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Fish, Rice, and Little Gold Men

There are many things I could talk about this morning.

Like how Anne Hathaway’s first dress at the Oscars is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen.  Ever.


Or how while Scarlett Johansson’s dress was pretty, she looked like she hadn’t washed her hair in 6 days.

Although my male friends will attest to the fact that it’s Scarlett Johansson.  It doesn’t even matter if she has hair.  Because, you know – she has boobs.  To which I replied, Yes, but her Oscar dress didn’t even show off her boobs!  I mean, whenever I go 6 days without washing my hair, I have to practically show nip to make up for it.

That shut them up.  (Thanks Jeff and Mark.)

Or how I admittedly have a girl crush on Mila Kunis.

Mila, will you be my friend?

Or how James Franco looked like he did one too many bong hits between bits.

But the thing is, I’m not a fashionista.  I don’t really know what’s hot or not.

I’m the girl who owned about 6 shirts and 2 pairs of pants that I rotated wearing to work, hoping no one would notice but not really caring if they did.

Because while I enjoy looking nice, there are other things I’d rather spend my money on.

Like travel.

And sushi.

Speaking of sushi, my post from last week generated a couple of comments and questions, and I wanted to come clean about the source of my sushi knowledge.  It’s only fair.

In my humble little opinion, a website called Sushi Day is the primary source for anyone who wants to try making sushi at home.  The site’s owner, Allison, says that while she’s not a professional sushi chef, she “loves making sushi in her free time.”  Umm, yeah.  I’d say.

The girl is amazing.  Her photography is stunning.  And her sushi concoctions are out of this world.

South Wedge Roll from SushiDay.com.  Beautiful photo by Allison Day.

She covers everything – From how to make the sushi rice (it’s not just plain rice, people!), to how to make delicious eel sauce to drizzle over the top of your rolls (it’s simpler than you’d think!), to tons of inspiring recipes, like the South Wedge Roll and the Bling Bling Roll.

She even shows step-by-step photos on how to roll and cut your sushi.  In fact, the only thing she hasn’t been able to help me with is figuring out how to get the roll tight enough and my knife sharp enough to cut the rolls without the pieces falling apart.

But like anything else, that’s just gonna take practice.

What?  We might have to make and eat sushi every week for the next month until I get this right or we use up all of my expensive sushi-grade tuna?

Damn.  It’s a rough life.

*I did not follow proper blog etiquette and ask Allison permission to use her photo prior to posting this, since I didn’t know until this morning that this is what I wanted to write about. So Allison, when you see all the links to your site from my site and come over here to check it out, just let me know if you want me to take down the photo.  I’d be sad, but I’d do it.  Thanks!

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You See What I See, and I See Sushi

Last night we had sushi for dinner.

Normally, that would entail the hour-plus drive up to our favorite sushi restaurant in Durham.

Last night, however, it involved me making a trip to a grocery store and an Asian market, and then slaving over a hot stove, rice cooker, and cutting board to create the various appropriate sushi roll accoutrements, after which we could assemble them into lovely (mostly), bite-sized (mostly), tasty (always) morsels.

One of our rolls had spicy sauce…

Sashimi-grade tuna…

Imitation crab…

And cucumber.

Then we rolled it on up…

And cut it into nice, purty pieces.

Okay, so maybe they weren’t too purty.

(The messily-rolled roll pictured above contains avocado, smoked salmon, and… BACON!)

But when you drizzle them with homemade eel sauce (which, much to my disdain, contains no eel parts whatsoever)…

And lovingly sprinkle them with decadent black sesame seeds…

No one really seems to care.

Until it’s time to clean up.

(Photo taken with camera phone.)

Alaina’s Kitchen Before-and-Afters

Well, it’s finally here.  The post we’ve all been waiting for.

No, I’m not showing you a picture of my awesome abs.

It’s not because I’m shy.  And it’s definitely not because they’re not there.  Oh, they’re there.  It’s just that they’re hiding behind a small layer of leftover holiday pudge.  I’m sure they’ll come out when they’re ready.

This is a process, people.  It can’t be rushed.

So.  Do you remember my friend Alaina and how I started telling you about her kitchen remodel back in April of 2010?

Well.  I finally – finally have photos of the end result.

And let me just tell you – it was well worth the wait.

“A” and her husband Dirk gutted their dated, boxy kitchen (cabinets, floors – even some walls!) and completely transformed the main level of their house.

