The Artist’s First Tattoo.

We were getting ready to go walking down Delmar and the Artist was looking in the mirror and said that he wanted a tattoo of the letter X on the right side of his chest, near his armpit.  I was confused, this was oddly specific and a weird thing to want as a tattoo.  And he didn’t want a fancy letter X, just 2 straight lines.  I asked him why.  He said that it was my spot <3

The story of my spot….

My side of the bed is the right side, and I like to lay on my left side facing the Artist, with my head on his chest/in his armpit, while his arm wraps around me tight.  I am then in perfect range of motion to receive a forehead kiss, and his hand can stroke my shoulder and arm.  It is so sweet and cozy, my favourite way to fall asleep.  My favourite place to be at all, really.  We always have the best talks like that too.  And when I get all sleepy at night, I literally CRAVE to be laying like this with him.  Those minutes before falling asleep, is my favourite part of the day.  So I felt very privileged that he wanted this tattoo in honour of me.  There happens to be a tattoo parlour on Delmar, so we popped in to see about the pricing.  One thing lead to another, and the Artist and the tattoo artist did an “artist swap”- a painting in exchange for the letter X tattoo that he wanted.  And boom- it was done.  It took longer to apply the stencil and disinfectant then it did to complete the tattoo, haha.  It was that simple and quick.

The Artist hugely suits tattoos.  A lot.  He is such a big, strong guy, with a huge beard and long hair.  He looks rather intimidating, actually.  But inside, he is the sweetest, most sensitive, cuddle bug that I know.  The contrast that I am describing is one of my favourite things about him, and the idea of even more tattoos would just further it.  He has practiced a few more with a pen to test out his ideas, and they look awesome.  Nothing crazy or anything, but rather symbols, interesting drawings, and even one in memory of his childhood dog that recently passed.

It was a wonderfully spontaneous, spur of the moment adventure.  And I think that in life, we all need to remember to have a little spontaneous adventure once in awhile.  It is good for the soul, in my opinion.

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No turning back now!

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It’s done! Doesn’t his missing chest hair look ridiculous?! Ha!

On the way home!

On the way home!

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After a few weeks of his hair growing back.  And no, his hands are not tattooed (yet!), he is just drawing ideas with a pen to see what they look like ;)

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My spot <3

 

A Glimpse of the Day I Turned 25.

This 4th of July, I turned 25.  Yikes.  25.  Life is moving so fast.

The Artist asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday.  There are so many fun things to do on a budget in St. Louis, but all I ever want is just some good, quality time together.  I had been wanting to go bowling for awhile, so we decided to incorporate that into our day, and there is so much good food around here of which I have a hard time choosing where to eat, I asked the Artist if he would pick the restaurant and then not reveal it until right before we left.  That in itself is a great birthday gift, haha, because I can never make a choice and am always overwhelmed by the oh-so-many delicious options.  It was SO nice to not even have to think about where to eat!  He decided on one of our favourites: Mission Taco.  Read about the extreme levels of awesome they have here, http://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/moving-food/

But even after we made these plans, I told the Artist that I didn’t care if they didn’t happen or if we ended up doing something else, that if the night organically led us elsewhere, or nowhere other then the couch, I wouldn’t mind.  The Artist and I spend a lot of quality time together on a regular, daily basis, and we are always going out on dates and doing fun things.  So my birthday was like any other day when you boil it down.  Even if we both have a busy day, we always take some time together, even if it is just a few minutes.  Sometimes we will chit-chat and snuggle and giggle before we go to sleep, or sometimes we will take time out of our busy days to cook together, which always brings about great conversations.  This is a quality about our marriage that I just love; we don’t use special occasions as a “reminder” to do something nice for one another or to go out on a date.  Actually, the last 2 years we weren’t even in the same city on Valentine’s Day, and we did our own little thing weeks earlier.  But on that day, we knew we were thinking of the other, and that is enough <3

My birthday ended up including a delicious breakfast of chocolate pancakes and bacon, sleeping in late, a great after-breakfast conversation about our favourite actors (which included Anthony Hopkins, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Steve Carell, among so many others), a present, drinks, bowling, RummiKub, and tacos.  I have been loving the TV show Orange is the New Black, and really want to read the book.  But all the libraries around here have pretty large waiting lists, and each person have have the book for up to 3 weeks!  I was so disappointed when I discovered this, because I have such a craving to read it!

