“Seven year itch” only got me itching for you

Reflections as we enter year seven of love and marriage and some babies in the carriage

I will never forget when I first got engaged my Strina Ika told me that “marriage is not all roses.” I couldn’t help but laugh at that statement.  For those who know my beloved aunt well know she gives the best advice.  Perplexed by her comment, I didn’t quite understand what she meant by that statement. But what I can tell you for sure is that she always has the best intentions.   At the time I thought, ah, she’s just being a little silly.  Little did I know then….

Back “Then”  Photo credit: Signature Design Photography

And then over the course of my marriage, I slowly started to understand what she meant by those words “marriage is not all roses.”

It was her way of telling me, it’s going to be hard work.  Like super hard work. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to scare you out of marriage, but I’m letting you know now that marriage isn’t easy:  it comes with ups and downs, highs and lows.  Once you get married, your life changes dramatically, especially when finances and children are involved.  Marriage takes a lot out of you and it consists of a lot of sacrifice and a ton of compromise.   But in order for it to work, it has to go both ways.

In the many conversations I’ve had with my close girlfriends over the years is that marriage is tough.   I mean, whenever I talk to my girlfriends it’s always the usual complaining about our husbands (and I’m sure they complain about us too).    However, I do believe that there is a way to survive all these little things (i.e. complaints, bickering, etc.) and still love each other and be a couple at the end of the day.  Perhaps that’s the romantic in me but I do strongly believe that.   With that being said, I know marriage is not for everyone and that’s okay too.   I also understand that some marriages can’t continue through (for an array of reasons) and that is okay too.  Please know that I am just speaking from my own, personal experience.

I do consider myself extremely blessed because I did marry my best friend; we are so different and yet so alike in many ways.  We do push each other’s buttons, we do have our disagreements…but at the end of the day, we mesh together so well!

I don’t believe in perfect.  I don’t think any relationship is perfect.  It can get messy, it can be hard.  I admit, we do butt heads time to time, but over the years, we’ve learned how to talk things out and find a common ground.   We still know how to have fun together. We still laugh, even when things get tough.   Life throws you many curveballs at you and that can cause stress on a relationship.  We’ve definitely had plenty thrown our way- residency, premature birth, high risk pregnancy, moving multiple times, major house renovation and a sudden death in our family, to name a few.  We went though a lot  in such a short period of time…. but we got through it together.  

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Despite all the ups and downs, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Nor could have I gone through all these obstacles if he wasn’t by my side…and even though we get on each other’s nerves, we get through things together.  We still hug each other every day; still kiss each other goodnight every day and make an effort to be ourselves around each other.  It’s not easy, but what I’ve learned from seven years of marriage is that couples need to find a common ground:  it’s about building trust, showing forgiveness and humility, and most importantly establishing good communication with one another and above all, being good role models to our children.  I also think tons of vino after a long day and cuddles on the couch helps too!

The other day we met up for lunch and I couldn’t help but look at him the same way I did during that first encounter we met well over 15 years ago.  It’s that fire that still ignites in us and despite many challenges that come our way, we’ve become stronger together.

Živjeli sto godina…i više…

“Now” Photo credit: Yellow Pear Studio

Natalie’s easy pasta sauce

A few weeks ago, one of my friends asked me when I learned to cook. I told her “not until I got married, and before that I was awful.”  She was stunned by my admission.  Truthfully speaking, my mom did most of it growing up, so there was no need for me to even try and when I did, it was awful. I couldn’t even make Kraft mac n’cheese.  It would turn out so watery that my brother teased me and called it “water n’cheese.”  I couldn’t crack an egg properly and my pancakes always burned.  But that didn’t mean that I didn’t love food.

Growing up, I lived in a very unique family setting a la Full House: it was me, my brother, my parents and my late uncle.  My late uncle loved to cook, dine at fine restaurants and to entertain.  For a long period of time, I was his partner in crime.   He took me everywhere and treated me to the finest Windsor had to offer:  Erie Street.  He was a class act and his passion for food and wine was a great influence on my life.  I was always amazed by his love for cooking, entertaining and being social.

Although I didn’t learn how to cook until I was married, it is definitely in my blood: my aunt and uncle run a restaurant in Germany and my late grandfather made an amazing Hungarian goulash.  But it was my very own “Uncle Jessie” who made me a foodie from a very young age.

My passion for food grew even larger when I met my husband.  His mother is the queen of entertaining and my sister-in-law is an impeccable cook and baker.  In my mid-twenties, my husband and I were living in Toronto and we thoroughly enjoyed city life.   He had a list of Blog TO’s top 50 restaurants in his wallet, making it his mission for us to visit every one…and was it fun!

It was not until I was on my first maternity leave that I realized my true passion was for cooking.   Early mornings feeding the baby introduced me to some of the “gods” on Food Network:  Giada De Laurentis, David Rocco, Laura Calder, Michael Smith, to name a few. I was inspired to try different things out, explore different cuisines and cookbooks and basically practiced my way into cooking.

