A Sunday well spent

15 Comments

“I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food.”
W.C. Fields

 freezer meals

For those who have read my recent posts about my passion for cooking and my desire to give back to people in need, this post should come as no shock to you.

I recently stumbled on the genius trend of freezer crockpot meals.  These meals are all prepared ahead, placed uncooked in ziplock bags, laid flat and frozen.  When thawed the night before, they can be dumped into a crockpot the next morning and 6 to 8 hours later, a family has a hot meal waiting for them.

I had one specific friend in mind when I decided to do this but as I told people what I was doing, the list of recipients grew a little longer.  I spent a Sunday afternoon, without watching football, and chopped, poured and bagged until I had completed 16 meals.  At the end of the process, it had taken slightly more than three hours from start to finish – a very encouraging pace.

This Sunday, and most likely the following Sunday, I am going to gather with a group of women to do it all over again, with one major difference.  Although many of the women will take some meals home for their families, we will be donating at least one meal per person to a young couple who lost their home and all of their belongings in a fire.  And though the fire is tragic enough in itself, they were at the hospital giving birth to their first children, twins, as their home was slowly destroyed.

It breaks my heart to think of this couple, worried enough about being parents for the first time, now starting their life as a family with absolutely nothing.  It overwhelms me with emotion to think of all the joy they had setting up the nursery, all of the meals prepared by family waiting in a freezer to ease their first days parenting – all of it, gone.

It is through tears I write this last paragraph.  Currently there are about 16 women wanting to help this family by packing freezer meals for them, as well as some dear friends who have donated cash to the grocery bills.  We shall divide and conquer.  We shall chop, bag and provide, not only food but, our support and concern for a family who could really use a helping hand.

Table for one?

13 Comments

This time of year my office is a much quieter place than it is in the summer and the first thing on my mind when I get home is to change into some comfortable track pants and relax with a glass of wine.  Curling into a corner of my couch should be enough to soothe the winter blahs I feel at the end of a long day, but it isn’t.

What relaxes me most, what softens the reality of a dark winter day, is cooking.  And although I typically cook only for myself, I enjoy creating a food experience rather than just making something to eat.  I like to think of food as an encounter more than just a necessity.  Food should nourish but food should be enticing.  I don’t just put my dinner on a plate.  I want my meal to have an attraction beyond taste and, even if I am only cooking for one, I will put that effort into the presentation of my meals.

chicken

There is something truly invigorating about inhaling a combination of smells that you know blend into an amazing taste medley.  And the effort of cooking these meals for one is not as taxing as people would think.  A simple preparation of “real” food takes a few more minutes than opening a package of processed food and putting it in the oven, but the benefit far outweighs the effort.

Perhaps the artsy side of me weighs heavily on my plating but, regardless of the reason, I continue to put a concerted effort into each dinner I create.  I take great pride in knowing that I nourished, not only my body but, my eyes and my mind.  Food feeds the soul as much as it feeds the engine and as I dig into my meal I always feel happy knowing I didn’t reach for that can of Alphaghetti!

Brothers will be brothers, and then they make you cry

14 Comments

I wrote this post last year about a very emotional moment created by my nephew during our 2014 Christmas festivities.  Well, that emotional little apple did not fall far from the paternal tree.

Last year (2014) was the first Christmas without my mother so it was a very emotional time for all of us.  This past Christmas, I vowed I would get my shit together and celebrate the holiday the way my mom would have wanted us to – with happiness and joy and time with family.  And although it was filled with all of those things, my brother threw in a bit of overwhelming sentiment and my tears flowed freely once again on the eve of our Christmas Day celebration.

As I have for every Christmas Eve since 1976, with the exception of the one year I lived in Halifax, I donned my gear and headed out to gather, en masse, at the end of a family driveway to watch Santa Claus go by on the Fire Truck.  The weather was comparatively balmy and Santa was much more jovial than he was two years ago when he was braving the minus 30 C temperatures.  After the truck had disappeared, we went inside and my brother handed me a Christmas gift bag.  I was instructed to wait until I got home to open it and my first question was “do I require Kleenex”.   That question was remarkably redundant.

