Relaxation Nation: Jammie Days

You know what some of my favourite days are? Jammie Days.

Jammie Days are days when you leave your pajamas on all day long. Maybe they are rainy days. Maybe they’re days when you can sit out on the patio with a mug of coffee and a book in the morning. You can do whatever you want to, really. Just do it in your jammies.

I find that sometimes, it’s just nice to take a day, all day, and make it about comfort. That doesn’t mean sitting like a bump on a log on the sofa all day — but if that’s what you want to do, then by all means. A jammie day means you’ve got your most comfortable pajamas on and, by virtue of your attire, your choices of things to do are similarly limited to the more comfortable things in life. And that means, mostly, staying close to home. Because most of the time, people don’t want to be seen out in stores or the mall or cutting their grass in their pajamas.

What it also means is that, generally speaking, you are staying home and spending time with your family, or your spouse, or your dog. And that’s kind of nice. And silly, when you think of it, all walking around in jammies all day. And silly? Is good.

But that doesn’t preclude getting things done, if that’s how you want to spend your time. There’s no saying you can’t do laundry while wearing your pajamas, or vacuum, or clean the windows. But I’ll bet if you do it in your pajamas, you’ll be a lot more relaxed and have more fun doing it.

The point is, wearing your pajamas all day forces a little rest time upon a person, because they can’t rush about and DO ALL THE THINGS because they are wearing their pajamas. (And those teens who wear pajamas AS CLOTHING? I’m sorry, NOT THE SAME THING. Go put some proper clothes on. Sheesh.)

And that also doesn’t mean jammie days should happen EVERY day. Then it’s just laziness. Or, you know, first year university. NO. Jammie days should definitely be a treat. Maybe one Saturday a month works for you. Or maybe every couple of weeks. Maybe your birthday or a special holiday is your jammie day. Whatever. You know yourself best, so you know how often you would need a day to just decompress, and relax, and hang out in your jammies.

When I was single, jammie days were usually a Saturday, when I used to make a big pot of coffee, and sit and listen to the radio and read the massive Saturday paper. FOR HOURS. Just me and my cat, chilling. It was excellent. And then maybe in the mid-afternoon, we’d take a nap. Possibly in the evening, there would be a movie or a game on the TV. It was one day where we didn’t have to see anyone or talk to anyone or dress up. It was like a mini holiday. It rejuvenated my spirit.

Around here, now that we have a family, it’s less about solitary pursuits, but that’s okay. Jammie days usually mean a big lazy breakfast is in the offing. And, because we need to stick to routine around here to keep the procrastination monsters at bay, even on weekends, we generally speaking do some of our regular chores. Cleaning, sweeping, vacuuming. But beyond that, we take it easy. Maybe there is a movie to watch. Or bubbles to be blown. A dance party may even break out. Who can say? There might even be take out. And perhaps even family nap time in the afternoon.

The best jammie days often mean breakfast for dinner. Yummm. OMG I LOVE BREAKFAST FOR DINNER. Pancakes. Or bacon and tomato sammiches, Maybe bacon and eggs and hash browns. (Sometimes, if you can’t have a FULL ON jammie day, just having breakfast for dinner, and making sure you put your jammies on to do it, can be a treat.  And they you’ve all got your jammies on to curl up on the sofa and watch a movie afterwards.)

My daughter loves jammie days already. We had some while we were on vacation. There’s nowhere to go, nobody to see, and you can just hang out and play and relax.

And I guess, that’s the point, really, for adults. Jammie days mean there’s no place you MUST go and nobody you HAVE to see and nothing you HAVE to do. Except to cut yourself a little slack for the day and spend some fun, restful time with your family, or with your spouse, or by yourself. Your way. In comfort.

A little flannel vacation.

Relaxation Nation: Cool Food

It’s hot here. It may not be hot where you are right now, but it will get hot soon enough. Summer is on its way. And summer is when, around here at least, we begin to think about Cool Food.

No, I’m not talking about eating at the latest, hippest restaurants — although if you have the disposable income then by all means, do your worst. I’m talking about food that is easy, requires little cooking, and helps you stay cool in the heat.

Salads. Sandwiches. Fresh fruit and veg. Barbequed goodness. (Okay, that’s not so much cool food as it is food that is cooked outdoors, thereby keeping the house cool. But I think you can follow the way that I have drifted.)