In case you missed them, here are the series of posts that take us through some of the more painful aspects of a full kitchen remodel:

Other Peoples’ Messes: How we Thoroughly Demolished Alaina’s Kitchen
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Kitchen Progress
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Kitchen – Wall Removal Before & Afters
Other Peoples’ Messes: Alaina’s Unique Flooring Solution
Other Peoples’ Messes: How Alaina Shopped for Granite Counter Tops

And if you want to see other kitchen related posts, you can read through the mess we created in our own much smaller and budget constrained kitchen renovation, including layout planning advice, how to choose the right appliances, and even a step-by-step guide to tiling your own backsplash, right here.

But now on to the good stuff.

Don’t mind the phrase, but I’m just going to start with the “money shot” because that’s what you all came to see.  Then we’ll follow up with some details.  Okay?  Okay.

Before:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

After:

Ummm…. WOW.  Even with the darker cabinetry and counter tops, the entire room is much brighter thanks to some strategic wall removal and an additional window behind the sink.

Back in the pre-kitchen remodel “dark days,” this lovely wall used to greet you when you looked into A’s living room from her front door:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

Unfortunately, this is a load-bearing wall.  So it couldn’t come down completely.  But, with the help of a contractor, they were able to remove a portion of the wall to create a breakfast bar and pass-through, and, most important, stunning views of the lake right when you walk in through the front door.

Here it is mid-reno:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

That small change really opened up the main floor.  Alaina and Justin are standing in what used to be their tiny, closed-in kitchen.

Here’s how it looks today:

*The brackets under the bar will soon be fixed by the granite installers and that wall will get re-painted.

They also removed the wall that divided the breakfast area from the main part of the kitchen, creating an eat-in kitchen (they already have a separate dining room).

Here it was before:

Alainas Kitchen Remodel

And here it is right after they removed the wall surrounding that open doorway:


Alainas Kitchen Remodel

And here it is today!

Beautiful, no?  And that’s not all.  We still have a special treat.  You might be noticing that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of space in the way of wall cabinet storage and food storage (that “room” to the right of the refrigerator is actually a utility room – not a pantry).

But no worries – See that doorway to the right of the microwave cabinet?  What used to be a narrow hallway that held their washer and dryer and leads to their office has now been transformed into a stunning “butler’s pantry”:

On the wall to the right, Alaina created a “message center” with a calendar, dry-erase board, and place to display photographs:

On the other side are two large pantries for food and small appliance storage, as well as a sink and a space for a future wine cooler:

I have to say, I’m pretty much in love with this new space.

From the stunning granite, to the custom cabinets – it looks as though this kitchen has always been there.  And that old monstrosity with the cheap white cabinets, worn linoleum flooring, and psychedelic backsplash tiles is but a bad dream.

Here are a few of the deets:

  • Cabinets:Travis Alfrey
  • Cabinet Hardware: Lowes
  • Granite Name: Atlantis
  • Granite Fabricator: World Granite and Stone Art
  • Granite Supplier: Cosmos
  • Fridge and Dishwasher: LG
  • Oven and Microwave: GE
  • Porcelain backsplash tiles: Best Tile
  • Pendant Light: Light Bulb City
  • Faucet: Lowes (They bought theirs on sale)
  • Range Hood: Overstock.com
  • Flooring: DuraCeramic, by Congoleum in “Sunny Clay”

So what do you think??

Where I Follow, You’ll Go

Every so often in life you find a person.

This person isn’t necessarily your soul mate.  Not necessarily your lover.  This person is… something else.

Someone special.

Someone you can’t. get. rid. of.

That’s right – I’m talking about friends by default.  Or maybe it just starts out that way.  Initially, you might be drawn together due to circumstances beyond your control.  But it doesn’t take long for the dynamic to change.  You no longer simply acknowledge the other’s presence in your life – you begin to like and, Fates willing, expect it.

This isn’t just a friend or a short-lived acquaintance.  You can go for months, sometimes even years, without speaking – not due to any particular reason or rift, but simply for the perfectly understandable fact that life occasionally gets in the way – and then carry on right where you left off when one of you finally makes the call.

It’s like no time passed at all.

Is there a word for these people?

I’m fortunate because my life is filled with people like this.

People like Alaina.  (Remember her kitchen? I finally have the “after” pictures.  They’re burning a hole in my email right now.)

