Rat-patootie

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

This amazing and colourful pile of ratatouille!

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

Before:

raw veggies (gross)

After:

cooked veggies (yummm)

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

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

The 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:

Tales of Philly: Day 1, The Road to Philly

I wanted to write while we were in Philly last weekend, but our window of time to spend there was so small, I just couldn’t bear to waste a minute of it. But before we left I promised you stories from the road, and I always keep my promises, most of the time. Onwards!

It’s a long drive to Philadelphia from Toronto. Not sure if you knew that or not, but it’s a key detail in the story of Day 1. I’m not really sure we knew what a long drive it was going to be either, until it actually started happening. In my mind road trips are all zany adventures, like in the movies. You know, like how Harry and Lloyd drive in the wrong direction for five hours or wind up losing their ride and have to get to Aspen on their wits, or lack thereof, and a stolen briefcase full of cash. It wasn’t like that at all, not even a little bit.

We had our route meticulously mapped and used D’s GPS to keep us on track. Our only real foible of the road happened when the interstate directions got a little complicated near Scranton and the GPS robot’s volume was too low to be heard over Stevie Wonder. And stupidly could not be adjusted while in use. I mean, how stupid is that? So totally stupid. We had to pull over and park in the lot of a Radisson Hotel to disconnect it so we could raise the volume. Then we spent the rest of the trip in suspicion, distrusting everything our robot navigator said the whole rest of the way. Every time she did speak from there on out, I’d give her the old hairy eyeball and tell her she better not make us lose any more time.

Time was a precious commodity. Even though we knew we were strapped in for a long haul, we were obsessed with trying to make up time. Once in a while the distance estimate on the GPS would slip down a minute or two and we’d somehow feel like we’d just beaten the devil himself at his own wily game.

The first leg of the drive was the most fun. We were full of pep and ready to take on the world. We crossed through the border at Fort Eerie and the drive was quite scenic. Lots of farms. Huge twirling wind turbines for miles and miles and miles.

new york

more new york

I mentioned that I made a bunch of mixed CD’s for the trip, yeah? Funny story about that, the first mix I made, aptly titled Road Trip to Philly: Vol. 1 turned out to be something of an epic break-up mix. Featuring such memorable hits as “Song for the Dumped”, “Divorce Song”, “Don’t Speak”, “Let Me Go”, and “All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down”, it didn’t exactly set the ideal tone for the next 9 hours in the car… whoops! My bad. But it was a good thing I packed us an absolute shit-load of candy to take the edge off. And it was also good that my next mix on deck was Road Trip to Philly: Vol. 2 Funky Disco Hits. That helped turn our beat around.

dino-sours

Thank you Jesus for this bounty of Dino-sours.

We left hella early too, like 7:30am because we wanted to avoid rush hour traffic while leaving Toronto. We didn’t really use good road trip math though, avoiding Toronto rush hour no problem, but completely ignoring the fact that based on our timing, we’d be getting into Philly during rush hour. Whoops! Another bad, but not entirely all mine. We started closing in on Philly around 4:30pm and that bitch GPS robot estimated we’d be at our hotel by 4:52pm. Unfortunately for us though, she doesn’t take into consideration traffic, so the next hour and half was pure torture. Creeping and crawling our way into the city. Sore and aching from being in the car all day. Hungry and dreaming of endless cheese steaks while our bellies rumbled away, no hope of being sated any time soon. If ever…

It sure was a beautiful day to be cooped up inside the car though. And my view from the passenger side was quite interesting at times.

Philly!

highways

When we finally did manage to squeeze ourselves into the city, the downtown core was clogged up so bad. We moved like molasses the whole way to our hotel. It totally sapped my will to live. We were there, man! But we just couldn’t enjoy it yet. Had to get to the hotel and get our car parked. When I finally did get out of the car I was back to feeling excited again. This city is happening! And our hotel was so frigging beautiful. I splurged and booked us at some hoity-toity joint, The Latham. I figured ten hours in the car merited a luxurious as hell hotel stay.

