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.

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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.

Tales of Philly: Day 2, I Never Knew Love Could Be Like This

I’m just going to pretend like I haven’t waited three months to continue the telling of our trip to Philadelphia back in April… It’s not weird. I’ve just been busy and lazy. As long as the story eventually gets told, it’s no biggie right?

To recap day 1: D and I drove 10 hours to get to the city, ate a delicious frigging meal, saw a few sites located near the hotel and then retired for the night. We needed to rest up so we’d be energized for a full day of Philly fun!

Oh and also, some required listening while you read this post:

We woke up feeling rested and excited. We grabbed an early breakfast of champions at none other than Dunkin’ Donuts. Because America runs on Dunkin’ and we wanted to too. It was pretty fucking filling! I had a sausage and egg croissantwich and these sweet little hash brown tater tot thingies. My overall rating? It was pretty tasty for a fast food breakfast, I’d eat it again. I’d give it a B- if I had to letter grade it.

After we fuelled up, we strapped on some comfy shoes and started our own walking tour of Philly. Starting with an easy breezy stroll through the weekend farmer’s market at Rittenhouse Square. It was gorgeous, a perfect spring day.

Rittenhouse Stone

market

beautiful park

It was so pretty! An excellent starting point. But we couldn’t hang around too long, with so much more to be seen. We definitely wanted to make sure we tackled the historic part of town too. We made our way through Market Square, City Hall, and then through to the historic sites. We cruised past the Liberty Bell, but the lineup was way too damn long. So we waved at the line and were satisfied with that. Plus, it was way too nice outside to be trapped indoors in a long ass lineup like a couple of lame tourist suckers.

old philly

First National Bank

beautiful philly

It was awesome, we made up our own walking tour. “Cartography is not my métier”, but we figured it out. The cobblestone streets were so cool, but they were rougher on our feet than we anticipated.

D walking the cobblestones

And when we got hungry, you can be damn sure we grabbed ourselves a steaming hot Philly Cheesesteak for lunch! There were a lot of choices, an overwhelming amount of cheesesteaks places to choose from. We opted for a place called Steve’s. We like that name, it seemed reliable. Ole Steve wouldn’t serve no crap, right?

Steve's

And he’s the Prince of Steaks, so you can’t argue with that. We practiced our cheesesteak ordering skills before we even considered getting in line. One thing I learned before the trip was that people in Philly take their cheesesteak very seriously. And they don’t like being held up in the line by n00bs who don’t know how to order. We were not going to be n00bs. We were going to blend in and act like we belonged. So when we got up to the counter and the guy asked for our order we replied “1 provolone wit out” like it weren’t no thang.

The meat was savoury. The cheese was oh-so-warm-and-gooey. The bread was crisp and toasty. Philly’s famous cheesesteak sandwich vastly exceeded all of our expectations.

I also ordered a fried chicken sandwich for comparison purposes, and we were both feeling that too. So we had a little mix-and-match sandwich picnic on our vacation. And it was goddamn delightful.

We continued our adventures of the city, walking everywhere we went. We walked all over the place, I think we really made an excellent go of it. We made our way towards South Street and got to see the Magic Gardens. It’s this really cool place, it’s all mosaicked. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in all of my life. It was so totally unique and inviting.

I got D to take a sweet panoramic picture of the exterior.

Magic Gardens

South Street was a really cool and happening place. It reminded me of Queen Street West back home in Toronto. The people were hip and all of the shops and bars were hopping.

South Street

When we decided to rest our feet before the concert we found this great bar called Manny Brown’s for some afternoon drinks. Just idling and enjoying a few brews. When we sat down and the server told us it was $2.75 for a pint of Yuengling we knew we’d made the right choice.

A Pint of Yuengling

And just when I started to think it couldn’t possibly get any better than that, the best thing ever happened.

A dog walks into the bar and hops up onto a bar stool. No joke. This happened five feet away from us. And it was fucking awesome. There’s a dog at the bar!

Dog at the bar

And I got to pet him!

petting the bar dog

That dog was so chill. It was seriously the coolest thing ever. All kinds of people were coming over to get photos with him and the bartender even poured him his own glass of water at one point.

We had an absolutely fantastic afternoon exploring the city. And the best was still yet to come! The concert. Oh man, I was so pumped. I felt like a spoiled little kid. It was like I got to spend the whole day at a frigging amusement park with VIP passes to the front of all the lines, and then my parents decide to cap the night off with ice cream sundaes on a yacht or something. It was an overload of amazingness.

TMBG marquee

An Evening with They Might Be Giants. Life doesn’t get any better than this.

We lined up outside the theatre with all the nerds and waited anxiously to get inside. When they finally started letting us all in, D and I immediately booked it for a spot on the upper level of the TLA right in front of a nice comfy ledge to lean on. It was standing room only, and we’re both shorties, so we had to be strategic like that or we wouldn’t see anything at all. Our only mistake was spending an entire day right before a 3+ hour-long concert walking an entire city. D’oh!

Our feet were aching like a mofo by the end of the night. But the amazing high of the concert was able to keep us going.

They Might Be Giants just killed it. They are so special and wonderful. Pretty much everyone I talked to before going to the show and after we got back were like, “Who?” whenever I said the name of the band. Greatest band you’ve never heard of, that’s who they are.

