Friday, May 30, 2008


Blatantly stolen from Whiskeymarie, Abbersnail, and the blogger formerly known as Maliavale (all of whom I am too lazy to link to right now).

Five things that are (in my opinion) overrated
  1. Sex & the City*

  2. Owning a cabin**

  3. Chipotle***

  4. Breaking out the shorts and sandals as soon as it's warmer than 50 degrees outside

  5. Most dogs

Five things that are (again, in my mind only) underrated

  1. Getting enough sleep

  2. Staying in on Friday nights

  3. Peanut butter and banana sandwiches

  4. Proper grammar and spelling

  5. Public libraries (and, more specifically, library online reservation systems)

Why do I feel like that first list might get me lynched and that second list just proves I'm an even bigger nerd than I already realized?

What's on your over/under list?

* There. I said it. Yes, I watched the show just like the rest of you, and I'm sure I'll see the movie, too. But can we please stop talking about it after that? Please? Thank you.

** Having a friend with a cabin, though? Definitely worthwhile.

*** Settle down. I thoroughly enjoy a giant burrito every now and then just like the rest of you. I just don't think it's a near-religious experience any time I do.

(I'll really stop footnoting every one of these now.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You must chill! You must chill! I have hidden your keys! Chill!

Hey, did you guys know that it's Wednesday already? It is! Crazy how that happened.

I don't know about you, but for me, a long weekend for once actually felt like a long weekend, and it was lovely: a fine mix of fun stuff with friends and sitting around enjoying doing pretty much nothing by myself, with not a single bit of household projectry thrown in for good measure. (There were plenty of tedious tasks I could have started, but I decided to be bold and rebellious lazy and apathetic and give myself the weekend off. Also, what do you mean "projectry" isn't a word, built-in Firefox spell checker? I see your little dotted red line, but I'm ignoring you. Twice. So there.)

I even managed to catch up (mostly) on my blog reading, and because nearly all of you were kind enough to take the weekend off, I managed to stay caught up, even through Tuesday night. Yay! We should organize group blogcations more often. In fact, until I saw my feed reader filling up again, I sort of thought we were still on one. You guys didn't get the memo about that? No? That was just me? OK fine.

You would think after a long and lovely weekend I would have all sorts of things to tell you about, but honestly the only thing that happened all weekend that seemed noteworthy or ridiculous enough to compel me to blog about it was when, in my run-of-the-mill brilliance and coordination, I managed to drop a sizable blort of hummus directly into the slot at the top of my paper shredder. In case you happen to pull something equally smart and graceful yourself some day, I will help you out and say that folding up a sheet of paper towel and running it through the shredder is not actually a terrible way to clean it up. If you are smarter than I am, a simpler solution might occur to you more quickly (Q-tip between the little metal slats, perhaps?), but if you know me at all, you know that the simplest solution is often the last solution my brain rests upon, so shredding paper towel is the method that seemed most logical to me at the time. If my unwanted credit card offers smell like garlic and chick peas from now on, I suppose it won't be hard to figure out why.

Incidentally, I am well aware that if hummus in my paper shredder was the portion of my weekend I deemed most bloggable, I either need to have more exciting weekends or need to quit blogging for good. I could actually tell you about my brief and recent return to meMarmony, wherein I decided on a whim to take advantage of the "Free Communication Weekend!" and reactivate matches in my old account. But whether there are any interesting stories to be told from that little experiment remains to be seen, so I'll just hold off on that for now.

Meanwhile, I did finally meet the possibly pretentious English professor, and it turns out the divide between his level of pretension and my level of pretension is quite probably smaller than I originally feared. I might even go so far as to say it was a... good(??) date, but I'd best hold off there, too. Jinxes and no-takebacks and all that.

Oh. Also, today I got yelled at on my way home by an angry man on a motorcycle who could maybe channel some of his rage into DRIVING FASTER rather than sending it all towards me. After turning around to glare at me twice in the two-mile stretch for which I was following him, he pulled up next to me at the subsequent stoplight and started shouting towards my car. I glanced over at him, eyebrows raised and head shaking in what I thought was the universal sign for, "You are a crazy person; hence, I am ignoring you." Unfortunately, he kept right on yelling until I finally leaned across and rolled down my passenger side window. (Yes, I said leaned across and rolled down. I am so old school that my Saturn's windows are the rolly-crank type. Also, I use an abacus to balance my checkbook, which maybe accounts for all the bothersome errors I mentioned.)

ANYWAY. So I rolled down my window, and said, "WHAT?" and he launched into a rant about my need to tailgate him. (As in, "You don't need to tailgate like that. You don't need to do that!") Yes, let's talk about needs, sir. No, I did not NEED to tailgate you. I don't NEED to drink wine, either, but sometimes it makes me feel better, OK? And while we're playing this "don't need to" game, might I also add that you don't NEED to drive 15 miles below the speed limit, particularly if you're going to do so in that maddening "lurch forward quickly, then pull back immediately thereafter" style? You have your way of being an asshole and I have mine, OK?

