Books I Read: 2019

The reading adventures continue!

Although, there were fewer adventures this year. I did not cover nearly as much ground as I did in 2018. This past year I read a modest 24 books in total. I had every intention of keeping up the pace of the year prior, but I think I may have been feeling a bit burnt out. I intended to focus my 2019 on reading all of Paste Magazine’s 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time. I’d already read a few of the books from this list in the past, basically all of the Stephen King and Joe Hill stuff, and I read another 15 from this list at the end of 2018 as well. I think going into 2019 I had about 25 books on this list still to tackle. And some of them I just felt like I probably wouldn’t read because they were harder to find through the library and online. Some of them just by cursory review of the subject matter alone I felt might be better left unread, you know, for personal preference and psychological preservation.

I sort of meandered this year, and only wound up reading 7 of the books from the horror list. When I found out I was pregnant the first time, back in the spring, I obviously lost steam because I started reading What to Expect When You’re Expecting and spent more of my time researching all kinds of pregnancy shit. So, to be fair, that was a pretty reasonable disconnect from the goal. Then there was a whole flurry of activity around selling our place and moving, so I simply did not have the time to dedicate to reading. There was a brief lull in the summer between the condo sale and the move in June and July when I got to indulge a bit more. At that point I didn’t want to be bound by a required list and instead preferred to read whatever caught my eye at the library.

Anyways, here it is. Here’s the list of all 24 books I read in 2019:

  1. Vox — Christina Dalcher (January 6th)
  2. Ring — Koji Suzuki (January 13th)
  3. Night Things — Michael Talbot (February 13th)
  4. A Head Full of Ghosts — Paul Tremblay (February 19th)
  5. At the Mountains of Madness — H.P. Lovecraft (February 24th)
  6. Educated — Tara Westover (February 27th)
  7. Sleeping Beauties — Stephen King & Owen King (March 17th)
  8. An Object of Beauty — Steve Martin (March 24th)
  9. Food: A Love Story — Jim Gaffigan (March 26th)
  10. Dad is Fat — Jim Gaffigan (March 30th)
  11. Revival — Stephen King (April 8th)
  12. Supermarket — Bobby Hall (June 7th)
  13. Disappearance at Devil’s Rock — Paul Tremblay (June 14th)
  14. The Sisters Brothers — Patrick deWitt (June 20th)
  15. Let the Right One In — John Ajvide Lindqvist
  16. Final Girls — Riley Sager (July 5th)
  17. Alice Isn’t Dead — Joseph Fink (July 9th)
  18. Tell the Machine Goodnight — Katie Williams (July 24th)
  19. The Hiding Place — C.J. Tudor (July 31st)
  20. Rabbit Cake — Annie Hartnett (August 5th)
  21. Where the Crawdads Sing — Delia Owens (August 28th)
  22. The Outsider — Stephen King (September 10th)
  23. Little Star — John Ajvide Lindqvist (September 26th)
  24. The Exorcist — William Peter Blatty (October 4th)

I’m still very much obsessed with fiction, reading anything with the slightest hint of action, adventure, and intrigue. I’ve never been one for non-fiction. I get enough real life in my real life. When I read I want to be transported somewhere I’ve never been, live vicariously through someone else’s exploits. I want things to be outrageous and zany, intense and thrilling! I need strong, complex characters overcoming challenges and triumphing over evil. I think I got a fair amount of that this year. But I did have a few uncharacteristic real life detours, with the Tara Westover memoir and the two Jim Gaffigan books.

I enjoyed everything I read this year too, there weren’t any major disappointments. The Bobby Hall novel Supermarket was bizarre, but I liked it. The Steve Martin book, An Object of Beauty was alright. I don’t think I’d recommend it, but I didn’t hate it. If you’re wondering, yes it was written by that Steve Martin, the one we all know and love from SNL, Father of the Bride, and other comedy favourites. Vox was fantastic, it was hard to put down. Night Things was a read from the horror list that I actually liked way more than I thought I would. It had horribly cheesy cover art that wasn’t encouraging, but it wound up being a fun read. Reminded me of those quirky books I was always drawn to in the 6th grade like “My Teacher’s an Alien!” because they featured such outlandish cover art.

Stephen King naturally makes a few appearances as well. It wouldn’t be a reading list without him. The Outsider was awesome, I liked it a lot. Looking forward to watching the series when it starts airing. I think Jason Bateman is a great casting choice for this story.

