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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The Season of Mystery & Light

street lampI’m early, I know.

Advent is not officially upon us, but the shitty greyness of November sure is.

We are smack in the middle of the time of year when everything is bare, grey, and tired.

Not quite officially Advent, the season of mystery, of waiting, of germinating in the darkness so that we may blossom in the light is definitely upon us.

What better way to embrace it all than to try some new stuff?

This year, it’s all new to me; my home, my relationship status, and most significantly, my role as a mother.  Whatever you call your celebration of light in the darkness that you celebrate, the reality is November is often a month of feeling less than sparkly.

As always, I’m embracing it. All of it.  Well, at least I’m trying to. Trying ‘new stuff’ may help ease the doldrums, but is it the solution? I’m not so sure about that.

Being able to be still in the darkness takes incredible strength of mind and spirit. Allowing yourself to feel it deeply without running from the discomfort may be the secret to rising into the light refreshed and enriched. It may also send you to the psych-ward for a few weeks. Chacun son gout.

I try to remember the significance of the tiny lights twinkling in the cold and the darkness. They are the symbols of hope when we are not sure of our place and where we belong, and sometimes that’s all we have.

 

T’was A Day for Decorating & Digestive Discontent

giant red ballsI never get to sleep in. Anymore.

No, I do not have an infant at home. No, I do not work three jobs. I have however, committed myself to a…morning person.

A morning person who just so happens to be away  golfing in the sunny south during my traditional Christmas-kick-off weekend.

At first you’d think I’d be jealous, what with being left all alone for our first real snow fall.  Alas, that is NOT the case.  After having spent the past three months adjusting to  mid-life empty nesting and newly cohibitating bliss, I am gloriously, and might I say well-restedly (let’s just pretend that’s a word shall we – don’t kill my vibe) alone. Ahhh…..

I have been able to sleep in, deck the halls for the holidays, and even took my time shopping yesterday without a grown man whining that he had to get home to watch football.

I had one of those focussed days yesterday. After checking the Michael’s coupons for the day, I thought I’d start early and do my shopping before I came home to tights, a Christmas sweatshirt, my snoozies skinnies and my hair pulled back like a ninja fighter.

I made breakfast, had a coffee and hit the road. I planned a route to a lesser populated area to the north, and listened to a head banging, Chris Botti Christmas jam.

I shopped until I reminded myself of my own mother. Wandering around the same aisles, examining every garland and piece of kitsch until I’m sure one of the salespeople thought that I was out on some kind of psychiatric day pass.

My cart was loaded with 6 strings of bushy evergreen garland, a giant “Meet Me Under The Mistletoe” pillow and various other bits and bobs that I had just the right place for. Oh yah, and my Michael’s 60% off coupon was ready on my app.

At that point, I realized that I was starving. But even more than that, I was in need of giant red balls….for the tree.

Just one more stop and I’d be on my way home. By this time I was really hungry.

Just a quick run in, I decided, and I would treat myself to my favourite fast-food no-no. My quick trip turned into another hour of picking through stocking stuffers, Christmas scented soaps, and big balls…

By the time I paid, I was s-t-a-r-v-i-n-g and thirsty! You know the shopping-mall thirst I’m talking about don’t you ladies? That parched-I’ve-been-hijacked-in-the-retail-dessert-for-way-too-long-I-gotta-have-some-water-or-I’ll-disintegrate-kind-of-thirst.

Hitting a blood-sugar low I muscled my way to my car, guzzled a half liter of water, and got to my fast-food-sin-spot asap. I ate in the car like a ravenous Christmas elf, and polished it all off with a vanilla milkshake.

Now here’s something you don’t know about me…fake ice cream makes my digestive system revolt. In a BIG way, and fast. It was only a fifteen minute drive home, so I wasn’t panicked. What I was, for about a whole five minutes, was sated, and giddy about going home to prepare for the holidays.

And then it happened. My forty-something-year-old-digestive-system said, “Hold up girl! This is not right.”

The half liter of water met the fake-dairy-milkshake at the threshold of my pyloric valve and all hell broke loose.

Two-wheeling it around corners in my 40km neighbourhood, I raced to the garage, only to remember that I’d left the automatic opener on the kitchen table. I jumped out and frantically keyed in the magic code, while skipping around pinching my butt cheeks together.  I backed the care in so fast that I almost backed right through the rear wall. Juggling bags with garland poking out everywhere, and a large sack of kitty litter, I fumbled for my keys.

My neighbour appeared on queue as all neighbours do – at the worst time ever –  on his back deck waving and wanting to chat. All I could do is grimace, try to raise a hand weighted down with in a semi-civilized wave, and slam the door behind me.

No more vanilla quasi-dairy-milk shakes for this woman.

It took me until the Women’s Network Christmas flick came on at 9pm to finish up. I strung lights on the garland for the staircase, the front porch, and decorated the tree. I unpacked the boxes of miscellaneous decorations that grace smaller spaces, and put up the vintage Christmas village. I washed couch cushions and nested like I haven’t nested in a long time.

motherfucker

Don’t get me wrong. at about 5 p.m. I was ready shove the picky, twisty, clingy garland up someone’s ass, not to mention the tangle of 400 lights I was dealing with. There’s a reason people leave me alone to decorate. It’s a marathon of patience, but it’s totally worth it.