(Disclaimer: I actually do not believe I was unsafely tailgating him. Following maybe a wee bit close, yes, but I actually find it rather hard NOT to do that when the person in front of me is driving FIFTEEN MILES UNDER THE SPEED LIMIT (particularly when doing so in the inconstant, lurch forward, pull back method I described). Also, when I say he was going fifteen miles under the speed limit, I do not mean that the posted limit was 55 and I preferred that he go 70 instead. No, I mean that the number on the sign said 55, but his odometer needle was clinging to 40 like his vehicle would blow up if he went any faster. Maybe he thought he was in that movie... Remember? I think it was called "The bus that couldn't slow down.")

In addition to the above disclaimers, I would also like to point out that I did not give Angry Man the satisfaction of fighting with him. I am proud to say that I replied in a calm voice, "I actually think I had enough space, but I apologize if I upset you. Also, you were driving fifteen miles under the speed limit." And then I rolled up my window, turned up my radio, and went on with my life. I hope he did the same, but I am pretty sure he instead seethed all the way home and then relayed the whole angry tale to his unfortunate wife or Labrador retriever or whoever was waiting for him there. Or maybe he did exactly what I did and just told the Internet about it instead. (Hello, Pot? This is Kettle. You're black.)

And I think that about catches you up. What's new with all of you? Did you indulge in snobbery and pretension over the weekend? Get yelled at by a stranger anywhere? Do tell.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Five things I have learned in the past week

  1. I am incapable of making an error in my checkbook that works in my favor.

  2. If you tell the lady at the deli counter that you want a half a pound of cheese, but do not tell her that you would like it in one big block because you plan to shred it, she will give it to you sliced.

    2b. It is not as easy to shred sliced cheese as you might think it is.

  3. Low sodium soy sauce does not taste just like regular soy sauce.

    3b. It's not terrible, however.*

  4. Not everyone believes that flossing your teeth falls unquestionably under the list of activities it is NOT OK to do while driving.

  5. My wiseguy coworker does not own any pants other than jeans (and he fails to see why I think this is absurd and possibly indicative of some sort of mild failure in life).

    5b. Apparently you can both take the girl out of Wisconsin and Wisconsin out of the girl. **

* And even if it were, I would feel awfully silly complaining about it after paying only $1.48 for the bottle on clearance at SuperTarget.

** And apparently my father was right and living in the city has turned me into a huge snob. Whoops.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On the up side, if I installed a privacy fence, I could finally get that trampoline I want*

I just spent twenty minutes outside talking to my neighbor, a lovely and pleasant elderly lady whom I chat with only about three times a year, when she happens to stroll through her yard while I'm outside raking leaves or pulling weeds or reattaching the drain pipes that I toss aside and out of the way while I'm mowing my lawn (the latter being what I was doing when I ran into her tonight). And after twenty minutes face to face with her, I came inside and looked in the mirror and shook my head in shame that anyone had seen me in that state up close and personal. Having just worked up a sweat mowing my lawn, my ponytailed hair was plastered tight against my head. The remains of today's eyeliner had settled itself into speckled, round gray shadows beneath my eyes. And my outfit? I was wearing the paint-stained t-shirt and mid-90s cargo pants that have been my official painting clothes since I bought this house. The spatters of color on my legs and torso serve as sort of a bare-bones tour of my home's palette. "This is my living room," I could say, pointing to my left boob. "And over here's my kitchen," my right leg says. "Down here you can see my bedroom, my computer room, oh, and over here, the brand-new avocado green of my basement." In short, I looked a mess.

One Saturday last summer, I walked past my neighbor to the other side (you know, the guy I've code-named "Reed") on my way off to a date. He was crouched down feeding the fish in his backyard pond, and when he saw me, he did a quick "Whoot-whoo" whistle and said, "Lookin' good!"

At the time, I was entirely caught off guard, wondering, "Do I really look any different from usual??" I mean, yes, I was off to a date, so I maybe tried at least a little harder, but I've accepted by now that the only visible difference between the Me that takes an hour to put together and the Me that takes 10 minutes is the difference between mascara and no mascara. It doesn't matter what I pretend to do to my hair; to the untrained (i.e., not mine) eyes, it looks the same. Yep, mascara is the only real difference between Date Me and Workday Me. So what the hell was Reed whistling for?

And then I remembered. Reed sees me only when I'm doing yard work. I can probably count on three fingers the number of times he's seen me at close range when I've showered, or when I'm wearing anything I might consider proper clothes. Given what I look like after a couple hours of yard work, I had nowhere to go but up in his eyes.

I was thinking about this as I showered and changed tonight, wondering if, were my neighbors to see me properly "done up" more often, there might suddenly be offers of nice single friends or cute grandsons I should meet. And then I went outside to turn off my lawn sprinkler, hair up, no makeup, black ballet flats that happened to be right by my door ever-so-sportily paired with my striped pajama pants and a t-shirt. And not just any t-shirt, but the most comfortable but also most ridiculous t-shirt I own--an impossibly soft blue shirt that an ex-boyfriend brought me back from a business trip in Georgia. It features a picture of a pig with the slogan "Put some pork on your fork." Klassy. Oh, and did I mention no bra? Extra klassy, obviously. But I was just running outside for a second. No one would see me, right? Yeah. No one except Reed AND my elderly neighbor AND my elderly neighbor's visiting son. Sigh.