My reading came to another long pause towards the end of the year. I started reading a book called Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky which started strong and then just couldn’t hold my interest. I finally picked it up again with the intention of seriously finishing it at the end of December, but that one has slipped on through to the 2020 list.

Of this list, here are my Top 5 Picks for Best Reads of the Year:

    1. Rabbit Cake — Annie Hartnett
      This book caught my eye because it was bright yellow and had an illustration of a cute rabbit on the cover. I immediately sensed that it was going to be unique and quirky. It did not disappoint. The main character is a little girl named Elvis who is very matter-of-fact and scientific in her approach to processing all of the grief and fallout in her family after her mother dies. It showed how people grieve differently, but through a hilarious lens. I needed this book. It was exactly what I needed to read after my miscarriage. Every word went right into my soul and I was so grateful it called out to me from that dusty library shelf. You can judge a book by the cover!
    2. Educated — Tara Westover
      I mentioned I don’t often read non-fiction, right? This book was actually gifted to me by a co-worker in a Secret Santa exchange. It’s not something I would have chosen for myself, but I am so glad I read it. It blew me away! This is a truly amazing story of a real life person who overcame insurmountable odds to get a formal education, something most people take for granted. School is just something we’re all accustomed to as a part of life from a very young age and I don’t know if many of us would have the same wherewithal to pursue an education if it wasn’t something we were forced to do. Tara Westover is an impressive and inspiring person and I’m so thankful she shared her story with the world.
    3. The Sisters Brothers — Patrick deWitt
      All the laughs! I loved this book so much because it was witty and wry. Much like Inherent Vice, there were multiple times I laughed out loud while reading. A good old fashioned cowboy romp with humour. Great characters, great story. The brothers were so real to me, I felt like I was on the trek with them. I could practically smell the cracked leather, dusty trails, and stinky boots as I read. Maybe that was just me though, who knows? I loved this book from the very first sentence through to the last.
    4. Tell The Machine Goodnight — Katie Williams
      Imagine someone ran a simple diagnostic test on you that resulted in clear directives you could follow to be happy. They could be easy enough to do, like go to yoga. Or they could be utterly absurd, like cut off your pinky finger. Would you do it? What wouldn’t you do to be happy? The premise was really intriguing and I enjoyed reading this story. It did feel like it could have unfolded in a more satisfying way, but overall the characters kept me interested.
    5. Alice Isn’t Dead — Joseph Fink
      Right from the start this book wasn’t fucking around. You’re thrust into a bizarre scenario in the first chapter and it just keeps getting weirder and wilder as you read. You feel compelled to uncover the conspiracy alongside Keisha. This book is actually the novelization of a podcast. I think that’s what made it so interesting. You’re reading a book, yes, but it reads differently. There are moments of fast-paced action, but also long stretches of inner turmoil while Keisha is on the road that make you feel like you’re on the same endless road trip. I still don’t even know if I fully understand how everything connected in the end, but it was an entertaining ride no doubt.

Even though my output wasn’t as prolific as last year, I’m amazed I managed this many reads at all, given what an absolutely insane year it’s been. As appealing as it can be to escape reality, sometimes you just have to face it head on instead. I might seek out adventures and epic struggles in my reading, but I realize that my life isn’t entirely devoid of its own adventures and epic struggles. It might not be to quite the same extent, but there are challenges to rise to, little evils to overcome, zany pals to provide amusement and support along the way. I have all the makings of a great story right here in front of me. Wherever my story may take me, I’m ready for it. Armed first and foremost with a good book to help me get by.

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!

Turn and face the strange…

We’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of major life changes this year. I look at my life back when 2019 started and don’t even recognize it anymore. We went to a New Year’s Eve bash with friends and had the best time. I burst through the front door of my beautiful condo in the city, with loud post-party rambunctious energy at 4am feeling on top of the world. You know that feeling when the new year is only 4 hours old and stretches ahead with endless possibility? That’s how I felt. I was happy and appreciative for all of the good things in my life: a wonderful marriage, fabulous career, lovely friends and family, and my special little kitten prince to dote on. I loved everything I worked so hard to make happen for myself with boundless ferocity. I knew that this was exactly what I wanted. I was where I wanted to be and everything was perfect. If I could freeze that day in time and live it in perpetuity, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, that’d be just dandy.

But life doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to freeze it in one spot. You have to keep moving, keep growing and aging and changing as time passes alongside you. So we took a trip.

We went to Chicago at the end of January to celebrate our anniversary. Yes, that’s right. Chicago. The windy city. The windiest city some might say. The coldest, windiest city possible in the middle of winter.

