Oops! I Gained Some Weight!

Everyone make mistakes. Set backs in life are common. Sometimes they’re out of your control and sometimes they’re within your control. A few years ago I made a shawl that had a repetitive but complicated pattern. I had to rip it out completely and start over three separate times. It’s heartbreaking to unravel your work, but in doing so you dissect it and look for where you made those mistakes that threw off the pattern and pay a little more attention the next time.

We’re conditioned to fear making mistakes. Imagine what would have happened if Eminem took his one shot, his one opportunity to seize everything he ever wanted in one moment and failed? He’d probably learn something from it and try again. Take his battle rap skills beyond 8 Mile and into new territory. Maybe not, but let’s just take a moment to realize how great it is that we’re not Eminem. His life is complicated as hell.

Well, I’ve gained some weight. A severe back injury, budding relationship and my biostatistics class complicated my routine of healthy living. I stopped going to Weight Watchers. My Zumba teacher left my gym. My focus changed from wanting to spend time after work on the elliptical to watching 30 Rock reruns with my boyfriend (and eating pizza, usually. Sometimes Thai). I’ve traveled more in the last eight months than I have in the last five years and I ate well. Really well. My clothes started shrinking and walking up a flight of stairs became a chore again.

FullSizeRender(7)Yesterday at the gym I took a new set of before photos. I refused to look sad and dejected because I’m not. It took gaining a little weight for me to realize that. I made some mistakes that set me back a little bit and I’m okay with it. I don’t like the way I feel. The differentiation is important. I care enough about myself to want to make myself feel good. Wearing my blue dress with the little sailboats, hiking and dancing are things that make me feel wonderful so my goal is to get to a point where those things are enjoyable once again.

Reviewing the last few months has made me realize what it is that I had done wrong and, really, what I had been doing wrong through my five year weight loss journey. I’m a different person now and I am approaching my goals with a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective. Instead of feeling defeated, dejected  or even hating myself, I’m in love with myself. When we feel better about ourselves, whether it’s through our own volition or being lifted up by others, we succeed.

This is really what I have wanted for myself all along.

[WWE Cookbook] Christian’s Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parm is one of my all time favorite meals. I’ll eat it on anything or in any vessel. I’ve put off making this recipe because I know that it was going to come nowhere close to my step mom’s amazing version. My Death Row meal would be a Qdoba Chicken Queso burrito, three lobsters, a pu pu platter from a Polynesian restaurant and my step mom’s eggplant parm. I’d also have a classic whoopie pie, Cherry Coke and a Dunkin Donuts Pumpkin Iced with skim milk and a Dunkin Donuts glazed donut and a Dunkin Donuts pumpkin muffin. Oh, and potato skins.

Christian_crop_north

Christian as World Heavyweight Champion (Courtesy of The Bleacher Report)

Christian wrestled for WWE for about fifty years. Now, he co-hosts the Edge and Christian Show on the WWE network where I have come to love him even more. I always felt that Christian was a hard worker overshadowed by Edge and buried by the WWE. When he won the World Heavyweight Championship in 2010, I was elated for him and, like everyone else, absolutely furious that he lost it the next night on Smackdown.

However, this facilitated a much needed heel turn where he kept demanding “One more match” and terrorizing Randy Orton (who has the visibility of John Cena without the charisma and ability to draw out sentences and keep talking about whatever it is that’s going on and whoever he is going to face that night and that he earned his right into that match because…zzzzzzzz).

During a house show I went to in Lowell, Massachusetts, Christian referred to the city has “a stinkin’ crap hole” which is now my favorite descriptor for anything (ex. “That Randy Orton promo was a stinkin’ crap hole.”)

IMG_7296This eggplant parm was not a stinkin’ crap hole. While it absolutely pales in comparison to my step mom’s masterpiece, it got the job done. Making this dish always seemed daunting to me, but it’s actually pretty simple.

I coated each piece of eggplant in an egg/flour mixture and let it sizzle in oil. The only issue, and as always, I blame this on user error, was that the eggplant pieces took longer to brown with some not coming close to being even. Some of the coating just crinkled right off.

 

The amount of cheese I used seemed like a great idea at the time but turned out to be a stinkin’ crap hole  way too much cheese. It was so heavy and nap inducing, but still delicious. Even the worst eggplant parm is still delicious.