What I really like about cool food is that it’s often made from fresh stuff, local produce hopefully, and that means getting out and enjoying your local farm market during the week. Ours is called Corn Parking. That’s not its ACTUAL name — it’s got a proper local Farm Market name. But when you drive by Corn Parking, there is a big white sandwich board sign out front, and in big red letters it says:

CORN

<– PARKING

So, over the years, we’ve just taken to calling it Corn Parking.

Anyway. Bit of a segue there. My point is not so much about Corn Parking, but rather that in our very short growing and harvesting season here, you can go out and take advantage of the fresh local produce, which can sometimes be fairly economical, while supporting your local growers and producers, and also enjoying a nice day out.

(Also, they have great baked goods. I’m just sayin’.)

So, yes. Cool food. As soon as the weather warms up, we start looking at our meal plan and finding ways to eat cool, or at least, keeping the cooking and heat to a minimum. We grow things in our little kitchen garden to help us eat cool. And, being as lazy as we are, the less effort, the better.

We start to have corn on the cob with some fresh bread as a meal. CORN ON THE COB IS SO A MEAL SHUT UP. Or maybe baked potatoes, with various toppings, if it’s not too hot to cook them. Wraps have recently come into favour here, with ham and salami and provolone and roasted red peppers. And all with or without the option of a fresh green salad with ingredients from Corn Parking. Fruit is always good (for me at least) — already today I’ve eaten half my body weight in cold watermelon.

Two of our favourite things in summer are pesto and feta tomato salad.

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This is something BDH just made up one day of a bunch of things he likes. That’s the good thing about salads — you can mix ‘n’ match your fave things until you find a combination you like. This one was actually kind of inspired by an appetizer we had at the restaurant in the ACC one night while we were waiting to watch Eric Clapton in concert.

The ingredients are kind of… general… because we put in what we feel like. More of some things some days, less on others. And it makes a LOT. Do what you want. You know we trust you.

FETA, TOMATO AND BOCCONCINI SALAD

a decent-sized hunk of feta (we use the stuff from the deli counter packed in brine), drained
1 tub of bocconcini (mozzarella) pearls, drained
1 pint container of grape tomatoes
1 medium vidalia or sweet onion, sliced
1 medium English (seedless) cucumber, sliced
fresh ground pepper to taste
basil leaves, torn (if you’re feeling Fancy)
dressing to taste (BDH goes with straight balsamic vinegar; I prefer Newman’s Own Italian)

Combine the tomatoes, onion, and cucumber in a big-ass salad bowl. Pour the bocconcini pearls over top. Crumble the feta overtop of that. Give it a good grind of pepper, if you feel inclined. Sprinkle your Fancy Schmancy basil on top. Lookit that, a pretty layered salad. (Or you can mix it all up. Whatever.)

Dish up and drizzle the goodness in your bowl with whatever dressing floats your boat.

Goes well with a nice bread and some balsamic and olive oil for dipping.

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I’ve posted the pesto recipe before, three years ago maybe, from Canadian Living’s cookbook, but here it is again.

PESTO

2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced

In food processor, finely chop together basil, Parmesan, pine nuts, salt and pepper. With motor running, add oil in thin steady stream. Stir in garlic (I just blend it in using the food processor, myself).

Makes about 3/4 c. I always double it to make a batch to freeze. Use in pasta, pasta salad, on pizza… whatever works for you.

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Nothing like fresh local stuff to make you feel like summer is here. And when it gets to be as hot as Satan’s underpants out there, the last think you need is the stress and aggravation of cooking. So start digging out your cool food recipes. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be healthy, and easy, and help you stay cool.

And so, if you will excuse me, I’m going to go prepare a salad, and then go sit in Stinkerbelle’s kiddie pool until dinnertime rolls around.

 

Relaxation Nation: Dance Party

For a quick mood fix, nothing beats a good old Dance Party.

It’s nothing fancy. It’s easy, it’s cheap, and it’s all up to you. I’m talking about your good old OMG-I-LOVE-THIS-SONG, turn-it-up-and-shake-your-groove-thing all-around-the-room dance party.

Look! I’ll even give you instructions:

1. Put on a favourite tune, in the comfort of your own house.
2. Turn it up.
3. Dance like you just don’t care.

See?

The problem is… People are all uptight about dancing. When does that happen to us? Look at any little kid you know, and they LOVE to dance. They move and groove all the time. They don’t care if it looks good. It FEELS good.

It’s a proven fact that dancing is good for you in so many ways. It’s good exercise. It lowers your blood pressure. It helps keep muscles, joints, bones, your heart, your circulatory system, and your brain healthy. It releases endorphins and makes you feel good.

