Words for Nana

My Nana passed away last week. My cool, awesome, adorable, totally rad nana. My mom called last Monday night to tell me. We knew things weren’t good, but I didn’t expect it to happen as quickly as it did. It sucks.

My mom also asked me to write something to read aloud at the funeral, she said she trusted me to find the right words. Nana used to love reading my blog, she was so proud of me for writing. It wasn’t easy, but I would never refuse my Nana anything. I thought about it constantly in the days leading up to the funeral. Planning, writing, re-writing, editing, revising, reading, reading aloud. It had to be perfect, nothing less would do. Writing this piece helped me work through my grief, it helped me find closure and say goodbye. I’m so glad I got a chance to honour her memory in such a personal way; a way that I know she would have loved.

And so, here it is.

For Nana

There was this project I had to do in the tenth grade, for one of my English classes, an interview with a grandparent. The point was to learn how to conduct and transcribe an interview, but also to connect and learn about someone else’s life, to gain some perspective. I chose Nana to interview because I thought it would be fun. And it was. It was always fun spending time with her. But it was also a very meaningful experience because of how candidly she spoke about her life. We talked about everything… her siblings, her marriages, her kids, her homes, her travels and how she felt about all of it. Her stories were full of ups and downs, laughter and sadness. She told all of it to me like it was, she didn’t gloss over any of the tougher details and none of it was romanticized either. She was very matter of fact about it all.

It certainly wasn’t an easy life from the start, there were a lot of painful memories early on. We talked in-depth about what it was like for her to lose her mom at such a young age and to have to quit school to help raise her siblings. That tragedy set the tone for her life; after such a significant loss she had to grow up fast. She became first and foremost a caregiver and a nurturer. Someone who helped, guided, supported, and cared for everyone else. She always put the needs of everyone else first, and she sacrificed a lot doing that. Never once did I get a sense that she was complaining about it or feeling sorry for herself because that’s just what she had to do. That’s a core fundamental of who she was as a person, you always did whatever you could for family, without hesitation. That was very important to her.

She went through a lot, her entire life she was constantly having to rise to the challenges set before her. Helping her bereft father run the household and raise her siblings. Starting a family of her own and then having to go through the process of divorce before it became common to everyday life. Marrying again, having more children, seeing them grown and start lives of their own, then being widowed. She went through so much, and she did it all with a lightness in her heart that is just unimaginable to me. But again it comes back to her learning at a young age that such is life. You just have to keep going and you find it within yourself to keep giving as much of yourself as you can to the people who need it.

A recurring theme throughout all of the stories she told me was that even though times may have been tough, there was always something to be thankful for. They didn’t have much growing up, but they had each other. There was still so much love and fun all around her, wherever she went. She brought that fun-loving energy with her to everything she did. A coin has two-sides though, and I learned that despite her easygoing demeanour she was a very strong person. She had a quiet kind of strength though, it ran deeply, worked behind the scenes. She could find it when she needed it and use it to keep moving forward. But she didn’t make any scenes about it, or ask for any special attention, she just did it. Having to be so strong and shoulder everyone else’s worries throughout the many varied phases of her life didn’t define her. She didn’t let any of the hardships change her attitude or outlook. Tragedy would strike, and she would keep moving, she’d get through it, she knew how.

Later on, she married again, to Poppa Al, and the second half of her life she could finally begin putting herself and her dreams first. They travelled together, a lot when they first got married and that made her so happy. She saw the world. She rode around on Poppa’s motorcycle. She walked on the Great Wall of China! I remember how thrilling it was for her, telling her grandkids all about Beijing, bringing us back beautiful treasures she knew we’d love. She was finally getting to have her own adventures and do things she never thought she’d get a chance to. She loved being a mother and grandmother. A great-grandmother too! Her kids and all of their kids were her proudest accomplishment, she said that to me. But finally getting to travel and experience more of life made her feel young.

And that’s what I remember the most about her, her youthfulness. Never, not once did I ever think of her as an old lady. She was way too hip and stylish to be an old lady.

She had a beautiful, charming laugh that matched the knowing twinkle in her eye. She was funny and sassy, quick with her wit. She had a keen sense of humour and knew how to use it; we all laughed a lot with Nana. And she was a social butterfly, she loved meeting people, making friends. She forged lasting, meaningful connections with everyone she met because she was genuinely interested in and cared about others. When she hugged you, you felt it right down in your soul. Because she loved you unconditionally and you could feel it.

