April 19, 2011

I Feel Good About My Feet

Filed under: Books,Daily life,Uncategorized — pyjamasandtea @ 11:29 am
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I am attending a really special event tonight… the launch of “I Feel Great About My Hands” edited by my bff Shari Graydon.  Her book is a collection of essays about the unexpected joys of aging and features contributions from amazing women, many of whom I know and love. Shari’s criteria for her invited writers is that they had to be over 50.  While I am still a ways away from that milestone, it got me thinking about aging and aging bodies.  Shari’s title is a riff off of Nora Ephron’s series of columns, published in a book called “I Feel Bad About My Neck”.  Shari has GREAT hands (they are featured on the cover of the anthology!).  I had to think long and hard about what part of my own anatomy I could say I feel “great” about, and settled on something I feel good about:  my feet.

I don’t actually feel “great” about my feet.  They are, however, unoffensive, as feet go.  Small, no bunions or yellowed toenails, a little tuft on hair on the big toes that sometimes throws me off and a baby toenail that is almost too small to paint, but on the whole just fine.  I really don’t know that there is a part of my anatomy that I feel GREAT about.

Despite the fact that I see myself in the mirror every single day, I have no strong sense of what I look like to other people.  I am stereotypically horrified at most pictures of myself and often wonder if THAT is what people see:  this blotchy-faced, big-nosed, slightly overweight, limp-haired woman.  Is that “me”?  I am a dismal failure at make-up (or at least at feeling like I am making a positive difference in applying it!) and I usually put my hair in hot rollers, despite the fact that again, I have no sense that my hair actually looks better curled.  I get dressed up without really knowing what looks good on me.  It is all a bit mysterious, and exacerbated by the aging process.  I still think I look 15 and I’m surprised when I don’t get carded in the liquor store!  It isn’t that I thought I was more beautiful at 15– in fact, looking back, I was too heavily coiffed and made up in my teens, it is just that I haven’t internalized the effects the aging process has had on me.  (Well, other than the ravages of sleep deprivation that my children visit on my face on a regular basis.  I KNOW that makes me look older!  But then, my children seem determined to age me before my time.)

So I feel good about my feet and a bit bemused by most of the rest.  I hate my hair, my upper arms, my cellulite, my nose, my ever-widening derriere, my floppy belly.  Fortunately, pyjamas cover all manner of bodily sins.


April 8, 2011

Things I Can’t Do

Filed under: Daily life,Lists — pyjamasandtea @ 9:44 am
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There are lots and lots of extraordinary things I can’t do.  I can’t perform brain surgery (for example), or speak a dozen languages, or do math.  But these things are truly exceptional and I don’t particularly fault myself for those inabilities.  There are however, a whole bunch of very ordinary things that I can’t do, and I think it high time to embark on a little self-improvement or continuing education project to improve this sorry state.

For instance, you ask?

1.  Laundry.  I really don’t think I do laundry very well at all.  My usual routine is to throw towels and sheets in and put it on “hot” and do everything else on “cold” and then throw everything in the dryer.  I hang some things, like delicate sweaters or things I imagine might shrink in unattractive or revealing ways, but I have no real understanding of my washer/dryer combo.  The washing machine has a setting called “permapress”.  What is that?  Is that a type of fabric or a way of washing or does the machine really iron while its working?  It has settings called “quick” and another labeled “touch up”.  What is the difference?  What is a “touch up” wash?  And how about the “stain removal” setting?  I just pour on the ‘Shout’ in a futile attempt to get at the butter stains that ruin my clothes… but can my machine really seek and destroy a stain through a setting?

2.  French braid hair.  My ex’s new love recently put my daughter’s hair into french braids.  I LOVED it.  I tried to replicate it a few days later but was a complete failure.  My soon-to-be-five-year-old said in quite the dejected tone:  “I guess you are good at ponytails.  Or sort of anyway.”  An arrow to my heart. I think the fact that I never went to overnight summer camp permanently impacted my french-braiding skills.

3. Make-up.  I don’t usually wear make-up, but once in a while I like to gussy it up and so I pull out my ten year old eyeshadow and mascara.  I really have no idea though, whether I am improving my appearance when I bother.  Does make up actually work?  And if so, how do I know where the light goes, the dark goes, the concealer and blush and highlights.  I really have no sense of whether I’m making any difference at all, and I always feel a little self-conscious when I try.

4.  Royal icing on cookies.  I bake all the time, and I bake cookies all the time.  This deficiency really burns me, for I am the type of person who should EXCEL at royal icing.  If there is an “icing type” it should be me.  Yet every time I try royal icing I make a right royal mess of it.  It is never the right consistency and always hardens in the wrong places and remains soft in others.  I am angry at royal icing.  It is defiant.

5.  Organizing my digital photographs.  I take hundreds of photos, and I use a Mac as my main computer system.  Macs are MADE for photos– Mac exists (so they say) to enable me to manage my media and share it with others.  Yet my photo library is a morass of unorganized images.  I have scanned in old photos, and they are now mixed with the new.  A search for the year 2010 pulls out photos of when I was a baby.  I can’t seem to create albums and my system stubbornly refuses to allow me to “share” photos.  I had it all down on my PC and it just irks me that I have worsened my state of photo organization and not bettered it through Mac.