But when we become adults, we get all self-conscious and intimidated. We don’t dance, not as much as we used to. If at all.

Maybe that’s why I love having dance parties here at home. I am a singularly ridiculous dancer. My singing’s even worse. Oh well. But in my own kitchen… I could care less how it looks, and doG knows I don’t care if anyone hears me.

We have dance parties all the damn time here. I used to have dance parties with my cat. Bubby was a big fan of San Francisco Bay Blues, and would come running whenever I put it on. I’d sing and shuffle and shimmy and clap, and Bubby would run around in circles and then collapse in a purring, rolling pile of happy cat on the floor. I think it was the kazoos that did it for her.

And Stinkerbelle — well, you can’t stop her. She’s a dance party waiting to happen. She dances to the beat of the washing machine agitating. And she sings CONSTANTLY. So we LOVE the chance to dance.

When That Girl was little, I would put her in her high chair with a meal, put on some music, and dance around the kitchen cleaning or cooking while she ate. I would pull out some crazy jazz-hands Bob-Fosse Broadway reject dance moves, do The Swim and The Charleston, tickle her as I danced by — and we both had fun.

Now that she is older, she’s less pliable in her musical tastes, but put on Mika and she’s off, singing and dancing along, hand in the air and a growl a la Freddie. We both will. (There’s a whole lot of butt wiggling to Lollipop.) Or a little Florence and the Machine will set us off, arms flapping like big weird birds, or whirling around the kitchen like mad dervishes. (Ssshhhh, don’t tell Dad — That Girl is not supposed to spin in the kitchen.)

It always ends in laughter.

So what’s stopping you?

Got a kid who needs to expend some energy? Put on some tunes and dance around.

Got housework that needs doing? Put on something with a good beat and get moving through those jobs.

Feeling down? Put on your all-time favourite song — LOUD — and let go.

It takes all of the length of a three-minute pop song to make things better, for your mind, your body and your soul.

Go on. Nobody’s watching. It’s good for you.

 

Relaxation Nation: Quick Fix Chocolate Cake

Alright,  my friends.  If you’re like me, sometimes the best way to cure all ills is with chocolate.

So today, on a lazy, cold long weekend, I bring you something to get you a little bit of chocolate love when you need it:  Quick Fix Chocolate Cake.

It’s fast and easy, it’s pantry-friendly, it’s not good for you, and it’s full of chocolatey goodness.

And it’s an individual serving. JUST FOR YOU. Sounds perfect to me.

Quick Fix Chocolate Cake

*4 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp sugar
*2 Tbsp cocoa
1 egg
3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 Tbsp milk

Get a large, microwave-safe coffee mug. Put the flour, sugar and cocoa in the mug, and mix well. Add the egg, and mix well. Mix in the oil and the milk (if you want, you can use less oil and more milk, and it will still be fine). Mix with a fork until the batter is smooth. It will probably be a bit thinner than regular cake batter.

Put in the microwave and cook on high for 2-3 minutes. TA DAAH! Chocolate cake.

Top with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup, if so desired.

Enjoy!

*NUTELLA VARIATION: If you have the Nutella love, use self-rising flour instead of regular flour. Increase your cocoa to 3 Tbsp and add in 3 Tbsp Nutella.

You’re welcome.

Relaxation Nation: Meditating

A couple of years ago, when the whole “new mom” thing was all new and OMG OH HOLY HELL WHAT HAVE I DONE, I thought it might be a good idea to look into some Buddhist philosophy. I thought if I could embrace something peaceful and get some guidance from Buddhism, I could give myself a basis to help me gain some equilibrium in my life, find some peace, and be a good mom.

Yeah, so a couple of years later… It’s fair to say, I totally failed at that. Big, fat, whopping FAIL.

For one thing, I think it’s kind of naive to say “Hello! Today I will embrace a new philosophy of how I live my life! And it will be magical and fix me! TA DA! And then after that, I’ll go to the mall!”

For another, I’m lazy. I don’t want to have to try that hard.

Needless to say, the whole Buddhism thing didn’t stick. But I did some reading and listened to some podcasts and tried to embrace what I could before I totally bailed. And there was a lot of good stuff, believe me. I just wasn’t into it at the time. But I took away what I could. And some of it has been helpful.

But one of the best things I tried was meditation. Now, the good thing about empty-headed naivete is that you just give things a try. So I thought, “Meh, what the heck? Could be good.” And I gave it a try.

