At My Nanny’s Table

I enjoy setting a nice table. Decor to match the theme. Fresh flowers somewhere in the room. The “nice” cutlery brought out. But I don’t even come CLOSE to how my nanny set the table. No one has.

The chairs, dark, old and somewhat rickety, padding added to make up for decades of bottoms firmly planted, all sitting snug to ensure everyone fit. And we all did.

First, a lightly padded layer on top of the table itself. Covered by a cotton table cloth of little design. It would be nothing fancy, no garish print or god forbid plastic of any kind.

The placemats were small and stiff and intended to more protect the wood of the table from the heat of the plate than a giant rectangle of plastic intended to catch the scraps of a messy eater because yes, the plates were always heated. The mats had printed images of hunting scenes from the 1920’s or castles with lush greens around them. We would always check to see which ones we were given and trade if the need arose.

The silverware, clean, shiny, laid out just right without being so abundant that it was confusing. The forks always seemed big and the dessert spoon and fork always sat at the top of the placemat. I can still see my Pipe sitting at the table when I would pop in randomly for lunch, cleaner and cloth in hand, shining up the silver piece by piece.

For the life of me I cannot recall what type of napkins there were but something tells me Nanny likely would have had cloth. I was a kid, I didn’t use napkins.

A short little vase sat in the centre of the table with some fresh flowers spilling out. Nothing ostentatious. Just some carnations, maybe lilacs from outside.

I don’t recall candles on the table. Only the one candle on the shelves behind the table that looked like it must be old fashioned because the holder part looked like a saucer and had the little finger hold so you could carry it and walk around. They only did that in the olden days.

Pepper came in a tiny pepper shaker and salt came in a wee dish with an even more wee spoon. I would get in trouble for playing with the doll size set, pouring the salt over itself.

If it was lamb there would be a mint sauce in a green glass dish with a spoon. If it was beef there would be horseradish in a clear glass dish with a spoon.

Everything came out on its own serving tray or bowl. Glass, china, silver. Nothing chintzy. You passed around and helped yourself and never would Nanny ever dare to provide you with a plate that already had food loaded on it. We chose how much of what item we each wanted. It was a family dinner, not a restaurant.

I remember there never being salad.

Pipe and one of us would clear the plates away and another one of us would help Nanny bring out the dessert. There would always, and I mean ALWAYS, be more than one option.

Most frequently, and if we were lucky, there would be treacle tart. Oh my god the treacle tart. There would, more often than not, be warm custard, perhaps a little cake that felt very heavy and very much not from a box, or little meringues with pineapple on top. She would sometimes do a pie with pastry from scratch and would moan about how the pastry didn’t work out, every time.

When we had all had our fill and my dad would announce that his sufficiency had been suffonsified, one of us would help Pipe clear away the remaining items from the table and create the long line of dishes to be done on the counter.

We would take the little orange contraption that both swept and collected the crumbs off the table and give it a whirl before placing it back on the little stand in the kitchen.

The table cloth got folded, same with the liner underneath. If there was left over food, we would go to the hall cupboard and rummage through bags full of twist ties, bags full of margarine containers, bags full of bags and find something to store everything in.

We made fun of Nanny for the twist ties. Every time.

Then, when one of us had helped Pipe with the dishes, we would all sit in the living room, surrounded by the haze of a room full of smokers, port or sherry in tiny glasses lining the coffee table, the candy dish decimated by little fingers, and we would talk and play the alphabet game until it was time to go.

I’m very glad that there was so little in the way of technology back then. And while it is indeed an absolute way of life now, I will work to get back some of what we had when we sat at my Nanny’s table.

It was all very much just like my Nan. Fancy, but not overly so.

close to nannys

Close to Nan’s  – needs a table cloth!

 

 

The Distraction of Organizing Nothing

We are not a family that is booked to the hilt. We do not have something on the go every night of the week. We do not have copious amounts of gear lining the hallway or sport-specific shoes piled up at the back door.

And that is OK.

I have friends who go from one thing to the next, who have exploding calendars and much to remember, who have even recently “volunteered” to not only go to the sports, but coach them too.

That is also OK.

