Your Son is Wonderful, Mrs. Hoben

Don’t any of you bother with housewarming gifts because my buddy Hoben has already won. He can’t be beat. I don’t even think I’ll be able to speak to it properly, it just so totally blows me away. But I’ll try anyways and hopefully won’t wind up sounding all syrupy and hyperbolic.

I’ve been friends with Hoben for a long time now, over a decade. And those of you who’ve been reading this site for a while might even remember I’ve spoken about our friendship before and how awesome it is. I’ve told you about how he started the grand tradition of deckers and how through him I met D. I’ve mentioned how fantastic his parents are, Glenn and Gloria, for always letting us kids pal around and party on their deck. Hell, I name-dropped the Hobens and their deck in my wedding vows and the speech I gave that night because it’s such a wonderful detail of my love story with D. Detail seems too small. It’s the cornerstone of our story, really.

My buddy Hoben is a party animal. He’s fun and funny. But he’s also accurately described as prickly, curmudgeonly, and belligerent. Especially belligerent. It’s a point of pride for him, so don’t misconstrue what I’m saying as insult. He’s got a big heart, too. It goes with his big wise-cracking mouth. And I’m realizing now that he’s also sentimental and tremendously thoughtful.

You can only imagine how I felt when he handed me this last weekend:

the step

The first step off of his parents deck. Re-painted, beautifully, with our names and possibly the most apt description I’ve ever seen.

It is the literal first step in our relationship. I can’t even begin to thank Hoben for how fucking awesome and amazing this gift is and how much it means to us. All I can say is that I’m so goddamn lucky to have such a thoughtful and caring friend.

You’re the best Hobs, we love you.

piece of the deck

And who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get lucky. Maybe he’ll drunkenly conceive the first Hoben grandchild with Shannie on my floor or something and I can pry up the floorboard and gift it back to him. You know, even things out a little.

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Holiday Review

Well, there’s another Christmas come and gone. And a new year will dawn in a couple of days. I hope you kissed someone special under the mistletoe, ate entirely too much, and maybe even made an ass of yourself at a large family gathering. That’s what the holidays are there for, after all.

My holidays were fun, even though they veered off course a time or two.

The holidays started with the launching of a new tradition. My sister arranged a “Cousin’s Cocktail Christmas Party” and it was a great success. We got together with our cousins and their spouses/partners for some drinks, snacks, and general merriment. We then went to a comedy club to yuk it up. It was fun. Some of my best memories of Christmases past are of playing with my cousins. Our parents would get us all done up in fancy little outfits and try to impress upon us the importance of “behaving ourselves” at the dinner.

cousins at christmas

And obviously we’ve all grown up a whole lot since those days, but one thing that hasn’t changed is how much fun I still have with my cousins.

cousins christmas

Overnight we were harassed by an ice storm of disastrous proportions. We woke up to a world that had been completely consumed by ice.

ice storm

ice storm 2

ice storm 3

The storm took down countless trees and power lines. Over 250,000 homes in the city were without power for anywhere from 24 hours to a week. My cousin Ryan slept over at my sister’s place after the Christmas party, and awoke the next morning to find a tree had fallen onto his girlfriend’s car.

tree on car

The storm wreaked absolute havoc on the city, and I was glad to head north and out of the icy mess for a few days. But the fun just didn’t stop coming. On Christmas Eve I got sick. Really sick. Feverish, coughing, totally congested. I felt like a bag of assholes. My dad cooked up a feast and I barely even nibbled at it. My appetite was nowhere to be found. We then went to my mom’s for drinks and board games, which I normally really enjoy. But instead of having a bunch of Christmas fun with my family, I sat on the sidelines bundled in blankets, sweating buckets while a perpetual coughing fit racked my body. I was one pathetic sight.

On Christmas day, I was supposed to accompany D to his family get together. But I felt so goddamned shitty I couldn’t even get up off the couch without draining the last vestiges of my strength completely. I had to choose my battles wisely. D went on without me, and I stayed home. I laid on the couch and watched the entire 6 hours of The Stand miniseries on DVD. I had just finished the book, and my mom had the DVDs of the miniseries, so she let me borrow them. And they came in handy, that’s for damn sure.

