Smarties Ice Cream

This evening, I rewarded myself with some ice cream. Of course, this was Smarties Ice Cream, because that’s the best kind.

I’m not sure how or when Ailish and I decided Smarties Ice Cream was the best. I remember, early in our relationship, Ailish introduced me to Marble Slab ice cream. After trying a few different flavours, I quickly settled on coffee + cream, mixed in with skor bits. Once I found that combination, I stuck with it. So declaring Smarties ice cream to be the optimal choice is absolutely something that I would do.

Except, of course, it would have been totally out of character for Ailish to go along with that. This is a woman who rearranged the living room every three or four months. Who painted the kitchen because she didn’t like the colour. Who thought we should perhaps sleep in the kitchen and move the coffee maker and dishwasher into the bedroom, just to keep things interesting.

Still, we somehow settled on Smarties ice cream. And for the life of me, I cannot imagine Ailish accepting that unless she had come up with the plan.

Really, the only way out is that Ailish preferred potato chips.


Earlier this month, the cemetery installed the headstone we ordered for Ailish. The expression we used, “A chuisle mo chroí”, is an Irish term that literally means “pulse of my heart”, but figuratively means “my love” or “my darling.”

To me, the expression represents the love I had for Ailish, the love her family and her friends had for her, and the love she had for all of us. I’m happy we could use an Irish expression for this; much as Ailish loved Canada, she was also fiercely proud to be Irish.

I am very happy with how the headstone turned out. The engraved rose, in particular, is beautiful.


Ailish loved politics.

A lot of times, when Ailish loved something, it was because it was an excuse to spend time with other people. She loved beer because you’d sit around in a pub, chatting. She loved running because sometimes she could convince Siobhan to skip the running and go straight for the ice cream and conversation. She loved snowboarding because you headed to the mountains with a bunch of friends.

I’m absolutely sure there was a lot of that driving her love of politics, too. But I have never met someone who cared more about Canadian (Canadian!) politics. Who could express so eloquently how the different levels of government worked in Canada. Who got so annoyed when municipal candidates talked about items that were the province’s purview. Who was so frustrated that CBC didn’t produce a Canadian West Wing.

We had cable t.v. so she could watch hockey games (live, not streamed three seconds behind real time). But mostly so she could watch Canadian news shows in the evening. Every time they had a panel of political experts on, Ailish said how she desperately wanted that job. Not now, perhaps, but later in her career.

Ailish asked me once to rank how important the different levels of government were, in my daily life. I said I saw myself as Canadian first (well, once I get citizenship), Albertan second, and Edmontonian third. I don’t think I got a word in edgewise for the next half hour as Ailish corrected me, explained how I had the order the wrong way around, and justifying every part of her position. She absolutely believed municipal government was the most important, and counted herself an Edmontonian first. She worked for the City of Edmonton because of how strongly she believed this, and how much she felt she could contribute there.

This past Friday, Ailish would have been 29. We would have gone out to a fancy restaurant and eaten fancy food. But with Alberta in full-on election mode, I know exactly what we’d be talking about.


The other morning, I looked outside and saw my frosty car. There’s nothing fun about scraping the windows of your car on a cold morning. It’s one of the many reasons I am happy I work from home. Ailish never looked very pleased to be scraping off her car, nor was she thrilled to navigate our snowy neighbourhood roads in the morning.

As I looked at the Forester, I thought to myself that perhaps some day, I should catch a ride in to work with Ailish. It wouldn’t be so bad as last year, because the Forester has remote start. And we could maybe stop for breakfast somewhere. She could go to work, and I could go to a coffee shop with my laptop. And on the way, I could stop at the bench downtown that is dedicated to Ailish’s memory.

It wasn’t until that moment that I remembered why I couldn’t catch a ride with Ailish in the morning. Or ever again.


Chris’s Approach

Spaghetti is a means of consuming large quantities of cheese.

In order to maximise the amount of cheese, it is important not to make too much spaghetti. Once cooked, you sprinkle some parmesan cheese and then top it off with a layer of shredded chedder. Somewhere around 100g is sufficient.

You then add some spaghetti sauce (hot & spicy is clearly the best option, though it’s neither particularly hot nor spicy). No point pre-heating the sauce because you’ll soon be using the microwave anyway.

The spaghetti sauce serves as a good base for an additional layer of cheese. You should easily be able to add another 100g.

Place the resulting mess into the microwave until the cheese has sufficiently melted. Enjoy, preferably with fruit juice (or perhaps beer).

Ailish’s Approach

Spaghetti is a means of eating a healthy, well-balanced meal.

You probably need three times as much spaghetti as Chris suggests. The preparation requires careful timing. While cooking the spaghetti, you need to defrost some ground beef. Once defrosted, add this to the spaghetti sauce and cook.

Once the spaghetti is ready, it is appropriate to add a little parmesan cheese. While cheese is tasty, moderation is the key. Top with the spaghetti sauce.

This meal contains carbs (spaghetti), meat (in the spaghetti sauce), but no vegetables (for reasons that were never clear, the tomato sauce does not count). So, spaghetti requires a salad in order to be considered a complete meal. A caesar salad is a good choice.  Enjoy, preferably with fruit juice (or perhaps beer).


What Changes

After Ailish and I were engaged, I met up with a friend for tea. She got married in 2008, and I asked her what surprised her most about marriage. She said what most surprised her was how much more she loved her husband now than when she had married him.