We all often dance along the line that borders too much and too little. But really, who is to say which is which? Too much for me might be just right for you. Too little for you might be holy crap no thanks for me. If someone looks at my world and thinks wow, how terrible, her kid is not enrolled in ANYTHING, well, I will refute that by saying maybe you should try it sometime.

McK has never been interested in many extra curricular activities. A session of ballet for four year olds which was more cute than plie-knowledge-building. A few rounds of tennis lessons after which she actually taught US how to serve. The odd art lessons which only seemed to frustrate her since all she really wanted was to just draw. And a season of tackle football (be still my heart) which was the most fun *I* have ever had watching her do anything.

All of these were good. They gave us something to plan around and work around and prepare both our week and meals around. So I one hundred percent get it. And I realize now that it is actually easier to organize yourself when there are a few things on your to-do list than when it is a blank space on the calendar.

When we have nothing at all on the go, it becomes incredibly easy to do just that. Nothing.

So I plan things that are your everyday run of the mill tasks. But I get them on the calendar. Otherwise, with the option of attacking the laundry or watching playoff game number 4, I will be couch bound at tip off.

It is very easy to be distracted by nothing.

Laundry. Groceries. Organize her t shirt drawer (yes, that is a thing). I add those to my calendar or I will succumb to the nothingness of an unplanned evening.

Don’t get me wrong. I value my nothingness. I long for it every Friday night and hold tight to it until Sunday. But having concrete tasks to accomplish when there are no extra to-do’s on the go is what motivates me to actually get stuff done. Everyone is different, every style of life planning is OK so long as it works for you, everyone has distinct levels of “things” they want to put on their calendars and different levels of acceptable nothingness.

I will organize my time to ensure the nothingness does not become so distracting that we reach the outskirts of lazy town.

When catching up on things dominates our weekends because we let our weekdays fall into the arms of nothing, we feel cheated of the days we actually hope to have not much on the go.

Don’t book your life up so much that you don’t have time to smell the roses. Just remember to schedule a few minutes on your calendar to trim the plant.

 

quotes-our-intention_14953-0

Do what you plan, plan what you do.

 

Summer Days

As the temperature rises (and unexpectedly rapidly drops, as we have recently experienced), the pull to be out of doors rises equally. The annual poke through the dusty bins that hid from the wintry wind in the safety of the shed begins anew and we find treasures long forgotten.

Deflated balls representing all sports, jumpropes and skipballs that likely will remain untouched by the soon-to-be teen, bits and bobs of the bicycle-part variety, frisbees and kites destined to spend the next 6 months in the back of the car for the just in case moments and impromptu park stops.

The garage will be void of shovels and snowblowers, replaced with lawnmowers and gardening tools, and bicycles will once again make getting out of the car a little tricky on the left hand side.

A quick once-over of the current state of our patio set leaves something to be desired. Bird poop from overhead target practice and enough spider webs to make even Charlotte jealous can be cleaned off but the rust on the frame work from seasons spent under a blanket of snow call as loud as the geese flying by for a full replacement.

So the search is on. Chairs, ideally stack-able for winter storage and preferably without cushions that I have to remember to take off when it rains or go collect from about the yard when our summer winds pick up. Table, large enough for 6 without having to pull a lawn chair over to accommodate all of the food offerings that don’t fit on the tiny bits of available space on the table. Umbrella, nope. We spent more time trying to corral that bugger in the wind that we did enjoying its shade and thus, it spent more time on the floor beside the table than upright where it belonged.

And so I wait, flip flops at the ready, cold drink and a good book on standby. Dinner al fresco every weekend. Coffee in the morning sun. Serenaded into the evening by the frogs and other critters.

Deck life.

We are hearty enough to withstand our Winnipeg winters. And as such, we are rightfully rewarded with our Winnipeg summers.

Summertime

Summertime, and the livin’ gets decidedly easier!

Where the Words Came From

The first thing I actually remember writing that ever earned any accolades, was a poem. The Charleswood Legion held a contest on Remembrance Day and I entered a poem and I won.

That is not to say I hadn’t written anything noteworthy prior to that, but it is my first piece that I can recall being read by people other than myself, my teachers, or my parents.

