Happy Mother’s Day Though Most of This Is Only about Mother’s Day Peripherally

 

 

Cooking from scratch. Seems like a plausible statement. Something Julia Child, Martha Stewart and many of the chefs and cooks I watch on the Food Network would not find inconceivable. In fact, it is something that is lauded mightily among many of my friends, but I am generally not a “cook from scratch” kind of girl. Convenience is the name of my game, and the microwave my cohort in crime. Spending a lot of time in the kitchen is not something that appeals to me except on a rather limited basis. But today, today I am making bean soup—from scratch.

Or my kind of scratch. I boiled the ham bone leftover from a big Sunday meal and then cut off any remaining meat left on the bone. My cat, Kitty Bob, was beside me for most of this exercise—the smell of the meat and the hope that springs eternal in his kitty cat heart that he might be tossed a morsel or two kept him glued to my side. Once the meat was chopped up I added the navy beans, tomatoes, and taco seasoning with a bit of pepper to add to the culinary mash-up.

I can hear the purists out there groaning. They would have probably made their own diced tomatoes from fresh and used dried navy beans that they had processed themselves—and they certainly would not have added taco seasoning—particularly if it came from an El Paso package. I would be quick to note though, that the pepper was freshly ground. (Don’t I get kudos for that?) The fun part is coming up though—I get to use the immersion blender a friend gave me. Men are not the only ones who love tools!

I love eating food that people prepare themselves. I have friends and relatives who make pies without the help of Pillsbury. I know people who actually bake from scratch—something I have not done since the days of standing beside my mom and helping her bake decades upon decades ago. I talk to people who actually make coleslaw from cabbage, instead of buying it already shredded. I admire these people but not enough to emulate them.

Once in awhile, my husband will ask where a certain dish came from, and once in awhile I can say that I made it. Although I find opening packages and preheating the oven enough of a task some nights—I do, on occasion, like to mix things up, and surprise my family with some of that expertise I have gleaned from watching the Food Network, or reading cookbooks. I am guilty of never really following a recipe religiously (unless I am baking), but I do add a pinch of this and a soupcon of that.

Mother’s Day is this coming weekend and I remember fondly learning out to cook and bake at my mother’s side. I was a good sous chef—I could chop and sauté with the best of them; and mix the wet ingredients, then the dry, and incorporate the two for sweet delights, but I never really graduated to liking the process on my own.

Mom could whip up a meal out of vegetable soup and rice if need be, or serve a full course roast beef dinner with the requisite dessert without batting an eye. I have cooked big meals, but never gracefully. I am usually a hot mess if I have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and perhaps a bit on the grouchy side. I find a glass of wine calms my nerves though. I only think that I am a better cook then.

On another note:

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Here is a quote about moms that I think is perfect: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dates all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her.” Unattributed-found on pininterest.com.

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Published in: on May 12, 2017 at 4:02 pm  Comments (3)  

Three Weddings and a Funeral

My weekly column in all its glory:

 

No, I did not really attend three weddings and a funeral over the Easter weekend, but it was a weekend of stark contrasts and surprising similarities. Saturday morning, I attended the funeral of an aunt who was in her 99th year; in the afternoon, I attended a baby shower. Grief in its many guises is a necessity of this life. Happiness at the hope of new birth is on the other end of the spectrum. But at both ceremonies, the emphasis was on the celebration of life–one just past, one future.

At the funeral, I was surrounded by cousins—first, second, and third—a son and daughter, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. The song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge plays in my head. I am now grateful for family—it is something I so long took for granted. As my parents’ generation slowly bids us goodbye—we are left as the heads of the family—not a mantle I necessarily want, but one I am willing to don because I have to. I once thought that you “got over it” when someone you loved died. I now know that is not true. But you do get through it. That horrible first realization of loss does wane, but it never withers. And I think we are not meant to forget.

The baby shower was a wonderful celebration. Though it should not be important—the food was good—but it was wonder and magic that really reigned. So many gifts—so lovingly wrapped with such great forethought of the pleasure the recipient would take in unwrapping the gift to reveal another necessity or toy or book for the baby. And did I use the word “reveal”? There was a reveal of the baby’s gender—with both parents unwrapping the box slowly that contained the balloons that would tell them whether it was a boy or girl. It was fun to watch their reactions—before, during, and after. They wanted to know—but not too fast—and when the pink balloons rose out of the box they were thrilled (just as thrilled as they would have been if it had been a boy.)

