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

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The Edible Smash

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

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

roasted red peppers

Featuring my lovely new Sophie Conran for Portmeirion roasting dish.

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

the blender

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

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

red pepper pasta

Served in my immaculate Gordon Ramsay pasta dishes

2. Asian Chicken Noodle Soup

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

chicken noodles

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

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

3. Southwestern Beef Stew Chilli

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

chilli stew

There’s that magnificent Gordon Ramsay dish again.

4. Homestyle Chicken Pot Pie

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

chicken pot pies

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

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

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

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

5. Ooey Gooey Cheesy Pizza!

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

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

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

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

6. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

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

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

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

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

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

Hitting The Open Road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

laughing with my hubby

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

 

Honeymoon in Cancun!

 

After our whirlwind of a wedding, we have finally arrived at the perfect place to settle down and get the relaxation we need. We’re here in sunny Cancun, it’s 28 degrees Celsius and I just spent the morning frolicking on the beach with my handsome husband. Life is good.

We were so exhausted after the wedding! The dancing, the smiling, the talking, the glo-sticking, and cavorting with all the people we love really took its toll. Sunday was a hung over blur of getting our shit together so we could take off for the honeymoon. We had to get up at 3:30am and hustle through packing to get to the airport in time for our 7am flight. We were nervous that we weren’t even going to get off the ground because of the blizzard that started the night before.

We sat on the plane for an hour and a half before take-off because of the efforts to de-ice the plane. D was tense. I knew he just wanted to get going and be sure that we’d make it to the resort in one piece. We didn’t start feeling like we were truly on our way until the plane roared into the sky.

When we got here, we still had some time before check-in so we popped into the lounge, grabbed the wristbands and left our bags with the concierge. We went to a bar and had ourselves some beers. Weren’t really planning on it, but I started ordering us rounds and they just kept on coming. Who can refuse an ice-cold Corona at 1 o’clock when there’s sun and laughter all around you? Certainly not us.

Check-in was kinda funny. We were standing in line and this lady rushed up to us, noticing our purple wristbands. “You come to this line and we’ll take care of you right away, you’re especial!” Ooo, we liked the sound of that. They rolled out the red carpet and basically explained that we’re superstar baller VIPs while we stay here. And it’s so fucking awesome, you guys, totally worth the extra bit of cash we shelled out.

When we finally did get up to our room, we were stunned. It’s pretty fucking sweet. We’re VIPs, man! Since we’re here as honeymooners we’re treated like a king and queen. We have a huge room with an amazing view of the ocean, and it’s got an enormous jacuzzi tub for naked sexy bubble times. I don’t know if we’ll ever come home.

our room

You all know that I have a little travelling tradition of my own… As soon as I check in to my room, the first thing I do is snap a picture of myself jumping on the bed.

jumping

But now it’s even more fun because I have someone special to jump alongside with me!

 

 

jumping together

I’ve never seen D relaxed, ever. I’ve seen him lounge around in his sweatpants, but that’s usually only when he’s hung over so it doesn’t really count. Last night, I was completely stunned to see a totally unwound D for the first time ever. We had loads of fun in Hawaii, but we didn’t really relax. We had adventures. Here, everything is all laid out for us. It’s all-inclusive and we don’t have to worry about a thing. D seems to like that just fine. We ate a hearty dinner, had some drinks in the VIP lounge, and spent time together. And he was totally content. Not a word I would typically use to describe D, he’s always on the go and wanting to “get shit done”. This is a first for him, I think. And it makes me so happy that we’re off to such a fantastic start.

relaxin' D

 

We’re gunna grab a few more drinks, catch some more rays, and keep reverberating happiness together. Cancun rules!

on the beach

Especially when you’re a superstar baller VIP like us.

 

Harvey’s Birthday

Harvey is my special little guy. Coming home to him is always the best part of my day. I get home and no matter what time it is, he races to the door to greet me. He weaves his chubby little body impatiently between my legs, oftentimes tripping me inadvertently as I try to get through the front door and kick off my shoes, because he just can’t wait one damn second for my loving attention. He demands that I crouch down and lower my face to his so he can “kiss” me hello by rubbing his nose up against mine. It’s our routine, it happens every night without fail.

D graciously lets Harv have the first round of kisses and affection every night when I get home. He knows how much I cherish those fleeting lovey dovey Harvey moments, because they don’t last long. Soon after he’s gotten his nightly greeting, he’s all rambunctious and hyper, practically bouncing off the walls. And once he switches to play mode you can’t get anywhere near him without being swatted in the face. Harv gives love on his own terms, and you take what you can get without any ifs or buts about it. So D steps aside, selflessly, and lets Harv get what he wants of my affection first. He’s amazing like that.

