Sunday, June 26, 2011

The spinster gets a bit Zen...

The last few blog posts have been a bit different in tone than my usual writing.  They have been sweet, sentimental and bordering on sappy (hey, on that one I let you know upfront…so stop whining).  For those that may be worried, while I have confessed to being a soft touch, I’m not on a permanent deep mush out.  

The fact is that right now, life is good and I’m mostly happy. Things are very much in flux (changing jobs, preparing to up my course load at school in the fall, taking on new creative projects) and I’m too busy (did I mention new creative projects, changing jobs and school?), and I could very definitely use more sleep but I’m feeling far more up than down these days.

And yes, there has been some down, like a very close friend moving away, realizing that I’ve spent so much time working on organizing performance events that I’ve neglected my own solo work, and figuring out how I am going to live on a whole lot less money starting in August, so life isn’t perfect.  However, when I step aside and look at my life, the external circumstances are not really all that different than they were a year or ten years ago.  I’ve always been too busy, in a state of flux, operating on less than optimal amounts of sleep and no matter how much money I make, I’m always, always broke.  What has changed, is me.

One of the side effects of making a commitment to being on my own is that I’ve stopped seeking outside affirmation that I’m doing okay.  Now, this doesn’t mean that I don’t like being told that I’m brimming with awesome*, but I’ve stopped basing how I feel about myself on whether or not someone is there to tell me that.   I have plenty of friends who will say nice things about me, offer advice and share in the happiness of my success, but what is expected of a friend is generally quite different than what one expects from a partner.

A partner is expected to be your cheerleader, they are supposed to be your steady dependable support and while I can’t say that any of my relationships ever ended up actually having that, the expectation was still there.  In deciding to be on my own, I was also making the decision to let go of that expectation all together, and so there have been several times over the past few months that my internal conversation has gone like this…

Jane:  I’m bummed out, overwhelmed, feeling unsure, lonely.  I wish there was someone here to make me feel better.

Spinster Jane:  Um…there isn’t.  I’m hungry.

Jane:  I’m bummed out, overwhelmed, feeling unsure, lonely.  I wish there was someone here to make me feel better.

Spinster Jane:  Oh really?  We are alone and we like it this way so deal.  Now, about dinner…

Jane:  I’m bummed out, overwhelmed, feeling unsure, lonely.  I wish there was someone here to make me feel better.

Spinster Jane:  Look here Ms. Broken Record.  All those things suck, but we are full of enough awesome to know we will be okay…blah, blah blah, life goes on and we still have to eat, so dinner.

Jane:  Mac n Cheese okay?

And that is where I found it; in the kitchen cupboard right next to the Annie’s Macaroni & Cheese.  Okay, not really, but where I did find it was in the things that were everyday.  No matter how crappy, unhappy, bummed out, angry, annoyed, frustrated or melancholy I might be feeling I still had to do the dishes, the laundry, feed the cats, sweep the floors, get up out of bed, feed myself and deal with the day.  No one else was going to do it for me or motivate me to do it.  And more often than not, once I’d completed the task I’d set out to do, whatever I’d been feeling would have begun to subside.

So maybe there is some metaphor in how the doing of a finite, though unpleasant task, is similar to allowing one’s self to sit with an unpleasant, but temporary, emotional state.  I don’t like doing dishes any more than I like feeling lonely, but in the end the dishes won’t get done if I don’t fill the sink with soap and water, and the loneliness won’t pass easily if I don’t first acknowledge it, and once I begin either task, there really isn’t any other choice but to finish.

And so here I am; busy, tired, overwhelmed, sometimes unhappy but mostly not.  Life is pretty okay and so am I (it's can gag a little if you like).

* please, do leave a comment to this effect should you feel so inclined…

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A going away present...

I have a dear friend who is moving far away to seek her fortune and future.  I thought long and hard about what to give her for a going away gift.  She is so important to me and I only wanted the best, so in the end I decided to give her a bit of what I feel I do best, create with words.  So here it is Toadstool, your very own blog post…I really hope you like it. 

