Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If you ask me, she decidedly did NOT "make it work"

Before we get started, a question for you. Was tonight some sort of Backwards Night on Project Runway? Those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, fear not. I promise this entire post won't be about television. If you don't watch Project Runway, I understand. I resisted for a long time myself. But there will come a day when you will decide the "No Reality TV" mandate you have adhered to for years simply doesn't apply to the fascinating circus that is Project Runway. That day will probably be some random Sunday, perhaps when you are nursing a hangover and unable to leave your couch or even be bothered to press any more buttons than necessary on your remote. And on that day, Bravo will be playing a marathon of back-to-back episodes of Project Runway, each drawing you in ever deeper than the last. And when that day comes, come back here and let me know exactly why a dress seemingly birthed from a tragic collision of a flamingo, a tutu, and the high-necked, pouf-sleeved, floral dress of which my fifth grade teacher Miss Stanel was so fond beat out several far less hideous designs that people I know in real life might actually wear. And after you've explained that to me, I have a few other questions for you about tonight's winners and losers and, in fact, about the entire strange and motley mix of wallflowers and drama queens the producers have assembled for this year's cast. But all of that is for another day. I could go on, but why? There are other people already doing that, and doing a far better job than I would. Moving on.

See? Done talking about television now. I promise. I have far more important things on my mind. Namely, National Night Out. Have any of you actually participated in any National Night Out shenanigans in the past? Perhaps "shenanigans" is the wrong word. We are talking about family-oriented block parties, after all. Block parties organized by strangers, in which we're encouraged to bring not beer or wine or something similarly party-crucial but cans of tuna for a local food shelf instead. Maybe the tuna was just on MY block's notice. Maybe your flyer didn't say "Let's build a 'tower of tuna'!" on the back.

I've never gone to a National Night Out event, but I've also never been invited to a National Night Out event before. I really don't think my block has been having one and not telling me about it for years--huddling in someone's basement rather than a backyard, whispering, "Shhh! Don't tell that weird spinster girl in the blue house about this!" I think my block is just a lot like my high school graduating class: reasonably friendly to each other, but not much interested in organized participation or group togetherness of any sort. And I don't think my block's attitude about that has changed, because the invitation that was hanging on my front door last night didn't even come from anyone on my own block. The address is for a house one block down. Maybe they've tried this before and found their own block's as non-participatory as mine? Maybe they figure if they cast the net a bit wider, they'll get a more party-worthy turnout?

Or maybe... MAYBE! Maybe they DIDN'T invite the entire block adjacent to theirs. MAYBE I am the ONLY house in the 3400 block invited to the 3300 party! Maybe they aren't a "they" at all. Maybe in that house is an attractive and single thirty-something man... a man with a good job, a sense of humor, a flat(ish) gut, and a full head of hair! Maybe even a man with all of those attributes and without a dog! (Seriously, WHY do they all have dogs?? BIG dogs! Dogs that lick me and breathe on me and stab me with their hard, pointy paws! This is a topic for another post and not for a parenthetical, but it's something I've been wondering about for quite some time.) Maybe that mysterious man in the 3300 block saw me out walking one day and said, "That girl! I must meet her! She must live nearby!" So he cleverly followed me (in an entirely non-creepy, non-stalkery way, of course) back to my house and has simply been waiting for an opportunity to extend an olive branch (or, in this case, extend an offer of free hot dogs and lemonade) so we can chat.

What? It could happen...

I'm pretty sure the house that left the invitation isn't home to a single thirty-something male, however. I made note of the address so I could look for it on my way to work today, and it's actually a house on the nearby corner of the next block... the house with the Little Tykes playset in the backyard and a "Get your AVON here!" sign in front. Perhaps the block party invitation is all a ruse: a chance to garner new AVON clients. Sigh.

Or! OR! Maybe the AVON and Little Tykes couple has a friend! A single coworker or brother-in-law! Maybe he visits all the time. He's probably great with their kids, an honorary uncle of sorts. (Er, actual uncle, in the case of the "brother-in-law" scenario. I can't even get my fake stories straight.)

So. It could happen. I could go to my first National Night Out block party and meet the love of my life. Or I could go and come home full of hot dogs and potato salad and with a new wrinkle cream to test out. Should I go or not go? Tricky. I have until next Tuesday to decide.

Speaking of upcoming events, do you all know what this Friday is? It's Choose Your Own Blogventure day! Yay! Clear your schedules, because much like Blog Share, getting through all the posts just might take you a while. Unlike Blog Share, however, there will presumably be no dirty little private secrets. There'll likely be zombies and dragons and possibly even forgotten teen heartthrobs of the 80s instead. I can't wait. See you there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

"Monday Six" just doesn't have any sort of ring to it

Regardless, six reasons that today sucked significantly less than the average Monday:
  1. When I hit snooze one time more than I should have this morning, it was with the knowledge that I had been uncharacteristically responsible and plannerly and already packed both my breakfast and my lunch the night before and therefore I had TIME to lounge in bed those extra nine minutes! I was even on time for work for once! Yay!

  2. I got to leave work early, because...

  3. I had a claims appointment with the insurance company of the girl who rear-ended me last month, where they decided to issue me a check for my minor damage (damage I likely won't bother having professionally repaired) in an amount that conveniently almost covers the cost of my new water heater.

  4. Accepting said check and not using it to actually repair my car is not insurance fraud, as both my own agent, Slippy McLeadfoot's agent, and the claims adjuster for Leadfoot's policy all suggested that it was totally up to me whether I wanted to have the scuffs on my bumper repaired but that I was fully entitled to the money anyway. Whee!