When I got home, I carefully opened the box and found myself holding what looked like a jewelry box with the words “Dear Daughter” embossed on top.  I thought about what a lovely gesture it was and then I lifted the lid and realized it was a music box.  Somewhat reluctantly, I turned the dial and the song, unrecognizable at first, began to play.

As soon as the familiar strain was recalled by my memory, the first tear slid slowly down my cheek.  It was immediately followed by a torrent of emotion and I was in a full-blown ‘ugly cry’.  The song was Edelweiss.  It was a song I had known since I was a child.  And it was a song that my mother and I would sing together as we continued our holiday ritual by watching “The Sound of Music” together every Christmas Eve.

I couldn’t bring myself to watch it in 2014, but this past year I vowed I would, and I did.  And each time Edelweiss played in the movie, I found myself lost in a sea of tears once again, but they were happy tears.

My brother not only picked the perfect gift but he held onto that gift for a year because he knew I wouldn’t have been ready to receive it a year earlier.  I have remembered a lot of gifts I received during the holidays but this gift, this truly touching gift, is the one I will always cherish the most.  Not only did it come from the heart of someone I love and will fiercely defend, it represents the heart of the person who created us both.   I cannot think of a better gift.

 

There is nothing to fear but……TV commercials and junk mail

11 Comments

Beginning a new year is difficult.  There is a tremendous amount of pressure to join the mainstream of people who have made numerous resolutions for the impending 362 days, considering the leap year.  And if it were not bad enough to be compelled by friends and family to make a list of the things we would like to accomplish, the media shoves the most popular of those resolutions down our throat with each television commercial they can fit into an amiable time slot.

50-s-tv-commercial-5840580

(image credit)

The start of a new calendar year should give us hope but those writers, those advertising gurus that tax their brains to come up with stunning ads, somehow make us feel like the earnest promises we make for ourselves are slightly off the mark.

I was feeling excited.  I was entering 2016 on my terms and, although I had not made them public, I had made a small set of goals I would like to accomplish this year.  I wanted to embrace my skills and I was looking forward to a year filled with prose and literary triumph.  And then I made the mistake of turning on my television.

Thankfully I have the fortitude to block out the nonsense that is broadcast to us, in what they think is a subliminal missive.   If I heed the message in those commercials, I would look at my humble goals and feel nothing but fat, undervalued and, as Bridget Jones’ Diary would describe it, like a spinster who would eventually end up being eaten by wild dogs.

The rubbish I receive by email can be just as bad.  Countless emails for weight loss, dating sites and plausible scenarios to make me my best self accumulate in my junk box.  Those messages are ignored just as quickly as they were downloaded.

I find great value in myself as well as my sincere goals for the new year.  Screw the advertising monsters who want to make me feel less than I am.  My worth cannot be described in a commercial.  My life cannot be depicted by a summation of what presumed reality sees as my shortcomings.

I am me.  I have worth because I care about people and I respect myself.  I treasure my strengths, I acknowledge my weaknesses and I spend each day trying to have a positive effect on those around me.

Now, if they can write a commercial for something like that, maybe next time I’ll leave the television on.

 

 

 

 

Keeping an eye out – fiction

6 Comments

This short story was written for a collection called F*&$ed Up Fairy Tales.   I thought I would post it here to get my creative juices flowing and get back into the twisted spirit needed to get working on my novel.

~~

The sputtering neon sign cut through the malignant darkness, blinking as the electric current passed through the wires.  It simply read ‘vacancy’.  He knew wayward travellers would soon appear at the only motel for miles and he had meticulously prepared for the arrival of stragglers lost on the unforgiving stretch of highway.  Each room had been cleaned by him and the deodorizer had been applied liberally to extinguish any remaining scent of decomposition.  He surveyed each room, his eyes focusing on anything that may have seemed out of place, and closed the door leaving the room ready for the next guest.  He sat in the tiny office waiting for the first sign of headlights he knew would be coming.  He sensed that she was near.