...I’m giving you all fair warning.  What you are about to read is full of sentiment and sap.  It is sweet and there may be some inside jokes you don’t quite get.   It is also heartfelt and sincere, and I know of two people at least who will likely be crying before the last sentence (one of which is shedding a few tears in the process of writing it and she hasn’t even made it to the end of the introduction...and having never developed any sort of regular shopping schedule, she is also out of tissues)... 

A tiny (5ft), primary color loving, perky southern girl and a tall (6ft), sarcastic, goth Yankee chick walk in to a law office.  The tiny one says to the tall one, “Let’s go see a movie about banjos.”  The tall one consents and so began one of the most unexpected, but greatest, friendships of my life.

Were we to have our own trading cards (which would of course be rare and highly collectable), our stats would indicate a low likelihood for friendship. Yet despite our difference in stature, age, taste in clothing and region of origin, we were able to find kinship of spirit that is, I believe, quite rare. 

You are my little sister.  You have come to me for advice, asking me to share the wisdom you believe I have gained from experience.  This expression of your trust and faith in me is one of the greatest compliments I have been given.  I can only hope that whatever words I have offered have been helpful, and that one day you will be able to do the same for when some young friend of yours who finds that her heart is breaking, or her world is changing faster than expected, or her trust in someone is shattered, turns to you for advice.  In the time that I have known you, you have grown so much and I believe that you will have plenty of  wisdom to share one day.

You are my cheerleader.  You stand before my waves of self doubt, with pom-poms held in your clenched fists and shout out a list of what you think are my greatest qualities.  You tell me all of the reasons why whatever small thing (and it usually is a small thing) is bothering me is unimportant and remind me constantly of what I have going for me, and if all else fails, “How can you be afraid of anything?  You are a giant!” 

Should you ever find yourself in a similar moment, I will gladly do the same, but if you are unable to reach me by phone, email, or carrier pigeon remember the following:  You are not dying.  Breathe. You are mighty. You are well equipped to handle whatever life brings.  And by the way, you look pretty today.  If all else fails, break something.

You are the person who didn’t bat an eyelash when I showed up at your car carrying the skull of a dead moose, but simply said, “Oh, I thought it was a cow.”  You are the person who believes that I really can save old ladies and didn’t hesitate to literally shove me into the face of danger.  You are the one who showed up at my door with junk food and cheap red wine when my heart was breaking.  You are my Sunday pub strolling buddy, my world traveling companion, and my partner in hypothetical (but well planned) crime.  You are the best Valentine’s Day date I ever had, my one and only not-a-boyfriend, my favorite spinster in training. 

So as you make your return to the land of North Carolina and graduate school, know that at least one person here in the great north is going to miss you tons.  While I am bidding a friend farewell, I also can’t help but feel like I am witnessing the emergence of a butterfly from her cocoon, fluttering her wings and launching herself into the air, eager to ride every wind and taste every flower (pause for the did-you-really-have-to-go-for-THAT-metaphor eye roll…would you prefer a bat leaving the cave?) aaaaaaaaand  rewind!… I can’t help but feel as though I am witnessing the first flight of a young bat leaving her cave, squeaking into the night, eagerly sampling the legs of every insect that crosses her path.  I can’t wait to see what this next adventure brings in to your life, and how much you will grow over the coming years. 

You are my friend.  I am so grateful for all you have brought into my life, but more than anything I want to thank you for being that.  May your future be full of love,  joy, pizza and red wine, and may you one day have a date with a card carrying member of the RHMWPWNFYFPT* Society…or a trip to the moon.

PS – Never date a townie and I’ll see you in Paris…much love. 

PPS – You have mascara running down your face and yeah, I’m out of tissues.

*Ruggedly Handsome Men with PHD’s Who Never Forget Your Favorite Pizza Topping

Monday, June 20, 2011

Smoke and memory...

Sunday morning I awoke with my hair and skin fragrant with the odor of wood smoke. Snuggling down deeper into the covers, with my eyes closed, I brought a handful of my hair to my nose and inhaled slowly.  The scent of the smoke carried with it the sound of drums, the jingling of hip scarves and the rise and fall of laughter; the feeling of wet grass beneath my dancing feet, cool air at my back and the fire’s heat upon my face; it tasted of red wine, grilled burgers and chocolate wedding cake. 