Life is multi-tiered. The end of life for those of us who harken back to our simpler Sunday School days of certain religions, are satisfied that death is merely a doorway to a different life—one we can only imagine. It is not time for skepticism for some of us. I imagine my aunt, who was my mom’s sister, is now reunited with her sisters and brother and husband and parents in heaven. Do not mock my simplistic view—it may not hold me in good stead all the time, but for now it comforts me.

The start of a new life is a new beginning. Definitely new for the baby, but a new life for the parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, and cousins. They are welcoming someone new into the ever-widening arms of their family. With each new birth, there is hope and dreams and love. What could be more wonderful than that?

I have grown to appreciate funerals in whatever form they take. Small and personal. Medium and large with visitation. No service at all. A small graveside service. Or bigger celebrations of life. They are all valid. But what they all have in common is the remembrance of the loved one. Cherished memories are shared. And laughter. Yes, laughter. It seems so incongruent—but it is probably the biggest wish of the one who has just left this earth that we be happy. Not happy that they are gone, but happy that they were a part of our lives.

Over the weekend, I said goodbye to my aunt. I do not know what journey she will be on, but I comfort myself that in some form, she is still making that trek crossing into worlds unknown. I said hello to the prospect of a new baby girl, to be born in a few weeks to loving parents, and a community welcoming her to our world.

Contrasts. Similarities. Lives diverge–we interact, we love, we bear loss, we welcome new life. What we have to remember is that the big things in life are precipitated by the little things. And they are all important. The celebrations of life are what we look forward to—though the celebration of a life past is a lot harder than the celebration of a new life joining our ranks.

I comfort myself knowing no one can take away my memories—and I am happy that new ones are created everyday. Saturday was a day of goodbyes and hellos. I am glad I was able to partake and share in the celebrations of a life completed and a life just beginning.

Published in: on April 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm  Comments (12)  

Happy Hygge

 

“You don’t spell it, you feel it.” ~ Winnie the Pooh

Happy Easter! Now let’s get HYGGE with it. Okay, first of all I do not know how to pronounce hygee. It is Danish. So, we can go Higgy, or Hige with a long i, (as in hide) or you can come up with your own way of dealing with it. The author of “The Little Book of HYGGE”, Meik Wiking suggests that it can also be pronounced hooga, hyyoogu, or heuuregh, but I find those only add to the confusion.  He does add this caveat though, and a good caveat it is. He believes that “it is not important how you choose to pronounce it or even spell Hygge”, it is important to follow the wisdom of one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Winnie the Pooh, who is reported to have said when asked to spell a certain emotion, “You don’t spell it, you feel it.”

Hygge, according to Wiking is hard to define definitively. But he tries, even though he admits that “Explaining exactly what it is, that’s the tricky part.” It took him a whole book to define the word and give examples of what hygge is or feels like. I guess I can nutshell it by saying that it is the equivalent of our word happiness. Not happy, or at least not that defined by Merriam-Webster, as being favored by luck or fortune; but more active, or involving. Instead of just joy, joyful; instead of glad, gladness; instead of cheerful, cheerfulness.

But rather than anglicize the meaning, I will let Wiking provide you with his definitions—which are much more poetic than mine. He says that hygge has been called “everything from the ‘art of creating intimacy’, ‘cosiness of the soul’, and the ‘absence of annoyance’ to the ‘pleasure of soothing things’. His personal favourite though is ‘cocoa by candlelight’.”  Hygge is “about… atmosphere… rather than about things.”

The author says that Hygge is: “about being with the people we love. A feeling of home. A feeling that we are safe, that we are shielded from the world and allow ourselves to let our guard down.” He gave an example of spending a weekend with friends at an old cabin just before Christmas one year, on the shortest day of the year. The cabin was surrounded by a blanket of snow, he and his friends were tired from a day of hiking, and sitting in a semicircle around the fireplace, wearing “big jumpers and woollen socks”. He said the “only sounds you could hear were the stew boiling, the sparks from the fireplace, and someone having a sip of their mulled wine.” When one of his friends broke the silence, and asked “Could this be any more hygge?” another friend responded, “Yes…. if there was a storm raging outside.”

At this time of year, we do not really want that definition of hygge now that it is springtime. But the same feeling can be conjured during one of our famous rainstorms. It is still April after all—so before the weather turns warm for the season, we are in for some roller coaster weather. I love it when it is storming outside, and the wind rises, and I am cozy and dry and warm in my house.

