Knit 1, Purl 1, Knit 1, Purl 1…

I’m the kind of person who has a billion hobbies and is always searching for more. I go through phases, or cycles of them. I’ll find something interesting and engaging, throw myself into it wholeheartedly and see where it takes me. I have a lot of creative energy, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled to craft or create. That feeling of accomplishment when you’ve produced something is a rush like no other. It makes me feel interesting and special, crafty and crazy. But most importantly, it’s an outlet. For all the thoughts, feelings, dreams, and internal strangeness that cannot be expressed any other way. If you’re a fellow zany, creative, crafter type, you’ll know what I mean.

A couple of autumns ago, I fell in love with ponchos. It was one of those days where you think it’s going to be warmer than it is, but the season is taking that sharp turn from refreshing crispness in the air to face numbing harshness. D and I planned to be out, walking around the city for a bit. I thought I’d be fine, but I wasn’t. We jumped in a shop and I started looking for an extra layer of warmth so we could carry on with our day. I found this gorgeous navy blue poncho with a cozy cowled neckline and lovely red accent stripes that appealed perfectly to my sense of style. For forty bucks, it was a steal. It started me wanting to buy and wear only ponchos and big chunky sweaters all the time. Shopping is great, but sometimes you find things that you would almost buy, but then not. Because something isn’t quite right enough to merit a purchase. If only something could be done or changed to make it more you.

I started thinking about how awesome it would be if I could just knit my own ponchos and sweaters. That idea simmered in the back of my brain for a while, I was still consumed with wedding plans and other things. It would have to wait, I’d circle back later. And life went on.

Flash forward a couple of years, the weather starting to dip into colder territory again, I was digging into the depths of the closet to pull out all of my ponchos and sweaters for another cozy autumn. I was starting to feel restless with current creative endeavours. It was time to pivot, try something new. That thought of knitting my own things started to heat up again, bubbling and eventually boiling over. I wanted desperately to start knitting, I could think of nothing else. I needed to try it, see if it was something I could do.

I thought I could just waltz into the craft store, grab a knitting magazine and some yarn then get started. I’m no virgin crafter, I’ve seen some shit in my time, man. Trust me, some crazy shit. I got this.

Wrong. I was wrong, all wrong, I take it back. Totally, utterly wrong on all the levels. There is so much to know about knitting! It’s overwhelming actually. And I’m very tactile. Seeing, seeing, and seeing again, then repeating is what I need to process and understand how to do something that’s totally new to me. I need help and feedback, lots of it. So I did some googling and I found this wonderful little shop in the west end that offered classes. I registered right away and I was so excited. So very excited. I’m going to learn something new, I’m going to knit!

I could think of nothing else the day of my first class. I couldn’t wait to finish work and dash off, yarn and needles in tow. I was the first one to arrive, helplessly early, twenty-five minutes early. That’s too early! But that’s who I am, eager and enthusiastic. The instructor was very warm and welcoming. She sat me at a table in the back of the shop and took the skein of yarn I’d purchased a few days earlier. She placed it on this amazing contraption she called a “swift”. Round and round the swift turned, I was mesmerized. It transformed that skein of yarn into a fat little ball that she then called a “cake”. So many new terms!

Other classmates started arriving, mirroring back at me the same mingled expression of trepidation and excitement. There were seven of us total, all women, all knitting n00bs. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. I loved that, I didn’t know there’d be this great social element.

It was hard at first. Trying to hold the needles in a way that felt right, they were so foreign to me. We started with casting on. The only place you can start. And it was tricky, but I got it figured out. Then we talked about muscle memory and the knit stitch. Everything felt so floppy and uncertain. I felt floppy and uncertain! I didn’t know what to do after I had knit my first row, what was next? The girl beside me told me to just do it again. Move the needle back to my dominant hand and do that same thing again. Mind. Blown. So this is knitting! Huh.

I got home and showed D the few little rows I had knit, I was so proud of myself.

first knit rows

D was excited for me. He loved how happy I was. But I struggled with the yarn I chose. It was too fine for my beginner’s hands. I took it off the needles and “frogged” it, another fun new term meaning that I destroyed all progress and went back to start. I bought larger needles and bulkier yarn. I started again.

bulkier!

That felt better. I could see the stitches more easily and make corrections when I messed up. I started to feel really good about it as the yarn grew longer. I loved feeling the yarn, watching it expand row after row. And I knew this wasn’t just another hobby, it was a lifelong passion.

