Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dreaming of a Dinner Party (Fiesta!)

Menu on our chalkboard wall in the kitchen :)
We did it! We finally hosted our very first dinner party.

(Took us long enough... We have been living in our first home since August.) 

For our theme - because there needs to be a theme - we went with "fiesta." 

I made sure to include a lot of colour throughout the dining and living room. 

We managed to eat six bags of colourful candy... That's a bag of candy per person... 

It is just occurring to me now how disturbing that is... 

Let's talk menu (pictured above):

As an appetizer, I made this jalapeño popper dip. I know, I know. I've mentioned it before. But my friends absolutely love it. My only adjustment involved omitting the green chiles. Spicy food is off-limits to Sam during her treatment.

Next came the main course. I made chipotle shrimp tacos, avocado salsa, and Mexican lasagna. Because these recipes were to a great extent invented in the moment - and scribbled down, in case they turned out (they did!) - I'll share them here sometime soon.
Finally putting my collection of vintage aprons to good use!
For drinks, the boys had beer and the girls had raspberry and blackberry mojitos. I acquired my new nickname: "slowest drink maker of all time."

I'm a perfectionist - what can I say?
Raspberry & blackberry mojitos for the girls!
My best move of the evening was getting ready before I started cooking. This isn't necessarily right for everyone; but it is definitely right for me. The truth is... I'm a fusspot. While cooking, I invariably take much longer than anticipated:
"I'll just quickly google how to slice an avocado. Even though it is going to be stirred up with lime juice, onions, tomatoes and garlic... and will ultimately resemble mush."
Yes. I am working on my perfectionism.

Buying dessert (donuts) was also one of my better moves. I was left with no spare time to bake come the arrival of our guests.

I should mention that I did prep my food in advance of getting ready. I prepared the jalapeño popper dip and marinated my shrimp. I popped them in the fridge before jumping in the shower. 

Lessons for next time: only one! Set the table in advance. Set it beautifully! It is the canvas for the meal you have been preparing all day (although I wouldn't exactly call this last meal "art"). It will make your life easier come time to serve (when your oven timer is beeping, the shrimp are burning, and the tortillas are no longer warm).

The end.

In other news... Here are two pictures unrelated to this post (just because).
Missing summertime and beach days! Not exactly enjoying the frigid cold in Ottawa. If you're reading this in a faraway place, please send warm vibes to my bestie.
And Eggnog in his new blue bandana... just because.
What are you making for dinner this weekend?


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What I've Always Known and What I've Learned (+ Goals for 2015)

I have to admit... I see little value in calling 2015 a clean slate.

This new year is not about the opportunity to start fresh. Nor is it about the chance to get things right. In my world, all of the former translates into a deep-seated yearning for perfection. And that is not what I want.

In my opinion, this new year is an opportunity to leverage what I've always known, acknowledge what I learned last year, and set goals accordingly for the year to come. Who needs a clean slate? I'll take a slate full of past! (Weird)

Goal time. Let's do this! (ft. Eggnog)

What I've always known: 

1. I am book smart (or "good at school" as my friends like to call me). I enjoy reading, studying, making presentations and writing essays. Above all, I love learning new things. As a result of this, I am fortunate that high grades have always come easy to me.

Now please allow me to bypass appearing completely conceited. While I have never struggled academically, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to...

Do you need driving directions? Great. I have lived in Ottawa for 24 years. But no. I'm sorry. I can't help you. If not for the Maps app on my iPhone, I would be perpetually lost.

Do you want to talk about history?*

*I ran away. Embarrassed. I wish I had watched that one war movie with Graham. Or read that one book on history. Correction: I wish I had read any book on history... 

The moral is: I have some work to do in certain areas. But I feel fortunate to have such a strong passion for learning.

2. I am creative. When I was in elementary school, I would continually beg my parents to take me to the movie theatre (normal). Only to return home, completely inspired; then proceed to write a 30-page story before supper time (less normal). When I tired of writing, I would spend hour upon hour drawing pictures of stories I had floating around in my mind.

My parents have threatened to read one of said stories at my wedding. I'm sure they were brilliant... Not. (My MOH's sole duty is to ensure this does not happen.) 