Alaina and I came together out of necessity.  She needed a roommate and I needed a place to live.  But we stayed together, long after I moved out, through mutual co-dependency.

The emotional kind.

We lived together at college in Ohio.  Her parents “adopted” me, taking me in for various holidays and family weekends since I was so far from home.  I moved back to Nebraska during my sophomore year to help with some family things and take a 5,500 mile road trip.  You know, normal stuff.  Alaina finished school in Ohio.  I moved to Georgia, finished my degree, and got married.  She moved an hour away to Florida and earned her Master’s.  Then Alaina moved to North Carolina and got married.  I moved an hour away to North Carolina and bought a house.  She stayed in North Carolina and bought a house and got pregnant.  I stayed in North Carolina and…. well sorry Mom, I’m not sure I want to follow her there.

But my point is, Alaina and I take turns following each other through life’s milestones.  We are meant to be.  We don’t have to try.  Our relationship just is.

And I have to say, when I think about it, that’s one of the best feelings in the world.

Congratulations, Alaina and Dirk!  Our lives are about to change again, and I’m so happy I get to be a part of it.

*I really, really, really wanted to use the baby bump picture, but I’m fairly certain Alaina would cut me off from things like finished kitchen photos, basil mayo with sweet potato fries, “mom” and “dad” and their Tennessee Snot wine, and, most important, my soon-to-be niece or nephew.  And who can live without Tennessee Snot?

**Post title taken from Collide, by Howie Day.

Up with Caffeine and Down with a Shot

I’m going to be honest.  I’ve been having a hard time lately.  You know, in case you didn’t figure that out here, here and especially here.

Sometimes I’ll be working at the bar and some customer will feel inclined to comment on my boobs or my tantrum-loving boss will throw a public conniption my way because, you know, it’s okay to do these things in a bar.  And then I’ll think to myself, for the umpteenth time, why the hell did I quit my awesome-paying, cozy little cubicle job for this?

You know, the boob thing doesn’t even bother me so much.  I expect that kind of behavior from drunk people and, if I’m going to be honest, I have nice boobs.  And taking it in stride leads to much better tips.  But the conniption thing?  Why someone this prone to high blood pressure and stress-induced hissy fits and all-around bouts of purely childish behavior would ever, ever own a bar is beyond my comprehension.

Photo source

When my boss is in the middle of a tantrum, I stand there and stare with disbelief for a few minutes because I honestly thought, at age 28, that my days of standing in front of a “grown-up” and enduring a verbally abusive rage of hysterics were over way back in my teenage years when I actually deserved it.

Then, when he finally stops to take a breath, I calmly ask, Are you finished?

Which is a little amusing to me because that ticks him off even more, and he gets revved up again with consternation and petulance, and his energy builds like the Little Engine that Could, painfully trucking his way up the hill, face turning red from the exertion of it all, only to putter to a stop at the top in an extremely disappointing and anticlimactic excretion of watered-down anger and spent steam.

It’s like emotional erectile dysfunction, and it’s exhausting just watching him.

Photo source

Now here’s something you should know about me.  I can get mad in certain trigger situations very, very easily.  The trade-off is that my anger is ridiculously short-lived.  So if you ever tick me off, don’t worry about it because we’ll likely be bonding over a couple of beers like the BFFs we were always meant to be in a matter of hours.

Which is how I’ve managed to continue working at this bar.  I get mad at my boss for his asinine behavior, but then I get over it.  That’s the nature of the food/beverage service industry, after all.

But anyway.  My hard time.

When I ask myself why I gave up my career to revert back to my college and pre-college days of professional food distribution, I have to force myself remember how I felt when I wrote this post, and specifically, this paragraph:

First, let me just say that the hardest thing about going to work when you know you want to quit, is going to work when you already have quit.  The gray cubicle walls seem a little… grayer… and the harsh neon lighting seems a little… neonier.  It’s like the last couple weeks of a prison sentence.  Except with coffee breaks and I don’t have to worry about my co-workers shanking me on my way to the bathroom.  Usually.

That place is not where I’m supposed to be.  This much I know.

But neither is the bar.  Not by a long shot.

So.  Where does that leave me?

I remember my 2-month adventure in Costa Rica and how it’s when I’m traveling that I feel the most alive.  I remember the sinking feeling I had when a dear friend invited me to India with her next month and I felt like I had to turn her down because travel costs money, and I don’t feel justified in spending money I’m not actually earning.  I want to earn money from traveling and writing, but can’t travel without money and can’t write without travel.