Home is a sacred, special place for me. It represents safety and security for myself and my child (ok, so he’s a man-child now, but all mothers know your children are always your babies). Anyone who messes with the safety and sanctity of my home should prepare to deal with the wrath of a woman like me.

Our home is now ready to welcome you for the holidays. I know, I know, it’s not about the decorations or the gifts, but I do love decking our halls to create that feeling of sacred welcome that is too often missing in our busy lives.

I’m already excited to know that my kiddo is almost ready to come home for his Christmas break. I’m eager to cozy up by the tree with friends and family for some precious down-time.  That’s what Christmas is all about. Failte.

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

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.

Do You Know What We’re Going to Do Today?

spoilI do know.

As my sweetie shouts from the kitchen about what I should do before he packs up and heads home (clean out the fridge and send him on his way  with a care package of food), I chuckle to myself knowing that any and all shoulds are not be on the we agenda today.

Today I need to rest. Today, after days of cooking and fussing and making sure everyone had all of their favourite traditions honoured, we are heading to the spa, and we are going to dig in to creative work (aka my novel), and finish the day off with a hot bath, cozy flannel and the Kennedy Center Honours.

We have given up our life-affirming-soul-inspiring-love-of-storytelling, and we are getting it back today. Yay! Whatever you love, do that today and forget about the shoulds.

As a matter of fact, I’m quite certain that we are going to do nothing but recoup and rejuvenate ,however we feel appropriate. That means no pressure to do anything other than perhaps look civilized enough to scoot out for a pedicure and hopefully enough motivation to get to the gym.

For everyone out there who takes the lead on holiday preparation and execution of ritual, take some time for yourself today, and make sure we does exactly as we needs.

Santa & The Single Mom: Christmas Stress

unclelewis

Last night, while making a right hand turn at a busy intersection (during rush hour no less), I was so anxious having a little cry and panicking about paying the bills that I drove into a snow bank, went into auto-pilot and put the car in neutral, and then stepped on the gas (while still in neutral), and basically scared myself back to sanity. I did not shit my pants and I consider that a victory.

Where do you think you’re going? Nobody’s leaving. Nobody’s walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

Any single parent knows how difficult it is to keep the ship afloat at home.  You finally get a little savings packed away, and voila, an emergency and then POOF, it’s gone. It feels like a really blue collar Harry Potter life without the magic of cool creatures.

No, no. We’re all in this together. This is a full-blown, four-alarm holiday emergency here. We’re gonna press on…

I love Christmas, and I love celebrating it. The reality is a single parent home is a vortex of anxiety and stress during the holidays. The best you can do is try to breathe deeply, and most importantly, remember that you always get through it. Always.

Now, getting through it this year has been a bit easier as we’ve had some exciting and positive distraction in our home thanks to my fabulously awesome kiddo.  I’ve also had a lot of practice throughout the years, so keeping that in mind helps to relax me a bit. If you have little ones at home, trust me; it gets easier. Not that the pressure eases, no, it actually gets worse. You become more graceful about it as the years pass if you try.

…and we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

The truth is I get through the holidays with a few vices. Tipples in my morning coffee when I don’t have to go to work or be out on the roads. Knowing I can play my ukulele for distraction despite how badly I suck at it. Baking, stitching, and staying under my cozy blankets on my days off for as long as possible to meditate by counting my blessings. Oh, a fabulous drug plan, and a  good therapist go a long, long, way to always having a ho-ho-hold the stress holiday.

Mostly though, it’s counting my blessings and appreciating all of the fabulously weird, wonderful and kind people that I am proud to call friends.

And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.

New Year’s Resolutions for People Who Have Their Priorities Straight

winter-tableTime changes people. I’d like to think that it’s mellowed me and smoothed down some of the rough edges. Not all of them though, the coolest women I know have some pretty groovy edges.

Today I was snuggled in under my fluffy, white duvet, snuggled in between cozy flannel sheets coaxing myself to get up and press the button on the coffee maker when I got that little tapping glass signal that a text message had arrived.

It was from my best friend; The woman I met the first day of high school as we hunted for our new lockers and found ours side by side. We’ve been through a lot together, mostly in spirit and via telephone as we live at a distance from one another.  She never fails to make me smile, or let me know she cares, and I hope I do the same for her. When was I going to see her during the Christmas holidays…hmmm….good question. You see, I’m a mortician, and death is far too graceful to care about holiday time.

At this time of year, I am more aware than ever that I don’t see my friends as often as I would like; Vicki (my mumster) and her crazy sidekick Jim, Cindy and Jacques (my fabulously stylish friends), Virginia (the magic woman who is connected to the universe), Virginia (the crazy pet lady), Darleen (a woman who knows how to conjure the teenage girl in me), Carlo (a woman trapped in a man’s body with more empathy in his babyfingernail than most people have in six lifetimes), my cousin Mark ( one of the only people I share DNA with that I’m not ashamed to call family), my Auntie Penny ( a woman I admire for her zest for life and ability to mix a grand cocktail…. 

