Thursday, December 31, 2009

In which I try to remember what I did all year, and realize I didn't do much all year

Well hello and happy new year, friends. Yes, yes, most of you wrote your New Year's posts days or more ago already, and many of you have already pushed 2009 far, far out of your memory, never to be spoken of again. But most of you probably didn't spend the last week embarking on a remodeling project that sucked up all of your free time and physical energy and rendered you temporarily homeless to boot. Remember when I thought I would have ample free evenings between Christmas and New Year's to catch up with my Internet friends? That was hilarious, in retrospect. My best intentions and estimations slay me at times, really.

Hence, my year-end post is late, which is only fitting, given that my annual trip back through my archives proved to me that I spent most of the year feeling behind and out of the loop. I would like to think 2010 will be different, and as such, I am back-dating this post to keep it in 2009, where it belongs. The new year starts with my next post. Meanwhile, here's a recap of what I did in '09.

January: Hopped on a Flurrious bandwagon and proclaimed myself a Spinster Blogger. (Note: I am still waiting for my Prius, as well as my crock pot.) Tried to up my dairy intake via buttercream frosting. Learned that there really is a web site for everything. Graduated from the Arthur Fonzarelli School of Car Repair. Had dinner with an old boyfriend at a Buddhist Center. Told G.W. not to let the door hit him on the way out. 

February: Realized that Facebook isn't the place for the over-analytical or paranoid. Watched two lovely friends get engaged. Went on vacation (yay!) with my coworkers (meh).

March: Celebrated National Grammar Day with a grammartini. Proved yet again that my aging Saturn may be invincible. Met Pauly Shore. (Not really.) Observed Library Boy in his natural habitat. Turned 35. Realized that in The Buddhist's case, once a fuckwit, always a fuckwit, unfortunately. Joined the 21st century with a new-to-me laptop (Thanks, Steve!). Spent too much time on Facebook. (Admittedly, that probably happened in every month of 2009, but not every month includes two relevant links.)

April: Was told to steer clear of Aquarius men. Learned that I don't don't like skate wings. Considered marrying yet another inanimate object (this time, an avocado). Asked out a total stranger whose work email address happens to be in the public domain.

May: Went out with the aforementioned total stranger. Got only one story out of it. Took casting and soundtrack suggestions for the movie version of my life. Went all She-Ra with my yard work and broke a shovel. (Also, learned there may be a lawn tools fairy who puts broken shovels back together.) Vowed never to go into my basement again. Had an epic baking fail and an unintentional and almost frightening garden success. Used a camping trip as an excuse to make the same Thoreau joke I made last year, despite it garnering no real laughs the first time I tried. 

June: Grew increasingly wary of the mutant space rhubarb. Narrowly escaped the road to alcoholism, despite that road possibly running quite adjacent to the road to plucky hermitude. Proved that 16-months-expired salad dressing won't kill you (but obsessed about it for several paragraphs anyway). Clicked the "Confirm as friend" button at least one time more than necessary. Maintained that holding a not-so-secret appreciation for the ridiculous does not make me unrelateably highbrow. Finally finished the landscaping project I'd rambled about since May.

July: Learned I am a master negotiator. (Or rather, that I could successfully negotiate at least once.) Went to see Garrison Keillor in a sweltering city park. Decided not to ask out every appealing man I see on stage at the Varsity. Tried to explain all of my yard-related mysteries with semi-obscure movie references.

August: Complained about the trials of being a grown-up, and then vanished from the Internet for the remainder of the month. (I'm sure I did lots of other things, too, but if I didn't write it down, it didn't happen, I guess.)

September: Remembered that I DID do worthwhile things in August. Like went on an old-school family road trip, and discovered South Dakota is far more beautiful than I ever knew. Held an impromptu Beatles debate. Spent a fun-filled, hilarious long weekend in California, and came home with the Amish Friendship Cold.

October: Failed to successfully explain why my father needs a gallon of soda at his immediate disposal, nor why he brings his own spoon to restaurants. Made out with an Australian stranger in public. Took trampoline classes! Proposed a Boot Camp for Lost Boys. Got food poisoning. (But didn't write about it. You're welcome.) Went on a Halloween Pedal Pub ride.

November: Tried to make up for my lack of Stefanie Says posts by pointing you to my Greenists posts. (Failed to convince anyone that this was a reasonable trade-off.) Had a perfect, KFC-free Thanksgiving with friends.

December: Bemoaned the recession hitting too close to home. Learned that I still can't be trusted with a damn checkbook, and that my inability to do math may be my bank's primary source of profit. Showed the Internet my ghetto shower. (Again.) Won a small prize for donning a ridiculous (but festive!) getup. Also, finally began my long-postponed bathroom remodel, and used it as an (entirely valid) excuse to continue neglecting the Internet into the early days of 2010.

In all, it was a mostly uneventful year interspersed with many good times with friends but maybe not quite enough adventures and escapades. If the Facebook population is to be trusted (and why wouldn't it be?), 2010 is already off to a more auspicious start, so I am going to try to piggy-back on that optimism and see good things in store for me as well. First up: indoor plumbing and brand new tile. After that: the world! Peace out, 2009. Let's get this new year a-rolling.

Monday, December 21, 2009

You can do it. We can help... you load it into your car, at least.

OK, this just in, in case you weren't aware. It is now a mere FIVE DAYS until Christmas. I'm not exactly sure how that happened, but I remain convinced that my house is riddled with worm holes or some such thing. Frequent stumbles into time warps are the only explanation for what on earth happened to large chunks of 2009. On a related note, it seems the Internet does not stop just because I'm too busy working, making Christmas treats, or obsessing about bathroom tile. No, I just clicked over to Bloglines for the first time in over a week, and the rest of you have still been busy writing away... It reminds me of that episode of Growing Pains where Mike stayed home from school for a day and had a really obvious epiphany that the programming on television goes on even when he turns the set off, and the day at school went on as normal even though he was not there. It's an obscure reference, I realize, but the Internet taught me that I'm not the only one who thinks of Tom Hanks as Elyse Keaton's alcoholic brother every time I use vanilla extract, so you never know, I guess. Incidentally, I also think of Mike Seaver seeing his dead relative jogging through the kitchen in the middle of the night every time I need to buy buttermilk. (Anyone? No? Moving on then.) My point is I will catch up eventually. I have very little planned socially in the week following Christmas, so I suspect it will be me cozied up with the Internet for at least a few nights there. See you then.

So. What have I been up to lately? Well, I successfully finished on time all but two of the hand-made gifts I'd planned for friends this Christmas. Here are three of them, modeled by their lovely recipients last night.



That picture was taken at my pal Lisa's Christmas party, for which she promised prizes in various holiday spirit categories, much like the Ugly Sweater parties that have become so popular in recent years. Lisa added a similar challenge to the Evite for her last Christmas party, in 2007, and several attendees stepped up to the plate. If you're the sort of person who somehow manages to remember everything I write, perhaps that rings a bell. If not, again, here is the photographic evidence from that event. Me in a ridiculous outfit? Check. But alone in the ridiculousness? Hardly.

Contestant panel

(I hate that picture of myself, by the way. Unfortunately, it's the only one I have that serves the purpose at hand.) 

This year, however? This year I was THE ONLY ONE TO PARTICIPATE. Apparently in two short years my friends have all gotten too busy or dignified for such nonsense. People, I was just following instructions. The invitation called for holiday flair, and I brought it. I planned ahead, even. I went to freaking eBay, and I bought these silly, festive tights from a shop that I'm pretty sure deals mostly in stripper wear and "I'm a sexy [insert any occupation or person-noun here]" supplies. I bought those tights, and I wore this ridiculous outfit, like I was bound directly for my part-time job at Santa's photo booth at the mall.

Photobucket

I wore that outfit, and I went to the party, and I was THE ONLY ONE not in normal Saturday night gathering attire. (No, red and white striped tights do not fall under the category of "Normal Saturday Night Gathering Attire" for me. Thanks for wondering, though.) It was not unlike the year in college when my friend Sarah had a Halloween party on November 1. It was a mere DAY after Halloween, which was presumably a very logical night for a Halloween party, given that it was a Friday, and Halloween itself did not fall on a weekend. And yet, when we went out to the bars, all the usual Friday night bar-goers in their usual Friday night outfits looked at us as confused and appalled as if we had walked in wearing Halloween costumes in the middle of May. I am prone to finding myself unknowingly inappropriately dressed and out of place, it seems. Perhaps that explains a lot. On the upside, obviously I won a prize last night, given that the competition was so slim. I now have two pretty new bottles of lovely-smelling hand soap to eventually use in my soon-to-be lovely remodeled bathroom. So there is that, anyway.

