Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wanted: Party Planner (um...maybe)

In just over two months I will be celebrating my 40th birthday.  We humans like to mark time and perhaps because we have ten digits to count with, we like to do it in decades.   Since on average we can expect to be on this earth for about eight of full counts of these digits, forty marks the midpoint for most of us.   It is one of those ages where people look at their lives and ask if themselves, “Am I in the place I want to be?”

I have to confess to the fact that I have never really had any sort of plan.  Way back when I was preparing to graduate from high school and everyone else around me seemed to have at least a bit of a clue as to what they wanted to do, I sat down to give my future some thought and…I came up completely blank.  I truly had no idea what I might want to do or who I wanted to be.   My senior yearbook quite accurately lists my future ambition as “none.”  Since most of the adults in my life weren’t freaking out about this, I decided that panicking wasn’t necessary and stepped blindly off into the world of adulthood. 

In the intervening 32 years of experiencing the world I certainly learned a few lessons, had my share of wins and losses, found some direction and now at nearly 40 I can say I’m pretty much okay with where I am.  I am still in the process of figuring out who I am and I’m thinking it’s going to take at least another four decades to even come close to saying I’ve found myself.

Now, despite the preceding three paragraphs, this post isn’t about whether or not I am happy with my life on the edge of 40.  What this post is actually about is how I should mark my arrival at this particular milestone.  I did have a plan, a BIG plan; one that involved hot tubs in the middle of February, a photo booth and a bonfire.   However, the funds for said ambitious plan went towards emergency surgery for one of my spinster mascots.  While there is no way that I would change that and I am happy that I have many more years of kitty cuddles ahead of me, it did pretty much pull the financial legs from beneath my birthday extravaganza. 

In addition to this I also find myself busier than I have ever been at any previous point in my life.  Even if I had the funds to celebrate in the manner that I’d planned, I’m not sure I’d have the time to actually coordinate the event.  I’d be quite happy with a gathering of friends with a potluck dinner and a large assortment of cupcakes but, I’d be lucky if I managed a facebook invite a week before the party was due to be held. 

I suppose if I had a significant other it would, by default, be their job to handle the planning but since I quite happily don’t (and certainly any past beau’s I’ve had would not have been up to the task…sorry guys, but I generally was the more organized one), what I am wondering is if it is okay to ask someone, like a friend, to help with planning my 40th birthday party?

I admit to feeling a bit strange asking for assistance with this.  I would be asking someone to help out with an event that is, after all, all about me.  Then again if I were planning any other milestone event, a wedding, graduation, birth of a child, etc., I’d probably not feel at all weird about asking for help and so maybe my hesitance in asking for assistance with this is because it is all about me and I’m worried about appearing self-centered or selfish.  Yep apparently even proud spinsters have hang-ups.

So I’m asking for your thoughts on this readers and friends.  Is it okay to ask for help in planning this event that will mark my four decades of existence on this earth?  What are your thoughts?  

Thank you…

Saturday, November 19, 2011

New Additions and Exciting Changes at Spinster Jane!!

It’s Saturday morning and I awoke with wholehearted intentions to make coffee and then sit down to write for a solid hour.  I was successful on the coffee front.  The writing however was delayed due the talent that the authors of the blogs on my blogroll have for writing well about interesting things.  I’m now looking at the clock thinking that I have somewhere to be in an hour and though I am now well caffeinated, I am still sitting here in my jammies. 

I do think I have just enough time to share some ideas I have for changes I plan to make to the blog.  Spinster Jane, while it does have a lot of personal flavor, is about women living single.  I want it to not only be entertaining but also useful.  I’ll still be writing posts about my cats and my battles with the dirty laundry pile, but over the next couple of months you can also expect the following:

More Spinster in the Kitchen posts!  Cooking for one can at times be a royal pain in the spinster ass.  Most recipes make servings for four or more, and they not always easily dividable.  Just how do you calculate one fourth of an egg?  Frozen dinners are not only expensive and depressing but also generally terribly bad for you.  I’ll be upping the number of Spinster in the Kitchen posts to two a month, and will also start to include some guest posts from other fabulous single living cooks I know.

Spinster Spotlight!  I’m not the only woman in the world who is happily living the spinster life.  I am acquainted with many women who, due to choice or circumstance, have found themselves embracing solo living.  While you can read about my single living stories here any time you like, I want to share the perspectives of others.  I’ll be doing Spinster Spotlight interviews with single living women and bringing  their stories to you.  The plan is to bring you the first of these in January, 2012 so we can all start the new year with a bit of inspiration.