I had three more classes, one a week. We learned how to purl, how to read patterns, weaving in our ends, planning projects, and so much more. We learned how to make hats using “DPNs” or double-pointed needles. We were knitting “in the round”, “tinking”, and “ktogging” with confidence! It was wonderful.

I’ve been very productive since that class, knitting up a storm. I love the way it makes me feel. It’s so rhythmic and relaxing. I feel inspired by so many things, the possibilities from here are endless.

My first attempt knitting in the round…

in the round

Wearing the first scarf I ever finished…

my first scarf

Crazy leg warmers!

leg warmers!

The infinity scarf I knit for my lovely friend the Magpie for Christmas. She loves it so much and that makes me so happy!

peattie's scarf

The first hat I ever knit, successfully. I gave it to my uncle who is so very proud and impressed with my work. And he’s worn it everyday since I gave it to him, even though it’s purple. He’s so rad.

wienie's cap

A teeny tiny little scarf I knit with leftover yarn for Harv, haha. (He actually hates it so much.)

Harv's scarf

And the project I’m most proud of so far, the seed stitch scarf I made for myself, with that very first ball of yarn I bought. This is a real accomplishment. I had almost written that ball of yarn off altogether because it was so tough at first. But after some practice with the bulkier yarns, my skills started getting better, and I felt brave enough to try it again. Progress was slower, but I had the patience for it now.

my fave scarf

I love this scarf so much. The texture is divine, I’m obsessed with seed stitch. I made this, me. I can’t stop marvelling at the fact that I knew nothing about knitting three months ago, and now I’ve made so many things. Damn, that feels good.

I love knitting, it is the greatest. It makes me feel so purposeful and inspired. And although I’m nowhere near ready to start knitting my own ponchos, I’m headed in that direction and I know I’ll get there eventually. I’m enjoying the journey, I don’t need to rush it. I have a dream that is simmering for now. One day in the near future, when it’s time, that dream will start to bubble and boil over too.

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.

Hitting The Open Road

I’m very excited to announce this. I’ve been looking forward to announcing this to you guys all week long…

Hear ye, hear ye! This weekend I, Smash, of this odd little blog, am coming to a city near you! Well, it’s actually only to a city probably/sort of/maybe near some of you. The city of brotherly love itself, Philadelphia!

That’s right gang, you’ve got court-side seats to a Dballs and Smash Road Trip Spectacular! We’ve got a set of wheels and we’re hitting the open road first thing tomorrow morning. And I’ll be detailing every glorious second of it for your reading pleasure.

A couple of weeks ago I was jamming’ out to one of my favourite bands, They Might Be Giants. I started thinking how awesome it would be to see those guys in concert. I pulled up their website and starting poking around for any upcoming concerts in Toronto. But sadly, there were none. Only a bunch of dates listed for a tour through the states. Usually under circumstances such as these, I would’ve just signed up for an alert to let me know when the band will be coming to my neck of the woods in the future. But this time was different. This time around the little hamster in my head that serves as a brain kept cycling around on his squeaky little hamster exercise wheel. And once that wheel gets to turning, fixated on the possibility of an adventure, it’s next to impossible to make it stop.

What if we went to one of their shows in the states anyways? A lot of these places are within reasonable travel distance… Boston, Brooklyn, and Philly. We could probably make one of them work. If I wanted it bad enough and was able to plead my case convincingly, I might just get that husband of mine to go along. I had my birthday on my side, too. It’s harder to say no to a birthday wish than if it had been some conveniently trumped-up bucket list wish. I knew it was gunna be a long shot to convince D, but I really wanted to go. More than anything in the world, in that moment, all that mattered was getting to a TMBG show.

When I pitched the idea to D, I pulled out all the stops. Begging, pleading, whining, wailing, justifying, and arguing him to exhaustion. He resisted at first, but then came around eventually. My impassioned plea for adventure swayed him in the end. Actually, it wasn’t even all that dramatic. He agreed pretty early into my spiel. But he was gentlemanly enough to let me think I’d worn him down, because he knows it’s more fun for me that way.

I ran into my old boss on the subway the other day and gushed to him about our plans for this weekend. He chuckled and said, “eight hours straight in the car with your new husband, you sure are eager to stress test this marriage of yours, aren’t you?”