Speaking of my bathroom, I bought tile today! Lots of tile. So much tile that the helpful young man loading it into my car asked, "How far are you driving with this? I'm thinking maybe you should make two trips." It turns out it's not enough to know confidently that everything you're piling onto the wheeled flatbed cart will easily fit in your compact Saturn SL2. Apparently one needs to consider the total weight of what you're piling on the flatbed cart as well. And apparently a small bathroom's worth of wall and floor tile weighs significantly more than I anticipated, because as we loaded it up, my car was riding lower than if I'd had Gilbert Grape's mother and two clones of her riding in all my passenger seats. Live and learn. Load capacity matters. Who knew? (Well, most of you, I presume.)

Incidentally, can I just say, since I fear I mention companies by name only when I have an angry bone to pick with them (I'm looking at YOU, TCF Bank; you're still ON NOTICE, as our friend Stephen Colbert would say!!) that in my humble experience, the orange-aproned personnel at Home Depot have been a bit unfairly maligned? Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the Home Depot off Johnson in Minneapolis is a rare bastion of friendliness in an otherwise cold, cruel, orange-aproned world. Still. I have never gone there and not had at least two employees ask me, in a strangely sincere and earnest tone, if there was anything they could help me figure out or find. True, half the time it is a male employee who is hovering precariously on the delicate line between congenial customer service and creepy, inappropriate and awkward flirting. But today it was a 20-something woman who went above and beyond what I would ever expect an orange-aproned employee to do for me. She was the one who crawled into the cave of scaffolding to retrieve 13 packages of white ceramic subway tile for me, and she was the one to whom I first asked, "Do you think this is too much to try to haul in my car?" And instead of giving me a blank look that said, "Why are you asking me that? My job is to sell you the tile; how you get it home is your business," she replied, "What kind of car do you have? I could go Google the load capacity to find out..." Unfortunately, for once Google wasn't all-knowing, and the call she put out on her walkie-talkie ("Does anyone know the load capacity of a Saturn sedan?") didn't yield any solid answers either, and our seemingly sound math of "That's probably not more than 800 pounds of tile, and surely you could cart around four 200-pound humans without any worries" didn't exactly pan out, so I ended up leaving half my tile at the service counter and making a second trip to pick it up. But still! Helpful employees! At Home Depot! In this day and age! You may say it's a Christmas miracle, but I'm telling you, strangely it's somehow par for the course for me.

I would like to think that pleasant experiences like this bode well for the overall spirit of this project and serve as a sign that all will go fast and smooth, according to plan. I am sticking my fingers in my ears and saying "La-la-la, I can't hear you!" every time anyone tells me about their bathroom remodeling nightmares, because I am already dreading the period during which I'll be bathroom-less and I am possibly in denial, truly hoping that period will last for no longer than a week. The end result will be worth the inconvenience, and perhaps living like a resident of a third-world country will be a valuable, humbling experience for me. The baby Jesus didn't have a shower either, did he, but did that stop him from carrying out his duties as Son of Man? It's been a while since Catholic school, but I'm gonna say no.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Maybe I could just tile my whole shower in duct tape and save myself a lot of cash.

Last night was my company's holiday party, or, as I referred to it earlier today, "a total waste of a shower." I kid. (Mostly.) It was fine. But the aforementioned recession pay cuts and uncertainty of everyone's job security meant that our usual schmancy-ish dinner out was scaled back to a pretty uneventful potluck at the owners' condo. I arrived with my layer bars fashionably late, around 7:50, and we were all essentially herded out by 9:15, meaning I spent only slightly more time at the party than I did in my car driving to and from it. On the up side, I was back on my couch in my yoga pants by 10:30, settled in for some knitting and the requisite holiday viewing of Love Actually, which is a fine way to spend a chilly Saturday, if you ask me. If I can't leave my company's holiday party with a hot Brazilian bespectacled coworker, at least I can watch Laura Linney do so. (Although if I were Laura Linney, you can be damn sure I would have chucked my cell phone far from earshot once the hot bespectacled Brazilian took his shirt off. I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to reach through the screen and do that for her every time I watch that scene.)

In truth, I don't know why I have such a predisposed aversion to forced socialization with my perfectly nice coworkers and their perfectly nice spouses. Idle small talk has never been my forte, I suppose, and lately it feels that conversationally, I've got nothing. My brain and my free time calendar have been extra busy recently, but not with anything that makes for particularly good stories or party talk. No one wants to hear about my continuing struggle to assemble timely hand-made gifts that aren't worthy of a featured spot on Regretsy. No one wants to hear me fret aloud about my only slightly irrational fear that my aging Saturn as well as every one of my appliances are about to give up the ghost at the exact same time, when I have absolutely no extra money squirreled away to replace these items. And I'm pretty sure no one (except possibly our company's accountant and human resources coordinator, who recently built a house and is still eyeball-deep in such decisions himself) wants to hear me go on about whether I should install a decorative chair rail or an ordinary bullnose as the top row of the new bathroom tile I'm about to have installed and whether the new granite countertop I've ordered for my vanity should have a matching backsplash or not.

This is riveting stuff, I realize, but unfortunately, it is what's consuming the bulk of the idle space in my brain these days. I am not at all looking forward to the week or more period when my home's only bathroom will be torn apart like a war zone, but I am so VERY much looking forward to finally having a bathroom that I'm not embarrassed to have guests use that I can barely contain my excitement about new tile and granite and the like. (This just in: I am old and boring. Is this what middle age feels like?)

Thanksgiving weekend marked the official onset of my long-postponed bathroom remodeling project, otherwise known as "Operation: No More Duct Tape in the Shower." You remember that, don't you? No? To sum up, my shower was, it seems, never meant to be a shower. By which I mean, it was never meant to get wet. Because if it were meant to get wet, the previous owners wouldn't have tiled it with adhesive METAL tiles, given metal's tendency to crack and rust when exposed to prolonged moisture. (You know--like the kind prone to occur in a SHOWER.) They also painted those tiles, which was another awesome and excellent idea, given paint's habit of chipping and peeling off of non-porous surfaces, again, where water is involved.

Those cracked, rusting tiles have been trying their damndest to fall off my walls for the past several years, and when the crack sealer I've continually gunked up in the faux grout lines wouldn't hold them any more, I decided duct tape would temporarily have to do. Which means that my shower has, for the past year and a half, looked something like this. Awesome.



Recession-era paycut or no, it is beyond time to finally remedy this eyesore, so the week after Christmas, one of my handiest and most useful friends will be helping me retile and remodel this monstrosity. Because sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better, however, my shower now currently looks like this:



Or rather, it looks like this... (The goal of the head start on demolition was to find out just what was behind those rusty metal plates and determine how much structural damage would have to be undone before work could proceed. As it turns out, there's not as much water damage beneath the tile as I feared, but leaving it all uncovered would obviously change that right quick.)



This means, of course, that once again, my attempts to eliminate the duct tape from my shower have instead resulted in MORE duct tape (temporarily, thankfully).

What's more unsettling than the duct tape, though, are the exposed wall beams. I may not have the basic structure of my house entirely squared away in my head, but I'm pretty sure that if you follow those wall beams down a few feet, you arrive in my somewhat unfinished basement laundry room. The laundry room, you may recall, is where the largest bug I have ever seen in real life lives, and though I haven't seen Gregor lately, I am convinced that now that the wall beams that go straight into the basement are exposed, I will see him waving his 100 or so legs at me in greeting one morning when I'm least expecting it. Or worse, I will finally see my first [starts with "m" and rhymes with "blouse"] in my home not in my basement or under my stove but peering out at me through that thin layer of plastic when I am wet and naked and ill equipped for rational thought. Because that is what [starts with "m" and rhymes with "twice"] do, obviously. They climb interior wall beams like Spider-Man and seek out areas to drown themselves and terrify me.

This is how my brain works, and this is what I've been obsessed with recently. Ailing appliances, temperamental car parts, bathroom tile, and rodents. Aren't you sorry I don't post more often? I thought so.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I'm well aware Tiny Tim had a tougher row to hoe and a better attitude. What of it?

OK, seriously. December already? Could someone tell me how exactly that happened? Pipe down, smartasses; you don't actually need to explain the intricacies of the Gregorian calendar to me. Rhetorical questions are still valid ones sometimes, I say.