It was so much fun! We explored the city Ferris Bueller style, with carefree abandon and precocious ardour. I’ve always felt that my relationship with D has a very Ferris and Cameron dynamic, so it was the perfect trip for us. The Ferris in me always pushing the Cameron in D to forget about responsibility and just have fun. To go on zany offbeat capers and see where they take us. To consume as many memorable life experiences as possible, sampling everything at the buffet. The Cameron in D fussing and worrying, reminding me to think things through first and plan ahead.

I said “Chicago!”

He said “I’ll take care of it.”

And he did. Booked our flights, found the hotel, did the paperwork, found someone to watch Harv while we were away. I plotted our caper. Teamwork!

We had lots of time together on that trip to talk and plan and think about where our life together was heading. But in the spirit of Ferris Buellering, it was only light, tentative conversation.

A couple months later, in March, we went to dinner. We went to one of my favourite Toronto spots, the Lakeview. There we had a more serious conversation. There we decided next steps. There we decided to start a new journey.

A few weeks later in April, I was pregnant. I told D on April Fools’ Day and I wasn’t fooling. We were so excited, but also in disbelief too. That took hardly any effort at all. I told D that from what I’ve heard it can be a bit of a grind and might not happen right away. But he felt differently. For the first time ever he wasn’t overly concerned with planning and worry because he felt absolutely certain we’d have no trouble at all. It seemed the universe agreed with him because all of a sudden we were expecting.

So now I panic.

We need a bigger place! We can’t have a baby in a one bedroom condo, there’s no space!

We call our realtor, talk about what we’re going to do. Should we list our place? Should we move out of the city? The weight of this decision bearing down heavily on my heart. I love my city, I love my home, I don’t want to leave. But, we need to and ultimately I understand that it’s the best thing for our growing family.

So we get the ball rolling when I’m a bit farther along, to be safe. We make plans to have the condo staged at the end of May and listed at the very start of June.

The day we’re all scheduled to stage the condo, literally five minutes before the stagers are scheduled to show up, I start bleeding. Upset I call a cab to get to the ER. D can’t come with me, the stagers will be here any minute. He kisses me on my way out the door and tells me not to worry, it’ll be okay.

I’m at the ER for 7 hours. Multiple ultrasounds and tests. Crying and worrying and waiting all alone, silently begging my little baby to hang on, stay with me.  I see baby moving on the monitor, I feel a bit better, but still upset. I leave the hospital with a live pregnancy.

I come home to a completely unrecognizable home. All of our furniture gone. New trendy staging furniture in it’s place. I’m not sure where to go or what to do. It doesn’t feel like my home. I break down and cry to D and he comforts me. He orders pizza, that’s the right thing to do any time. Pizza is home. We go to bed physically exhausted, emotionally drained.

1:30am. I wake up in excruciating pain. I’m bleeding again and I know that this is it. This is the inevitable miscarriage, I’m losing my baby. 12 weeks in already, baby the size of a plum according to an app I’d been using. So close to the second trimester. So close to telling our family and friends…

Devastated doesn’t even begin to express what I felt.

And there isn’t even time to really think about it at all. The condo is listed and we have 65 viewings over the next 6 days. We’re constantly getting new requests for viewings, having to get out of the unit, get Harv out of the unit. One day we had 13 straight hours of viewings in a row. There was no time to think, let alone grieve.

Then on Monday night we’re taking offers. I’m freaking the fuck out. I can’t believe we’re selling our place, the beautiful condo I’ve loved living in, my home. And for what? No baby, not any more. What if I can’t have a baby? What if we’re selling this place for no reason? Toronto will always be a valuable market. Let’s pull the plug, accept nothing, stay here forever just us and Harv. We don’t have to move, we don’t have to leave. It can just be us and the city and we’ll be happy, we can be happy. D is upset, we’ve gone to all this trouble. It’ll be okay if he can just calm me down and get this process dealt with. He talks me off the ledge temporarily, we accept an offer. We’ve sold it, we’re moving, the ink is dry.

I’m supposed to be excited about this, but I’m not. I just feel panicked because now we’re homeless. Now we need to find a new place to live IMMEDIATELY because I’m freaking the fuck out again. People say stupid, unhelpful things like “you can just rent a place if you don’t find something else before closing.” NO. That is unacceptable. I will not let my entire life slide into house hunting limbo for who knows how long.