  5. When I got home from work and the "Wow; thanks for hitting me, lady" appointment, waiting on my doorstep (finally!) was a box containing the beloved Birkenstocks that I sent off to have re-stained and re-soled a few weeks ago. People, it was painful packing those up and sending them off into the big scary world on their own. But now they are back! And they look nearly brand new. (Unfortunately, they are also as uncomfortable as brand new, but my feet will mold the cork into that trademark Birkenstock custom fit soon enough, I'm sure.)

    Check it out. Before...

    And now...

    Miracle workers, I tell you. I think it was money well spent.

    Speaking of money well spent, that brings me to #6 on my list...

  6. A lovely salad with fresh(ish) bread for dinner, culled largely from yesterday's haul at the St. Paul farmer's market. Seriously, why am I buying my produce from the grocery store when there is fresh, locally grown lettuce available for half the price in the open air? I neglected to take a picture of tonight's salad, but I did take one of dinner last night, also composed of farmer's market finds. Fried zucchini cakes (I said dinner was produce-based; I didn't say it was wholly healthy) and caprese salad. Yum. Where is that girl who used to eat Hot Pockets or frozen pizza at least twice a week? Apparently she doesn't live here anymore. (I can't say she won't be back in the fall.)

OK, all of that was entirely too much uncharacteristic good cheer for a Monday. If I were to be more like my surly and defeatist self, I would fear that the week can only go downhill from here. Instead, I shall try to be like Bing and accentuate the positive. Don't mess with Mr. In-Between.

So. What sort of start is your week off to thus far?

Friday, July 25, 2008

When you care enough to right-click and choose "Save Image As"

So by now we all know about Someecards, right? If not, you might not want to click that link unless you have an hour or so to spare. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I have sent many a Someecard to various friends already, but today Erikka and Allie gave me a way to send Someecards to all of you at the same time! Yay! I think this game has now passed itself along to enough people that it is officially a meme, which means that all of you should join in and play, too.

How? Easy. Just find five Someecards that describe yourself in amazingly unflattering ways. Here are mine.

It's not too much to ask

It doesn't have to be a patio. A curbside table is fine, too.

Oh come on. You know I am.

Goals are overrated.

Maybe you could just live next door

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yeeeees, I've been broken hearted, bluuuueeee since the day we parted

You'll have to forgive me. I saw Mamma Mia! last night, and the hamster in charge of the soundtrack in my head has had ABBA on constant loop ever since. Of course, now more than likely YOU have that line on repeat as well. Don't you love it when I share the wealth?

Since often any mention of a movie is followed by some sort of review of it, I should say that despite what Rotten Tomatoes thinks, I liked Mamma Mia! quite well. No, it is not any sort of serious cinematic achievement rife with subtle character development or artful dialogue, but I am OK with that. It is a musical, people. A musical based on ABBA songs. You are to go with your girlfriends and have fun with it. And that is exactly what I did.

I thought the film adaptation was reasonably true to the original stage version, with the exception, of course, of Pierce Brosnan and Colin Firth stepping in for lesser known but more vocally talented actors. I'm sorry. Pierce Brosnan may have that smoldering distinguished older gentleman thing going on, but that did not stop at least a fourth of the theater from creeping into a giggle loop when he belted out his first few solo lines. I think perhaps my favorite part of last night's movie-going experience was glancing at my friend Lisa during Brosnan's first song and seeing tears welling up in her eyes from laughter, crying, "That's James Bond!" But there's something to be said for range, you know? Kudos to 007 for taking on something outside his usual realm just for fun.

So. Two thumbs up for Mamma Mia!, with the appropriate caveats in place. It is hokey and contrived and ridiculous, yes. And neither James Bond nor Mark Darcy will ever get a record deal. But it is also lots of fun. You will smile. You will want to sing along out loud in the theater. Go with it. That is all.

As I'm suddenly in uncharacteristic reviewing mode, we should talk about Twilight, right? Despite the fact that it's still sitting over in that "What I'm reading" spot in my sidebar, I did actually finish that book days ago. Did I like it? Yes. Will it make any sort of personal "best of" list? Probably not. That's not always the point, right? In a way, Twilight is a bit like Mamma Mia!--enjoyable in its own way outright, even if it doesn't stand up to any sort of scholarly criticism in the more serious corners of its field. All things have their purpose. (Well, almost all things. Spats atop modern shoes is something I'll likely never understand.)

So. Twilight. Obviously I am not in Stephenie Meyer's target demographic, seeing as I am a 34-year-old single, childless woman and not a crush-struck 14-year-old girl. But Meyer is a 34-year-old woman, too. A 34-year-old woman with a similarly wacked-up spelling of the same name as mine. I am not a Mormon with three kids and a successful series of teenage vampire love novels under my belt, but there must be at least some similarities in her past, as her description of the mundane day-to-day details of high school life could have come straight out of the over-dramatic journals of my youth. So I reveled in distant memories of all of that nonsense for the same reasons I've enjoyed Dawson's Creek and Felicity in my post-high school and post-college years. Plus, Twilight has the added bonus of the stock standard (if wholly unrealistic) "they fell in love in a DAY" nonsense that even Shakespeare made a career out of. Except in this case, it's love at first sight with a vampire. Drama! Danger! Intrigue! Outpouring of teen angst! Seriously, what more could you want??

