Knit 1, Purl 1, Knit 1, Purl 1…

I’m the kind of person who has a billion hobbies and is always searching for more. I go through phases, or cycles of them. I’ll find something interesting and engaging, throw myself into it wholeheartedly and see where it takes me. I have a lot of creative energy, it makes me feel happy and fulfilled to craft or create. That feeling of accomplishment when you’ve produced something is a rush like no other. It makes me feel interesting and special, crafty and crazy. But most importantly, it’s an outlet. For all the thoughts, feelings, dreams, and internal strangeness that cannot be expressed any other way. If you’re a fellow zany, creative, crafter type, you’ll know what I mean.

A couple of autumns ago, I fell in love with ponchos. It was one of those days where you think it’s going to be warmer than it is, but the season is taking that sharp turn from refreshing crispness in the air to face numbing harshness. D and I planned to be out, walking around the city for a bit. I thought I’d be fine, but I wasn’t. We jumped in a shop and I started looking for an extra layer of warmth so we could carry on with our day. I found this gorgeous navy blue poncho with a cozy cowled neckline and lovely red accent stripes that appealed perfectly to my sense of style. For forty bucks, it was a steal. It started me wanting to buy and wear only ponchos and big chunky sweaters all the time. Shopping is great, but sometimes you find things that you would almost buy, but then not. Because something isn’t quite right enough to merit a purchase. If only something could be done or changed to make it more you.

I started thinking about how awesome it would be if I could just knit my own ponchos and sweaters. That idea simmered in the back of my brain for a while, I was still consumed with wedding plans and other things. It would have to wait, I’d circle back later. And life went on.

Flash forward a couple of years, the weather starting to dip into colder territory again, I was digging into the depths of the closet to pull out all of my ponchos and sweaters for another cozy autumn. I was starting to feel restless with current creative endeavours. It was time to pivot, try something new. That thought of knitting my own things started to heat up again, bubbling and eventually boiling over. I wanted desperately to start knitting, I could think of nothing else. I needed to try it, see if it was something I could do.

I thought I could just waltz into the craft store, grab a knitting magazine and some yarn then get started. I’m no virgin crafter, I’ve seen some shit in my time, man. Trust me, some crazy shit. I got this.

Wrong. I was wrong, all wrong, I take it back. Totally, utterly wrong on all the levels. There is so much to know about knitting! It’s overwhelming actually. And I’m very tactile. Seeing, seeing, and seeing again, then repeating is what I need to process and understand how to do something that’s totally new to me. I need help and feedback, lots of it. So I did some googling and I found this wonderful little shop in the west end that offered classes. I registered right away and I was so excited. So very excited. I’m going to learn something new, I’m going to knit!

I could think of nothing else the day of my first class. I couldn’t wait to finish work and dash off, yarn and needles in tow. I was the first one to arrive, helplessly early, twenty-five minutes early. That’s too early! But that’s who I am, eager and enthusiastic. The instructor was very warm and welcoming. She sat me at a table in the back of the shop and took the skein of yarn I’d purchased a few days earlier. She placed it on this amazing contraption she called a “swift”. Round and round the swift turned, I was mesmerized. It transformed that skein of yarn into a fat little ball that she then called a “cake”. So many new terms!

Other classmates started arriving, mirroring back at me the same mingled expression of trepidation and excitement. There were seven of us total, all women, all knitting n00bs. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. I loved that, I didn’t know there’d be this great social element.

It was hard at first. Trying to hold the needles in a way that felt right, they were so foreign to me. We started with casting on. The only place you can start. And it was tricky, but I got it figured out. Then we talked about muscle memory and the knit stitch. Everything felt so floppy and uncertain. I felt floppy and uncertain! I didn’t know what to do after I had knit my first row, what was next? The girl beside me told me to just do it again. Move the needle back to my dominant hand and do that same thing again. Mind. Blown. So this is knitting! Huh.

I got home and showed D the few little rows I had knit, I was so proud of myself.

first knit rows

D was excited for me. He loved how happy I was. But I struggled with the yarn I chose. It was too fine for my beginner’s hands. I took it off the needles and “frogged” it, another fun new term meaning that I destroyed all progress and went back to start. I bought larger needles and bulkier yarn. I started again.

bulkier!

That felt better. I could see the stitches more easily and make corrections when I messed up. I started to feel really good about it as the yarn grew longer. I loved feeling the yarn, watching it expand row after row. And I knew this wasn’t just another hobby, it was a lifelong passion.

I had three more classes, one a week. We learned how to purl, how to read patterns, weaving in our ends, planning projects, and so much more. We learned how to make hats using “DPNs” or double-pointed needles. We were knitting “in the round”, “tinking”, and “ktogging” with confidence! It was wonderful.

I’ve been very productive since that class, knitting up a storm. I love the way it makes me feel. It’s so rhythmic and relaxing. I feel inspired by so many things, the possibilities from here are endless.

My first attempt knitting in the round…

in the round

Wearing the first scarf I ever finished…

my first scarf

Crazy leg warmers!

leg warmers!

The infinity scarf I knit for my lovely friend the Magpie for Christmas. She loves it so much and that makes me so happy!

peattie's scarf

The first hat I ever knit, successfully. I gave it to my uncle who is so very proud and impressed with my work. And he’s worn it everyday since I gave it to him, even though it’s purple. He’s so rad.

wienie's cap

A teeny tiny little scarf I knit with leftover yarn for Harv, haha. (He actually hates it so much.)

Harv's scarf

And the project I’m most proud of so far, the seed stitch scarf I made for myself, with that very first ball of yarn I bought. This is a real accomplishment. I had almost written that ball of yarn off altogether because it was so tough at first. But after some practice with the bulkier yarns, my skills started getting better, and I felt brave enough to try it again. Progress was slower, but I had the patience for it now.

my fave scarf

I love this scarf so much. The texture is divine, I’m obsessed with seed stitch. I made this, me. I can’t stop marvelling at the fact that I knew nothing about knitting three months ago, and now I’ve made so many things. Damn, that feels good.