Spinster Nesting!  Beginning in December I’ll be including a monthly feature on living alone in a small space.  Living alone not only often means compromising on square footage, it can also mean finding creative ways to save money so you can actually afford to keep your nest for one.  I plan to share my ideas and experience with small space living including how to keep organized, how to decorate on a budget, how to entertain in a tiny space and more.

I’m very excited about all of these upcoming additions to the blog.  I hope you will be too…

Now, it’s time to put on pants. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I've Done This 100 Times!!! (Okay, really 101)

Today my friend G from MyAmercianHouse happily informed me that today she posted her 100th blog post (Yaaaaaaaay!!!!).  I just as happily congratulated her and then of course proceeded to pull my phone from my pocket so that I could log into Blogger and see how close I was to my 100th post. 

I squealed.   Okay maybe I danced a little.  Aaaaand then perhaps I hopped up and down saying, “G!!  G!!! You aren’t going to believe this buuuuuut….”

Last night’s Spinster in the Kitchen recipe post was my 100th Spinster Jane blog post!!!

I guess I should have been paying more attention so that when the moment I arrived I’d have had a properly commemorative post prepared but alas, I guess I was just too busy writing, and working, and going to school, and dancing and living so I didn’t, and since I have to be in math class in a very short time this is it.

So in honor of today’s (well, really last night’s momentous occasion) I give you the following.  A link to the most viewed post of all of the 100 Spinster Jane blog posts:

The Great Big Sex Post (are you surprised really?)

And a picture of my cat Miss Pickles just because she is cute.  

Congratulations to me and to G on reaching a blogging milestone!!  Hopefully I’ll be better prepared by post 200.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Spinster in the Kitchen: Pizza - sometimes size matters

I love pizza.  If I had to pick a perfect food I think pizza comes pretty close.  It comes in an infinite variety of flavors, it can be paired with nearly any adult beverage, for the cost of a tip, it will be delivered to your door nearly any time of day or night and it is completely acceptable to answer the door in your pajamas! What isn’t there to like about pizza?

The fact is that sometimes, there is such a thing as too big.  Even a 12 inch pizza can leave me facing the prospect of eating pepperoni pie for more than two breakfasts, and while I do let my spinster flag fly high, eating cold pizza after three days brings me just that much closer to changing the name of this blog to Jane the Dude, My Transformation from Spinster to Maiden-Bachelor.

So where does this leave a solo living pizza loving woman?  You could buy those pizzas for one in the grocery store with their skimpy amounts of cheese and pea sized bits of vegetables or you can be a self sufficient super spinster and make your own. 

Breathe now.  Really homemade pizza is not difficult.  The only thing you are making from scratch is the crust and not only that but you won’t just be making one pizza crust, you will be making enough dough for FOUR spinster sized pizzas.  And better yet, you get to top them with whatever you like....pepperoni, hot peppers, extra-extra cheese, artichoke hearts, cat food (just making sure you are paying attention). So get ready!

This recipe is my favorite pizza dough recipe.  I have been using it for years and it is loosely based on a recipe originally meant to make two twelve inch crusts.  You will be quartering the dough, likely cooking one pizza right away and saving the rest for later.  It will result in four 8 – 9 inch pizzas. To store the dough in the freezer you will need quart size and/or gallon sized zipper storage bags depending upon if you will be freezing the dough or preparing and freezing mini-pizzas.

Optional: Cyndi Lauper’s “12 Deadly Cyns…and Then Some,” a bottle of your favorite wine and an approximately 90 minute spinster appropriate flick (i.e. lots of things get blown up or it’s black and white and stars Humphrey Bogart).

Spinster Jane’s Favorite Pizza Dough

Mix together:

2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
1 1/3 cup warm milk
1 tablespoon honey

Allow this mixture to sit until the yeast is dissolved.  Depending up on the temperature of the milk and your kitchen this will be about 5 – 10 minutes.


2 tablespoons olive oil
3 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sea salt

(If you’d like to make an herbed crust you can add 1 tablespoon of your preferred dried herb – oregano, garlic powder or basil all make great additions)

Mix by hand until the ingredients are blended.  If the dough is too wet you can add a bit more flour (about ¼ cup).  The dough should be well blended after just a few minutes.  When the dough becomes smooth and elastic turn it out of the bowl onto a floured surface. 

With floured hands knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (this is the about as long as the first three songs of Cyndi Lauper’s “12 Deadly Cyns…and Then Some”). 

