageant 2011 + Christmas in Fan Concert

 

4) Have a Christmas themed games night with your closest pals or your family. BYOB and a snack to share. Voila!

twister-4x3

5) Go for a walk on a snowy night. Take in the Christmas decorations and talk about your hopes, dreams, what your favourite traditions are.

windowshopping

6) Bake and decorate a gingerbread house of your own design. Pick out your favourite candy together, make the gingerbread (gingerbread often has to sit overnight before you bake it, so it could be a romantic pj party!), decorate the house just the way you want I to be.

gingerbread house

7) Read your favourite Christmas poems or stories.

robert-frost-the-road-not-taken

8) One of my favourite Christmas traditions is to watch Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It makes me smile, laugh, and remember what the true spirit of the season is really all about.

Wishing you a very happy holiday season that brings you closer to the ones you love.

 

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Sunday Meditation: Every Day Ritual

takecomfortI wake up this morning of my own accord. There is no alarm clock, just time to be me.

But there is ritual in this nothingness, this casual waking and being.

I pad to the kitchen, stumble over my own feet, turn the patio blinds, come back to the enveloping embrace of my still-warm, duvet mountain of a bed and send up a prayer that I’ve come to realize I’ve been saying, in my own way, at my own speed, for many years. It is a prayer of gratitude.

And then my mind turns to wonder…this morning it’s about a lunch date with a an old flame, the pros and cons of moving, how much I’m looking forward to sprucing up my little corner of the world….

Wonder, the butler to her majesty; Curiosity.

Eventually I pour  coffee, a lot of coffee,  into one of my  oversized mugs that was gifted from friends, open the window over my writing desk, and sit down at the keyboard. My feline mentor scrambles onto the desk,past the plant that I barely manage to keep alive, and paws at the lace curtain until I lift it up, and place it over his head like a wedding veil. We both look out to the painting mother nature has created over night and breathe in the cool, fresh, morning air. .

This is my ritual. Every writer has one, and this is mine.

This morning, as I clock-watch and know that my time in front of the keyboard at my little window is short, I am grateful for my simple ritual. It grounds me just enough for inspiration to take root.

It grounds me just enough to turn anxiety into excitement, fear into courage, and sadness into a fading memory.

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Giving Yourself the Moments

pandaplay
“Realize deeply that the present moment is all we ever have.” ~Eckhart Tolle~

Simultaneously I was voice-dialing my mumster and buckling my seatbelt when I was caught up in a moment.

Not a moment of city-driving-get-the-hell-outta-my-way. It was a moment of, “Ahhhhh…..” As in; big sigh of relief. Big sigh of, “I feel like I’m starting to pull myself together“.

After a long day, feet-throbbing, and 5:00 a.m. starts, I felt good. Satisfied, content, like maybe, just maybe I was ok.

As you all know, life has a way of knocking us around, and shaking our confidence. It also has a way of forcing you to surrender when the only fight you have left in you whispers, “I give up,” and then rolls over, gives your broken heart the finger, pulls the blankie over its’ head and goes to sleep.

Tonight, tired but happy, I gave myself the moment.

I let myself be grateful for just being where I was, simply in the moment. Grateful that I had a mumster to call, a kiddo to go home to, and especially that I have enough courage to keep moving forward.

We can only ever be certain of change, that our emotions can carry us to the most dark, frightening depths of the human condition and the loftiest heights of elation.

When we are in the moment; not anxious of the future or analyzing the past, we realize that it’s ok. We’re ok. Life is ok; As it is. Nothing less and nothing more.

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When Your Best Isn’t Good Enough

IMG_6406I wasn’t going to write tonight.

What I wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball and shut out the world.

What I really wanted to do was to turn out the lights, curl up in a ball with my sweetheart, and shut out the world, possibly hearing those magic, fairytale words, “It’s ok”.

I don’t have a sweetheart to curl up with, and I can’t sleep. Right now, it’s not ok.

You see, today, despite always trying to be kind, loving and the world’s greatest promoter of open communication, I was hurt by two people very dear to me.

Call it what you will; lying, omission, whatever.

Being played for a fool, and not being trusted with emotional content is the emotional equivalent to tunneling through my heart with a grapefruit spoon. It’s messy, and it hurts like hell.

When someone  isn’t honest with me, I figure it’s for one of two very basic reasons; They’re afraid of being judged, or they’re an asshole.

Very few people I care about would fall into the latter category. So that makes me think that it’s something that I’ve done wrong. I must make them feel like I’m critical…They must think I’m stupid…They must be ashamed and are afraid to tell me…I’m a terrible person who makes people feel like they can’t talk to me….

And so it goes. I beat myself up and feel like my best just isn’t good enough. I feel like I’ve failed the people whom I care the most about.

Guilt, sadness and feeling inadequate; The trifecta of feeling like crap. There is never any rejoicing in being lied to or taken for a fool.

I practice what I preach when it comes to matters of the heart. I leave it all out there every day. I don’t miss an opportunity to let someone know I’m thinking of them, and I always, always, always tell them I love them.

Life is, by the way, a matter of the heart. Just in case you forgot what being a human being is all about and have mistaken it for a game of who can acquire the most stuff, the quality of your character matters, not the quality of your clothing.

I know that being able to open yourself to love is the cost of being loved. In other words, if you put it all out there, like I do, it’s a risk. But it’s a great risk. If you don’t allow yourself to be seen (in the spiritual sense), you don’t allow yourself to be loved, nurtured, or to grow in the warm light of relationship.

As my humble roots might mutter, “If you half-ass it, you’ll get half-assed results”.

For wearing my heart on my sleeve, I’ve had it beaten up, mocked and treated like hell.  It’s a tough old heart, but it’s just as tender on the inside as it was when I was a school girl with the school girl crush, and that’s the way I plan on keeping it.

After all, if you don’t put it out there, the right people will never be able to capture and care for it.

When your best isn’t good enough, it’s ok to be sad, to cry, to feel alone, and to dig your heels in and battle on in the name of all that you believe to be good and true.