High season for hygge is autumn and winter, but according to Wiking it can also be found during the warmer months—picnics being one of warm weather’s more hygge moments. A picnic by the sea, in the meadow, or a park are hygge inducing especially if enjoyed as a potluck with family and friends. Wiking believes that potluck picnics are the epitome of Hyggelig “because they are more egalitarian. They are about sharing food and sharing the responsibility and chores.”

The Danish are said to be the second happiest people (Norway being the first) in the world in 2017. Canada is not all that far behind them. So, it seems that we know a little bit about hygge-ness. According to Wiking, who is a member of the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen, the root of happiness is satisfaction—the way we perceive our lives. He believes that hygee is “making the most of what we have in abundance: the everyday” and says that Benjamin Franklin was onto something when he observed that: “Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur ever day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.”

Published in: on April 13, 2017 at 3:10 pm  Comments (5)  

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?

love the reflection….

Live & Learn


Notes:

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Published in: on April 5, 2017 at 3:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

SULLY AWARD COMPETITION NOW OPEN!

enter today….

heylookawriterfellow

Will YOU be the lucky winner?

Last week on this blog I asked you a question: “Should I start a writing contest?”

I followed up my question with a promise: “If there is enough enthusiasm for a writing contest, I will start a writing contest.”

So. Was there enough enthusiasm for a writing contest?

Sort of!

And that’s good enough for me.

Welcome to the First Annual
Sully Award for Excellence in Writerishness!
(WOO!)

The (one and only) winner will receive a bunch of valuable prizes!

A $20 gift card to Starbucks, because writers need to wake up before writing.
A $10 gift card to iTunes, because writers need to be in the right mood while writing.
A $20 Gift card to Barnes & Noble so you can read after writing.
And, best of all, a beautiful SULLY AWARD CERTIFICATE, because great writers deserve great accolades. The certificate will look something like…

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Published in: on March 28, 2017 at 2:35 pm  Comments (1)  

Friday Fodder

we all need to read this…

Brigitte's Banter

I have been absent from this platform for a while. I often think of abandoning it altogether but I never do. I’m not sure why and I’m not sure blogging is even a “thing” anymore. Seems as if we abbreviate and shorten our thoughts more than expressing them in detail.

Blog = dinosaur Twitter, instagram, snapchat and all the other ones = Cool hipster Guy Blog = dinosaur
Twitter, instagram, snapchat and all the other ones = Cool hipster Guy

This isn’t about getting on a soapbox of the state of affairs of our country. I still believe with all my heart and soul most people want the best for others, want to do their best and want us all to get along. You don’t see that if you turn on the television so I tend to keep it turned off. It doesn’t mean I don’t keep up with what’s going on. It means that I’m choosy about how I spend my time and spending…

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Published in: on February 26, 2017 at 4:25 pm  Comments (2)  

A heartfelt goodbye

“Exotic and heartfelt stories of life in small-town Canada.

Of life in Canada. Period.” -The Toronto Star

I miss his voice. His stories. But most of all I miss his heart. In the local Saturday daily there was an editorial cartoon depicting Stuart McLean with a red maple leaf drawn where his heart would be. He was a Canadian through and through and the depiction of his heart as a maple leaf was probably the best homage to this brilliant and funny and lovely man I have run across.

Best known as the host of the CBC Radio program, The Vinyl Café, he literally took his show on the road and I am honoured to have sat in the audience of one of his Christmas shows about ten years ago. He signed one of my books. (Or, if we are being honest here, one of his books that I bought.) He was shy. I was shy. But he signed one of my books, so I was happy.

He has been described as a national treasure. And a story telling comic, though many of his stories were as poignant as they were funny. According to one of my favorite literary sources, Wikipedia, he was lauded with the facility to celebrate “the decency and dignity of ordinary people” (like you and me). Grace and humour were his tools, and he wielded them with, well… grace and humour.

You can Google Stuart McLean and find out all sorts of things. Like his first name is Andrew. But Andy McLean just doesn’t seem right. Stuart does—it has a ring to it—one of authenticity. Not of course that there is anything wrong with Andy, it is just not how we know him

I could quote any number of newspapers and people who think Stuart is the best thing next to sliced bread. In fact I will, just to show you how loved he was:

According to the Vancouver Sun, he was “Like a tonic for our national ills…as penetrating as the wind on a cold Prairie Day.” I agree with the first part. I have no knowledge of the second part, but if it was in the Vancouver Sun, it must be true.