I may be one incident away from being deemed the devil-may-care crazy spinster lady on the block. Maybe it's time to invest in a privacy fence.

* (Trampoline reference is here, if you're not the type to memorize every little thing I ever write.)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It may be time for a helmet and safety goggles

Clearly I should start wearing protective gear as I go about my daily life. Now that my left thigh and knee have finally stopped hurting from my bathroom-cleaning mishap, I just for some reason decided to walk directly into the wooden arm of the "visitor" chair beside my desk with my other (previously good) knee.

Me: Ow! WHY don't I have any depth perception?!?
Nearby co-worker: Open your other eye.

This just in, buddy: Nobody likes a wiseguy.

Also, why don't I have a post category yet for all of the stupid ways in which I hurt myself? Obviously that's an oversight that had to be remedied eventually.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

More rambling about what my house looks like, plus a fun experiment to try at your next party

In case any of you are curious what I did about my very important whisk(e)y dilemma, I took the advice of the Internets (as per usual) and bought a bottle of Maker's Mark. And I would like to say that move made all the difference and my Manhattans and Old Fashioneds were suddenly tasty enough to make me the kind of classy, refined girl who says, "Barkeep, I'll have a Manhattan, please," but in reality, between the Sidecar and the Tom Collins and the White Russian and whatever I poured myself afterwards that put me entirely and unexpectedly over the edge, I never did try a Manhattan at my basement christening event. About 1/4 of the bottle was gone, however, so someone must have sampled the Maker's Mark. When I can look at alcohol again without having flashbacks to my entire day spent horizontal on my couch, perhaps I'll give the Maker's Mark a try.

That said, I think with that little party, my basement rec room has successfully been reclaimed. The bar was fully stocked and surrounded by friends for presumably the first time since the Ford administration, and after spending so many hours getting the space into party-presentable form, I hope it's safe to say it was only the first of many gathering in the newly refurbished rumpus room. 'Twould be a damn shame to do all that work just to gaze at it on my way to do my laundry. Toga party next fall, perhaps?

Incidentally, since I've not yet posted a recent "After" picture, perhaps I should do so now. Again, this is what my basement looked like before I decided it was time to use that space for something other than storage of old lopsided Christmas trees, moving boxes, and furniture and workout equipment the previous owners left behind...

And here's what it looks like now.

Unfortunately, while the mess in my basement is gone, the duct tape in my shower is not. No, the shower is still more ghetto-tastic than it's ever been, but my concern about party guests snooping behind the curtain and being horrified by the sight turned out to be an interesting social experiment. I decided to address the dilemma with a note after all, but I thought that as long as I was doing so, I might as well have a little fun with it.

As it turns out, it was a good move, as I am $22 richer as a result.

$22! I still can't believe someone gave me a twenty. I am trying to decide if one of my friends with more expendable income than I decided to take pity on my obviously sad, slum-living self, or if one of my friends was so fuzzy-eyed from the Manhattans that he or she thought she was giving me a five and dropped in a twenty instead. My guess is that if the anonymous benefactor was focused and lucid enough to snoop behind my shower and find and read the note, he or she was with-it enough to read the number on a bill, but I'll admit I feel a bit strange about keeping that generous donation anyway.

In absolutely unrelated news, my date last week was a bit of a bust. He was perfectly nice, but it felt a bit like having drinks with a work-related acquaintance: we had polite conversation, but the wall of formality never fell down, and while we had plenty of on-the-surface things in common, I realized when we parted ways that I did not care if I ever saw the man again. I already have friends to go to concerts with and friends to swap book recommendations between. A mutual appreciation for The Current is lovely, but it's not enough to build a relationship upon.

Speaking of dating, I'm amused by a recent crop of singles-related spam to arrive in my Junk Mail folder with the subject line "Professional Singles." Not "Single Professionals," mind you, but "Professional Singles." I don't know that I actually consider myself a Professional Single just yet. I mean, sure, I'm pretty good at this being single thing. I get search engine hits every week from people looking for reasons to enjoy being single, so apparently I'm an Internet authority of sorts on the topic. But Professional? I'm not so sure I want that title. I was sort of planning on maintaining my amateur status so I can date in the Olympics.

In my car on the way to my date the other night, I momentarily forgot the name of the guy I was meeting there. For a full thirty seconds, I blanked on it. Jeff? Joe? John? I knew it was a common "J" name, but for more than a moment, I forgot just which name. Is this a rookie mistake that confirms I'm an amateur, or does the casual way I stepped out the door without even stopping to think much about where I was going just confirm I've been doing this too damn long?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Not even Whiskeymarie uses the word "whiskey" this many times in a single post.

I had a Friday Five in mind for today, but if you'll forgive me, I have more pressing matters on my mind. Namely, whisky (or whiskey). I do not drink whisky (or whiskey). I do not buy whisky (or whiskey). So when I needed to acquire whisky (or whiskey) for my retro cocktail party, I stood staring at the row of whiskys and whiskeys in the liquor store near my house and ended up choosing Dewar's, solely because I remembered it's what Meg Ryan drank in Prelude to a Kiss, and I figured if it was good enough for Meg Ryan circa 1992, it was good enough for me.