In all honesty, I don't even know why I got so sucked in to this book. Artful prose? Not so much. It's a young adult novel, after all. But the story clipped along nicely, with smooth transitions from each page to the next. I'd sit down, thinking, "I'll just read to the next good stopping point and then go to bed," and suddenly it was 45 minutes later and well past my bed time, still no satisfying stopping point on the page in front of me. I've been a slow reader lately, what with the Internet and Netflix and various other things to distract me, and I got through a 500-page book in well under three weeks. That may not be speedy for some, but it's a pretty good pace for me. There must have been something that grabbed me in there.

I never jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon, but I'm pretty sure I'll go ahead and read all the Twilight books. Unfortunately, a lot of other people (likely mostly 14-year-olds) are on this bandwagon as well, which means my name is on a hold list at the library for New Moon. I don't like to be between books, and meanwhile, I have a rather large stack of books sitting here waiting for me, but unfortunately no inclination whatsoever as to which one I should read next. Internets, you are full of good advice and recommendations. What should I read to tide me over until I get my next fix of vampire love? Bear in mind that the hold list could take anywhere from six days to six weeks and my reading is, as I said, less than voracious these days. What say you? Which is my best bet?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Requisite "How was your weekend?" post

I'm beginning to feel like beginning-of-the-week blog posts are not unlike the proverbial Monday morning water cooler chats. "How was your weekend?" "Good. Yours?" "Good." "Good." "Good. Um, see ya!" The exception, of course, is that I don't actually make a habit of gathering with my coworkers for Monday morning small talk, with or without a water cooler. And if I did, I sincerely doubt any of them would be as clever or interesting as all of you folks. Could you all just work in my office with me, please? Wouldn't that be fun? I thought so.

In case you are wondering, my weekend was fairly uneventful. Liz flirted with a cute Ukrainian. I, on the other hand, did no such thing. I did, however, take a friend to the airport, pay my bills, do a few loads of laundry, and sweat through about three hours of ironing. (Will I ever learn not to buy ironing-required clothing? Will I ever iron any of it promptly, instead of waiting until half my wardrobe is clean but wrinkly at the same time?? Apparently not.) I also cleaned my tragic hole-in-the-shower bathroom (frankly I don't know why I even bother anymore) and finally started scraping the loose paint from my garage in preparation for repainting. AGAIN. Oh, and I made a proper dinner that wasn't a salad, and it was deemed a rousing success by everyone who tried it (and by everyone, of course I mean ME). (Thumbs up on Jess's Thai Coconut Chicken... or, Thai Coconut Shrimp, in my case, as shrimp was what I had on hand. Yum.)

All in all, it was a whirlwind weekend of excitement around here, I tell you. You're jealous, of course, I know. The Year of Stef is clearly in full force.

Oh. Also, I spent ten fun-filled minutes clearing old text messages off my cell phone, because there is no way (or, no way that I have discovered) to delete messages in bulk instead of tediously one message (with three button presses each) at at time. On the down side, my inferior storage-challenged phone is still near capacity. (I grew tired of this project after deleting only about 40 messages, and I've accumulated many more than that in the two years I've had the dang thing.) On the up side, I got at least some small amusement at the old messages I scrolled through during this process. To wit...

  • Kohl's has cream underwear. Pretty ones, even!
  • I am choosing to obey the red arrow.
  • Admit it. The bats are an elaborate hoax. There are no damn bats!
  • You are a comma master. Your grammar prowess knows no bounds. Happy now?
  • Who do you think you are talking to? "Pressurized pastry things"? As if I have any idea what that means.
  • Can't. Going out for wine and looking for boys.
  • Did you just watch Once, or did [name redacted] do something insane?
  • T9 knows Frida but it doesn't know Stef? Fine, you can call me Puff.
  • Deer.
  • I know! Didn't Rory Gilmore teach me anything??
  • Do you think M would love or hate an ashtray that says "Jesus hates it when you smoke"?
  • I just bought seven bottles of wine for $46. Am awesome.
All right. And that about wraps up my weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have 20 more pages of that crazy vampire book to read--20 pages that might even be more interesting than my old text messages. Perish the thought.

So what's the strangest thing you've found in YOUR phone lately?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quirkier than thou

Well then. Blog Share was fun, but it was two days ago. I'd probably best be posting something new on top of my guest writer's fine contribution to the anonymous posting game, right?

Speaking of being behind, I'm a little late to the party on something else, too. My good pal Lara tagged me for a meme-er-roo a few weeks ago already, and I neglected to do anything about that. I am ignoring perfectly reasonable requests and I'm also making up silly words for words that were already silly enough. (Meme-er-roo? Did I really just do that? I did. Let's just move on, shall we?)

For this one, my task is to list six unspectacular quirks about myself. I'm sure I could come up with six quirks in addition to the 106 already spattered elsewhere within this site, but today is Friday, which means I'm going to make this a Friday Five instead. I'm also not tagging anybody to do this after me (though feel free to jump on this bandwagon if you feel so inclined). Look at me, breaking rules left and right. I'm quite the rebel, obviously.

Anyway. Six Five unspectacular quirks about yours truly. Start the drum roll now.

  1. Unlike Lara with her errant vertebra, I can do a cartwheel. Yes, even at the creaky old age of 34. I actually make a point to do a cartwheel at least once a year just to make sure I still can. (That last part might actually be more of a quirk than the fact that I can do a cartwheel is.)

  2. I like ice in my milk. The only way I'll drink it is if it's very cold, and ice is the simplest way to ensure that. No, it doesn't taste too watered down (for me). No, I don't think it's weird.

  3. I like cherries, but not anything artificially cherry flavored. Also, I'd throw maraschino cherries into the category of "things artificially cherry flavored." Yuck.