It’s been like this for three wonderful years now. Today is Harvey’s third birthday. I can’t even believe how fast the time goes. It feels like it was only yesterday that we brought him into our home and opened our hearts to him. It’s the best thing we’ve ever done, adopting him. Pets bring a special kind of happiness into our lives, a happiness that I can’t live without. The first year that D and I lived together we had no pet. It was sad, for me. I didn’t really realize what was missing at first, but I knew that something was wrong with our situation. Something was off, I felt sad often but nothing was really the matter with me.

Sometimes, we’d be sitting there at night, just watching T.V., and I’d suddenly feel an overwhelming ache. A gaping hole in my heart and the pain of it, so suddenly unbearable, I couldn’t make sense of. And then one day it dawned on me. I needed a pet. I needed something furry to love. There was always a cat or two roaming around in the house I grew up in. Fuzzy friends to play with and adore. I missed that. I missed the soft sound of kibbles being crunched in the next room over. I missed that pins and needles feeling felt in my legs while reading and cuddling a cat in my lap for hours on end. I even missed the constant assault of fur upon my clothing. I’d gladly spend a fortune on lint rollers for the love of a good pet.

So we made my universe right again when we adopted Harv. Because he means so much to me, and because I might be a touch mental, I spoiled Harv a bit for his birthday this year. He’s my special little guy and I dote on him so.

First up on the kitty birthday docket, a bath. We plunked him into the tub and scrubbed him up real good. He smells like a goddamned springtime bouquet now.

Next, an extravagance. A brand new kitty palace for my darling prince.

new kitty palace

harv's new digs

new toy fun

D thought I was being excessive. Harv already has a carpeted platform that he loves to play on and sleep in. But it’s not enough. Nothing will ever be enough for my precious Harvey. So more carpeted cat palaces it is! I’ll fill the whole frigging apartment with them if I have to, just to make Harv happy.

Then, we bought him a fancy can of wet food for dinner. The vet says that he’s a tad too fat so he’s been eating diet food for the past eight months, but we figured it being his birthday and all he was entitled to a diet cheat. We purposefully tried to buy the most expensive can we could find. $2.69 is as high-end as it gets for cats, I guess, because that was the priciest tin we could find. Harv lapped up every bite with the greedy enthusiasm you’d expect from someone who is cheating on their diet. Money well spent.

So maybe I spoiled him for his birthday this year. And maybe that seems crazy to you, but I don’t give a shit. Really, it’s the least I can do. Harvey totally changed our lives. He filled a hole in my heart, and he made us into a family.

our family

little harv and i

I owe him a hell of a lot more than $2.69.

Setting The Date

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

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

And on and on it goes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smash n D

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

A Weekend of Solitude

It’s been a hard go for me lately peeps, you know. Busted up that arm something rotten. Missed out on a whopper of a goal for this year. Been stressing about work. Feels like I’ve been a lot harder on myself lately. But by the end of last week, I felt the tide starting to turn in my favour again.

D went away this weekend. He left Friday afternoon before I even got home from work. And he didn’t come back until Sunday afternoon. I had the whole weekend all to myself.

SCORE!

No offense D, obviously you’re totally rad and I like having you around, but I was excited for this weekend. I can’t even remember the last time I had such an abundance of alone time. A whole weekend. All me, all weekend long. Totally awesome. I needed this.

Some people don’t like to be alone. Which is fine, to each their own. But I fucking love alone time. I would gladly venture that I love alone time even more than I love pizza. Yeah. Let that sink in for a minute. Those of you who’ve been around for a while know how deeply my love for pizza goes, so you know what a hefty statement that is for me to make.

I’ve always been a very independent person. When I was little people used to call me a loner and I thought that was a bad thing. I suspected that word was synonymous with defective in some way. Maybe some of my wires were loose, or I was missing a crucial part needed in order to be normal. Some people are born with stumps where their hands should be, right? So maybe there was a stumpy little place in my brain that made me be a loner. That was the first impression I ever formed of that word, having heard it often enough in a seemingly grim context, that a loner was someone who formed a little differently in the mould than expected. My sisters and I had a bunch of little chums that we played with growing up. And I’m one of five kids, so I had plenty of socialization all around me. But I just preferred being on my own.

If I was a loner and there was something wrong with that, well, it didn’t feel wrong to me. I liked it just fine that way. But what the fuck did I know, I was six the first time I heard that word for chrissakes. I also thought that the Power Rangers were real and that Vanilla Ice’s parents sure did pick a weird name for him. C’mon guys, if you wanted his rap career to have momentum that lasted longer than one crummy song then Black Ice was the obvious choice there. Der.

