pyjamasandtea

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 7, 2011

Home

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 6, 2011

Pancake Hilarity

Filed under: Breakfast and Brunch,Recipes — pyjamasandtea @ 9:08 am
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Pancake Tuesday is this week!  Hooray!  I was thrilled to inform my Jewish kids that Tuesday we can eat pancakes for dinner.  I have no idea why, but who am I to question a higher power who decrees we must eat pancakes?  I remember going to church basement pancake parties as a kid, and would blame that tradition for encouraging my sweets for dinner, except that I know that sweet tooth was put there by the higher pancake power.

My kids think it quite hilarious to have a designated pancake eating day.  I let myself give in to 7 year old humour and played the “what if pancake tuesday was on wednesday, what would happen then” game.  Secretly though, I fear that chaos.

I am making Carrot Cake Pancakes this Tuesday.  I offer that recipe below.  First though, this morning’s pancake production is my usual Sunday-Blueberry-Bonanza.  I make enough batter to get us through Monday too, on the theory that Monday mornings are bbbbaaaadddd and require a little cheer to get me up.  My favourite pancakes in the world are “Gingerbread Pancakes”.  That recipe is being held hostage by my ex, but I hope to liberate it on moving day, March 23rd, when I am finally reunited with my beloved things.  Stay tuned and I will post it!

So first the Bluebs, then the carrots.  Happy Pancake Week everyone!!

Blueberry-Bonanza-Pancakes

Dry:

1 cup unbleached white flour (I actually use 1/2 whole wheat flour.  I am, one in a while, healthy!)

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsps baking powder

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 cup quick cooking oats (I use regular oats and love the texture)

Wet:

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tbsps maple syrup or sugar

loads and loads of blueberries (for those of you who like precise measurements, I apologize.  My love asks that the pancake batter be a mere tool to hold the blueberries together. So “loads” is about as precise as I can be.)

Note:  My kids aren’t so crazy about blueberry pancakes.  For them, I mash a banana into the wet ingredients (hidden!), leave out the blueberries, and sprinkle a half-dozen chocolate chips onto each pancake before flipping it.

Stir together the dry ingredients.  Stir together the wet ingredients.  Add the wet to the dry.  Voila!  Do not over mix.  Heat your griddle to a high temperature.  A sprinkle of water on the grill should dance and immediately evaporate.  Use about 1/4 cup for each pancake and cook until bubbles form on the surface.  This usually only takes 2-3 minutes.  Flip once.  Serve hot with lots of maple syrup.  (And bacon.  Always bacon.)  This recipe makes about 8 pancakes.  I double it for Monday-Madness-Pancakes.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

1-¼ cup flour (you should use 1/2 whole wheat here, but since these are special occasion pancakes, feel free to use unbleached white flour.  But don’t use the bleached variety please cuz bleaching flour is just wrong.)

2 tsps baking powder

1 tsp cinnamon (the recipe actually called for “ground cinnamon” but I figured you knew that.  Right?  I mean, without the word “ground” you wouldn’t throw in a cinnamon stick, would you?)

¼ tsp salt

⅛ tsp ground nutmeg (I left the word “ground” in here just in case.)

⅛ tsp ground cloves (again.  “ground”.)

⅛ tsp ground ginger (do people actually get confused and use whole spices?  Really?)

¼ cup light brown sugar, Packed

¾ cup lowfat buttermilk  (I don’t usually have buttermilk on hand, so I use 3/4 cup of milk into which I stir 3/4 tbsp of vinegar and let sit for 5 minutes.  I don’t know why I do this– but I have always done it in recipes that call for buttermilk so I think there must be a reason.)

1 tbsp canola oil

1-½ tsps vanilla extract

2 whole Eggs

2 cups Finely Grated Carrot (about 1 Pound)

Combine flour and next 6 ingredients (through ginger) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar and next 4 ingredients (through eggs); add sugar mixture to the flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Fold in the grated carrot.

Get your griddle nice and hot. Coat the pan with cooking spray. Use about 1/4 cup per pancake.  Cook for 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook for 1 minute or until bottoms are lightly browned.

I intend to serve this with a little cream cheese icing.  For that I will beat a package of cream cheese into creamy submission, add about a 1/2 cup of icing sugar and a little milk to make it pourable.

 

 

March 3, 2011

“You are Special” by Max Lucado

Filed under: Books,Reviews — pyjamasandtea @ 1:01 pm
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My eldest son is in grade four and recently attended an assembly at school to celebrate “kindness week”.  At the assembly, a teacher read aloud the book “You are Special” by Max Lucado.  It made enough of an impression on the eldest for him to not only pay attention (ha!) but recount the story when he got home.  (He did this on a long skate we shared.  I think skating, like driving, is a great time to talk to a child.  Too bad I am so out of shape that skating winds me after about 4 minutes.  Fortunately, the eldest is in better shape so he talked and I listened.  He probably enjoyed the fact I couldn’t interrupt him.  Interesting to ponder that… )

The book tells the tale of the Wemmicks, a world of wooden puppet-people created by Eli.  The Wemmicks walk about putting stickers on each other– gold stars or gray dots.  Punchinello is covered in gray dots, a fate that falls on those who are neither attractive nor talented in the eyes of other Wemmicks.  Over the course of the story, Punchinello learns how to believe he is special.

When I gasped out a request that the eldest tell me the moral of the story, he first summarized it this way:  “Some friends will give you pieces of paper, and others an Xbox, but both may like you just the same amount.”

NATCH.  There are no Xboxes in the Wemmick-world.  Of this I am sure.

So he reframed and proved he got the point– worth comes from within, and the gray dots and gold stars only matter to those affixing them.  We need to believe in ourselves and not define ourselves by our stickers.  Or something like that.  😉

This is a lesson his mother needs to learn.  So we have the book on order.  It comes highly recommended.

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).

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