  4. I remember all the words to a song about a tortilla vendor that we learned in Spanish class in 10th grade. Or, I thought I did, anyway. When I sang this song to a guy in Mexico a few years ago, he seemed to have no idea what I was singing, so perhaps my Spanish (and my singing) is even worse than I thought.

  5. Have I already told you about the toe thing? I don't wear flip flops or Tevas in public because I'm self-conscious about my mutant baby toe. Come to think of it, I think I have written about that before. And I should probably just stop mentioning it, lest you think I'm more of a monster than I actually am. I promise it's not anything that would scare a small child. One toe just sort of rests atop the adjacent one is all. On a freak level of 1 to 10, I like to think it rates no higher than a 4.5. No, I will not post a photo to let you judge.

So. What quirks have YOU not yet shared with the Internet at large (body-related, food-related, or otherwise)? Come on, spill 'em.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Blog Share 3.0

As I mentioned yesterday, today is Blog Share Day. Can I get a WHOO for -R- and all her efforts? (WHOO!) The woman is pregnant, people. She is growing a small human inside of her, which I can only assume sucks more than a small amount of energy and brain activity, and yet she harnessed the power of the spreadsheet and wrangled 30+ bloggers into formation to make all of this happen yet again. Well done, -R-.

With that out of the way, let's get on to today's anonyposter. Remember, the following was written by another Blog Share participant (who shall remain nameless). In turn, I've got an anonymous post floating out somewhere on the Internet as well. Check out the list at the end of this post to find all the contributors today.


There you are.

Cheerful laugh lines sculpt your face.

Your presence warms me.

An innocuous touch can send me over the edge.


Soft kisses on my shoulder blades.

Your facial hair grazes the length of my spine.

You make me feel like The Most Beautiful Woman Ever.

Bursting with gooey goodness.



If we are not careful, we may explode.


Blindly tap snooze.

Smile across my face, tiny squeak as I shrug sleep away.

Roll over and realize I am alone.

It has been months.

I still cannot bring myself to throw away your ugly birthday gift.

Managed to conceal my horror when I received it.

It wasn't until I thought of you shopping that I loved it.

Left at the back of the closet.

Forgotten glass flower.

Reach for an old shirt... knock the flower over, it breaks in half.

Still cannot bring myself to throw it away.

Two large pieces on a shelf in my closet.

Make coffee.



Play with loved ones.

Come home.

Check my blog stats.

There you are.

Not every day, though often.


You ended it.

You do not want me.

Yet you continue to read my blog?

I wish you would leave me alone.

Get out of my head.

Get out of my dreams.

Leave my heart.

Let me move on.


Thank you, anonymous guest poster. Now, here's where all the other anonymous posts are hiding...

Vent Vox
Turn On The Stars
Trudie - Life After AC
Swimming With Sharks
Shhh! Librarian-In-Training
Sauntering Soul
Sass Attack
Reflections in the Snow Covered Hills
Red Red Whine
Our Simplicity
One New Duck
Oh My Seven
The Occasional Truth
No Lady
Nancy Pearl Wannabe
Muse On Vacation
Messing With Texas
Melliferous Pants
Live Work Dream
Just Below 63
Java Literally
Full of Snark
Face Down
Ex Everything
Everything I Like Causes Cancer
Did I Say That Outloud?
The Daily Tannenbaum
The Coconut Diaries
Bright Yellow World
Breath Smiles Tears
And You Know What Else
3 Carnations

Monday, July 14, 2008

It still wasn't as scary as when the creepy girl crawled out of the TV at the end of The Ring

Allow me to sum up my weekend in fifteen words or fewer: wind, wind, friends, wine, cookies, wind, chips, wine, wind, boat, board games, wine, wind, wind.

In case you didn't get that, it was windy. "Too chilly to jump in the lake" windy. "Is that tree going to fall on us?" windy. Tragically, "no campfire tonight" windy. At one point I asked no one in particular how it could be so dang windy for so dang long, and although logically I agree with the friend who replied that surely there isn't a finite amount of wind in this world, I still think that if the weather was going to be like that, the prediction for the weekend should have said, "Dust Bowl. Minus the dust. No campfires for you, ya hear?"

Despite the less-than-ideal-for-summer-cabining weather, however, we all had a lovely time. As usual, we had a fantastic spread of both sweet and savory treats, and as usual, I ate entirely too many of them. I got a bit of color on my pasty white self, and my team kicked some proverbial ass in Taboo. I even found a few quiet moments to steal away with my vampire book. All in all, thumbs up on the weekend, I'd say.

Speaking of the crazy vampire book, I was reminded this weekend that, despite the number of grown women who are obsessed with this series, Twilight was, in fact, written for children. How do I know this? Because we had children with us at the cabin, and their twelve-year-old eyes lit up when they saw me pull my book from my bag.

"You're reading TWILIGHT?!?" my friend's daughter and her best friend exclaimed. "Do you like it?? Oooh, it is SOOOO GOOD!!!"

I'm not sure if I was suddenly the coolest grown-up at the cabin or the strangest one, but both girls excitedly gushed to me about how good the sequels are and how poorly cast they think the upcoming movie version is. (Edward is not nearly attractive enough, it seems.) They asked me how far I was in the book, and when I explained that Edward had recently told Bella that she could tell her friends they were secretly dating, both girls swooned with the memory of it all.