This cookbook has a record of 15-5.

[WWE Cookbook] Steve Blackman’s Serious Marinara Sauce

Marinara sauce can be a polarizing topic. Thin or chunky. Meaty or Vegetabley. Everyone seems to have a personal preference. Recipes have been handed down for generations helping formulate a preference.

I didn’t grow up with a family sauce. We usually bought the Prego with mushrooms which was fun and what I continue to buy to this day. The idea of making my own tomato sauce seemed daunting. Grandmothers in movies continually had family members tasting their creations to gauge their known perfection. I didn’t have to have anyone taste Prego with mush
rooms. No secret recipe of ingredients. Just me, Prego and mushrooms…and whatever I was putting it on. (Secret: Usually a pizza or eggplant parm. I don’t like pasta.)

When I read the ingredients for Steve Blackman’s Serious Marinara sauce it seemed easy enough. Three major ingredients (onions, garlic, tomatoes) combined with olive oil, oregano, basil and optional salt and pepper.

The Serious descriptor came from Blackman always playing the straight guy in his tag teams. He was super serious. How serious?

18f473b36d54df37f40d0fece9a2e6f1

 

Wrestler/Martial Artists/Bail Bondsman Steve Blackman spent time with WWF from the mid-80’s until about 2002. His Martial Arts expertise became his gimmick and was instrumental in his holding of the WWF Hardcore Title.

The title was to be defended 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was often won through backstage sneak attacks instead of in-ring competition. Blackman was able to defend himself with his MMA prowess and intermittently retained the title for six months before losing it to Raven in December 2000.

You also may have seen this absolutely bananas moment at 1:20:

I said he was super serious, you guys!!

IMG_7294.JPG

 

Step One: Make sure when you cut the onions, you get them all over your floor.

 

 

 

IMG_7295

 

Step Two: Cut up all the shit, put it in a pot, snap a picture and then don’t take another picture.

 

 

 

 

The plan was to use the sauce along with Christian’s Eggplant Parm Recipe, but the sauce came out tasteless, chunky and watery. I planned to grind it up in my food processor, but I was really hungry by the time this sauce was done so I used Prego with Mushrooms instead.

 

So, meh, even though this one failed, I may be responsible, but it seems unlikely. This cookbook now has a record of 14-5.

 

 

Always Read the Comments

As I sit here scrolling through the comment section of a story Fox News posted regarding the auctioning of the gun George Zimmerman used to shoot Trayvon Martin, I am reminded of sagely advice: “Don’t read the comments.”

It’s what we tell each other to protect ourselves. You know that nothing good or positive ever comes from reading the comments, so why do it? Those that spend their time trolling news stories and spewing hate are not worth our time. That line of thinking is a cop out. If you don’t want to get upset, then don’t read what people have to say. Lucky us! We can pick and choose the hate we’re subjected to and when we feel bad, we just close the web browser and put on old episodes of 30 Rock.

We need to be reading the comments.

While utterly tragic, this is not about whether George Zimmerman was justified in shooting Trayvon Martin in self-defense or if Zimmerman was the aggressor. Regardless of the events leading up to it, a black teenager was shot and killed and for whatever reason there are some that are using this as an opportunity to display their outright racism, hail Zimmerman a hero and justify the murders of black teens.

Here is what you need to be reading:

“Black lives splatter.”

This comment made me so sick to my stomach I almost called into work.

“At this point what difference does it make. Maybe it was just some guy looking for some thug that had broken into apartments in the neighborhood. Big deal”

Pretty sure it isn’t a civilians job to go out of his way to police the neighborhood. This is a terrifyingly passive thought. Big deal.

“I don’t know the neighborhood where this incident occurred but if a black male wearing a hoodie was walking through my neighborhood everyone living there would look at him with suspicion.

This comment will upset some people but it is what it is.  White people are not responsible for the image of black people.  All blacks suffer from the actions of the LARGE criminal element within that race of people.  Stereotypes exist for a reason.  If you don’t like it then CHANGE THE IMAGE!!!!”

….