They opened the show with one of my most favourite jams “Can’t Keep Johnny Down” and my heart hammered along in my chest to the beat.

TMBG

They also performed a hilarious cover of Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and I knew then that I could die a happy girl. It was a dream come true. Hearing John Linnell and John Flansburgh do their very damnedest to channel Beyoncé and Kelly Rowland was unreal.

TMBG 2

magic on stage

We gave everything we could to the band. All of the love in our hearts. Our loudest most thunderous applause. Our hearty laughter at all of their wacky onstage antics. It really was a concert going experience like none I’ve ever had before.

When the concert let out we finally surrendered and got ourselves a cab back to the hotel. It was late and we were exhausted. Elated, but nonetheless exhausted. My feet were pounding as I slid into the big cushy hotel bed, and even though they hurt so bad, it was worth it. It was worth every single throb of pain. Best birthday gift to myself ever.

I love you, TMBG! Thank you for the good times, you’ve made me the happiest girl in the world.

And now a little something to play you out:

Uncharted Territory

I like to eat. A lot. To be clear, when I say “a lot” I mean it both ways. I like to eat a lot of food and I like eating as an activity a whole lot. It’s pretty much my favourite thing. Food is happiness. I don’t care if people tell you it’s not good to eat your feelings. I do it all the time and it’s the fucking best. The mere act of crunching down on something tasty and mashing it into oblivion with my vice-like jaws makes me feel like I’m right on the cusp of divinity. Eating rules.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like to cook. Traditionally, I’ve preferred to play more of a supporting role in the kitchen. If someone else wants to expend their effort slaving over a hot stove, I’ll gladly scarf down a plate when it’s ready and show my gratitude by providing the praise they sought. I grew up in a big family, my mom always cooked enough to feed an army and she’d had her shit all figured out. She didn’t need me to help. She needed my appreciation. Which I was more than happy to show, by reaching for seconds, and sometimes even thirds. Unless of course she made something totally disgusting, like lasagna or scalloped potatoes. Bleeugf. That’s how disgust sounds, by the way. Bleeugf. Like you’re about to have a hairball on the dining room floor. There was nothing more disappointing than coming home from school famished and finding out that dinner was going to be something you hated. What a waste of a mealtime… But I digress. Cooking just wasn’t my bag.

Eventually though, you grow up and fly the coop. And you’ve gotta feed yourself, gotta eat to live. Luckily for me, I found myself a man who loves to cook and doesn’t mind one bit that I’m a total slouch at it. I’m wildly independent and I’ve always charged through life without ever wanting to rely on a man for anything. I’m just crazy like that, I guess. But cooking is really the only way I’ve ever thrown up my hands and let D provide for me. I love eating so much, but don’t really have the drive to make good food for myself. But D does. It’s a great fit, he loves to cook and I’m happy to let him. Who’s it really hurting anyways? He needed to find a way to make me dependent on him for something and I need to eat.

We’ve lived together a few years now and we’ve had a handful of exploits in the kitchen. D does the majority of the cooking, and once in a while I come along and turn something into a pizza. So I do manage to contribute in my own way. And up until recently, I’ve been happy to carry on playing my supporting role. “Mmm, yum! Great job, babe!” I know my lines by heart. But I’m somebody’s wife now. Bit of a game changer that is. I don’t want to be a slouch anymore, I want to step up my game. I see a learning opportunity and I think I’ve finally uncovered some motivation. I want to make my husband happy.

I can do anything, I just have to want to do it. And I think I do now. Plus, I got a whole shitload of new gadgets for the kitchen as wedding gifts. Use it or lose it, right?

Feeling inspired, I decided to try something different for dinner tonight. I wanted to make something really scrumptious that D would love. But I’m not completely ready to fly solo yet, so I still enlisted his help. We’re a good team, and he does love to cook, so I don’t want to take that away from him. As an aside, I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue pies, as a hobby. I want to make lots and lots of pies. And I want to get really fucking good at it. I may as well get two birds stoned at once while I’m at it, right? So I decided to make steak and ale pie for dinner tonight. A chance to hone both my cooking and baking skills at the same time!

We grocery shopped this afternoon, gathering up all of the necessary ingredients, and got to work as soon as we got home. D chopped mushrooms, onion, and garlic.

chopped!

Then we browned the stewing beef, using our fabulous new Le Creuset french oven. A wedding gift from my darling friend, The Ladybird Magpie that I’m forever grateful for.

browning the beef

And before long, we had an intoxicating concoction simmering on the stove top. With a little bit of thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, and some Downtown Brown Ale it all came together in a snap.

le creuset!

D popped out to grab us a few beers to enjoy with dinner, and when he got back to the apartment he told me he could smell our dinner cooking in the hallway and it was starting to drive him insane with hunger pangs! I started to feel really great about this cooking thing. I’ve got this. I can do anything I want, and I can totally kick the shit out of it.

But that feeling didn’t last long… Not once I got started on topping the pie.

