One to Watch

The Artist has been recently featured on Saatchi as “One to Watch”!  Check out a short write up and some awesome photos of him in his studio here: http://canvas.saatchiart.com/art/one-to-watch/steve-byrnes

He was also on the cover of Art Voices, you can go to their website to see where the magazine circulates.  You can also check out The Artist’s website: http://www.stevebyrnes.org

I just wanted to do a little shameless bragging, I am so proud of him.  He works so hard and continues to follow his dreams, no matter what.  I advocate for taking a little risk in life….you think you can’t afford to move?  You can.  You think you can’t go back to school?  You can.  You think you can’t get a different job?  You can.  And so on, you get the idea.  If you want something- do it.  You only get one life, don’t waste it being only half-happy, or not happy at all.  There is always a way to achieve your goals.  To quote Jan from The Office, “there will always be a million reasons to NOT do something”.

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DIY Bleached Jean Jacket!

The Artist and I love to thrift shop.  I had been wanting a jean jacket lately, and hadn’t been finding anything that I liked.  So one day while thrifting, the Artist held up a jean jacket and said I should try it on.  I did not like the colour at all, but then he said if it fits nicely, he could bleach it to what I want.  GENIUS!  It was a perfect fit.  I took home my jacket that cost only a few dollars, $3-$4 I think it was, the Artist made some magic happen.  He has worked with bleach in his works before, and was very familiar with how to handle it.  I was after a blotchy look, where the jacket was lighter coloured and the seams were darker.  Here are some tips on what he did!

This is how it started:

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Firstly- wear gloves to do this, in a well ventilated area or outside.

1. He started off diluting the bleach with water to gauge how quickly and severely it would affect the fabric.  Al fabrics react differently.  After a while, he started using undiluted bleach as the fabric was holding up very well.

2. He used a paintbrush to apply it.  That way, he could control where the bleach went, and how much, versus dunking it in a bucket.  And I wanted the seams to be dark still.

3. He “splattered” and “dripped” bleach onto it as well.

4. When it looked almost done, we vigorously dunked it in a bucket of just water we had waiting.  This will stop the bleaching process.  Stopping it when almost done worked well, because even though we dunked it in water it still continued to get a little lighter for a few minutes afterwards.

5. After vigorously dunking, I took it inside and washed it in the bathtub with laundry soap, again, vigorously.  The goal is to stop the bleaching process and rinse the jacket of all the bleach.

6. I let it air dry, and then added it to a load of laundry in the washer to get rid of the remaining bleach smell, and air dried again.  I prefer to air dry most of my clothes so they don’t shrink, and didn’t want to risk this jacket shrinking.  I don’t know how the dryer would affect a bleached item.

We thought it might need some touch ups, but it didn’t.  For touch ups, we planned on dabbing it with bleach where needed, but it didn’t need it.

And after all that- I have what I had been looking for 😀  Watching my jacket get created was like watching the Artist paint.  He is so talented in so many ways, and I get to witness true works of art in every day situations ❤

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Summer 2014- A Glimpse

This summer has gone by SO fast.  I had to take a moment and think about what  I actually did because it really just flew by.  Then I realized, we had some great adventures!  Here is a sample:

1. Went to the zoo.

2. Went to the botanical gardens.

3. Picnic in the park on a sunny day.

4. The Artist got his first tattoo.  See: https://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/the-artists-first-tattoo/

5. We spent a weekend with my sister and brother in law.

6. We played darts at Blueberry Hill.

7. Horror movie marathon with a friend.

8. Became good friends with our new neighbour across the hall.

9. Discovered a great, brand new Goodwill store nearby with great items.

10. Went to one of our favourite restaurants for Pad Thai, called Basil Spice.

11. Saw the latest Wes Anderson movie in theatres, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

12. Went to the circus.

13. Each celebrated a birthday.

14. Went to some art shows.

15. The Artist made homemade alfredo pasta with grilled pork loin.  I don’t even like alfredo sauce but he had a vision.  So I tried some- it was AMAZING!  I guess it is the stuff in jars or pre-made sauce that I don’t like because this homemade sauce was delicious.

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16. Went bowling.

17. A walk in forest park at dusk on a brisk, beautiful day.

18. The Artist had his thesis show and I threw him a little surprise.  See: https://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/surprise/

19. We celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary.  Read about our love story here! https://emilyandherartist.wordpress.com/2013/08/28/3-years-of-the-best-marriage-ever/

20. I got a job!  Which involved the getting work permission, which was stressful, but  I did it!

21. The Artist got gallery representation.  Yes, that’s right!  He has been a busy beaver with that.

22. I got my ears pierced- for the very first time ever!  Most women get them done so young they don’t even remember it.  I have never had a piercing at all, and it was no pain(or blood)-free!  But I love them and am so excited to try out all kinds of earrings after they heal 🙂

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No wonder summer went by so fast, we were so busy!  I am so fortunate to be able to do all of these things!  The Artist and I are officially announcing that we are staying in St. Louis for now, because I have got a job 🙂  What a whirlwind it has been these last few months ❤  Cheers to our future!

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 ❤

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: https://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. ❤

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: https://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.  ❤

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