I would like to think my relating to the current obsessions of preteens ends there, but last night, flipping through the channels while I ate my dinner, I stumbled across the opening credits of the Disney Channel's exclusive Jonas Brothers movie Camp Rock (something else we heard a lot about this weekend) and I will admit, I watched the whole damn thing. If it redeems myself any, I didn't enjoy it. Seriously, it's no High School Musical, folks. But I'm just going to step right out of this hole before I dig any deeper, OK?

On an entirely different note from an entirely not-G-rated film, how many of you have any recollection of The Serpent and the Rainbow? I brought that one up during a late-night conversation about the scariest movies we've ever seen, but the truth is, I don't really recall if it was inordinately scary or if I just saw it at a particularly fragile age. I've always been a big old 'fraidy cat who could find horror in a bowl of oatmeal, so it wouldn't surprise me if the movie wasn't nearly as scary as I remember. In fact, despite how much it traumatized me, I really don't remember very many details. When I read the plot summary at IMDB, in fact, the story didn't even sound familiar at all. So tell me. Was The Serpent and the Rainbow the movie in which some sinister scary man planted a bug larva in a woman's makeup compact and it later grew under her skin, beneath a big nasty red welt, which finally broke open to allow hundreds of tiny spiders to crawl out? Does that ring a bell to any of you? Because that horrifying scene has been embedded in my brain for 20 years now (and I'm sorry if it's now embedded in yours), so I really ought to know from whence it came. Also, I ought to know that something like that is highly improbable in real life, and therefore when I feel the beginnings of a zit high on my cheek bone (an area typically not at all prone to acne), I should tell myself confidently that the sensitive red spot IS, in fact, just a zit, and no swarm of spiders is going to crawl out of my skin later this week. I mean, not that I'd ever think such a thing. Particularly not today. Nope, not me. (If you'll excuse me, I have to examine my cheek in the mirror once more.)

P.S. Are you all ready for Blog Share 3.0? I am not, since I've yet to write a single word of my anonypost, but ready or not, Blog Share is this week. If it's anything like the last two, you can expect to read secrets and scandals and catharsis galore. I haven't decided which route to go yet, but I'll be hiding out somewhere on these here Interwebs come Wednesday. See you then.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Stuff and whatnot

State of the Stefanie address: it is humid, I am tired, and my head hurts. It is humid because it's July in Minnesota; my head hurts possibly because this morning I had caffeine for the first time in several weeks (that is just a theory; it could be entirely unrelated, and I haven't even consciously given up the small amounts of caffeine I generally drink, so I don't know why that theory would even occur to me); and I am tired because I stayed up too late last night engrossed in that ridiculous vampire book.

You've heard about the crazy vampire books, right? The whole Internet is abuzz about them. It doesn't matter that we are grown women who have presumably little business reading something sold in the Young Adult section. I was not in the target demographic for Dawson's Creek, either, but that didn't stop me from getting fully wrapped up in the drama of Joey and Dawson and the "will they or won't they?" suspense. There's something momentarily appealing about putting my mind back in the mundane day-to-day details of high school life without actually having to revisit those days myself. In this case, however, it's high school drama and teen love plus vampires. Tell me, who wouldn't revel in the ridiculousness of that?

So. Reading about teen vampire love is what I've been up to lately. That and baking and packing for a couple of days at a friend's cabin this weekend. I shall be contributing chocolate chip cookies and seven-layer bars, as per usual, as well as a couple of bottles of wine likely destined to become ghetto sangria. Yum. (Do you know about ghetto sangria? Mix red wine and cranberry juice in more or less equal measure. Add a splash of lime juice if you're feeling extra kicky. Voila. Instant summer refreshment without all the fuss of slicing oranges and lemons and such.)

As if jumping from possible caffeine headaches to vampire love to sangria recipes wasn't disjointed enough, how about I do this post up Funky Carter style and give you a little Friday Randomness? And since I haven't done a Friday Five in a good long while, how about I do so in five-point form? All right then.

  1. Something surprising happened in the checkout line at Target recently. No, I did not run into another former meMarmony date. What happened was the teenaged cashier asked me "Paper or plastic?" and I said, "Actually, I brought my own bag," and instead of looking at me as confused as if I'd just responded, "Hockey puck, rattle snake, monkey monkey underpants,"* she instead said, "Oh! Great! You actually get a 15 5** cent discount for each bag you bring!" What's this? Yay! A store other than the co-ops finally gets it. Thanks, San Francisco. (I can only assume they had something to do with this.) Furthermore, the teenaged cashier saw the reusable mesh produce bags in which I'd stashed two avocados and asked, "Are those reusable vegetable bags?? BRILLIANT!" I'm glad she was as excited about them as I was when I first learned of them. Maybe there's hope for all of us yet. In fact, I am proud to report that I have remembered to bring my own bags shopping so often lately that I am nearly OUT of paper bags in which to sort my recyclables for pickup. Yay me. (Also, note to self: Go ahead and forget your bags once or twice every now and then. You'll actually need a few old paper ones next recycling day.)

    * Bonus points to anyone who remembers where this reference is from. Incidentally, the points cannot be redeemed for anything of value.

    ** Whoops. I meant 5, not 15. I saved a whopping 15 cents total by bringing three bags. Just thought I'd clarify for anyone who was jealous of Minnesota's seemingly inordinately generous bag credit policy.

  2. I am well aware that all things old are new again and that I should just shut up already about the ridiculousness that is the return of leggings and bubble tops, but can I still please draw your attention to the fact that American Apparel apparently decided that Hypercolor needed to see a comeback as well? Really, I don't know why this should surprise me. The meeting where that decision was made likely involved the same people as the one in which they decided to start marketing a skirt that I bought last summer as a dress. I actually like this skirt quite a bit (click the "Cranberry" link for a better view), but even if I were 23 and had the AA cup size that the "White" and "Lime" models are sporting, I can see no reason to make it a multi-purpose garment.