The pie dish was way bigger than I remembered, and we didn’t quite make enough filling for it. We made enough filling to get it half full, and I was starting to feel a lot less cocky. But I charged ahead anyways. We’d already come this far, and I wasn’t going to let this stand in my way. I started preparing the crust for the pie. It sagged pathetically inwards. And then when I tried to brush the crust with some egg, I totally fucked up and spilled my cup of egg onto the pie. It was a total egg flood! We tried our best to soak up the spillage, but the results weren’t good. There were little pools of egg all of the top. My beautiful pie sat there staring up at me like some kind of disgusting eggy crater and I flipped out. I just totally lost it.

eggy crater

I got really upset and started shouting angrily at everything around me, naturally. I was so mad at myself, and anger is a knee-jerk reaction kind of thing for me. Stupid, so stupid! Why didn’t you make more filling? Why did you hold the cup of egg on such a precarious angle, you clumsy butterfingered fool? Arrgrrgrhhhhh! Frustration! This whole thing is a total fucking waste. Why don’t you just fling yourself off the balcony and end it now?

I broke down for a minute there, guys. I’m not proud of it.

But D was able to talk me down from the ledge eventually. He always does. He told me to stop putting so much pressure on myself on my very first try. It’s just dinner, it’s not such a big deal. And he was right. But I have such a nasty tendency to do that. I put so much pressure on myself and I have totally unrealistic expectations of greatness. I’m no master chef, I’ve only just started on my culinary journey. There’s going to be mistakes, lots. And I have to roll with it, I can’t lose my head and start raving like a lunatic when something goes wrong. He’s a smart guy, that husband of mine. I definitely don’t give him the satisfaction of hearing that as often as he should. But he was totally right. It might not come out of the oven perfect, so what? At least I tried.

We put the pie into the oven and resigned ourselves to hoping for the best.

When it was done, and it was time to see the finished product, I was pleasantly surprised.

finished product!

I learned something very important today: puff pastry is a fucking miracle of nature! The pastry worked double duty and made up for the lack of filling. It puffed up way more than I expected and totally saved the day. Hallelujah!

the serving

It was 3 hours in the making, and took us mere minutes to wolf down. And my very first attempt at a steak and ale pie was goddamn delicious, if I do say so myself.

It was a trying experience at times and it ate up my entire afternoon making this thing, but overall I feel good about it. I’m not discouraged. I almost was for a minute there, but D helped me bounce back. I wouldn’t say that cooking is fun, not at this point in time, but it is an adventure. And I like adventures, so I think I’m willing to stay the course and see where it will take me. Yeah, I’m not one for giving up. I’d like to see where this can go.

A Stitch in Time

First off, I’m kind of ashamed of myself. It’s been a bloody long time since I even sat down with the intention to write. I’m so sorry to my precious little bloggy. It’s terrible, I’ve been neglecting you again. But it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, believe me. And, even worse still, I’ve been neglecting all of my wonderful blogging chums who I love and adore ever more. I’m sorry dudes! I haven’t been around making my usual cheeky comments on all of your wonderful posts. I’m sorry. I’m a self-involved asshole. Send R.O.T.O.R. to collect on my bounty. And don’t let the execution be a swift one, because I certainly don’t deserve it.

I miss you guys. A lot.

For a long while the best part of my day was connecting over all of our posts. Logging on and having a laugh at EI’s latest cinematic adventure or another one of Brian’s witty comments. I don’t even know who T9 has been crushing on these days, or what Zoe has been reading. Is Mikey still churning out those hilarious podcasts? And Dee, that gentleman across the pond who makes me smile, I miss being enlightened and delighted by your posts. I haven’t been around so much, but trust me when I say that you are all in my heart and thoughts every day.

I don’t want to make excuses for my absence, so let’s just call this an explanation and hope it charming enough that you’ll let it slide, just this one time. There just isn’t enough time, like ever. I have no idea how I’m keeping my head above water these days. It feels like I’m doing a desperate doggy-paddle in the middle of the ocean, no shoreline in sight and I’m gulping down more and more water as I struggle to stay afloat. But I keep struggling, because I’m not ready to give up yet, even though it’s so very very tempting some days.

In short: I’m working like a dog, I’m deep into the wedding planning, I’m trying to keep up with my social life, and there’s just no goddamn time to excel at everything all at once. But I want to, so desperately. I’m a shitty juggler, but there’s a big part of me that just belligerently refuses to accept that. With so much on the go, some aspect of my life was bound to suffer. So blogging and writing have taken this hit. And it’s funny, because one of the things that I do to stay sane when my life is a hectic disaster is write. It helps me find my way. I write to escape. I write for reprieve. I write because it feels good and it makes me whole.

I love writing. It matters and it makes a difference in my life. But if I’m being totally honest here, there has also been a major shift in my creative focus these past months and that will certainly shoulder some of this blame. I’ve been escaping all of my stresses with something else, something other than writing. A demanding an insatiable hobby, a jealous and possessive new mistress in my life. I’ve been doing an absolute fuckload of embroidery projects. Yep, you read that right. In the spare time that I do have for creative pursuits I’ve been putting the thread to the needle like a badass motherfucker and I’ve been stitching until my fingers are throbbing sore.

…and it’s been a super fun time.

I fucking love embroidery. There, I said it. But I do still love writing, too.

I’m creative and I’m zany. My imagination is an ogre. I have to focus it on something to survive, my very life depends on it. Sometimes I feel like I’ll die if I don’t find something for the ogre to do. She’ll crumple my cranium and toss it in the bin like an old grocery list if I don’t. I am compelled to create. Something, anything. A piece of writing, a kitschy craft, a silly doodle, making a killer mix CD, or even the shitty ass job I do of wrapping gifts. All just a bunch of ways that I package little bits of my imagination and send them out into the world so I can live. Really live.