She was an incredible person. She was encouraging, generous, compassionate, and wise. Which is why this loss feels so unbearable to all of us, she was the heart and soul of our family. It’s hard to know what to feel and what to do from here. But we’re not alone, we’ve always got each other and Nana would want us to be strong together. Do lots of hugging, find ways to laugh. She’d want us to take care of each other, same as she always took care of us when we needed it.

I’m so grateful that I got to spend the time with her that I did. Every moment in her company was a joy. And I know there isn’t a person here who doesn’t feel the same.

Thank you, Nana. Thank you for sharing your stories with me, for helping me with my project all those years ago. And thank you for being such a remarkable role model, you’ve had more of an impact on the lives around you than you might have realized. You showed us how it’s done, with dignity and class. You are so loved, and you will be missed, deeply.

Nana

That Night in Toronto…

If you read this blog, you know me. You know that in my core, in my bones, I am passionately, proudly Canadian. I’m a hoser, man. Through and through. I fucking love the shit out of Canada and I am especially proud of our incredible music. I could get lost in Rush for days. The first concert I ever went to was Bryan Adams. I worship The Barenaked Ladies and hum Crash Test Dummies in my sleep. And honestly, I know the words to a lot more Shania Twain songs than people even realize. If I listed here every single Canadian artist on my iPod right now, you’d get dizzy. CanRock is everything. It’s just simply a fundamental of who I am.

And yet, none of these gods or goddesses in the great CanRock pantheon come even remotely close to inspiring the devotion in me that the The Tragically Hip does. This band is Canada itself, personified. Their music reaches me on a cellular level and connects to parts of me that nothing else can. And I’m not being intentionally hyperbolic, this is serious shit. If there’s music in your life that you fucking love like I love The Hip then you get it. If you’re some kind of weirdo that doesn’t even like music then I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you’ll never know what it’s like to be affected on every level of your being by artistry so divine. Artistry that nurtures and nourishes your soul. It’s crazy, but that’s what it is. It’s the life-sustaining thing that my soul needs. I need The Hip’s music like I need air to breathe.

That’s what I thought when I heard the news about Gord; the air that I need to breathe, to live, is being taken away.

Yeah, I’ll always have their music right at my fingertips anytime I want it. But knowing that there will eventually be an end to it, no more new stuff to get lost in, its unbearable. I’m not a “just the hits” kind of gal, I live for it all.

Deciding to tour after going public with Gord’s news about the incurable brain cancer was absolutely the right thing for the band to do, the only thing. And after the concert on Wednesday night, I’m convinced that he’s immortal anyways. Cancer won’t kill Gord. When he’s good and ready he’ll just decide to start his next chapter, that’s all it is. Cancer doesn’t get to have a say, Gord’s in charge and he does things his own unique way, he always has and he always will. It’s why I love him so much. That casual cavalier who-gives-a-fuck-what-anyone-thinks approach to just being himself, it’s inspiring.

I’ve seen The Hip live a number of times, and you never get the same show twice. You can’t ever tell what Gord will do next and it’s thrilling. You follow where he leads and you love every goddamn minute of it, that’s how you experience The Hip.

I was lucky enough to get tickets for the first in a series of three Toronto shows on their final tour. I got hosed on the pre-sale and the general public sale, but a couple of weeks later when more tickets were released I’m convinced that my kind and generous CanRock Gods let favour swing my way. Like I said, I’m bonkers for this band. While I saw plenty of other people give up saying “I’ve seen them before, guess that’ll do”, I wasn’t willing to give up hope so easily. I thought about it every single day. I even considered shelling out thousands for platinum seats in more feverish moments. If it came down to it, sure, I’d bend the knee for the StubHub lords, whatever it took. I just felt it, that I would go to this show. I needed to be there and the universe gladly obliged. I got an email through the fan club about more tickets being released, I marked it in my calendar and I wished with all my might. The day of the sale, it all worked out and I’m eternally grateful.

When the tour started I devoured every single piece of news about it. I loved seeing the band’s set lists on their Instagram account. I read so many fan reviews and stories about the shows. All of it just stoking the fire of my anticipation. Waiting was excruciating, but so worth it. It was impossible not to get emotional any time someone asked me about the show. I feel my feelings quite freely, no shame in that, and plenty of times I cried just telling people what this concert means to me personally. And most of the people I talked to were kind enough to not call me insane directly to my face, instead they probably thought it politely in their heads while nodding along, which I appreciated.