The following day I felt well enough to go to lunch with D and his dad. At least I could be a part of some of his family celebrations, for his sake. But we didn’t do a lick of Boxing Day shopping. I usually love getting out there with all the other crazies, ripping shirts off of shelves like a maniac and bitching about getting cut off in the parking lot by some asshole who isn’t even looking. Jesus, he isn’t even looking! What is he, BLIND OR SOMETHING?

But even though I wasn’t in peak physical condition for enjoying the food, the shopping, or the gatherings, I was still plenty good at enjoying presents. And you know Smash loves presents. Just a recap for anyone who may not be familiar with this facet of my personality: I FUCKING LOVE OPENING PRESENTS. I can’t stand unopened presents. They make me insane. My fingers positively itch with the desire to rip and tear if they get within five feet of something that’s been wrapped up. It’s a compulsion.

I opened a lot of great gifts this year.

presents

Some of the gift highlights:

Star Wars Salt n Pepper Shakers!

star wars salt and pepper

Enormous Batman Mug!

batman mug

New Hobo Mittens!

mittens

Bitchin’ New Watch!

watch

A Big Bottle of Booze!

booze

His and Hers Robot Pillowcases! (My friend The Magpie embroidered these for me and they are absolutely stunning, I fucking love them to bits.)

pillowcases

And A Shitload of Chocolate!

chocolate

And I got tons of other great stuff too. I’m lucky. I have a lots of people in my life who love me and want to give me things that I love for christmas. Things that make me squeal with delight like a little kid. I’m probably the easiest person on the planet to buy gifts for. I’m easily pleased and I’m not picky. If I can have a thrilling time shredding a gift of its wrapping, I’m set. And as much as I love tearing into a pile of presents, I love giving great presents too. I know that everything I picked out for my loved ones this year was well received and will be cherished forevermore.

Even though the weather was truly frightful and my immune system totally flaked out on me, I managed to find some enjoyment in the holidays this year. Got some fantastic gifts, started a fabulous new tradition, and I took some time to plan my next big moves for the upcoming year. I’m really looking forward to the new year. I’ve got big plans brewing for 2014. It’s going to be my year. I’ve got a list of goals a mile long and I am going to be dogged in my pursuit of every single one.

Peace out 2013, it’s been a slice.

All Wrapped Up

It’s no secret that I love opening presents. I’ve mentioned it before. A few seconds spent feverishly shredding the paper off of a neatly wrapped gift is a divine high that I’ve treasured for as long as I can remember. It’s especially good if I’m opening a gift earlier than I’m supposed to!

I know that I’m a maniac when it comes to presents. But I’m not a total monster. I thoroughly enjoy the pleasures of gift giving as well. So it’s okay if I lose my head every now and then because every gift given in return absolves me of this egregious misdeed.

I’m good at putting thought into my gifts. Finding something that just fits the recipient so well, something worthy of genuine gratitude. I bought The Magpie a purse for Christmas last year, which doesn’t sound remarkable, I know. But everything about it was so on point for what she would like. The pattern, the size, and the style all perfectly complimented her unique personality while catering to her purse needs. And that made me truly happy. Choosing the gifts isn’t an issue, it’s the wrapping that can be a real bitch.

I’ve stumbled at wrapping on many occasions. If something doesn’t come in a nice square package, I’m fucked. And I won’t go out of my way to buy boxes for things to fit into. I just can’t bring myself to do that. It’d be like paying for a soda at the movies. Why should I have to do that when anything I could ever want to drink can be purchased at a reasonable price elsewhere and then smuggled in with ease? Plus, I don’t want to miss out on the fun of smuggling! There are so few opportunities in life for a good harmless smuggle. You know I’m taking every one I get.

So if a seemingly decent box isn’t lying around for me to use, then I’ll just try my luck at wrapping whatever it is freestyle. I’m capable, right? I can figure this shit out. It’s not like we’re trying to crack the Da Vinci Code. We’re just trying to get some paper taped nicely around some weirdly shaped thing. All jutting angles and strange bends disguised to my satisfaction. Try though I might, the mental blueprint I’m following isn’t always translated so well.