“At least half of black 17 yr olds are thugs and going nowhere in life. Statistics prove this, so does observation using common sense. Sorry, try again”

There were too many comments about black people being monkeys and eating bananas that I don’t have enough hours in the day to cut and paste them here. One person advocated that Zimmerman’s gun belongs in the Smithsonian. The gun used to murdered a teenager does not belong in the same building as Julia Child’s kitchen. It’s not a tourist attraction and people shouldn’t want to see it. Some commenters actually agree with me about the gun because they think that the actual bullet would draw more people.

It’s also worth noting that these posts were riddled with poor grammar, sentence structure and lots OF CAPS TO MAKE A POINT!!!! Oh, and death threats! Anyone that was like “a person died” was called a liberal and then told to die by drinking a bunch of alcohol and going swimming (yes, really) or getting a back alley abortion (again, yes, really.) Oh! And my *favorite* was saying that liberals slept in bed with their moms until they were 17 and were all transgendered because “they think it’s all the same anyway.” These commenters were closed off to discussion and resorted to immature behavior because What They Know is Right and There are No Other Opinions. Being able to post freely on the internet helps, too.

I’m not a minority. I grew up in a middle class town that was 99.99% white. So I can’t even begin to imagine hearing or reading comments like this and have them actually be directed at me. Having to constantly prove the things that I am not to people who seemingly will never be convinced. Trying to overcome the hurdles of structural violence and watering down my behavior and culture to align with the majority so no one feels threatened. Even having discussions with people that have the best of intentions in advocating because they even don’t truly understand.

I don’t pretend to understand, but I can empathize, speak up and educate. We tend to turn a blind eye to this stuff and think it doesn’t apply to us, but it does. I’m white and my people are saying these horrible things. I need to care because, believe it or not, it can get a lot worse.

Red Card

“I’m going to start handing out red cards to people doing things I don’t like,” I said out loud to my cat. Then I google searched for an image of a red card even though it seems easy enough to make, because I’m too tired. Tired of crap.

red-cardAfter I graduated college I spent my summer doing contract work for a company that needed me to drive around and (hopefully) get carded when I asked to buy cigarettes or alcohol. If they asked to see my ID, I gave them a green card and left. If they didn’t, red card. I could not say anything to them after I gave the card. Yes, I had people scream in my face and follow me to my car, but I was wearing a Care Bear t-shirt, glow in the dark jewelry and had my hair in messy pigtails. I made it as easy as possible and they still didn’t get it. But I didn’t have to talk to them. Instead, there was a phone number on the back they could call for more information.

I’m going to bring back the red card practice on a personal level. I’m just tired of people arguing with each other. It’s reached a point where we are arguing for nothing. I made a comment on a blog post that praised the authors view point and someone commented that I didn’t get the primary reason for the post. The post we agreed on and that I did wholeheartedly understand and agree with. What’s the point? I would give him a red card.

What constitutes a red card? Here are some of the messages that red card recipients will hear when they call in.