And then all of a sudden it was time.

5 minutes

This night will live in my heart forever.

the hip show

We had rear view seats, which I was a little worried about, but turned out amazingly well. There were massive screens on all four sides of the stage, so we didn’t miss a single thing. I saw every beautiful nuance of Gordie’s face while he sang to us. It was also really cool getting to see the bulk of the audience facing us, seeing what the band sees when they play to these sold-out maniacal crowds. What an amazing view!

audience

And the setup with the screens was perfect. Gord knew where the cameras were and he didn’t shy away from them at all. He loved using the cameras as a way to connect with everyone. There was this really wonderful moment where he just stared straight into the lens, a myriad of expressions passing across his face, and it felt like he was looking right at you, looking into you. Such a special thing, it allowed 20,000 people to feel like they got to have one personal moment with Gord.

They played so many great songs. The Hip have the most incredibly robust catalogue. So many crowd pleasers, too many for one performance. Some fantastic deep cuts too, stuff that is just always so surprising, but awesome to hear live. The new material fit right in. What Blue and Tired As Fuck felt like they were old gems I’ve always loved. Grace Too, 50 Mission Cap, Lake Fever, Little Bones, Three Pistols, Music at Work, Fully Completely, Wheat Kings… they just gave and gave.

Gordie

I expected to cry the whole time, to just be overcome. But I wasn’t. We rocked the fuck out, the band made sure of it. They played for over two and half hours and while there were lots of emotional moments peppered throughout the evening, the overall tone was much more triumphant than sad. It was a passionate and heady performance. I cried as soon as I heard the first few notes of Fiddler’s Green mostly because that’s just such a weighty song anyways. And again I cried hearing one of my personal favourites, Ahead By a Century… that lyric “disappointing you is getting me down” just felt too real.

But the most emotional moment of the whole concert was after the encore, Bobcaygeon, when Gordie bowed to the crowd and said “Thank you, Toronto. Thank you forever.” Instant waterfall of tears. Bawling, all of us, a whole stadium of people.

Gordie

It couldn’t last forever though, no matter how much I wished it would. All things end.

When it was time to say goodbye we cheered our hearts out for Gordie for a full three minutes while he stood there soaking it in, waving and bowing so appreciatively back at us. A thunderous amount of love for the man who means and has meant so much to so many of us, to this nation, for over 30 years. That was our moment to say what we needed to say to this great man. We fucking love you. So much.

You can watch it, our applause for Gord. And if you couldn’t get the tickets that you desperately wanted for one of the shows, I’m sorry. That fucking sucks. But you can take comfort in this little sliver of the magic that I bottled up and saved for you:

Best concert ever. Period.

The Hip

I’ll never forget that night in Toronto.

Your Son is Wonderful, Mrs. Hoben

Don’t any of you bother with housewarming gifts because my buddy Hoben has already won. He can’t be beat. I don’t even think I’ll be able to speak to it properly, it just so totally blows me away. But I’ll try anyways and hopefully won’t wind up sounding all syrupy and hyperbolic.

I’ve been friends with Hoben for a long time now, over a decade. And those of you who’ve been reading this site for a while might even remember I’ve spoken about our friendship before and how awesome it is. I’ve told you about how he started the grand tradition of deckers and how through him I met D. I’ve mentioned how fantastic his parents are, Glenn and Gloria, for always letting us kids pal around and party on their deck. Hell, I name-dropped the Hobens and their deck in my wedding vows and the speech I gave that night because it’s such a wonderful detail of my love story with D. Detail seems too small. It’s the cornerstone of our story, really.

My buddy Hoben is a party animal. He’s fun and funny. But he’s also accurately described as prickly, curmudgeonly, and belligerent. Especially belligerent. It’s a point of pride for him, so don’t misconstrue what I’m saying as insult. He’s got a big heart, too. It goes with his big wise-cracking mouth. And I’m realizing now that he’s also sentimental and tremendously thoughtful.

You can only imagine how I felt when he handed me this last weekend:

the step

The first step off of his parents deck. Re-painted, beautifully, with our names and possibly the most apt description I’ve ever seen.