So it's December, and I'm supposed to be all glowy with the warmth of the damn holiday spirit, but alas, December is stressing me out. Yes, on only the second day. The whole month stretches ahead of me, and yet, all I can think about are the hand-knit gifts that I was going to start IN JULY but that remain only half finished three weeks before Christmas. Or the salted chocolate truffles that I made recently, thinking that they'd be lovely little tokens for my friends and family, but that for some reason have already grown ugly, mottled light spots like year-old Halloween candy. (Not that anyone would know what that looks like, I assume.) So at the moment, my half-finished and failure-ridden home-made gift efforts seem most well suited to the Island of Misfit Toys (and, er, Candy and Scarves). Woe is me and my dashed hopes of from-the-heart thriftiness.

So I have Christmas shopping to do, and in an instance of excellent timing, I was recently told that my company is maybe not doing quite as well as we've been told all year (read: apparently nowhere NEAR as well as we've been told all year), and instead of getting a raise on what was, awesomely coincidentally, my 12-year employment anniversary, I got a 10% pay cut. Hurrah. Mind you, it was not just a "Happy anniversary" prize for me alone. Word is we all got pay cuts. Or, all of us who were lucky enough to keep our jobs (for now). An undisclosed number were actually laid off or had their hours cut instead. Happy holidays!

[Side note/Disclaimer of sorts:  I do realize that the previous paragraph falls squarely and solidly in the category of "Things I should not blog about" (i.e., "Things I could get fired for"). At the moment and for the record, I sort of feel it's a fair breech. This is my blog, about my life, which I write on my own time, and this is what's going on in my life right now. I will never, ever mention my company's name in this space, nor give any details identifying enough to reveal said name. So I'm sorry to anyone who someday finds this blog and shouldn't, but at the moment, with all due respect, I say kindly suck it.]

On top of that, I still cannot be trusted with a damn checkbook, and one measly little error has caused me TWO HUNDRED AND EIGHTY DOLLARS in NSF fees. Good grief. As some of you may have seen me complain on Facebook this evening, I am well aware that banks need to find ways to turn a profit, but I would much prefer that TCF Bank find a way to do so without coldly bleeding me dry. Yes, that's right, I said TCF. I have few qualms stating that particular company by name. Because seriously, if you are going to punish me EIGHT TIMES for what was quite obviously one single mistake, I am going to tell the Internet (or at least, my tiny corner of it) how disgruntled I am. I am not the sort of societal and financial delinquent you might see on the likes of the Judge Judy or Jerry Springer show. I am a smart, almost wearyingly responsible girl with her head screwed on nearly entirely straight. Would I keep using my check card if I knew there was actually no money in my account? Of course not. But if my unfortunately erroneous checkbook balance indicates all clear, all systems go, I'm going to carry on as usual, and penalizing me charge by charge while your old school paper notices make their way by Pony Express to my house really does me no good at all.Gah.

Sigh. It's time to stop this futile rant, I realize. Times are lean for all of us. Or, times are lean for most of us. I suspect the president of TCF is still doing just fine. In any case, moving on.

I should note that is it not all tears over banking injustices and tight purse strings around here. I did have a lovely Thanksgiving with some lovely friends. More than two people in attendance confidently proclaimed it the Best Thanksgiving Ever, and I dare say I must agree with them. I mean, no eleven hours on the road round-trip back home, no tense conversation with family members who I love but drive me batty, and no day-old KFC biscuits or year-old apple pie! It was a win-win-win, I say. Seriously, people. Look at this spread! Tell me you don't want to have Thanksgiving with my urban family next year.

The spread. The beautiful spread.

Note: Those are prosciutto-wrapped sweet potatoes in the lower-left there, people. Essentially, sweet potatoes wrapped in bacon. I know how much the Internet likes bacon. If you're not sufficiently excited about this buffet line, it's only because I failed to photograph the desserts. Apple pie and pumpkin cheesecake (courtesy of me, and both delicious, if I do say so myself). Mmmm.

On a loosely related note, not that my Thanksgiving Day wardrobe should be of any interest to you, but since I am bragging about things I made, how about I return momentarily to those skirts I mentioned making a few posts back? Shana Who Lacks a Link requested pictures, and while I still have no photos of the skirts in action (or at least, in use), I do have some flat, static, "wowsa, are my hips really that wide?" pics for you...

This is the first skirt I made, which is a lovely albeit a bit cumbersome little wrap dealie-o...



And here is the one I made in the Intermediate/Advanced skirt class, which features both a lining and an invisible (or, nearly invisible) back zipper. In other words, I rock.



That second skirt I decided should be my Thanksgiving skirt, so I actually do have a picture of it in use, albeit a not very helpful and showcasey picture at that. Still. Are you up for a game of "Where's Waldo"? Minus the Waldo and plus a skirt? All right. Here you go then.



Do you see it? If so, good work.

By the way, also in that picture? The Ghost of Thanksgiving Past. Or possibly my pal Carrie's mom's arm, at low shutter speed. You decide.

So then. How was your Thanksgiving? I know it was nearly a full week ago at this point, but dwelling on the past is what I do, folks. Timeliness is not always how I roll. So do tell. Any high points or low points for me?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Elsewhere...

A couple weeks ago, I drew attention to my lazy blogging of late by saying I'd written only seven posts since July. You know what, though? That was actually a lie. You could say I've been cheating on you. Or rather, cheating on my blog. Or actually, not cheating at all; just spreading the love around. Or something like that. What I'm saying is I have actually written a wee bit more than you've seen here. On Thursday, for instance, I wrote about that PedalPub outing I took on Halloween. Last month, I wrote about how I removed the persistent (albeit unladylike) gym stank from my workout clothes. The month before that, I wrote about the Shampoo Slumber Party my friend Jamie hosted a while back. And in the midst of my South Dakota road trip, from a motel with free Wi-Fi in Wall, South Dakota, I gave the Internet a glimpse into what dinner looks like at this spinster's abode.

So you see? I'm actually about 50% more prolific than I appear initially! (It's a weak claim, but I'll make it anyway. I'll even go so far as to argue this short post--hey, it's a short week!--counts as four, four, FOUR posts in one!)

If you're not already doing so, pop on over to The Greenists every now and then. You never know what (or who!) else you might find there.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tramampoline!

So it turns out the best way to make me not write a post for a fortnight is to say I'm going to write more than one post a fortnight. Blah blah fishcakes; whatever dudes; I've been busy. Or possibly I've been staring at Facebook and Craftster and who knows what else instead of Blogger and Bloglines. We all know I can handle only a finite number of Internet addictions at a time. But no! Seriously! I have had all sorts of stuff going on! I made a skirt. (Two of them, even!) I saved 50 starving kids. (Or so the dude at the place where I put in a measly two hours of time volunteering told us.) I helped my pal Carrie repaint her already freshly painted abode. I baked three times in a week. I finished watching the second season of Mad Men. I bought a toilet. Clearly lots of important stuff going on around here.

What I have not been doing is taking any more trampoline classes. My month of classes was up a couple weeks ago, and I decided not to pony up for another month just now. But since I am so good at waiting until something is so far gone that we've all nearly forgotten about it before I tell you about it, how's about I do that Q&A right now? Obviously I'm all about timeliness here. It's a special skill, folks. All right; no it's not. But it's how I roll, people. All things in due time. 

So then. You had questions! I have answers. Actually, you didn't even have all that many questions, so I have supplemented some of your fine questions with a few of my own. Feel free to decide amongst yourselves which are which.

Q: Trampoline class?!? I didn't even know that existed! Wherever did you hear about such a thing??
 A: Indirectly, through Facebook, of course. (Seriously, where else; am I right?) A seemingly superhuman acquaintance of mine posted an article about parkour (Note: This kind of parkour, not the kind Michael, Dwight, and Andy thought they mastered on The Office recently). That article linked to a video, which linked to an area gymnastics center that offers parkour and free-running classes, where I saw a link for "Adult Fitness" and decided to see where it led. And lo--trampoline classes! Who knew?? For the record, they also have adult circus skills classes, meaning I could finally learn how to twirl around in the air on long velvet sashes, just like Devotchka's burlesque girls. Maybe I'll try that next year.

Q: Is it one big trampoline, or does everyone have their own tiny trampoline? Is it one of those little round ones like my mom had in the 80s? (Do you even know what I’m talking about? A “mini-tramp,” if you will?) If it is one of those little round jobs from the 80s, please lie to us.
A: I DO remember the mini-tramps! I too am a child of the 80s, and my mom bought one of those as well. The mini-tramp did nothing to quell my trampoline fascination, though. Even as a kid, I knew that little, barely bouncy saucer was NOT A REAL TRAMPOLINE. It almost would have been better to have no trampoline at all than a lame, tiny useless excuse for one. The mini-tramp was a tease. (Which I suppose makes sense. Big, legitimate tramps rarely are, right?)

