Ever since I’ve had my 40th birthday (to say I “celebrated” may be a bit enthusiastic), I'm finding that for a few days each month I seem, well, a bit moodier than usual. To be clear, I should say I've never been one of those women who says, “PMS? Me? Nope. Not here!” when in reality for three or four days every month she is making her co-workers pee their pants with fear if GOD FORBID there is no Splenda at the coffee machine. That is not me. I owned my PMS when I was younger. It was mild, at best. Compared to now, PMS in your 20s and early 30s is like watching a fluffy kitten mewing at an empty milk bowl, then falling asleep on a warm towel.
Then come your forties. Toodle-loo, mostly benign PMS symptoms; your asshole uncle is in town and he's here for like a whole fucking week while his shitty apartment is being fumigated!
Shortly after my fourth decade began, I noticed something was amiss. I found myself eating margarita salt straight from the container and yelling at the hamsters for not helping out enough around the house. Starting the month after my last birthday (#43), I was definitely getting a bit more peeved than usual on certain days, over fairly basic behaviours, like someone chewing audibly. I’m not talking about the“I don't like that...” kind of irritated. It was more like a “I'm going to burn your garage down tonight and make S'mores in the flickering flames of what used to be your children's bicycles” sorta-mad.
All of a sudden, people standing behind me in line at the grocery store were breathing too loudly, forgetting to wear deodorant, and just plain existing without my implicit permission. And don’t think I’m not letting them know about it either. And don’t try to make me feel remotely better by saying that I am “suffering” from PMS, BECAUSE I AM NOT THE ONE SUFFERING.
That pleasure is reserved for those unlucky souls around me. One teeny little verbal scathing to a perfect stranger at a stoplight for pausing too long at the green signal sends my daughter running for the calendar. If she finds a red “X” there, she gathers rations and retreats to her room, where she curls into the fetal position for a few days. There are ways to deal with me, however. It’s simple really - just do what I say, and do it RIGHT FUCKING NOW. And for your own sake, do it EXACTLY as I tell you to. Helmets and protective lenses are optional, but advised.
Last month some unlucky collection agent picked the short straw and the wrong day to dial my number. I had paid my cell phone bill 10 minutes late and therefore apparently deserved to be hounded, harassed, and hung out to dry. But by the end of our call she had offered to pay the bill on my behalf, and somehow I had ended up with 150 extra free monthly minutes and a tote bag/umbrella was on its way to me via FedEx Overnight.
No one is safe from my foul mood and even though I can hear the words coming out of mouth, I feel ba...no, wait. I don't feel bad. When I am saying and feeling "the terrible," I don't even care, because I am itchy on the inside and nothing fits and there's none of that IPA beer I like left in the fridge and who the fuck hung the toilet paper OVER the roll?
I may be sorry after the storm has subsided, but as long as the rain of PMS wrath is coming down, I feel nothing but frustration and semi-restrained contempt.
If PMS is exponential in strength and it continues to increase throughout out my 40s until the sweet release of menopause, please keep this information from me and my family/friends. It will only cause them to look for alternatives to being around me for the next decade or so and I need them here to get me stuff. YOU GOT THAT?
Have you seen the quiz on Facebook, wherein you accumulate points based on your beauty/hygiene routine? Daily showering, pedicures, time spent doing your hair - these all accrue points based on a value system and your total score determines your "maintenance level."
Let's say this: If I were a 4 door sedan you would buy me.
So maybe I need a beauty intervention. Don't bother calling an ambush makeover show; I guarantee I'll be off the wagon inside of a week. Some people have tried getting involved in the past, and I appreciate it, I really do. I've been gifted with spa certificates, beauty products, and sweet smelling lotions. I've even enjoyed them when I eventually use them. They're lovely, really. But if you are looking to buy my love, buy me gin, or maybe some XL steel gray sweatpants.
There is also a factor of impatience. I don't want to wait 12 weeks to see a 46% decrease in wrinkle definition. I want them gone NOW! If a twice weekly application of a mere drop is instructed, I will use a palm full three times a day, because more is better and also faster; this is science. I am still waiting for the Sham-Wow guy to come out with a home facial sandblasting kit. I need RESULTS!
Each morning when I drop off my kids at school, I see moms who look amazing. I'm talking high heel leather boots, pencil skirts, long hair worn down kinda-moms. Not a bun in sight. And the worst part? These ladies are nice, so I can't even pretend they're terrible people who probably eat puppies and vote conservative on women's issues.
These are mothers of boys, just like me. WHERE ARE THE MUSTARD STAINS? I can't imagine having the time to get any of that beauty routine accomplished by means of anything short of tethering my son to the clothesline, wrapped chest down in bubble wrap while wearing a helmet and a life jacket. I'm sorry, but if I don't have drool or instant oatmeal on my shirt and at least the front section of my hair is brushed then I am looking good. Who looks fabulous at 8:00 in the morning? It's not NORMAL. I'm the girl who loves a Canadian winter for the sole reason that a long parka hides the fact that you are still in your pajamas. And that they are too small. And covered in dog hair.