To my surprise, when I opened my birthday present, was a brand spanking new copy of Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman.  It smelled amazing.  I even fanned the pages a little because there is just something about the shininess and smell of a brand new book that is just so satisfying.  We usually use the library to read books, or get them for a quarter a piece at thrift stores or library book sales and in used conditions, so this brand new copy of my very own is such a treat :D

He also got me new sunglasses because I broke mine and my backups are scratched like crazy, and then took me to the new candy shop that just opened down the street to pick out some candy.  He gets me.  He pointed out Sour Patch Peaches to me because he knows how much I LOVE peach candy, (a very specific flavour, I know, haha) and I couldn’t resist.  I also picked out some taffy, a cherry jolly rancher stick (which is awesome because that is the only flavour I like and didn’t have to buy a whole pack to get a handful of cherry candies), and what I was most excited about: the Harry Potter Chocolate Frog.

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Then onto a blueberry lemonade Smirnoff slushie, tacos and bowling.  I grew up with 5 pin bowling with tiny balls, so this intimidating 10 pin stuff was hard!  My goal of zero gutter balls went out the window in a hurry.  But it was fun, and we will be back.

 

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When we came home, we decided to play RummiKub, which is one of our favourite games.  We turned on some oldies music,  and of course, I won ;)

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We finished the night with some silly pictures, and watched Corner Gas in bed.

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Perfection.

What a wonderful life I have <3

PMS

Lately I have noticed that lots of people post on social media about how crappy they feel, how sick they are today, how they wish their cold would go away, etc. and I am seeing these posts from both men and women.  And then I had an epiphany.  For several days a month, lasting several decades of every woman’s life, they experience menstruation, and I have never heard any complaints on social media about cramps or bloating and the like.  Why not?  Why the silence on things?  Having a cold or flu usually consists of an upset stomach, headache, muscle aches and cramps, feeling tired, irritable, and maybe a nasty cough.  Aside from the cough, most of the other symptoms are experienced with nature’s monthly visit to women, and then some.  Add in there feeling bloated, food cravings, and having to use feminine hygiene products (that are not cheap!) to get through it, along with a variety of other things as every women experiences her own combination.

Some would argue, that it is just nature.  Well wait, so getting the flu is some robot phenomenon?  Why didn’t anyone tell me!  Ha!  Some might also argue that women are “built” for it, so “it can’t be that bad”.  That is like saying that humans are built to require a heart to pump blood, therefore they are built for heart disease and “it can’t be that bad” since we are built for it.  Haha!  And it’s not like women can take sick days when feeling under the weather from PMS, because that would usually mean a few sick days taken every month from work.  Who has that many paid sick days, and/or who can afford to take that many days off unpaid?  Or in movies and such, you hear men say things like, “watch out, it’s that time of the month for her, she will rip your head off and then cry her eyes out”.  Well, men, if a large muscle in your body was contracting hard, you had a headache that wouldn’t quit, your body felt tired all over, you couldn’t hold your eyes open because you are exhausted, your stomach is acting up, and you couldn’t take the day off work because you have no sick days left, wouldn’t you be cranky too?

So we just go about our lives, uncomfortable and sometimes in pain, for 2-10 days a month (the average) and we just shut up about it.

