Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Lions and tigers and weedwackers, oh my!

A few weeks before Troy and Jerry's morning show launched, they needed to come up with a print advertising concept for the local newspaper -- something that would suit a rock station.

They settled on a simple slogan, "Wake up with Troy and Jerry," and decided to depict it. In our bedroom. In my bed. With liquor bottles, condoms, tissues, party hats, my underwear, a wad of cash, a knocked-over lamp and a weedwacker.

(I could say something funny or sarcastic here, but I honestly think the list of props says it all.)

So I asked one of the photographers at my paper and a good friend, Jason, to take the pictures. When I relayed the idea, I think he was curious enough just to see it unfold, and agreed through bouts of laughter.

It was easily one of the strangest situations I've ever been in. Calling it a circus wouldn't quite do it justice. There were four men, me and a dog milling around the bedroom filled with chaos. I don't think I would've looked twice if a ringleader herded in an elephant.

Jason took about 200 shots, but there were a few that really stood out. The radio station's designer created three ads with different images to display in the paper's sports section.

Here are a few of my favorites:

JS1_5106
Debut of the weedwacker.

JS1_5155
In this shot, Tony is litterally "waking up" with Troy and Jerry.
The ad has his face cut out with "Your Face Here."

JS1_5184
I absolutely love this one.

JS1_5213
Tony's feet.

JS1_5161_2
Me holding the flash and Toby so he won't jump on the bed.


P1012481
I took this one. Here's Jason setting up his first few shots.


P1012486
Jason scrolling through the pictures for the guys.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Butt-crack sandwiches

The day after my surgery in October, I surprisingly had somewhat of an appetite by dinner time. I had gone two days without solid food and a big slice of lasagna sounded amazing.

The strange part is, I'm not even a huge fan of lasagna. I like my mom's veggie-loaded version. And the first newspaper I worked at had a holiday party at a country club with a fantastic shrimp-and-white sauce lasagna that almost made me want to go through the buffet twice just to jam a hunk into my purse for later. Other than that? Not so much.

So when I requested lasagna, Jerry and my mom, who was visiting for a few days, looked a little surprised, but damned if they weren't going to track it down for me.

Fortunately, Jerry remembered the little Italian place in town. We didn't have a menu, so he crossed his fingers and called. When they confirmed that, yes, they do offer that beloved layered pasta dish, he placed a to-go order for all three of us and left to pick it up 15 minutes later.

He came back with two big bags and an even bigger story.

"WE'RE NEVER GOING THERE AGAIN!" he said, placing the food on the counter.

I had just mustered the energy to come downstairs for the first time all day and the excitement seemed thrilling compared to my magazines and crackers in the bedroom.

"The owner's a total cocksucker ... and I told him that," Jerry continued. "This is probably the only time we'll get spit-free food from there, so enjoy it."

After I instructed him to take some cleansing breaths, the story unfolded. Apparently, when Jerry got to the restaurant and said he had placed an order, the owner asked for his name. Remembering that the girl on the phone hadn't asked for his name, Jerry paused.

"What? You don't remember your own name?" the owner asked snidely.

I guess it took every ounce of willpower for Jerry to explain the situation.

Then the owner snapped something about it being Jerry's fault. So when Jer had the food in hand, he looked right at the guy and said, "FUCK YOU, COCKSUCKER."

I'm not sure if it was the stress of sitting with his drugged-up wife in the hospital the day before, his trying to come to terms with the entire reason behind the surgery, or maybe the guy really was a grade-A cocksucker. Either way, I didn't blame him.

And thankfully, the lasagna was good, but not so good that I'd risk eating it spit-filled. That shrimp lasagna? Hells yes. Even loaded with spit, I would chomp down every forkful with determination.

But after a few months of avoiding the restaurant, it started to sound pretty good. And this weekend, when we both felt like grabbing a little lunch before heading off to work our late shifts, the little Italian place called to me.

Surprisingly, Jerry agreed. Not only to order take-out (where the owner wouldn't associate Jerry with our food before it was packaged and bagged), but to actually go in and eat (where the owner would have ample time to desecrate our order).

We walked the few blocks to the restaurant and the smell outside prevented us from having second thoughts. As we passed the front counter on our way to choose a seat in the dining area, the owner stared us down.

Ironically, he looks a little like the guy who played the Soup Nazi on "Seinfeld," so I had no qualms saying, "If he gets ornery this time, it's my turn to shout obscenities at him."

And, thus, our new favorite game was born: Shouting Obscenities at the Mean Restaurant Guy.

Fortunately, his spit is hardly detectable.

Monday, February 26, 2007

You say 'potato,' Jer says 'plant ovary'

Thanks to a strict set of guidelines piled onto radio personalities by the Federal Communications Commission, Jerry has formed an interesting habit of of how he describes things.

For example, you can't say "penetration" on the air when referring to, well, I think all of you sick bastards immediately went there, so I'll skip the tutorial. Anyway, you can't say that word, so instead, Jerry and other mic wielders across the country are forced to find other, more creative ways to describe things.

And it's carried over into his everyday life.

Vagina? Try hatchet wound.