The previous night I had attended a party at the home of two dear friends who were married this past January and on this summer night in June we were gathered to celebrate the union of these two people who we all love so much (yes, I am falling into the realm of sentimental and corny, but just because I’m a self declared spinster does not mean that I don’t believe in love or that I’m not a romantic at heart…and I might as well admit here and now that I coo over kittens, puppies and babies too, and I cry my eyes out at the end of Casablanca every time I watch it, but let’s move on shall we?).

There are very few times in my life where I have been both caught up in a moment and at the same time aware that what is happening around me is something I will never forget.  I am not exactly sure just when I had the realization that Saturday night was one of those times.  It might have been when the fire was first lit and people began to gather around the flames.  It could have been when the drums began, and the dancers took their sinuous first steps.  It might have been the moment that we all cheered as the couple served each other cake or maybe it was when I had my first glass of wine that evening.  Or perhaps it was the moment late in the night when I caught the drummer’s eye and as we exchanged smiles I realized that I’d no idea how long hands and hips had been in rhythm. 

It could have been any of those moments, and perhaps it was all of them with the evening passing as one extended pause where the fire, laughter, drums and love ruled over time, and I was a happy captive of my own senses.  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guess who the Guest is...

Guest author of today's post on Sex, Lies & Dating in the City?  Umm...okay, not giving you a hint.  Yep, that's right, it's your favorite spinster, ME!  Sex, Lies, & Dating in the City is written by Simone Grant (and I do highly recommend visit her site frequently to partake in the deliciousness that is her blog) and it is one of my favorite, favorite, favorite blogs out there.  When she asked me if I'd guest post (after I recovered from fainting) I gladly accepted and....  

Today's post, Heart All Aflutter, is about falling in love...and space suits, or is it falling in love in a space suit? I think there is some dancing involved....and beer.

Well, just go read it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My first insomnia post!

It is 12:22 AM EST and I am currently failing in my quest to establish an early bedtime.  Okay, earlier bedtime anyway.  See according to this article, which I stumbled across during a different evening of late night web surfing, my ideal bedtime is about 10:30.  Which really doesn't sound like an unreasonable time to go to bed.  I leave work at 5:00.  My walk home is about 15 - 20 minutes, which leaves me about five hours to get things done around the house, eat, and relax....and yet...

Here it is 12:27AM EST, and I am sitting at my dining room the table at which I eat, writing this blog post about how I've yet to establish an earlier bedtime.

I should be motivated to do this because the fact is that on those rare nights when I do get to bed, let's say before 11:00 in the evening, I definitely feel better the next day.  In fact I usually feel so high energy that I am almost manic. I am positively brimming with go-get-em.  Of course, the drawback is that since this is not a normal state of being for me, I've no idea how to handle it and those end up being the days of starting a lot of projects without actually finishing any of them.

It is now 12:38 AM EST, and I am deciding that no matter how awake I might feel, going to bed is the responsible thing to do.

Oh crap.  I think I just acted like a grownup.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why spinsters need more underwear...

It's Monday, and I am waking up from a very busy and highly social weekend.  I enjoyed myself immensely but, I didn't have a lot of down time and this morning I am feeling the lack of it.  Despite two nights of solid sleep, I still feel physically wiped out and while I love the humans who are a regular part of my life, I am craving quiet time at home.  This evening my social calendar is empty, and so I plan to take full advantage of it.

Now, this doesn't mean I don't have things to do;  I've a writing project that has to be completed by Thursday, my three week supply of clean underwear is totally depleted and my apartment definitely needs attention.  So while I will not be having much human interaction, I won't exactly be sitting with my feet up all evening.  Laundry will be done, dishes will be washed, blog posts will be written, but I'll be able to do all of this in the quiet and cozy space of the spinster nest.  