Yesterday I found myself chatting with a coworker about this retro cocktail party scheme of mine, explaining my dilemma with the whisky/ey and relaying the very sophisticated and sound decision-making method behind my purchase.

His reply? "But Dewar's is Scotch, isn't it?" And I replied, all smug and confident, "No, it said 'blended whisky,' and that's what I need: blended whisky." He shrugged, trying to be agreeable even though he was clearly suspicious and knew I was wrong.

I just looked at that label again. It does indeed say "blended whisky," but in between those words is one other word: Scotch. Blended Scotch Whisky. Dammit.

You'd think I just started drinking (or hell, reading) yesterday. What is wrong with me? But moreover, is that what was wrong with my drinks? Is that why the prototype Manhattan I made the other night tasted like battery acid? Or is a Manhattan supposed to taste like battery acid, no matter what type of whisky is involved? People, I need help on this. Do I have to go out and buy more liquor, or is shopping for whisky like shopping for so many other things, and the multiple choices for seemingly identical products are just meant to overwhelm and incapacitate us and really it's all a big conspiracy to deaden our senses so that the government can keep us from rising up?

Ahem. I may be getting away from the point. Back to it. Can I make retro drinks with Scotch whisky, or will I be mocked mercilessly by my guests if I don't remedy this? As usual, I'm sure the Internet has the answer for me.

On an unrelated note, I just whacked my skull full force into my kitchen cabinet while cleaning. First the bathroom incident and now this. Clearly I should have been born with some sort of warning label. Ouch. There is no hope for me.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A milestone of sorts, plus more than you ever wanted to know about my shower

First off, a bit of housekeeping. I'd like to thank my good friend Darren for his excellent guest post the other day. I almost forgot what well-crafted writing with a meaningful start, middle, and end looks like on this site. You mean I'm not just supposed to ramble along about whatever's on my mind? You mean people still write in full, logically sequential paragraphs rather than random bullet points? OK then. Perhaps I'll work on that.

Secondly, I thought I should mention that what you're reading right now is the 500th post on Stefanie Says. Considering it took me over three years to get here and considering there's no prize (not even a flurry of confetti, a balloon drop, or a startling and enthusiastic announcement over a bullhorn), perhaps it's a bit anticlimactic to mention this milestone, but since I'm a little surprised I even noticed the post count in time to announce it, I thought it bore acknowledgment of some sort.

With that in mind, perhaps the best way to commemorate 500 posts is to write a list of 500 more little-known facts about me. Are you ready? Just kidding. That wasn't funny when I threatened to do it after 300 posts, either.

Instead, how about I write a little something on each of the five topics I probably return to most often? Without any scientific polling or counting of any sort, I'm going to decide that those are the gym, Target, dating, alcohol, and my own stunning ineptitude. Sound fun? I thought so. Let's get started.

Regarding the sweat shop...
The other day, my kickboxing instructor had us try a move we haven't done much before. It was nothing complicated, but apparently she was worried if we didn't watch our form, we might throw out our backs. Considering I injured myself cleaning my bathroom last weekend, it's probably more than fair to assume I might need some sort of warning. The instructor apparently doesn't know I'm less coordinated than the average ball of twine, however, because after warning us to be careful, she looked at the small group of only five regulars assembled that day and said, "Oh, you guys are fine. This is the advanced group, right?" Um, advanced group?? Me?? I am the girl who once tore a ligament in my ankle when I tripped on a balloon. The girl who never once won that stupid patch from the Presidential Physical Fitness award--not even in the early years, when the challenge was an eraser relay and flexed arm hang instead of a mile run and a series of chin-ups. I have never been deemed "advanced" in anything athletics-related. But in kickboxing? Apparently I rule. I can crush imaginary foes like no one's business. Look out, air; I'm coming for you. I'm gonna kick air's ass. Kick the ass of air. Ahem. I may be taking this small victory a bit too far.

Regarding Target...
I tempted fate and went into Target with unwashed ponytail hair again. Apparently Target IS still my happy place, however, because I saw no past meMarmony dates while I was there. What I did see was the bar stools I had found online for $99 marked on clearance for $24.99. I got TWO bar stools for my newly sort-of-refinished basement for HALF the price of ONE. As indicated by all that capitalization, I am ridiculously excited about this. I was even more excited when I returned to that same Target this past weekend and saw a fresh new shipment of the same bar stools now marked $99, just like online. I realize this isn't a very interesting story to anybody but me, and yet I've told at least six people (plus now the Internet) about it anyway.

Regarding dates...
I don't have much to tell you here, but I do have a date with another middle-aged bald man tomorrow and a possibly pretentious English professor next week, so perhaps I'll have some stories to share again soon.

Regarding alcohol...
Apparently at our dinner for 18 last Saturday, my friends and I consumed 16 bottles of wine. There was one nursing mother and probably at least a few other non- or light-drinkers, which means that more than one guest drank more than a bottle of wine on his or her own. I'm very much hoping it wasn't me, but considering the five-course meal and subsequent socializing lasted well into the wee hours, I can't guarantee I didn't make a dent.