When the kneading (and kitchen booty shaking) is done, find a large bowl and pour in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Plop in your beautiful ball of dough, flip it once to make sure it is well coated with olive oil, cover the bowl with a towel and then leave for about 1 ½ hours.  That’s about enough time for your average action movie so pour a glass of wine and relax. 

By the time the end credits begin to roll across the screen the dough should be about doubled in size.  Remove the towel covering the bowl, make a fist and punch the dough down a few times.  Turn it back out onto a floured surface and give a bit of kneading love.  Then with a sharp knife cut the dough into four equal pieces.

At this point you have the following options. 

A) After all of this dough making, the glass of wine and the adrenaline rush from my favorite explosion filled, aliens attacking action film, I’m generally in need of food so I roll out one quarter of the dough into about an 8 – 9 inch approximation of a circle, top it with my favorite pizza toppings and bake it in 425 degree oven for about 12 – 15 minutes until the crust is golden brown. 

B) Now as for the remainder of the dough I usually take at least one of the quarters, shape it into a ball, spray the inside of a zipper storage baggie with a bit of olive oil and freeze it as is.  When I want pizza I take it out, let it thaw and proceed with option A.

C) The rest I roll out into 8-9 inch pizza crusts which I then carefully slide them into a one gallon zipper baggie.  While in the baggie I top it with sauce, cheese and whatever else I might like on a future pizza (yes, you will have plenty of room to do this in the bag).  Then I zip it shut and place it on a plate (this helps it keep its shape in the freezer), put it in the freezer and wait an hour or so after which I remove the plate.  When, on some night after a day of classes or a Saturday morning when I’m just too tired to cook, I put my frozen pizza delight on a cookie sheet, put it into a cold oven, turn the temp to 425 and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.  The crust will rise while cooking. 

And there you have it folks.  Pizza, the perfect spinster food.  Yes, I know it comes minus the possibility of flirting with the cute pizza delivery driver while wearing your best flannel PJs, but hey, with this you don't even need to wear pants!!


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spinsters spinning

I am working on this month's Spinster in the Kitchen recipe.  In fact right now my oven is preheating and very shortly the final step of the recipe will be complete and I will be putting my taste buds to work making sure that the recipe is ready to share.  However, in the meantime, I wanted to share an experience I recently had regarding the word spinster.

A few days ago I when I was out and about town I ran into some friends and we fell into a conversation about writing.  Mostly we chatted about maintaining a regular writing practice.  I mentioned that writing this blog had done wonders for my writing discipline as I had made a commitment to myself to post at least twice a week.   Shortly after this a woman approached us and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt but did you say Spinster Jane?  Are you Spinster Jane? I read your blog.”

Now I do get approached by friends and acquaintances who share their opinions of Spinster Jane and I also of course have a fairly steady online readership that will on occasion share their thoughts as well, but this was the first time that a complete stranger had approached me about the blog in person.  This was a very exciting occurrence on its own, but it was the conversation that followed that was the real treat.

This woman shared her story with me of being single after a relationship of three decades and how it took her sometime to adjust to being alone but that she eventually realized that she was quite happy living her life this way.   We then began discussing the word spinster and its history.  I of course talked about how spinning came to be a way for women to keep themselves independent at a time when they had few options for income, and that I was seeking to reclaim the word in the in spirit of those women but then she put a new twist on things.

She said to me that one of the things she loved about the word spinster was the image it evoked of weaving and spinning one’s own life.   I know, this should be obvious right?  Spinsters spin, the metaphor really isn’t that much of a stretch.  Well for whatever reason I’d never thought of it this way and though our conversation ended shortly thereafter, the image of spinning has not left my mind and in fact it has grown and expanded.

I imagine our life experiences as the raw wool, full of brambles, sticks, leaves, mud and whatever other bits of flotsam might be collected in the sheep’s wandering through life.  At first it is dirty and unrefined but we bring it home to be washed and carded until it is fluffy and clean, ready to be spun.   Our hands take up the wool and begin the process of spinning.  The wheel turns over and over and our fingers keep up a steady feed of wool until in the end we are left something completely new; something that will eventually be further transformed yet again into a garment or fabric.

Life presents each of us with numerous gifts and challenges; many of these events are beyond our control, but how we respond to these experiences, the lessons we take away from them and how we are shaped by them, is up to each of us. It is a wonderful image to think of myself spinning the yarn of my life out of the raw wool of my own experience.   I  have been through the process of cleaning and carding many times and each time, when I sit ready to spin, I am the one who will decide how thick or light to make the yarn, what color to dye the wool and what I would like to weave out of it after it is complete. 