We forge ahead and start looking. I’m very aggressively looking at every new listing our realtor sends. D has to go away for work for a week, that’s precious house hunting time lost and I cannot have that. I spend the week that he’s away being sad by myself but also looking for houses. I get on a train out of the city and go to some open houses on my own. I find something interesting that hasn’t been in our listings.

A free-hold townhouse. We’ve been looking at detached homes, but this could work. I call D that night and tell him I think I found something special. There are actually two townhouses side by side for sale on the same court. We setup an appointment to go see both together with the realtor when he’s back in the city. D doesn’t like the idea of a townhouse, he’s not into it. We go into the first one, the one I already saw and D’s interest is piqued. He admits this is a special place. It’s not perfect, but he can see why I liked it enough to come back. We go next door to see the other one, the one I haven’t seen in person yet. The moment we walk through the door, D’s opinion has changed. He’s seeing through new eyes. He’s seeing something special. Character. Charm. Our home.

We make and offer, a little back and forth negotiation and the deal is done. We bought a house!

The two months before our closing date on the condo, our big move stretches out endlessly before me. These are my last months to enjoy living in Toronto. But I don’t enjoy it. All of the grief and sadness I’ve been putting off dealing with come crashing back down around me. I’m recovering from the miscarriage, letting my body reset, but I’m dying on the inside every single day and putting on a brave face to the outside world. Smiling when I see my friends. Telling them I’m excited about the sale and the move. Acting like I haven’t lost the most important thing I ever had. Acting like idiotic comments from clueless family members about how our niece who arrived earlier this year needs a cousin don’t stab me right in the soul. Suffering internally, but forcing myself to keep shining externally.

I didn’t even try to have a last hurrah in the city before we moved. I just buried myself in prep for the move and kept pushing ahead. We moved, that’s that, no looking back.

And for the first little while that was fine, there was lots to do at the new house, lots to get done. We spent some time figuring out life in the ‘burbs and adjusted.

D didn’t feel the loss the same way I did. He was upset too, but not nearly to the same extent. He didn’t get to see the tiny budding life on the hospital monitor that I did. He didn’t see the heart still beating and feel an impossible surge of hope. A part of his body, of his very being wasn’t suddenly ripped away too soon. He was very supportive though and comforted me as much as he could. He stayed optimistic, he knew loss was part of the process and he wanted to try again. I didn’t know if I could, I didn’t know if I was ready. But I knew it would be okay if we didn’t force it; if we just did that thing people do when the mood is right and let biology decide.

A warm sunny day in September there was a curious feeling in the back of my brain. I went and got the pregnancy test I had stowed away. I didn’t even have to look, I just knew. It was the same feeling as the first time, it would be a positive result.

I was happy, but I didn’t let myself get too happy. Now I knew how easily this could all be taken away and how much it would hurt if it was. As the weeks moved forward without any issues I started to accept it. This one was happening, this one would make it. The closer we got to the second trimester, the more I believed. Finally we got to the point where we could tell people and everyone is so happy for us. My belly gets bigger every day, my appetite gets bigger every day, and my love gets bigger every day too.

It’s been a hell of a year. Looking back to January 2019, I was having the time of my life. Eating deep dish pizza in Chicago, feeling like that was the absolute best life would ever be. I had no idea it would be one of the most challenging and transformative years of my life to date.

Other noteworthy changes:

  1. I did Invisalign this year and am now rocking a wonderful new smile
  2. Hosted a baby shower for the first time ever for my sister – we had a crazy amount of food!
  3. Our beautiful niece Vanessa arrived in March making D and I Aunt and Uncle for the first time
  4. We bought a new car! We call him Lou, he’s super cool
  5. My mom’s dog B passed away in the summer, it’s still sad when we visit and she’s not there to greet us
  6. I took driving lessons, passed my G2 road test and now I’m driving the new car by myself – I’m an excellent driver btw
  7. I DIY’d a bunch of shit like a boss. Repainted some furniture and our fireplace too
  8. BFFs Hoben and Shan got married and we were both in the wedding party. Handcrafted many fine dick decorations for the bachelorette, my finest work to date some have even said
  9. Saw Modest Mouse and The Black Keys in the fall (it was baby’s first concert too!)
  10. Hosted our first ever family Thanksgiving dinner at the new house, D cooked the turkey perfectly

We’ve had a lot going on, and I think that’s okay. I don’t expect 2020 will be any less eventful with a new baby on the way. It’ll be another year of huge life changes, but I’m ready for it.

Turn and face the strange.

