Soulmates.

I was out, but at a computer, missing the Artist. I was studying for a midterm, and of course full of stress and anxiety about it. I am waiting to hear if I got into the MA program I applied to and interviewed for, and I am really stressed about that too. Stressed if I don’t get it, yet anxious if I do. If I don’t get in, that is a lot of hard work applying (and applying for a scholarship) that didn’t pay off, and my plans will have to change. But if I do get in, that is 2 more years of what I know will be really hard work. I want to take on the challenge, but still, I know that lots of hard work would be in my future. Not to mention the stresses of daily life, trying to find time to do laundry and cook and all that.

I had been feeling particularly stressed at that moment, my body feeling restless and anxious, and I was yearning (and still am) to take a vacation with the Artist. We took an amazing week long vacation to the Dominican Republic in 2010, and we went to Chicago for a few days exploring in 2015, but that is it. We have bee talking about wanting a vacation together for so long, even just a few nights away somewhere within driving distance where there is a cheap motel where we can watch a “movie on TV” and order all kinds of takeout and junk food for a few days while we enjoy an outdoor pool, restaurants, sightseeing, a beach, etc. Even that seems impossible when you are broke AF, let alone going somewhere tropical or otherwise expensive like NYC or Florida.

But, my number one way to redirect my anxious thoughts it to think about my love, and how we get to share our lives together, no matter what. No matter where we are or what we are doing, we get to be together. Master’s program or no Master’s program, vacation or no vacation, money or no money, we will make it. We will figure it out. And then I checked my email. The Artist sent me an email with nothing in the body or subject line, just a link to a video. The video was of a car commercial, and the song of that car commercial has become associated with our lives. I was just saying that every time I hear that commercial, I think back to last summer. We had just moved, it was a hard, hard move with lots of obstacles. We were even more broke than we are now. I had classes start the day after we moved in, I didn’t know my way around and had no phone to use GPS, on top of the nerves of just going back to school after 5 years off. The summer was spent in a realm of anxiety and stress, with boxes everywhere as we tried to balance school, job searching, and unpacking. I was so stressed that I had no appetite and didn’t sleep well, and if you know me, you know that this is VERY unlike me. And somehow, with that commercial always coming on, the song somehow became associated with that period of our lives.

But now, the song is a reminder that no matter how stressful life gets, I have this guy by my side making me laugh, supporting me, and enriching my life on a daily basis. He sees beauty in such ordinary things that I never would have noticed before, and it reminds me to stop and smell the roses. So we would stop the craziness for a few hours, go exploring in our new city, and have some laughs.

I teared up watching this video, it was like he knew exactly my stress levels and that I was thinking of him, and sent this video to let me know he was also thinking of me, and that whatever happens, we will find a way to flourish, together ❤

The 27 year old undergrad.

It has been a busy, stressful summer.  I started classes the day after moving into our new Toronto apartment and we still aren’t completely unpacked and set up.  We have been frequently thrift shops looking for furniture, but haven’t had any luck.  Things are slowly coming together back up in the great white north!

My summer semester was definitely hard, it is such a shock going from the working world back into school full time.  But I made it, and with decent grades.  The biggest shock of all, however, was the fact that I am at a completely different life stage them most of my classmates.  Being a 27 year old in undergrad classes, I am 8 years older then some of my peers.  Although that really isn’t much when you consider one’s lifespan, it is quite a difference in what “phase” of life is happening.

I am 27, will be celebrating my 6th wedding anniversary with the Artist at the end of this month, I have lived on my own and with the Artist for many years and in turn have many bills to pay, and my favourite pass times include reading, watching films, listening to CBC radio, cooking (well, I am the assistant- the Artist is the actual cook!), relaxing while listening to our record collection, getting crafty, and powerlifting.  Through conversation with other students around campus, it seems, as it should when you are 19, that going to bars and hanging out with friends are what the kids are doing these days.  I wish I was saying that I was declining invitations to go out to the bar because I just wanted to go home and relax, but it must be obvious that I am an old lady.  Either that, or I come across as an unapproachable person.  Its probably both.  Chandler from Friends articulates it perfectly…

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I also feel like I am one of the last people to be fit the “starving student” archetype.  I feel like I am surrounded by people who can afford all kinds of travelling and vacations, Mac laptops to bring to class for note taking, take-out food whenever they want, and no problems paying tuition or rent.  Meanwhile, I am doing my laundry in my bathtub, using the campus food bank, sharing a laptop with the Artist (we need a computer equally for our own livelihoods) as well as a cell phone, and taking notes in class with a notebook that my parents bought for me and a pen I took from their  house.  I filled that notebook completely, so lets hope they buy me a new one for the upcoming term, LOL.  I also have no idea how I will be paying my tuition that is due at then end of this month, not to mention bills, and I continuously sew together the same few clothing items that keep gaining new holes or tears.