I really would like to thank this woman, this fellow spinster, for sharing this idea with me.  In the excitement of the conversation I forgot to ask her name.  I do hope to run into her again but incase I don’t…

Thank you for wandering by and saying hello and for sharing your spinning image with me.  I do hope your life yields a fine, strong and colorful yarn!  

Monday, November 7, 2011

Oh to be brave...

I’m eating ramen noodles for breakfast.  Yes, the kind that cost about ten cents a package and deliver 33% of my RDA of sodium.  I could, and probably should, take the time to thaw out and toast an English muffin, poach an egg, slice up a bit of cheese and top it all with some fresh from the bag spinach, but I’m free to do as I please and this morning it pleases me to be lazy so beef flavored ramen it is.  

Why am I telling you about, and defending, my Monday morning breakfast choice?  The truth is that I am having more than a bit of trouble writing today’s blog post.  It isn’t that I don’t know what I want to write about, it’s that every time I start out writing it I begin to sound a little preachy and that simply is not the voice that I want to use.

My last blog post was about five things to not say to your spinster friends (i.e. those who have made the choice to remain happily single).  While all of these things, and more, have been said to me there is another phrase that I hear quite often.  It is a statement that I hear in one form or another with nearly the same amount of frequency and I am never quite sure how to respond to it in the moment when it is said.

“I love reading your blog and I wish I could be as brave as you.”

My immediate response is usually to express some sort of gratitude.  I write because I love to write, but I also love to have people actually read what I write.  It feels good to know that Spinster Jane is not only read but enjoyed.  Generally I can leave it at that, but lately I’ve wanted to follow up with asking just what it is that I am doing that they find so brave and why they can’t find that same thing within themselves.

Considering the topic of Spinster Jane, I can safely make the assumption that what most people find so brave is my decision to remain single and live alone.  While some of the people who are saying how brave they think I am are those who are wistfully remembering their carefree and single days before they happily paired themselves off (and I have had more than a few of the unhappily coupled mention it but that is a different blog post), what is confusing about the statement is that the majority of the women who are telling me how much they wish they could do what I do are predominantly single. 

When my coupled readers have expressed the sentiment about being brave enough, it is a bit easier to make sense of it.  One of my favorite singles bloggers, Bella de Paulo, Ph. D., recently wrote in her Single at Heart blog on Psych Central about how despite the negative stereotypes that many folks have about the single at heart, there is one thing that the non-singles find very appealing about the single life, and that is the freedom to live your life as you choose and I’m certainly not going to argue with this perception.  The fact is I do have the freedom to do what I want when I want (case in point…ramen for breakfast).  As with de Paulo I too can stay up late and allow myself to get lost in a creative project.    I like that I am free to choose when or if I want to spend time with those that I love.  I am certainly more free to assist a friend or family member in need should something arise and I am capable of helping.  There is a lot of freedom that I have because I have chosen to claim the title of spinster. 

However when it comes to the single ladies, what I think the issue becomes is that I am choosing to remain single, to live alone and to be HAPPY about it.  And yes, I can understand this too.  Everything in our culture pushes us to find one person, pair off and live happily ever after.  And yes, even with all of the progress we’ve made in women’s issues, if a woman is not paired off by a certain time then there must be something wrong with her.  She is unattractive or has too much baggage or she is too needy or she is frigid or she’s too picky, etc.   And finally, if a woman is not partnered off by an acceptable time then she should at the very least be unhappy about her state and be doing whatever it is she can to remedy it because to be single and seeking is more acceptable than to be single, not looking and be quite okay or even happy about it.

To those women who call me brave I have this to say.  If I have learned anything in my somewhat more than three decades of life, it is that there is one, and only one, thing that I have any control over in this world and that is me.   I can’t change in any way how the rest of the world perceives me.   There will likely always be people who think that my ‘problem’ is not having met the right person, or that I don’t laid enough, or I’m too driven in pursuing my goals and thus will miss out on the bliss that is marriage.  I can try my best to explain why these things are not true, and maybe I will change a mind or two which is a good thing,  but  in the end what really and truly matters is what I think of myself.  I simply will not allow my perception of myself and my life to be dictated by what others think I should be doing.  I’ve already passed what will be the half way point for most of us and life is too short to be spent trying to be something I’m not.

So, if being happy with my life the way it is and being unapologetic about it makes me brave then call me brave, and if sometime soon, maybe after reading this blog post, you find that upon taking a closer look that you too are living the life you want to lead and that you are happy about it, then you are certainly no less brave than I.   