The embroidery thing is something my friend The Magpie showed me. Back in the spring, she sent me a wonderful surprise birthday package and it was filled with supplies to jump-start this new hobby.

embroidery supplies

I was excited, but a little too busy to dig into them until the summer. That’s when this embroidery thing really took off. I started out small, trying something simple at first. A little gift for my darling Joce-force.

star wars embroidery

Then, inspired by those wicked pillowcases The Magpie made me last Christmas, I made myself an awesome little robot buddy. He’s since been framed and now lives on my desk at work.

robot and dog

And then, because I really wanted thank The Magpie for showing me this awesome new hobby, and because I wanted to up the ante a little with my newly evolving skills, I made her a birthday gift.

cheeseburger

It took a lot of time, and my craft still wasn’t perfect. But I loved making this weird little cheeseburger for her. I did it on a canvas, another great inspiration from The Magpie herself.

cheeseburger again

And then when that was done, I was feeling so confident and proud of myself that I decided I was really going to put my new-found embroidery skills to the test. I decided to stitch all of the table numbers for my wedding!

I found some beautiful fabric, bought a bunch of frames to put the finished pieces into, and then got to work.

I spent an entire long weekend stitching tirelessly to get them done.

my table numbers

number 8

nine nine nine nine

It was so much work, but I poured my whole self into every single one. And I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

And now I’m tackling another canvas project, larger scale than the last. The cheeseburger for my friend was an 8 x 8 and this one is a 12 x 12, which is much more challenging. I can’t stitch at this one for very long periods of time because my hand and arm ache if I do it for too long.

peacock

But it is really coming along, slowly but surely. I think I’m going to raffle this piece off at our stag ‘n’ doe party next month. People like that sort of thing, right? They’d want to spend a bunch of money trying to take this bad boy home, yeah? I hope so. Otherwise all of that aching has been in vain.

Looking back over all of these projects, I can really see how much I’ve improved since I started a few months ago. Persistence goes a long way. Also, looking back on how I’ve spent my creative energies this past summer I feel really happy. Because even though I haven’t been writing I’ve still been channeling my creativity somehow. I might be stressed as fuck at work and at home, but I do have an outlet for all of it. I’m not going to suddenly and unexpectedly implode because of all the pent-up pressures. I haven’t been letting them pent. I’ve been releasing my daily anguish in steady streams through my relentless embroidery projects.

So know this, dear readers and friends: Even though I haven’t been around a whole lot lately, I’m still here. I’m still insane. And I’m still every bit as zany and ridiculous as I ever was.

And I’ve still got lots of writing in me yet. My creative focus is just temporarily shifted. Sometimes there are words in my heart just dying to be put to page, and other times there’s a vision in my head that only the needle and thread can bring to life.

It’s hard to strike a comfortable balance sometimes. All summer long I was feeling really fucked up and stressed out. And maybe my feelings were just too tedious to try to pin down. I’m just glad that I’ve been given a really frigging rad alternative means of expressing myself. It helped a lot, especially during all those times this summer when writing just wouldn’t do.

Embroidery rules!

Everything I Want

I know what I want and I don’t fuck around when it comes to decision-making. And I’m stating that as simply and sweetly as I possibly can. I’ve never been one of those waffling and indecisive individuals, I’m too impatient for that. I just follow my heart and the decisions come easy. Some people have a hard time following their heart, which makes sense if your heart is a total wiener. But mine isn’t. My heart is open and passionate and fierce. It never lies, its chambers pump honesty through my arteries and into my veins all day long. It’s easy to follow and it never disappoints.

There are an absurd number of decisions to be made when you’re planning a wedding. It can be exhausting, sure. But if you’ve got a bold heart to follow, like I do, then it’s pretty fucking easy. You just have to endure, that’s the trick. Drown out all of the unnecessary babble around you and endure. And don’t put too much weight on the little things, save your energy for more trying decisions.

It took me a long time to wrap my head around the planning of my wedding. I always knew exactly what I wanted, deep in my heart, I just didn’t want to tackle all of those decisions immediately. But when I was finally ready to commence planning, the decisions starting coming fast and easy. Venue, food, colour scheme, music, guests, it all just starts falling perfectly into place.

Stepping back, and looking over the work we’ve done so far, I can safely say that I’m kicking the fucking shit out of wedding planning, you guys. Like, seriously. Kicking the fucking shit out of it.

We’ve got an amazing venue:

Cardinal Golf Course

Our gorgeous golf course venue is going to look stunning all covered in snow

 

A delicious menu picked out:

4 oz. chicken breast and 4 oz. tenderloin

The meat: 4 oz. chicken breast and 4 oz. tenderloin. That’s right, each guest gets both!

roasted red pepper mash and steamed asparagus bundles

The veggies: roasted red pepper mash and steamed asparagus bundles

The dessert: banana chocolate chip cheesecake

The dessert: banana chocolate chip cheesecake

Exciting Do-It-Yourself invitations:

yep, we're gunna print them ourselves!

yep, we’re gunna print them ourselves!