I love knitting, it is the greatest. It makes me feel so purposeful and inspired. And although I’m nowhere near ready to start knitting my own ponchos, I’m headed in that direction and I know I’ll get there eventually. I’m enjoying the journey, I don’t need to rush it. I have a dream that is simmering for now. One day in the near future, when it’s time, that dream will start to bubble and boil over too.

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Insta-Obsessed!

I’m pretty sure I’ve told you guys about how I was a really staunch holdout on getting a new cell phone, right? I got my first cell phone in April 2012 and I was twenty-five years old. People thought it was weird that I went that long without having any form of cell phone at all, but I kind of loved being out of touch with the world. I could go and live my life and nobody could ever get a hold of me. It was awesome. It irritated D to no end, but that was a minor detail. People always had these great stories about how difficult it was to “track me down” and I exalted in that chase, I really did.

Then, when I finally caved and got a phone people made fun of me for getting a Blackberry Curve. It was 2012 for chrissakes! Blackberry had fallen. What the hell was wrong with me? But I’ll tell you, I loved that little thing. What it lacked in style and current-ness it made up for with that amazing little QWERTY keypad. I could pump out text messages and emails like nobody’s business. My fingers lightning fast with LOLs and OMGs.

I cherished that phone. When the battery started trudging along, getting weak and needing to charge every few hours, I’d just order another one from Amazon for like six bucks. I had a sweet ass grandfathered plan that basically gave me unlimited data and I loved the Brickbreaker game that was pre-installed. Many a slow subway ride home I spent breaking bricks and avoiding eye contact with whatever creep du jour had gotten on my car. But like all good things eventually do, our time in the sun came to an end.

My boss called up our CIO and told him what a piece of crap phone I have and somehow that turned into me getting and iPhone 5S quicker than you could say “but BBM rules!”

It was a bit of a struggle, getting used to my iPhone, but I knew the change was inevitable. My service had been getting more and more unreliable, D missing texts that I’d be working late or there was a subway delay and wondering where the hell I was when we were supposed to be meeting up. So I grudgingly made the change for the greater good. And after a few months, I think I’m used to it now. There are pros and cons to everything you do in this life.

I got to buy an adorable flowery case that proudly proclaims to the world that my phone is a strong independent woman. Mmm hmm, that’s right girl. You ain’t need no man telling you what to do. And I’ll also freely admit that the camera on this phone fucking annihilates the grainy, found-footage seeming pics my Blackberry used to half-assedly capture with an obnoxiously loud CLICK.

I so despise the fucking dickcheese autocorrect jerk on this iPhone though. That’s one major drawback. One time I tried to say “husband” and it turned it to “Hubbard” for some unknown reason. Or when I’m excited about something and want to respond “Yayy!” that somehow becomes “tasty” instead. The people I’m texting must think I’m this mega-weirdo trying to create my own goofy adult slang that will never catch on. Trying to out-cool the kids these days.

But the best thing about it has been this really amazing app I installed called INSTAGRAM. Ooo, aaahhhh. A way to take pics and immediately post with some pithy-in-my-head caption? Sign me up!

I frigging love this shit. I could Insta all day every day. I’m learning all about memes and really seeing for the first time how many goddamn cute cats there are out there who really really need my approval by way of many “likes”. All that time I used to spend clogging D’s phone up with great shots of the city or food I was eating or weird shit I’d see around has become so much more efficient, me now doing these things from the comfort of my own phone.

It’s also been a really awesome outlet for me since I haven’t had as much time to dedicate to full-out blogging lately. It’s micro-blogging, the kids say! You’ll love it, they decree!

And I do. I frigging love the shit out of it. Have I mentioned that yet? I am full-blown Insta-obsessed!

Heres’ the link to my page: my fabulous instagram account! You like what you see, you follow me. It’s mostly what you’ve come to know and love about this blog: my zany meals, Harv, partying, Toronto, the weird shit I think is amusing. It’s great. @smashingthroughlife that’s my handle so you can find me super easy.

Let’s be Insta-obsessed together!

P.S. here’s a picture that shows how wonderfully feminine my phone case is. That’s the kind of phone case you take to a nice seafood dinner and then call again, promptly, to make another date. Mmm hmm.

flowery phone case

Rat-patootie

I’ve recently mentioned that I’m trying to up my cooking game, yes? I’m making meat pies, stews, soups, pastas, all kinds of crazy shit up in here. This is just a quickie today. Usually I’m ever so blah-blah-blah about all the things I do. But today I just want to share what I’m currently most proud of producing in the kitchen.

This amazing and colourful pile of ratatouille!

There’s eggplant, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, loads of olive oil, garlic, and black pepper all tossed in the roasting pan. It baked until the consistency was heavenly. And then it was garnished with a liberal sprinkling of torn basil.

Before:

raw veggies (gross)

After:

cooked veggies (yummm)

It was fantastic. I’ve never loved eating veggies so much in my entire life. I want to eat this all the damn time. But only if D is around to take care of all the chopping. So much chopping required.

It’s easy and I strongly recommend. I can practically smell the basil now.