It might be a little crazy, sure. But everyone knows that crazy = fun. That’s just a basic maths right there. D and I are very travel compatible, so I’m not worried about it at all. We always have lots of laughs together and are both really jazzed up about this trip. We’re married, but we haven’t been totally domesticated yet. Why not grab life by the balls? We’re young and we’re full of dreams. We gotta make these bold moves now while we’re able to without any worry. We don’t have any annoying entanglements to hold us back. It’s a slam dunk already and we haven’t even left yet.

laughing with my hubby

Seriously, I am so fucking pumped! I’ve already made a fresh batch of mixed CD’s for the ride, I’ve got a supermassive 1000-page Archie comic packed, I’ve got oodles upon oodles of snacks stashed away, and I’ve got my doting husband in tow. It’s going to be so frigging rad.

We’re going to eat cheese steaks! We’re going to tour the city! Maybe we’ll even be so bold as to lick the Liberty Bell…

Whatever it is we decide to do on this journey of ours, I’ll keep you posted. So stick around chums, Smash is hitting the open road.

Twenty-eight years old

I’m turning twenty-eight tomorrow. That’s not really remarkable or anything, lots of people have before and lots more people will continue to turn twenty-eight for the foreseeable future. But there’s something about twenty-eight, I’m not sure what. It’s just been itching at the forefront of my mind these past few weeks. I feel… disquieted about it, I guess?

I’m not the kind of person that frets about age or tries to deny how old I really am; it’s silly to be afraid of something that’s inevitable, something you have no control over. People get older, that’s just how it is. Aging is easy, you don’t even have to do anything and it just happens. But aging fearlessly takes a lot of effort. I want to take the road less travelled, I want to age fearlessly. I don’t want to piss and moan about getting older the way it seems everybody else does. So it’s annoying to me that twenty-eight is giving me some degree of difficulty.

But maybe it’s not the actual aging itself that’s bothering me. I think it might be because I haven’t yet determined my purpose for this year. I usually have a plan of attack for each new year, some goals I want to accomplish, some dreams I want to chase. And I guess I just haven’t really nailed down what it is I want to do with twenty-eight yet. That must be what’s making me feel… disorderly?

I do love my birthday, though. I love it so much. Specifically, I love celebrating the shit out of it. And I’ve collected some very memorable birthday celebrations over the years.

My 20th birthday for instance, when I did that legendary 21-second box-o-wine stand that people still talk about today.

box o wine stand

And my best friends built me the bejewelled funnel of my dreams that year, which they very aptly named “Smash’s Life Support”.

dream funnel

Or my 22nd birthday, when we had the fanciest most “biz-cas” house party ever. We may have looked the part, but we certainly didn’t act it.

biz ca-jed birthday

biz cas again

At twenty-three I fell madly in love with a little cougar bar called Crocodile Rock…

croc rocking birthday

When I turned 25, my mom made me a jumbo banana bread cake and fucked up the frosting, spelling birthday without its very necessary ‘r’. Happy Bithday Ashley, indeed.

Happy Bithday

But more important, when I got all fucked up in the backyard later that night and started singing “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at the top of my lungs. Aging fearlessly at its finest.

I’ve had some good birthdays, that’s for damn sure. I’ve made more than my fair share of zany and crazy birthday memories.

And we carried on the tradition this weekend. It was awesomely fun. Krazzzy Karan showed up with a Heineken mini keg for me and from there we decided rounds upon rounds of good old-fashioned keg-stands were in order!

heiny birthday keg

kegstands!

I got to do some birthday shots with my darling Sara via Skype, because she currently resides all the way on the other half of the planet, in Vietnam.

Skype shots

We got real effed up last night…

party crew

laughing with my chums

partying with harry

The hangover today is pretty much exactly what you’d expect, and probably deserved. But it’s kept my mind off of these feelings of… uncertainty? And now that I’m circling back to that problem, I still don’t think I have an answer.

Everything in my life was in disarray last year, and now that the dust has finally settled, I guess I just don’t know what comes next. Marriage is great. Work is still kind of intense, but engaging and engrossing as always. I’ve got lots of hobbies and my social calendar for this summer is already booming with plans. And yet I’m still not satisfied with all of that. I want more, I just can’t put my finger on what it is I need.

I suppose I could finally get around to getting this crazy frigging wisdom tooth in the back of my mouth pulled. But that’s not really something I can feel accomplished about. That’s just something I’ve been putting off.