I am a single woman, living alone by choice but despite this I often feel that I have very little time to myself.  Many do assume that those of us who are single live lives filled with an abundance of free time, but I have found that more often than not we take full advantage of the freedom that being alone provides, leaving us cherishing those few hours of peace and quiet we do have available.

And so, while I could perhaps better balance my busy times and my down times, right now I wouldn't change a thing.  Except more underwear.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Spinster in the Kitchen: Fish rockin' out in the pan (one pan)

I love living by myself, except when it comes to cooking.  It isn’t the process that I mind (I actually love to cook) or the dining alone (I love to eat too), it’s the half a dozen dirty pots and pans and the eight days of leftovers.  I like cooking from scratch and I like the end result to be a well balanced and enjoyable meal even if I am only cooking for me.  Unfortunately, I have a habit of cooking as though there is a table of seven waiting in my dining room (you know, if I had a dining room).

Cookbooks are not always helpful in solving this dilemma.  Open any cookbook and you will quickly see that nearly every recipe makes four – six servings.  Now, leftovers do have their uses.  I don’t mind eating for lunch the next day what I had for dinner the previous evening, or maybe even dinner the following night but by  day three I’m just sick of looking at it let alone eating it.  I can pack it up and freeze it of course, but I already have a freezer full of servings for one. 

The following recipe does not have this problem.  It not only is enough to serve just two (or one with leftovers for lunch the next day) but it is made to be cooked in one pan.   Ideally this is a soup or pasta pan with a steamer basket that will rest a few inches above the liquid simmering below (mine came as part of a pasta pot set) but you can also use a large covered skillet or soup pot.  As long as it has a cover, you can rock this.

Fish in White Wine Broth and Garlic Steamed Chard

First a couple of tips.  In order to ensure that you don’t end up with over cooked fish or under cooked greens, it is best to buy one large filet of a fish such as haddock or cod.  Smaller fish like tilapia tend to be thin and cook rather quickly and you will end up with under cooked greens.  Also, make sure you prep your chard so it is ready to be added to the pot immediately (or almost immediately) following the fish.  Timing is a key part of this recipe. 

Garlic Chard

1 bunch chard
1 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic pressed or chopped fine
¼ cup water
  1.  Cut the stems off the chard and wash thoroughly.  Drain. 
  2.  In a small bowl mix the garlic, salt and water.  Set aside.

Fish in White Wine Broth

1lb of white fish (cod, haddock, etc)
1 ½ cups of white wine
½ cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
Cup of cherry or plum tomatoes sliced in half
4 green onions chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
½ lemon sliced
½ tsp salt
  1. In a large skillet or soup pan mix the white wine, olive oil, salt and water.  Bring to a simmer.
  2. Add the green onions, lemon juice and sliced tomatoes.  Allow to simmer uncovered until the skins just begin to peel from the tomatoes (this will be about 7 – 10 minutes).
  3. Add your fish to the skillet or pan.  You will likely find that you need to cut the fillet in half.  This is perfectly okay and makes it easier to serve.  Lay the remaining sliced lemon on top of the fish. Bring the liquid back to a simmer.
  4. (a) If you are using a steamer basket.  Shred the chard by hand or with a knife and fill the basket.  Cover.  Now this will be a large mound of chard so your cover may sort of float on top of the chard until it begins to wilt.  After the chard begins to wilt a bit, remove the cover and pour the garlic, salt and water mixture over the top.  Replace the cover and cook until the chard is tender but not mushy (about 8-10 minutes). (b)If you do not have a steamer basket.  Shred the chard by hand or with a knife.  Allow the fish to simmer for a few minutes.  Add the chard directly on top of the fish.  Pour the garlic, salt and water mixture over the top of the chard.  Replace the cover and cook until chard is tender but not mushy (about 5 – 7 minutes).  You will need to remove the chard with a pair of tongs to another bowl to serve.
  5. The fish is done when it begins to flake when poked with a fork.  You should be able to remove it from the pan with a slotted spatula.  Place it on a plate and dress it with a bit of broth.  The broth is also very tasty poured over the chard. 

