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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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Are You There God? It’s Me. Where’s Margaret?

itsmemargaretFinding your father’s copy of Playboy. Playing two-minutes-in-the-closet. Wearing a bra for the first time. Buying your first maxi-pads.

Those were all of the things that made 11 year old Margaret Simon’s  character so relatabel in Judy Blume’s  ‘Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret’.

I can’t remember who lent me the book, but I do remember hiding it from my parents and older sister.  Although the book was a decade behind (those girls had to wear belts with their pads),  it was as a staple in my generation’s pre-teen reading diet.  It was our porn.

Wanting to know about my changing body and emotions wasn’t easy. I was shy, a bookworm and a tomboy who was raised in a body-shaming-Baptist family.  Ballsy Margaret who crushed on Phillip and bought her own pads  from a boy cashier, was my hero.

How things have changed.

After having spent my adult years fully loaded up on contraception, today was the day that I would have my Mirena removed. This morning I stood in the drugstore looking at a wall of pads, tampons, and Diva Cups wondering just what the hell I was going to need. I would have loved to have had Margaret’s advice.

croneI no longer need birth control. What I need is to return to my feminine body. To experience the shift from motherhood to new-cronehood with some modicum of respect for the awesome female form that I inhabit.

I am from a generation of women who have been convinced that our natural cycles should be stunted. We are being convinced that unless we want to get pregnant, we need to saddle up on hormones and keep a constant, obedient level of functioning that does not include paying attention to the natural rhythm of our bodies to stop, rest, rage, weep and rejoice. We have been twisted into she-men.

If I could do it all over again, I would do it like a woman, and not try to be the she-man that our you-can-have-it-all-girl-boss-culture would like me to buy into. I would get pregnant again and rejoice in my body. I would revel in my sexuality. I would do so many things differently with regard to my divine feminine.

Much like young Margaret’s character, I’m wondering about what will happen next. Except I’m in my mid-forties.

I’m noticing changes in my body; less firm, more round, a greater comfort with my own self when I look in the mirror after I slip out of my clothes and into the hot bathwater.

I wonder what happened to ballsy, Margaret when she hit forty? I’d sure like to hear from her now.

Advice for Women

Tending Your Wild & Untamed Heart of the best advice I ever received was to go make memories while I could. That was advice. It was said in good fun, at a time when I still believed there were memories to make with people who still thought I was worthwhile making them with.

The truth is, some day, you will realize that everyone but your best of friends will not consider you worthy enough to make memories with. Most people don’t have the fortitude to keep their hearts alive and daring (as hearts are meant to be).

As Hemingway once wrote; A man alone ain’t got no chance. True love is the wish of every heart, whether you have the courage to admit it or not.

What no one told me was that as we age, we also get the hell beaten out of our hopes and dreams by people who are too scared to feel any more. Some hearts are courageous, and some are cowards. The odd part is, it’s the cowards who end up killing us all. It’s the cowards who  bore through the dreams of the hopeful.

When it comes to a woman’s attention that she is  not worthy of the lust and longing of true love, any formal commitment, or courtesy of priority,  it ought to make her snap to it. It’s not a pitiable circumstance my sweet little peaches. It’s simply life in a world where ego and economics trump human connection.

So, despite the recent confirmation of the collapse of my own desirability currency, I shall carry on as usual. I may have had  my belief in romance and second chances at true love taken from me, but I will always tend to my own wild, untamed heart. Because I’ve worked hard to keep it that way. After all, that’s what makes me beautiful.

Oh, don’t get me wrong darlings, my heart is still willing, it’s just  that the rest of the world has been damned to cynicism and I’m experienced enough to know it.

To know; to perceive directly; to have direct cognition of

By nature, age plays host to ghosts of  pain, heartbreak and disappointment. It’s up to us whether we invite them in as demons or angels. Demons suffocate the ability to hope, to heal, and to recognize that our hearts are just as, or even more important than, our heads.

To my friends who are watching their chutzpah walk away; try to change your perspective. At the very least, be open to making new memories. To those of you young enough to not relate to what I’m talking about; take the advice of my dear friend-go  out and make your memories now.


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Some Things Never Change

ladies nightLast night was officially the final celebration of my birthday.

Tonight my head and my tummy are telling me that I’m not as young as I used to be, and that maybe, just maybe that last half-bottle of wine was a bit too much.

Moderation be damned, it has been far too long since I laughed that hard. It doesn’t matter how old you get, how much education you have, whether or not you’re a mother or a wife, we all have a spiritual need to laugh, be silly, and lighten up.

Some things never change. We talked about our careers, finances and the men in our lives, or in my case, not in my life and we laughed at one another’s stories because we totally ‘get‘ it.

We took silly pictures and checked out who’s who with regard to available single men that may be interested in dating yours truly.

I’ve known some of these ladies for a long time now. I’ve seen them when they were carefree, and when they were fighting to get through very dark times. To see them laugh; fall back and belly laugh – made me happy. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday gift than the company I shared last night.

One by one my pals said their good-byes, until finally one lady fell victim to the chesterfield’s seductive pull. Myself and another pal ended the night with some one on one gal talk. It’s been too long since we’ve seen one another, and it was nice to have a few quiet moments to catch up with one another.

Our conversation wove through the evening and the wine bottles. We talked about haircuts and clothes, men and old flames. We laughed about the absurdity of everyday life, and what it means to be a mother, wife and singleton. It wasn’t much different from all of those nights that my best friend and I used to come home after high school dances and talked about boys, school and what kind of life we hoped we’d have in the future . It’s just that now, my gal-pals and I have way more experience to draw from and that much more perspective.

Each of us has the trappings of what we thought it meant to live life as an adult, but all of us are still just girls at heart; still dreaming, hoping and trying to get through our days.