I shower, my nails are clean, I appreciate a groomed eyebrow, and I floss 2x a day. As far as I am concerned, anything else is gravy. I just lack the gene responsible for scheduling weekly pedicures and eyeliner tattooing. I "shine up" real nice, and I can hold my own if given the time and inclination. But most days, I JUST DON"T CARE. If you care, I am so on board with that. I envy you that care. I love for you that care. You do you, and I'll be over here not doing me. But for 89.2% of the time, I am fully embracing the "F**k It" bun.
I can trace my hair care woes to the day when I was 10 and my step-mother threw me a curling iron and told me to not come out of my room, "until I had done something with my hair." She may as well have given me a waffle iron or floor waxer, because I had no idea what I was doing with the goddamn thing. I emerged from my prison an hour later, my forehead looking as though I'd rested burning cigarettes on it, seeking "hair approval." I must have passed, because I don't recall what happened next, although several psychologists have told me that is called a "self-preservation mechanism."
I also hate shaving. I do it, but I hate it. I live at the intersection of granola and mainstream, but can't quite make myself cross the street to "no shaving" territory. I tried waxing as an alternative at a friend's "helpful" suggestion; they even bought me a special "Wax Virgin" starter kit. We're not friends anymore. You know when on a movie or television show they play someone's scream echoing loudly through the Grand Canyon? That's almost as loud as I screamed when I first attempted to rip hair from my body using what amounts to little more than melted crayons and wax paper. I'm pretty sure hair follicles are not supposed to bleed, so I'm thinking I didn't do it correctly. The end result was not pleasant, and suffice to say what I left in the bathroom garbage can closely resembled what it would look like if you wiped a dead raccoon off the road with a wet paper towel.
I'm making my peace with it, and as long as I'm clean and understand the general principle behind a mascara wand, I think I'm okay. Oh, and let me share my one and only time-saver beauty tip: Comb only the side of your hair that faces the drive-thru window.
When your children grow up and think about you, their mother, where will they picture you? I know for sure that a large portion of my kids' memories will have our kitchen as the setting. It is, after all, one of my primary habitats. But as much as I love being in my kitchen, baking a quick treat, or preparing lunches to fuel them during the school day, I'd also love to be able to spend more time in other rooms - rooms with couches, rooms where I can relax.
This is possible of course; it's just a matter of streamlining kitchen routines so you can actually participate in activities not involving large stainless steel appliances. By organizing your kitchen and shortening your prep and cooking times, you'll also get more enjoyment out of the hours you do spend there.
Here are some easy ways to make that happen:
This just makes sense. Reorganize your cupboards and small appliances so that everything you need for coffee is in one area. Put the coffee maker close to the fridge (for milk or cream) and rearrange a cupboard to hold mugs on one shelf and coffee equipment on the other. Do the same with your toaster and toaster oven and plug in your kettle to create a "breakfast bar."
Use baskets to hold packets of oatmeal, sugar bowls, and a mug filled with teaspoons. Store bread and muffins here too, so everything you need for a quick coffee and toasted bagel is readily available. Once you do this, you'll wonder how you bumbled through the morning beforehand.
Put down the rubber gloves, and throw out your sponges. You can wash (almost) anything in the dishwasher, including — and I swear this is true — potatoes and light fixture covers. Some people would choose "vacuum" or "washing machine" as the best modern household invention, but I'm holding firm at "dishwasher." And really, after reading this list of 21 Things You Can Totally Wash in the Dishwasher, we may want to consider re-naming it the "almost-anything" washer.
Earlier this month, I attended an event hosted by Becel where Chef Graham Elliot (MasterChef, MasterChef Junior) cooked a delicious meal with Becel. Um, yeah. Steak. With mushrooms, thyme, garlic, and Becel margarine. It was delicious. He offered the tip that when you are using garlic to infuse flavour, simply smash the clove (use the bottom of a glass or the long side of a knife, protecting your hand) but - mind blown alert - KEEP THE SKIN ON. This will prevent the garlic from burning and becoming bitter while cooking. All of the flavour will come through and you simply discard the cooked clove before serving. No more peeling sticky cloves of garlic wondering where your youth went.
At the same event, Rose Reisman set up a Blend Bar to demonstrate how homemade margarine is made. It was pretty cool to watch because she used tools we all have in our kitchens, and ingredients you:
a) can pronounce (like cream, oils, salt, and carrot juice)
b) would eat
c) have in your pantry.
If you're in Toronto or the GTA, check out the Blend Bar by Becel at Loblaws Maple Leaf Gardens location (60 Carlton Street). There will be a Master Blender on site, blending fresh, homemade margarine and offering samples from now until Sunday March 20, 2016, Mon - Fri 11-7 and Sat/Sun 10 - 6.