Huh?

Exactly.

That’s not 100% true.  I can write without travel, although the ability to say “yes” to these lofty excursions when the opportunities arise is my ultimate goal.  (And another opportunity has arisen.  It may not be as exciting as a trip to India, but it does involve a road trip and one of my favorite bands ever, but more on that as plans – or my typical lack-thereof – evolve.)

In the meantime, I’m going to jump into this writing thing with renewed zest.  I know it seems like I keep saying that on this blog, but that’s because I get inspired to write a post every time I’m on the up-slope of this emotional roller coaster.

I don’t write as much when I’m down, because… well… it’s dark down there and it’s hard to see the pages.

But then, then I get an encouraging comment on this blog or an email from a reader, and it’s like I can breathe again.  It makes me feel like I’m on the right track.  So thank you for that.

Sincerely.

You’re the best uppers ever because you’re free and just as addictive.

I’ll leave you with a question and some lines from Talk on Indolence by the Avett Brothers (hint, hint) because, as usual, they can express how I’m feeling much better than I ever could.

Question:  Have you ever had an extremely shitty boss, and if so, how did you deal?  I could really use some advice on this one.

Avetts:

Well I’ve been lockin’ myself up in my house for sometime now
Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’
And searching for reasons and missing the seasons.
The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow.
The record will stop the record will go.
Latches latched the windows down,
The dog coming in the dog going out.
Up with caffeine and down with a shot.
Constantly worried about what I’ve got.
Distracting my work but I can’t make a stop
And my confidence on and my confidence off.
And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top
And I think to myself that I do this a lot.
World outside just goes it goes it goes it goes it goes it goes…
And I witness it all from the blinds of my window.

Taco Rice Bowls of Deliciousness

Okay. I was totally going to share this recipe with you a couple of days ago, but I got side-tracked by a music man in a coffee shop.

Then I was going to share it yesterday, but I painted the inside of a closet instead.

Huh?

Let me explain.

I opened the hallway closet to put something away, and this is what I saw:

In fact, that is what I’ve seen every time I’ve opened the closet since we bought the house in 2007.  It’s where we put things when we want to forget they ever existed.  I realize the trash can would make much more sense, but logic isn’t always my strong suit.

So, I did what any normal, energy-riddled woman sitting at home on a Tuesday morning would do.  I dumped everything out of it, ripped out the wire shelving, puttied the holes, and painted the dirty, scratched-up drywall with leftover paint from the office.

I may or may not have broken all of the screw anchors when I pulled them from the wall, but no worries.  They’re easily replaceable.  Not that I’m going to replace that crappy wire shelf, which means I need to make a run to Home Depot.  Hopefully I’ll have a (highly anticipated, I’m sure) closet “after” photo for you by next week.

So why am I here again?  Oh, yes.  I’m sharing a recipe.

I’m really kind of excited about this one, and here’s why:  It’s not fancy, refined, or sophisticated.  Not in the slightest.  But remember how I told you I like to experiment with different world flavors when I cook?  Well this dish is actually a super simple mix of Hispanic, Asian, and Indian flavors.  Sound crazy?  I thought so, too.  I thought this would be a complete mess when it was done.

But it wasn’t.  It was so, so delicious.  It’s good ol’ comfort food at its finest, and it’s easily adjustable to fit the tastes of you or the people you’re trying to feed.  These things have mass appeal, so you’ll definitely want to keep this recipe.

(I’m telling you – if you can’t please ‘em with this, it might just make more sense to keep the recipe and find new people to cook for.)

The original recipe is called Okinawan Takoraisu (from the Japanese island of Okinawa), but I just like to call them Taco Rice Bowls of Deliciousness.

To make them, you will need:

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 pound ground beef (Next time I make these – and there will be a next time – I might try substituting ground turkey to make them a bit healthier.)
  • 3 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder (If you’re super sensitive to spicy stuff, you could cut this back a little.  I thought a tablespoon was about perfect! *Correction: Turns out I had the extra spicy “Mexican style” chili powder – Made it again with a Tablespoon of the plain stuff and it’s not spicy at all.)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups steamed Japanese rice (sometimes labeled “sushi rice”)
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Tomatoes (optional)
  • Queso Blanco or shredded Mozzarella cheese (optional)
  • Salsa and/or hot sauce (optional)
  • Sour cream (optional)

I realize this looks like a lot of ingredients, but keep in mind that the last 5 are toppings and are entirely optional, according to your tastes.