A couple of the more noteworthy examples would be wedding gifts. Wedding gifts cause the most grief because the registry is usually a plethora of oddly shaped housewares. And sometimes that shit doesn’t come in a box, sometimes it’s just there, loose on the shelves. Loose housewares, the bane of gift wrapping. Another part of the problem is that I’m a very arrogant eye-baller. I always tackle the challenge thinking that my superior skills of eye-balling out the amount of paper needed will get me through this. Only to realize afterwards that I probably should have tried at measuring. A handle, an arm, a surface area, anything actually measured might have helped. But by the time I’ve rounded up the gifts, the wrapping paper, the scissors, and the tape, I’ve no energy left to search for some measly implement of measuring!

These are the gifts I wrapped for the last two weddings I went to:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A badass new frying pan for The Magpie

Cheese knives for my beloved sister

Cheese knives for my beloved sister

Damn you metal flap!

Damn you metal flap!

It’s total garbage. And I don’t even have kids to blame it on! I can’t be like, “Oh, little blah blah really wanted to do the wrapping so we let it.”

All the bits wind up getting covered up eventually. But unfortunately for me, you can’t cover up shame. The only thing you can do now is attack the open bar with a vengeance and hope that people go easy on you; blaming your constantly drunk and disorderly behaviour for that shitty looking wrap job instead.

My cousin’s wedding is coming up soon and there’s a bridal shower for her this weekend, which means more attempts at wedding gift wrapping for me. Looking back over past transgressions though, I realize that I shouldn’t just do the same half-assed job I always do. She deserves better. Everyone deserves better than this, but unfortunately I’m only coming to this realization now. I apologize profusely to any gift recipients I’ve wronged in the past. You deserved better too. I was just too cocky to think about it from your perspective, and I know that was wrong.

This time around, I actually paid for it. I bought the gifts online and then worked up the humility to put a tick in that little box for “gift wrapping”. I paid for someone else to do something for me. It felt dirty and wrong, going against every one of my gift giving instincts that way. But when I went to pick up the gifts and saw how they looked, I was actually glad that I did. For once in my life I’m going to roll into a wedding like a goddamned champion because I’ve got a thoroughbred gift in tow.

Much better!

Much better!

Look at that gorgeous mofo. Hells yeah bitches, that gift is with me! All of the weirdly shaped items I bought have been neatly packaged into boxes that fit and have been covered in wrapping paper so hearty it can withstand a nuclear blast.

And it’s big! It’s a honking huge gift. I also love rolling into a wedding with the largest possible gift I could get. When I look over a registry, I always look for the biggest items. Because then people are more excited about opening them. It’s not some boring little doodad. All other gifts on the table orbit around my gift because it’s so large it’s got gravitational pull. It’s a fucking planet. Congratulations on your nuptials, I bought you guys a planet of your very own!

I love giving gifts, and I love tackling challenges with gusto. But I’ve been to this rodeo enough times now to know that sometimes I need help. I’ve done enough atrocious wrapping jobs to know when I’ve been bested. And nobody should have to suffer my misguided intentions on their wedding day. They already have to foot my bar bill, and trust me, that’s painful enough.

More Presents!

So, even though I was able to haggle an early gift exchange out of D, there were still gifts that I had to wait for. And I guess maybe the waiting can be worth it. But it really doesn’t feel quite as good as frantically ripping the wrapping paper off of everything in sight.

The Magpie and I did our exchange on Thursday the 20th since I’d booked Friday off from work. She probably shouldn’t have put all of the gifts she got me directly in front of me on my desk as soon as she came into the office. Especially if she was hoping to wait for our exchange to go down later in the day. I can’t be sitting there all day with beautifully wrapped gifts staring me in the face.

There was this large cylinder. I grabbed it and shook it right away. It emitted the most delightful sound when shook! My first thought was a jar of marbles. That would be so rad! I shook it a bit more and told the Magpie I would just open this one. I had to know what it was. One present would be okay, right?

I was a little off my game on the first guess though. It wasn’t marbles…

IT’S A BIG FAT JAR OF CANDY!!!!!!

Candy!