It is the literal first step in our relationship. I can’t even begin to thank Hoben for how fucking awesome and amazing this gift is and how much it means to us. All I can say is that I’m so goddamn lucky to have such a thoughtful and caring friend.

You’re the best Hobs, we love you.

piece of the deck

And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get lucky. Maybe he’ll drunkenly conceive the first Hoben grandchild with Shannie on my floor or something and I can pry up the floorboard and gift it back to him. You know, even things out a little.

Insta-Obsessed!

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you guys about how I was a really staunch holdout on getting a new cell phone, right? I got my first cell phone in April 2012 and I was twenty-five years old. People thought it was weird that I went that long without having any form of cell phone at all, but I kind of loved being out of touch with the world. I could go and live my life and nobody could ever get a hold of me. It was awesome. It irritated D to no end, but that was a minor detail. People always had these great stories about how difficult it was to “track me down” and I exalted in that chase, I really did.

Then, when I finally caved and got a phone people made fun of me for getting a Blackberry Curve. It was 2012 for chrissakes! Blackberry had fallen. What the hell was wrong with me? But I’ll tell you, I loved that little thing. What it lacked in style and current-ness it made up for with that amazing little QWERTY keypad. I could pump out text messages and emails like nobody’s business. My fingers lightning fast with LOLs and OMGs.

I cherished that phone. When the battery started trudging along, getting weak and needing to charge every few hours, I’d just order another one from Amazon for like six bucks. I had a sweet ass grandfathered plan that basically gave me unlimited data and I loved the Brickbreaker game that was pre-installed. Many a slow subway ride home I spent breaking bricks and avoiding eye contact with whatever creep du jour had gotten on my car. But like all good things eventually do, our time in the sun came to an end.

My boss called up our CIO and told him what a piece of crap phone I have and somehow that turned into me getting and iPhone 5S quicker than you could say “but BBM rules!”

It was a bit of a struggle, getting used to my iPhone, but I knew the change was inevitable. My service had been getting more and more unreliable, D missing texts that I’d be working late or there was a subway delay and wondering where the hell I was when we were supposed to be meeting up. So I grudgingly made the change for the greater good. And after a few months, I think I’m used to it now. There are pros and cons to everything you do in this life.

I got to buy an adorable flowery case that proudly proclaims to the world that my phone is a strong independent woman. Mmm hmm, that’s right girl. You ain’t need no man telling you what to do. And I’ll also freely admit that the camera on this phone fucking annihilates the grainy, found-footage seeming pics my Blackberry used to half-assedly capture with an obnoxiously loud CLICK.

I so despise the fucking dickcheese autocorrect jerk on this iPhone though. That’s one major drawback. One time I tried to say “husband” and it turned it to “Hubbard” for some unknown reason. Or when I’m excited about something and want to respond “Yayy!” that somehow becomes “tasty” instead. The people I’m texting must think I’m this mega-weirdo trying to create my own goofy adult slang that will never catch on. Trying to out-cool the kids these days.

But the best thing about it has been this really amazing app I installed called INSTAGRAM. Ooo, aaahhhh. A way to take pics and immediately post with some pithy-in-my-head caption? Sign me up!

I frigging love this shit. I could Insta all day every day. I’m learning all about memes and really seeing for the first time how many goddamn cute cats there are out there who really really need my approval by way of many “likes”. All that time I used to spend clogging D’s phone up with great shots of the city or food I was eating or weird shit I’d see around has become so much more efficient, me now doing these things from the comfort of my own phone.

It’s also been a really awesome outlet for me since I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to full-out blogging lately. It’s micro-blogging, the kids say! You’ll love it, they decree!

And I do. I frigging love the shit out of it. Have I mentioned that yet? I am full-blown Insta-obsessed!

Heres’ the link to my page: my fabulous instagram account! You like what you see, you follow me. It’s mostly what you’ve come to know and love about this blog: my zany meals, Harv, partying, Toronto, the weird shit I think is amusing. It’s great. @smashingthroughlife that’s my handle so you can find me super easy.

Let’s be Insta-obsessed together!

P.S. here’s a picture that shows how wonderfully feminine my phone case is. That’s the kind of phone case you take to a nice seafood dinner and then call again, promptly, to make another date. Mmm hmm.

flowery phone case

Everlong

It’s our first wedding anniversary today.