1.  Get your rice cooking according to the package directions.  Like I’ve said before, I use my rice cooker to justify its existence.

2.  Heat the vegetable oil in a sauté pan over medium heat.  Add the 3 cloves of minced garlic and the chopped onion and sauté for a few minutes until the onion starts to get soft.  See?  Simple stuff.

3.  Add the pound of ground beef (or turkey) and break it up and cook it through.  You want to make sure it’s cooked because making people sick is never a good thing – it would make it nearly impossible to blame them for being too picky if they don’t like the food.

4.  Once the meat is cooked, drain some of the grease if necessary, then add the 3 Tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 Tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon of pepper.  Let the flavors mingle and simmer and the liquids reduce for a few minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.  If you managed to get a hold of some queso blanco (Mexican white cheese – they sell it at my crappy little grocery store), crumble it up.  Otherwise, shred your Mozzarella (or whatever cheese you decided to use… I hope you’re using cheese), tear up your lettuce, dice your tomatoes, etc.

Then simply assemble in individual bowls!  Here’s how I did mine:  Rice, ground beef mixture, Cantador hot sauce from Chile Town (a nice, mild, garlicy sauce), queso blanco, lettuce, roma tomatoes, sour cream.

My mouth is seriously watering right now.  I can’t explain to you why this is so good.  You just have to try it.

Productivity is a State of Mind

Okay, so this is what’s happening:

First, I just did something almost unheard of in the universe that is my bodily system.  I didn’t let any caffeine enter into it until noon.  The delay wasn’t a result of some inspired attempt to better myself by cutting back on my caffeine intake.  Oh, no.  I did not intend to deprive myself the entire morning.

Photo source

But after I wrote my notice of fame and let Jillian torture my aching (but growing) muscles, I still had to shower and make myself presentable (one of the negative, time-sucking ramifications of deciding to venture out into the world instead of staying at home with a couple of cuddly mutts – mutts who, after their mischievous and completely accidental consumption of chicken grease from the trap in the grill last night, decided to vomit all over the floor before I left), so I didn’t actually leave my dwelling until half past eleven.

Second, I finally made my way to the trendy coffee place (no Starbucks or chain bookstore for me today, thankyouverymuch – I like to support the local businesses) and my hands are shaking, either because I waited so long to have coffee or the shock of the super syrupy sweet stuff – as opposed to the plain ol’ black stuff I brew at home – was just too much for my unstable system and now I’m having difficulty just writing this post.

I know that can’t be good, but let’s just worry about one thing at a time.

Photo source

The difficulty I’m having might also be due to the fact that I’m not used to writing with all this… stimulation around.  There are colors and lights and music and other people I keep finding that my fingers have stopped typing in order for my ears to better pick up on their conversations or for my mind to wonder what other people are writing.

I’ve never been good at multi-tasking.

Like, is the girl next to me writing a future best-selling novel?  An obscure but insightful blog post?  An article for a fashion magazine about the merits of owning a pair of red pumps?  A thought-provoking Facebook status?

Whatever it is, I’m sure it’s good.

So maybe this isn’t the best environment for me to work.  It’s the music that makes it the most difficult.  I don’t listen to music while I write at home, because, well… all I end up doing is listening to the music.

Speaking of music, you’ll never guess who just walked in.  (Seriously, you’ll never guess because I’ve never told you about him.)  His name is Miraj, and I met him at the wine bar, where he brilliantly performs various acoustics for one of the regular singers.  He looked shocked to see me outside of the wine bar (picture your reaction the first time you saw a teacher at the grocery store or anywhere outside the classroom – it’s freaky), and apparently this coffee bar is his second home.  He hosts various open mic nights here on a regular basis, and after we spent the last half hour chatting, I’m excited because I’ve officially found my in for half-price fancy coffee in Fayetteville.

And It only took me 4 years.

So.  Even though I have now been here for over an hour and what you see in this post is all I have managed to write in said hour, I consider this time well spent.

I actually intended to post a recipe this afternoon – a recipe I’m really excited to share – but I’m afraid it will now have to wait until tomorrow because I’ve rambled for 615 words about coffee and why are you still even reading this?