I wouldn’t consider myself a master chef but I am miles away from making that watery Kraft mac n’cheese I did many moons ago.   Today, I love cooking and find it very relaxing.  I also enjoy entertaining and love having company over a nice meal, some meze and vino.

Being a busy mom,  it’s nice to make something that everyone will love, that can last a few days and something you can freeze for another day.

Here is my easy pasta sauce that has taken me a few years to master and perfect.  It was influenced partly by how my mother makes bolognese and how my mother-in-law makes it.   It’s not a real bolognese in the sense because I don’t add milk to mine and I add a ton of veggies to it to make it more flavourful.   Is it authentic? No because I add premade tomato and basil sauce to it.  But it works.  This recipe has become a hit in my household and is great on top of penne or in-between lasagna sheets.

Natalie’s Easy Pasta Sauce

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Ingredients

1. One cooking onion, chopped

2. One large carrot, chopped

3. One celery stalk, chopped

4. One yellow zucchini, chopped

5. One garlic clove, minced

6. 1 small package of lean ground beef and 1 small package of lean ground pork (or: two mixed ground beef, pork and veal packages).

7. 2 jars of tomato and basil sauce (any brand; I usually buy what’s on sale).

8. 1 small can of tomato paste (to thicken it).

9. Salt and pepper; to taste

10. Dash of sugar

11. Olive oil

Optional: Podravka Vegeta (to taste); chilli flakes (to taste)

Directions:

1. In a large pot, drizzle olive oil to have bottom of the pot evenly covered (about 2 tablespoons) and heat pot on stove to about medium. Add onions, minced garlic, carrots, celery and zucchini and sauté until a nice golden colour.

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2. Add your ground beef/pork/veal and cook until brown.  I break up the meat with my spatula so it’s not clumpy.

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3. Once meat is cooked, add the jars of tomato and basil sauce, dash of sugar (to get rid of the acidity) and bring to a boil.

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4. Reduce heat to about medium-low; add tomato paste and salt and pepper to taste. Vegeta and chilli flakes is optional.   Let cook for about 30-45 minutes and enjoy on top of your pasta of choice or use for lasagna.

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Enjoy!  Dobar tek!

***Notes: if you do not want to be your sauce to be “oily,” drain the meat/veggies through a strainer and store all the oil from the meat in a separate container and disregard.  Then add your tomato and basil sauce, etc. and continue cooking.

This recipe is great for freezing for another day so my rule-of-thumb is to keep it in the freezer up to one month.

Who has it better? Stay at home moms or working moms?

From a mother who has done both

I’ve been very fortunate to have been given the opportunity to stay at home with my kids over the past summer.  I am also very blessed to have been on a full-year’s maternity leave twice.  I’ve enjoyed my time away from the office and staying at home with the kids.  It was nice to wake up and hang out in my pyjamas for a while and to spend some quality time with the kids.  But needless to say, it was pretty exhausting.   There’s this huge misconception that staying at home is a paid vacation and the bottom line, it isn’t.

As much as I enjoyed my time off, there were times that I felt like that meme you see on Instagram- you are the chef, event coordinator, cleaner, driver, nurse and so on and so fourth.   It’s exhausting!  Staying at home takes a lot out of you and sometimes you are left wondering if going to work would be a break in of itself.  I definitely drank my coffee cold most days!

When I returned to work, I was briefly excited to “dress up” and to put some make-up on.  I finally got to enjoy my coffee warm.  I was excited to be around some adults and to have some intellectual stimulation.  Then the guilt started to sink in….I felt guilty knowing my youngest would be going to daycare and that someone else would be looking after him during the daytime.   I felt guilty knowing that I would be missing some field trips with my oldest as I couldn’t take a lot of time off.   I then started to experience some anxiety knowing that I had to manage being a mother all while having a career. Did I mention all the other things I have to do?!

It’s hard isn’t it?  This motherhood thing?  

But what I came to realize is that motherhood is hard, regardless if you work or stay at home.  I started to come to the conclusion that it’s all about perspective.  The bottom line is…..regardless if you are a stay-at-home mom or a working mom, it’s tough.  There is no easy way out.  Motherhood isn’t easy and that’s the truth, whether you are a working mom or a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t think working moms have it easier than stay-at-home moms and vice-versa.  They both come with their challenges and rewards.  Ultimately, you have to do what’s best for you and your family.  In some families, the mother is the breadwinner and she needs to return to that job and for other families its just not financially worth it for the mother to go back to work for a while….and that is okay!

What I realized that is that what works for one family, does not work for another.  We need to end this “working mom versus stay-at-home mom” debate once and for all, because doing what is best for your family takes precedence and that varies for everyone.

Photocred:  Yellow Pear Studio