Q: So it's a big trampoline, then?
A: It is. And there are four of them. We take turns, which is fine, really, seeing as after several minutes, I generally need a break. Which brings me to...

Q: Is it good exercise?
A:
Given that every part of my body was sore for several days after my first class, I'd say that yes, it is. A good portion of that soreness, however, likely came from the set of (spotter-assisted; I'm no She-Ra) pull-ups that a particularly drill sergeant-like woman (who was not even the instructor!) forces everyone to do before they leave the gym each night. I promise that the pull-up woman isn't the reason I decided not to sign on for more classes in November, but I can't say she helped my sticktoitiveness much.

Q: So, what sort of people take trampoline classes? What was the demographic in that joint?
A: It was actually a wider mix than I expected. Some were former gymnasts; some (like me) spent their childhoods wanting to be gymnasts and simply believe that trampolines always equal fun. Some stumbled across the class in a search for low-impact exercise options. And one guy was a strange, round-bellied, late 40-something in a royal blue sweatsuit and sport goggles. I really wanted him to be sort of awesome. Sadly, he was not.

Q: Have you learned new jumping moves? Do you do flips on it or just jog a little bit? Do you make up routines?
A: Yes, sort of, no, and maybe. There are five ways to jump on a trampoline, so we started by learning all of those. If you're curious about that (and I know you are), you can jump on your feet, seat, front, back, and knees. From there, we learned how to link various moves together, and by week two and three, I did a front flip and a back handspring with a spotter. The instructor flattered me by calling me a natural and a fast learner, but I never did master the easy combination they referred to as "The Kindergarten Routine," so the assisted handspring was a weak victory. 

Q: Can I come to your trampoline recital? 
A: Unfortunately, I don't think this gym hosts such a thing. If they did, I'm sure it would exclude quitters, so you still couldn't see me. Hence, no. 

Q: Do you still want a trampoline in your backyard?
A: Of course I do! Trampolines still aren't free, however, and I'm still a 35-year-old childless woman with neighbors, so I don't think I'll be doing anything about that any time soon.

Q: Are you angling for the Olympic Trampoline Team, because if so, I will see you at the Olympic trials, Missy.
A: No, but I may be hatching a not-so-elaborate plan to run away and join the circus. I have a feeling that in the circus, you're still allowed (and perhaps encouraged) to drink wine and stay up late. If Nadia was any indication, the Olympics require far more discipline than I'm willing to hone. That said, is there really an Olympic Trampoline Team? Because I would much rather watch that than that rhythmic gymnastics nonsense. 

Q: So that sounds awesome. Why on earth aren't you in class RIGHT NOW? 
A: Well, first of all, because it it not Wednesday. And also because trampoline classes are not free, unfortunately, and because this was one of those pay periods where I paid a few bills, had the crazy and reckless idea to buy groceries, and suddenly had no money left in my checking account at all. Also, since I am collecting reasons and excuses, going to trampoline class involves a bothersome commute down 35W, which is an always annoying stretch of interstate made even more problematic by the array of construction barrels and barricades and constantly shifting exit lanes featured right now. FYI, Minnesota Department of Transportation, I do NOT make a habit of texting, reading, or applying makeup while driving. You really don't need to keep testing me to make sure I'm paying attention, so how about you decide once and for all whether 62 East will be a right or a left exit and just leave it at that, OK? Ahem. I realize this is not L.A. or Atlanta (or for heaven's sake, Baghdad). I could be subjected to far greater trials than a weekly jaunt down 35W. I could also spend my Wednesday nights watching Glee from the comfort of my purple couch and my flannel pajama pants. This month, I choose that.

Monday, November 02, 2009

NaBloNoGo

Well, would you look at that? It's November 2 already, which means that after three years of perfect attendance, I have blown NaBloPoMo on the VERY FIRST DAY. I'm kidding, obviously. Did you honestly think I was going to do that to myself again this year? If so, you are hilarious. Or possibly, out of touch with reality. Have you not been paying attention to my lazy-ass blogging of late? Seriously: only seven posts since July. SEVEN. Obviously NaNoBloPoMo would be a much more likely calling for me this year.

Mind you, I have been keeping busy. I have been taking skirt-making classes and trampoline classes (whoopsie; I was supposed to write a Q&A about that, wasn't I?), and Saturday I hopped on the nation's only Pedal Pub and had an absurd amount of ridiculous (admittedly tipsy) fun. And here is where I prove what a lousy blogger I really am lately, because ordinarily this is the point where I would insert some pictures documenting the Halloween Pedal Pub excursion around St. Paul, but because I apparently forgot that I have a blog, I neglected to put those pictures on Flickr and instead housed them only in a not-easily-linkable-to-the-world album on Facebook. Hence, those of you who ARE linked to me there will just have to vouch for the hilarious-looking time I had. Everyone else, pretend the people in some of these videos are my friends (Note: They are not) for a general idea of what transpired.

Actually, it is just as well I have no pictures to link to, because I would rather tell you what I am about to tell you accompanied by no photographic evidence to help you speculate. And what I want to tell you is that my still semi-newish friend Melissa is not only kind and funny and an excellent yoga buddy and travel partner (scroll to the third-last paragraph if you're going to click that link); she is also a fine, well-matched wing woman for me. Why? Because Melissa indirectly orchestrated the inclusion of two new-to-us single males in this outing, and when I asked, "Are they cute?" she answered, "One of them is..." Fast-forward to Saturday, when, mid-Pedal Pub crawl I asked her, "So, which friend of [so-and-so]'s did you think was cute?" And she answered, "[Dude I personally thought was decidedly less cute]." And when I said, "That's funny. I thought [taller, nerdier dude] was the cute one," she replied, "I thought you might!" It's important to note that neither one of us actually made any progress with either of these strangers, but the fact that our tastes were actually fairly opposite I think bodes well for competition-free single-girl outings henceforth. Hurrah.

Following the Pedal Pub, I went to my pal Angela's house, for her now traditional Halloween chili. It was delicious as usual, as were the myriad varieties of cornbread on hand. I brought The Pioneer Woman's pumpkin spice muffins (with cream cheese frosting), which were, like all of her recipes, an undisputed hit. As usual, however, the muffins are gone but a half a bowl of frosting remains, and someone really ought to sneak into my house and remove that from my refrigerator before I spread the rest of it on chocolate chips or Triscuits or a flour tortilla, for lack of any more appropriate frosting vehicle on hand. Oof. Help me.

In all, it was a fine Halloween. I think I regained the last of the eight pounds I lost during my recent food poisoning bout (Crap; did I not write about that either? I'm not sure if that makes me a bad blogger or a good one...), and I also have a giant bruise on my left knee that I have little recollection of having acquired (Note: Not just a bruise, but a bruise with a fishnet-stocking patterned scrape atop it. I am not even kidding about that.). Each of those is a small price to pay, however, for a fun afternoon and evening with friends old and new.

So it's November already, and while this year that doesn't mean a post a day from me, I will try to do more than a post a fortnight at least. And I'll get to the trampoline post; I promise. Even not-so-burning questions require answers, I know.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Boot Camp for Lost Boys

I live in a city of over 300,000 people, but in a way, none of us really live in the same city. We see our different parts of it, live our different lives in it. We all have personal landmarks, and they're rarely shared, communal ones. Other people don't drive past the Chatterbox on France and think, "That's where I had what I thought was my best date of '08. Man, was I wrong about that." Other people don't see the Figlio billboard and remember their awkward dinner with a burly guy who not only finished a plate of pasta so enormous it could feed a small village but who roughly stopped the waitress from taking his CLEARLY EMPTY plate by spouting through a mouthful of bread, "No! I'm DIPPING!" And I'm guessing (though I could be wrong, of course) that not a lot of other people think, every time they drive past that big house on Emerson, "Heh. I was deflowered there."

I was out with Carrie last night and we found ourselves stopped at the traffic light beside another of my personal landmarks. It was the corner where I had my first (and thus far only) truly angry, yelly, incredulous breakup. Previously, my only reference point for the restaurant on that corner was that it was the venue for my urban family's second annual Easter Orphans and Heathens Brunch. Now it will always be the place where I stood chastising a soulless, unrepentant manchild in the cold while his new girlfriend watched from a bar stool inside.

I'm talking about Jimmy, of course. The pothead. The damn Buddhist. Remember him? Remember what a sweet story it was originally but how spectacularly it went awry?