Uncharted Territory

I like to eat. A lot. To be clear, when I say “a lot” I mean it both ways. I like to eat a lot of food and I like eating as an activity a whole lot. It’s pretty much my favourite thing. Food is happiness. I don’t care if people tell you it’s not good to eat your feelings. I do it all the time and it’s the fucking best. The mere act of crunching down on something tasty and mashing it into oblivion with my vice-like jaws makes me feel like I’m right on the cusp of divinity. Eating rules.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I like to cook. Traditionally, I’ve preferred to play more of a supporting role in the kitchen. If someone else wants to expend their effort slaving over a hot stove, I’ll gladly scarf down a plate when it’s ready and show my gratitude by providing the praise they sought. I grew up in a big family, my mom always cooked enough to feed an army and she’d had her shit all figured out. She didn’t need me to help. She needed my appreciation. Which I was more than happy to show, by reaching for seconds, and sometimes even thirds. Unless of course she made something totally disgusting, like lasagna or scalloped potatoes. Bleeugf. That’s how disgust sounds, by the way. Bleeugf. Like you’re about to have a hairball on the dining room floor. There was nothing more disappointing than coming home from school famished and finding out that dinner was going to be something you hated. What a waste of a mealtime… But I digress. Cooking just wasn’t my bag.

Eventually though, you grow up and fly the coop. And you’ve gotta feed yourself, gotta eat to live. Luckily for me, I found myself a man who loves to cook and doesn’t mind one bit that I’m a total slouch at it. I’m wildly independent and I’ve always charged through life without ever wanting to rely on a man for anything. I’m just crazy like that, I guess. But cooking is really the only way I’ve ever thrown up my hands and let D provide for me. I love eating so much, but don’t really have the drive to make good food for myself. But D does. It’s a great fit, he loves to cook and I’m happy to let him. Who’s it really hurting anyways? He needed to find a way to make me dependent on him for something and I need to eat.

We’ve lived together a few years now and we’ve had a handful of exploits in the kitchen. D does the majority of the cooking, and once in a while I come along and turn something into a pizza. So I do manage to contribute in my own way. And up until recently, I’ve been happy to carry on playing my supporting role. “Mmm, yum! Great job, babe!” I know my lines by heart. But I’m somebody’s wife now. Bit of a game changer that is. I don’t want to be a slouch anymore, I want to step up my game. I see a learning opportunity and I think I’ve finally uncovered some motivation. I want to make my husband happy.

I can do anything, I just have to want to do it. And I think I do now. Plus, I got a whole shitload of new gadgets for the kitchen as wedding gifts. Use it or lose it, right?

Feeling inspired, I decided to try something different for dinner tonight. I wanted to make something really scrumptious that D would love. But I’m not completely ready to fly solo yet, so I still enlisted his help. We’re a good team, and he does love to cook, so I don’t want to take that away from him. As an aside, I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue pies, as a hobby. I want to make lots and lots of pies. And I want to get really fucking good at it. I may as well get two birds stoned at once while I’m at it, right? So I decided to make steak and ale pie for dinner tonight. A chance to hone both my cooking and baking skills at the same time!

We grocery shopped this afternoon, gathering up all of the necessary ingredients, and got to work as soon as we got home. D chopped mushrooms, onion, and garlic.

chopped!

Then we browned the stewing beef, using our fabulous new Le Creuset french oven. A wedding gift from my darling friend, The Ladybird Magpie that I’m forever grateful for.

browning the beef

And before long, we had an intoxicating concoction simmering on the stove top. With a little bit of thyme, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, beef stock, and some Downtown Brown Ale it all came together in a snap.

le creuset!

D popped out to grab us a few beers to enjoy with dinner, and when he got back to the apartment he told me he could smell our dinner cooking in the hallway and it was starting to drive him insane with hunger pangs! I started to feel really great about this cooking thing. I’ve got this. I can do anything I want, and I can totally kick the shit out of it.

But that feeling didn’t last long… Not once I got started on topping the pie.

The pie dish was way bigger than I remembered, and we didn’t quite make enough filling for it. We made enough filling to get it half full, and I was starting to feel a lot less cocky. But I charged ahead anyways. We’d already come this far, and I wasn’t going to let this stand in my way. I started preparing the crust for the pie. It sagged pathetically inwards. And then when I tried to brush the crust with some egg, I totally fucked up and spilled my cup of egg onto the pie. It was a total egg flood! We tried our best to soak up the spillage, but the results weren’t good. There were little pools of egg all of the top. My beautiful pie sat there staring up at me like some kind of disgusting eggy crater and I flipped out. I just totally lost it.

eggy crater

I got really upset and started shouting angrily at everything around me, naturally. I was so mad at myself, and anger is a knee-jerk reaction kind of thing for me. Stupid, so stupid! Why didn’t you make more filling? Why did you hold the cup of egg on such a precarious angle, you clumsy butterfingered fool? Arrgrrgrhhhhh! Frustration! This whole thing is a total fucking waste. Why don’t you just fling yourself off the balcony and end it now?

I broke down for a minute there, guys. I’m not proud of it.

But D was able to talk me down from the ledge eventually. He always does. He told me to stop putting so much pressure on myself on my very first try. It’s just dinner, it’s not such a big deal. And he was right. But I have such a nasty tendency to do that. I put so much pressure on myself and I have totally unrealistic expectations of greatness. I’m no master chef, I’ve only just started on my culinary journey. There’s going to be mistakes, lots. And I have to roll with it, I can’t lose my head and start raving like a lunatic when something goes wrong. He’s a smart guy, that husband of mine. I definitely don’t give him the satisfaction of hearing that as often as he should. But he was totally right. It might not come out of the oven perfect, so what? At least I tried.

We put the pie into the oven and resigned ourselves to hoping for the best.

When it was done, and it was time to see the finished product, I was pleasantly surprised.

finished product!

I learned something very important today: puff pastry is a fucking miracle of nature! The pastry worked double duty and made up for the lack of filling. It puffed up way more than I expected and totally saved the day. Hallelujah!

the serving

It was 3 hours in the making, and took us mere minutes to wolf down. And my very first attempt at a steak and ale pie was goddamn delicious, if I do say so myself.