  • Freedom of speech means that you can say whatever you want without being thrown in jail. You are still responsible for what you say and should be able to explain yourself when people question you. You can also just not talk.
  • Religious freedom means you can practice your religion in a public space without being thrown in jail. It does not extend to whether or not you’ll make a gay couple a wedding cake. That’s just bad business. However, if it’s that important to you, refuse to make the cake and let that couple give their hard earned money to someone who thinks it should be the happiest day of their lives and not serve a cake to their guests made by a grade A bigot.
  • Do not tell women they need to smile. You are owed nothing.
  • Child molesters and rapists are monsters. No one is disagreeing with you on that, but the bathroom bill is not about allowing those types of people in the bathroom. It’s about protecting a transgendered persons right to be able to use the appropriate bathroom without being subjected to mental or physical abuse. That monster sociopath rapist is going to follow you into the bathroom regardless of the law because they are a sociopath. If you’re that worried, poop at home like the rest of us do. Please educate yourself and pass it on to your kids.
  • Talk to your children about the way the world is changing. They’re not born bigots – it’s learned behavior. Make a positive influence on their beliefs and be a stellar role model.
  • I get it. You hate Hillary and love Bernie. Stop making us all so miserable by talking about why you hate Hillary. Talk about why you love Bernie. You can also just not talk.
  • We have the same opinion. Why are you arguing with me?
  • You know you would also benefit from a social democratic presidency, right? Do you think people in Denmark waste their time talking about this shit? They’re too busy being happy.
  • Yes, all lives do matter, but #blacklivesmatter is an important movement to draw attention to the structural violence that black people face on a daily basis. Be grateful you have no basis for comparison in your own life and show some compassion to those that do. Innocent people are being killed and you’re not hearing about that enough.
  • Stereotypes aren’t funny even if you think they’re positive. People are so much more than what you’ve heard about their race/culture. Idiot.
  • I’m sorry that you felt that Beyonce’s video for “Formation” was a slap in the face to law enforcement. Maybe you wouldn’t be so butt hurt about it if there wasn’t some truth in her message, right? Continue to be a great cop so less shit like that happens.
  • There are traffic signals for a reason. Please don’t leave your house if you refuse to acknowledge them. Working from home is pretty great and can be lucrative!
  • Wrestling isn’t fake, it’s scripted. They’re tremendous athletes and story tellers that are at real risk for severe injury.
  • Abortion is a very polarizing subject. I’m sorry if you have had to go through with one or are rattled by the very act itself based on your beliefs. Planned Parenthood did not sell fetuses. Please stop making abortions unattainable for the women that need them. It’s not your body or your business. Stop acting like it is. You have a choice as to whether or not abortion is the right option for you. That choice needs to exist because there are other people in the world and not just YOU.
  • If a person says “No,” they mean “No” regardless of when they say it. Yes, rapists need to know this, but apparently so do universities, law enforcement, our justice system and anyone else that should be on the victim’s side. Not persecuting a rapist tells him/her that their behavior was a-okay. Please don’t be a part of that problem.
  • #NoBostonOlympics
  • When women say they want equal rights, there’s always one dude who is like “So I should be able to punch you in face now. But you women will say oh no no no that’s not cool. If you want equality I should be able to hit you.” If being able to punch a women is the first thing you think about when the topic of feminism and equal rights are brought up go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do Not pass Go. Do not collect $200. You shouldn’t want to punch anyone in the face. Except Floyd Mayweather, but good luck with that.
  • Hey women, stop talking crap about other women. Lift them up. More than one person can be successful.
  • There’s a special place in hell for those that made racist comments about Malia Obama and her family’s educational background on that Fox News articles comments. FOX NEWS TOOK IT DOWN. THAT’S HOW TERRIBLE YOU ARE.
  • For the last time, gay marriage doesn’t mean people will be marrying sheep soon or whatever ridiculous new marriage law you think will come to fruition. It doesn’t ruin the “sanctity of marriage.” It strengthens it. Besides, what do you care? The worst thing that is going to happen is that you’re invited to a gay wedding and you choose not to go. You’re going to miss one hell of an awesome and loving celebration. Boohoo for you.
  • Gamergate: Maybe I’m not understanding this correctly but from what I understand those men feel threatened by women in the video game industry. Seems pretty unbelievable, right? Please find something better to do with your time like not ruining the lives of successful women. What the hell is wrong with you?

Maybe I could just sum it all up with one statement:

Please think about how you act and the way it affects others. If you wouldn’t say it to someone directly, don’t say it online. If you share hate for a specific group of people, please educate yourself before you form your own opinion. Most importantly, please be empathetic. Everyone is going through something you know nothing about. Be grateful you don’t have those struggles and be as supportive as you can in whatever way you can. We’re all in this together. Have a wonderful day.

Prince

A few years ago I asked for a record player for my birthday with the sole intention of purchasing Purple Rain on vinyl. Finding it was no easy feat and, luckily, two friends found an almost pristine copy for me. I cleaned to this, cooked to this, danced to this album. It sits at the front of my collection because it is Purple Rain.

The closest I ever came to seeing Prince live was watching his music videos during a singalong at the Coolidge Corner Theatre about ten years ago. Before the show started a girl sitting in front of us turned around and said “Prince has microphones all over his house. So if he makes a noise when he takes a shit, he can use it in a song.” I still believe that to be true because something like that is so Prince.

Props were handed out for each song. For “Let’s Go Crazy” we were given bags of nuts to throw around overtime Prince sang “Let’s get nuts.” And during one of my of personal favorites, Purple Rain, we passed strings of purple crepe paper around covering ourselves and the theatre in a blanket of purple.