The perfect pair of shoes to carry me down the aisle:

Sparkly golden disco shoes, fuck yeah

Sparkly golden disco shoes, fuck yeah

Our territorial, er I mean ceremonial, rings:

Our wedding bands

Wedding bands

And another majorly huge decision was made this weekend. Probably the biggest decision of the whole entire wedding.

The dress.

Wanting to be different, I originally intended to buy something online. Buying online meant that I wouldn’t have had to order it so far in advance, and I could carry on living my life without stressing too much about my figure. But if you go through a bridal shop, ordering eight months out from the date can potentially be cutting it too close. I was still feeling like I had tons of time, that the wedding was still a good stretch away, like in the distant future. So I had a little bit of a panic attack when I realized that eight months is kind of the unofficial cutoff for choosing the dress. If I left that all-important wedding dress decision unmade for too much longer, then it would be too late for me to backtrack and order something from an actual bridal shop. If the online search went tits up, then I’d be royally fucked.

So I texted my maid of honour, Joce-force, in a bit of a panic. She encouraged me to book some appointments and said that we’d ditch our boyfriends for the day to go shopping until we found something awesome. And we did. We did it, you guys. We got up early on Saturday morning, did a little bit of light day drinking while en route to bridal shops across the city, and we found the perfect fucking dress. I’m so excited about it.

And I’m so happy that Joce was there to help, I needed her. She doesn’t pull her punches, especially not with the pushy sales people and designers. I’m decisive yes, but I’m shy about telling people who I don’t know that I think something is shit. I only had to look at Joce and she knew what I was thinking. She’d tell people when I thought a dress was crap with no qualms whatsoever. Joce kept a steady stream of secret purse drinks flowing, she made inappropriate and hilarious jokes all day to keep us laughing, and she even haggled with snooty salespeople for me.

We knew we had the perfect dress when a dreamy, disbelieving look stole across my face as I looked at myself in the mirror. A happy, heart’s desires fulfilled kind of look.

It only took one day to find my wedding dress. Because I know what I want, and I don’t fuck around. And because I have an awesome friend who can turn even the most daunting of tasks into hilarious adventures.

Sexy tigres forever!

Sexy t-rex hands never fail.

Another decision masterfully conquered, and many more still to come. I’ll just keep following my heart and it’ll make sure that I get everything I want. It always does.

Another Fugly Cake

It happened again you guys. Another fugly cake was baked, and this one possibly more fugly than the last one. And definitely more dangerous.

Surely you all remember last Thanksgiving when my mom baked that strange pumpkin cake? A laughable little cake, albeit tasty, that defied all of the norms and melted our hearts with its goofy black liquorice grin and lazy lime candy eye. This next cake won’t be melting any hearts. It’s just gunna melt a slow and painful death, unfinished in the fridge. And to be frank, it might even cause a few nightmares before it goes the way of the trash bin.

My sister texted me a couple of weeks ago with a potentially tasty cake recipe for my upcoming birthday. She called it “a raspberry jelly roll toblerone ice cream cake” and I was all for it. She’s a great baker, I’ve absolutely no reason to distrust her intentions. I like to eat, and I like all of those things. If I were more than an occasional Pillsbury baker, I might have spared a moment’s thought for execution. How exactly does one pull off “a raspberry jelly roll toblerone ice cream cake”?

Simply put, they don’t.

another fugly cake

The internet can be both weird and wonderful all at once. Apparently the recipe for this glob of cake above comes to us courtesy of the internet. I recommend that the recipe be sent immediately to the bowels of the internet to live out the rest of its days in unseen obscurity. For the greater good.

This cake was both ugly, and uncomfortable to eat. All of the individual components taste good on their own. I’m not going to argue that. But united, they are an ill-combined slight against the palate. It’s a Franken-cake, that’s what it is. All of these scavenged parts mashed together and brought to life at the hands of a madwoman. It’s a crime against baking. Actually, this was my sister’s “no bake” solution for a hectic weekend that lent no free time for actual baking, but even so, it’s a crime against something. We can all agree on that.

The ice cream had been seriously overpowered by all of the other ingredients. A couple of times I bit into the frozen berries and suffered immediate brain freeze. I chomped and slurped my way through the generous helping I’d been served, then begged off of seconds. Please sir, I don’t want some more!

Feast your eyes upon its heinous and hateful innards, if you dare.

it's black innards

Others were less critical than I. My uncle commented that it was “crunchy and cool”. I don’t know about you, but I don’t consider “crunchy” a desirable quality for a cake. I prefer something smooth, generally. And maybe with an even consistency. I don’t like it when I’m eating cake and every bite needs to be taken with caution. It felt like I was engaged in a risky battle to maintain the integrity of my teeth.

We suffered through our slices, some more than others, and eventually, this fugly cake was drained of all its fight. It began the slow, melting death that it deserved. And I rejoiced. Go back from whence you came, villain! Back to the pit of hell from which you’d managed a dastardly, if only temporary, escape. And henceforth, the good people of our household shall partake of smoother and more aesthetically pleasing desserts. Cue the applause.

it's dying!

Looking at the demon Franken-cake again, reliving all the not-so-fond memories, I know that my sister’s intentions were pure. It just didn’t work out. That happens sometimes, that’s life. But I would never want to discourage anyone from trying; I very much appreciated the effort. Trying is what makes us great. If we try and we fail, that’s okay. Hell, it’s preferable because it gives us a chance to learn. We’ll just try again. And eventually, we will soar.