This weekend, the plan is to skip the wine and mix up some retro cocktails for the inauguration of my newly updated pine-paneled, sixties-tastic rumpus room. Tonight I went shopping for ingredients I have never actually purchased before (Angostura bitters, blended whisky, sweet vermouth), and after dinner I decided I should do a test run and try out a retro recipe or two. I have never actually had a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned before. I figured it'd be best to know what I am in for Friday night. Um, did you know Manhattans and Old Fashioneds are nearly straight-up alcohol? And not the really tasty alcohol, like Kahlua or Baileys, but straight-up whisky with a little ice and sugar just to pretend you're diluting a bit.

I'm curious if there's no chance I will ever like either of these drinks, or if I just picked a bad recipe off the web. Tell me, do any of you make either of these? Do these recipes sound about right? If you have a more successful ratio to share, please do so. Otherwise, I'm just hoping for better luck with the Tom Collins or the Sidecar. If not, it's back to the standard G&Ts for me.

Regarding my stunning ineptitude...
I've already told you that I managed to injure myself during the seemingly simple and innocuous task of cleaning my bathroom the other day. What I did not tell you is just how ridiculously that transpired. My shower is not lined with normal tiles like any normal house. Instead, the walls of my bathroom are covered with thin sheets of metal with indented lines meant to look like grout. After years of water and wear, the fake grout lines have sprouted cracks and rust spots, and that, combined with the chipping coat of paint that the previous owners thought was a good idea to apply, have made my shower a very sad, shameful looking place. I've tried to patch the cracks with caulk and sealant, hoping to get a few more years of wear out of the stuff, but I'm fighting a losing battle. The HGTV "Bad Bathroom" folks would love to rip those metal sheets out of there (if only I could get their attention to come do so). It's a sad, sad site to behold.

Anyway, Saturday morning I decided it was time to scrub the newest rust and mildew stains from the layers of caulk I've already applied and try caulking once again. There's a portion of the fake tile that fell off completely a few months ago and I'm embarrassed to say has been secured with duct tape ever since. My plan was to clean the shower, remove the duct tape, and recaulk anywhere the metal fake tile was cracked. I should know by now that things rarely go according to plan in my house.

About three minutes into this project, I was reaching across the shower scrubbing with a grout brush, holding on to the ceramic soap holder on the wall for balance. At the very moment I thought to myself, "You know, I probably shouldn't be putting this sort of weight on this," the soap tray broke away from the wall and smashed into pieces on the floor of my tub. My left thigh took a blunt hit against the tub as I fell, and only today have I finally stopped limping and wincing in pain with every step because of the resulting bruise. At the moment, I was in such pain (and was so frustrated--at my thwarted plans to end the day with less duct tape in my shower instead of more, at my fear about just how much a full-fledged bathroom remodel is going to cost, and at the fact that I now had a mess to clean up that was going to put me even more behind schedule for the day than I already was) that I sunk down to the floor in a flurry of tears and profanity. And then I looked down and realized that on top of the throbbing leg and the hole in my shower wall, I was also bleeding onto my floor. The gash in my wrist was deep enough that I worried for a minute I might actually need stitches (which would mean not only admitting this ridiculous injury to an emergency room doctor but also completely missing the roller skating party I was already late for).

By now, I have finally accepted that I need to find the budget for re-tiling (sooner, rather than later). I have also accepted that it's actually much more interesting to hurt myself cleaning my bathroom than to do so roller skating. (Anyone can fall and hurt themselves at a roller rink. It takes a special kind of absurdity and ineptitude to do so in one's own bathroom.) What I have not made peace with is how to address the fact that I have at least ten friends coming over on Friday who might be nosy enough to peek behind the shower curtain to see what's there. We all have medicine cabinet-peekers in our life, right? Surely checking behind the shower curtain at someone else's house is equally tempting, don't you think? So what now? Do I tell people about the garbage bag duct taped to the wall before they see it for themselves? Do I hope my friends are less nosy than average? Or do I tape a note to the shower wall for anyone snooping there to see? "Yes, I'm aware my shower is more ghetto than a double-wide. Wanna make something of it?" No? A note like that doesn't say "Welcome to my home"? Well, what do you think the note should read?

Note: Can you believe I got through this entire post before I realized that I completely neglected to include in that list of five the topic I undoubtedly write about the most?? Surely I talk about grammar and spelling at least as often as wine, don't I? I mean, I've gotten awards for that obsession! Oh well. Have to save it for my 600th post, I guess.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Not So OK Computer

As promised, today we have a guest post. But first, an introduction.

Once upon a time, I started a blog. And soon afterwards I discovered that blogging is not like Field of Dreams. If you build it, they won't necessarily come. I kept telling myself that I wasn't doing it for readers or for comments, that it was just a writing exercise for myself and it didn't matter if anyone else was out there. And then I felt the rush of seeing my very first comment arrive in my Inbox... and the subsequent deflated disappointment of realizing that first comment was actually spam.

Eventually, I learned what we've all learned by now: that if you want anyone to know you're out there, you need to speak up. I stopped lurking and started commenting on a few of the blogs I read regularly, and eventually, wonder of wonders, some of those people started stopping by. They even left me comments! Comments that weren't spam! It was all very exciting.

One of the first bloggers to pay any attention to me--to leave me real comments and put my name in a coveted sidebar spot--was a guy in New York named Darren. I can't link to Darren, because he closed up shop on his "Look at Me" blog last summer, but those of you who read him know that he was routinely brilliant and hilarious. When I removed his dead link from my sidebar several months ago, I considered creating a "Blogs I Miss" category for his name instead.