But I don’t think it is necessary to suffer in complete silence.  When the Artist isn’t feeling well I will take over making dinner, give him a back rub, and make some snuggle time together to watch a movie for example.  When I am not feeling well, no matter the source of my symptoms, I expect the same.  Even if life is busy, it is never too busy for a 10 minute back rub before bed, and sometimes that is all takes to take the edge off.  He does not find me disgusting during this time of the month, as sadly, is the attitude that some partners take, and I can feel comfortable talking to him about concerns I have, or how I am feeling, and he will do what he can to help.  In the end, both getting through a cold and getting through the symptoms of PMS, well, you just have to ride it out until it has run its course.  So good coping skills is the most important thing to get you through it.  My favourites are delicious food, a movie, comfy pyjamas, and lots of TLC from the Artist.  And his favourites are exactly the same.  Now, I am not saying that women “get sick” every month, I am just trying to point out that we go through uncomfortable, sometimes painful, unpleasant, inconvenient physical symptoms for several days a month, for several decades of our lives, and it is ok to talk about them without giving away too much detail or being obnoxious about it.  So here it goes: today I feel so tired despite a good night’s sleep, I have terrible cramps, and a headache.  And I will feel this way until the weekend is over.  Now, that wasn’t disgusting or obnoxious, was it?

But, after all, this is how we experience pregnancy and become mothers, and that, is truly beautiful.  I look forward to the day that I can feel a baby kick, and then watch it’s first steps and smiles.  So folks, appreciate the women in your life.  Sisters, spouses, girlfriends, mothers, friends, etc.  Think about the tremendous miracles that their bodies are able to go through, and support them through it.  A little empathy and understanding can go a long way.  And the opposite; women, appreciate the men in your life.  Fathers, brothers, friends, spouses, etc.  Appreciate the support they give you, and their love for you.  As all relationships in life are give-and-take, not give “or” take, it is a big circle of mutual exchanges.

You never know what this world will bring…so love hard, laugh often, and be thankful for every day <3

 

Better Than Takeout Homemade Chicken Pad Thai.

A great opportunity has come up for the Artist and his painting career (it’s not official, so I am going to wait to tell you about until it is!), and I am so excited for him!  When I heard, I was so excited I was literally jumping up and down like a toddler, I couldn’t contain myself.  I couldn’t sleep that night either, I just lay awake thinking about it all, and how proud of him I am.  Now, you know me, I have never in my life had trouble sleeping.  I can fall asleep and stay asleep in just about any conditions.  So as I lay there in my first ever insomnia experience, I was thinking about how this is a perfect example of how excited I felt- so excited I couldn’t sleep.  It was a first.  Even as a child on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep no problem!  Just when I think I know exactly what love is, and that I couldn’t possibly love the Artist any more, I fall even deeper in love with him.  Being this excited, proud, and happy for him, for something that will change his career and have nothing to do with me, is truly a selfless feeling.  Being that happy for something that has nothing to do with yourself.  And I know the Artist is even more excited about it, he has worked incredibly hard for this for many years.  And because he more then deserves it and has worked so hard, when I thought about if something happened and this opportunity didn’t work out, the hypothetical disappointment he would experience would just break my heart in two.  I don’t think I could stand seeing him being disappointed.  We have been married for almost 4 years now, and somehow, we fall deeper in love with each year.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is <3

So now onto the main topic of my post….haha.

The Artist has been making pad thais at home for awhile now, trying to master something similar to takeout.  The main problems that have been occurring include; the rice noodles are extremely sticky and are even worse the next day as leftovers, there isn’t a coating” of sauce on everything, it seems to get all soaked up, and the flavour just isn’t the same as takeout.  But he has cracked it- and has figured out solutions to all of these problems, creating THE most delicious pad thai at home.  He is the main chef, and I am the helper ;)  I don’t have exact measurements for the following, because we made a larger batch of it and constantly were adjusting it to our taste.  So be sure to taste often.  Very often.

First things first- most restaurants use a tamarind sauce for the pad thai, and this is usually in the description of the dish in the menu.  This is the key, well, one of them.  We have used both a liquid form of tamarind concentrate in a jar, and the kind that is like a sort of squishy brick.  In the end, the brick is best.  But be sure to boil it in a little water first to soften it up, and even though it says seedless, there are little “bits” everywhere.  So once the tamarind is all separated, use a fine sieve to strain out the bits and collect the tamarind “water” or juice or whatever you want to call it, in a bowl.  A lot of online recipes do not even include tamarind at all, but if you want a restaurant copy-cat version, tamarind is the way to go.