Or the Halifax News who praised his “slice of life vignettes” as humorous and poignant revelations and simple truths. We all know that “simple truths” are somewhat slippery beings, but Stuart was a master at finding them.

The Ottawa Citizen summed up Stuart in one very telling paragraph that I could not agree with more. I have the book that they are describing, and it mirrors my manifestation of the man perfectly: “Delivered in a simple style, liberally spiced with humour and understanding of what make people tick, “Stories from the Vinyl Café” presents vivid pictures of an assortment of ordinary situations. Witty and warm, the 18 stories in this collection…make easy reading as well as pleasant listening.”

Witty and warm. There are not two better words in the English language to describe this man taken way too soon. Unless of course, you add compassionate, patriotic (but not in a ranting sort of way—but by action), and intelligent.

There is a vast intelligence under the guise of simple story telling. We knew Dave, Stuart’s main Vinyl Cafe character, who was the hapless owner of a record store, and his wise wife Morley, and their two kids. Stuart got inside the mind of his character(s), the thoughts Dave thought are those that many of us have (whether we want to admit it or not).

A Canadian voice, he has not been silenced by death. We have his books. We have his recorded voice. We have our memories….

Good-bye Stuart.

On Another Note

Enjoyed a glass of wine at one of the local wineries on Sunday. Outside. Without a coat on. It is February. A bunch of people were sitting in a semi-circle around an outside brick fireplace. Just a random gathering. We talked, we laughed, we sipped wine. It is just this type of chance get-together and the warm comraderie that makes me happy to live in this county and in my small town. Stuart would be proud.

Published in: on February 22, 2017 at 2:32 pm  Comments (11)  

February: stream of consciousness*

 

 

 

It is February. I thought I would state that unequivocally and upfront so that I do not lose my status as one for the obvious. I have decided this year to just settle on the fact that though this is the shortest month of the year, it really is the longest. It is midwinter, it is going to be cold, and so I am just not going to fight it. And you have to admit it, the snow on the ground is beautiful—white and crisp and sparkly–although tomorrow it will most likely be rained away. I am going to enjoy it for today, the heck with tomorrow. (I believe this is called living in the moment—others may call it denial, but 6 of that, half a dozen of the other.)

Even though I do not have a meteorological degree, I do not depend on a little furry creature to predict when spring will come. Face it, spring is six weeks away, or winter will be at least six weeks longer. It is a great tradition to have the little guy poke his head out and either see his shadow or not, but seriously folks, he is not fooling us. The American guy predicts 6 more weeks of winter, and our little guy predicts six more weeks until spring. The difference is huge. Or non-existent. Depends on which side of the glass half full, half empty school you belong to. Personally, I like the theory that it does not matter whether it is half full or empty—all that matters is that you can fill it up again. (Who says I am not philosophical—these are exactly the little gems you tune in for each week—my wise observations stolen from the Internets.)

How about that Super Bowl—another great February tradition. Went to bed with the Falcons ahead—by a lot. Got up to the Patriots winning. Just goes to show you—never give up hope. Though I do feel sorry for the Atlanta guys—you think you have things wrapped up and then the bow gives way. As Roseanna Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner’s iconic SNL character) used to say: “It’s always something…”

I am a new fan of Lady Gaga. Saw her half-time show on Facebook and was duly impressed. Is it a bird, is it a plane—no it was Super Gaga. (You had to see it). I figure if Tony Bennett likes her, that is good enough for me. (I have just recently become a fan of his too—used to think of him as of my parents’ generation, but as I have gotten older, I have gotten wiser. Cough, cough…)

So, what is the other big news this month of 28 days? (Have you been caught by that new internet questionnaire that asks how many months have 28 days? I have and am so proud of myself for saying all of them. Will not tell you though how long I pondered that question.) I have veered off topic again—something I am wont to do. The other big deal is that Valentine’s Day is coming up. Love or hate it, it is a reality, but in my book, anything that celebrates over priced chocolate and roses worth their weight in gold can’t be all bad. (Or can it? —another existential question with no answer.)

As an older (yet still strikingly immature) married woman, Valentine’s Day does not have the hold on me as it did in my younger dating days. I kind of hated the day sometimes, and loved it other times—but always resented the fact that a stupid holiday could have such an effect on me. I think that manipulative holidays should be outlawed, but hey, that is just my humble opinion.