A month ago I went to see the David Bowie laser show at the Museum of Science. It was a touching tribute culminating with listening to “Black Star” in complete darkness. Yesterday morning I received an email from the Museum of Science with their laser show summer series: Bowie, Bjork, Beyonce (!!!) and Prince – specifically the Purple Rain album. I quickly sent my boyfriend an email asking if he was interested (of course he was) and then an hour later I’m reading that there was a death at Paisley Park, frequently refreshing the TMZ website until I saw what I dreaded: PRINCE DEAD AT 57.

When Bowie died it was morbidly satisfying to hear that he had lost his battle with cancer. It made his death easier to process. He knew his final days were upon him and he left behind an album letting us know just that. Not knowing how we lost Prince is difficult right now. It was sudden, surprising and seems meaningless.

Not many people dared to cover Prince, but the few that succeeded did. George Clinton’s performance of “Erotic City” was the party anthem at the end of PCU. He recorded “Give ’em What They Want” with Janelle Monae for her sophomore album. And DiFranco would frequently cover “When Doves Cry” on tour and he returned the favor by providing backing vocals on her album To The Teeth (Please check out “Providence” on that album).

He wrote “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “Manic Monday” and “I Feel For You” which didn’t feel like Prince songs. Those artists made them their own, but you never would have thought they weren’t theirs to begin with.

Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Joni Mitchell…those were a handful of artists that Prince covered on tour. Anytime someone mentioned Prince, I quickly pulled up his performance of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from when he was inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Suddenly, Prince joins Tom Petty, Steve Winwood and others on stage to just murder the guitar solo at the end. I don’t want to say anymore because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but everyone that has seen it has been blown away. It’s mandatory viewing.

Prince was loyal. Loyal to his fans, the city of Minneapolis. Even though he would go door to door in his hometown to introduce the idea of being a Jehovah’s Witness, he was a fiercely private person. He was a perfectionist. Protective of his image and his music. He was a pioneer, a terrific role model and musical icon. Prince unapologetically did Prince. And if we take anything away from his career, it’s that we should unapologetically be ourselves.

WWE Cookbook: Sgt. Slaughter’s Mess Hall Dip

The only time it is ever appropriate to serve a dish that is 85% dairy, 10% meat and 5% chili is at a Super Bowl party.

This bowl of Meat Cheese probably weighed >7 pounds. I really wish I had weighed this thing. Of the seven pounds I brought, I left with six and a half. And so my addiction to Meat Cheese began.

meatcheese1

Look at all that f-ing cheese, you guys!!

For days, I ate Meat Cheese. I ate it was pretzels, bread and tortilla chips but I mostly ate it by the bowl on it’s own. I would think about it while I was at work. Three more hours and then I can eat a bowl Meat Cheese.

It consumed me. It destroyed my microwave and blew threw the Magic Eraser I used to clean it. Chunks of ground beef on all sides. I should’ve scraped it off the sides and ate it.

I can never make this again. Ever. I can’t even have the ingredients in the house. I just bought some cream cheese and I know there is frozen ground beef in my freezer…Can I scrape together four cups of shredded cheese? I have brie…

IMG_6773

Oh right, the wrestling part of this, I guess. Sgt. Slaughter blah blah blah you get the point.

The record is now 14-4.

 

 

WWE Cookbook JR’s Tex-Mex Stew

Another stew from good ol’ JR!

This recipe contains just a few of my favorite things: chickpeas, corn, BBQ sauce, beef, corn, black beans, salsa and (low-sodium) taco seasoning. Every ingredient rules and it goes in a slow cooker!

I meant to take a photo of this, and the thought did cross my mind every time I was eating it, but it was so delicious that by the time I finished my thought and went to grab my phone, it was gone.

Not totally convinced on how tasty it is yet? Check out this forum on BodyBuilding.com dedicated to the recipe.

fd7e7d33_Jim-Ross-308If you want to be a purist, head on over to JR’s Family BBQ Store to purchase his BBQ sauce. I had planned on using the bottle of Market Basket BBQ sauce I purchased for the recipe until my boyfriend reminded me that I had a jar of his mom’s homemade BBQ sauce which was so thick and flavorful. Delicious!

(Note: I’m obsessed with Market Basket so I tend to buy Market Basket brand items when I can to support their business. If you’re interested in learning more about Market Basket, their business model and the strike of 2014, please read this book. It’s great.)