The next important thing to remember is that there needs to be sweet, sour, and salty flavours, with some spice.  Like I said, I don’t have the exact measurements because we added the ingredients to taste.  Most recipes we found said to have equal parts of each flavour component (except spice), but we didn’t necessarily do that, again, it was all to taste (the Artist was tasting the sauce every few seconds and after each ingredient was added to adjust it).  We used chili powder, but mostly red chili flakes for the spice portion, as this is the most easily adjustable flavour you can change after it is on your plate, so we just added a little at first.  All the other ingredients won’t work really once the dish is plated, so be sure to taste as you go!  I added extra chili flakes and a pinch of cayenne pepper to my plate.  We didn’t do equal amount of the sweet, sour and salty, because that is a lot of salt.  For the salt, we used a bit of fish sauce, and a bit of soy sauce.  For the sour, the tamarind you prepared as above.  And for the sweet, brown and/or white sugar.  Since that is a lot of sugar, another reason we didn’t do equal amounts.  And we both like our pad thai on a bit of the sour side, but by all means, add more sweet or salty to suit your taste.  We also added a little garlic powder in there too, and a little extra water.

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For the rice noodles, don’t get a noodle that is too broad or thick, and not use anything else other then rice noodles.  Soak them in warm-hot water until they are pliable, but not mushy.  They will seem like extremely al dante, and seem not ready to eat, but they will soften up in the pan with the sauce and stuff.  Do not boil them.  That is how we got those super sticky noodles I was talking about above.  I think we soaked ours for 30-40 minutes to get the right texture.  The first time the sauce was perfected, the noodles were still a little too firm, so we soaked them a bit longer.

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For the protein, we like chicken, but shrimp of tofu could be used too.  Cut raw chicken breast into relatively thin slices, and saute in a pan with a little oil and some of the sauce, and a little water.  Add a clove of freshly pressed (or smashed and sliced) garlic.

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When the chicken is cooked, add some noodles, and more sauce.  Note: in your pan, make only 1 serving at a time.  This is another key part so the dish, it needs lots of space or it will get sticky and just not turn out.  If it is sticking, add more oil to the pan.  This come together quickly at this point, so doing 1 serving at a time isn’t too bad, and with just the 2 of us, there isn’t any waiting or in-between time.  Even if there were more people to serve, it will be worth the wait to do it only 1 serving at a time.  When it is almost done, push it to the side of the pan and add an egg, scramble it up, and then combine it altogether.  After the first dish is plated, I chopped up some green onions and peanuts, the Artist made the next serving and we garnished with each.  Another good topper is mung beans.  Another important thing to remember is to not over cook this.  When the noodles, chicken, egg, and sauce are all in the pan, if it is over cooking, you will notice it getting sticky and maybe smoking a little because the sugar is getting caramelized or burned.  You don’t want that “gummy” texture to start at all, so plate it promptly.

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I personally prefer loads of peanuts on my dish, and the Artist loves to have his with a fresh lime wedge to squeeze over it right before he eats.  You can also add the green onions into the pan in the last minute or 2 of cooking, which we like to do.

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This seems like a hassle, and it kind of is, haha.  It can be time consuming, and it has taken us many, many tries to get it to the taste we want.  So you might need to try a few times and adjust as necessary.  But if you make a large batch of the sauce, you can store it in the fridge for later use.  The sauce is the most time consuming part, everything else comes together in good time.  So we found that making a big batch of sauce to keep in the fridge works well for a homemade chicken pad thai dinner in about 30 minutes.

Good luck.

Women in the Working World

Lately, as an adult women who aspires for both a thriving career as well as motherhood, it seems as though having both is a puzzle I can’t figure out.  I am turning 25 in a few weeks, and the Artist and I hope to be fortunate enough to have children together in the future, and we both have big dreams for our careers as well, however, more and more it seems difficult to have both.  Things are different for women, we have “biological clocks”, and as we approach 30, or so I personally feel, our clocks start to remind us that time is ticking and the pressure of aging (as well as even more immense pressure from society) can be abundantly felt.  So here is what started my thoughts on all of this….

