Top 6 Ideas for Easy Preparation of Weeknight Meals (and even packing lunches too!).

My sister and brother-in-law are very busy career folk with 2 dogs, a house under renovations, and a million other things to do, and freeze a lot of meals for quick dinners on busy weeknights.  After a recent conversation, I was inspired to share what I do for quick and easy meals, and how this preparation and routine has helped me maintain a healthy, whole foods diet (for the most part, haha!).

1. Have cooked or thawed protein in the fridge at all times.

I like to buy in bulk and freeze meat, and there is nothing worse then being hungry for dinner and having to defrost something before you can even cook it!  I like to bake 5 or 6 chicken breasts in the oven, with a simple seasoning such as salt and pepper, or some herbs.  This way, they can be doctored up later.  Add a drizzle of oil for extra flavour and juiciness.  Chill in the fridge in a container for later use.  P.S. Cutting cooked and chilled chicken is so much easier and slices SO nice.  Now you can add it to a salad for an entree-style salad, make a quick wrap, or pasta.  You could also cook a whole chicken, bone-in chicken, etc. and do the same thing.  For pork and beef, I prefer to have them thawed and even marinated for a day or two in spices or whatever, or even cut up and put on kabobs for quick grilling.  This works with chicken too.  Or with thawed meat you can cube it or slice it when raw and store in the fridge.  Sometimes cleaning and cutting the meat takes awhile, but this way, it is already done.

 

2. Make a big batch of homemade tomato sauce.

When you have tried this, you will never go back to the canned store bought kind again.  I freeze it in batches and always have one ready in the fridge.  Chicken parm sandwiches, english muffin or pita pizzas, or pastas are made super quick easy.

 

3.  Triple recipes, or just make a TON of something at once.

Put on the radio, and spend some time in the kitchen on the weekend and cook up a favourite dinner.  We love pasta dishes in our house and make huge batches of them.  Mac n’ cheese is really delicious for leftovers, and can easily be healthified.  We will make a pasta that has 4 or 5 chicken breasts in it and a mound of veggies is on the cutting board waiting to go in.  Pasta is good for leftovers and re-heats well too.  If you have a microwave at work (or like cold pasta) you will have lunches for several days, or leftovers to eat anytime.

 

4. Prep all your produce.

Wash, cut, and prepare all the fruits and veggies (including lettuce and greens) in your fridge store in containers (which also makes for easy snacking, I find I am much more likely to grab them if they are ready to go).  For lunches, I even take it a step further and portion them into baggies for small lunch containers for the week.  That way, all the work is done and I plop them into my lunch bag.  And having peppers and mushrooms sliced and washed already, and lettuce clean and dried, cuts dinner prep time way down.  I even sometimes do things 2-ways, for example, I will cut carrots into sticks for snacks and side dishes and also shred some for salad toppings.  Words cannot describe how useful it is to have a fridge full of washed and prepped fruits and veggies.  If I have edamamme, I will cook it and do the same thing (it is good hot or cold, or added to salad or stir fry).  Or I will have a can of beans or chick peas rinsed and ready in a container for salads and topping any dish basically.

 

5. Cook up a batch of rice.  A big one.

With your veggies already prepared and meat thawed, you can stir fry it all together and then serve over rice for such an effortless, yet delicious dinner.  I find rice re-heats well, in my opinion.  Or make a curry, which is really easy, yet really hardy, and serve with rice.  And combine leftover cooked rice with leftover cooked chicken, you get an amazing homemade chicken fried rice.  I even like our homemade, healthier version better then take-out now.  We almost never buy it out anymore.

 

6.  Use the slow cooker for everything.

Casseroles, meat, roasts, sauces, etc.  It does the work all day and you come home to a delicious meal!  For extra fast meals, do something all-in-one, like pork loin with potatoes/onions/carrots, seasoning of choice, and voila.  You could even add a side salad or corn on the cob for something extra.

Now I bet all of this sounds like a ton of work, and just really not do-able at all.  But I don’t have every single example above ready in my fridge.  My rule of thumb is: always have cooked or at least thawed protein available and abundant, and prep all produce.  One week I might have a ton of cooked chicken breast and rice in the fridge, the next week might be more grilling with side salads, and the next week might be making loads of 1 or 2 dishes for leftovers.

I pick a day when I have some time, put on my favourite radio station (oldies or NPR usually) and head into the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon. It’s very relaxing, because there is no time frame, I am not starving, and can putter around.  Or the Artist and I will do it together one night, and catch up, be silly, or have really great talks about life, or all of the above.  Being in the kitchen together is one of our favourite ways to spend time together.  Sometimes we even take it a step further; the Artist will prepare a big dinner with tons of leftovers, and I will prep all the produce for the week, and we will pour drinks, turn up the tunes, eat the dinner by candle light, and make a mini-date out of it.

When these are all prepared, and I even pre-portion for lunches (so I literally grab my lunch from the fridge and plop it in my lunch bag in the morning), I eat a lot healthier and a much more balanced diet.  We are less likely to resort to junk or take-out when we get home tired after a long day because we can make something delicious and homemade in minutes.

The fastest meals, I would say in 15 minutes or less, would be: entree-style salads, tacos (using already cooked meat or beans), quesadillas, wraps, and grilled kabobs.

On the more medium side of things, in about 20 minutes, you could have: grilled meat, stir fry (less time probably if you use cooked meat instead of sautéing), pita or flatbread pizza, or grilled paninis.

And in about 30 minutes, you could make: spaghetti, chicken fried rice, any pasta dish, prepare pizza dough ahead of time by rolling it in desired shape(s) and freezing (you could even cook it for a few minutes to help it hold its shape) for taking pizza at home to the next level, spicy orange chicken with cashew nuts (or any Asian dish that doesn’t involve battering and frying the meat before starting), or larger cuts of meat including larger cuts of bone-in meat either grilled, or oven roasted.

In 30+ minutes: mac n’cheese casserole, sweet and sour chicken (or Asian dishes that include battering and frying meat), Mongolian style stir fry with Sriracha sauce, and of course things in the slow cooker.  These just mostly require time for cooking and don’t need as much attention other then checking or stirring during this time.

And for all of these examples, having prepped produce will come in handy for easy and quick side dishes and salads.  For example; grilled peppers, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, roasted asparagus, raw veggie platter with hummus, and never ending combinations of salads.  And to keep things as healthy as possible, choose whole wheat options, make your own marinade instead of using a bottled one, and be aware of how much sodium and sugar you use so that you can adjust to fit your needs/wants.

I hope this was helpful :)

 

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.