We had a big comfy baller bed!

big baller bed

Which I managed to get a few of my classic Smash pounces on.

jumpin on the bed in philly

Once I’d gotten that out of my system, we left the hotel in search of food. We were starving! Didn’t walk too far until we found something that looked promising, an Irish pub called The Black Sheep. And we had the best fucking meals ever. I don’t know if it’s because we were really legit starving or just because it actually was the best damn food ever, but holy shit dudes. I’m drooling right now as I relive it. D got himself a big juicy cheeseburger and I had the most incredible fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever had in my life.

philly cheeseburger

philly fish n chips

Seriously. I’ve eaten a fuckload of fish ‘n’ chips in my time, and this was hands down the best of the best fish ‘n’ chips I’ve ever had. Skyrocketed to number 1 on my list. The piece of fish they served me was so thick and flaky, it just slipped right onto my fork and into my mouth. The batter had this incredible seasoning that I still dream about. It was just… so goddamn good.

We went for a walk after dinner, strolling through Market Square. It’s so gorgeous. I love Toronto with all my heart, believe me, it’s the love of my life as far as cities go. I’ll be forever smitten with its charms. So Toronto, love of my life, I don’t mean you any harm when I say this, but Philly… oh beautiful Philly, what a stunner you are! And we weren’t even in historic downtown yet either.

city hall

d in city hall

City Hall, it was quite remarkable. It’s how a city hall should be. Grand, impressive, awe-inspiring. What a perfect, sparkling gem. Philadelphia’s city hall demands absolute respect and admiration, it deserves no less than that.

We were tickled pink when we realized that the park preceding it is called Dilworth Park. That’s my BFF J-Dillah’s name. Joce-Force, you see this? They have a park in Philly that wears your name! And it’s so pretty, just like you.

Dilworth Park

An evening stroll through Market Square and City Hall, it was a wonderful introduction to the city of brotherly love. All the strain and exhaustion of the car ride just melted away.

LOVE

We made it. Philly wasn’t just some half-baked pipe dream anymore. It was real, we really did this. And we couldn’t wait to see what else this incredible city had in store.

But that’s another story, to be told in due time.

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.

Feelin’ Loose

I think D has hit new heights of relaxation previously unknown to even himself. I just looked over my shoulder and he’s sitting on the bed, perfectly content, watching a show on how pencils get made. And the look on his face suggests that he’s actually liking it.

how pencils get made

Yesterday, I treated my doting husband to his first ever spa experience. We got facials side by side in the jacuzzi and then had an aromatherapy couples massage together. It was fabulous! The jacuzzi was full of rose petals and they had this cool ceiling effect that made it look like a night sky full of stars above us.

D seemed a little wary at first, he’s not one for doing these frou frou things. But I was able to convince him. He’s always complaining about aches in his neck and back, so I knew a massage would be just the thing. The therapists we had were amazing. They were so friendly and kind. They were thorough too, making sure to work out every single kink and knot. Before we even knew it, the hour was up. They led us stumbling and sleepy in our post massage glow back to the spa lobby for a refreshing berry smoothie while we settled up. We left the spa smiling dopey little smiles and holding hands. I think my plan worked far better than I ever expected it to.

Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of the spa excursion, but I can assure you that D looked adorable getting his beard exfoliated while inhaling deeply the magical aromas of relaxation.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon having drinks and smoking cigars up at the adults only pool. It really is the best place to unwind. This resort is great, but it is heavily family-centric. The main pools and beaches are overrun with kids throughout the day, so having the special adults only pool to sneak away to is awesome. Not that we mind the families, it’s just a less calming experience at the pool when you’re constantly ducking the spray of water guns and trying to mind your curses. Because really, I’m only at my most relaxed when I can curse freely.

smoke if you got em

Feeling famished, we headed out to dinner. It was really shitty though. We went to this supposed steak house called Wayne’s Boots, and it was absolute crap. I love steak. D and I actually joked that one of the reasons I decided to marry him is because he can cook a steak perfectly to my liking. My favourite is a nice thick sirloin cut, rare. There has to be lots of blood. It has to look like someone just got murdered on my plate. The steak I got at Wayne’s Boots looked like some shit that Uncle Rico would have microwaved to death before whipping at Napoleon’s face. We won’t be going back there.