Darren and I have stayed in touch via email, and recently I told him that if he ever missed having an outlet to tell the Internet what's on his mind, he could guest post for me any time. And what do you know? He took me up on it.

Darren, you have the floor. Stefanie Says readers, let's give him a warm welcome.


Not So OK Computer

There was a cartoon in a recent issue of The New Yorker featuring a man seated in front of a laptop announcing to a woman who appears to be his wife that he's working on a think piece about himself. I start this post off not because I'm attempting to appear more erudite and cosmopolitan than I actually am by mentioning up front that I read The New Yorker. Nor am I bringing it up at the beginning because it's one of the rare New Yorker cartoons with a punch line that can't be summed up as "Being married to you is slowly killing my soul." No, I'm quoting the New Yorker cartoon because I thought it nicely summarizes what it is to be a blogger: assuming that anyone else gives a damn about what you think of yourself.

I used to be a blogger, you see. I blogged. And over the course of a few years, I developed a small, devoted following (hi, Mom!). I made friends and felt that I belonged to a community. And I miss those things. But I also took my posts way too seriously and drove myself nearly crazy on the days when I couldn't think of a topic to write about or whatever I did come up with didn't meet my own exacting, classy standards – such as my masterwork, "Shit Happens," in which I gave an account of the time I crapped my pants in the New York City subway. And so in order to reclaim my sanity, I shut down my blog in July of last year.

I've stayed in touch with some of the people I once listed in my sidebar, and a few have asked me if I ever miss blogging. My answer has always been, "Eh." I mean, I do, and I don't. It's been liberating going all of this time without forcing myself to transform every mundane experience of my life into a witty and captivating essay. But when I see that some of us have graduated to profiles in The New York Times and guest segments on Nightline, it makes me feel... What's the phrase? Pissed off. Happy for these newly famous bloggers, of course, but also so jealous of the attention I desperately once sought for myself that I now know what anger tastes like.

So when Stefanie, one of those former sidebar people I've remained friends with, told me that I could guest post on her blog any time I felt the urge, my "Me too! Me too! Me too!" instincts kicked in. And thus, my first post in nearly a year.

For anyone who isn't familiar with my back story, I returned to New York last fall after an absence of about ten months. And because I returned to New York with little more than clothes and couldn’t readily resupply myself with the things that so many of you probably take for granted (furniture, dishes, shower curtains, etc.), I have been living in a furnished sublet. Living with someone else's things has its advantages, sure. I can, for instance, reheat leftovers in the tinfoil containers they come in without batting an eye at the resulting storm of sparks because, pft, it ain't my microwave. But I also have to live with whatever's in the apartment – or, for the purposes of this post, live with what isn't.

I have no TV. Except for the stray episodes of 30 Rock I've caught on the NBC website, I'm missing out on an entire medium. I could buy a TV, but that would require, for the sake of good reception, also investing in cable. That would add another seventy to one hundred dollars to my already staggering New York City expenses. And as I see it, if I have to choose between seven or ten visits to Chipotle a month or finding out if Bret Michaels went with Daisy or Amber on Rock of Love 2, I'm going to go with steak fajita burritos each and every time.

I also don't have a radio. This seems to shock some people, but how many people own a radio? Maybe you inherit one or an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend leaves one behind after moving out. But I've never heard of anyone in 2008 intentionally leaving his or her home, walking into a Best Buy, and parting with the money it would take to listen to "Jungle Jay and Captain Wacky's Morning Zoo Crew" when you can just as easily listen to the streaming audio on your computer.

That's not to say that the last six months haven't felt like some bizarre, self-imposed media deprivation experiment, but I've gotten by. I listen to podcasts, for instance, while making and eating dinner rather than leaving the local television news on in the background. And I open a lot more books at night than I do Netflix envelopes. It's been different but manageable.

That is until my computer died one night about a month ago. As in dead. As in funky electrical smell coming from the back of the PC. I will spare you the details of just what went wrong and what the Dell technician told me over the phone I needed to replace (such a description would entail multiple uses of the word "motherboard"). Suffice it to say that my life went from "quaint" to "oh-my-God-I-am-so-fucking-bored!" in the blink of an eye.

I could have gotten another computer, true, but you read the part where I can't afford an additional seventy to one hundred dollars a month for basic cable, right? Perhaps, I thought, I could take matters into my own hands by repairing the computer myself. I don't know anything about computers, but I have seen a few that had been opened up and none of them looked that complex. Computers aren't made of alien technology that fell from space and we've managed to jury-rig for our own purposes even though we have no real understanding of how it all works. It's just some parts and wires, and even though I'm not so handy with these big, meaty paws of mine, I figured it was worth taking a shot at trying to fix on my own.

"Okay, Dare-een," said the Dell technician on the other end of the phone. "I am very pleased I can tell you I can provide you with a replacement of motherboard, however, at this time, it is available no longer." I was put on a waiting list, and waited I did.