It was a trying experience at times and it ate up my entire afternoon making this thing, but overall I feel good about it. I’m not discouraged. I almost was for a minute there, but D helped me bounce back. I wouldn’t say that cooking is fun, not at this point in time, but it is an adventure. And I like adventures, so I think I’m willing to stay the course and see where it will take me. Yeah, I’m not one for giving up. I’d like to see where this can go.

A Stitch in Time

First off, I’m kind of ashamed of myself. It’s been a bloody long time since I even sat down with the intention to write. I’m so sorry to my precious little bloggy. It’s terrible, I’ve been neglecting you again. But it’s hurting me more than it’s hurting you, believe me. And, even worse still, I’ve been neglecting all of my wonderful blogging chums who I love and adore ever more. I’m sorry dudes! I haven’t been around making my usual cheeky comments on all of your wonderful posts. I’m sorry. I’m a self-involved asshole. Send R.O.T.O.R. to collect on my bounty. And don’t let the execution be a swift one, because I certainly don’t deserve it.

I miss you guys. A lot.

For a long while the best part of my day was connecting over all of our posts. Logging on and having a laugh at EI’s latest cinematic adventure or another one of Brian’s witty comments. I don’t even know who T9 has been crushing on these days, or what Zoe has been reading. Is Mikey still churning out those hilarious podcasts? And Dee, that gentleman across the pond who makes me smile, I miss being enlightened and delighted by your posts. I haven’t been around so much, but trust me when I say that you are all in my heart and thoughts every day.

I don’t want to make excuses for my absence, so let’s just call this an explanation and hope it charming enough that you’ll let it slide, just this one time. There just isn’t enough time, like ever. I have no idea how I’m keeping my head above water these days. It feels like I’m doing a desperate doggy-paddle in the middle of the ocean, no shoreline in sight and I’m gulping down more and more water as I struggle to stay afloat. But I keep struggling, because I’m not ready to give up yet, even though it’s so very very tempting some days.

In short: I’m working like a dog, I’m deep into the wedding planning, I’m trying to keep up with my social life, and there’s just no goddamn time to excel at everything all at once. But I want to, so desperately. I’m a shitty juggler, but there’s a big part of me that just belligerently refuses to accept that. With so much on the go, some aspect of my life was bound to suffer. So blogging and writing have taken this hit. And it’s funny, because one of the things that I do to stay sane when my life is a hectic disaster is write. It helps me find my way. I write to escape. I write for reprieve. I write because it feels good and it makes me whole.

I love writing. It matters and it makes a difference in my life. But if I’m being totally honest here, there has also been a major shift in my creative focus these past months and that will certainly shoulder some of this blame. I’ve been escaping all of my stresses with something else, something other than writing. A demanding an insatiable hobby, a jealous and possessive new mistress in my life. I’ve been doing an absolute fuckload of embroidery projects. Yep, you read that right. In the spare time that I do have for creative pursuits I’ve been putting the thread to the needle like a badass motherfucker and I’ve been stitching until my fingers are throbbing sore.

…and it’s been a super fun time.

I fucking love embroidery. There, I said it. But I do still love writing, too.

I’m creative and I’m zany. My imagination is an ogre. I have to focus it on something to survive, my very life depends on it. Sometimes I feel like I’ll die if I don’t find something for the ogre to do. She’ll crumple my cranium and toss it in the bin like an old grocery list if I don’t. I am compelled to create. Something, anything. A piece of writing, a kitschy craft, a silly doodle, making a killer mix CD, or even the shitty ass job I do of wrapping gifts. All just a bunch of ways that I package little bits of my imagination and send them out into the world so I can live. Really live.

The embroidery thing is something my friend The Magpie showed me. Back in the spring, she sent me a wonderful surprise birthday package and it was filled with supplies to jump-start this new hobby.

embroidery supplies

I was excited, but a little too busy to dig into them until the summer. That’s when this embroidery thing really took off. I started out small, trying something simple at first. A little gift for my darling Joce-force.

star wars embroidery

Then, inspired by those wicked pillowcases The Magpie made me last Christmas, I made myself an awesome little robot buddy. He’s since been framed and now lives on my desk at work.

robot and dog

And then, because I really wanted thank The Magpie for showing me this awesome new hobby, and because I wanted to up the ante a little with my newly evolving skills, I made her a birthday gift.

cheeseburger

It took a lot of time, and my craft still wasn’t perfect. But I loved making this weird little cheeseburger for her. I did it on a canvas, another great inspiration from The Magpie herself.

cheeseburger again

And then when that was done, I was feeling so confident and proud of myself that I decided I was really going to put my new-found embroidery skills to the test. I decided to stitch all of the table numbers for my wedding!

I found some beautiful fabric, bought a bunch of frames to put the finished pieces into, and then got to work.

I spent an entire long weekend stitching tirelessly to get them done.

my table numbers

number 8

nine nine nine nine

It was so much work, but I poured my whole self into every single one. And I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

And now I’m tackling another canvas project, larger scale than the last. The cheeseburger for my friend was an 8 x 8 and this one is a 12 x 12, which is much more challenging. I can’t stitch at this one for very long periods of time because my hand and arm ache if I do it for too long.

peacock

But it is really coming along, slowly but surely. I think I’m going to raffle this piece off at our stag ‘n’ doe party next month. People like that sort of thing, right? They’d want to spend a bunch of money trying to take this bad boy home, yeah? I hope so. Otherwise all of that aching has been in vain.

Looking back over all of these projects, I can really see how much I’ve improved since I started a few months ago. Persistence goes a long way. Also, looking back on how I’ve spent my creative energies this past summer I feel really happy. Because even though I haven’t been writing I’ve still been channeling my creativity somehow. I might be stressed as fuck at work and at home, but I do have an outlet for all of it. I’m not going to suddenly and unexpectedly implode because of all the pent-up pressures. I haven’t been letting them pent. I’ve been releasing my daily anguish in steady streams through my relentless embroidery projects.