I walked down the aisle to this song:

It’s always been one of my favourites. And when I hear it now, I tear up remembering our wedding.

I planned, and wished, and hoped with every inch of my being for that day to go as planned. While some things worked out really well, like the weather, and others left a lot to be desired, the shitty old man DJ, overall I couldn’t be happier with how it all turned out. The wedding was a dream.

Ashley and Darren (214)

Photo by Jennifer Moher Photography: http://www.jennifermoher.com

And marriage has been the greatest blessing of my life. That’s no lie, or flowery sentiment to make things seem rosier than they are. That’s just the truth, stated plainly from my heart.

It’s so easy these days for people to create the image of a perfect, happy life. Today we present the best possible versions of the life we wish we had, sharing photos that have been filtered and edited to look “just right” or posting to Facebook brief blurbs of ourselves that make us appear more thoughtful and caring than maybe we actually are. Posting only the stuff that helps corroborate our stories of “super awesome” lives. It makes it increasingly difficult to be certain, everything consumed with a giant grain of salt, because we’ve become so accustomed to seeing one perfect version of each other online.

Marriage is very similar. It’s hard to know for certain if the people in a given marriage are genuinely happy or putting up a front. You never can tell, and frankly, it’s not anyone else’s business. Yet we wonder anyways. It doesn’t stop us from prying and asking, reading into and analyzing what we think we see in the lives of others. People are curious and overstepping by nature.

We were asked a lot right after we got married, “so how’s married life?” As if some enormously earth-shattering change had happened to us and people wanted to know how we were coping. We always replied the same: that our life together still felt exactly the same as it always had. It did, it still does. That may be a product of having been together for nine years before we married, or that may just be a product of the kind of relationship we have. Life just carried on, same as it always had. That’s the end result I wanted, so I can’t complain.

All I know is that I married well and I am truly happy. I married someone who is unconditionally loving and supportive. Someone who values my opinions and treats me with respect. Someone who values honesty and trust as deeply as I do, and who I know will never give me cause for doubt. I married someone with all of the qualities I knew I needed my partner in this life to have in order to make a meaningful union.

And that’s my oh-so-sage advice to anyone who wants to marry. Don’t do it because you think it will fix something or bring about some tremendously needed change in your life. Don’t choose someone based on superficial qualities like looks or the balance of their bank account. Be with someone who puts the same level of importance on the same core values that you do. Anyone can just say the words “I do”, but they don’t have to mean it, or maybe they don’t realize how much meaning those words do have.

For all my planning and hoping and wishing we did wind up having a wonderful wedding. It was an amazing day, the party was a total blast, it was fun. But you have to remember that the wedding is just the shiny veneer put on your relationship that day for the sake of ceremony. The real treasure can only be realized in time, when at the end of the life you built together you can say with certainty that you did in fact have an amazing life together.

We’re only one year, of hopefully many more, into our marriage. We’re still so green. But I trust in my heart that we’re off to a very promising start. We put together all of the elements that we believe we need to make our marriage a remarkable one. And with every anniversary accumulated, we’ll get a little closer to seeing how well we’ve really done.

Ashley and Darren (502)

Photo by Jennifer Moher Photography: http://www.jennifermoher.com

‘Namcat

Well, Hard Ticket to Home Video did it, they turned out a meme with Harv’s bubble obsessed face. And even came up with a name for it too!

Making his world debut, I present to you, the one and only ‘Namcat.

Harvey-Rambo

If you’ve got a great idea for a meme with this same picture of Harv I’d love to see it. So please, knock yourselves out.

And thanks again, Hard Ticket to Home Video for making my wildest dream come true.

Harv Dreams of Bubbles

My sister and brother-in-law just adopted two kittens. Super cute, great personalities. We went to see them a few weeks ago and as we were playing with them, my sister commented that one cat seems to be more of a “mouser” and the other a “birder” while describing their styles of play.

I hadn’t really thought about Harv in either of those terms before. And as it turns out, he’s neither. He’s a bubbler!

I was about to start washing some dishes the other night and so I squirted some dish soap into the sink. As I did so, several tiny bubbles floated out of the nozzle, immediately catching Harv’s attention. He went nuts!

After he popped all of the bubbles he sat there looking at me expectantly, wanting more. I obliged. He went nuts again. Meowing crazily, tracking the bubbles across the kitchen as they floated perilously close to his swatting range. I was amazed. I kept making bubbles for him to chase and he loved it.