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Great Advice From your Girlfriends

Woman in satin dress holding mirror
Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

Yogurt and herbal tea. That was my advice to my girlfriend today when she called with an all too common-amongst-women health concern.

Secret Christmas gifts for two little kidlets who broke my heart and taking more pain meds was her advice when I told her about my heartbreak and surgical recovery.

What would we do without one another? Our girlfriends I mean.  I have great friends who fill in as my mother and sisters of choice.  Throughout the years I have received and given great advice from this small but mighty clique.

Some of the advice that has been doled out includes;

1) Bladder infections: drink a warm glass of water prior to doing the nasty. Cranberry juice, no coffee, no sugar, no dairy, no sex (?!), no baths, no wine.

2)Financial woes; draft a budget, forget to sign your cheque, educate yourself about financial services,buy it once, eggs go a long way.

3)Stress; deal with it now or it will catch up with you, drink, smoke pot,don’t drink, don’t smoke pot, have sex,get your vibrator out, cry it out, talk about it, don’t worry I’ll take care of it for you.

4)Problems with a Co-worker; quit your job,spit in their coffee mug,talk to them,just let them talk until everyone else realizes they’re an idiot, drink when you get home, get your resume ready.

5)Entertaining; hire a maid, potluck, hide your weed,clean like a mad woman, google it,relax.

6)Dating; wear something slutty, wear something classy,stand him up,do it for practice, do it to discover new restaurants.

7)Childrearing; it won’t last forever, go ahead spoil him, you have to have rules,take a mom-time-out,give him gravol, I’ll babyset.

8)Fashion; you can borrow my fat clothes, you can borrow my skinny clothes, wear the red sweater,take it off and bury it, a good bra is worth every penny, buy it-you deserve it, with spanx that should fit.

9)Break-ups; burn everything leftover, sleep with someone right away so you won’t go back, delete his number,do you really want a relationship anyway,I’m coming to stay with you,what a bastard.

10)Aging; Are you kidding me? We’re not aging!

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Fall Fashion Mags: Money Can’t Buy Dreams but It Sure Can Buy Inspiration

“It hurts to be beautiful”, I’ll never forget my mother saying this as I looked up at her through the ammonia haze of my first perm when I was five years old. I believe that’s when I started to really question her ability to parent. 

Alas, this is not a blog about parenting, it’s about what women wear. What we covet in dress shops and shoe stores, and the sisterhood that this desire for beauty creates.

First of all, let me start with disclosing my muse for this piece; marie claire‘s September fashion edition. Despite the all too common ribbing given to Sarah Jessica Parker‘s equine features, I adore her. Her fashion sense that is – I don’t personally know her. Sarah Jessica Parker is on the cover of the magazine in a fabulous little dress that makes you want to take her home, and make a shopping list! Her Sex in the City character Carrie ,gives voice to the inner chick in all of us, and the clothes! Ah, the clothes – wouldn’t it be nice to go through all of our girl moments in fabulous clothes?!

But then, if you’re like me, conservative, a little bubbly here and there where you shouldn’t be, you think, “Oh, I couldn’t wear that!”.  

So, last night, hopped up on Lindt truffles and tea, I snuggled in with my copy of marie claire, and began ogling what’s what in fall fashion. I’m a great reader of the fine print; where to buy,how much it costs, what some more reasonable or easier to find substitutions might be. 

One simple, yet beautiful outfit in a section dedicated to Michael Kors cost a mere $2860.00, and that’s without bra, panties or, most importantly, shoes! In my case, add a few extra bucks or some Spanx. The model wore a simple black bodysuit, skirt, clutch and earrings.

The Anglo Files, filled with pages of stripes, checks, (p)leather and random other 80’s poo-ha made me thankful I pulled through the decade without severe emotional trauma related to my neon-pink, floral stirrup pants.

Ironically, following the “Big Girl in a Skinny World” column, and a few buffer cosmetic pages, there is the “What I Love About Me” section. Features like, “my superlong legs”, “my eyes”, my “dainty hands”, dripped from the lips of the 19-26 year old sample. Hell, when I was 19-26 I loved all of the above about myself. Now I’m just happy my super long legs carry me around, my eyes are healthy, and I haven’t lost a finger somewhere along the way.

Fat chicks must also be broke chicks, because it was in the “Big Girl in a Skinny World” column that I found the one and only dress I could afford, and will likely buy. It’s the $98 Studio M dress at Macy’s. It’s black lace over what looks like some nude material. Perfect for a nice lunch out with the girls, or that elusive date that must be hiding out with the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus somewhere. 

I indulged in my fashion fantasies as I turned each page, laughing at the memory of some of my great, and not so great buys. I looked at the super-thin models, the memory of myself, two lesbians and the mother of the bride sitting on a hotel room bed with our dresses up and our Spanx showing in an effort to cool off after an afternoon on Parliament Hill getting photos taken popped into my head. Wait – one of us was wearing pants. Anyway….What we don’t do to look and feel like pretty women.

Often we ask, “Who wears this stuff anyways?”. We may not wear it, but designers and fashion magazine editors are selling dreams. We all need dreams, even if it’s a $98 dress from Macy’s. (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that boots feature in the next month’s edition! Who doesn’t love a pair of sexy boots?)

I read it all, even the perfume reviews. I love perfume. Vera Wang , Prada and Givenchy tempt this season with yummy scents, but my must have is Elie Saab’s new fragrance  that, “…leaves the room like the train of a dress”. I’m sure that will fit.

Keep dreaming, and keep smiling ladies, because regardless of what we wear, our attitude does leave the room like the train of a dress, and we all have a little bit of fabulous in us, regardless of what we’re wearing.