Let’s think about this, really, people. I’m SHOUTY. I’m ALL OVER THE PLACE. I’m… well, ME. Did you HONESTLY think it would work for me? No. Of course not. Me, sitting quietly and still for an extended period of time? I THINK NOT.

But here’s the thing: What I learned in that period of time about meditation actually HAS benefitted me. Almost every day, in fact. And I think it has made me a more patient and more relaxed person.

Now, I’m not getting all airy fairy, New Age-y on you or anything. I’m not going to tell you to go our and buy Enya CDs and incense burners or whatever. NO NO. But, I guess what I’m saying is, I was pleasantly surprised at what I COULD take away from trying it.

The reason is, I think, because the podcast I chose to teach me was totally realistic about learning how to meditate. And it was honest about the fact that it takes practice and time, and to start slowly.

So, here’s what they taught me. First, find yourself a quiet space, and set a timer to come on quietly, maybe after five minutes. Sit comfortably and upright. Maybe in a chair, maybe cross-legged on the floor. As you’re sitting there, slowly begin to relax your muscles and limbs. Like, start from the extremities and move in, or from the top of your head downwards, and just think about relaxing everything, slowly. Relax things like the muscles in your face. Your tongue. Just everything.

Once you’re feeling like you’re relaxed and comfortable, start thinking about your breathing. Focus on each breath. When you breathe in, think “In”. When you breathe out, think “Out”. Start to focus on only that. Just in, and then out. If other thoughts come into your brain, acknowledge them, but then go right back to your next breath. Don’t stress if other thoughts wander in, but don’t dwell on them either. Just put them aside, and go back to thinking about your breath. In. Out. In. Out. Focus on this until that is all you are thinking about.

When the timer tells you, take your time refocusing your thoughts and getting back up.

That’s all it takes, to start with. Five minutes in a quiet room. If you get into it, you can increase your time. Ten, fifteen minutes. But to start, five minutes is all you need. It’s like that savasana pose at the end of a yoga session, but more.

Seems pretty simple, right? It’s not. It DOES take practice to NOT think. But once you get going, it’s really quite relaxing. And I find that, even though I don’t do it the way we often THINK meditation should be — you know, really seriously for long periods of time in some Zen temple space or whatever — it really has done a great deal for me. Just a couple of minutes of quiet.

I whip out the old meditation time whenever I need it. When I am stressing, I can use it as a way to decompress. When I am frustrated with parenting or irritated by family stuff, I can stop what I am doing and breathe and get calm. When I am having trouble sleeping, I will do it while lying in bed to relax me completely — and then doze off. (Yeah, it’s not EXACTLY sitting up and meditating. But it does the job.) And you can bet your sweet bippy that I’ll be OH MY DOG MEDITATE MEDITATE MEDITATE during take off and landing when we go on vacation. (I am not the best airplane traveller.)

Just the simple act of clearing your mind and calming your breathing can do wonders.

And by taking five minutes to go to a quiet space, during naptime or before bed or whatever, I am taking five minutes FOR ME. It’s very selfish in that respect. But the plus is that it makes me a better, calmer person when I need it. But it is MINE.

Will I practice, and become better at it, and mediate for longer periods of time? Maybe someday. Not now. Certainly not anytime soon. But for my life, right now, that five minutes I CAN take, when I need it? Is GOLDEN.

So. There you go. My foray into Eastern Philosophy was only a MOSTLY total bust. I did learn a lot, and I got a very valuable, easy-to-use five minute fix-me-up out of the deal.

Try it, if you are interested, and maybe you’ll get more out of it than me. Or maybe not. But hey, you’ve tried something new! And look! Not an Enya CD in sight.

Relaxation Nation: Yogamazing

It’s the start of the week, and with all the gardening and yardwork and stuff that comes with May, some good stretching and exercise will come in handy. And now that my physio is going well, I think it’s time to start trying some yoga again.

But life as a stay at home mom means little free time or free income to go to classes, and more importantly, little down time just for myself. So it’s not like I can just go swanning off to some yoga studio somewhere for an hour or two.

Nope, instead, I’m doing my yoga online, and for free. With Yogamazing.

If you have iTunes, you can download a video podcast called Yogamazing, which is a full 20-30 minute class. (There’s also a website, yogamazing.com, but the last time I visited, the free classes are view-only and it costs for downloads.) The instructor, Chaz, makes the classes readily accessible and fun to do whether you regularly practice yoga or whether you’re a newbie. If you’re just getting started, you can pause the class to figure out “what did he just do?” or if you want to spend a little extra time doing a particular pose. It’s all good. And because it’s a download, the class is there to do at your leisure whenever you have time — during naptime, or before bed, or even first thing in the morning. (Ugh. No thanks.) I have even done a class while Stinkerbelle played around me.