Then D came along and told me I was wasting dish soap, so I stopped and finally got started on the dishes. But Harv didn’t want to stop. He kept meowing and brushing up against my leg all cute, trying to get some bubble action going again. I decided that this was a hobby worth pursuing for him so the next day I went to the store and bought actual bubbles. With the little plastic wand and everything. I thought he might enjoy the challenge of larger bubbles.

It was tremendously fun!

bubbling

moar bubbles

Especially after I started blowing them in front of a fan and letting them really whip around the apartment. That made him insane!

on the nose

preying

Harv loves tracking the bubbles and then getting as close to them as he possibly can before they burst. Classic bubbler, that cat of mine.

It’s like crack for him, he wants to chase bubbles every night now. He’s hooked. Just look at his face when I got the bubble bottle out:

IMG_6210

Look at it:

Screen Shot 2015-09-15 at 8.16.56 PM

LOOK AT IT FOR ALL ETERNITY:

bubble obsessed

That photo is just dying to be made into a meme. Even the strongest of all catnip couldn’t compete with bubbles for this cat’s attention. It’s all bubbles all the time around here now. And I’m an enabler.

Rat-patootie

I’ve recently mentioned that I’m trying to up my cooking game, yes? I’m making meat pies, stews, soups, pastas, all kinds of crazy shit up in here. This is just a quickie today. Usually I’m ever so blah-blah-blah about all the things I do. But today I just want to share what I’m currently most proud of producing in the kitchen.

This amazing and colourful pile of ratatouille!

There’s eggplant, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, loads of olive oil, garlic, and black pepper all tossed in the roasting pan. It baked until the consistency was heavenly. And then it was garnished with a liberal sprinkling of torn basil.

Before:

raw veggies (gross)

After:

cooked veggies (yummm)

It was fantastic. I’ve never loved eating veggies so much in my entire life. I want to eat this all the damn time. But only if D is around to take care of all the chopping. So much chopping required.

It’s easy and I strongly recommend. I can practically smell the basil now.

The Summer of Us

It’s the last day of August, so summer is basically over. All of the usual “demise of summer” indications are afoot: dip in the temperature, sun setting earlier, back to school shopping commercials on T.V., sweaters on the store mannequins, and the most ominous of all, there’s Halloween candy at the grocery store. Frightening indeed.

Come this September it will have been ten years since I met my friendship soul mates and fell in love. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, how the time passes.

drinking in 1st year

There are people that we meet in life that change us forever. Joce and Sara are my people. Karan too, of course. But he came round a year later.

Ten years isn’t such a long time in the scheme of it all, but looking back it feels like a lifetime. And even though we’ve long since left behind the cozy bubble of school and had to join the real world, we’re still closer than ever. We’re not the types to let our friendship fade into the background while life rages on. Our friendship is very much at the forefront of everything.

When Joce and Harry moved to Australia and then Thailand for a year we all stayed in touch, constantly using Skype and FaceTime to be together from opposite ends of the world. And when Sara left for Vietnam last summer we did the same thing. Though we miss each other desperately when one of us is off on an adventure, it’s like no time at all has passed when we’re together again. And when the gang is all back together again after months apart you can be damn sure we’re making the most of that time.

Case in point, this summer. The summer of us.

the girls

Sara left for Vietnam last July and got home at the end of this June. Almost a whole year had gone by since we’d last seen her beautiful glowing face in person. She signed on for two years teaching abroad in Vietnam, and year one was finally done. We were so excited for her return, but we knew it would be short-lived because she’d be going back again soon; she only had eight weeks of summer vacation in Canada. Joce and I made a pact that for the duration of Sara’s time back home we’d drop anything and everything for the three of us to be together if Sara was free. She had a busy schedule, with so many things to do and so many other people who wanted to see her too. But if she was free, we booked her.

And it was amazing. It was the best summer ever.

We started with a wonderfully drunken reunion weekend at Joce’s cottage. Best hug ever.

best hug ever

Then there was an amazing evening of comedy at the Second City followed by hilariously rad karaoke. Where we unfortunately didn’t get the perfect photos to capture the memories, but that doesn’t matter so much. What we got suits us just fine.

karaoke

moar karoke!