I went on to take creative writing in high school, and there, I felt as though I had finally found my niche. I remember hand-making a costume for my final presentation to accompany the story I had written. I dressed as a pregnant corpse, covered in cobwebs (Her spirit had inhabited the attic of her murderous husband's home after her death... Just in case you were wondering...). I also recall the horrified look on each of my classmates' faces:
Too far Kristina. Too far.
My favourite pastime is scrapbooking. DIY projects allot me a greater sense of accomplishment than I can put into words. I plan my Halloween costumes months in advance. Dreaming up the colours and details of our (upcoming) summer wedding has been one of the most amusing efforts I have ever put forth. Creating recipes - combining new (often odd) flavours to see if and/or how they "go" - makes for a happy me, and a happy Graham (most of the time...).

You get the picture.

What I've learned (from 2014): 

1. I am competent and productive. I am capable of exploring my passions and chasing my dreams.

Truth is... I have never felt capable of all that much. I did not attend my undergraduate graduation because I felt like I could have done "so much more." I did not have a plan for graduate school, nor a plan to effectively use my education. Similarly, when I later landed my full-time job, I called it a fluke. "I got lucky," I said.

Then came the newfound free time that accompanies bidding farewell your life as a student. Suddenly, I did not have evening classes to attend. I did not have essays to write or exams to prepare for. I had one job. And a stable one (that comes with vacation), at that. 

In honesty, the free time overwhelmed me. There was so much I wanted to do (finally the time to explore my passions!), but so little I felt capable of. I found myself wondering: What if I fail? I have always dreamed of having the time to write a blog, immerse myself in a craft project, write a story. But what if I just... can't. 

And so I told myself that I wasn't competent: You are not a good enough writer (you studied psychology instead of English). You do not have the attention span to complete a project. You are not creative enough (funny, because I just listed this under the things I've always known). 

Turns out, telling myself that I was incompetent actually made me unproductive. My negative self-talk inspired bad decisions. Stopping at the store for snacks on my way home from work because "What else am I going to do with my night other than Netflix?" Telling Graham to make plans with friends because I was too tired to do much of anything. Not the kind of inspiration I needed.

Don't get me wrong! I love spending a lazy afternoon or evening watching movies, snuggling on the couch with Graham and Eggnog. I just don't want to spend every afternoon or evening watching movies. It's just not me. And Graham was quick to tell me so, as he proceeded to dig me out of my short-lived rut (sloth-hood). 

Have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Be it on account of laziness - or in my case, fear of failure - I urge you to break your routine. 

One evening after work, I came home and wrote for hours. I broke the Netflix habit. It has now been several months, and I have not looked back since. 

From that moment on, I began to prove to myself that I am capable, competent and even more productive than I ever thought possible. I may have found school to be rewarding, but it pales in comparison to the joy I feel while exploring my passions. 
I learned to say yes to adventure and exploring new places!
(Also looking very much like a tourist here.) 
2. I am capable of saying yes to adventure (and in general). 

Years ago, truth be told: spontaneity was a concept unknown to me. I said no... a lot. 

A spontaneous brunch... let's meet in twenty minutes? No way! I haven't showered. I already made a smoothie. 

This makes me laugh... I now live for spontaneous brunch dates. 

A weekend getaway... we're leaving this Friday? Not a chance! I am in the process of saving money.

Also makes me laugh... I am now often the organizer of said weekend trips. 

Skip yoga or the gym... to see that old friend I haven't seen in ages? Absolutely not. I need to exercise regularly. If I skip the gym today, I will never return again! 

This one in particular may be puzzling to others. Isn't it important to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Of course it is. But the bolded statement above is catastrophic thinking at best. When you are as regimented as I am (or can be), skipping a workout isn't the end of the world. I exercise less than I used to now (currently 2-3 times per week), and I feel happier and more balanced than ever before. To each their own. You need to do what's right for you. 

I learned to never say no to brunch. Never.

Goals for 2015

Alas, because of what I've always known and because of what I've learned, some of which are related and some of which are not, I present to you - my lovely followers - my resolutions for 2015 (our goals as a couple are also mixed in):
  1. Make time for creativity
  2. Buy Less! Go for quality 
  3. Volunteer our time (Graham and I have talked extensively about this - more to come) 
  4. Pray together each day 
  5. Take a sewing/embroidery class (Graham insisted that I mention this is not his goal... hehe) 
  6. Join an intramural sport as a couple... Maybe softball in the spring? NO floor hockey... Sorry Graham
  7. Monthly date night 
  8. Eat dinner together at the table more often
Monthly date night? Sign me up!
It may not be on our list of resolutions, but I plan on spending a lot of time in 2015 cozying up to these two snuggle
What have you always known? What have you only just learned? 