  3. Speaking of things I don't need to purchase, did you know you can grow your one "1-up mushroom" right on your desk? You can also make your living room look like a Mario board. I know what my little sister wants for Christmas this year.

  4. I have been mostly ignoring my Sitemeter account lately, but when I reviewed the weekly report today, I saw that approximately three times as many people as usual visited Stefanie Says on July 7. Are people really that interested in hot electricians? Was I linked on some sort of "Sexy Servicemen" site that I'm unaware of? Since the basic Sitemeter account stores detailed data for only the past 100 visits, this is a mystery to which I'll never have an answer, but it's curious to me anyway.

  5. And finally, a poll, if you will. My next-door work neighbor has been in the habit of abruptly moving or minimizing his Internet Explorer window every time he hears me coming around the corner. Apparently my noisy flip-floppy Born sandals aren't enough of a warning for him, though, because the maneuver is never quick enough that I don't see it. My question is, should I tell him, "Listen, buddy, I really don't care if you're on the Internet at work," or should I let him continue to believe I have any sort of power around here and could actually get him in any sort of trouble for that sort of thing and lecture him on the virtues of work ethic? Because we all know that I would never use my employer's Internet connection for anything but the most important and work-related of purposes. (I'm sure none of the rest of you would either.)

And on that note, I think it's time to fill out my time sheet for the day and shut down and head out of here. Happy weekend, all!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Live blogging my water heater repair

OK folks, the plumber this morning? Nothing to write home about (er, blog about). He was a perfectly nice man who was very sympathetic when he told me that the asbesto-lined vent that my old gas-powered water heater was connected to no longer complies with city code, and I would therefore need to purchase a more expensive and less efficient electric unit to replace it instead. He even hauled my old unit out to my alley for city pickup without charging me the $40 they usually require for removal. I am pretty sure that plumber was not my soul mate, however, and even if he were, the woman I overheard him talking to about their sprinkler system (a woman I can only assume was his wife) probably wouldn't be too thrilled with that news.

The electrician I had to pay an additional $399 to come and complete the job, though? Um, yeah. I think he came from the same agency that sent Noelle's unexpectedly hot plumber earlier this year. I quickly fired off an email to a coworker explaining there was a very attractive and handy man in my basement, and she quickly replied that I should offer him a drink and a little snack. He declined the "Can I get you a soda or some water?" question. (I didn't have the nerve to offer him a semi-recently-baked cookie as well.) So tell me: what else should I ask the guy?

I would love to hear who has the best pickup line for a hot electrician on my property. Mind you, I won't actually have the nerve to use it, but it would amuse me anyway...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Context (eventually, anyway)

So then. Is it just me, or did that supposed "LONG weekend" fly by even faster than the usual not-so-long variety? Obviously I am due for a vacation, as a mere weekend (long or otherwise) just isn't cutting it. Unfortunately, my vacation budget at the moment is less "lounging beach-side enjoying fruity drinks brought by a handsome cabana boy named Eduardo" and more "sitting upright in a $4 green plastic Rubbermaid chair in my backyard, sipping sangria beside the lawn sprinkler." Maybe I can at least train a squirrel to fetch my refills. You think?

Mind you, I am not destitute. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I received a "job well finally done" bonus, but rather than splurge on a trip or some other frivolity with that extra cash, I decided to do the responsible thing and put it in savings to earmark for my "Operation: No More Holes in the Shower" fund. Funny how the Universe always likes to mess with us, though. Shortly after deciding to be responsible and place my entire bonus directly into savings, I also thought, "You know, I really haven't updated my summer wardrobe in a very, very long time, and I am quite tired of staring into my closet pondering what to wear each morning..." One "I deserve this!" purchase turned into about twelve, and suddenly a third of that bonus was quickly gone. Whoops. And what was the Universe's answer to this? Well, this morning, I went down to my basement to retrieve the load of laundry I'd left tumbling in the dryer the night before, and I found that my ancient water heater was steadily leaking a large puddle of rusty water onto the floor. Blast.

So tomorrow morning I will be handing over several hundred dollars to a plumber to install a new, made-in-this-century water heater and haul away the rusty old one whose label bears the name of a department store that's been out of business since my early grade school years. If I were a glass-half-full kind of girl, I would be grateful that the work bonus came just in time to pay for this household problem. Apparently I'm more often a bitter, "I can't catch a break" sort of gal, however, so the Universe and I are on thin ice. On the plus side, at least I get to sleep in a bit tomorrow, which is a rare treat on a Monday. The plumber will be here no earlier than 8:30, and since I'm not about to take a second cold shower in two days (Sidenote: Cold showers? Not as appealing as one might think, even after an hour of yard work on a 90+ degree day. The first few moments? Lovely and refreshing. After that, not so much.), that means I need to get up around 8:20, rather than 6:30. So yay for that, anyway. Glass half full after all. I might even get to watch tomorrow's Ellen. See? I'm all about the silver linings here, aren't I?

That said, the Universe and I still need to have a few words. Remember that whole Year of Stef thing? How I decided to do what Oprah says and put positive thoughts out into the world hoping the law of attraction would bring positive things back? Well apparently the Universe did not get my message, because this year has been no more successful (romantically speaking, anyway) than any other.

