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Archive for August, 2010

The Little Things: The Nightgown

Friday, August 6th, 2010

So far this week I’ve regaled you with my affections for scalloped tomatoes (yes, I made my fourth batch in two weeks on Wednesday night) and TV reruns.  I’ve also discovered that these two things are made even better when enjoyed at the same time – you really should try it.  Perhaps tonight while GAP is out at a business dinner I will really gild the lily and add this third component to the mix for a moment of perfect Gale bliss.

The nightgown.  I hadn’t worn one since I was at least eight years old.  In my mind they were either stuffy, puritan affairs or tiny and tawdry.  For years, unaware that there was any kind of middle ground, I opted for two-piece pajamas.  Some of them were darling matched sets.  But many others were shameful combinations of old t-shirts and boxer shorts.  Not so pretty.

Further, as a matter of practicality, I frequently got into fights with my pajama bottoms in the middle of the night.  I would roll.  They would twist.  I would right them.  They would twist again.  It was an ongoing, maddening battle that I resented for interrupting my precious REM cycles (or something, I really don’t know anything about sleep biology).    

So, recently I decided it was time for a bit of overhaul in the sleepwear department.  Time to bring the words beauty sleep to life.  Time to end the day wearing something that would see me through to morning without incident. 

Enter: the nightgown.  (Actually, nightgowns. Plural.)

They are flirty and feminine without being racy or raunchy.  Sweet but not twee.  Delicate but not dainty.  They make me feel like a lady, which is a lovely way to feel, especially at the end of a long day.  They make me brush my hair one last time before getting into bed.  I’ve even reintroduced two long-forsaken skincare steps (toner and eye cream) back into my nightly toilette. 

And nightgowns are comfortable – oh so comfortable.  They don’t spiral around me and wake me up.  The cotton is soft and breezy.  They are cool on warm summer nights.  Perhaps it is psychosomatic, but I sleep so much better in nightgowns than pajamas.  If sleep like this means mental trickery, sign me up.  I’m game.   

A good night’s sleep really isn’t such a little thing.  It should be.  It should be easy.  Sleep is delicious, and healthy, and free.  We should be tired when we go to bed and rested when we wake in the morning.  Sleep should be the easiest decision we make all day, yet so many of us get so little of it. 

Nightgowns, like all of the little things I’ve written about this week, add up to something bigger.  A perfect simple supper is comforting and nourishing and whole.  Our favorite reruns on television bring a combination of pleasant surprise and predictable calm.  And a nightgown helps us log the eight or nine hours of uninterrupted sleep that help us feel (if not actually become) really on top of things.

These little things are small on their own.  But they extrapolate out to much greater levels of meaning.  This is why the idea of “the little things” is such a cliché.  There is truth in it that we can’t afford to overlook.

PS – As I contemplated my posts this week there were several other little things that I considered: good pens, text messaging, going to movies alone, Zappos.com, and countless others.  Our lives are full of little things that we neglect to consider very often.

The Little Things: Reruns

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I’m dedicating this week’s posts to some of life’s simplest pleasures.  Ten Dollar Thoughts are great, but sometimes it’s nice to scale back.  For Monday’s installment, click here.

I realize I dealt them a glancing blow last Friday, but as I began thinking about my favorite simple pleasures I realized that TV reruns actually make the cut. 

Unless you’re watching Entourage or Mad Men, just about all television shows are in reruns right now.  Most people lament this period of TV drought, and eagerly await the start of the new season late next month.  But I secretly love reruns.  Why?  I’m so glad you asked.

I love the pleasant surprise of a great rerun.  You turn on your TV unsure of whether or not there will be anything decent to watch.  You could easily be condemned to bad TV movies or some Marie Osmond infomercial.  But instead you find the episode of Friends where Monica and Rachel gamble (and lose) their apartment; or the episode of The West Wing where Sam and Toby have to bail a Supreme Court nominee out of jail; or the episode of Seinfeld with the low water pressure.  Moments like these are akin to bumping into your best friend from college whom you adore, but haven’t seen in ages.  You want nothing more than to settle in and hear all about what she’s been up to.

I also love the familiar terrain of a rerun.  You’ve been there before and you know what’s going to happen.  You know when the best scene is coming up and whether or not you should wait to go to the bathroom.  Not only that, but the anticipation of knowing what comes next can almost make the moment sweeter.  You know that Kramer is going to fly through the door wearing, “nothing but a thin layer of gabardine,” and you get your laugh all ready to go because you’re going to need it. 

There’s something casual about old shows.  You probably didn’t plan to watch them.  You’re probably doing something else at the same time.  They don’t command your full attention, but they may make paying bills, peeling carrots, or brushing dogs a little more entertaining.  Much like hearing your favorite song on the radio, you never know when you’ll come across one, but you always know it will be a welcome addition to your day.

The Little Things: The Perfect Meal

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

On Friday I posted a little list of things we can do (actually do) to improve ourselves and the world around us.  It felt good to dedicate a post to small tangible things, after focusing for more than six months on abstract and sometimes complicated thoughts.  Over the weekend I thought (ironic, I realize) more about some of the small and simple things in life and this week I’m dedicating my posts to the topic of little things that make a big difference. 

We didn’t have plans for Friday night.  It had been a long and draining week for me and I wasn’t really up for cooking dinner.  GAP and I had the pizza vs. leftovers debate and opted for leftovers.  This was really a decision that we backed into; he’d eaten a big lunch and wasn’t very hungry and I wasn’t especially in the mood for pizza.  It turned out to be the best accidental decision of my week. 

Recently my favorite food blogger (Deb at Smitten Kitchen) posted this recipe for scalloped tomatoes.  It’s the kind of dish I would have reluctantly choked down at my mother’s insistence as a child.  But as an adult it is some kind of magic to me.  The way the tomatoes break down in the pan.  The way they sweeten and caramelize with heat.  The way the crusty bread soaks up their juices and becomes something completely new.  And the way the whole affair becomes the ideal platform for a poached egg, as Deb suggests.    

Lately I’ve been making about a batch of this delicious mess each week.  I portion it out into plastic containers and take it to work for lunch.  Or, as was the case on Friday, I spoon it into a bowl and curl up on the couch with it.  It is not pretty, but for me it is perfect.  In this world of garnishes and flair and finishing touches (both culinary and otherwise) I love this meal which doesn’t try to be anything it’s not.  It doesn’t call for a sprig of fresh basil on each serving.  Nor does it request to be baked in individual dishes for a lovelier presentation (transferring giant scoops from baking dish to plate or bowl does nothing for the aesthetics of this dish).  It is cheap and easy to make – not the kind of thing you’d serve to company, to be sure.  If it were served to you in a restaurant you might send it back on looks alone.  But when the fork hits your mouth you sort of hunker down in your seat and hunch protectively over your food.

Simply put, this dish makes me happy.  Really, really happy.  And on Friday night I actually identified with it in some way.  I sat at home when many adults were out.  My makeup was smudged and my energy flagged.  I felt crumpled and bruised.  Yet when I looked down at my simple supper I was comforted.  Perhaps this is a big metaphor to ask of a leftover bowl of scalloped tomatoes.  But I liked knowing that something so utterly lacking in pretense could pack such a delicious punch.  I will not start this week with smudged makeup or mussed up hair.  Nevertheless, it’s comforting to think that even if I did that might still be okay.