Decide What to Be and Go Be It

Oh, my.  I don’t know what to say.  It looks as though the world is weary of romance – or at least in need of romantic pressure relief – because a tiny, unromantic piece of my little world is being shared today, on Valentine’s Day, on one of my favorite blogs:

Musings on Life and Love

It’s a fine-tuned version of my Valentine’s Strip Tease post from last Friday.  So, if you want to see what my writing looks like when it’s all professional and polished and edited multiple times and not just pieced together over a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats and coffee-induced caffeine buzz, head on over to Musings on Life and Love and check it out!

Speaking of coffee, I think I’m going to attempt writing this afternoon’s post at a coffee bar after my workout this morning.  I had a very good night at the wine bar on Saturday, and that, combined with my newfound fame over on Musings and the $7.88 my writing earned last year, I think I deserve to sit in a trendy coffee bar typing away on my HP Mini while a goth barista brings me steaming venti mugs of non-fat, caramel-choco-mocha lattes because if I’m going to be a writer, I at least have to try to look the part.

Right?

Oh, and as a side-note, THE AVETT BROTHERS performed at the Grammys last night!

I love them so much that I died.

Then I came back to life so I wouldn’t miss the song.

And then I died again.

P.S.  This post is for Stacy, because she brought the Avetts and good coffee into my life.  She’s not goth, but she’s weird in the most perfect way and sometimes, when I start to confuse myself in line at a coffee place, I just take a deep breath, think WWSD, and sing.

P.P.S. If you haven’t read Stacy’s guest post on this blog, you probably should.

 

 

 

My Name is Might Have Been

I kind of had a bummer of a morning.

It’s one of those things that I actually felt coming.  I can’t describe it.  A couple of months ago, I had high, high hopes for this thing happening, but after not hearing anything, and then not hearing anything, and then, finally, not hearing anything, my thoughts turned negative.

So now I can’t decide if my thoughts turned negative because I somehow knew it wasn’t going to happen, or if it didn’t happen because my thoughts turned negative.

Either way, the envelope was there, sitting on my kitchen counter this morning.  (How it got to the counter and managed to sit all night without me knowing about it, I have yet to figure out.)  But the envelope only confirmed my suspicions.  Had things gone the way I wanted them to go, I would have gotten a phone call – not a nondescript, cold little envelope, the weight of which made it feel like I was holding a twenty pound dumbbell.

On my chest.

I opened it anyway, already knowing what it said – that, for some reason or another, I would not be donating bone marrow to my potential match.  I would not be saving a life.

It turns out the reason is not because, after extensive blood testing, they determined I’m not a great match.  It’s because the patient is no longer a candidate for receiving bone marrow.  Which, I have to say, is news that likely bodes far worse for the patient than it does for me.

But I still feel bummed.

I wanted to help.

I wanted to do something worthwhile.

I wanted to do something that meant something to someone.

But I’m starting to realize… It’s not really about what I want, is it?

I’m going to stay on the Department of Defense Bone Marrow Donor list, for which I signed up when I worked for the Army a couple of years ago and promptly forgot about until they called me just before Christmas.  If you’re not affiliated with the Department of Defense but still want to consider putting yourself on the National Marrow Donor list (at no commitment to you – there will always be a choice about whether or not you want to donate, right up until the end), check out their website, www.marrow.org.

Let me know if you have any questions.

*Title taken from lyrics to Celebrity Skin, by Hole.

Obligatory Valentine’s Day Post

So.  You may have noticed I that I don’t write many posts about the holidays.  Aside from noting my fear of being trampled to death – to death – in a shopping frenzy at Wal-Mart and teaching you how find joy in the holidays and soothe a sinking Christmas spirit with plenty of Christmas spirits, I tend to avoid the subject because it’s just so done.  We’re all well aware of the existence of various major holidays and their personal meaning to us.  I don’t really expect you to care about their personal meaning to me.

Besides, if I were to recap some of the holidays so far this year, there’s nothing I could really say that you wouldn’t already know and doesn’t already apply to at least 75% of you:

1 January: New Year’s Day – Sported a massive hangover while setting unrealistic expectations on myself for the new year, spawned mainly by post-Christmas seasonal depression and the aforementioned hangover.

17 January: Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Patted myself on the back for not being racist.

2 February: Groundhog Day – Early spring!  I’ve never wanted to kiss a rodent so much in my life.

3 February: Chinese New Year – Bring on the Year of the Rabbit, or the year of “getting things done,” as a friend informed me.  Last year kicked my ass.

So what’s next?