Twenty-eight, you sure are tricky. What do I want to be? What do I want to do? How am I going to make this year of life the best one yet? Seems like the answer to that requires a little more consideration than I was expecting. But as soon as I’ve figured it out, you can bet I’m going to throw myself into it with all of my heart. That’s the only thing I ever really know for sure… that I’m going to keep charging ahead, fearlessly, and living life with all the gusto I can muster. It’s the least I can do.

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.

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 Year of Awesome!

Happy 2nd Birthday to my beloved blog, Smashing Through Life!

It's a snake in a party fez!

It’s a snake in a party fez!

First off, welcome back Vincent the Viper, who proudly celebrated last year’s blog birthday with me while wearing a more traditional party hat. This year, Vincent is sporting a decidedly flamboyant party fez instead and I think he looks fabulous. During more lackadaisical times, my friend The Magpie and I entertained the notion of starting a business manufacturing and selling one-of-a-kind hats for fake snakes, but then real life got a lot more interesting in a hurry and we’ve since shelved that idea for the time being. Maybe we’ll come back to it again, when we’ve got some decent seed money pulled together. But anyways, that’s not what we’re here for today.

IT’S MY BLOG BIRTHDAY AND I’M REALLY FUCKING EXCITED ABOUT IT!

That’s why we’re here. Keep yourself on point, girl.

A lot can happen in a year, and I’m not saying that to be cliché. A lot really did happen to me in this past year. Some good, some bad, and some ugly too. I made some stunning 3-pointers, but I also spent a lot of time warming the bench, too. I genuinely enjoy looking back over a specific period of time and reflecting on the things that have happened in my life. It’s good for me, and it motivates me to keep reaching ever higher. I believe that my personal and professional development should never reach a plateau; I won’t let that happen. Not while I’m at the helm. If I’m learning and challenging myself on a consistent basis, then I’m growing and becoming a better me all the time. There is always room for improvement, and I’ve got an insatiable hunger for more. I’m always so eager to keep forging ahead, so it helps to look back once in a while. I need to make sure that I’m cutting the right path. That I’m living the life I’ve always wanted.

This blog’s mission, initially, was to act as an outlet for my frustrations and disappointments. It was an exercise in perpetual positivity. It was a place of refuge, an altar of optimism at which I could worship when I needed it the most. I was in a very dark place when it began, and this blog was my lifeline. It was a connection to the trademark brightness within, the brightness I’ve always been known for, but which was dimming more and more every day at an alarming rate. But it has since evolved, the aim has shifted. I don’t need to search for the positives in my life quite so desperately anymore because I’m surrounded by them.

This blog is continually evolving, just like me, and I couldn’t be happier with the progress we’ve made together so far. It’s a place where I can chronicle my life, my adventures, and my many dreams in the most positive terms possible.

So, what have I done this year that’s so whoop-de-fucking-doo great, you ask? I’ll tell you!

Smash’s Top 5 Awesomes This Year

1.) I went on the vacation of a lifetime

I've never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

I’ve never been this happy to be awake at 6:30am in my life

D and I dropped everything and went on our first ever vacation together. And we made it memorable as hell by saving up the extra bucks and flying the extra miles to get ourselves a slice of Hawaii. It was unreal! The food, the adventures, the beach, the ocean, the people, the sites. We loved every minute of it. Going all out for our first trip together was definitely the right call.

2.) I Got Engaged (and set the date, too!)

 An old shot, from about 5 years ago

An old shot, from about 5 years ago. Super Retro Disco Party, obviously.

D and I have been together a long time. We’re coming up on eight years this summer, if you can believe it. I loved him from the first moment I drunkenly gazed into his sweet blue eyes, and there was never any doubt. But there was never any rush to get to the paperwork either, and he caught me completely unawares when he proposed during our aforementioned vacation. I tease him sometimes about being totally devoid of emotion, but he really surprised me that time. I don’t even question this decision at all. We go together.

3.) I Won Shitfest 2013: Fall

I fuckin' love this trophy!

I fuckin’ love this trophy!

Some of you will remember my graceful acceptance of the award from this wonderful post that our dear friend, The IPC, allowed me to share with you on his site. I don’t write a movie blog, but I love movies so I read a lot of movie blogs. And I love the movie blogging community that I’ve stumbled into on WordPress. I loved reading the posts that were entered in the first Shitfest, and when a fall fest was announced I knew I had to get involved this time. I knew a shitty movie that I could write about. A real fucking shitty movie. I just wanted to have some fun, and it proved to be an experience that I will cherish forever. I’ve got the trophy to prove it.