I tangled with another fugly cake this weekend and I still have all of my original teeth. I’m counting that as one of my successes for this year.

Happy birthday to me.

Luck of the Draw

Sometimes in life there are things that are just meant to be. Coincidences and things of that nature. Unexpected little moments of delight that just feel right. The universe talks, and sometimes we can hear it.

D and I met up for dinner one night after work. It was cold and unkind outside, as it has been all winter long, so we didn’t want to wander too far from home. We treaded the well-worn and mostly indoor path to the Pickle Barrel in our hood. I’ve been really digging their breakfast foods lately. We sat down and started to scan the menu. D noticed a promotional ad on the table. D loves deals. He loves to find good “specials” and “deals” at our local restaurants. He files them away in his thrifty head for future usefulness and savings. It’s all about the savings. There are a bunch of pictures on his phone of weekly specials and deals from restaurants all over the city. So that if we happen to feel like dining out on Thursday night we know exactly where to go that particular night for the best deal in town. For D, dining out is partly about having a good meal, but mostly about making a killing when the check comes.

The ad that D happened to notice that night at the Pickle Barrel was for a 1 litre boot of Steamwhistle beer for $15.99. And you got to keep the boot afterwards. A tempting little promo what with St. Patrick’s Day a few weeks away. We hemmed and hawed about this for a while, before finally passing on the deal. That was a sweet fucking boot, no doubt. But beer makes D too full, he doesn’t like to drink a lot of it when he’s eating. He’d rather have some beers a few hours after dinner, if there’s a game on or something. So he can enjoy it without feeling uncomfortable and bloated. And I’ve been off beer for a couple of months now. I’m all about these delicious raspberry vodka and lemonade cocktails I’ve recently concocted. Plus, Steamwhistle sucks. We hate that beer. A lot of people here in Toronto love it, but not us. We even went so far as to ask the server if it had to be Steamwhistle in the boot, maybe we could get it filled with something else instead. A beer we actually wanted to drink.

But sadly, no dice.

So we passed on the boot. We really wanted it, but it just didn’t make sense. Oh well, that’s that.

A couple of days later I had to buy some booze for the weekend, so I cruised on over to the liquor store. In and out, a real smooth operation. I grabbed what I needed and got in line. Some dick was taking forever to pay and holding up the line, as usual. Standing there impatiently, I started to look around. I noticed out of the corner of my eye a bright green Steamwhistle box on the other side of the store. A box with a couple of tallboys and the boot we’d passed up a few days ago at dinner. What a coincidence! But then the line started to move, and a few more people were behind me now. I didn’t want to lose my spot to go and see how much it was. I hate when people do that, gum up the works with their indecisiveness at checkout counters. I didn’t want to be that asshole that puts her stuff down and says “I’ll be right back, I just have to grab something real quick.” They always say that it’s going to be “real quick” and it never is. I decided to just pay for what I had and come back tomorrow to scope out the situation.

When I got home I told D that I had seen the boot for sale at the liquor store. With his interest renewed, he agreed that we would go take a look and possibly buy one tomorrow. We could chuck the shitty beers we hated and then fill our boot with whatever the hell we wanted instead. The more we thought about it, the more excited we got. Das boot!

But tomorrow didn’t pan out for us. We’d gone back to the liquor store only to discover that all of the cases with the boot were gone. They’d sold out already, and we were shit out of luck. It was a desirable little novelty, that boot. People really wanted them. And we were just doomed to carry on wanting, it seemed. I kicked myself for my stupid need to be considerate of others. If only I’d been a teensy bit selfish the night before, I’d be living my dreams, drinking out of that frigging boot like a champion.

I thought about that boot often over the next few days that followed. I wanted it now more than ever, and I’d missed out on it not just once, but twice. Damn. The universe, with its infinite knowing, seemed to sense my frustration. It knew that something hinky was afoot. Some creative correction was needed.

We went to a comedy club last week. My sister won some free tickets and asked us to come along for the laughs. It was fun. She’s lucky and she wins free shit all the time. One time we went to a party and she won four Christmas trees in the raffle. Four! Needless to say, but if she’s ever caught bemoaning her poor luck, we’re all very quick to remember the story of the four Christmas trees. After the show was over, the MC announced that there was going to be a 50/50 raffle to benefit the diabetes foundation. D only had five bucks in his pocket, just enough for a ticket. He likes to gamble, and he’s always had a good bit of luck about himself. I mean, he managed to land this classy babe, amiright?

D bought his ticket and we stood at the bar, waiting for the raffle to start. The MC grabbed the mic, and as I turned to face him a brief sparkle caught my eye. A glimmer of light from above, dancing along the rounded lip of a Steamwhistle boot. Well I’ll be damned! They were about to raffle off one of those bloody boots as a secondary prize. My hopes skyrocketed instantly and I grabbed at D’s arm in excitement. “They have the boot! We’re going to win one, we have to!”

“Pffft, who gives a shit about that boot. I’ll win the big prize babe, and then I’ll buy all the fucking boots we want,” D responded. The big prize was 5 cool g’s, so that would be okay, too. But it wouldn’t be as exciting as winning the boot. Not to me, anyways.

The MC reached into the drum for a ticket, and I held my breath. I looked over D’s shoulder at the ticket, concentrating on his number while the MC read the winning number aloud.