It is all very weird, being in undergrad classes at 27.  When I was 19, I thought for sure that at 27 I would have the best job that ever existed and been done school with a prestigious degree(s) and have my dream home and life all figured out.  Well, I have come to the conclusion that you never really figure life out.  It is an ongoing journey with changing goals and aspirations along the way- so you might as well enjoy things, one day at a time.

Today I enjoyed bacon, egg and veggie scramble, and hash browns for lunch.  I enjoyed grocery shopping and still having about $10 left over for any other food needs that might arise this week.  I am going to workout later with the Artist, and despite my current sciatic pain, I will enjoy that too.  I will enjoy watching the Olympics tonight snuggled up with my love, and I will enjoy how beautifully gloomy and rainy it is this afternoon.

To see more photos of me enjoying the simple things in life, check me out on instagram @capitaineflash

As much as I would LOVE to travel and take a vacation, not have to worry about how I will pay tuition, or go shopping for new clothes and shoes whenever I feel like, I am sharing my life with someone who makes me smile and laugh every day, who shows me unconditional love, supports me, and inspires me….and that is more important than anything.

Suddenly, the mangled and torn insoles of my shoes seem so insignificant ❤

A breath of fresh air.

Sometimes we just need some fresh air.  There is something about spending time with nature that is soothing, and helps you find peace with whatever you are struggling with.  We really wanted to go camping (secluded style, not in a massive field full of tents), and although it is a cheap thing to do, we just couldn’t afford it.  I was really upset, annoyed, etc. but tried my best to stay positive and come up with an alternative.  We decided to take a walk at Castlewood State Park, and then a drive through Lone Elk Park instead.  Our walk was very beautiful, and the air was very crisp- just the way we like it.  There was a bench on one of the bluffs, so we sat down and just enjoyed the view for a bit.  We breathed in that beautiful fresh air and just talked, and although I still want to go camping, I didn’t seem to mind as much anymore.  It was very calming.  Afterwards, we drove through Lone Elk Park, and briefly got to seek some elk and even a bison in the distance!

I often find myself craving to spend time outside or be with nature in some way, which I take as a sign that I am carrying around too much stress and need to take care of myself.  So, take care of myself I did.

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Free Spirit.

The Artist and I have frequent hear to heart talks, discussing life.  These talks are really heart felt and intense, but in a good way.  During one of our more recent talks, he told me about how he saw me as such a free spirit when we first met.  He said that I was very “real”.  That I was unafraid to be myself 100%.  And that he admired this, and my free spirited-ness inspired him to be more relaxed and stress free.

I was a little surprised by this, I had never really thought of myself as a free spirit, so I asked him why he thought this.  (Note: The Artist and I were roommates, with another roommate and two people living in the basement of the house during college, read more here: https://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/3-years-of-the-best-marriage-ever/ ) He said that he was very uptight and felt stressed all the time with regards to things like doing paperwork, house chores, etc.  He admired how I left my dishes in the sink for a few days before washing them, and how it didn’t bother me.  How I slept in on weekends and walked around the house in my pyjamas in the middle of the afternoon.  How I stayed up late watching a movie I had been craving to see while eating a big bag of chips, even though I knew I had to get up early.  How I threw my dirty laundry on the floor of my bedroom.  How I wanted to carve pumpkins at Halloween and put up a tree and a million knick-knacks during Christmas.  He said that I would get ready to go out with friends in just a few minutes, and look amazing.  How I gave honest opinions, and was direct with people on what I wanted.  How I would wear flip flops in the middle of winter to take the garbage to the curb……among so many other things.  Initially, I was thinking that this just proved that I was a slob, and kind of lazy.  But as we talked, he explained how it inspired him to live life in a more mellow, relaxing way.  To go with the flow, and stop to smell the roses along the way.  And that the way I seemed unafraid to be myself, even in front of a stranger, he said I was very “real” and wasn’t acting in a way that was unnatural to me or that I was trying to impress someone.  He said that I have changed his life, for the better.  That he is now more mellow, and doesn’t let things bother him.  And that this has carried over into his art practice, he stays up until the wee hours of the morning if he is on a roll with a good idea- instead of doing the so-called “sensible” thing and going to bed at a reasonable hour.  He doesn’t feel as much pressure to produce paintings quickly, but rather, lets the creative process take him over.  And that the result is works that are launching his career.