I still sort of can't believe that happened. It's absurd, really, and as such, I have to laugh at it. Or maybe not laugh, but at least shake my head and roll my eyes. I'm not angry anymore. I knew I wouldn't be. There's no reason to stay upset over losing a person I'm better off without. But I do still think about him. I do wonder what he's doing. And though I'm not hurt anymore, I'm also not perfect, so when I wonder about him, I'll admit that I hope he's not doing well.

It's not [entirely] that I'm bitter. It's that I honestly think the man needs to hit rock bottom. He has been down, yes. He has been broke and destitute. He's even spent the night in a jail cell at least once. But I don't think he's ever really gotten it. I'm not sure he's realized that any of it is his own damn fault. And I don't think it helps that through all of it, he's always had someone saying, "You are awesome, Jimmy. You're a great person." And I think he needs to stop hearing that. Because he is NOT awesome. He is a flake. He is a fuckup. He is a great big irresponsible child. And you know what? Children get reprimanded when their behavior is inappropriate. Children get punished when they misbehave. Jimmy got fired, skipped out on his rent, lied to his friends, and vanished on me, and what was his punishment? Free room and board with a new girlfriend and a free vacation on said new girlfriend's dime.

I really didn't mean to go into so long a rant about someone who's worth so little energy. I didn't mean to launch into a similar rant when Carrie and I pulled up to that stop light last night. But Carrie, no stranger to fuckwits and manchildren herself, didn't stop me. No, instead, she joined right in.

"It's too bad there's not a boot camp for lost boys," she said. It was a flash of brilliance. Yes! A boot camp for lost boys! We can probably all think of a few candidates for new recruits.

"Do you think it would really work as a boot camp, though?" I asked.

Carrie: "What do you mean?"

Me: "Boot camp is a short-term program for immediate results. Lost boys are driven by instant gratification, but they've also got short memory spans. We need to shoot for long-term change. It might need to be a reform school."

Carrie: "Yeah. They need to go AWAY. Maybe for a long while."

Me: "Or at the very least, an ongoing outpatient program."

Carrie: "Like social work. They'd be assigned a case number."

Me: "And a case manager. They'd have to report in on their progress. And the case manager would talk to their friends, too."

Carrie: "And their parents!"

Me: "None of that manipulating and revising history and skewing the story to make themselves the victim. The case manager would need context. She'd talk to the people who actually KNOW the guy so she'd know what's really up."

Carrie: "But the lost boys would have to meet with each other regularly, too, right? Like an AA meeting?"

Me: "Definitely. And they'd go around the circle.... I'm Adam. I'm a lost boy. It's been six weeks since my last irresponsible, capricious act. And a chorus of lost boys would reply, Hi, Adam. Oh! And they'd get chips after each milestone!"

Carrie: "Chips? People in AA get chips?"

Me: "It's like a little medallion to mark an accomplishment. 'One month sober,' 'One year sober.' That sort of thing."

Carrie: "Oh, so they wouldn't cash them in for anything... not like poker chips, or skee ball tickets..."

Me: "Ha! No, but that would be awesome. I applied for six jobs this week. Here is my chip. I would like to trade it in for that bottle of Jaegermeister."

Carrie: "Nooo! We'd have to take their alcohol AWAY, not reward them with it! Their cigarettes, too. Maybe even movies."

Me: "They definitely wouldn't be allowed to watch Swingers or Fight Club or Reservoir Dogs. And nothing that glorifies life as a manchild."

Carrie: "Would there be twelve steps? And the Serenity prayer?"

Me: "They should at least have some sort of creed. I will not be careless with hearts. Or finances."

Carrie: "I will do no irreparable harm to women."

Me: "I will take responsibility for my actions."

Carrie: "We should totally transcribe this conversation and put it on the Internet."

Me: "I'm way ahead of you on that."


Of course, gauging success in the lost boys program might be difficult. An alcoholic measures progress in concrete milestones that are easily quantifiable. "I haven't had a drink in thirty days." That's clear cut. Black and white. But "It's been six months since I frustrated a woman to tears in the privacy of her own bedroom"? "It's been two months since my mother silently wondered to herself where she went wrong with me"? These things are harder to verify. Still, it's an idea whose time has come, I say. Any social workers out there looking for a new project?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Brevity is rarely my strong suit

So. Wow. I got nothin'. A full week yet again, and no stories for you? Nope. No stories. Only bullets. Here we go.
  • Saturday I participated in a pub crawl in my neighborhood. Except instead of being called a pub crawl, it was called a pub mosey. I'm still not sure what the difference is between a crawl and a mosey. A mosey would be faster than a crawl, right? I don't think it was any faster, but it did seem more meandery, go-at-your-own-pace than a typical pub crawl. Maybe that's the difference between a crawl and a mosey. Then again, I've never actually participated in an "official" pub crawl, so I may have no idea what I'm talking about and may have based that theory only on the fact that the last crawl I observed whilst out and about involved a "round-up and move on" whistle to keep everybody strictly on task. So maybe I'm just saying the pub mosey was not led by Captain Von Trapp. Is that the difference? Who knows.

  • I really thought that for once my bullet points of randomness would be short ones. I'll work on that.

  • Towards the end of said mosey, I may have made out with a stranger. In public. Because I am klassy like that. And also, apparently, 25. Well done, self. If I tell you he was Australian, that makes it all OK, right? Everything sounds charming and intelligent with an Australian accent. That's a written rule, right? Surely the Australian accent forgives all sins.

  • I realize few things are less interesting than blogging about the weather, but if autumn were a human, I would be filing a Missing Person's Report. We went directly from 80-degree days to furnace-on, sub-40s. It has also snowed two out of the past three days. Snow. In the first half of October. Even for Minnesota, that is absurd, and I am not handling it well. Frankly, I am cranky and depressed and would very much like to hide inside in my yoga pants until the sun comes out again. I am being a petulant four-year-old about it, crying, "No fair" every time I go outside. Fall is my favorite, and early winter is ruining it. Boo.

  • Goodreads informed me via email today that I have been reading David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas for 83 days now. I should probably notify Goodreads (and my sidebar) that I have actually all but completely abandoned Cloud Atlas because it has all but completely bored me nonstop. Has anyone else actually read that one? Can someone tell me why it's gotten such favorable reviews? Because I have given it more than a fair chance, and it has not delivered. Time to listen to Nancy Pearl and move on.

  • Yet another long nearly forgotten member the class of '92 has decided to Facebook-friend me. This time it was my first serious crush of high school, the boy I am a little mortified to remember crying over while I listened to Phil Collins's Groovy Kind of Love on constant repeat. What I neglected to mention when I wrote about him in that "Five songs..." post was that I actually ran into him at a bar in our hometown about ten years ago, at which point I laughed about my ridiculous unrequited crush and he countered by asking me out. For real. As in, "You're not getting out of this bar without agreeing to a date with me." His confidence was almost admirable, given that he was, at the time, working at a factory and still living in his parents' house, but shockingly, his brown eyes didn't have the same hold on me anymore. If his Facebook profile is any indication, his brain wouldn't either. You know how sometimes people say things both happen and don't happen for a reason? How maybe sometimes the greatest gift is an unanswered prayer? Without going into too much detail (i.e., without ripping apart his Facebook page), let's just say I'm really glad that one didn't work out. I'm glad that one never became my first love, or my high school sweetheart, or my first husband. I'm glad of that. Really.

  • Remember how I said I was going to type short bullets? I was lying, obviously.

  • I noticed in the gym locker room today that my kickboxing instructor has the same weird toe thing that I have. Shockingly, my mental goalie blocked something for once, and I did not actually say, "Hey! We're mutant toe sisters!" I am seemingly the only "regular" in that class whose name she does not know. I've thought perhaps I should remedy that with a casual, "I'm Stefanie, by the way" someday. Having her know me as "Stefanie" would be fine with me. Having her know me as "That crazy girl who was looking at my toes" is not.

  • Speaking of classes and bearing toes in public, I am taking a trampoline class! I have been to only one at this point, but so far, it is exactly as fun as it sounds. That is, if jumping on a trampoline for an hour a week sounds fun to you (and WHY WOULDN'T IT???). This is actually probably the most interesting thing in this list so far (to me, anyway), and yet, I have no idea what you might want to know about it. Trampoline class questions, anyone? Let's have a Q&A.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Spoonman

This just in: Did you know there is some sort of very important football contest on your television right now? I may have almost forgotten, but luckily, 37 of my closest Facebook friends have reminded me. And by "closest," I mean geographically closest, because shockingly, the majority of friends NOT located in either Wisconsin or Minnesota haven't weighed in at all. Truth be told, I don't give half a damn about the outcome of this game. My Wisconsin roots tell me to be loyal to Green Bay, but my nearly twelve years in Minnesota make me wonder if I'm supposed to root for them now instead. (Wait a minute. TWELVE? Really?? How in the hell did THAT happen? Here's another "This just in" newsflash: I am OLD.) Neither my Wisconsin roots nor my Minnesota residency can override the fact that I have only a rudimentary understanding of the game, however, and therefore little interest in rooting for either side. I will say this, though: it looks awfully strange to see Brett Favre in purple. I know that at least, anyway.