I was patient at first. I even saw it as a "fun" kind of challenge. Each night I would come home after work and microwave my tinfoil leftovers in near complete silence. I use the word "near" because early on I attempted to maintain an illusion of normalcy by doing my own one-man podcasts, but I could only get as far as, "Well. From WBEZ in Chicago, this is 'This American Life'" before admitting that I was fooling no one and collapsing into a dejected heap on my subletter's faded loveseat. I had books to keep me entertained, and I know that there was once a time when books were virtually the only form of personal entertainment, but people also once drilled holes in their heads to let out the evil spirits.

As much as I enjoyed the notoriety of being the only Amish person in Manhattan, after three weeks, I had had enough. If technology had gotten me into this mess, maybe technology could get me out. I wondered: If I could find the same Dell model on eBay, could I swap out the parts? It was worth a shot. And so, after placing a winning bid and waiting another ten days for the hard drive to be shipped, I had, I hoped, everything I would need.

The downside of my sublet is that it's illegal, meaning the guy whose name is on the lease is technically not allowed to rent it out to anyone else. I'm not supposed to receive mail at the apartment because doing so could tip off the building management that something fishy is going on. So I had to have the hard drive shipped to a friend's apartment, pick it up after work the day it arrived, put it into the back of a cab, and get it home that way. That was the easy part. The hard part was lugging the box through the lobby of my building only to find that the notoriously unreliable elevator was broken that night. Having no other choice, I carried the nearly forty pound machine up seven flights of stairs.

Once I got everything up to my apartment and suppressed the urge to vomit, I tore into the battered cardboard box the hard drive had come in. At first, I wasn't entirely sure what all I was looking at. I thought of every movie I've ever seen in which someone diffusing a bomb has to make a decision between cutting the blue or the red wire. That big, flat, green piece with all the silver lines zigzagging everywhere – how important was it exactly? After a few minutes of staring at the electronic guts, I dug in.

An hour and a half later, I had the good parts from the replacement PC safely inside my old machine and was ready for a test run. The snap of a few sparks, a quick whiff of ozone, and I saw the Windows logo come to life on my monitor for the first time in what felt like my whole life.

I'd like to be able to end this by writing something along the lines of, "And, you know, the strange thing is that even though I now had what I had spent a month longing for, I discovered I had gotten used to the low-tech lifestyle that had been thrust on me and barely even use my computer anymore." The truth is, I squeal with delight and nearly dry hump the thing every time it boots up. I lost all of last weekend catching up on email, downloading pirated software from LimeWire, hourly changing my Facebook status, and looking at blurry paparazzi photos of Mischa Barton's cellulite on Defamer.

Okay. It felt good sharing a not-particularly interesting episode of my life with random strangers again. Not so good that I'm going to run out and re-launch my TypePad account, but good just the same. Thanks for letting me borrow your blog, Stefanie. Maybe I'll drop by again some time.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Oh look! More bullets! Plus an announcement of more interesting things to come.

So tell me. Has anyone figured out yet how to swap the week so that five days of it is weekend and only two is workweek (for the same full-time pay, of course)? No? Didn't think so. Well, let me know when you do, OK?

It does feel good to be so very busy and productive and social butterfly-like lately, but frankly there is a shelf life on this sort of lifestyle for me. If I wanted to sacrifice all of my precious sitting-around time (not to mention all of my expendable income), I'd have a child or something.

Because I get one frightening step closer to becoming my mother every day Because you all like bullet points so much, I feel compelled to list for you everything I did this weekend that has prevented me from my usual coveted hours of sloth and lethargy. Are you ready? Since Friday afternoon when I left work, I have...

  • Mowed my lawn for the first time this spring. (My sexist mower started on the ninth pull, a new record for first mow of the season. It must have heard me claim that George Bush wants me to buy an electric start mower with my "What Recession?" check. The damn thing knows it's on thin ice this year.)

  • Aerated said lawn and attempted to patch some bare spots as well. (Look at me pretending I know how to make things grow! Regardless, I have a feeling in June I'll be cursing what I'm convinced is placebo grass seed yet again.)

  • Incurred an injury cleaning my bathroom.

  • Spent three hours making and frosting cupcakes for my good friend Amy's birthday, only to be shut down by the cake Nazis at the roller rink (who have decided that you can bring cake to a birthday party only if you've officially registered your party as a birthday party. Hrmph.)

  • Survived three hours at a roller rink without falling or knocking over any wobbly or ill-mannered children on skates. (Again, I didn't fall at all while roller skating, but I incurred an injury cleaning my bathroom.)

  • Ate banned cake in a parking lot in the rain.

  • Attended MSP's first Ghetto Gourmet event.

  • Did a bit more basement-project-related cleaning, painting, and Mod Podging.

  • Had a Mother's Day brunch with my two sisters while our mother was all by herself back at home.

  • Painfully jammed my finger rinsing a dish at said brunch. (Did I mention I also injured myself cleaning my bathroom? As I whimpered to myself after the dish-rinsing incident, I had to cry, "WHY do I keep hurting myself in such stupid ways?!?")

  • Finally hung the over-the-door storage shelf I've had sitting in my kitchen for over a month, and the battery-operated light I bought for my closet two months ago as well.

  • Managed to stab a small hole in my kitchen floor with a drill bit while hanging that storage shelf. Realized (two days too late) that this weekend was not the best weekend for me to try to be handy.