I love my stainless appliances because they look modern and they make my kitchen feel like a mad scientist's laboratory. But I hate the smudges and smears they take on when you even walk too close to them. This great kitchen cleaning hack will clear up the smudges and smear-proof their surfaces for weeks at a time.
Classic dilemma: You want homemade cookies. You want homemade cookies NOW. You get the butter, it's hard, you microwave it, it turns to liquid. Next thing you know, you're at the drive thru shoving a baked potato with cheese and bacon in your mouth and crying about your long-gone Grammy and her snickerdoodle recipe. Listen: we've got this.
Swap the butter in a cookie recipe (or any baked good) for Becel. Becel and butter can be swapped 1:1 so there's no math or crying about ratios and conversions. No crying - just cookies. And you'll never have to wait for Becel to soften before creaming it with the sugar because it's soft even when it's cold. Becel is also non-hydrogenated (no trans fats!) and has 80% less saturated fat than butter. "80% less saturated fat" is totally tear-free math, friends.
Question: How do you immediately make any food, social situation, or event 100% better?
Answer: Add cheese.
Is there anything cheese can't improve? I can't imagine a world where this isn't a universal truth. Here's a great way to save money on cheese and ensure its availability for all breakout social situations: purchase large blocks of cheese on sale. But instead of freezing solid (it can alter texture), grate or shred it. Spread it out in single layers on parchment covered baking trays and freeze until solid (a hour or two) then break apart clumps with clean hands (move quickly) and store in zip-close bags or air-tight containers. Because you froze the shreds first, the cheese will stay loose and not freeze into a giant lump. Now you have cheese by the handful whenever you want it.
Use parchment paper to line your baking trays and casseroles to avoid the whole clean up/wash routine. With parchment cut properly to size, you'll likely only have to do a quick wipe or rinse.
There were several family favourite recipes I put off baking more than once a year (and even then, it was a concession for peace), simply because I couldn't handle the thought of scrubbing another cheese-crusted pan. (In my dream kitchen, I have a roll of parchment paper over every counter surface like the paper they use on doctor examination tables. I'd just pull out a new strip every morning and toss it every night - no more wiping counters! (I'm still waiting for this dream to come true.)
I spend at least three hours a year wondering what the hell actually happens inside my microwave during the cooking process. I swear, I can heat up a cup of coffee and yet when I open the door, it looks like someone had a pizza party food fight in there. But the crud is easy to handle with a natural ingredient and that is the almighty lemon juice - nature's magical elixir.
Instead of using harsh chemicals to clean a disgusting microwave, squeeze a cut lemon into a large 4-cup bowl or glass measuring cup. Drop the lemon halves in and heat in the microwave for 2-minutes. Remove the bowl (hot - careful!) and wipe down the inside of the microwave. The hot lemon steam will soften food and make removal easy. Then, pour the hot lemon water down the drain to freshen (it's a mess down there, too).
Is your freezer the Wild West of food storage? Are last summers' cherries getting it on with the flank steak? Are microwaveable dinners rubbing shoulders with bakery rolls? It's chaos in there and this has to stop. Rescue hero? BASKETS. I found three durable plastic baskets that fit inside my freezer and labelled them "FRUIT," "VEGETABLES," and "BREADS." Now, all our baskets of frozen smoothie fruits stay in one place and we can tell at a glance if we have any on hand. No more rooting around the scary bottom half of a pull out freezer. The bread basket holds flat bread, buns, waffles, and bagels. Frozen veggies, ready-diced onions, and fries all live in the veggie basket. I haven't found a scary UFO (unidentified freezer object) in months!
Any time an item or ingredient can perform double duty, you've saved time and space. Becel margarine takes the place of several products because you can use it for baking, spreading, sautéing, and even shallow pan frying! It's made with items you can pronounce, like plant and seed oils - including Becel's Master Blend of sunflower and Canadian canola oil, which are a source of good Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats - and no artificial preservatives, flavours, or colours.
This quick cook uses Becel in place of olive oil and butter (2 products in one) and you'd never notice because it's delicious. Try this recipe and you'll see!
4 small, firm zucchini
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp Becel margarine
2 cloves garlic, skins on, crushed
1 500ml jar passata (crushed, strained tomatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground cracked black pepper
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
hot pepper flakes, to taste
Use spiralizer tool (seriously, get ye to a kitchen store and get one) to create zucchini noodles. Or, peel entire zucchini with vegetable peeler, creating "ribbons." Lightly salt and set aside in colander to drain water.
Melt 2 tbsp Becel in shallow sauce pot and add one clove garlic (smashed with skins on). Add passata, salt, cracked pepper, basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes. Bring to boil, stir, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
In sauté pan, melt 2 tbsp Becel and add one clove garlic. Add drained zucchini noodles and sauté at med-high heat, stirring often. When zucchini is cooked and fragrant, serve with sauce.