This seemed unreasonable to me. In this day and age, relationships don’t work that way. People live together before they get married. They see each other every day. Heck, Ailish and I had bought a house together a year into our relationship. At that point, we were pretty significantly committed to each other, at least financially if nothing else. And everyone else I talked to said that nothing really changes when you get married.

Everyone else was wrong.

Sure, the day to day stuff does not change. You still have work to do. You still have bills to pay. If you are lucky, you still get Friday night dates. You’re probably both better at Settlers of Catan, but that comes from massive amounts of practice, it is not a skill imparted by the universe on your wedding day.

But you have a commitment to each other. You have a promise to look out for each other, to care for each other, to be partners for the rest of your lives. That brings security. You know you can get through the minor disagreements. Mistakes will be forgiven. Decisions can be made together. Crises shared. Sidewalks shovelled if someone stays out late. That commitment simply doesn’t exist until you say your wedding vows.

And with that commitment, with that partnership, once everything else falls away, you can love each other more than before. More than when you were dating, more than when you were engaged.

Ailish and I were married for less than nine months. I was not always the perfect husband, she was not always the perfect wife, though we tried. But we loved each other more in April than we did the prior August, when I was sure I could not possibly love anyone more. And I would have known her better and loved her more perfectly had we been sitting on our front step when we were 81 and 90, yelling at kids to get off our lawn (and shooting them with lasers). It did not work out that way, but I will always be immensely happy for the time we did have together.


I used to have long hair. But, since long before Ailish ever met me, I’ve kept it short. Really, really short. Every few weeks, it grows long enough to drive me crazy, and I shave it. An advantage to having a significant other is they can be recruited to shave your head. You see, it’s really rather difficult to get it all, especially on the back of your head. Ailish hated shaving my head.

You see, Ailish really would rather I’d have grown my hair out. Not long, you understand, but more than, say, an inch. Given how frustrated I would get with my hair, I doubt Ailish believed it was ever long. But she’d have been much happier had it been, say, “average short”. A few times, she tried simply refusing to shave my head, but it didn’t help. I simply would not compromise. I was quite capable of shaving it myself, it just wouldn’t be as neat. So, reluctantly, every few weeks, Ailish shaved my head.

Ailish also rather liked the ‘scruffy, unshaven’ look. In all fairness, it’s possible she actually preferred a full beard and mustache, but I never got that far. Every so often, I’d stop shaving. Ailish would notice and approve. But, you see, the problem was the kissing. Neck kisses were a particular favourite of hers and eventually, as I got more and more scruffy, Ailish would start to squeak and back away. And that was that. Looks are fine, but no way could looks get in the way of kissing.

If you find a picture of me in Montreal, you will see that my hair is slightly longer than normal, and I’m unshaven. That was planned.

How to Toss Swedish Berries

First, make sure you have Swedish berries. You may be able to find Nordic berries for a substantially reduced price, but don’t be fooled. These are not the same. This restricts berry tossing to Canada, as Maynards has discontinued Swedish berries in the United States. You also want to ensure they are fresh, as old Swedish berries become hard, and not at all suitable for tossing. Now, you need to determine which person will throw the Swedish berry and which person will catch the berry.

Ideally, you want Ailish to toss the berry. Chris simply is no good at this. You need to stand about five feet away from the other person, and toss the berry with a soft, underhand motion. The goal should be to toss it in a nice, parabolic path, right in to the other person’s mouth. You should not use an overhand motion, avoid excessive speed, and refrain from completely missing your partner, if at all possible.

Ideally, you also want Ailish to catch the Swedish berry. It helps to be shorter, but the trick is to quickly drop down to one knee when trying to catch the berry. It’s probably safest to wear a helmet and safety glasses, and if the berries are old, you pretty much need a mouth guard. As a general rule, it’s entirely appropriate to complain at how terrible the toss was. If the berry ends up more than five feet away from your mouth, you should also make vague references to the tosser’s sense of direction.

Berries that land on the floor obey the five second rule. You should not begin counting until you have visually located said berry (just in case it managed to remain airborne).

Valentine’s Day

I’m not a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day is once a year. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating your love that day, I suppose, though it always felt a bit tacky (and definitely overpriced). But if you love a person, you should tell them all the time. You should speak the words. You should leave little notes by the door. You should buy roses. You should hold hands when walking from the bus. You should go for walks together when the weather is nice. You should leave the light on, and shovel the snow. You should hide cards under her pillow. Remember to buy chips, even though candy is clearly superior. Steal hugs in the middle of the night. Come back to bed for more naps, even though you aren’t good at napping. Friday night dates.

If you love a person, love them every day. Make sure they know.

Moo stories

I used to tell Ailish stories about Moo. Moo was a rather stupid (male) cow. He would, for example, occasionally get confused and forget to open his eyes when he woke up, and then panic that the Sun had gone out. Ailish loved the stories, and often requested a new one.

The stories were not particularly good. I tended to make them up on the spot, and there’s only so much trouble a rather stupid cow can get into. The stories had morals attached to them, albeit morals that were mostly appropriate to rather stupid cows. Ailish would complain when the moral was too simple. Or when I couldn’t remember the names of Moo’s friends. She also didn’t appreciate when I tried to bring a giraffe into the story. Still, they were better than the animal stories Ailish used to tell; she would kill off her protagonist at the end of all of her stories, so I refused to allow her to tell any. I suspect this may have been a ploy.

Moo may have been a stupid cow, but he was a great source of amusement. Ailish and I were married for 263 days. Today is 263 days since Ailish died. This morning, I told her a Moo story.