And all the favourites were there! Nibs, Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, M&Ms, Swedish Berries, and Watermelon Slices. Oh fuck yeah, the whole gang is together and headed to a V.I.P. partaaay in my tummy. Whew, now that I’d opened one we could move on with our day. Or could we? Maybe just one more? That’s the slippery slope we took that wound up with me opening a bunch of presents before 9:30am on Thursday.

I like to guess what I think things are before I open them. And I’m pretty good at it too, much to the gift-givers chagrin. Next on the docket was a pretty obvious one. Another mixed CD!

Mixed CD

So now the Magpie is up 2 CDs to none on me. I guess I’d better get to work. Everyone knows that the Gods of Great Tunes aren’t very forgiving when it comes to one-sided mixed CD exchanges.

Then we had something that felt suspiciously like an ashtray. I don’t smoke, but I would have dug that. There’s a kind of inside joke we have going about ashtrays. But I missed the mark on this one. It was actually a set of cute little serving dishes!

football

I’m a football girl, so this is awesome. These guys will come in handy for our annual Chinese Food Extravaganza Superbowl Feast! Good hustle guys, I see a lot of potential here.

The next one was another easy one to guess. Rectangular, about a half-inch thick, little bit of bend to it. A book!

Scott Pilgrim

Nice! The first Scott Pilgrim. I’ve seen the movie, but I haven’t read the graphic novels yet. The Magpie thought this would be especially good since it’s all set in Toronto. I really dig this gift.

Next, there was a rectangular box. It was surprisingly lightweight. I was about to rip it open when The Magpie asked me for my guess. I shook it a bit, and thought.

“Ah, it’s gotta be a scarf!” I declared. “You’re such a bitch,” she laughed at me.

scarf

Yep, that’s me. Some might say it’s a bitchy thing, to guess the gifts and ruin the surprise for myself. But I like being an almost immaculate gift guesser. It’s taken me a long time to hone this skill of mine. Anyways, what you’re seeing here is a beautiful scarf from some swanky french shop on Queen. And it looks divine with the coat I bought this winter. But there were a couple of other things in the box. A Lush bath bar, that I don’t have a picture of.

And, a sweet little notebook.

notebook

In which I shall jot all of my darkest secrets, wildest dreams, and maybe some grocery lists.

Of my haul from The Magpie, I saved the best for last. She’s such a great crafter! She has ideas and designs. Things she carefully plans. Things that she can see clearly in her mind, and bring to life with her deft little fingers.

She also made me hold off on opening this one. I had to open it last. If it’s worth it to wait for anything, it’s this. This is something I would wait a lifetime for if I had to. I wouldn’t want to, but I’d do it. Things like this are one in a hundred billion.

magnets

These are one-of-a-kind, handmade Archie magnets. She clipped out images from an Archie comic and glued them onto dominoes and glass stones. How fucking awesome is that? It’s the most goddamn awesome thing ever! I was so happy when I opened these. And my happiness was threefold:

1) I love magnets. They’re kind of a hobby of mine, that is, if magnets can be considered a hobby.

2) I love Archie. I used to shake my parents down for Archie comics anytime we were at the grocery store. Well, sometimes I shook them down for candy too.

3) Homemade gifts really are the best. Someone put their time and their kind thoughts for you into making something they knew you would love. And that’s just awesome.

We had a great exchange, The Magpie and I. Even though I tore into everything pretty early. I got a mega-normous sugar rush from eating candy all day, and had fun chillin’ with the co-workers on my last day at the office before the holiday break. But before I knew it, it was time to head home. There were more gifts to open at home, and I could hear them calling to me.

Christmas morning at my mom’s house didn’t start as early as it used to. When I was younger, before I discovered beer, I would be up at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning. Rousing all family members from their warm and comfortable beds because I just couldn’t wait to get things started. I’d be up around 5:00am, and have everyone else sufficiently awake by 6:00am to commence gift opening. Everyone else would still be rubbing the sleep from their eyes as I’d excitedly thrust presents upon them.

This year was a little different though. Everyone had the luxury of sleeping in until 8:30am. And I myself was excited, although much more subdued. Mom’s punch and lack of sleep probably had something to do with that.

puppy

What I lacked in excitement though, Bree more than made up for. She was running around, all weirded out by the tree and the gifts. Wanting to play and wanting attention. She put the pep back in everyone’s step.