And thus ends what is likely the first and just as likely the last time you will see me write about football on this blog. You're welcome.

You know who does care about football, though? My dad. I'm sure he is watching Monday Night Football intently this evening, and... Wait. Scratch that. No he's not. He is sitting on his couch with his feet up under the guise of watching the game, but is in fact dozing off with his head back and his mouth open, giant bowl of snacks to his right and giant insulated mug of soda to his left.

And when I say "giant," I do mean GIANT. When I was a kid, my standard-sized dad used to fill a standard-sized glass with Coke and bring it with him into the living room to watch TV. Somewhere around my high school years, he started using the jumbo plastic tumblers stashed in the back of my parents' cupboards, and when I came home for holidays in college, he had upgraded to a large insulated travel mug with a lid and handle. I thought that was perhaps the biggest soda vessel he could find, short of pouring an entire two-liter bottle into one of my mom's mixing bowls or an empty ice cream bucket, but lo, I was wrong. When I came home for Christmas last year, he had somehow, somewhere acquired an insulated travel mug that, were it alive, could have eaten three of his previous insulated travel mugs. I saw this travel mug on the bottom shelf of my parents' refrigerator, where they keep gallon containers of milk and orange juice, and it consumed the same amount of shelf real estate as those gallon containers. I don't know where one would even purchase a travel mug this large, but I suspect is in the same place where one would purchase giant sunglasses and other comically large accessories for parties and practical jokes. Do you remember the episode of Seinfeld where Kramer offered lodging to a group of tiny Japanese businessmen, and they each slept in one of his bureau drawers? If Kramer ran out of drawers but had a travel mug like my father's, I'm pretty sure one of those tiny business men could have slept quite comfortably nestled inside that mug. I think you get my point. The mug is LARGE.

Please don't ask me why my father routinely needs immediate access to a full gallon of soda at a time. I cannot explain that any more than I can explain why he rolls his window down when he pulls his car into the garage, or why he spreads butter on donuts and cinnamon rolls, or why he has upwards of a thousand or more VHS tapes he will never watch again, or why he buys off-brand, nearly expired beef jerky and bagged snacks at the Dollar Store when already he has three full cupboards of uneaten snacks at home. Or why, as I mentioned last week, he brings his own spoon to restaurants. That's right: his own spoon. A few of you asked about that.

I don't have any solid answers about the spoon. Again, I think size has something to do with it. At some point, my father decided that the teaspoons in my parents' silverware set weren't large enough to use for soup or ice cream, so he started using the tablespoon-sized spoons in the next compartment of the drawer instead. That's reasonable enough; even in restaurants, they give you a larger spoon for soup than they do to stir your coffee. But when he decided the tablespoon wasn't large enough either, he upgraded to the serving spoons instead. And obviously once you are used to raising your soup to your mouth nearly a ladle-full at a time, you can't be expected to resort to the tiny soup spoons designed for mere mortals when you dine out, so my dad started carrying one of my mom's metal serving spoons in his jacket pocket at all times. Then he fell in love with all-you-can-eat Chinese buffets, where he'd eat his hot & sour or wonton soup with one of those flat-bottomed, white ceramic spoons. And I guess he decided that a short-handled ceramic spoon would fit better in his pocket than a serving spoon, because now he carries one of those around instead. I'm pretty sure he found his at Goodwill or another thrift store he visits regularly and didn't just pocket one from the Chinese buffet, but obviously the man has some strange quirks; I can't guarantee petty theft isn't one of them.

So it turns out, I guess I can explain the spoon. But I still can't really explain it. I am an intensely logical person, so I want to understand why my aging parents do the very strange things they do, but I know that some things just aren't meant to be understood. I realize that no matter how baffled I am, I have to make peace with it, knowing that one of the great luxuries of growing old is to be able to indulge in your quirks and idiosyncrasies, to be able to thumb your nose at convention and do whatever you damn well please. Really, if we can't have that, there's almost no point in getting old. With that in mind, I could have a lot of fun trying to decide just what sort of crazy old lady I will one day be.

The game is over now, incidentally, and I guess I did have an opinion a little bit, because I was surprised to feel a teensy bit sad when the Packers didn't rally for a last-minute win in the end. So I guess that answers that question, in case there was any doubt. You can take the girl out of Wisconsin, but can't take the Wisconsin out of the girl. Or maybe the gene that favors the Packers is a dominant one. Let's hope some of those other genes aren't.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Take a sad song and make it better

The radio station I listen to has been celebrating The Beatles all month, in honor of that remastered collection thing that you probably heard about, unless you've been living under a rock or perhaps don't listen to a station that decided to talk about The Beatles all month. Tonight, the whole thing culminated in a countdown of the top 50 Beatles songs, as ranked by listeners. (Or rather, as ranked by the listeners who actually took the time to vote. I did not, but obviously that won't stop me from complaining about the results.) It was a reasonably solid list... not that I am any sort of expert on Beatles discography and therefore qualified to weigh in on this, and maybe the fact that I am not a Beatles expert accounts for my reaction when they played the number 1 song. Hey Jude? Really?? The song that starts out promising enough but then ends with approximately nine and a half gratingly repetitive minutes of "Na, na, na, na-na-na-na! Na-na-na-na! Hey-ay Jude. (JudyJudyJudyJudeJudyJude!)"? That song? Better than all other Beatles songs? OK then.

It occurs to me that my dad once voiced that exact same complaint about Hey Jude, so now of course I am terrified I may be turning into my father. Next thing you know, I'll be driving as if every other car on the road is invisible, bringing my own spoon to restaurants, and spouting off about how that Rush Limbaugh really knows what he's talking about. Yeesh. Perish the thought.

In truth, I don't really have a problem with Hey Jude, but best Beatles song of all? Hardly. Of course, now I have to tell you what IS the best Beatles song, which is bound to be a bad idea, because at least 96% of you will disagree with me, and at least half of that 96% will actually lose respect for me because of my disturbingly bad choice. Or so I've been led to believe the few times this topic has come up in the past. Some people are serious about their Beatles cred. It may be on par with the pop/soda divide.

So I won't tell you what the best Beatles song is. Instead, I will tell you what my favorite Beatles song is. And then I will explain why it is my favorite, in an effort to calm whichever among you will tell me it is not a valid choice.

My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday. Not because it is lovely and sad (though it is) and not because I have a scratchy old version of it on a tape that my little sister once dubbed for me--a version that ends with Paul saying, "Thank you, Ringo; that was wonderful," which for some reason makes me smile. My favorite Beatles song is Yesterday because every time I hear it, I remember winding my way up the narrow staircase that circles the interior of Brunelleschi's dome in Il Duomo, the Florence Cathedral. I remember climbing to the top of that dome during the spring break of my semester abroad, with two German boys walking the steps in front of me, singing Yesterday to amuse themselves. Wait. Were they German? They may not have been German. All I remember is that English was not their first language, and as such, one of them mangled the lyrics into something entirely unrecognizable as English words. I know I have mangled some Spanish over the years; I once tried to sing the Tortilla Song that I learned in high school Spanish to a bartender in Cozumel, and though I was confident I was remembering all the words just right, he had no idea whatsoever what I was singing about. Mangled English I'm less familiar with. It's hard to imagine mangled versions of a language you know well. So when I heard the German teenager singing Yesterday and injecting words that were not words, my ears perked up in confusion and surprise. So did the teenager's friend's, because he whirled around immediately to correct him. "Half the man! Half the man!" he sputtered, one hand pounding the other for emphasis. After that chiding, the poor kid looked like half the man he used to be. But still, he kept on singing.

So when I hear Yesterday, I think of Florence. I think of exploring new places and learning new things and realizing the simultaneous fear and exhilaration of being in another country and knowing there is no one on the planet who knew exactly where I was at any given moment. And I think of those two boys in Brunelleschi's dome and I wonder what lyrics they are mangling these days.

Incidentally, Yesterday came in at #11 on the radio listeners' poll, so obviously I am not the only one for whom that song holds a special place. At #12 was In My Life, which is my second-favorite Beatles song (by a very close margin). I don't have a story to go with that one. I've just always liked it is all.