Ohhh, yes.  That notorious February holiday that seems to get everyones’ panties in a twist and no one across the internet can seem to stop writing or thinking or talking about.  And I’m not referring to Presidents’ Day.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day.  Of course I always said that back in the days when I was perpetually single.  But I was surprised to realize my take on the whole thing didn’t really change after finding myself in a serious relationship, then engaged, then married.

The cheesy cards, the naked Cupid butts, the hearts – oh god, the hearts.  I abhor hearts.  Anyone ever notice that the shape kind of looks like a naked Cupid butt?  I think they planned it that way.

Yes, that was disturbing.  Sorry.

Even when I was a little girl, I was never really into hearts – didn’t draw them to dot my i’s and I certainly didn’t buy any heart-shaped jewelry.  A “boyfriend” bought me a heart-shaped necklace once.  I wore it (I mean, c’mon – the gesture was sweet and what kind of girl doesn’t like hearts?), but I didn’t enjoy it.

The only kind of hearts I really like are the ones that come in accordion-crinkled paper cups and I can eat them because they are made out of chocolate.

But  my (very unoriginal) point is, not only is V-Day far too commercial – it’s far too forced.  It squeezes everyone into a one-size-fits-all heart-shaped box of torment and I’ll be damned if Kurt Cobain didn’t know exactly what he was talking about when he wrote that song.

So one year, after Justin and I got engaged, I suggested we get each other goofy gifts for V-Day.  Since we had an upcoming wedding and honeymoon, there would soon be more than enough romance to keep us swimming in gag-worthy giggles and meaningful looks and candlelit dinners for the remainder of the year.

In a stroke of what I deemed to be sheer genius (and wasn’t being worn by every other guy you passed on the street 5 years ago), I bought him this shirt:

It met all of my gift requirements:  It was practical (who couldn’t use another t-shirt?), it was funny (especially since it was given to him by his soon-to-be wife), and it was true. He wore that thing everywhere.  All in all, a successful V-Day gag gift.

But Justin?  Oh, Justin.  He pretty much broke every rule in the male gift-giving rule book – Rules that, unfortunately for men, still apply to gag gifts.  What?  You’re not aware of the male gift-giving rules?

Allow me to enlighten you:

1.  Don’t give her something that could, in any way, imply that she’s fat.

2.  Don’t get her something that will make her feel like the least sexy woman alive.

3.  Don’t give her something that makes her think that you think she’s fat.

4.  Don’t give her something that will limit her ability to turn her head without experiencing intense pain for at least three days.

5.  Don’t give her something under the guise that it’s for her but it’s really for you.

6.  Don’t give her something shaped like a heart.  (Oh wait, that’s just for me.)

7.  Most important, don’t flippin’ call her fat!

So this is what Justin bought for himself me.

Are you ready for it?

It’s painful.

Here we go…

Yep.  Carmen Electra’s Aerobic Striptease.

The complete box set.

I think I just heard all of my male readers simultaneously high-five each other across the internet.

You’re thinking it’s not that bad, right?  It’s kinda funny… and a lot of women were getting into that kind of workout at the time.

But do you remember the rules?  Let’s recap.

1.  By buying me a workout video – one I definitely didn’t have on my Amazon wish list – he broke the cardinal rule by implying I needed to lose weight.  I know that’s not what he meant by it.  But as a female, I had to go there.

2.  Okay, so it’s a workout video.  Fine.  I know I’m never going to look like the women in workout videos.  But I’m telling you right now – there is nothing on this planet that will make you feel less sexy than staring at Carmen Electra for an hour while you’re huffing and puffing and turning red and short of breath and get your dirty minds out of the gutter – I was talking about working out!

Except this.  This might make you feel less sexy.

Image source

3.  See #1.

4.  I tried the first video.  I did.  And you know how strippers kind of throw their heads around a lot so their hair flies about all sexy-like?  (Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.)  Well, yeah.  I don’t really want to talk about it.  Let’s just say I probably should’ve invested in a neck brace.

5.  Please.  Like this gift was for me.

6.  Speaking of heart-shaped butts, if anyone has one, it’s Carmen.

7.  And we’re back to #1.

So all-in-all?  My V-Day gag gift experiment was a bust.*

This year I think we’ll just stick to pizza and a movie.

*Note:  I really did laugh.  I mean, c’mon – giving your girlfriend strip aerobics DVDs takes balls.  He’s just lucky I let him keep his.