I often find when I am done with dinner and I’ve packed up the remaining serving for lunch, I have a couple of cups of broth left over.  You can freeze this and if you want a quick and tasty dinner: thaw, add some cooked frozen cooked shrimp,  a few mushrooms, some green onion and red pepper flakes and you have a rather yummy spiced shrimp soup. 

And there you have it.  A tasty dinner for one, with leftovers you will want to eat and only one pot, one plate, one fork, one knife and you wine glass to sit in your sink for a day…or two…or…


Spinsters can be slackers too...

...or in my case, just too busy!  It has been nearly a week since I posted last and it has been the subject of that last post that has been keeping me busy enough that I've not had time to write (and of course  my wild and crazy rock and roll party lifestyle).  I've been spending a lot of time digging in the dirt, planting, seeding and making twice daily trips to the garden to water it.  I've also been busier than usual socially, having attended a wedding this weekend and spending most of Sunday with friends.

My writing is not the only thing that has suffered.  If not for the fact that the heaps of laundry in my bedroom are sprinkled with brightly colored lacy underwear, you'd likely think a dude was living here.  There are dishes in my sink from cooking dinner on Monday evening, and within view of my seat upon the couch is a suitcase from my trip to Quebec a week ago that is yet to be unpacked.  The bed, however, is made which is what, in my own mind anyway, proves that while I might be a housekeeping slacker, I'm still at least civilized.

But fear not spinster lovers!  I've not abandoned you. You are more important than my laundry or my dishes!!! I have a Spinster in the Kitchen recipe nearly ready to post and a movie review soon too follow. Please stay tuned.

(Really I think I was a lot less busy when I was dating, but I am pretty sure I wasn't having nearly as much fun.)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Garden for One

You know that sore feeling you get the day after spending several hours doing manual labor of a type you've not done in a long, long time?  That is the feeling I have in my arms and legs this morning from digging in the dirt for most of yesterday evening to make my community garden plot look less like a 10 x 15 rectangle of dirt and more like...well, more like a garden.

I added my name to the community garden waiting list just over two years ago.  At the time the intent was to share the garden with a man I had begun dating a few months before.  I don't recall if the initial idea was mine or his, but we both thought the idea of sharing a garden space was a good one.  I remember having visions of us in straw hats, planting, weeding, harvesting and making wonderful fresh meals made with our garden bounty. Neither of us had any idea how long the wait was to obtain a space; and I at least, had no idea just how different  life would be two years later when a space finally became available.

Well, community garden waiting lists are apparently longer than some relationships.  The romance ended a year and a few months later and in the midst of all that goes along with unhappy endings (weeping, anger, too much wine and all night woe is me conversations with the cat) I completely forgot about the garden plot.  Had I remembered I might have called to have my name removed from the list because it was something we were going to do TOGETHER (weep, weep, sniffle, sniffle, etc) and along with the untagging of Facebook photos, the removal of pictures from frames, and deletion of his special ringtone from my iPhone, it would have fallen victim to the end of love purge.

Yes, I am grateful I missed this one.  When the call came about three weeks ago it was at least a few hours after my initial giddy excitement before I remembered how I came to put my name on the list.  It was only a few moments and a shoulder shrug after that, that I realized I didn't care because I now had a community garden plot!  Just as I have come to realize over these past several months that I do quite well living life on my own, I can certainly garden on my own too and I began sketching garden plans.

Last night I spent two hours digging and raking.  A friend gave me some scrap wood and stakes to edge the plot and I had squash, zucchini, cucumber, dill and lemon thyme plants to get in the ground.  At the end of the evening, I sat down in the middle of the soft soil, looking out at the sun setting behind the trees, and I began to see myself over the next few months, planting, weeding, and digging.  I imagined conversations with other gardeners to share advice and just to chat.  I saw tasty meals prepared with my garden bounty and shared with friends, the canning of dilly beans and cucumber pickles, and passing on extra veggies and herbs at the end of the season.

So, I am sure there is some metaphor here about new growth from composted loss, life going on, and.....

Is there such a thing as too many tomato plants?