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What Not to Say to Your Spinster Friends...

Today Charlotte at MyPixieBlog, who I follow with almost groupie like adoration which I enjoy reading regularly, shared a post about What Not to Say to Your Single Friends Ever.   While I know that most folks come from a place of good intentions, it never ceases to amaze me how many people don’t think about the words that come out of their mouths.  Words that at best might one day be looked back upon and laughed about and at worst, be unintentionally very hurtful.

I’ve had my own run-ins with well intentioned friends and acquaintances that have a lack of understanding about what “this whole spinster things means” and who often impart unsolicited advice or share their observations regarding what my motivation must be.   So in the spirit of Charlotte’s post, here is Spinster Jane’s list of What Not to Say to Your Spinster Friends.

1.  You must have been really hurt to give up on love.

While I have had my share of unhappy love affairs, my decision to remain single has nothing to do with a broken heart and I’ve certainly not given up on love.   What I have done is made a conscious choice to not seek permanent romantic attachment.  Really what this breaks down to is that I don’t want to be married and I don’t want to live with anyone.    Aside from the fact that I'm not really all that sure that human beings are designed for living in a state of perpetual monogamy, I’m a happier person living my life with myself and on my own terms.

2.  Oh…you just haven’t met the right person yet.  When you do, you’ll change your mind…you’ll see.

Somewhere in this world is this perfect person, wrapped up all pretty with a big bow on their head and a tag addressed to me.  One day I’m going to meet this Mr. or Ms. Wonderful and we are going to fall madly, deeply in love and forsake all others until the end of time.   Right.

Just in case the response to statement number one was not clear, some of us just don’t want to be married or committed in the traditional sense.  This doesn’t mean we might not have long term love interests.  In fact, some of us might even have more than one love interest at a time (and before you all hop on that particular gossip wagon, this spinster is far too busy to keep track of much more than herself at the moment).  

Basically my point here is that relationships come in all sorts of forms.   Though most of the world operates on the idea that there are two states of being relationship wise, attached and blissfully happy or single and seeking, it simply isn’t true.  There is a broad romantic spectrum that includes those who are single with no interest at all in romantic relationships, the single and dating, those in unmarried but monogamous relationships,  couples who underwent legal marriage, those who are in polyamorous committed relationships and everything in between.   You may not understand them, you may not even like them, but the fact is that all of those options are out there and each is a valid choice. 

3.  So I get it…you have something against marriage.

While I could go into the history of marriage and how its origins are based much more in property and inheritance rights than in love, I won’t because really I don’t have a darn thing against marriage.  In fact, yep I’m going to say it, some of my best friends are married.  I have even performed wedding ceremonies for friends who have requested it and I have done so happily.  Marriage does work for some people, and for those friends of mine who have made the decision to tie the knot I will toast their shared happiness because I love them and I respect the choices they make for themselves.

4. Um…so hey, if you are so unattached, you wanna (wink, wink…nudge, nudge), ya know, hook up sometime?

Why sure!  I’m just sitting around at home counting the minutes to the next hook up because if I’m not looking to get hitched, then I must be looking to sleep around.  In fact I keep a special drawer in my dresser packed full of a wide variety of condoms, sex toys and lingerie just to make sure I’m always prepared for the next time the hump fairy decides to send something my way.

(Yes friends, that was sarcasm)  

As I said in The Great Big Sex Post, with far less sarcasm, choosing to redefine or reclaim the word spinster has a lot to do with having choices.  And while I do choose to have sex, it does not mean I’m going to choose to have sex with you. 

5. But you’ll grow old alone!!!!!

I’m going to take a moment to point out that statistically most woman in the United States do end up outliving their male partners.  Retirement and assisted living homes are full of predominantly female residents.  So I guess this makes the guys the lucky ones as they actually do get to grow old and die with the one they love, while the females grow old with each other which means (big revelation here) technically, in the long run, my choice won’t really leave me in any different state than any other female in our culture.  Actually, growing old with my female friends both old and new doesn’t sound like a half bad proposition.

However, I am making plans for my future as anyone, married, single or otherwise, should.  I am saving for retirement and while I expect that as I age I will slow a bit I do plan to remain active.  I will continue to make friends and have a life filled with all of the people, activities and things that I love.   

You see not being perpetually paired up does not mean being alone or lonely now or 30 years in the future.  It isn’t in response to some offense against my heart and it does not mean that my life is devoid of love.  It is simply a choice, just as any other and it is one that more and more women are making.  

After all, some of your best friends might be spinsters…