Valentine’s Day would also have been my youngest older brother John’s 71st birthday. In his memory, I am determined to raise a Manhattan –a drink that was one of his favourites. I have never had one before, but will make the ultimate “sacrifice” in his honour. Also, my nephew Mark is celebrating his 50th on Tuesday the 7th. (Happy Birthday Mark!) I was a mere kid when he was born—just saying’…

Every month has its special days, but I think February is unique in that it celebrates not only sports, family, and love, but furry animal predictions. These celebrations are the cornerstones of our lives—and demarcations of a life well-lived. In that spirit, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day, and may you celebrate it as you see fit.

 

*In literary criticism, stream of consciousness is a narrative mode or device that depicts the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind. The term was coined by William James in 1890 in his The Principles of Psychology…(Wikipedia)

Published in: on February 9, 2017 at 4:32 pm  Comments (11)  

chaos averted

 

I have a function on my laptop that says: “Ask me anything.” On occasion, I use it rather than Google. It does not always provide me with an answer that is exactly what I am looking for but this morning when I asked “What should my column be about this week” I was provided with a number of options—none of which really answered my plea directly, but at least one got my brain-addled creative juices flowing.

What was it you ask? It was a column by Mimi Wuest called “Why I can’t write my column this week…” (Citing my source, it is wisnews.com—the Reedsburg Time Press). Ms. Wuest said that she could not write her column “because life is pretty chaotic right now.” Then she proceeded to write a column about the chaos. The first chaotic reason was that her husband was having knee surgery, and what she was doing in preparation for his recovery at home. The second reason she could not write a column was that she was starting a new semester teaching at College and was spending her time “composing new tortures to inflict” on her students.

I am going to take a page out of Wuest’s book, and tell you why I can’t write my column this week and it has nothing to do with major surgery or coming up with ways to torture people. But it does have to do with chaos. Right now, it seems that we are living in a world of uncertainty, which is not all that unusual, but it is. There seems to be chaos on all sides: from the tragedy in Quebec City at the mosque; the Trump presidency where we are wondering with bated breath where he will go next and what he will do when he gets there; our own Prime Minister’s seemingly innocent tweet about inclusion which may have been ill-timed; the flu epidemic (which I have fallen victim to); and the death of my heroine, Mary Tyler Moore.

There are lots of other things I am not mentioning. Chaos has no beginning and no end. One event may get resolved but another takes its place swiftly and/or simultaneously, giving us little time to recover. The word of the day, the week, the month is overwhelmed. Too much is happening—how do we harness it; how to we deal with it; how do we get past it? The simple answer is: we don’t. We have to find ways to get through it.

In this column, I try not to pass judgement. (Try being the operative word here). You do not really want to hear my political views, which if I am truthful, are rather chaotic themselves. I am at times angry, resigned, puzzled, and on my way to losing hope. Other times I grasp at the straws handed out none too judiciously, and hope is at least a glimmer. So instead of talking about world problems, of which there are plenty, I am going to regale you with my ode to Mary Tyler Moore.

Illustrating the fact that even “a blind squirrel finds a nut” once in a while, I happened upon the Comedy Channel yesterday afternoon while ensconced on my couch vegging out (which is one way to treat the flu) and came across a short marathon of my heroine’s 1970’s program. Seven shows (which may have come from each of the seven seasons the program aired) were shown—the first and last, and from what I can figure out, one for every year in between.

I lay on the couch basking in my luck—many of the programs I had not seen before, but it brought back those late teenage years and early twenties when I thought I had the world by the tail. And the program—though slightly dated by today’s standards, withstood the test of time. She was at once vulnerable and independent, smart but humble, and her comic timing was impeccable. Like Lucille Ball, she was a beautiful woman who was not afraid of humiliation. And that is one of the things I admire most about her and the program—she was not afraid to go there—and she did it with class. Comic class, but class nonetheless.

I was a girl brought up not to see inequality. My parents and my siblings never expressed the thought that I could not do something because I was a girl (except once in high school when my mom told me I could not hit a girl in my class who had pushed me into my locker—I really, really wanted to hit that girl). I came to women’s liberation (as it was called back then) as naturally as a fish to water and I have never struggled with my role in society. Besides my family, I give Mary Tyler Moore the credit for that. Thank you, Mary. That was at least one chaos you helped me avoid.

Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 3:43 pm  Comments (13)  

groundhog.

good advice….

I didn't have my glasses on....

coffee-art-groundhog-day-2016-2
“turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.”

~maori proverb

happy groundhog day

and

may your face find the sun.

image credit: angel sarkela-saur

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Published in: on February 2, 2017 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)