So know this, dear readers and friends: Even though I haven’t been around a whole lot lately, I’m still here. I’m still insane. And I’m still every bit as zany and ridiculous as I ever was.

And I’ve still got lots of writing in me yet. My creative focus is just temporarily shifted. Sometimes there are words in my heart just dying to be put to page, and other times there’s a vision in my head that only the needle and thread can bring to life.

It’s hard to strike a comfortable balance sometimes. All summer long I was feeling really fucked up and stressed out. And maybe my feelings were just too tedious to try to pin down. I’m just glad that I’ve been given a really frigging rad alternative means of expressing myself. It helped a lot, especially during all those times this summer when writing just wouldn’t do.

Embroidery rules!

The Strongest Man in the Whole Wide World

I’ve always known that my dad is strong. All dads are. Every dad is the strongest man in the world to their kids when they’re young. He can lift you right up over his head and everything! It makes you laugh, it makes you squeal, and you feel light as a feather, swooping through the air in his powerful grasp. It’s a wonderful, but fleeting feeling. You’ve got to come down eventually, he can’t hold you up forever. But he is still the strongest man in the whole wide world. Until one day when he isn’t…

Eventually, you get older and you realize that it’s just your own silly little misbelief. But that’s okay. It doesn’t matter that he isn’t literally the strongest man in the whole wide world, he’s your dad and he’s still plenty strong for you. He might not be able to lift you right up over his head anymore, you’re too old for that now anyways, but you’ll always cherish those days when he could.

Dad and I, back when I was at the perfect weight to be hoisted up over his head

Dad and I, back when I was at the perfect weight to be hoisted up over his head

I got to watch my dad compete in a power-lifting competition this weekend, and I felt an overwhelming pang of nostalgia for those days when I was young and my dad was undoubtedly the strongest man in the whole wide world. Where did all of that time go? How did it slip away so quickly? Somehow, during that frantic dash to adulthood, I’d forgotten all about what it was like to believe in Dad. But thankfully for me, he’s constantly fanning the flames of belief in my heart, even when I’m out playing “adulthood” and am too caught up in myself to notice.

My dad has always been into weight training, he started doing it back in the ’70’s when he was only sixteen years old and it became a lifelong passion of his. You wouldn’t know it to look at his average height and build, but he’s a very powerful man. He’s totally unassuming in that regard. And he loves pouncing on an opportunity to show someone what he can really do with a set of weights. He’s used to being grossly underestimated by those that so wrongly assume that only “built” or “big” men can lift anything remotely impressive. When I tell people that my dad is a power-lifter they immediately ask me how big he is or they’ll remark that he must be HUGE. But power doesn’t come from having stupidly gigantic muscles. It comes from an unyielding will to conquer the impossible and a relentless pursuit of ever greater challenges.

a very old photo of my dad on his journey to greatness

a very old photo of my dad while on his journey to greatness

Although power-lifting has been a great passion of his for many years, he only recently started competing. He’s been competing for a few years now, but I’d never had the opportunity to go and see him in competition until now. And though I’m quite familiar with what my dad can do–I’ve seen him lift mind-boggling amounts of weight while growing up–he totally floored me. At 57 years old he was the oldest man in the competition by a mile. All of the other competitors were anywhere from 20 to 30 years younger than him. But that didn’t faze him one bit, it never does.

My dad, showing off the deadlift tattoo that I drew for him over ten years ago

My dad, suited up and showing off the deadlift tattoo that I drew for him over ten years ago

Dad gets out there and pushes all of the bullshit preconceived notions about his age and his build completely out of his mind. His only thought is about the lift. I watched as he stepped up to the bar, all determination and focus. I watched with unbearable pride as he shattered every expectation with every successful lift. And just like that, I believed again. I never stopped believing, I just forgot that you have to keep doing it if you want to keep the magic alive.

A power-lifting competition comprises three different lifts: the squat, the bench, and the deadlift. Each competitor will get three attempts at each lift, with the weight increasing progressively for each lift. My dad’s favourite lift is the deadlift. The announcer at the competition stated that it was her favourite too, because “it’s an act of defiance”. Defying odds and defying gravity. For his final lift of the day, my dad did a deadlift of an astounding 402 pounds. I know that’s not a record and it’s not the most that anyone will ever lift. But in that final moment when he dug into every last reserve of strength and snapped the weight into position, my dad was the strongest man in the whole wide world again.

My dad is a remarkable man and I admire him. He’s inspiring and he’s brave and he’s amazing. And I get to have all of the joy in telling people that he’s MY dad. I’m going to hold on to my silly little misbelief awhile longer yet and cherish it. He’s earned it.

My dad is the strongest man in the whole wide world. Everything is exactly as it should be.

New Project!

Hey dudes, I’m very excited to announce that I have started a new project. This is something that I’ve been working on for a little while now, and I’m ready to launch.

The Kingdom

So head on over to The Kingdom to check it out.

Basically, I’m just working my way through the entire Stephen King library, reading and reviewing it all. And hey, maybe we’ll even watch a couple of the movies and T.V. shows too. My hope is that this project will accomplish two things:

1) I’ll have a shitload of fun

and

2) I’ll actually start using my brain cells again instead of drowning them in booze

So if you decide to come along for the journey, you’re super awesome and I dig your style, man.

Outside the Lines

I have an artistic streak. It’s not a wide one by any means, but it’s there. Not to brag or anything, but I took art classes all through high school. Passed ’em and everything. And I was known to colour a real mean book back in the day. My friend The Magpie gave me some grief about this a few weeks ago. Said it wasn’t really believable that I could be artistic. I took umbrage to that. Then I proved her wrong by designing a killer logo for her blog, which you can see here on her site. Yep, that badass little magpie is my creation!