Two of my most notable gifts this year were of the practical and homemade variety.

First, a new toaster!

toaster

YES! We needed this so bad. We had a shitty fucking little two slicer that took about fifteen minutes to lightly brown whatever you put in it. It was an absolute nightmare in the morning before work. I do not like doing shifts on the toaster when I’m rushing to get ready in the morning. The new toaster is a badass. Just look at it. You can toast four things at once! And it doesn’t even break a sweat. It just toasts it up all nice in a flash. No stamping your foot impatiently on the kitchen floor necessary. Ain’t no thang. You go badass toaster!

My mom also made us a sweet new blanket. And she got us throw pillows to match. She’s pretty nifty when it comes to crochet.

harv and b;anket

It’s red, my favourite colour, with some cream trim. I know you can’t see it that well in this picture. And that’s because Harvey has claimed the new blanket for himself. I tried to move him, but look at that face! I just didn’t have the heart to disturb him. Instead I creeped up and stole a picture of him while napping. This just proves again that homemade gifts really are the best.

That’s a wrap on Christmas 2012. Now all that’s left to do is clink our glasses and welcome the new year.

Smash’s Traditional Christmas

I’m not talking about your grandma’s gingerbread kinda traditional. I’m talking my brand of traditional. Which, can best be described as gift swap hysteria on my part and determined long-suffering on D’s.

The most important element of my holiday celebrations is the lengthy battle over when we will exchange gifts that D and I engage in every year. The I-Just-Can’t-Wait-Another-Day-If-There-Are-Presents-With-My-Name-On-Them hounding that, admittedly, D has put up a very brave fight against every Christmas since 2006. However, D has not yet been able to come up successful with the ever so crucial December 25th exchange victory. Much to my delight, I am still the unseated champion. I’ve won every battle thus far, and am happy to announce that the tradition lives on!

I have this need to open gifts. It’s been a part of me for as long as I can remember. Actually, need is a gross understatement of what it is. Compulsion would also be putting it mildly. It’s equal parts insatiable curiosity, hyper-active desperation, and feverish excitement. And the very second I catch wind that there are gifts for me kicking around the house it becomes an all-consuming inferno inside of me, burning up every ounce of sanity I’ve got.

I’m sure my mom thought that I’d grow out of it over time. I’m certain she held out a hope as long as she possibly could. But somewhere down the line she just had to accept it, and had to get more clever at circumventing it. If she couldn’t extinguish the flames, at least she could keep them at bay with frustrated threats and double doses of household chores.

I remember the elaborate schemes my sisters and I hatched for finding and opening gifts before Christmas. For spying on our parents, trying to catch a glimpse of the things they brought home from the store. We were certain that every shopping bag was loaded to the brim with toys, and ripe for the picking. We were young and full of vigour. Okay, fine it was sugar. Sugar-fueled vigour. We devised master plans. We whispered in secrecy. We crept through the house with purpose and stealth. We did these things because we wanted presents. Needed presents.

They grew up and out of it, but I never did. As we entered our teens their interest in scheming waned, but mine never did. They started wanting to sleep in on Christmas morning, but I just couldn’t. I was on my own now. My co-conspirators just didn’t want to conspire anymore. But that’s alright, I worked well on my own too.

If no one was home and I got near the tree I’d shake, rattle, tap, rumble, and even sniff all the gifts under the tree. Could be perfume, right? Gotta sniff it to be sure! If I knew that my parents were going to be gone for a while and my sisters were out, sometimes I would even peel back the tape. Gently now, don’t want to leave any signs of tampering. I could unwrap the end of a gift and make my guesses based on box labels. If the present wasn’t taped down too tightly I might even be able to slide it out a few inches for a better look. When this method was discovered by my mom she started thwarting it by wrapping the gifts in additional boxes. She might put a DVD in a Triscuit box, or a book in a tin that once held cookies. Filling them with newspaper so I couldn’t guess what the gifts were by shake alone.

Every year that I got sneakier, my mom got more vigilant with gift disguises. One year, she even wrapped a tiny bottle of perfume for Mar in an old pizza box. Like a pizza that had been delivered to our house months earlier. I bet she’ll laugh, remembering this. How crazy it used to be.