In true fashion I messed up the recipe and added twice as many black beans as I should have, but that just meant there was more of the stew to eat and was not really a problem at all. Thanks to my newly acquired knife skills, I cut about 98% of the fat off the beef. I was really trying to make this as healthy as possible, but you know, BBQ sauce.

Another winner from JR! This cookbook has a record of 13-4.

 

[WWE Cookbook] J.R.’s Spicy Pork Stew

porkbowl

I’ve recently learned that my kitchen is not very well equipped for cooking. My boyfriend is an incredible cook with culinary imagination and refined knife skills. He looks like a professional chef chopping up fennel and knowing that fennel is an herb. I’m really great at topping off his wine glass and drinking the majority of the wine myself.

He knew about this project for a while and, to my surprise, thinks that it is pretty cool. After watching him thumb through it a number of times, I let him dog ear the recipes he’d be interested in cooking together. Of course he picked what I viewed as the most complicated recipes, but after paying attention to the recipe, actually thinking through what I was doing and listening to him explain how to do both of those things at the same time, we ended up with a nice little stew.

I really did my best to pay attention to what he technique and follow his lead, but in true WWE cookbook fashion, it went a little off the rails. When he went in the fridge to get some ingredients he asked, “Is there a reason why the Windex is in the fridge?” Honestly, I just forgot I put it in there. At his suggestion I used a kitchen towel in place of my trusty Pac-Man pot holder which left to him saying “Give that to me. You’re going to set it on fire.”

I did buy the correct pork. Giggled like a 12 year old the whole time.

porkbutt

MULTIPLE BUTTS!

jr.jpgJim Ross, or Good Ol’ JR as he was known to fans in the WWE, is responsible for this project so blame him. He’s the curator of this book and put a bunch of shit recipes* around his own personal delicious dishes.

By the time I started watching wrestling again, JR had long since retired. He briefly came back to feud with Michael Cole which resulted in a match at Wrestlemania where JR just dumped a shitload of his BBQ on Michael Cole. Jack Swagger was there, too. Why do I remember this?

 

 

This recipe intimidated me due to the sheer amount of ingredients, but I learned that doing things the right way and being meticulous takes a lot of the stress out of cooking.

IMG_6747

Power Burner

We both really enjoyed the result. I plan on making this again taking into account everything I learned and will hopefully create a delicious dish of my own.

It’s a slobber knocker! This cookbook has a record of 12-4.

*jk most are pretty good!

[Passion Forward] Knitting with Renee!

Starting with the next interview Passion Forward is going to exist solely as a podcast. I love meeting up with people and having these conversations, but with work and grad school I just don’t have the time to commit to the write ups. The feedback I’ve received from this project has been positive and it seems like people enjoy listening to the interviews. So, once I figure out how to do the podcast, that’ll be going up on iTunes. Now, on to Renee!

IMG_5783It had been a long, long time since I had seen Renee, but we’ve been pretty connected in the social media world. I was elated when she asked me to swing by her place in New Hampshire on my way back from the Nudity Farm this past August. She’s been a really big supporter of this project and I convinced her to let me interview her about one of her passions. She had narrowed it down to folk music, marine life, working with the elderly and knitting. I think I pushed her towards knitting and she felt as though she didn’t have enough scholarly information about folk music to discuss it. As with all Passion Forward interviews, all of the possible topics surfaced during our conversation with a whole lot of discussion about 90’s television.

Renee and I met when she was my knitting teacher back in 2007. I had signed up to take a sock knitting class because trying it on my own was terrifying. Luckily, Renee is the most patient knitting teachers ever and our class was an amazing group of women. Since there was so much knit love between us, Renee kept the band together by creating a class where we designed our own scarf patterns and then tackled the sweater pattern of our choice. She encouraged our creativity and provided the guidance our group needed.

Knitting tends to be one of those skills that is handed down through generations. It was during a visit from her grandmother during her senior year of high school that Renee and her best friend, Shauna, were taught how to knit.”We can watch 90210 after school and we can knit. It was perfect. We were living the life.”

After graduating high school, Renee went on to the University of Maine. During her first few days of being there, a flyer containing mostly pizza coupons was slipped under her door and hidden within was a knitting coupon for 15% off at a local knitting store. She decided to take a class there and knit a tiny mitten. She started to take more classes and hang out there in her spare time. Eventually, she transitioned to working there and feels like that is where she really honed her craft.