  • Did the usual weekend laundry and grocery shopping and Target-going thing. (Managed to accomplish all of those tasks without incident or bloodshed.)

Notably absent from this list? "Bonded with my couch" and "Slept until double digit hours." Perhaps that has something to do with the even greater than usual lack of coordination.

On an entirely different note, tomorrow shall be a very exciting day at Stefanie Says, as I'll be hosting a guest post from a good friend who's no stranger to several of you as well. This isn't Blog Share, so it won't be an anonypost, but I'll let you wait until tomorrow to find out who'll be posting anyway. Oooh, a mystery. Can you think of a more fun way to start the week? I sure can't, but then, I've been hurting myself completing routine household chores. Apparently any change from the norm is a welcome one for me.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

It's a good thing no one expects me to be her wingwoman

I am not particularly good at flirting, and therefore I rarely do it on purpose. I am, however, particularly good at letting whatever thought pops into my head find its way immediately out of my mouth, and when these thoughts are directed at male strangers in social settings, I'm pretty sure they are often misconstrued as flirting. Women don't talk to men unless they want to sleep with them, right? Or so every stereotypical meathead portrayed in modern television and movies would have me believe.

Accidental flirting is not necessarily a bad thing, I suppose. I have a friend who advocates flirting with everyone, male or female, interesting and attractive or not. The theory, I guess, is that it helps to present oneself as warm and pleasant and it makes the person on the other end feel complimented and special. It's also probably good practice. If you're constantly in "flirting" mode on auto-pilot, you don't need to think about it when you actually want to reel a potential date in.

The problem is that the comments I make towards strangers are rarely comments that any woman in her right mind would use if she were actually trying to flirt on purpose. A conversation starter is a conversation starter, so perhaps I'm the only one who's overanalyzing my unintentionally ridiculous unintentional lead-ins this way. Then again, maybe I'm not. Case in point? Last night’s Devotchka show.

The scene: Average and unremarkable guy who I have no intention of purposely flirting with walks towards me on his way to the bar. I note that he's wearing a navy blue version of the t-shirt I received when I volunteered for the Minneapolis Central Library opening.

Me: Hey! You're wearing a library shirt!
Guy in library shirt: I am!
Me: I have the same shirt. Mine's red, though.
GILS: Well how 'bout that? This is the first time I've worn mine.
Me: I wore mine to bed last night.
GILS: (...)
GILS: I think that's a little TMI. (Smiles, walks away.)

Shockingly, in my 20s most of the guys I went out with were guys I met at concerts in bars. Either I am really rusty or guys in their 20s didn't listen to a word I said. Frankly, I'm not sure which explanation I prefer.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Apparently I blog only once a week now (and only in bullet points)

You know that Ben Lee song? The one that goes, "A lot goes on, but nothing happens"? That's pretty much what life feels like right now. I feel very busy and preoccupied, but I am primarily busy and preoccupied with my much talked about basement remodeling project, and I very much doubt that is particularly interesting as an ongoing topic to anyone but me. Do you want to hear about my trek all over the northwest quadrant of the Twin Cities in search of cheap furniture and throw pillows? Do you want to help me decide whether three storage ottomans* in a row is a brilliant or a ridiculous coffee-table-plus-extra-seating alternative? I didn't think so. Moving on.

* Yes, three. It is an absurdly long (91-inch) couch.

I have actually been busy with things other than hanging pictures and painting and Mod Podging old end tables, however. In the past five days, I have...

  • Enjoyed a live (via satellite) special production of This American Life, at the bargain price of $8 rather than $20 thanks to an error on Fandango's Web site. (Thanks, Fandango! Your marginal loss is my much-appreciated gain.)

  • Snagged a third-row, front-and-center view at my fake boyfriend Bob Schneider's latest show.

  • Met a charming young man at said show who leaned over between songs to say, "You're really pretty. I'm gay, but I just had to tell you that."

  • Saw Planet of the Apes on the big screen.

  • Skipped the much-hyped Twin Cities May Day Parade in favor of leaving time for yard work I never did (because of the aforementioned furniture quest and Mod Podging as well as a usual stretch of Sunday time mismanagement and laziness).

  • Decided I am officially tired of salads. (Alternative healthy eating suggestions, anyone?)

Furthermore, in the next five days, I will...

  • See DeVotchKa for the second time (and likely decide temporarily yet again that aerial dancing on giant velvet sashes is the perfect hobby for me).

  • Attend a premiere screening of a locally made horror movie, despite the fact that I am terrified of horror movies (even low-budget, independent and locally made ones).

  • Attend two parties in the same day--one centered around roller skating and one centered around a fancy home-made meal (and both therefore entirely awesome).

  • Finish my basement remodeling project. (Maybe? I hope? Yeah, probably not.)

All of that is to say that if I'm scarce on the Internet this week, it's not because I don't love you or I've forgotten about you or heaven forbid have actually found Mr. Right and am holed up on the sofa with him whispering sweet nothings and memorizing his face. No, nothing like that, though if you want to imagine a more exciting life for me than the one I'm living, be my guest. In fact, feel free to tell me what he looks like if you conjure up my Mr. Right. It might help me finally spot him when I see him. Thanks.