Monday, February 25, 2013

Wardrobe Malfunction

I might have seen this in a magazine once upon a time, but I believe that it was Oprah who said that the Top Ten items in a woman’s wardrobe ought to include a really great pair of black pants. That’s why I own more than a couple of dozen. No kidding. My closet looks like an undertaker’s. Well, I can’t really blame Oprah for this number of black slacks. It’s just that it’s taking me a few tries to get it right.

In my current collection, I have tailored black trousers with creases that are useful for meetings and luncheons. I have black yoga pants with an easy elastic waist that take me comfortably through dancercise, grocery shopping and No-Shower Saturdays. I have stretchy boot-cut black pants that make a short, slightly plump, older gal like me feel a little bit foxy. And I have swanky, wool-crepe, wide-leg, dressy black pants that swish across theatre lobbies. Then there are the jersey-knit, wide-leg crops for looking funky at art gallery openings, the slim-leg, summer-weight cotton crops when black at the beach is just the right note and the black tights for those at-home occasions when I can wear a floaty shirt and look all Ina Garten-ish. I like my Chico’s Synergy, wrinkle-free crops with sassy little silver studs on the cargo pockets. My fleece-lined outdoor winter walking pants are functional when the wind is howling and I’m out with the dog. My slim-leg, ankle-cut, stretch black denims are my latest purchase. And my flattering-to-the-mature-figure, boot-cut, black denim, 5% Lycra, Not Your Daughter’s Jeans jeans are my favorite go-to pants, the ones I’m wearing right now.  

None of these black pants are really great. So, I wonder, how would Oprah define “great” black pants? Are they the ones that take you from office to dinner on the town with just a simple change of accessories like they’ve been showing us for the last 40 years in those sadistic magazine articles? Are these pants meant to be worn in every season despite a temperature differential from summer to winter of, oh, say, 80 degrees or so? Surely Oprah doesn’t want us to cause us angst about this. So, why the heck did my brain fixate on the idea that I could go from day to evening, summer to winter in just one pair of black pants if only I could find the right pair? I’ve yet to find them. Do we honestly think that Oprah is wearing black pants to every public appearance? Not evidently. I bet she has more outfits than Lady Grantham.

I don’t so much buy outfits. I buy black pants. I’ve bought so many, they’ve become my brand, my trademark. And then I buy things to go with black pants. Oprah also said that our wardrobes should include one really great white shirt. Now, let’s see. By my last count, I think I have more than ten. Now if I could only find one to work with even one pair of the black pants!

Monday, February 18, 2013

One Foot in the Senior's Home

Alright. Who’s the clown that sent us the Retirement Village brochure? It arrived in the Saturday post. It was addressed by hand, so we know a real person was behind this evil prank. To whomever it was: NOT FUNNY!

I chucked it in the recycle bin beside my desk with a wrist-snap of disgust. It lay there on top of a heap of newspaper ad coupons and AARP applications, mocking me. The image of a handsome grey-haired couple smiled up at me. I scowled back. I mouthed the word, “NEVER!” just like generations of aging family members have done before me. “You aren’t fooling anybody!” I thought. “You two can’t be a day over 50!” Surely no one in this place really looks like these two. It's got to be an advertising come-on, that’s all it is.

They were nice looking, though. Vibrant. Youthful. They hardly seemed like the type of folks who long ago gave up food that actually requires teeth.  

I picked up the brochure again. I “hhmpff’d” and leafed through it. “Live your kind of life and live it to its fullest,” it crowed.

“HA!” I thought. “Yeah, right, which way to the shuffleboard court?”

“Make the most of your active senior years,” the brochure boasted.

“Sure. With dinner at 4:30, that leaves the whole evening free for watching the weather channel.”

Then I glanced at the list of amenities:

·         Park-like setting

·         Free chauffeured transportation

·         Three gourmet meals a day served in an elegant dining room

·         Maid service

·         Health club, library, hair salon, bank and wellness center on the premises

·         Walk to shops, restaurants and medical offices nearby

·         Happy Hour entertainment

·         Full social program including fun outings to area attractions on a cool mini-bus

Wait-a-sec! That sounds like a fancy vacation at a 5-Star resort! That got me thinking. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Why, with so many services there would be so much extra time freed up for more important things; you know, those things that can really crowd your life, like switching your orthotics between pairs of shoes, or mixing up tall, refreshing glasses of Metamucil, or applying Ben-Gay to your knees.  