Once Renee completed her undergrad degree she moved away to Colorado Springs to begin working towards her Masters in Clinical Gerontology. Looking to expand her fiber knowledge, Renee enrolled in weaving classes when she moved out there. The timing was right to try something new as the fun-fur knitting craze was sweeping the nation and knitting died out a little. It was a dark time.

Weaving is one of the more popular forms of artistic expression in the Southwest. Ponchos, blankets, rugs and other sturdy textiles are weaved through a machine using thinner, stronger plant based fibers and warmer colors to represent the Southwest. “It takes forever to get it set up, but once it’s set up, you fly.”

She also tried her hand at crocheting, but couldn’t get the hang of it. “There’s something about the process that makes it easier for a crocheter to learn how to knit than a knitter to learn to crochet.” I’ve heard this from many that have tried to learn how to crochet after learning first how to knit. It’s like pianos and guitars. They produce the same thing, both instruments use their hands, but they’re completely different and produce different versions of the same thing. Knitters are used to working with two straight needles so trying to wrap your head around how one hooked needle can make a blanket is confusing. “It’s harder and a lot more stringent. You make mistakes and there’s no work around so you have to go back. Knitting you can just pull it out.”

IMG_5776

Renee’s craft room contains other projects she has made over the years as well as gifts from friends

Renee moved to Boston after completing her master’s program and began searching for gerantological research positions. She came across the now defunct Spark Craft Studio in Somerville where she became the head knitting instructor and buyer. Renee even incorporated her love of marine life into Spark by purchasing yarn made with lobster and crab shells. She is a self-labeled “natural fiber snob” preferring animal fibers and staying away from synthetics as they’re not good for knitting or the environment. Her favorite brand is Malabrigo and loves knitting with single ply fibers and variegated colors.

Her favorite knitting books, The Knitters Companion and Vogue Knitting, were always in stock at the store. They’re both great for stitch guides and creating your own knitting patterns. Renee also recommends older knitting books for stitches as well.

IMG_5780

Renee spent years on this sweater. It’s older than our friendship.

Mittens are one of Renee’s favorite projects to work on. You only need a 200 yard skein to complete the project. When she’s knitting for someone she really puts effort into creating a gift unique to that individual. She spent some time “knitting without purpose” and knit a giant blanket, felted it and cut it down to make potholders and coasters. This project took years for her to complete, but it used up scraps from her stash that would’ve otherwise been thrown away.

If you’re thinking of giving knitting a try, Renee recommends starting with a scarf and using worsted weight fiber that you love. “If you feel passionately about a yarn then you are most likely to finish that project or at least work it through long enough to learn what you’re doing.” She recommends avoiding fibers that make it hard to see stitches. So, again, stay away from the fun fur. Please.

“People are afraid to make things and they don’t have a a lot of confidence. They’re afraid they’re going to screw something up. And nothing bad is gonna happen. Like the worst thing that’s going to happen is you spend some time on something and it doesn’t turn out well. That’s pretty low stakes.”

IMG_5779

She’s also becoming interested in sewing and has made a few bunting projects. This one features some octopi – MARINE LYFE!

Renee prefers to watch television while she knits. Some of her favorites right now include  Playing House, Broad City, New Girl and any show about Alaska. “I love the rugged, raw coldness.”  Our conversation quickly shifted to discussing sitcoms, both from the 90’s and present day. We asked each other difficult questions like “Who is your favorite New Girl character?” We both chose Winston and disliked Coach. Seriously, Coach was the worst.  We both agree that Frasier was better than Cheers.

Knitting is just like any other skill that you may try to pick up. It requires putting in the time, effort and patience, but is worth the pay off. “People should try knitting. You have to practice it. It’s a skill just like anything else. It’s not like some crafts you can just drop into. You can glue something to something and not do it again. You can feel okay or not okay about what you do…You’re probably not gonna be great at it and that’s fine. You just need to keep at it…It’s a very forgiving craft once you know how to work around a mistake.” Much easier than crochet, but I’m biased.


Renee and I chatted about much, much more than knitting. Listen to the interview to find out which Ben and Jerry’s flavor Renee hates and is my favorite, our thoughts on 90’s television shows (and their reboots), television character accents, problems with ‘Cougartown’ and other little random tidbits.