The dinner we had the night before at Fisherman’s was muy bueno. Way more worthy of being featured on the blog, that’s for sure.

My app made my knees buckle a little, it was that good. It was a fried whitefish cake in tortillas with fresh pico de gallo. It was fucking scrumptious! And the inevitable dinnertime margarita ain’t so bad either.

dinnertime margarita

fish cakes

There’s something so irresistible about deep-fried fish shoved into a tortilla. If I could find stuff like this back home, I’d probably need to get around via forklift. I also had a really spectacular fillet of mahi mahi for dinner. I desperately wish that I could have fish like this back home!

mahi mahi

Tonight we’re having a special dinner at the french restaurant and I hope it’s on par with what we’ve had at Fisherman’s. And I hope I can keep finding ways to keep D this relaxed when we get back. He’s so   different on vacation, you’d never guess this structured chap could be so chill.

Uncle Tom Was Right

D and I weren’t originally planning on taking a honeymoon. We were going to get married and then have a stay-cation in Toronto, doing all kinds of fun Toronto-y things we take for granted in our daily lives. But we were partying with my Uncle Tom a few months back at the stag ‘n’ doe and he was appalled at the idea of us not taking a honeymoon. He was so insistent that we had to do it. He told us we had to do it now before anything else got in our way. He said that it’s the only time in our lives as a couple that we’ll ever feel so relaxed. And he was totally right. I’m so glad he convinced us to do this.

We spent the afternoon yesterday frolicking in the ways. Jesus, I forgot how salty the water was! It totally rocks your palate and makes your eyes burn when you’re not used to it. Shockingly, the beaches here in Cancun are much more enjoyable than they were in Hawaii. There were a lot more rocks and roughness in Waikiki. And they didn’t have comfy chaise loungers to dry off on either. We like the beaches of Cancun much better than we liked those of Waikiki.

waves!

wave jumping

splashing fun

Afterwards, we dried off in the sunshine and pounded a bunch of drinks by the pool. D was especially impressed with watching a number of pelicans swooping overhead and diving into the sea. D is still trying to find his favourite drink. We asked one of the servers for Rye ‘n’ Ginger, our favourite drink, and we got a look of total confusion. Apparently they don’t have rye around these parts, just lots and lots of bourbon. So we’ve resorted to drinking Mai Tais, Tequila Sunrises, and Mojitos. We’ll pound the occasional beer too, but it just doesn’t feel as special as ordering actual cocktails.

dos mojitos

catching some sun

watching birds

We had a delicious dinner last night at La Piazza, the Italian restaurant at our resort. D got stuffed ravioli in spinach sauce and I had a chicken breast stuffed with prosciutto. It was crazy good. We had drinks, we ate, we talked, and overall had ourselves a wonderful time.

raviolis

chicken!

 

The food here has been pretty great for the most part. There are 5 a la carte restaurants, a huge international buffet, a couple different snack bars, and a yummy little Japanese place for lunch. Some of the stuff we’ve eaten has been a little bit out there, like fried plantains, but it’s fun to experiment. And then when you’re just feeling like you want something comfy and familiar, you head down to the snack bar and ask the server for “a couple of chicken wings, please” and this is what you get:

wings

So now we know that “a couple of wings” means two pounds of ’em.

We then decided to head to the pub to shoot some pool and chug back some more drinks. It was fun! D and I went to play pool on our very first date together, so it felt a little bit nostalgic as well. The tables aren’t in the greatest shape and the cues are all warped, but we made it work. D kicked my ass, he always does. If you’re looking for a good game, call D sometime, he’ll keep you on your toes.

shooting sticks

It’s been a blast. So thank you, Uncle Tom for being so insistent that we do this. I honestly don’t know why we didn’t want to. I guess we just had our heads in our asses for a minute there. But we’re thinking straight again now.

 

 

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.