This is but a mere hint of the many ordinary things I cannot do.  I think I should start with french braids though, because I can’t let the ex’s new love occupy that space.  Anyone (with long hair) want to come sleep over and let me practice all night?

April 7, 2011


Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 12:36 pm
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I’m back!  Back to my computer, back to drinking tea in my pyjamas, but not back to my right mind.  Oh no not yet.

Moving is brutal!  I have never been so exhausted, and not only because this new house is five floors and I have yet to take a step without complicated advance calculations about what needs to go up or come down, lest I make a fruitless trip.   It was tough taking seemingly random pieces from three different houses (his old, my old, our temporary one) and combining them into a whole that could be called “home”.

I have thought a lot about what it means to have a home these past few months.  I can feel the beginnings of one pushing its way into my heart.  One unexpected downside to feeling home is that I miss my kids more than ever when they aren’t with me.  They occupy an entire floor of the new abode and when they aren’t here, I pass by that floor without stopping and it gives me a pang.  Home means they should be here with me.

Some random observations about my new home:

-I stood in front of my new shower on day two with abject terror in my soul.  What if it dribbled?  Or couldn’t get lobster-boiling hot?  What if it felt like a a spring shower instead of the brute force thunderstorm I need every morning?  I entered with such hope, such fear… HEAVEN!  The water sang as it poured out and I could live in that shower if only I could also bake in it.

-The counters in my kitchen are just a tinch higher than any others I have had, necessitating a whole new dough-rolling technique.

-My new soft pillow-top mattress forces me into a roll into the middle during the night, enabling unsolicited cuddling with my love.  Endearing?  Apparently not always.

-Negotiating closet space proved more difficult and delicate than signing our names on the mortgage papers.

-Seeing a set of cheques with the new address AND both our names on them caused me heart palpitations.

-Two= the number of times I drove to the old house on auto-pilot.

-The fishbowl effect of living in a house of windows makes me feel like I “perform” my nightly ritual of making tea.  I can feel the neighbours watching me choose from my impressive (some might say excessive) tea varietals and struggle with the new mugs that have weird handles that don’t enable me to carry two without burning my knuckles.  Do they mark the time I turn off all the house lights? Do they admire my fetching red robe?  Of course they don’t, but I might wish they might.

-I have two unpacking chores left to accomplish.  I was however, right to predict that as soon as I gave myself a day off, I would never feel motivated to return to the unpacking-frenzy.  Those boxes may well hide their contents for years to come.

Home is a place and a feeling and a future.  I am working its way there.

March 5, 2011

The Express Line

Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 4:51 pm
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I just came back from the grocery store on a busy Saturday afternoon on a mad dash for a bag of green lentils for a recipe I hope to make tomorrow.  As I stood in the express line (1-8 items), I marveled at the oddities that people make specific trips to the store to get.  The very hip looking woman in front of me had three gourmet dark chocolate bars (a completely understandable express-need!) and two boxes of vegetable biryani paste.  Two boxes?  The man in front of her had one tub of yogurt.  Behind me, a very elderly gentleman had a carton of no-name butterscotch ice cream.  I later saw him walking home in the pouring rain, clutching the ice cream under his coat.  A young girl, busy texting the entire wait, had a bag of baby carrots.

I love inspecting other people’s grocery carts.  Sometimes I see things I never knew existed, or would never have thought to buy.  I have been known to ask fellow shoppers what the intended use of a particular item might be.  Until I started hiding bacon underneath the tofu and broccoli, I used to feel so virtuous at the vegetarian fare that filled my cart.  Until I had children, I used to flaunt my non-processed, non-boxed, non-frozen freshness.

Grocery shopping is entertainment.  I wonder what the express 1-16 line is like?

March 3, 2011

On Snoring.

Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 10:22 pm
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As I lay downstairs on the couch, listening to my love honk away upstairs in our nice comfy bed, I wonder what it is about snorers?  What is wrong with you?  It is a phenomenon, surely, much like hoarding (I just watched a horrific CSI episode about a hoarder.  Shudder.).

Okay.  Maybe snoring isn’t “quite” like hoarding.  But how is it that a snorer can so blithely sleep in the midst of all that noise?  I am one floor down and I fear I might have to descend yet further into the depths of this house to escape it.  How is it that you don’t wake yourselves up?  How can you dream in the cacophony?  How can you breathe with such obstruction?  How can you sleep so peacefully knowing that your partner will have to escape the onslaught?


I’m just wondering, ’tis all.  Yawn.






February 24, 2011

On being a closet vegetarian lover of Bacon Pasta

Filed under: Daily life,Pasta,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 11:16 am
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I love Moosewood Restaurant.  The cookbooks and the restaurant both.  I have been a vegetarian for almost twenty-five years.  I entered that state of consumption (or lack thereof) for ethical reasons, and probably to assert my independence against my overbearing carnivore husband of the time.  I was young and living in a very small town.  I didn’t have a whole lot of ways to assert.