The artistic muscle just doesn’t get flexed as much as it used to, which is a shame because I shouldn’t be letting it get all rusty and shitty like the rest of my muscles. I did a watercolour of Jodi Foster for an assignment in high school, which this girl in my class later called “seductive” during the class critique. I could do that again, probably. All I need are the supplies and an idea!

But I might also be getting ahead of myself. Baby steps. You don’t just get up and run a marathon after years of outstanding achievements in laziness have atrophied your body. You have to wheeze your way up the stairs instead of taking the elevator for a few weeks. Then do some calf raises when you’re forced to stand on the subway on your way to work. Then take your first tentative jog around the block in the blackness of night because glaring bright sunlight and the gazes of a hundred hateful pedestrians aren’t very kind to your chubby cantaloupe legs.

Stick with it long enough though, and even the shittiest muscles will tighten up nicely. Isn’t that how the old saying goes? Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s an old runners saying.

That’s what I’m hoping will happen for me. I’ll take a few baby steps, do some paint-by-numbering, and before you know it I’ll be right back to seducing the mysterious and sexually ambivalent girls of my art classes prior with my astonishing works of genius. But just, like, a friendly seduction. I don’t want to turn my whole life upside-down.

Sometime late last year, The Magpie was telling me about this cool paint-by-numbers kit she got with really awesome designs. A cat wearing a fancy coat carrying a fish purse, an old hippie man getting on a cable car in San Francisco. Cool stuff like that. I remembered how much fun I used to have doing paint-by-numbers as a kid and promptly rushed out to get some myself. I got a miniature one with some badass dinosaurs on it that I thought was going to be a real piece of cake. A couple of strokes in and I realized that this was going to take a lot of patience. Which is something I don’t possess in abundance. Also, it was looking hella shitty right out of the gate, so I just kind of gave up on it.

A couple of weeks later, I had to go to the craft store in my hood because I needed supplies for our awesome Halloween costumes. I strode purposefully down the aisle with the paint-by-numbers, just to see what was up. It was there that I found something even better than paint-by-numbers. Something even more lazy and indulgent. Pencil-crayon-by-numbers!

And it just so happened that it was another miniature scene with badass dinosaurs. Fuck yeah, this is my lucky day!

mini dino craft

Excited, I shelled out a whooping $2.99 and raced home to get started on my colouring adventure. When I got home though, I realized what bullshit those teeny tiny pencil crayons they supply you with are. Holy shit, they’re smaller and skinnier than my pinkie finger. And look at how small the fucking thing is compared to a real pencil crayon! I almost want my money back. Almost.

small pencil

small pencil 2

small pencil 3

And don’t even try to tell me that the pencils crayons are so small because I’m doing an activity for children. It clearly states on the packaging that this activity is suitable for anyone ages 8 to 88. They could have at least given out pencil crayons halfway between normal and Oompa Loompa sized ones. Oh well, just another of many great “you-get-what-you-paid-for” moments in my life. But I ploughed ahead with them anyway, despite the functionally impossible size.

ages 8 to 88

The road map to completion that they give you is even crazier. Holy shit, this is an intricate design for such a small-scale craft! And some of the tinier crevices don’t even have the recommended colour guides written on them. How am I supposed to know which colours to mash together in that tenth of a space?

crazy road map

road map

I started off dutifully enough, trying to follow the directions as precisely as possible. And it was coming along nicely too. I’m not going to seduce anyone with this piece, but I’m cool with that. At least I’ve accomplished more here than I did with the paint-by-number version.

About halfway done, and for some inexplicable reason, this little project of mine got stowed away in a desk drawer. Promptly forgotten about for a while, gathering drawer dust. It was starting to look like these dinosaurs were headed the way of extinction just like the paint-by-numbers ancestors that came before them.

But then all of a sudden, one night when D was out, I got this urge to finish what I’d started. I dug the dinosaurs out of the desk drawer and got to colouring. This time was different though. This time I was going to do it my way, guidelines and suggested colours be damned! No matter how hard I tried, I knew it wasn’t going to look anything like the picture on the package. So fuck it, I’m taking over creative control of this bitch!

The artistic streak had awoken from its slumber at long last. I coloured with abandon, and let myself get lost in the process. Before I knew it, D was home and I had a masterfully coloured dinosaur scene to show for my time spent alone.

finished

final product

Needless to say, he was quite taken by my work. I hadn’t intended for it to be so emotionally overpowering, but I’ve since learned that you just can’t stop the bubbling over of intense emotion that results from viewing this spectacularly coloured dinosaur scene. It makes me want to high-kick something. Hiii yaaaa!

I forgot how good it feels to create something. It doesn’t even have to be anything good. Just create something, anything at all, and you will feel good about yourself. You can look scrutiny right in its shrivelled old face and say “frig you, man!”

Indulge your creativity! Let your imagination soar! Live your passions!

Colour some fantastically rad miniature dinosaurs and display them proudly on the wall beside your desk at work for all to see! Because you refuse to be labelled incapable of anything that you know you’re truly capable of. You’re capable and your can-do attitude will never fail you if you trust in it.

But you’ll probably do a few more of these pencil crayon dealies before you move on to conquering the current art scene, just to be safe.

Summer Reading Roundup

I fucking love reading. I love it so goddamn much.

When I was younger I practically consumed books. The newest R.L. Stein was lapped up hungrily, then washed down with a healthy double digest of Archie. When I wasn’t acting a total nuisance to my parents, wreaking havoc on the household with my sisters, I was quietly stowed away in some corner of the house with my nose buried in a book. You name it, I read it. Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Kids, Roald Dahl, Goosebumps, Tales of Redwall, Hardy Boys, Pippi Longstocking, and The Chronicles of Narnia. All present and accounted for.