How to Turn 30

This is a story I’ve been wanting to tell for a while, but gosh darn it, I just haven’t had the time! But lucky for you, today I do. So pack your bags and hop in the time machine bitches, we’re headed back to April 2017 for this one. (I know it’s not that far of a flashback, so you can pack light, definitely won’t need your jammies, but maybe a light snack?)

Getting older, huh? That’s a thing, I guess. I’ve never felt old a day in my life. I’ve never fretted about age much. I’m not vain, I don’t give a shit about all that superficial wrinkles and bemoaning the loss of one’s youth, it’s not for me. Take care of yourself, sure. But you’re gunna get old and your tits are gunna hit the floor one day, that’s a fact. You can’t fight city hall, amiright?

I believe that life is a weird and wonderful gift from who knows where and it’s best to just take the biggest, most slobbery bite out of every day you get, because you never know when the buffet will close down for good. Chow down and drink up every last drop of life you’re served. That’s why I love the fucking SHIT out of my birthday. I’m just so happy to be here at all. Getting older means that you add on another year, but also that you’ve hopefully filed away a ton of amazing new memories from that past year to the story of you. And the year ahead is rife with limitless possibilities for more!

Thursday April 20, 2017:
I wake up, and I am officially 30 years old. No more fancy-free, footloose 20’s for me.

I took the day off of work because I wanted the whole day all to myself. So I could do whatever the hell I wanted and spend time thinking about the decade past and the decade ahead. Who have I become? Who will I become in another 10 years? What did I learn? What did I do that will forever make me smile and say, “Godammit, I knew how to live!”

It was kind of sad at first though because I went into it initially feeling disappointed with myself. I was upset about the loss of something very dear to me. Years ago I’d written a letter to myself, only to be opened on my 30th birthday. I thought I knew exactly where I stashed it, but apparently not. A few days prior to my birthday, I went to my assumed secure hiding spot and discovered my letter wasn’t there. I searched all over the place, practically tearing my hair out, so desperate to find that one direct link to a 20-year old me. I couldn’t remember a single word I’d written to myself and I wanted so badly to see that girl again, to see how hopeful she was and compare notes with the woman I am now. But it never did show up. One too many moves over the years I suppose, c’est la vie…

So that was a sucky thing, but only for a moment. I simply refuse to allow any disappointment big or small to hold me back, not today, not ever.

First thing on my agenda for a full day of birthday me time? To the spa of course! I booked myself an exorbitantly priced deluxe facial treatment at Pure and Simple. I love myself, so I’m going to treat myself like the queen that I am. And oh my sweet god in heaven, it was gooood! What was even better? Unbeknownst to me, D called a few days prior and paid for my spa day upfront because he is gentleman and a scholar. Thank you, darling for giving me the gift of flawless skin on my special day.

After the spa, I was looking good and feeling fresh. I snapped a no makeup selfie for instagram to commemorate this feeling. And so I could look back through the cobwebs in however many years and say “yeah, that was me and I loved that badass chick.”

I was feeling hella hungry afterwards, and I needed to refuel. I knew exactly what I wanted next:

Blueberry pancakes smothered in brown sugar butter served with a side of butcher’s crack bacon. Oh honey, yaaasssss! Got this stack of hotcakes at a cool ass diner called Old School at Dundas and Palmerston Ave. I walked in, it was pretty chill for a Thursday mid-morning, and grabbed a seat. There was a super adorable punky couple at the table beside me and I overheard the dude tell the server it was his 23rd birthday. Yay, I love meeting a fellow 4/20 birthday twin! I went “Holy shit dude, me too! Happy frigging birthday man!” And he was so jazzed about it. We birthday high-fived and then his girl paid the check and they went their merry way. It was a good omen.

Oh right, back to the pancakes. They were unreal! Literally the only thing I thought about for a month straight afterwards. And I’ll tell you this people, I ate every single bite in that skillet. Hell, I almost licked that skillet clean but then reminded myself that I’m 30 now, so I should control myself from doing desperate shit like that, at least when I’m in public anyways.

As I was about ready to settle the bill, my server came up to the table and handed me a GIANT COOKIE! My pal The Magpie had called the diner up because she knew I was there and bought me a birthday cookie as a post-breakfast treat. At that point, I honestly starting feeling like a real baller. Everywhere I went people were like “oh, blah blah paid your bill, or bought you stuff.” It was fucking fantastic.