One of my best memories is when I got my acceptance package to post-secondary school and I found out that I’d been assigned to a single room. Fuck yeah, no roommate. FINALLY. I always had to share a bedroom with my little sister growing up and my biggest dream was to one day have my own room. Hallelujah! It was a frigging miracle. And I only had to shell out an extra $2000.00 bucks for the privilege, but it was worth every penny. Do you know how great it feels to jump on your own bed while doing a killer ABBA hairbrush lip sync without the fear of someone busting it on you and making you feel ashamed for being so goddamned rad all the time? I repeat: it was a frigging miracle when I got that single room. Space and time for days to kick out your jams in complete unabashed splendour. What’s not to love about that? And when you stumbled and fell awkwardly into the wall while you worked out the timing on your show-stopping twirls there was nobody there to see and laugh at you scornfully. Furthermore, there was nobody around to laugh at you for being a weird kid who enjoyed listening to ABBA in 2005. And who will admit to still thoroughly enjoying those magnificent Swedes in 2013.

I had all this wonderful freedom for the five years that followed. But then I stupidly fell in love and blah blah blah moved in with D. Again, I don’t want this to come off the wrong way because I love living with D. But when you live with your significant other certain quirky things that you used to enjoy doing on your own get tucked away into a dark little corner. Only ever to be seen again when gifted with an ever so elusive bundle of alone time. So you have to maximize it when you get it. You have to cram as many of those ridiculous things that are best done alone as you possibly can into your allotted alone time. You know, those things that you prefer doing without the ever-present shame land mines that lurk around every corner when you’ve got a cohabitant.

Here are the top 10 things I did with mine this weekend:

  1. Ordered enough Chinese food to feed six extremely hungry people on Friday night, but didn’t have anyone over and ate it for every single meal for the entire weekend
  2. Watched a Queen Latifah Rom-Com that D and I had been making fun of all week whenever we saw the commercials for it
  3. Pissed money away on a bunch of shitty gossip magazines that I read while watching the Queen Latifah Rom-Com and doing an at home facial
  4. Went on a five-hour long shopping spree and tried on no less than twenty party dresses
  5. Did extreme high-kicks while listening to The Ramones Greatest Hits at maximum volume
  6. Cried at the America’s Next Top Model finale because I was so happy for the person who won. She really wanted it bad you guys, okay?
  7. Laughed uproariously while watching Top Secret for the first time ever and then spent a solid 15 minutes after it was over imagining what it would be like to make out with Val Kilmer. Young hot Val Kilmer, not old fat Val Kilmer of course
  8. Sorted out my underwear drawer and finally threw some of the oldies away after realizing I possessed an unfathomable amount of underwear
  9. Bought new underwear
  10. Consumed an entire pint of Cherry Garcia and loved not having to share one single bite of it

free as a bird

Everything on this list is 100% accurate and honest. I may not wish to be seen doing these things, but I’m comfortable enough with my bad self to fess up to ’em. And remember, that’s only the top shelf stuff I did. There was plenty of other stuff I did that only gets more and more ridiculous to list. My wacky sense of imagination knows no bounds and it is a freaking delight when I really get to run with it. D grounds me. He’s good at pumping the brakes when the crazy train in my brain really starts to ramp itself up. But sometimes I’m curious to see how far it will take me if we just cut those damn brakes altogether…

I missed D, and I was happy to see him when he finally got back from a weekend of his own adventures. The occasional absence ain’t such a bad thing for a relationship. Looking back over my fantastically impressive itinerary from last weekend, I wouldn’t change a single thing. I lived like a god, a master of my own destiny. All alone, just me calling every single shot all day long. And it was glorious.

Alone time is ever so precious to me. If you really want to treat yourself right, I assure you it’s worth it to go be with yourself for an extended period of time doing only the things that make you happy. Shed the shame and indulge in your quirks for a while. Dream big dreams that wholly revolve around you, the kind of dreams that hectic every day life doesn’t tolerate. Push the limits of your whims. Soar. And when you come back out on the other side, don’t forget to stick the landing.

You’re gunna be alright after all, kid.

A Surprise

When was the last time you did something truly kind or generous for another person? Something that wasn’t done out of obligation like a birthday, holiday or anniversary. Something you just felt like you wanted to do because the surprise and happiness registered on the recipient’s face is more than enough payoff.

It’s probably been a very long time since I last did something for another purely out of kindness and affection. Sadly, I can’t even remember what it would have been. A couple of months ago I bought a new set of headphones for The Magpie because she kept forgetting hers at home and not having tunes at work is balls. But they weren’t special or anything, like six bucks total, so that doesn’t really count.