I especially loved books in which teachers were aliens, people turned into animals, or ventriloquist dummies came to life at night. Those were the best books. Filling my head with fantastical stuff of that variety is probably why I’m such a weirdo today…

I’d even read at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. It was stealth reading. I’d stand by the window, balancing precariously on the nightstand, and push the blinds aside. I pinned them against the glass with my shoulder to keep them out of my way. Then I’d tilt my book in just the right way, letting the glow from the streetlights outside illuminate the pages. And I’d stand there reading until I was tired. I’d have to be careful not to lose myself completely in my book, otherwise I might not hear my parents checking up. I couldn’t get caught, that would be big trouble. But it was worth the risk, and I loved every minute of it because I was greedy for reading.

And to this day my greed for reading has not yet abated.

I tend to read a lot more in the summer. Seems odd, I know. But there’s something about a spectacularly hot summer day that drives me to read. Summer is hardly even underway, but I’ve already burned through a bunch of awesome shit on my summer reading docket. The stuff I’ve been reading lately has been so fucking rad. So good that I’m reading on the subway to and from work. Which I normally wouldn’t do because its not enough time to really immerse yourself in the story. And you always get cut off, having to leave the train, at the most ill-timed moments. But I can’t help myself! The stuff I’m reading is too good. I just can’t wait another second to get back into the thick of it.

I have to share it. I can’t keep all this goodness to myself, that just wouldn’t be right. So if you’re looking for something really rad to read this summer, then I’ve got just the thing for you. Providing your tastes run a little oddball like mine, naturally.

SMASH’S SUMMER READING ROUNDUP

1) American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods

American Gods

This one is going to take you for a wild ride. It’s the story of Shadow, a man whose life is irrevocably changed by a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger. A stranger who introduces him to a motley assortment of Gods who were brought to America by the immigrants of our history books. Belief in these archaic gods has dwindled dangerously, putting them at odds with the gods of our present day. A war of epic proportions is brewing, the outcome of which could be catastrophic.

It’s riveting. Written in such a way that reader is directly deposited into Shadow’s shoes from the start. We meet our protagonist, and we immediately sympathize with his plight. When his journey begins, it’s confusing and weird at first. You’re confronted and confounded by a number of strange characters. You’re not sure what’s happening or why, but you know that all of it is totally illogical, nonsensical. Through the myths, legends, and tales of the immigrants that brought their gods to America which are interspersed with Shadow’s narrative, you begin to see. You’re awakened. Things start to click, and you start to believe. You see, you experience, you learn, and discover the power of faith right along with Shadow.

It’s strange and quirky, brimming with intrigue. It keeps you hanging on, worrying and wondering how it will play out. Simultaneously surprising and amusing, it’s worth your time. Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to get familiar.

I loved it. I give it a 9/10.

2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender's Game

Ender’s Game

Ender Wiggin is taken from his home and all that he knows at the tender age of six. Because it is believed that he is the militaristic genius who can save earth from impending doom. He’s taken to battle school where he is mercilessly trained by his superiors in the art of war. The world government believes that they need to groom remarkably bright and capable children for a life of military success to protect earth from alien invasion and the subsequent domination or annihilation of the human race that is sure to follow. And they are coming, it’s irrefutable. A child of staggering strategic genius is our last resort. Will he rise to the occasion or get crushed by the onslaught of challenges heaped upon him at battle school?

I mean, come on. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This is the quintessential work of science-fiction. Space travel, aliens, intergalactic war, cutting edge weaponry, null gravity fight sequences, and more! This book has got it all. It’s fast paced and exciting. Ender is an awe-inspiring character. His brilliance knows no bounds. But for every soaring success he experiences, Ender is met with shattering lows. His success comes at the cost of his innocence. Earth’s safety is insured through the manipulation and exploitation of a little boy whose been robbed of his youth, forced to grow up way too fast. Literally, the weight of the world is on his shoulders. You want him to succeed, but you pity him. And you’re appalled by the measures taken by the commanders to groom Ender to perfection.

I simply could not put this book down, it is an absolute treasure. And I’m really looking forward to the movie adaptation later this year. Perfect score, 10/10.

3) Desperation by Stephen King

Desperation

Desperation

There’s something evil afoot in Desperation, a small town in Nevada. More evil than you could possibly imagine. One by one, road weary travellers are picked up on interstate 50, just outside of town, and taken into the custody of the town sheriff. A family on vacation, a young married couple, an aging writer, and the town drunk are tossed into jail cells and terrorized by the maniac sheriff. But little do they know, he’s the least of their worries.

It’s everything you’d expect of a King novel. Grisly and gripping, sparing not a single gory detail. It’s frightening, but you can’t stop reading. There’s a creepiness about it that really burrows into you. I read this book over the course of two weeks. I do the bulk of my reading at night before bed. Which probably isn’t wise with horror fiction, but I couldn’t stop myself. And it had an impact, that’s for sure. Every night for the two weeks that I was reading this book, I had nighttime episodes, completely unbeknownst to me. It was only when D commented on it that I found out it was happening. He asked me what was up, said I’d been weird at night lately. When I asked him weird how, he told me a number of bizarre things. I was screaming bloody murder in my sleep, flailing my arms wildly. A couple of times I also leapt out of bed in a panic, pulling back the curtains and screaming at the bedroom window. I’d have a total freak out and then go back to sleep like nothing had happened. It was Stephen King, working his creepy magic on me. As soon as I finished the book, the nighttime episodes stopped.

It’s thrilling, it’s chilling, it’ll literally get inside of you. It’s not my favourite work by King, a little too heavy-handed on the God and prayer stuff, but it was a worthwhile read. If you can stomach horror fiction, then go for it. I’d say it gets a 7.5/10.

BONUS: D and I watched the made for T.V. movie version once I’d finished the book. It was spectacularly cheesy. The only real scares coming in the form of creepy crawlies. Snakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Watching that shit wriggle around on-screen scares the bejesus out of me!