I didn’t know if I was going to be able to walk after that, but walk I did. I strolled around the city and found myself at TOT Cat Cafe near College and Spadina. I wasn’t hungry at all, so I just donated $10.00 to the cafe to play with the cats.

I was at the Cat Cafe for almost two hours! Usually when I go in there with D he’s all “yeah great, they’re so cute but I don’t want to be here all day” and then herds me out after like twenty minutes. Not today though! Not on my birthday. I took my time playing with, petting, and fawning all over every special little kitty in there. They were all so frigging cute.

I wanted to stay there all day, but two hours seemed like it was plenty. I brushed all the fur off my shirt and headed out. I went to Kensington Market after that, and I took my sweet ass time. Walking around, checking out the shops, enjoying the day. I tried on some hats and wondered if I should start becoming a brooch person now that I’m 30. I could be dripping in brooches and elegance!

Ultimately, I decided I’m still to young for that, but maybe for 40?

I started thinking about 40 a lot on the walk home. How far away it was, how I had a brand new decade ahead of me to do whatever I wanted with. I got home and then I brewed myself a spot o tea. Inspiration was flowing and dreams were percolating so I sat down and I started writing a new letter. Even though I really wanted my letter for 30 to reference, it was okay without it. I wrote out all the stuff I hoped and dreamed that a 40-year old Smash would do and be proud of when she looked back.

I hid it in a spot that I absolutely 100% will not lose track of it. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

It was pretty much workday done by the time I finished, then D got home and we ordered an absurd amount of Chinese food. We feasted and I told him all about my day. Then I told him it’s not even close to over yet because we are going out partying and we’re gunna burn the motherfucking house down! He was more than agreeable.

We hopped in a cab and barreled our way towards fun at one of my all-time favourite places, The Office Pub, for Thursday night Karaoke madness. Two of my most cherished pals, The Magpie and DJ Gibbs met us there with their pipes all warmed up and ready to sing. It was the best night, we went apeshit on the mic and on the d-floor. I loved every second of it and I don’t ever want to forget that night.

We closed the place down that night, singing and dancing until the lights came on. Then we hugged the karaoke host because he was the coolest guy on the planet and told him how thankful we were for his service that night. He did a hell of a job allowing us to make merry all over the place.

We worked up a real drunk and crazy appetite and went to get some burgers at the A&W down the street. My face hurt from laughing so much. The Magpie, D, and DJ Gibbs were at an all-time hilarity peak and they were killing me with their jokes and zaniness!

I put that A&W bag on my head and it was game over. This might be one of my most favourite pictures of all time because it STILL makes me laugh to the point of tears when I see it.

D and I hopped in a cab and I smiled the whole way home. I’ve been blessed by the love of so many wonderful friends. The Magpie and DJ Gibbs are two very special people and I appreciate the hell of them for making April 20th, 2017 one of the highest highs of my life so far.

Harv greeted us at the door when we got home and shared some special birthday kitty kisses with me.

I love D and Harv so much. This is our family and we’ve got our own amazing thing going on. I don’t know how the fuck I lucked out so much, but I’m thankful for the both of them every single day. They make my heart whole.

The birthday fun didn’t stop that night either, that was just the day of! D threw me a huge surprise partaaaay on the Saturday night that followed and it was a killer time too. But that’s a whole other story in itself…

So there you have it, folks. I turned 30, and that’s how I did it. I took the fucking bull by the horns and made 30 my bitch. I very much recommend that everyone else does the same. For any birthday, any age! Love your birthday, embrace it, be thankful when the universe bestows a birthday upon you because you never know how many it will give. And you need to make the most of every single one.

Every day is an opportunity to live the life you want to live.

Dear Ashley

I’m hoping that this might help you, girl. Because you need something, and I know it has to come from within. I’m the only one who can give you exactly what’s needed in this moment of complete, abject shittiness.

This is your heart speaking, so stop what you’re doing and listen up.

Writing always helps, you know that it does. There’s that immediate release, that catharsis, sure. That’s very important right now. You have to work through all of the feelings, unpack all the shit you’ve crammed into convenient little boxes and stowed out of sight just so you could get through the days. Rip them all open, tear through them, look and see what’s inside and figure out what stays and what goes. You can’t keep it all, it’s too huge a burden. You’re going to have to let some of it go and eventually make room for new stuff. Then you can reflect, conclude, understand, decide. It might still feel murky for a while, but I know you, and I know you’ll want to write so you can document the journey and so you can reflect on it properly later on.

Looking back is painful, but ultimately, insightful. It’s how you’ll grow, how you’ll persevere.