The storm winds had escalated and the rain began to pelt down on the tin roof of the motel.   The staccato beat of water on metal soothed him.  He closed his eyes and let the sound bathe him in its rhythm.  She was closer.  His eyelids fluttered opened to see the high beams of the oncoming car slash through the darkness and his pulse quickened.  He could almost hear her heartbeat racing as she maneuvered the car through the puddles.

vacancy-pink-neon-sign-326-p

The flashing pink sign looked like a strobe light as the wipers furiously tried to keep up with the rain on her windshield.  Her grip was tight on the steering wheel and she could hear her mother’s voice in her head calling it a ‘white-knuckle’ drive.  The vacancy sign grew brighter as her car made the turn into the motel parking lot.  She was almost positive she hadn’t been followed but parked the car at the back of the motel just to be certain it wasn’t spotted during the night.

She collected the small travel bag from the passenger seat and reached into the glove compartment for the Glock, tucking it into the side of the bag and concealing it from plain sight.  Exhausted from the drive, she headed to the motel office and hoped for a short reprieve from having to constantly look over her shoulder.  This motel, in the middle of nowhere, may be the one place she could silence the voices in her head and shut out her warped reality, if only for a few hours.

She pushed the door open and immediately noticed the odours.  The deodorizer hit her senses first but her keen sense of smell detected the pungent scent of death lying in wait underneath the lilac spray.  This essence was no stranger to her and she continued forward to ring the bell on the unattended desk.  Her hand absently moved to the side of her travel bag and traced the outline of the pistol.

He came out of the back office and greeted her with a warm smile, welcoming her to the motel.  The menial task of signing her false name was done and he moved around the desk to show her to the room.  Her hand never left the side of her bag as she followed him along the concrete walkway.  His gait was confident and his silence was comforting.  They exchanged no words as he handed her the key to the room that was meant only for her.  She opened the door to the room and felt his stare burning into her back.  As she closed the door and turned the deadbolt, she knew he was still standing a foot from her door.  She could hear his breathing and rather than feeling unnerved, she felt connected.  Nothing about this quiet man made her feel uneasy and that was the feeling that scared her the most.

She poured a Scotch and stripped out of her rain-soaked clothes.  The acrid stench of decomposition was evident in her room as well but the smell dissipated slightly with a few more sips of whiskey.  She cranked the water in the shower and listened as the pipes vehemently argued with having to work.  The hot beads of water from the shower stung her skin but she welcomed the pain.

Skin flushed red from the hot water and cheeks blazing from a half bottle of whiskey, she teetered across the floor and poured herself into bed.  The duvet felt like silk against her bare skin and the pillow was perfectly plump but, as much as she tried to fall into a deep sleep, she could not find a comfortable position on the bed.  She tossed and turned and what she hoped would be a fitful rest was a combination of half hour naps.   She awoke in the morning, achy and wearied.

Determined to find the cause of her lack of sleep she tore the duvet from the bed, letting her hand roam the top of the mattress to detect any imperfections.  Nothing was out of the ordinary.  She grasped the handles on the side of the mattress and lifted it from the box spring.  The orb was not as round as it should have been but that was from the pressure of the mattress.  The noticeably cloudy film and dilated pupil stared into nothingness as the human eyeball lay lifeless in front of her.

She moved across the room and took a long swill of the single malt Scotch directly from the bottle.  The murky eyeball seemed to follow her as she crossed the room again to get dressed.  Whiskey was not her first choice for breakfast but, given the circumstance, she didn’t care.  She packed her bag, tucked the Glock into the back of her jeans and collected the human remains that thwarted her slumber.

He was in the office when she arrived, coffee in hand and wearing the same warming smile he had worn the previous evening.  She was not surprised that his first question was to inquire as to how she slept.  She gently placed the slightly misshapen ocular sphere on the desk and simply tilted her head, lifted her eyebrows and waited for his reaction.  His smile never wavered.

He spoke first, “It’s almost perfect, isn’t it?”

His words hung in the air as he eagerly anticipated her response.  The ticking of the incessant second-hand on the clock seemed to echo in the tiny room and his brain felt like it would explode.

Her response was succinct, “Show me more.”

He knew it would be her. From the moment the winds changed and the rain foreshadowed the previous night, he knew it would be her.  The Prince of Darkness had finally found his Princess.