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.


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?