I know you’re tired. You’ve been through a lot. You’re still going through a lot and you’re not used to drastic highs and crushing lows being the norm. The very mention of perseverance made you tremble. You hate change, you hate it so much. Especially when you have no control over it, can’t stop it or slow it down. Transitioning is hard for you because you get so attached to the way things were. Goodbyes are gut-wrenching, getting over it sucks. Old photos might make you smile at times, but also stir up indescribable sadness. Aching for something that once was and never will be again. It’s a strange masochistic thing you do to yourself, remembering things too vividly, too fondly. Unable to appreciate what’s present and what’s now, until before you know it that’s gone and slipped through your fingers too.

Where does that leave us?

You’re tired and sad. You feel abandoned and rejected. Everything within is in a state of constant conflict. You can’t shut off the negativity and doubt. Some days you do feel a small, hopeful flicker of optimism; even if it hasn’t lasted at least it’s there. And that’s why now is the ideal time for me to intervene, before we hit the point of no return.

I need you to hear these things, really. Not with your ears, with your soul. Take what I’m about to tell you and absorb it wholly into your being.

  1. First and foremost, you are a goddamn Warrior Queen. Capital W, capital Q.
    You came out swinging! From within the womb you faced down your own highly probable death and conquered it. You wanted to live, you wanted to be here, you fought for it right from the start. Always remember that. That fight and that mettle exists at the very core of your being and you will always have it whenever you need it to overcome the impossible. Your heart and your spirit are indomitable.
  2. You have impeccable instincts, I mean really, are you ever wrong?
    Not about the stuff that matters. Not about people and trust. You can size someone up and know right away what their deal is. How many times have you said “there’s something off about blah blah” only to be proven exactly 100% right. You can see through all the garbage with your laser sharp, highly focused senses and put those bullshitters on the no fly list where they belong.
  3. Honesty is the only policy.
    You’ve never been one to dabble in lies, deceptions, or manipulations. Why start now? We ain’t got no time for that. It’s stupid futility going down that path. Maybe it works for some people, but not us. We can never go wrong with our upfront, straight-shooter approach to life. To truly live life to the fullest is to embrace complete and utter honesty with oneself and the people you care about.
  4. You’ve come a long way, and you’ll continue to go a long way.
    A “complete” person doesn’t exist. If you think you’re a “completed” person with nothing else to learn, achieve, or contribute then you’re either dull and uninspiring or pathetic and sad. All four, you’re all four of those things if you think you’re done as a human being, fully cooked and ready to serve. Growing, evolving, maturing, and expanding are so very important. Everything that happens in life is an opportunity to improve. Those who see that too and know it in their souls are your kind of people. That’s who you want to be surrounded by, people who care to improve and evolve themselves.
  5. Trust the universe, it’s always looking out for you.
    You’re not used to topsy-turvy emotions or indecision. You know your own mind. You’ve always known exactly what you want, you just have to stay tuned in to the funky disco jams of the universe telling you where the party at. Everything unfolds as it should, everything falls into place as it should. You can’t force it, you just know when it feels right. Keep your ears open, the universe is singing. It might be some busted broken somebody done somebody wrong jive that you’re not digging now but it’ll change the tune eventually. Just be ready to dance when it does.
  6. You’re not alone
    This is the most important one. I know you come from a long line of people who internalize their feelings. People who minimize and shun emotional overtures and misconstrue the viselike grip of control they have on their emotions as strength. But you know that isn’t the right way for you. Suppressing your feelings does not equal strength. Having the balls to feel what you feel, good or bad, right down into the marrow of your bones is strength. The people who get that and provide you unencumbered space to feel are the ones worth a damn in this life. You don’t trust easily, and you don’t just give your heart away. The people you’ve chosen to share your heart and soul with, the people who have withstood disastrous lows and enjoyed dazzling highs with you, are always going to be there. Do not give old wounds the power to stop you from making meaningful connections and sharing your heart again.

Please remember these things. Please, please. They are very important.

I don’t know how we’re going to sort this out in the end. There are no guarantees in life, but I do know that I am still and will always be your one true constant. When you feel lonely and the aching starts to get unbearable, I’m still here. I’m still beating, still pumping, moving you along. We’re gunna dance this mess around together, like we always do.

Snowy Day Memories

It was quiet this morning when I woke up. And calm, very calm. I could feel Harvey’s warm little body at the end of the bed, nestled against my legs. He loves sleeping in as much as I do. I stretched and opened my eyes. The daylight peeking through the blinds hinted at another drab winter day. Time to rise, no shine permitted today though.