This really touched me.  I really never thought of myself as a free spirit type of person, and I still don’t know if I am.  But the way he expressed these feelings to me was very moving, and my heart almost exploded ❤  I had no idea I had touched his life on such a deep level.  Of course we love each other and have an amazing, fulfilling life together, but this story touched my soul in a way that I simply cannot describe.  I don’t think I have ever heard someone articulate how they saw their loved one, and how they fell in love.

Then I thought, am I still the free spirit he fell in love with?  And I sort of panicked, as I wasn’t sure if I was a free spirit then, let alone now.  As I was saying this, we were getting ready to go shopping before the store closed, which was soon.  I was starving so I microwaved some left overs on a plate, grabbed my purse and got into the passenger seat of the car- like it was no big deal. He looked at me, smiled, pointed at the plate of leftovers and said, “free spirit”.  And he continues to do this now, as I was having a hard time seeing in myself what he saw.  One time, I didn’t want to wait in line in the fitting room at a store, so I tried the shirt on over top of the shirt I was wearing.  One time I couldn’t find the lid for my Magic Bullet smoothie cup, so I screwed the blade back on, put it in my purse, and headed to my office.  Another time, I spilled a giant gob of salsa on my shirt, and proceeded to lick it off and continue eating.  On a rainy Saturday, I sat on the couch for several (and I mean several!) consecutive hours watching TV in a nest of blankets.  I am convinced it is more laziness, but my Artist continues to tell me how I inspire him, as I do what I want and indulge in a lot fun things.  And when we indulge in watching TV until our eyes burn, cuddled together, late at night, and having these heart to heart talks, the Artist points out what a fun night it was spending this time together giggling and being silly.  That it isn’t laziness per se, that yes- we could have cleaned the apartment or done something more “productive”, but instead had a wonderful night together.  And in my books, taking the time to live and love is way more productive in the grand scheme of life ❤

Surprises and My First Tattoo.

I get home from work on December 22nd, 2014 in the early evening, carrying my bags, binders, and change of shoes (I don’t like wearing heels driving) in my arms and fumbling through the door.  Steve hands me the phone and tells me to call my mom on her cell phone ASAP, not letting me empty my hands or take of my coat and boots. His sense of urgency concerned me a little, thinking that maybe something is wrong, or something urgent is going on.  I call her cell phone.  She answers and says hello, and after a few seconds on small talk her and my dad emerge from our bedroom.  SURPRISE!  All the way from Ontario, Canada, they surprised both the Artist and myself that night.  We talk often enough, that they new the Artist was home during the days and I was at work.  They knew we had one car, that I used it to get to work during weekdays.  Minutes before I arrived home, they had called the Artist to have him come down and let them in the front door of our apartment building, as you need a key.  He thought it was a joke- he and my mother have a very sarcastic dialogue.  But there they were, standing in the rain, waiting to be let inside.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I have never been surprised like that before- they came from SO far!  It’s not like  they stopped by on their way home……they drove down from another country.  We were unable to make it home for the holidays for both time and financial constraints, so they came to us!  They skipped all other holiday gatherings to spend the holidays with us ❤

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And they brought a million presents!!!

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I come from a small town, and everyone knew about the surprise.  Lots of folks sent gifts for us down with them, and holidays cards as well.  I know this is going to sound SO cliche, but it was a Christmas miracle ❤  My family doesn’t have much, but they are willing to spend what they do have one us ❤  I am so grateful to have such a wonderful family- there are no words.

We enjoyed some local museums, shopping, and lots of cooking.  And of course, lots of cooking meant lots of eating.  They even brought down a bunch of my favourite snacks from home that are unavailable here.  It was very hard when they left the following weekend.  There were many tears.  I think I am still recovering from the post-holiday blues……

To get ours spirits up, the Artist gave me my first tattoo on New Years Day.  Actually, he gave me two!

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The one on my finger is the crown motif in Basquiat’s paintings, and the Artist has a larger version of this one his ankle.  This was his first time doing a tattoo on someone else other then himself.  The one on my heel is the deathly hallows symbol from Harry Potter.  These are both very intimately meaningful to me in so many ways, but I am not going to divulge them on here.  Instead, ask me sometime.

As they heal, they are becoming more of a grey tone then black, and I have no idea why.  My skin is crazy, the Artist said I am like a member of X-Men.  I never get sun burns, I have very little body hair, and my skin is very oily and soft.  Like, so oily.  These tattoos have healed very well, and have caused me little inconvenience.  So we will see how they finish up!

Happy holidays ❤

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 🙂

 

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, https://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 ❤

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 😀

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 ❤