My mum showed me a little newspaper that I had made when I was much younger. It’s adorable and likely factually accurate in the way any 6 year old’s newspaper would be.

The next thing I remember is another poem that I wrote in Grade 12 that my teacher took issue with and actually called my mum about. My mum, being the amazing author and wicked wordsmith that she is, marched down to the school and skewered that dude like a shrimp on the barbie.

Beyond that, I wrote in many an unfinished journal, left poems scattered about like leaves, and grew my fascination with books that stemmed from endless childhood summers spent competing in reading contests at the Charleswood Library.

Many moons later, when I was a nanny, I found a local parenting newspaper and decided it was lacking something. I wrote to the editor and pitched my idea. It wasn’t just parent’s that were scouring your publication for things to do with these kids. It was nannies and daycare workers and teachers. So I earned myself a lippy little column that I would now call cringe-worthy. It turned into more of a “don’t do this if you have a nanny because she’ll hate you and leave” column and was my venting place for all things parenting that I didn’t have the guts to say to the parents who had left their child in my care.

Beyond that, a few published pieces here and there and endless blogs to post my prose seemed to sum up my writing life. Random and rambling, unfocused and many times unread, the blogs were a creative outlet that had no clear direction and no clear meaning but at the time, selfishly served their purpose.

Till now. 

I still love words. I still love books. I find enough on the internet to drink in all the information I need. I read about things that I normally wouldn’t. I write about things that I normally wouldn’t. I appreciate well thought out pieces. I acknowledge beautifully written ideas. I share. And I take in.

I love the patience of written words. I love that the written word gifts people with time and the opportunity to take a moment, to think about their reply, to respond with thoughtful and useful information. I love that the written word gives you a moment to colour your thoughts, to say more than you could or ever would out loud.

And so I muddle on, piecing together thoughts, stringing together sentences that try to tell a story or prove a point or embrace an idea. That movie script, that novel, those first drafts? They may never see the light of day.

Write them anyway.

 

William Wordsworth

Or the screen!

Surprises and Getting Back Into Things

Nearly two weeks ago I surprised McK with a trip to Toronto. I had kept this trip a secret for nearly 4 months, telling next to no one about it for fear that they would trip up and let even a tiny morsel slip.

When she woke up that morning, thinking she was going to school, she was oblivious to the butterflies in my belly. I played the morning ritual out like it was any other day. Wake her up at 7 am. Drag her out of bed at 7:10. Listen to her wash her face and brush her teeth and wait for the “Can you come straighten my hair” call. I chatted with her while we fussed around in the bathroom, like it was any other day.

She sat at the island like she always does. “Juice?” “Sure.”

Then, as it by some weird stroke of magic, I just HAPPENED to remember that my friend Leslie sent us a video and hey kiddo, you should watch this.

And then I saw the confusion in her face, the furrowed brow that appears when she is trying to work something out that makes no sense to her initially. She has had it for years. A look of “I should know what’s going on but I don’t”. Suspicion. Confusion. All emotions rolled into one.

The video ended with Carter and Leslie talking about meeting us in Toronto for a concert by one of her current favourite bands, The GazettE. I asked if she’d like to do that, like to go to Toronto. She looked a little giddy and said YES. Then, because I don’t think she realized the immediacy of it all, I told her it was that day, that we were leaving in a half hour to go to the airport and no, she would not be going to school for the next three days.

More furrowed brow.

“But…I’m not ready!”

Oh yes you are. I had it all taken care of. And off we went.

It was awesome. 

It reminded me how much I loved planning things for people I care about. How much I loved going to new places. How much I loved coming home.

It was very, VERY hard getting back into the swing of things once we got back. Its been a week now and I am starting to feel like we are back into our routine. Odd how 3 days away during the week can throw you off like that. Doesn’t typically happen when you venture out over a weekend because those were days that are meant for exploring.

But disappearing for half a week when you should be at work and school? That is scrumptious. And hard to recover from.

Alas, lunches don’t make themselves, groceries don’t appear in the fridge by magic, laundry doesn’t suddenly become clean all on its own. We are back and we are gearing up again.

And yes, I am planning more stuff.

Of course I am.