4) Batman: Haunted Knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale

Batman: Haunted Knight

Batman: Haunted Knight

This is a compilation of three Batman Halloween Specials written and presented by the iconic Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While working on these three tales of Halloween in Gotham City, Loeb and Sale were inspired to create The Long Halloween, which is my favourite Batman story to date and one of the most beloved works in the Batman canon. My favourite of these three stories is the second one, “Madness”, in which Batman squares off with The Mad Hatter, a psychopath whose moniker is derived from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He’s a challenging enemy for Batman because the reference to Carroll reminds him of his mother. Fighting Mad Hatter dredges up painful memories. The flashback sequence of Bruce reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with his mother just hours before her untimely death is gut-wrenching. We see the charming and precocious Bruce interacting freely with his mother, the emotional barriers we are accustomed to with Bruce Wayne have yet to be constructed. It makes you wonder what might have been, and if you love Batman as much as I do, it tears at your heart.

The artwork is sublime, and the stories are highly enjoyable. Easily, 8.5/10.

5) Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned

A mysterious plague has wiped out every single mammal with a Y chromosome on the planet. All of the men and male animals, dead. All of them except two. A young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. For some reason they survived, as did all of the females. Yorick is now the last man on earth, and that is some serious shit to deal with. He’s got to keep his ass safe while trying to figure out what happened. It’s not exactly the repopulation fantasy some would think. It’s a hellish nightmare, every day a struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world. A world overrun by unruly, grieving, angry females trying to cope with what happened. Feminist extremists, power-hungry female politicians, and deadly secret services agents are engaged in a power struggle of epic proportions. And word’s just gotten out that there is a live human male roaming around…

This is a newly discovered series for me. I had been hearing nothing but good things about it, and I can happily say that all of the praise is warranted. It’s original and unique. The first volume in the series setting up what’s sure to be a remarkable adventure.

I can’t wait to rush out and grab the remaining volumes! Undoubtedly, 9/10.

So there you have it. The best of what I’ve been reading this summer. I can only hope that maybe there’s something there that piques your interest. Or maybe you’ve already read some of these titles. That would be even more rad because if you have we can chat all about it!

Or maybe you’ve got some totally awesome recommendations of your own that I can add to my list?

I’d Like to Thank the Academy… The Liebster Award

What a wonderful surprise!

The Liebster Award

Littlejenmo of ThinkJunk has nominated me for my very first blog award, the Liebster. What a darling thing to do. Thank you so much. To think, all this drinking and cursing is starting to pay off! The first thing I’m going to do with my winnings is… oh, wait a minute, just reading this thing fully. So, there’s no big cash prize? Just the prestige then? Alright, well, glad we got that sorted out. On with the show!

The Liebster award is a recognition given to small bloggers by other small bloggers (max 200 followers), and the rule for the awards are:

1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog.
That’s easy enough. Thank you again to my friend at ThinkJunk

2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answering the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.

3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.

4. Display the Liebster Award logo.

5.  No tag back thingy’s. (Which I assume means that the people I nominate can’t just re-nominate me?)

Part of the process is to share with you even more zany facts about myself by answering the questions that Littlejenmo so thoughtfully posed. Here goes nothing:

  1. What was your first ever blog post about?
    It was an introduction of myself to the inter webs and a mission statement. Some boring bit about why I started blogging.
  2. Where did you get your name?
    My friends call me Smash, not because I’m graceful. I’ve been smashing through my life since day one. Seemed like it might be Kismet?
  3. Who does your hair?
    The rats in my apartment. They gnaw a real nice ‘do.
  4. What is the worst thing you’ve ever smelled?
    Someone put their B.O. riddled armpit in my face during rush hour on the subway once. Doesn’t get much worse than that.
  5. What do your dreams look like?
    If they were ever made public, they’d look a lot like I’m about to get fired for sexual harassment…
  6. What is the craziest thing you’ve ever purchased online?
    A poster of Dave Grohl giving the finger. Which was displayed proudly on my bedroom wall for several formative years.
  7. Who gets to see you cry?
    “There’s no crying in baseball!” And now you know about a movie I saw once.
  8. What is your guilty pleasure?
    Currently, belting out Huey Lewis & The News songs at the top of my lungs when nobody is home and dancing as if I were a Frankenstein. Although it changes everyday. My life is rife with guilty pleasures.
  9. Who gave you your first kiss?
    For the sake of protecting the identities of everyone who is involved in this sorry tale, let’s just call him “Teddy Ruxpin” and leave it at that.
  10. What is in your pockets right now?
    This seems like a question better suited to someone actually wearing pants, or perhaps with pockets in their underwear.
  11. What’s one thing you can’t live without?
    My own witty quips at the expense of others, ha ha ha! So droll. But seriously, it’s laughter. I can’t live in a world without laughter. Or Super Big Gulps from the 7-11.

The blogs that I have chosen to nominate are:

  1. Travels for Two
  2. GingerPolitics
  3. The Dark Geek Rises
  4. The Merry Bride
  5. Auston Habershaw
  6. The Very Single Girl
  7. Sparkyleegeek’s Blog
  8. Hottywood Helps
  9. Batman To Be
  10. Finding the Funi
  11. 139 Hobbies

And now for the grilling of your lifetime. Here are the questions I have carefully crafted for my nominees:

  1. How do you take your eggs?
  2. What is the best concert you ever went to?
  3. What’s hiding under your bed right now?
  4. Worst book you ever read, maybe you couldn’t even finish it. What was it?
  5. How do you like your pizza topped?
  6. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever eaten?
  7. What is the most played song on your iPod?
  8. Would you or do you go to the movies alone?
  9. When was the last time you got so drunk you couldn’t remember anything the next morning?
  10. Something that makes you smile, every single time you think of it. What is it?
  11. What is the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Well, there you have it folks. My magnanimous acceptance of the Liebster Award. Thank you ever so kindly Littlejenmo. It’s been a slice!