These days I’m sure my mom is thankful that I’m out of the house. She can actually enjoy the days leading up to December 25th and wrap presents normally. She can relax, because I’m D’s problem now.

My work with D has been infinitely easier than with my mom. Not to undermine his abilities as an opponent, but he just doesn’t have as much experience dealing with my fervour as mom does. And he stands to gain so much more. The temptation for the gifts I’ve got waiting for him and my petulant charm have always gotten the better of him. I’ve been able to coax, convince, and persuade him into an early gift exchange every year. My personal best is Xmas ’09 when we exchanged gifts on November 28th. Yeah, I’m that good. The longest I’ve ever had to wait was December 21st.

The first Christmas we were together was easy. We’d been dating for five months, and we’d said “I Love You” to each other for the first time at the beginning of December. We were still in new-couple euphoria and D would have done anything to make me happy. A giggle here, a tickle there, some kisses peppered in for good measure. Then just a pinch of suggestion. I was subtle, I didn’t need to overplay my hand. We exchanged gifts on December 17th that year. And D hadn’t even begun to realize the depths of my insanity.

I just kept wearing him down, year after year. He’d get tougher and I’d get more wily with every passing Christmas. This is the first year that I’ve really been worried that I might not win. He was quite stern about finally having an exchange on the 25th. I’d have to really bust my ass to make an early exchange happen.

Cue the disastrous hangover I had last Friday after my company Christmas party. I came home so goddamn drunk on Thursday night, it was a miracle I’d even made it home. While I was out, D had been wrapping. Perfect, the gifts were ready to go. The next day I was hurting, for reals. My head ached, I’d spent a fair amount of time barfing, and had to leave work early. When D got home I was cuddled in bed with Harvey, pathetic and useless. He pitied me. “Opening the gifts might help”, I suggested.

Before I knew it we were tearing our way through the gifts. Success! The exchange for Christmas 2012 took place at 7:00pm on December 14th.

To the victor go the spoils:

calendar

The awesomest white-board calendar of all time! I shall record all future schemes here from now on.

tv shows

Some HIMYM and Sunny for laughs, always a solid gift.

lego batman

Lego Batman 2 for my Nintendo DS!!! Oh fuck yes! I was so happy when I opened this one. I’m deeply invested in putting Lex Luthor and The Joker behind bars on my daily commute now. They’ve been manufacturing Kryptonite together, and I don’t like where that’s headed.

the dark knight rises

Another gift that made my heart melt. Damn, D knows me so well.

comics

Because I just don’t have enough Batman in my life. Volume 2 and 3 of “Batman: No Man’s Land”. Currently working my way through volume 1. Great work D!

And the best of my haul you ask? A little Cinderella story to warm the cockles of your heart. A little stocking stuffer really wowed me this year:

drunk dice

Yeah, it’s Get Drunk Dice! I can’t even tell you how much I love the little cartoon dice that’s puking up his beer. And the whorish looking lady dice, ever so gracefully pouring beer down her gullet. I want to party with these dice characters. Right now. Oh, and I haven’t even pointed out the best part yet:

drunk dice rules

The back of the package displays the rules to the game. Oh, but what’s that on the bottom you see? The fine print, which clearly states “Not to be played with alcohol”. The game is called Get Drunk Dice for fuck’s sake! How am I even supposed to win the game if I’m not getting drunk? What do you propose I get drunk with instead? Orange juice? Kit Kat bars? Sunblock? I know the company that makes this game probably did this to avoid a lawsuit, but I just can’t think of anything more contradictory than the packaging on this game. If a box of condoms had a disclaimer saying “Not to be used for sexual intercourse”, it could not be more ridiculous than this.

The gifts have all been sufficiently exchanged, and now we’re contemplating packing up the Christmas tree this weekend because it’s getting in our way and Harvey keeps trying to eat it. All before December 25th. My burning desire to tear open gifts has been sated, and now I can relax. I’ll think I’ll have a few drinks, roll the drunk dice, and tell D how rad I think he is.

harv

That’s my idea of a traditionally awesome Christmas!