I wasn't actually planning on talking about the Beatles tonight. I certainly wasn't planning on talking about them for seven paragraphs. No, I was going to talk about my second vacation in the course of a month. Remember? I was so overdue for a vacation that I decided to take two? So last weekend was my long weekend in L.A., where it was ridiculously hot and where I saw more of the highways than of anything else (which, as far as I can tell, is about as accurate a picture of L.A. as one can get), but where I had an excellent time with some excellent friends nonetheless. I went to visit Darren and Heather (who some of you may remember from Look at Me... and Nabbalicious fame). I went with my friend Melissa, who lives in Minneapolis but who I had to meet through another blog friend in California (everybody's favorite tech support and car repair guru, Steve, who is the reason Heather and Darren know Melissa as well). See what a small world it is? Look at the Internet, bringing people together even after their blogs are long defunct. It's almost like... REAL LIFE. Crazy thought.

Anyway, we had a hilarious time. Seriously, I do not remember the last time I laughed so much in a 72-hour span. We went to the observatory in Rebel without a Cause. I saw the beach club that served as 90210's Beverly Hill's Beach Club. (Or was it the beach club that everyone worked at on Saved by the Bell? Were they actually the same beach club? My memory of them is the same.) I had my first In-n-Out burger. I celebrated Guinness's 250th birthday. I lost a bar fight because I had only one arm. We had Darren's famous Cincinnati chili and Roscoe's famous chicken & waffles. We took pictures of creepy statues. And we made more terrible "That's what she said" jokes than Michael Scott has made on all five seasons of The Office thus far. Also, we learned all sorts of interesting things about each other. I learned that Melissa is an exhibitionist and that Heather hates Colonial Williamsburg. (She has a point: Why do Americans need their history safe and spoonfed, like Applebee's and network sitcoms?) In turn, they learned that I spent $18 on a bottle of deodorant, because the Internet told me to.

In short, I had so much fun that I don't even mind coming home with a cold that's left me feeling weak and stuffy for days. I probably picked it up on the plane, but since Heather was sick when we got there and Melissa was sick by the time we left, we've decided we must be passing it along to one another in batches, like Amish Friendship Bread. It is the Amish Friendship Cold. Who wants it next, folks? I've got plenty of germs to share, and plenty of Internet friends I'd love to see. Come on over!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Four things that have made me laugh in the past hour

  1. Kristabella's comment on -R-'s latest post, in which -R- mentioned preliminary plans for B's first birthday party. (Sidenote #1: How in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is B nearly a year old already?? Sidenote #2: I totally think a decision on the baked goods is a fully valid starting point for a party theme.) The comment in question? It went something like this:

    "You should do our family tradition that we have for 1 year birthdays. You set down a shot glass, a rosary, and a dollar in front of the kid. And then see which one he picks. Shot glass, he’s going to be a drinker. Rosary, he’s going to be a priest/nun. Dollar, he’s going to be rich. I’m pretty sure you can guess which one I picked."

    Those of you who have newborns (or are thinking of acquiring newborns), I do expect you to file this idea away (and provide video evidence once you've used it).

  2. The fact that I just saw my neighbor peeing from my kitchen window. You see, the window above my kitchen table provides a pretty direct view into the corner of my neighbors' bathroom, which usually doesn't present any problems, given that I rarely eat at my kitchen table (as you know, spinsters more often eat over their kitchen sink or, in my case, on their living room floor in front of the previous night's rerun of The Daily Show). Tonight, however, I happened to be sitting at my kitchen table, and I happened to glance up from my dinner at the exact same time my neighbor glanced over from his pee stance. (I saw him only from the chest up, but it's pretty clear what he was doing regardless.) We made brief, uncomfortable through-the-window eye contact, and I can't decide if I'm amused or skeeved out by it. No, scratch that. Obviously we must go with amused, if for no other reason than hello, I have meandered through my kitchen naked more times than I should admit, and I should just be glad the eye contact happened now and not on one of those occasions. Hee.

  3. Sizzle's friends and nephew. I'm telling you, cute kid stories almost make me consider possibly wanting one of those. Almost. Luckily, I have the Internet for a near-constant stream of cute kid stories, minus the perpetual drain on my bank account and the inability to sleep in for the next 937 weekends. I slept nine and a half hours last night, and it was fantastic. Garnering cute kid stories by proxy is fine with me, I say.

  4. Barry Manilow's Copa Cabana. A Facebook friend just posted a reasonable question as his status update. "Why do I have Manilow's Copa Cabana in my head?" he wondered. I know not, but it reminded me of the semester I spent in Great Britain, during which there was a Manilow-inspired musical playing in London, meaning that every time I rode the escalators in the Tube stations, I saw "Copacabana" posters all around me. Intermittently throughout the entire semester, I had that damn song in my head, and I don't even know the lyrics. So instead, I made up my own. "COPA! Copa Ca-BANA! I think I will HAVE a BANANA! And then I will go to MONTANA!" Try it. I'm telling you, it's fun! My Facebook friend agrees with me, as he followed up my comment with, "It's time to put ON my paJAMAS!" I could keep this up all night. Or, at least until I run out of "-ana" rhymes. Which might actually be now, come to think of it. All right then. Moving on.
Incidentally, I am supposed to be writing my next post for The Greenists (the blog formerly knowns as Allie's Answers) at the moment. But as usual, I am an award-worthy procrastinator and time-waster. I don't actually know anyone who's giving out awards for procrastination and time wasting, but I trust that if you do, you'll pass along my name, right? Meanwhile, I have to be content with this award, bestowed by the always brilliant Flurrious, who I'm pretty sure in real life is that famous Woman Who Can't Forget, because seriously, how many of you would have remembered that I am the keeper of the semicolon?



Not a lot of you, I would estimate. Flurrious, you crack me up. Which obviously means this post should be titled Five Things that Have Made Me Laugh in the Past Hour, but I have already turned off the numbered list formatting, and surely you can't expect me to go back and mess with Blogger's capricious formatting attributes at this point.

Tell me... what's amusing you today?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

September doesn't officially start until after Labor Day anyway, right?

Just maybe not a full week after Labor Day. Whoopsie. Anyway, hello there. Fancy meeting you here. Wait. Is anyone here? It's entirely possible that after such a long hiatus I am now typing into the text-based equivalent of an empty and echo-y cave. The bad news is, perhaps no one is left to hear me. On the plus side, the acoustics are great!

So then. August happened, and with it came... Man. What the hell did I do for all of August? I know that time speeds up as we get older, but still I would like a recount on this summer's length. Wasn't it June just two days ago? And now it's all leaves changing and spiced pumpkin lattes and skirt and boot season on its way. Madness.

Obviously I could rattle off for you everything I have done in the past month, in inevitably lazy bullet-point format. Frankly, however, August is a blur. I did some stuff. I hung out with some people. I probably had some wine. Most important, I took a vacation! A real one, where I left my house (and hell, the state) for a full week and everything! And it was excellent. I don't know why I don't do that more often. I'm allotted a reasonably adequate number of vacation days, and yet, it had been over three years since I took a solid week of those days at once. That's just wrong, people. WRONG. Must remedy that in all years to come.

You may recall that my plan was an old school family vacation, minus the family. Or rather, with urban family, which if you ask me is a much better way to travel. My pal Carrie and I road tripped it to South Dakota, where they have mountains and rock formations and rattlesnakes, making it feel like an entirely different world that's only one state away.

South Dakota was gorgeous, actually, and if you haven't been there yet, I highly recommend you go. Coming from the east, we made the requisite stops along I-90 at the Corn Palace (the world's largest bird feeder) and Wall Drug on the way out, but I suppose you could skip those trivialities (if you must) and proceed directly to the Badlands. You know, the Badlands! Home to an unspecified number of rattlesnakes that I was convinced would be our undoing. I mean, I suppose I didn't really think a rattlesnake would bite me and I would DIE, but I do admit I was convinced there would at least be a harrowing but ultimately harmless run-in of some sort, not unlike the late night tarantula scare in the motel room when the Brady Bunch went to Hawaii.

Seriously, people, after talking to a NOT HELPFUL friend of Carrie's who had me convinced we would camp in the Badlands only if we had a death wish (his exact words: "They don't call it the GOODlands, you know!"), I was so convinced there would be rattlesnakes at our campsite that I did what any normal person (read: Internet addict who believes Google is the new Magic 8 Ball) would do. I Googled "Badlands camping death." And you know what? No matching suggestions appeared in that little drop-down list as I typed! No valid results returned! Clearly that meant all would be fine, and luckily, Google was right! As far as I'm concerned, the Badlands are full of grasshoppers, prairie dogs, and more than the occasional buffalo, but rattlesnakes? The Badlands are fresh out! Whew.