I admitted last week that there was some context to that little question I posed for all of you. Again, thank you for the crowd participation on that one. As I said in my cop-out follow-up post, the explanation I started to type quickly turned into an excessively rambling and introspective post that I didn't really want to finish, I guess. Suffice it to say, there was a boy. Or, two boys, rather. Both were men I was matched with during my brief Free-Communication-Weekend foray back into the nonsense that is meMarmony, although one also turned out to be a very good friend of a good friend of mine--someone I know I've met before but apparently needed a computer to tell me was in any way interesting to me. And he was interesting... on paper (or, on screen), anyway. Like so many of the perfectly nice, respectful, smart, and genuinely decent men the mysterious Dr. Warren has set me up with, he was ideal for me in the magical world on my computer screen. We don't live on the computer screen, however (much as some of us try, anyway). Perfect on paper doesn't mean perfect in real life. And with both of those fine-on-paper men, I just wasn't feeling it in person. My gut was telling me that if I wasn't even giving more than a passing thought to either of them in between dates (much less looking forward to seeing them again in any genuine way) then neither was probably the guy for me. But the "on paper" stuff (as well as the echo in my brain of certain friends who have, on occasion, suggested I might be too picky or not be giving things enough of a chance) made me reserve judgment anyway and made me wonder if I was perhaps giving up on them too quickly.

Times like this, I keep hoping that I'll be wrong--that suddenly, on a third or fourth date something will click or a wall of awkwardness and reservations will break down and I will find myself laughing easily, willingly grazing his arm or thigh casually, saying "I had a really good time" and meaning it, hoping my phone will ring the next day and I'll see his number on the caller ID display. None of these things has happened recently, and maybe I should finally feel confident that I do know what I'm doing and that my instincts aren't failing me. I may have a hard time meeting someone I connect with, but maybe that doesn't mean I'm supposed to connect with someone with whom I simply don't.

That's where you guys came in. I was wondering if perhaps those certain friends of mine were right and I really shouldn't expect some sort of fireworks (or, at the very least, a tiny sparkler) right away. Nearly every one of you confirmed what I've suspected, though. There has to be something (aside from the on-paper stuff) to keep you interested at the outset. Whether it's a physical attraction or a mental one (or just a gut feeling telling you something other than "Meh"), something tells you "This one is worth getting to know a little more."

A lot of people my age are fond of saying, "I'm sick of the bar scene" or "I don't want to meet anyone in a bar." I'm starting to think maybe I should go back to looking in bars, however. Much as I accept the fact that meeting dates online is the norm by now, it always seems sort of backwards to me. In the old days (by which of course I mean the late 90s), I would meet someone (yes, most likely in a bar or at a concert) and we would strike up a conversation, feel some sort of connection, and because of that connection go on a date to find out more. When you meet online, you go on the date first and then try to see if there's any connection. It is absurd and backwards and it's a wonder to me that anyone ever finds a partner this way. It seems so entirely random--no matter how appealing someone might look in an online profile, no matter how promising things might seem in initial emails, you really can't tell much of anything at all until you meet face to face. Maybe the guy with the bad work ID badge photo and the horrendous grammar is actually the one I'd find myself in rapt conversation with for hours. Maybe a matching list of interests and a properly constructed email means little after all.

I maintain that all this ridiculous seemingly recreational dating must serve a purpose, however, and it's a purpose that goes beyond practice for "the real thing." This nonsense continues to be a learning process, frustrating and uneventful a process as it usually is. A year ago, two of you asked me about my relationship deal-breakers. Oddly, I wasn't entirely sure how to answer at the time. Three nice-but-too-shy boys later, however, and I finally have an answer. The obvious things still stand (no drunks, no puppy-kickers, no Los Lonely Boys lovers, etc.). But lively conversation is a non-negotiable as well. Seems an obvious one for me, but I'm not sure I've ever outright acknowledged it as such. With every bad or mediocre date, however, I still think about that first date with Jimmy-the-Pothead--how despite all the red flags and the reasons to run, I genuinely liked him, how midway through that first dinner, he smiled at me and looked up at our waiter and asked, "Can you tell this is a first date?" and the waiter replied, "No, I probably wouldn't have guessed that... you guys look like you're having a really good time." I want that again--that easy conversation, that undeniable spark of something, that certainty that yes, I genuinely had fun tonight and I really want to see this guy again, as soon as possible. I don't think it should be too much to ask.

Maybe someday the smart, lively conversationalist I'm meant to be with will just knock on my door. Maybe he'll be one of those clipboard people I'm usually so reluctant to open for. Or maybe, if Noelle's luck earlier this year is any indication, he'll be the hot plumber who comes to fix my water heater tomorrow.

What? A girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


I'm sure you are all anxiously awaiting a story that proves that even after all this practice, I still have no idea what I'm doing or what might be reasonable to expect where dating is concerned. Meanwhile, however, our friend Darren has something else for you to read.

You remember Darren, don't you? He guest posted for me once before not too long back. Apparently the dude really does miss blogging, because he did it again.

Give him a warm welcome and maybe he'll follow Flurrious's lead and reactivate his own blog already.

Here's Darren...


The Friendly Skies

"Well then, my dear, you must have an opinion about Mr. Agastino."

It was sometime after seven this past Monday morning, and I was at a gate in the Montreal airport waiting for a flight back to New York City. Somehow a man and a woman in the waiting area with me, two strangers, had discovered they both had a relationship with a private airline: He had once been a pilot for the company, and she was currently a manager.

The woman laughed at the man's question. "No comment," she chuckled.