Over the years I have waxed and waned in my commitment to vegetarianism.  At various points in time, I was really strict (though never a vegan)(and I always roasted marshmallows in the summer even though they contain gelatin).  When my eldest son was born, my then husband and I (not the same carnivore, a different one, and a longer story) decided that he too would be a vegetarian.  This confounded folks who believe that humanity should have the right to “choose” to be vegetarian.  The default human condition being to eat meat?  My three children remain mostly-vegetarians, though over the years we have allowed them to first eat fish, and then seafood (the seafood exception was prompted by a yearly “lobster-fest” in abject defiance of both vegetarian and kosher rules with a strict cone of silence around the merriment of clandestine eating).  Vegetarian kids are a challenge, for the faux-meat products I resorted to (chick’n nuggets, meatless meatballs) are full of additives that mock Michael Pollan’s edict that we should only eat food with ingredients we recognize.  But still… kids have to eat and legumes just don’t cut it on a daily basis.  And so now they eat fish.  (Tilapia is their staple.  Once I tried to pass flounder off as tilapia but was roundly condemned as a big fat food liar.)

Now their mother… she has really fallen off the rails in terms of being a card-carrying vegetarian.  (I really do carry a card.  Honest.)  Having fallen in love with the most devoted of carnivores, and one who loves to cook and eat to boot, I have branched out from pescatarianism (a label I tried to use once in a while, but which always made people laugh even harder at me).  I now include three meat by-products in my staple of vegetarian-friendly meals.  I say vegetarian-friendly because I still call myself a vegetarian… it defines me!, even as I realize that these items are neither vegetarian nor friendly.  I adore bacon, hot genoa salami and a frozen chicken wing product called “Spicy Southern Style Chicken Wings” by Presidents Choice.  I believe that these items are neither meat, nor truly food.  I therefore maintain they fit in my “vegetarian-friendly” category.  What should I label myself as now?  What do you call yourself when you hide out in your pyjamas and eat chemically-created-meat-products?

With that rather long introduction, I offer tonight’s meal:  Bacon Pasta

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 slices Thin Bacon, Cut Into 1/2-inch Pieces (okay I admit it… I use 3 as a guideline)
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 1 package (10 Ounce) White Button Mushrooms, Sliced Thin (It is also divine with fancier mushrooms like oyster or enoki but you don’t have to go there.)
  • 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth (OR Dry White Wine) (I use the wine.  Duh.)
  • 1 cup Half-and-half
  • ¼ cups Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 3 whole Green Onions, White And Light Green Parts Sliced
  • ¼ cups Flat-leaf Parsley, Minced (I never add the parsley because I resent buying big bunches and having it go to waste.)
  • ½ cups Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Salt To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • 1 pound Thin Spaghetti Or Angel Hair Pasta (if you can find fresh, it is so worth it.  I would use whole wheat pasta and pretend it compensates for the heavy cream.)
  • Extra Parmesan, For Sprinkling

Cook pasta according to package directions.

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bacon pieces and cook until light brown but not crisp. Remove bacon from pan and set aside. Do not clean pan. (Don’t you love it when you don’t have to clean in between steps.  Yahoo!)

Add mushrooms and garlic to pan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or til golden-brown and smelling delicious.

Pour in wine. Stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any bits. Cook over medium-high heat for several minutes, or until the liquid is reduced by half.

Reduce heat and pour in half and half and cream. Stir and allow to bubble and thicken for a couple of minutes. Add sliced green onions and parsley (if you must), then cook for one more minute. Finally, add Parmesan and stir, allowing cheese to melt and incorporate into the sauce. Turn off heat.

Add cooked pasta to a large bowl. Add half the sauce from the pan. Toss with tongs. ***Add 1/2 cup hot pasta water at this point if the pasta mixture is too thick and gunky (a food term of art).

February 23, 2011

The “Ick” Factor

Filed under: Daily life — pyjamasandtea @ 12:38 pm
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I love to have my house cleaned by professionals.  I love pedicures.  Both of these things make me feel pampered and good about myself.  Yet, I must admit, I am uncomfortable with the idea of someone else cleaning up my mess.  I am also uncomfortable with making someone touch my feet.  I think it is because I can’t see myself being able to do either job.  The “ick” factor is just too high for me.

I usually leave my house when my cleaner is there.  I feel compelled to explain to her as I leave that I am “really busy today” and I always apologize that the house is “messier than I would like it to be”.  She can’t possibly believe or care about either fumbled excuse.  I have never had the nerve to ask her whether she enjoys her job.  Perhaps there is real satisfaction in making things clean?  I love clean.  I hate making things clean.  It is a conundrum.

I never offer excuses to my pedicurist.  All the women in the shop I go to are Vietnamese and I am terrified to start a conversation with one of them because I find it hard to understand their English.  Nothing bumps up my pedicure-guilt like having to fillabuster my end of a conversation that I don’t understand.

At the moment, my house is in dire need of that clean and my toes are fire engine red.  I’m managing the angst.

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