Instead of writing about not seeing the people who matter in my life, I think it might be the time to whip up some resolutions for the new year…

  1. Set up social time with all of the above listed people who matter in my life.

  2. Finish my second novel.

  3. Publish my first novel.

  4. Work toward my goal of getting out of this crazy cycle of socially accepted bullshit in order to live in the country in a house with a huge harvest table so all of my friends can gather on a regular basis for intelligent conversation, support and life affirming connection.

  5. Practice my ukulele more.

  6. Write more poetry.

Butterscotch Marshmallow Squares & What Every Man Needs to Remember at Christmas

christmas-tree-diamonds-19932765.jpgI’ve a had a few ‘precious’ moments this holiday season, (precious as in you’re-not-making-my-life-any-easier-in-any-way-shape-or-form-you-giant-whining-man-child). So this blog goes out to the gentlemen whom have inspired it.

I’m sure my  non-binary friends will find it in their hearts to excuse my battle of the sexes rant. I will use ‘he’ and ‘she’ liberally without committee debate regarding the political correctness of pronoun as I do believe that regardless of gender, partnership often becomes unbalanced in a mutiny-on-the-high-seas-kind-of-way.

Tonight my guy announced in true man-dumb fashion; “I hate having to go out shopping this week”. I did not give voice to my thoughts. No. Instead I sipped my pineapple cocktail and thanked the universe for booze and a great drug plan.

Christmas falls on the twenty-fifth of December every year dumbasses.

This is just a subtle reminder to men that, much like toilet paper and toothpaste, the holiday season isn’t delivered by fairies. You have to get off your ass and go get it; cook it, decorate it, bake it, wrap it, shop for it, lug it into the house, and plan for it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told to relax while thinking of what needs to be done, so that Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day go off without too many glitches; making sure that everyone has all of their favourites on the table.

butterscotch-squares“Just give me a list and I”ll look after it,” are the famous naive words of a man who has never been responsible for putting ambrosia and those fucking butterscotch and tooty-fruity-marshmallow-crap-bars on the table.

These are the famous words of men who don’t get why coming home without the sour cream and sage can send an overworked, underpaid woman into an opiod- booze-adled-bender…not that I’ve ever experienced that, but I’ve witnessed it, and it’s damn tempting. I’m sure I could play out a meltdown worthy of a standing ovation, and a man who decides never to be a dumb-ass again. Alas…

As I sat cross legged on the living room floor wrapping gifts on behalf of  my man, I thought that one day a woman will be doing the same thing for my son, just as my mother did for my father, and my grandmother for her husband. It’s called ENABLING.

In the past, I supposed that gender roles guilted the woman into doing the grunt work because society wouldn’t let her ‘work’. Now, bless my overworked soul, society not only expects us to work twice as hard for half of the money, it also expects us to do everything else too.

So there I sat on my ass wrapping gifts for him while he stretched out on the couch.

And that is why we deserve diamonds ladies. Lots and lots of fucking diamonds.

 

 

The Machine & Fierce Women

3x1wupaksuqncThe Machine and How it Works….an interesting string of thoughts in a book by  Thomas L. Freidman, Thank you For Being Late. Basically he talks about a writer being certain or at least having a theory about how the world works.

After dating someone I would consider to be a privileged male for a while, it’s clear to me that The Machine works way better for him than I. Dating a hearty feminist has not been easy for him, what, with me calling him on his sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant misogynistic bullshit.

But this isn’t a post about relationships. Not in the romantic way anyway. It’s about how the machine works for women. A shout out to my non-binary friends here; The Machine doesn’t work in your favour either.

What got me thinking about this was the suggestion that I provide a list of the cosmetics that I prefer to use.  This, after squeezing my belly fat and asking when I was going to the gym.

Answer to the first; whatever’s on sale. Answer to the second; none of your fucking business.

What does all of this personal interaction tell us about The Machine? The Machine is rigged to keep us submissive. It takes more energy (in the form of money) to buy our basic grooming products (soap, razors, feminine hygiene products).  We bear the judgement of society with regard to child-rearing, house-pride and keeping ourselves looking unrealistically young. And that’s just the beginning.

I shouldn’t say “we”, because I count myself and many of my friends among the witches and wise women; I honour my age and my experience, and I have no fear of poking a stick in the gears of the machine in order to bring your attention to it’s flaws.

That the leader of the free world was elected after condoning sexual assault, only reinforces the fact that The Machine works for the privileged male and the women who slip silently into their role as concubines to the system.

This Christmas, don’t let someone shame you because you don’t spend your hard earned dollars on cosmetic products with a label that do the same thing as those you can buy at the local store (if you use them at all). Ask for books, hell, ask for whatever you want, just don’t be a slave to The Machine, and don’t be a slave to fighting it either.

Instead, continue as if The Machine doesn’t exist. Live freely, with grace and integrity, but don’t be afraid to give the world the finger every now and then either. Being fierce is a feminine as it gets.