If it hadn't been for the green, Hawaiian print shirt he wore with the dark blue suit, this man would have resembled Dr. Phil in every way. The bald head, the beady yet friendly eyes--even the direct, common sense voice with the southern-by-way-of-the-Midwest accent--all Dr. Phil. So uncanny was the resemblance that I could only assume the man had come to accept his appearance and even played it up for effect for friends, family, and coworkers. I imagined a framed photograph of the private pilot and the talk show host resting on a desk in the man's office; the two of them awkwardly posed side-by-side, the man displaying much more enthusiasm than Dr. Phil is feeling for the chance encounter at the seminar or book signing or show taping. I could see the man at a Halloween party arriving essentially as himself, save for a copy of Relationship Rescue tucked under his arm to make the connection for anyone at the punch bowl wondering who he was supposed to be.

"'No comment,'" the man laughed back. "Yeah, I've known Bunny for years, and I think that's the best answer."

I had initially been annoyed by the man for breaking early morning flight etiquette--chiefly, “Sh-h-h, no one's happy being up at this hour"--but I was now intrigued. Who was Bunny Agastino, and what had he done to elicit such careful yet knowing responses from both current and former employees? Was he the private airline's CEO? Had he run off with his secretary and flown away in one of the company's jets, never to be seen again? I could just see the headline in the New York Times "Business" section: "FlightWays' president Martin 'Bunny' Agastino steals plane, hearts."

The man asked the woman for her name. I didn't catch it, but he responded to whatever she said with, "Well, my dear, with a name like that you must be from…?"

I'm fascinated by anyone who can work the words "my dear" into conversation with a stranger and not come off sounding like a total perv. Coming from the Dr. Phil lookalike, it was borderline charming. Mind you, I would never do something like that myself, nor do I want to. But I admire the self-assuredness it must take, the comfort with oneself it would require to do something like that. "Excuse me, my dear, but I'm feeling very good about myself today, so I would like to order a venti House Blend to go with a blueberry scone. On second thought, I just had an expensive haircut. Make that two blueberry scones, my dear!"

Soon, the conversation between the man and the woman petered out, and my attention was drawn to the businessman sitting across from me. He was normal looking enough. I assumed the plaid gray and black suit and crew cut meant that he was a Canadian businessman traveling to New York rather than a New York businessman returning to New York. You just don't see too many flattops on Wall Street.

The businessman was staring off in the distance at a flatscreen TV displaying five news stories and fifteen commercials on an endless loop, and I'm pretty sure he had an erection. Everyone is cursed one time or another with what I call "pants boner," that unfortunate bulge of fabric that gathers around the zipper every time you sit down. But there was something especially unbending about that portion of the businessman's lap that raised my suspicions.

Perhaps it is for him and travelers like him that the vending machines in the men's rooms in the Montreal airport sell condoms. I noticed the condoms during one of the many anticipatory trips to the men's room I had made that morning after arriving at the airport. I suffer from a rare condition that causes my bladder to go in to overdrive the second the flight attendant seals the cabin door. It makes no difference if I abstain from all liquids twenty-four hours before a flight; all I need to do is hear the thump of the closing door, feel the pressure change in my ears, and suddenly my body begins to draw and absorb moisture from any conceivable source within feet of my seat. This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't dislike using the airplane facilities. They're small, cramped, dirty, smelly, and there's usually a long line for them. Plus, I just don't think you should have to urinate and maintain your balance at the same time unless you're drunk.

What struck me about the condoms was the question of who on earth they were for. Certain things in airport bathroom vending machines I can understand--aspirin, for instance. Even Looney Tunes temporary tattoos make sense if you're traveling with small children or if you're trashy.

But who are the condoms for? Who gets lucky in an airport? Or has whatever will lead to intercourse taken place in-flight before the plane even arrives? I'm trying to conceive of a scenario in which two passengers forced to share a row hit it off especially well somewhere over Iowa, and after landing, the man casually dips into the airport restroom for a condom before picking up his luggage at baggage claim and accompanying his one-flight stand to the Airport Best Western. I'm trying, but I can't because any time I fly, I want the people seated around me to touch me less, not more. And even if something like this did happen, wouldn't a normal condom do? They speak a lot of French up in Montreal and I do not, but even I was able to deduce that the machines in the men's room were dispensing condoms "studded for pleasure."

Before I could dwell on any of this for too long, I was soon aboard my flight, silently thankful that I was not sitting next to the talkative private pilot and that I didn't have to go home with the businessman with an erection.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

And by "I'll probably follow up tomorrow," of course I meant "No I won't"

Thank you all for your careful responses to the question I posed yesterday. I told you I would provide some context, but that context is turning into a rambly navel-gazing post that I can tell I'm not going to wind my way out of before anywhere close to a reasonable bed time. So alas, it will have to wait. Maybe even indefinitely, as currently there's likely nothing in that post I haven't already expressed at some point numerous times before, and I do hate to be repetitive about anything aside from the really important stuff (you know--like proper use of possessive pronouns vs. contractions).

Besides that, Date #3 with the guy we'll call Part 2 of the context is tomorrow, so I may have an entirely new perspective (or a whole new paragraph of complaining to do) after that. We shall see. Regardless, I do want to thank all of you for your input. You honestly have helped me. Quite a bit, in fact.

Meanwhile, before I forget, you should all go over and say hi to the lady now known as Flurrious. Many of you might remember her by a different name (a name I will gladly repeat here if she wants me to do so, but don't want to post publicly in case she doesn't). In any case, whether you know her already or not, she is hilarious. I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay.

And with that, it is officially past my bed time. Again. How's that New Year's resolution coming, Stef? Oh hell, it is only JULY.