Sara and her parents hosted a super awesome pool party! And the water temperature was spot on. Big Lar did a damn fine job with the pool, if I do say so myself.

po

Joce and Harry had a belated housewarming party.

the gang

housewarming

And it was so much fun that even D danced. For reals. The merriment was too contagious, even for Old Grandpa D to resist.

D danced!

There were shots aplenty…

shots

moar shots

Laughs galore…

laughs

boxhead

And we rediscovered our intense love of charades!

charades

It was an absolute blast. Having Sara back home, seeing each other almost every weekend for the eight weeks she was with us, it was a dream come true. All I ever want is to be with my best friends. They’re the most wonderful people and I love them so dearly. Everything with them is fun and easy. Everything is just fucking awesome when you’ve got your best pals by your side.

One night while we were hanging out, Sara told me that it’s hard to meet good people and make lasting friendships overseas. Good people who just get you and who you want to be with always. Those people you can confide in and who will support you unconditionally through anything. Those kind of people are a rare and precious commodity. She told me that this experience living abroad made her realize how profoundly grateful she is to have found Joce and I. And Karan too, of course. I’ve never been in the same situation as her, striking out on her own in another country on the other side of the world. But I believe her. There are special people in the world, very special people who you make connections with that you know are everlasting. And that’s not something you can just find anywhere.

Ten years ago when I moved into the dorm on labour day weekend, I didn’t know what the future would hold. I was nervous about living alone, and I wasn’t sure that I’d fit in. I was excited about starting a new life, sure. I just figured it was going to be a four-year pit-stop on my way to the real world. I didn’t know that I was going to find my tribe. But I did. I found my people, I found where I belong.

And I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t care what a shitty cliché that is either, because it’s true.

the summer of us

We had the best summer ever, we did everything together. The summer of us. We were completely inseparable, just like the old days. Just like it still is. Nothing’s really changed after all this time.

And when Sara gets home again next summer, we’re going to do it all over again. I can’t wait. I’m already checking off the days on the calendar. Days until my heart feels whole with friendship and laughter again. Joce is still here, that’s awesome. There’s Skype, too. That helps. And I’ve got a good stash of memories from this summer past to hold me over until then. But still, I just want to have my people close all the time. I’m selfish like that.

Cheers, Sara! I hope year two is every bit the adventure that the first one was. I miss you. But I’ll see you soon, it’s not so long until we’re together again. Enjoy your journey.

The Edible Smash

D and I are coming up on the 6 month mark now, and I honestly think that we’re totally killing this marriage thing. It’s easy. Everything is exactly the same as it was before. But there’s always room for improvement for the sake of improvement, right? I don’t have all of the answers yet, and I don’t want to go getting ahead of myself, but I think we’ve figured out one of the key secrets. Food.

Really fucking good food. It always comes back to that. When you eat good food, you’re happy. Just make and eat really tasty food, that’s all you have to do.

We got a bunch of incredibly generous and thoughtful wedding gifts from our family and friends. I was obsessed with my registry and I spent a lot of time perusing the online shop for stuff. I was adding, dropping, rearranging, changing colour choices, and finding justifications for why I needed absolutely every single thing The Bay sells on a nightly basis. I watched that registry like a hawk, noticing the slightest change. I loved getting emails every time someone bought something. So of course every new purchase delighted me and spawned newer, more zany daydreams than ever before. All about how I was going to use this newly acquired stuff and the delicious things I’d be making. It was so much fun. The registry was probably my favourite thing about getting married. I still pull it open every now and again to see what’s left and what’s gone on sale. It’s a fabulous obsession.

I need to start a new paragraph and move on though. Otherwise, I’ll talk about the frigging registry all damn day. I love it. There, I think it’s all out now.

Anyways, a lot of our kitchen stuff was due for an upgrade. Our cupboards were mainly filled with hand-me-downs from family. Old, mismatched cutlery. A menagerie of dishes in all kinds of patterns that matched nothing. Stolen dining hall dishes from my student days. Cheap dollar store utensils. The contents of my cupboards an array of prime garage sale and garbage chute candidates. The upgrade was much-needed, but more importantly, it was inspiring. The girl who never cared to cook was suddenly starting to feel it.

Without further adieu, here are some of the best of the best things we’ve cooked up since we got hitched. My top 6 things, to commemorate our 6 month mark.

1. Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

This is a really delicious recipe that I got out of a Michael Smith cookbook. If you don’t know who that is, he’s basically a Canadian version of John Corbett who really knows his way around the kitchen. We roasted this giant pan of red bell peppers and spanish onions for about an hour. Sprinkling in a few key herbs for maximum flavour.

roasted red peppers

Featuring my lovely new Sophie Conran for Portmeirion roasting dish.

Then when the veggies were ready, we popped them into the blender and let it rip.

the blender

Featuring our brand new blender! (This is a blender/food processor combo and it is a dream come true)

This is the sauce for the pasta. It’s a great alternative to tomato based pasta sauce, if you want to switch things up. We served it on a bed of fresh spinach and garnished with some shredded marble cheese for a little extra oomph!

red pepper pasta

Served in my immaculate Gordon Ramsay pasta dishes

2. Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

This was a fun one, and another Michael Smith recipe come to think of it. Super easy, too. We used the leftover chicken from one that we’d roasted the night before. I’m proud to say that we also made our own stock for this soup using the carcass of the aforementioned chicken. Put the leftover chicken in a pot with the stock, add the ingredients that Michael tells you to and dinner is served!

chicken noodles

It’s right at home in my darling Distinctly Home red Rio bowls.

We made this soup way back in the winter and it was just the thing to keep us warm on a particularly frigid March evening.

3. Southwestern Beef Stew Chilli

Another warm and hearty dish that hit the spot on a cold winter eve. The stewing beef was simmered to knee-buckling tenderness and the seasoning was that of a traditional chilli your Ma might make. It was like going home, only without having to actually go home for a decent meal. I also made some biscuits from scratch that were perfect for dipping.

chilli stew

There’s that magnificent Gordon Ramsay dish again.

4. Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie

I revisited puff pastry for this recipe and it worked out better than I could have imagined. I’m getting to be a bit of a puff pastry expert, I think. I cheated and used store-bought, I’ll admit it. But I think I’m almost ready to try making my own from scratch. Again, we just used leftover chicken from a roast the night before and tossed it into a pot with some chicken pot pie staples like carrots and potatoes. When the filling was ready, I portioned it out into two individual Corning-ware mugs and then topped with puff pastry.

chicken pot pies

The adorable his and hers Corning-ware mugs from my mom. Great gift!

Oh, look! It's one of our new Mikasa forks digging into that chicken-y goodness

Oh, look! It’s one of our new Mikasa forks digging into that chicken-y goodness

I got that recipe out of a big book called Pies. Aptly titled, I know. I want to start making pies, I think that’s a good hobby. So far I’ve only done a few meat pies, but it’s been good practice. I’m still preparing myself mentally for dessert pies.

5. Ooey Gooey Cheesy Pizza!

This wouldn’t be a post about my cooking if it didn’t feature a pizza of some sort. I’ve made lots and lots of pizzas, and I’m damn good at it. So this isn’t really a remarkable undertaking for me. It’s just second-nature by now. But it is remarkable for another reason. The magic of the pizza stone. I realize now that I had been living in a fool’s paradise, cooking pizzas on some shitty piece of tin. That was before this marvellous contraption came into my life.

If I could divorce D and marry this Emile Henry pizza stone instead, I would.

If I could divorce D and marry this Emile Henry pizza stone instead, I would.

If you haven’t eaten pizza cooked on one of these magic stones, you cannot truly grasp how life changing it is. The crust is both irresistibly crispy and fluffy all at once. Somehow this stone is able to turn a mere lump of dough into something majestic. I think this is what being immortal must feel like. I’ve been upgraded beyond my wildest dreams. I’m the frigging Pizza High Priestess now.

6. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

And for some sweetness, you can’t go wrong with cookies. D goes absolutely bonkers for these little beauties. Especially when they’re fresh out of the oven. Double-down on the chocolate chips and you’ll make new friends, guaranteed.

Served with the bottom half of the cake dome that my Nana gave me :)

Served with the bottom half of the cake dome that my Nana gave me🙂

So in conclusion, we’ve elevated our cooking. We’ve upped the ante. No more microwave, quick and easy solutions. It’s all about investing the time and making something wonderful. Also, the stuff is important too. All of the awesome new kitchen stuff has made me so happy. I love presents, you all know that. But rest assured when I say that the thrill of these gifts hasn’t worn off after opening.

I’m still so excited about everything. Cooking, food, gifts, marriage. It’s all just aces with me.