4.) I Started a New Blog

The Kingdom

I miss writing essays. I miss feeling scholarly. I long for my undergrad, on rainy days mostly. So I decided to start a blog to review the works of Stephen King, to sort of keep in touch with that part of myself that so loved turning in assignments. I’m just hanging out over there, doing book reports basically. But it’s a fun hobby, and I enjoy it. I’m not rolling out the reviews quite as quickly as when I first started the blog, but I am still trucking along and reviews get posted at least once a month. It’s a way for me to explore other facets of my writing, too, and that’s important to me.

And finally, saving the biggest for last…

5.) I Got Promoted

Always the consummate professional, jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

Always the consummate professional, that’s me jumping on the bed in my suite during a work trip 3 years ago

I’ve been waiting for this a long time. It was an exciting, albeit painful journey at times, but I’m finally moving in the direction that I want to go. I had never realized how deeply ambitious I was until I joined the workforce. Procrastination and indifference were my MO whenever I pondered that almighty “What are you going to do when you grow up?” question that seems to haunt us from birth. But once I started carving out my own way in the world, I found myself immediately hooked on ambition. It’s a heady device, man. I made the choice to significantly alter my career path a couple of years ago, and it’s all starting to come together now. The sky really is the limit, and I thoroughly enjoy reaching for it with all of my might. I’ve got plans and ideas aplenty, and I’m going to make a splash in a big way. Greatness abounds, when you’re willing to work hard for it. I love how it feels to earn my living, and being rewarded professionally for my efforts feels divine.

I’m not kidding around, you guys. I truly am kicking the shit out of life every day. And I hope to continue doing so, right here on this bizarre little blog of mine, for a long while yet.

Here’s to yet another year of awesome. Cheers!

Setting The Date

In the very first moments when your brain begins processing the fact that you are going to have to start planning a wedding, there’s this powerful wave of denial that crashes into the forefront of your mind. You just got engaged, so the wedding is miles away. You’re just going to soak up all the excitement of the engagement for now, enjoying a nice open-ended engagement that could last forever and a day if you wanted it to. The wedding isn’t going to happen overnight, so you’re not going to worry about it right away.

That works, for a little while. An impossibly short little while. The people in your life are thrilled for you, really, they couldn’t be happier. But they’ve also got questions. So many questions. When is it? Will it be a destination wedding? In a church? How many people? Will it be open bar? And accompanying those questions is an assortment of suggestions. You should have wine on the tables. You better get a good photographer. Start getting in shape now. According to wedding etiquette you have to do this, and this, and this, and this. Asking for cash is tacky. Photo-booths are so last year.

And on and on it goes.

At first, you dance around all of that blabbering with ease. Your standard response to all of the noise around you has become a noncommittal shrug as you bust an awe-inspiring Running Man on the packed dance floor in your mind. It feels good, for a while, keeping everyone else at an arm’s length while you plumb the depths of your heart, trying to figure out what it is you really want. But that stops working eventually. People keep bringing it up when they see you, because surely by now you’ve started to put something tangible together, no? At some point, it stops feeling like conversation and starts feeling like pressure. That once awesome dance floor in your mind is suddenly too crowded, too noisy. They’re playing shit music. And an obnoxious cluster of sweaty, creepy dudes keep trying to get their pelvises all up in your business where you don’t want them. You’re looking for your friends, a lifeline, anything, but there isn’t a one to be found. Evacuate that dance floor, man. The unknown officially stopped being easy and started getting scary.

You realize that you have to start planning this damn thing. Right now. You can’t take another second of your own ifs and buts, only your own decisiveness can save you now.

Ideas start to materialize. Options present themselves. And when you take that first tentative step forward, articulating one of your ideas to someone else, searching for validation that your ideas are in fact good and wonderful, then the planning has begun. But beware! Some ears are not as receptive as they appear. Sometimes you’ll share something dear to you with the wrong person and instead of shelling out the support you so desire, you’ll find cruel derision laying in wait for you. Such a thing happened to me, and I’ve since learned not to share with certain individuals. Only that which is positive is allowed in the secret wedding planning place within my heart. Thoughtful suggestions born of helpfulness are always welcome, but the petulant threats of non-attendance and scornful snorts of judgement need not apply.