I also like the fact that I can do it by myself. I’m self-conscious and still relatively cumbersome at yoga, so I like just being by myself to focus on the poses and the relaxation and not be forever worrying that I look foolish. AND DID I MENTION IT’S FREE? This is big for me. We just don’t have a ton of extra cash for classes at studios and stuff right now.

There are three kinds of classes, basically. One is a “prescription” class — let’s say “Yoga for the Neck and Shoulders” — and these classes focus on moves to help you with a particular sore spot on your body or an injury recovery. They are a little more focused on one area, but still are great gentle classes.

The second type are more general classes, like “Yoga for Golfers”, that give you a full body workout with a particular sport or activity in mind to help you strengthen and stretch. These are my favourite classes because they offer a full body workout, and even though they say they are for golfers or for snowboarders or for rowers, they really are great overall classes. (My favourite, I think, is the one for rowers. And I don’t row.)

The third type of classes are flow classes. These are classes that are a serious workout. They are a series of poses linked together that you move through continuously, and they get you moving and sweating and get your heartrate up. They are a real sweat blowout. Awesome workout.

So, each week on iTunes, one class is available for download. And, after a few weeks, you have a number of classes that you can pick and choose from: “Hm, what do I feel like today?” And if you want a longer workout, you can mix and match a couple of classes, combining, say, a flow class to get you going and a “yoga for…” class to work on a particular thing.

Or whatever. The great thing is, they’re yours. They’re on your computer. And to fit in with your busy life, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. For free.

So go. Take some time for your body and mind. Relax. It’s good for you, and it’s fun.

Relaxation Nation

Whoa. The internets are STRESSED, man. Between all the goings on in The News Out In The World, and election fraud happening here in our little city, and my internets peeps just having OMG BEING MOM IS NOT EASY days… the internets are full of people stressing out.

I know I am.

So I am taking Mondays to spread some relaxation out there to the Internetverse. We all need it. I’m just going to give out some Zen on Mondays, so all y’all can partake. If you feel like it. And relax.

NOTE: I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NOR DO I PLAY ONE ON TV. So anything I recommend here is TOTALLY UP TO YOU to try. And if you like it, great. And if you don’t, well that is okay too.

So, yeah. Relaxing stuff. Maybe it’ll be a recipe I liked. Or something I’ve discovered to help me relax. Or a book I enjoyed. Or some really great shoes. (Nah, it won’t be shoes. Who has money for shoes?) But, you know… stuff like that.

Sounds good? Okay.

So, let’s start off our relaxation with… Cowboy Cookies. Because who doesn’t love some lovin’ from the oven? ESPECIALLY with chocolate in it.

So go forth this week, my friends, and bake. And enjoy.

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Baking therapy is good. There’s something about baking that is relaxing. Your house smells good, you can do it with your kids or with your friends on a Saturday movie night, and you have something tasty to show at the end of it.

This is a recipe that came to me all the way from Texas, from our friend Kelly (with only some very slight variations). She sent us a homemade cookie mix one Christmas, and this was contained therein. And it has been one of BDH’s favourite cookies ever since. So much so that That Girl and I made a few batches last week. And now they’re all gone. OM NOM NOM NOM.

COWBOY COOKIES
(makes about 2 -2.5 dozen cookies)

1 c all-purpose flour
1 c uncooked rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 c semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/2 c chopped nuts (I like pecans. YMMV)
1/2 c seedless raisins
1/4 c granulated sugar
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Beat in egg. Beat in vanilla.

Combine flour, oats, chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a large-ish bowl.

Using a wooden spoon, mix dry ingredients into butter/sugar mixture until well blended. Dough will be a bit… scruffy.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart onto cookie sheets with silicone pads (or lightly greased cookie sheets, if you don’t use silicone pads).  Bake in 350 oven for 12 -14 minutes or until bottom/edges are lightly browned.  Also, your cookies probably won’t spread out much — they’ll likely hold a rounded, lump kind of form. (Don’t worry. They may be kind of ugly but they’ll taste beautiful.)

Remove to wire racks to cool *almost* completely. Be sure to eat a slightly warm one with a big glass of milk, while the chocolate chips are still a little melty.