Every single number he read matched the numbers on D’s ticket. And in that moment, I heard the universe talking. Talking to us.

The Boot

We were meant to have that boot, and the universe kindly intervened to make it so. It’s one of those things that I just know.

Cheers, universe! Here’s looking at you.

More Than I Could Chew

D and I decided to grab a bite out for dinner tonight. Nothing special, we just went to a little pub in our neighbourhood. We like going out for dinner. We get to sit down and talk, just the two of us. It’s nice.

When I was younger I wasn’t a very adventurous eater. I liked to stick with what was working, like a big juicy cheeseburger or a comforting piece of shepherd’s pie. But I’ve grown up a lot since then. I try things now, you know. We went out to a fancy dinner earlier this week to celebrate D’s birthday and I had this amazingly creamy lobster and crab soup followed by a coronary inducing strip loin and duck fat frites. It was the meal that launched a thousand puddles of drool. I wouldn’t have eaten any of that stuff when I was a kid. I would have turned up my nose immediately, and I would have stuck by my guns no matter how delicious the morsel in question turned out to be. “Duck fat frites? What the fuck are you even talking about? Oh, so they’re just fancy french fries? Yeah, I still hate that”, would have been my take on it back then. But I’ve since learned that trying new things won’t actually kill you dead on the spot. And it’s been great. I fucking love trying new shit all the time now.

An extension of that growth, that newly discovered joy of trying, is that I also try not to order the same old familiar stuff at places. If we’re going somewhere that we’ve been before I try to bounce around the menu, ordering something I haven’t had at that particular place before. I’ve seen people get stuck in that rut of ordering the same damn thing from the same damn place all the time. It’s tiresome. I don’t want to be tiresome, I want to live every moment like it’s a fantastic new adventure. Especially when it comes to my culinary exploits. I’ve already wasted so much of my precious time turning my nose up, and I don’t want to waste a minute more.

So D and I met up after work and made our way over to Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub for dinner. I scanned the menu, trying to avoid the delicious looking same old same old land-mines on every page. Chicken Pot Pie, yummy but been there done that girlfriend. Fish ‘n’ Chips, another favourite of mine but it’s always the same no matter where you are. Club Sandwich, pffft more like Club Boring Sandwich. Then something wonderful caught my eye under the Burgers ‘n’ Sandwiches heading: Fish Taco. I like fish tacos, I’ve had them at other places a time or two before. But they’re not something I order all the time. Maybe on a hot, sticky summer afternoon when I feel like an ice-cold beer and a nibble. Fish tacos can really hit the spot under the right circumstances. It was just another blah January night, dark and cold. But a couple of fish tacos might be just the ticket to fight the blahness of this January night.

There was just one thing, though. It was listed on the menu as Fish Taco, no lowercase “s” neatly tacked onto the end. I wondered aloud to D if maybe that meant it would be one enormous piece of fish in a tortilla. He assured me that it was probably just a typo, a huge piece of fish in a tortilla would be ridiculous. Nobody would ever order it, he said. It’s not logical, he added for good measure. I thought about double-checking with the server first, just to be sure, but then D’s reasoning won me over in the end. Surely he was right. One huge piece of fish all bundled into a tortilla would be madness. It’s definitely going to be a tidy little plate with two, maybe three, fish tacos all in a row.

And then this happened:

fish taco

One enormous fucking fish taco was placed in front of me.

D and I were floored. I sat there looking at him, mouth agape and momentarily stunned. How could this be? It was supposed to be illogical and ridiculous, and now it’s somehow become a terrifying reality. I really didn’t even know where to begin. When I turned it around to peek at the formidable fishy foe within it was like looking into a chasm.

fish taco again

That wasn’t a typo on the menu at all. It was a completely accurate description of the meal that I received. I got exactly what I’d ordered alright, Fish Taco.

So I did the best I could, I really did. But I hadn’t been planning on stuffing my face, I wasn’t overly hungry to begin with. I’d just wanted something easily manageable that I could nibble. And don’t get me wrong, it was a goddamned delicious fish taco. The crispy filet of haddock was packed into the tortilla with generous helpings of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and tangy chipotle mayo sauce to join it on its journey down my gullet.

But I just couldn’t make it all disappear.

eating fish taco

I had to concede defeat to the mighty Fish Taco, for I had been bested.

It had the upper hand on my appetite and the element of surprise tucked into its roomy back pocket, but I’d like to think I gave it some hell on the way down. Maybe someday I’ll go back, order it again, and prove myself a worthy adversary. But for now, I’m going to shoot some Pepto to soothe my aching, overstuffed tummy and keep my distance while I lick my wounds.

We’ll meet again Fish Taco, I’m sure of it. And next time I’ll be ready for you.

The Best Innovation Ever

I’m always coming up with ideas for inventions, gadgets, and all sorts of what-have-yous that would make life better. I get these visions of how one day I’ll have an idea so revolutionary that it will have me firmly ensconced in the history books forever. Or it could just as easily make me the face of the next great infomercial on the home shopping network. Either way, however it goes down is fine with me. I see all of my ideas resulting in greatness.

The only hitch is that I’m not one for the logistical side of things. What I need is an epic partnership with some sort of tinkerer or crafter. Someone who can take my zany ideas and translate them into actual real life things. I’m still searching for my equally brilliant other half, that elusive craftsman. But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before we stumble upon each other one fateful day.