I was going to do a little photo essay of various highlights of my trip, but you know what? That shit takes time, yo, and if I sidetrack myself with a project like that, I may not hit that "Publish Post" button this week either. So how about you just pop on over to this Flickr set if you feel so inclined, and just imagine my witty commentary interspersed between ten or fifteen hand-picked shots? I mean really; do I have to do everything? Oh. Right. This is my blog. So yes, I suppose I do.

Moving on. Vacation was definitely the highlight of my August, but there were other victories as well. Like my winning a new pair of jeans in Abbersnail's Gap-tastic Pants Party! Whee! If I didn't know any better, I'd think my friends got together and somehow rigged that contest to declare me a winner, just so they could finally see me in something other than the four identical pairs of Mossimo jeans from Target I've been wearing for three years now. I do need a jeans upgrade, I'm well aware, so I entered Abbersnail's contest with the plea, "Help me, Abby-wan. You're my only hope!" And help me she did. Hurrah.

So I have new pants. Or, I will have, once I get myself to a Gap to pick them out. On an entirely different note, what I do NOT have is home-grown tomatoes. Friends, if this one first attempt can be considered a fair measure for future success, I'm going to have to say that gardening is not for me. I am pretty sure tomato season is officially over, and from my stubborn and temperamental stoop-side tomato plants, I got a mere handful of not particularly delicious cherry tomatoes and exactly ZERO beefsteaks. I should have had at least a few, but the damn squirrels got to every one of them just before they were ripe enough to pick. Bastards. When they're not dying in my yard, they're stealing the literal fruits of my labors. (That is, if watering a plant every day can be considered "labor.") So I guess I'll have to continue buying tomatoes like a common 21st-century capitalist. I should have learned years ago that a successful pioneer woman I am not. I've never been a quick study, obviously.

I'm sure other things happened in August, too, but as I said, it's a blur. So that brings us to September, in which, thus far, I have survived a visit from my family, had an uneventful trip to the dentist, went to the quirkiest show I've seen in a long time, and made my first quiche. (Note: I still don't love eggs, but it was delicious.) Oh, and today I took an invigorating late summer bike ride that was altogether lovely and perfect aside from the droves of gnats on a mile or so patch of the river-side trail. I have already showered off the ones that awesomely plastered themselves inside my sports bra, but if I find any in my teeth when I floss tonight, I may be too horrified to bike near a river ever again.

And on that note, I shall leave you, because there's no better way to say "Thanks for reading after I abandoned you for a month" than to end with an image like that. You're welcome.

And what have all of you been up to not-so-recently?

Monday, August 10, 2009

As a matter of fact, I WOULD jump off a bridge, if Flurrious told me to

No need to send out a search party; I am alive and well. Or, alive, anyway, and mostly well, but feeling persistently disgruntled for possibly no good reason, that being the fact that I am TIRED and life is hard, yo, at least when suddenly forced to live it like a proper grown-up, with a full schedule and commensurate responsibilities and so forth. I told a good friend in an email recently that I was feeling unusually busy lately, and that I've missed my sitting-around time. I really am quite excellent at wasting large chunks of time, and for a while there, I was doing so only at work, not at home. It's good to have a proper work/life balance, after all. My preferred way to restore that balance would have been to free my social schedule and to-do list for a while and hole myself up with two seasons' worth of Mad Men DVDs. The people who direct-deposit my paycheck had other ideas, however, and instead of my scaling back on the off-hours activity, they have upped my 8-to-5 responsibilities significantly. Rather, make that 7-to-5, because it turns out being a responsible, professionally employed grown-up means not just doing valid and work-related activities all day long with no breaks for idle internetting, but also occasionally starting that day at the ungodly hour of 7:00 am. (The horror!) At 7:00 am, I would much prefer to be still soundly sleeping, but in the interest of remaining gainfully employed in a job I occasionally enjoy, I will consent to having pried myself out of bed and be toweling off from a shower right around that hour. Being expected at a meeting 30 minutes from my home at 7:00 am, however? Fully dressed and alert and in business-ready mode? I did not realize that was part of the deal. Oh my.

This is a long and roundabout, excuse-laden way of saying I am tempted to follow Flurrious's lead and give myself official permission to ignore my blog for the remainder of August. Writing here is supposed to be something I do because I enjoy it, not something I do because it is the longest-neglected thing at the bottom of my to-do list. A blog is just a blog, and neglecting it should not instill any particular guilt, but I was raised Catholic; unwarranted guilt is standard operating procedure for me.

Before I vanish again, I suppose could tell you what I've been up to since you heard from me last. Let's see. Well, I enjoyed another summer pilgrimage to the magical Pizza Farm, I made my first flan, I kissed a 27-year-old stranger (for no better reason than that he asked), I unintentionally alienated someone who is supposed to be one of my closest friends, and I came three steps closer to finally finishing a hand-made birthday gift that is now nearly a full year overdue. (Note: I am not necessarily proud of any of these accomplishments, but am significantly less proud of some than of others.) Also, I failed to solidify any actual plans for my upcoming vacation, but there is some benefit and excitement to the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mode of leisure travel, so I see no reason fret to any degree about that.

Of course, now that I have given myself permission to check out until Labor Day, I will probably find myself logging in with something amusing-only-to-me to say in less than two days' time. Perhaps I will and perhaps I won't. Midwestern Girl of Mystery; that's me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Foodstuffs

I know most of you don't know my good friend Carrie, but is anyone curious how she fared in the Julie & Julia cooking contest I mentioned? She won! Well, she won second place, which is still awesome, of course (she got to take home an excellent set of brand-new cookware), but honestly, I was so shocked she did not win the grand prize that I almost forgot to clap when they announced her name as the runner-up. No, seriously. Whoops. It's times like that when I fear I would be a terrible parent. Or an excellent one, I suppose, depending on your perspective.

I am fairly certain it was the first place winner's sparkling Rachel Ray smile and gaggle of small, seemingly adorable children and not her any-more-stellar-than-Carrie's chicken salad that secured her the grand prize. Which, incidentally, trust me: if the judges had been sitting directly in front of those children, they would not have been deemed so precious. Little treasures, I am sure, but they could not get their high-pitched squeals and their grabby little hands away from me quickly enough. But that is neither here nor there. I wish the winner and her enormous family all the best, and I shall move on before I say anything else that would put me squarely back in that "terrible parent" camp.

After the contest, I got to accompany Carrie to an advance screening of Julie & Julia, which you really must see as soon as you are able, because it is beautiful and charming and might make even the likes of ME think it's a good idea to try my hand at French cooking. (Definitely not aspics or some crazy pastry-wrapped deboned duck, but perhaps a beef stew or pear tart. Maybe.) Meryl Streep is radiant, of course, and Amy Adams is adorable as always, and I almost don't even want to paste in the link for this movie that I just went to find, because I cannot believe Rotten Tomatoes currently deems it worthy of only a 20% rating. 20% means it is "Rotten," and that I simply do not understand. Granted, only five reviews have been counted thus far, but did those five reviewers see the same movie I did?? I'm perplexed.

In other food news, I have a post up at Allie's Answers today. That shouldn't be food news, since my assigned beat on that site is environmentally friendly cleaning products, but rules were meant to be broken and beats were meant to be veered from. Or so I decided after I got a tour and a free meal at a nearby Chipotle recently and felt compelled to write about it. Yes, my guest post is about Chipotle. I should warn you that if you click over, you may be unable to avoid taking yourself to Chipotle for lunch. Don't blame me; blame the accompanying photo Courtney found. Seriously, I need to close that Firefox tab immediately because if I look at that delicious burrito one more time there is no way I'm getting to bed without a snack. Yum.

And finally, this has nothing to do with food, but I found out today that I will be working on a short-term project with a former co-worker for the next two weeks. This project involves pretending I know how to use a tool I last saw three years and probably two software versions ago, but I am a professional! I can DO this, right? Wish me luck. This also means that instead of pulling on a pair of jeans and driving across the suburbs to my very far away office tomorrow morning, I shall be putting on a dress and going downtown! Just like a real grown-up. Actually, this means that my commute will be an awesome 4.1 miles instead of the usual 25, but given that it's 4.1 miles of stop lights and downtown rush hour traffic, I'm unsure whether the time savings will be at all notable. I shall see.

And with that, I should get myself to bed, so that I can actually be a responsible and professional grown-up in the bright and early morning hours. Is it me, or does it feel like Monday was somehow simultaneously just a moment ago and also a hundred years ago right now? This week has been a blur, and I don't even have alcohol or an unusual flurry of activity to blame. Go figure. Happy weekend, all.