As my 25th birthday approaches, I have decided that I would like to further my educational career with a master’s degree and have been accepted to Washington University in St. Louis.  It is a 2 year MSW program and quite pricey, and I got a partial scholarship.  I am in desperate need of funding to even begin to be able to afford this, and have a deep gut feeling that I will not be attending classes this fall because I can’t afford it.  To read more about my situation on this: http://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/bittersweet/

So that is another year before I can apply to other MSW programs, and another year delaying the beginning of a career, would then put me age 28 before my careers even begins after graduation, and then building a secure lifestyle that allows me to try and get pregnant and be financially stable enough to take time off, and be able to afford it, to care for a child….pushing me past that ripe age of 30 that I mentioned above.  I know plenty of women have children well into their thirties, and I might be one of them, but wouldn’t it be nice to not feel pressured to have a child by the big bully called age?

Which is what sparked these thoughts for me in the first place.  It is like having to choose between having children in your mid-late twenties, or going to grad school during this time instead, and delaying having children until afterwards.  I know plenty of people have children while in grad school, but I don’t think that that choice is for me.  Or at least, it is my current thought.  So as of right now,  I plan to go to grad school at some point, we both want to get our careers up and running (which is really testing our patience, at almost 25 and 29, we just want to have established careers already!), and at that point, we will consider children.  I don’t want to have this feeling that I have to choose one or the other, so I just simply will not.  I am striving towards 2 careers; as a social worker with an MSW, and if I am fortunate enough to be able to bear a child, as a mother.  But you never know what life will throw at you, and the next day is never a guarantee, so although we have big plans for our futures, we try and live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes.  Such as seeing a Shakespeare’s Henry V in Forest Park together, enjoying a picnic while we wait for the show, and having some quality time together, cracking open a fresh coconut, cooking a nice meal, celebrating birthdays, admiring the Artist’s thesis painting, chocolate chip pancakes and the best bacon I have ever had.  Because you never know what tomorrow will bring!

Shakespeare in the Park

Shakespeare in the Park

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Sweet and a little spicy, orange chicken with cashews.

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Best, yet healthiest, bacon ever!

Best, yet healthiest, bacon ever!

So I encourage everyone of both genders to embrace the women in your lives as they balance life :)  I applaud all the women out there who are rocking it in their careers and as awesome moms, I look up to you all. <3

Surprise!

So the Artist recently defended his thesis, with ease and great success.  I knew he would, he is very intelligent and extremely talented.  I had plans that morning, of which he was dropping me off, and then heading to his defence, and we would meet up later when we both got home.

But….

Secretly, I had arranged my plans to end short, and I took the bus home early to set up a surprise.  I hung streamers and balloons from the ceiling, a homemade banner on the fireplace mantel, set up a nice table with a little present, and champagne, and a homemade card.  I got in my best outfit and did my hair and makeup, and then baked a pecan pie from scratch- his favourite.  I spilled the batter everywhere, but managed to save it.  I did all of this within about an hour, and it was quite warm that day, which made it all the more difficult.  Meanwhile, the previous week, I wanted to get the supplies without him knowing, so every time he left the house, I would leave right after, get what I needed, and get home.  So really, it looked like I did nothing all week because every time he came home, I was just getting home too (secretly) and everything looked the same as if I didn’t even move, like I was a lazy slob all week.  And the store near by only had Happy Birthday streamers, and I didn’t have time to go elsewhere before the Artist got home, so yes, I hung Happy Birthday streamers.  I thought he would get a kick out of that little story.  As for the little present, it was some Ah Caramel snack cakes from home, because you can’t get them here, and they are also his favourite.  So I had my mom mail some, and intercepted the package while he was gone, because I know the mailman comes around the same time every afternoon, and I literally waited at the door.  Then I took it, and hid it from the Artist until it was time.  I didn’t make the pecan pie ahead of time, because he would know something was up, so I made it when I was setting up that the house smelled yummy, and it would be ready and cool later that day.

When the Artist got home, I greeted him at the door and made him close his eyes as I took his hands and guided him to the living room, where he was greeted with all of this:

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He was so surprised, and had no idea what I was up to, and of course, loved all of it.  Especially the pie ;)  Look at him all spiffy in his nice jacket!