Maybe it’ll happen one morning when I’m waiting in line for a bagel. I’ll see some tool struggling with some sort of hindrance and I’ll mutter under my breath about how there really should be a blah blah for that. An eccentric fellow sitting nearby overhears me, feeling instantaneous inspiration. I feel a prickle on the back of my neck, and sense that I should turn around. Destiny is animating my body now, making me glance over my shoulder in the direction of my life’s true purpose. I do glance, and lock eyes with that curious chap, a knowing look rife with meaning passes between us. This is meant to be. And from that humble chance meeting the course for our sure to be illustrious partnership is charted.

But obviously that’s not going to happen overnight. I’ll have to wait a bit longer I think. But maybe soon, you never know. Until that glorious chance meeting of the minds does happen, I’ll keep the cogs turning on my hamster wheel by spending my time appreciating the innovations all around me. That’s how you keep your skills sharp. If you want to be a good writer, you should be reading a shit-ton of books, all the time. If you want to be a dancer, then you have to dance. You can’t stand there on the sidelines eating bologna. You have to fully immerse yourself in that burning passion of yours to understand how you can be great with it.

Innovation is one of my greatest pleasures in life. I like how innovation feels. Innovation feels like you’ve just conquered the fuck out of everything. Whenever we rent a fancy car for the weekend, sometimes we’ll spring for a fancy one and it has leather seats with ass warmers, it makes me feel exultant. That’s the kind of innovation that makes you feel like a bad motherfucker. That’s right, this car is warming my ass up right now while you wait for the bus, sucka! It just feels good to stop and marvel at the progress sometimes. Especially unexpected progress.

The Snuggie, for instance. Someone probably sewed a fucked up sweater one time that was five sizes too big in a dreadfully unfashionable fleece fabric and they saw an opportunity instead of a disappointment. They turned that shit into an ingenious innovation. They’re probably making residual fat stacks hand-over-fist as I type this sentence. And now, thanks to that wonderful addition of sleeves on a blanket, we as a people have a much better method for sitting on the couch and being cozy while we cram delicious junk food down our gullets. You say you want a revolution, well you know.

I didn’t think life could get any better than The Snuggie. Until recently.

Friday night: D was out with his cronies and I’d been out shopping all friggin’ day trying to find the perfect dress for his upcoming work holiday party. I finally get home and I am FAMISHED. I need some goddamned dinner, stat. Right fucking now, man. I opt for the fastest, most satisfying option. Pizza.

But it’s Friday night and all the pizza joints are going to be super busy because nobody cooks on Friday night, really. Guuuuh, so it’s going to take forever. And all I want is a piping hot ooey gooey slice right fucking now, man. But it’s my shitballs luck that a pizza teleportation device hasn’t been invented yet. (I’ll just pop that one on my ongoing list of fantastic ideas while I’m thinking about it.) So I’ll have to do this the old-fashioned way: order it and pace around impatiently for the next forty-five minutes.

I place my order online. Dominos, medium pan pizza with double pepperoni and extra cheese. But something different happens after the order is entered. Instead of some boring old confirmation page a new, special page loads in its place.

pizza tracking bar

It’s some sort of order tracking visual. It’s beautiful. It’s the best thing I’ve ever seen. I simply cannot take my eyes off of it. I stare at it for a while, waiting for it to change. When Stage 2 “Prep” starts flashing, I’m euphoric. Gopi, you magnificent bastard, I think I love you.

I open a bottle of wine, and come back to sit in front of the computer for a little while, marvelling at this tremendous advancement in the field of fast food delivery. They took all the anxiety out of waiting for my pizza. Instead of pacing around like a raving lunatic wondering where the hell my food is, worrying that there was some inexplicable glitch that prevented the order from actually being placed, which will surely send me into a murderous rampage when I discover it too late and too hungry to be stopped, I find myself actually enjoying the wait. I can trust again. My food is on it’s way. Why, Gopi just put it in the oven. What a revelation. I believe in Gopi. He knows I’m waiting, and he’s doing the best damn job he can. Because Gopi cares. He cares about pizza and he cares about me.

And then, an even more beautiful sight than when I first discovered the tracker, Stage 5 “Out For Delivery” happened.

pizza tracker 2

Elation! Jubilation! Adulation!

I feel all of these things and so much more. I have never been happier in my whole entire life. Not even when I got engaged in Hawaii this past year. My pizza is on it’s way and I KNOW THAT FOR A FACT! Yong just left the store and I can’t wait to greet him when he gets here. Whoa, if I don’t calm down I might just wind up frenching Yong’s face right off when he does get here with the pizza. My pizza. My precious pizza.

The Domino’s Tracker is hands down the greatest innovation I have ever encountered and I can honestly say that it has changed my life. I can’t even order pizza from anywhere else now. If they don’t have the tracker, I’m not going down that road, it’s just too difficult for me. I have to have the tracker. It has become an absolute necessity. It’s essential. And more importantly, it’s accurate. Yong was knocking on my door within ten minutes of the status changing to Stage 5 “Our For Delivery”.

That’s what makes me love invention and innovation. If I could invent something that would illicit an emotional response this insane… that’s the dream.

And for those of you wondering, yes, the pizza was fucking delicious.