I was very pleasantly surprised by what I saw when I stepped into the living room. Huge, incredibly fluffy snowflakes were swirling and twirling all around outside. The roads and rooftops had all been blanketed in crisp white snow. Watching it fall, fluttering to the ground in fat sticky flakes made me feel like I was inside a snow globe. It was beautiful, and about damn time.

snowy days

Our winter hasn’t been very magical at all this year. It’s been downright depressing actually. We’ve had barren, snowless grey days and bizarre temperature spikes, where it feels practically balmy one day then aggressively cold the next. We’ve had more rain than snow, and it’s been a bloody nuisance. I’d take snow over rain any day. It makes me so happy seeing actual snow, falling with purpose, taking off its coat to stay a while. My heart rejoiced watching the snow fall, unrelentingly, all morning long. There it is, there’s the winter I know and love. Winter is all about snow. I love the feeling of snow falling down all around me. Snowflakes sticking to my hair and coat. Tromping through the snow in thick clunky boots. Mischievously balling it up to toss at someone unsuspecting.

I remember winter stretching out forever when I was a kid. Long endlessly sunny and snowy days out in the burbs, my sisters and I laughing and playing with our neighbourhood friends. Building snow forts, making snow angels, having snowball fights, sledding down huge mountains of plowed snow in the library parking lot. Racing down the snow banks on our Krazy Karpets with reckless abandon. Being told to come in for a hot lunch, soup and grilled cheese, to warm us up. We’d come home, blasting through the front door like a pack of wild dogs, hungry and hyper from our morning adventures. Peeling ourselves out of our snowsuits, so impatient to be free of them. Boots, hats, mittens, socks, and scarves cast off and flung all over the foyer, Mom rounding up all those winter necessities and dispersing them throughout the house to dry over heating vents and radiators.

We’d scarf lunch down like we hadn’t eaten in days, recouping all the energy burned that morning. Stockpiling more energy, fuelling up, eager to get back outside again for more snowy fun. My imagination already a hundred miles ahead of itself, dreaming up an outlandish afternoon caper. That’s all you needed back then to be happy, a fresh snowfall, some pals, and your imagination.

I have fond memories of super special winter days when my dad would take us skating. He’d shovel off a sizeable patch of pond, over at the golf course, where nobody would bother us. My sisters and I had the whole pond to ourselves, around and around we’d go, skating until our legs were jelly. Skating until the sun started setting. Begging our dad for just five more minutes, please!

I remember a whole day spent sledding with my family, mom and dad, my sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins. Everyone was there. Again over at the golf course, at the back, off of the 16th or 17th hole I think. Where the snow was freshly fallen, completely untouched, not a track or footprint in it. Where nobody else would be, our secret sledding place. The hill was steep, so enormously steep. It was a long ride down and a difficult climb back up. Dad and the uncles would pull us kids back up the hill on the sleds when we whined about having to climb it, only to launch us back down it again once we reached the top. I watched with shock as my older sister went whizzing down the hill at an incredible speed, narrowly missing the trunk of a massive pine tree. A close call if ever there was one. I remember tripping up the hill, falling face first into it, getting the neckline of my coat full of snow. Being dusted off by my mom and sent back on my way. We all went back to my Oma and Opa’s house afterwards, to warm up by the wood stove and sip hot chocolate.

We still talk about that day at family get togethers. That perfect winter day following an enormous overnight snowfall. The sun was out and the air was crisp. The day primed for adventure. Everyones hearts overflowing with laughter and joy.

That’s the winter I know and love best, snowy and enchanting. Inviting endless possibility and glee, promising lots of lovely memories. I hope today that some lucky little kids got to have a day of perfect winter fun with their siblings and friends, like I got to plenty of times growing up.

That Night in Toronto…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then all of a sudden it was time.

5 minutes

This night will live in my heart forever.

the hip show

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

audience

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

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

Gordie

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

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

Gordie

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

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

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

Best concert ever. Period.

The Hip

I’ll never forget that night in Toronto.

Your Son is Wonderful, Mrs. Hoben

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

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

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

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

the step

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

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

You’re the best Hobs, we love you.

piece of the deck

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

Insta-Obsessed!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s be Insta-obsessed together!

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

flowery phone case

Everlong

It’s our first wedding anniversary today.

I walked down the aisle to this song:

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

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

Ashley and Darren (214)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ashley and Darren (502)

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

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.