We poured glasses of champagne and cheers’ed to a big accomplishment achieved, with many more to come.

Now that I have done all this within a month before his birthday, I will have to think of something creative, since I used all my best ideas on this surprise.  But I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

The little things in life are usually the best.  Cheap champagne, balloons from the dollar store, a homemade pie, and being together.  If that isn’t a wild party, I don’t know what is.

All you need is love <3

Some people go through the processes of life seamlessly.  They progress through post-secondary school and graduate studies with no problems, and come out with no debts and even get a perfect job right away.  They somehow make and/or have a lot of money.  They have children.  They own a home.  They have pets.  They have nice, reliable cars, and more then 1 for the entire household.  They never have a single medical issue.

Not me.

I have completed undergraduate work, with mounds of debt.  Not just student debt, but personal debt with family, and with credit cards.  Student loans only cover so much, and I have to eat and pay the rent.  When we don’t have our heat on and live in a crappy apartment and use our credit card to buy only essential groceries, it is those purchases that add up to our credit cards.  But what is the alternative?  We already don’t have heat on, no cell phones, no cable, our bills are minimal and only essentials.  I have been trying to go to grad school, but I can’t afford tuition and am not eligible for student loans in the states because I am Canadian, and there is so little funding and scholarships for social work studies it is ridiculous.  And you can forget about stipends for social work graduate studies, they don’t exist.  Yet, social work strives for change for the greater good of society, so you would think it’s extremely crucial to get well trained individuals up and running….but it is impossible to get trained without funding.  Getting the perfect job after graduation?  Well there aren’t many social work jobs because of cutbacks, which reiterates my point above.  And the jobs are usually not in the high-paying category….but then how do you pay off the massive debts your have from just getting the education to get that job in the first place?  It seems I am always broke.  The Artist and I do not have children, unlike most of our peers right now.  How on earth could we afford to feed a child when we can hardly feed ourselves?  We do hope to be fortunate enough that in the future, having children will be possible.  We do not own a home.  Obviously because we can’t afford it, but we aren’t even sure if we would want to.  I think we would have children well before we owned a house.  And we like weird places, like lofts with concrete floors and brick walls, or warehouse space, etc., not necessarily a house, unless the house meets our weirdo-style- haha.  We do not have pets.  We are reallllly wanting a dog, we love dogs.  We have only 1 car between the 2 of us, and it is quite old and has seen a lot of mileage.  The Artist has had it for years, it is the first car he ever bought and it is still hanging in there.  Just 1 car between us is most inconvenient.  And I have a crazy thyroid issue, as talked about here: http://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/under-active-thyroid/

So I have been navigating through life much less then seamlessly.  There is always some ridiculous barrier happening to cause us more struggle.  It is exhausting.  It tests our patience.  It tests our faith that it will all come together in the end.  But, we can always find a way to get around the roadblocks, and we never lose sight of what we want in education, careers, and our ultimate goals.  We are hanging in there, and not giving up on them.  I can only do my very best at everything I embark on, and sometimes, after that, things are out of my hands.  I did my very best on my scholarship application and sent it in, now it is up to others to decide if I get it. I can’t control what others think and do, so I try not to worry myself with it.  I concern myself with putting my best effort forth, which is something I can control, and avoid concerning myself with things beyond my control.

Yes, this is stressful.  Yes, I want to get paid to work and not just volunteer.  Yes, I want to go back to school but can’t afford it.  But at the end of the day, I have a loving family, and a great husband.  When I lay my head on the Artist’s shoulder as we get into bed, and he wraps his big arms around me- that is all I need.

I believe in the butterfly effect, that if I changed even 1 thing I wouldn’t be where I am today.  If I didn’t choose to attend Georgian College I never would had met my Artist, for example.  So if I had to go through some craziness to get here today, then so be it- because happiness and love are priceless.  And if the Artist and I have to continue through more craziness to reach our goals, then fine- why should we settle for anything less then exactly what we want?

I may not have much aside from struggle and debt, but I do have the most important things- great love, and indescribable happiness.  And without that, everything else seems pointless.  <3

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