Oh, you haven't overthought this to death like I have... 

Then what are your goals for 2015? ;)


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ringing in 2015: A Different Celebration

My favourite Christmas followed by one of the most memorable New Year's Eve celebrations of my whole life. You could say I'm pretty lucky...

This year, for a number of reasons, our celebration was a little different.

In the past, New Year's Eve - not to mention the days and weeks prior - were marked by the pursuit of balance... A spectacular balance of glitz, glamour, and hype (that is). 

There would be plenty of research and discussion:
Should we buy tickets to a gala? A quiet lounge? Should we throw a party? Go to a bar? Should we try and squeeze in all four? What will we drink? What will we wear?! 
I have to admit. Re-reading the above makes me shudder.

You may be wondering:
What's wrong with making a solid plan for New Year's Eve?
Nothing! Absolutely nothing at all.

Let me be clear: I love planning!

It is not the planning of celebrations past that I feel discomfort towards. That said, when I read or think about the planning process that I previously engaged in, I quite honestly begin to feel my blood pressure rising. Planning was marked by anxiety, expectancy, and seemingly unavoidable pressure.

Don't get me wrong, I have never had a "bad" New Year's Eve. Each year, I felt blessed to be surrounded by family and friends.

The problem is (was!) the following:
I wrongfully believed that "the plan" was what New Year's Eve was all about.
I could not have been more mistaken.

As mentioned above: this year, our celebration was a little different. We decided to have a New Year's Eve Pyjama party!
Laid back. Care-free. Prepare a snack if you have the time. Pack some alcohol if you plan on drinking. Come by whenever. Leave whenever.
Let's just all be together.
(I feel the need to mention that Sam and I still had glitter nail polish. And there was certainly still champagne. Laid back... with some sparkle.) 
Ready for our New Year's Eve Pyjama Party (naturally I made us wear onesies)!
Because our plan was quite easygoing as compared to years prior, I was given the opportunity to gain an understanding. Finally, I recognized the insignificance of the things I previously deemed significant. Where you are and what you are doing at the moment in time when one year transitions into another. 

At one point during our evening, during a game of drawful (also known as the best game ever, included in this party pack), while laughing uncontrollably, I looked around the room, both peaceful and awestruck:
This is what New Year's Eve is all about.
Reflecting on the year that has passed (the good and the bad). Setting an intention for the year to come. Being surrounded by family and friends. Knowing that you can cry, laugh, and share your dreams. Feeling both present and completely understood.

In one moment of stillness, I felt movement. A shift within myself. Finally, a greater understanding. 

Next year, when Sam is perfectly healthy, we may opt to buy those tickets to the New Year's Eve Gala. But the plan won't matter. Only the people will. 
Happy in my bunny onesie. 
Now for the fun part:

We shared favourite recipes. I made this dip, and it was a huge hit. Brian and Mel's spread of cheese, fruit and charcuterie guaranteed that we could not stop eating (even when it hurt...). The meatballs Jeff made were heavenly. So good that I can't write about them without running the risk that I'll try and make them for dinner... And be underwhelmed. My biggest regret was being too full to eat one of Laura's dessert bars... Have I shared enough about food yet?

We played games. We snuggled on the couch. We took group pictures. I accidentally walked into the wrong apartment (in my bunny onesie...) while meeting Laura and Matt downstairs. We spilled drinks on my (and for some reason, only my) onesie. We listened to music. We spent the entire evening laughing.

I couldn't have asked for more.
My strong girl. And a grainy selfie because... we were so cozy!
As a recovering perfectionist, "perfect" is not an adjective that I commonly use. So I'll say this instead: last night was amazing.

It was perfect though... 

New Years Day brunch with our best friends (and the cutest surprise stationary)!
This morning, we went out for New Year's Day Brunch... Does 2 o'clock pm still count as brunch?

I noticed immediately, the moment I laid eyes on her, that Sam looked so happy. She appeared entirely calm and glowing from the inside out. "So herself" is the best way I know how to describe her.

I know that we are only just beginning 2015, but I think it may have made my year.
Bros :)
Before I wrap up, I know I should be honest and share that sometimes, I feel like I am learning lessons at 24 that I should have learned at 20, or some years ago. Sometimes I give myself a hard time because of it.

But growth is growth at any age. And I ought to be thankful for it.

To learning, love, health, happiness... and pyjama parties.