It took a long time for it to sink in, this realization that I’m going to have a wedding. The idea of D has been comfortable for years now, it’s old hat. He’s my man, and that’s just how it is. But the idea of planning some momentous occasion to make official whatever this thing we have together is, was a whole other beast. Some may relish the task, but I didn’t. I never dreamed about a wedding day in any specific terms. A waterproof robot buddy that you could have excellent water park adventures with, sure. But never a wedding.

D and I started talking about what we might want to do. Where we would have it, who we would invite. We waffled about a couple of places. I got a few quotes and D had a big crazy excel file crammed with venue comparisons that I’m sure gave him a few tingles of excitement in his wiener. Because he’s a weirdo like that, and he loves to look before he leaps. But none of it seemed to be going anywhere, and I was content to idle. Then I woke up one day with a feeling in my gut that we had to set a date and book something right goddamned now. We had to do it now, or I was going to idle forever.

So we did. We found a place that fits the budget, and it’s going to be awesome. We saw it last weekend and booked it on the spot; we set the date. We’re getting married, it’s really happening you guys. I’m out of denial and well into acceptance now.

Smash n D

January 31st, 2015. It’s a date, a good date even. Our date.

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.

To Market, To Market

Rolled out of bed at the ungodly hour of 9am on Saturday morning. Slogged my way to the kitchen for a cold, placating glass of milk. Rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I sat down next to D on the couch, and groaned for good measure.

Approaching with caution, D said that it was a nice day. Sunny and warm out. I grunted my acknowledgement of that statement. He let me wake up a bit more before he added that it would be a great day to go to the St. Lawrence Market.

The last vestiges of grumpiness wearing away, I let that idea sink in. Yeah, it did seem like a good idea. Going to the St. Lawrence Market is one of those oh-so-Toronto things that we’d been meaning to do for a while now. Ever since we moved to the city in the spring of 2012 actually. Fucking slackers, we are.

Well, slackers no more I decided. So we got our shit together and made our way down to the market. Just a quick subway ride to King station followed by a happy little stroll down Wellington Street and we were there.

It was glorious!

st lawrence market

The St. Lawrence Market, established in 1803, is one of Toronto’s most beloved landmarks. It’s friggen’ historic!

st lawrence again

Known for the farmer’s markets, antiques, restaurants, local arts and crafts. The market is truly something special. We started our journey inside, perusing the foodstuffs of the upper level. I was expecting aisles and aisles of easily assembled stations for hawking ones wares. I didn’t realize that there would be actual establishments within. With their elaborate signage, all of these places contribute heartily to the unique atmosphere of the market.

carousel bakery

pizza and pasta

With every turn of the corner something more and more delicious to see. Our mouths were positively watering. It’s a wonder I didn’t wind up with a river of drool down the front of my shirt.

meats!

pastries

produce

From the finest in meats, pastries, and produce to delicious eats that even a frugal gal of my ilk can afford. What a steal on sausages!

sausages

And everyone is so friendly. You get a big happy smile from the vendors at every station, and some casual chatter. Or maybe that’s just how it was for me because I was sporting a delightedly insane bulge in my eyes and a big goofy grin. I was so happy and walking around the market was so wonderful, I couldn’t contain my glee. It was awesome and special. Yeah, thinking back they probably all thought that I was pretty special myself…

us at market

After we’d seen all there was to see inside, we made our way outside and across the street to see what the outdoor vendors had to offer.

outdoors

sunflowers

I saw the bunches of sunflowers for sale and I just had to have them!

my flowers

They were fitting, the best thing I could possibly get to commemorate my first market going experience. Sunny and bright, and so perfectly indicative of the morning we shared at the market.

I trimmed and arranged them once we got home, humming and smiling to myself in the kitchen, with Harvey squawking curiously at my feet. It’s not often that I bring fresh flowers into our home. Lazy and careless, I much prefer the amount of maintenance that comes with having fake flowers. Their shelf-life ain’t nothing to sneeze at either. I find watching fresh flowers die slowly before me over the course of a few days kind of depressing. I’m not much for watching life-forces wane. But sunflowers are hearty, easily outlasting the daintiest of flowers, so taking a chance on them this time around doesn’t feel quite so melancholy.

And Harvey was quite fond of them as well…

harvey and the sunflowers

harv and flowers

smitten kitten

Yes, I would say that this little kitten of ours was quite taken with the sunflowers. Smitten, you might say. A smitten kitten.

How I put off going to the St. Lawrence Market this long I’ll never know. But now that I’ve had a taste I will definitely be back for more…

I’ll go for the charm, and stay for the dirt cheap sausages.