It’s shameful really. I have so many wonderful people in my life that I fucking treasure the shit out of and they deserve to feel the full magnitude of my adoration more often. People are precious and they don’t last forever so give as much love as you can while you can.

It’s been a bit crappy lately. There have been plenty of nights in the last week and a half when I’ve come home from work in an absolutely abysmal mood. High-strung and super irritable, melting the faces off of my fellow commuters on the subway ride home with withering looks of derision cast their way at the slightest provocation. I feel bad for D for having to deal with it all. I imagine that interacting with me the past while has been a lot like trying to force a meaningful relationship with a rabid wolverine. It ain’t been no picnic, that’s for damn sure.

I was thinking about him Friday afternoon. Thinking about how strong and patient he is. How often he probably bites his tongue. All the little things he does just so I’ll be happy. One night last week he ate all of the burnt perogis so I only had to suffer the slightly singed ones. He let me stay up, reading in bed with the lights on while he tried to sleep because I was at a scary part in The Shining and just needed to have him close. He sends my food back at restaurants when something is wrong with it because I’m too embarrassed to do it myself. When we rent a car for the weekend to go see our families he lets me control the radio and CD choices for the whole trip, even though we have majorly opposing tastes in music with very minimal overlap. When his boss rewarded him with concert tickets to any show of his choosing in Toronto because he’d been killing it at work, he used them to fulfill one of my lifelong dreams instead of choosing to see a band that he likes. And he’s able to do these things with such ease because my happiness matters to him.

The BNL concert was unreal. I can’t say enough how much it meant to me. It was amazing how selfless D was about using his reward on me. He’s the real deal alright.

I started to have this urge, while I was thinking about D and how great he is, to do something. A compulsion to demonstrate the depth of my admiration for D. I just had to do something. Something kind and generous because he hasn’t been getting the very best of me lately. And I was struck once again by how remarkable it was that he gave me the BNL concert. I remembered him telling me a few days after the BNL concert that his favourite band Killswitch Engage had just announced a show in Toronto for a date in October, and how much he would have loved to go. Hmm, that could work.

I was almost ready to pack up and leave the office on Friday when I decided to hang back a minute and see if tickets for the Killswitch Engage show were still available. Unfortunately for me, the show was already sold out. However, because of how quickly the show sold out they’d decided to do another show the next night and tickets were still on sale. Fuck yeah, just my luck! So I immediately decided that I was going to buy him two tickets for that concert. Yes, I’m going to give D what he gave up for me. And the look on his face is going to be worth every penny. I bought the tickets, printed them off and stuffed them in my bag. I was buzzing with excitement the whole way home just dying to spring my surprise on D.

Killswitch Engage is the first concert we ever went to as a couple. They played a show in Waterloo on Mother’s Day 2008. I actually still have the ticket stubs.

ticket stubs

It was a great show. They were promoting their latest album As Daylight Dies and Howard Jones was the lead vocalist at that time. I’d never even heard of the band until I started dating D, but that album stayed in the CD player in his car for about three straight months and I really came to love it. I especially love Howard. He’s got such a killer voice and he’s an amazing performer. He’s magnetic on stage; captivating and astounding the listeners by perfectly blending his melodic singing with bone-shattering metal screams. It’s so much fun to watch him work. Listening to that album is so enjoyable. The music is phenomenal, undoubtedly. But it also takes me back to that summer when we started dating. When I hear the opening bars of My Curse I feel like I’m in D’s old sunfire again. Driving around with the windows down, D hammering his thumbs on the steering wheel in time with the drums,  butterflies in my stomach and not a care in the world.

D was going to fucking love this, and I couldn’t wait to see his reaction.

I got home on Friday, grabbed the tickets from my bag and tossed them at D. He looked at them puzzled for a moment and then unfolded them.

“Whaaaaat?? What is this all about?” he asked. I told him that I loved him and I appreciate how awesome he is and that he deserves it. “Fuck yeah! This is so awesome, thank you!” was his response. Huge smile on his face, eyes gleaming with happiness and surprise. Exactly the look I was going for. It was even better when I told him that the second ticket isn’t for me. I told him to take anybody he wants, ideally one of his metal-head cronies. And he loved that even more.

D was ecstatic, still is actually. And I felt amazing too. It was just what I needed, that boost of extraordinary, something to banish the gloom of last week. I may not have all of my problems licked, but at least I still have it within me to make someone else happy. D is so goddamned precious to me. And treating him to a night of ear bud busting metal fury is the best possible way that I can express that to him.

Rock on D, you skiddy metal-head weirdo.