And with those things out of the way, who knows what madcap mischief and adventure a person might get up to! Bingo, maybe! And Chair Aerobics! Water color painting and learning how to use a computer! Wood carving and crafts! Nature photography! I bet that nice looking couple in the brochure does all of those things!

I’m excited! Retirement is looking good! No young relatives of mine will have to carry me kicking and screaming off to the old folks’ home! Where do I sign up for shuffleboard?

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I'm a Little Tea Pot

I have been enjoying living in the U.S. since we moved here several years ago. I try to keep my opinions to myself and behave as graciously as any guest might in someone else's home. However, I can hold my peace no longer. I'm sorry if I might offend anyone, but I just have to ask, with all due respect, in this land of so much bounty and advanced technology, why is it so difficult to get a decent cup of tea ?

The incorrect way to make tea

Ken attended a conference in Miami on the weekend. He stayed at a fairly upscale hotel. Upon his return I asked,"Would you like a cup of tea, dear?" He sounded like a man who had been lost at sea for weeks having survived by sucking sweat off his own arm, "Oh, PLEASE, Yes! I haven't had good cup of tea in DA-AAYS!" 

We have traveled far and wide across the nation. Rarely have we found a hotel or restaurant that serves a proper cup of tea. Even though we've mostly given up, on the occasions when we do order tea, say at breakfast in a nice hotel, and after we've explained, "Yes, HOT tea, please!" they'll bring a mug (your fancier places will bring a cup and saucer), a tea bag, and a little pot containing hot water. The tea bag has not yet met water. The water is not boiling. When we pour water over the tea bag in the mug, a thin ooze of tea color leaks out. It remains suspended in the mug. It could take an hour or more to actually get some flavor extracted with this method. I've seen people bob their tea bag up and down to get some action. I assume they are satisfied with the result as they then remove the bag after a few seconds and plop it on the saucer. I have also seen folks who sip while the bag is still in there! Oh, my.

A more correct way to make tea

Can anyone tell me why we rarely see the British tea-making method in the United States? Does it date back to that dust up in Boston Harbor in 1773? I understand the whole zeitgeist of evicting the British and all, but were decent tea drinking habits expelled along with them? Surely things have been patched up since then. We Canadians remained on pretty good terms with Britain in the ensuing years and look at us! We manage to make a good cup of tea. Was it an act of rebellion and independence that led to dunking insipid tea bags up and down in coffee mugs full of tepid water for three seconds saying, "No, really, we like it this way!"?

Not very assertive behavior if you ask me! Nothing like the shock and awe tea receives when you start with cold water in a tea kettle,bring it to the boil, pour it directly over your loose tea leaves or your tea bag in a tea pot, which has been warmed up previously with hot water, slap on the lid, snuggle the pot with a tea cozy and then bruise flavor the heck out of the tea leaves for the next five to ten minutes while your brew steeps. I fear the word "steep" was expunged from American dictionaries along with the tea in Boston Harbor.

An incorrect way to serve tea

A proper way to serve tea

Once you've brutalized your tea bags or tea leaves, serving becomes a much more genteel and soothing affair. Straining the leaves as you go or squeezing the last gasp of flavor from your tea bag with the back of a spoon, you pour steaming, clear amber liquid from your tea pot into a china cup which, properly, you have warmed up by rinsing in hot water. Lemon, milk, cream, honey or sugar may now be added and then delicately stirred with a tea spoon, preferably with your pinky finger extended. But not for too long - you do not want someone to send a irked glance in your direction because you've been clinking the cup too long. Also, banging the spoon on the edge of the cup is uncouth. You may lightly "tink-tink" your spoon against the rim of the cup and then lay it down ever so gently on the saucer. Now sip. And drink in the nuance and solace of a tasty, flavorful, reviving cup of tea.

Honestly, people. Have you not been paying attention during Downton Abbey?

My afternoon tea steeped 5 minutes in my little tea pot, short and stout.

 My sassy  tea cozy - made by Bernie Lyon, whose illustration is on the header of my blog.