Having sex? Nope. Snake in the hole.

Or my new personal favorite for masturbation: Playing Dance Dance Revolution. As in, if someone knocks at your door, you scream, "Uh, hold on a minute, I'm playing Dance Dance Revolution!" In Jerry's words, "It immediately explains why you might be a little sweaty and breathing heavily."

His colorful commentary extends way beyond what is deemed vulgar by our government. He gets creative with describing just about anything.

A stupid store salesman? Forget idiot, dumb ass and stupid. Try hogey head. As in, a thick sandwich made mostly of dense bread.

There are so many other examples that it would be impossible to list them all here. Not to mention how time-consuming it would be. The task would take me well into my 60s.

So the other day, when Jerry was standing in the kitchen blowing his nose with all his might into a tissue and moments later exclaimed, "Oh thank GOD! The pineapple finally came out!" I honestly thought nothing of it. I immediately assumed that "pineapple" was his descriptive word for a large snot rocket.

"Ew. I think that falls under the Things We Don't Need to Share With Each other category, Jer."

But he wasn't kidding.

"No, I'm serious. Remember how I choked on that pineapple yesterday afternoon and it got lodged in my nose?"

My jaw dropped open.

"Well, it finally came out!"

I guess sometimes life is colorful enough on it's own not to warrant any vocabulary embellishments whatsoever.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Brought to you by the letters http://

One of the reasons I was so psyched about this new site was because anyone and everyone could comment if they so desired without signing up and creating a username and password.

But -- and this is a big but (bigger than Anna Nicole's butt circa her reality show) -- I miss knowing who the comments are coming from. Don't get me wrong, I completely appreciate the need for an "anonymous" response once in awhile. Sometimes I wish more things in life could be done anonymously. Like farting.

Others of you take the time to type in your whole blog address in the "Name" column or even within the comment box itself, and to those people I say: "Hello (insert your name here)!" Because I can.

However, it wasn't always creating a link to your sites and I couldn't figure out why. So I played with it and figured it out.

If you would like to leave a comment and link back to your site (which I would greatly appreciate; plus you may get some site traffic out of it, that is, if you're into that sort of thing), you simply have to click on the "Other" bullet, put the entire web address in the "Your web page" category INCLUDING the http://.

Example
NAME: novelle360 (or "Kelly" or whatever you want the link to say)
YOUR WEB PAGE: http://www.novelle360.com

This should create a link back to your webpage that I and others can visit.

(And now please excuse me while I rant to those I hold near and dear. )

ATTENTION TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE IN MY LIFE (in no particular order): Mom, Carl, Glrr, Grandma, Sean, David, Lisa, Courtney, Annie, Andrea, Alan, Erin, Whitney/Weber, Sarah, Gisela, Timberly and Jerry.

I've come to terms with the fact that people who have seen me in the flesh (to varying degrees) read this site. I always think twice about swearing because I can feel my mom shaking her head. Then I remember that it's no secret that college opened up a deeper understanding of the F word for me and all it's uses. ... It's a verb, it's a noun, it's an adjective, IT'S SUPERWORD! Anyway, my point is, YOU'RE ALLOWED TO COMMENT. I WOULD LIKE THAT. Nay. LOVE that.

Gisela, you're sort of off the hook because you called me a dork in my birthday post. And I know that "dork" is your term of endearment for me. You tried to bring me into the fold of hip hop and all that is sparkly and uber fashionable, but let's face it, this girl likes classic, clean lines and the color beige. I embrace my dorkiness. Especially when compared to you. Your skin tone will always be able to pull off brighter colors, my friend, and I'll just stand next to you and bask in the glow.

Timberly and Andrea, I know we e-mail all the time, so you both get some credit for that. Erin, you, too.

Bah. Okay, rant over. I won't single anyone else out. GLRR. Okay seriously. I'm done. COURTNEY. No really, that's it. JERRY. ... Ahem.

So, if there's anything to be taken away from this post, it's this:

http://

Thank you.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

'Toby Eating'

It worked! It WORKED! IT WORRRRRKED!

I'm not exactly sure how, though. Because when I went to bed last night, my attempt to upload had failed. Then, this afternoon, when I logged on to write about yet another miserable failure, an annonymous commenter mentioned "my video on Xanga."

EUREKA!

And, sure enough, when I checked, there it was. Toby spitting out kibble all over our ghetto kitchen floor. I've never seen anything so beautiful in my entire life.

So, without further ado, I am happy to share my video debut in all its horridness. I laugh, the camera shakes, I even switch to "night vision" mode half way through, you know, just to test it.

I know it won't be worth the wait or any of the hype, but enjoy it anyway.

Because it was a total pain in my ass.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Trying. To. Load. Video.

You'll be very happy to know that I figured out how to load the software to my computer, how to connect the device through a USB cable (which actually was a little confusing because the recorder had to be on and loaded in the battery dock), how to import my videos to my hard drive, and even how to edit an 11-minute clip of "Toby Eating" down to 1 minute and 50 seconds of pure coma-inducing footage.

Now I just have to figure out how to upload my boredom masterpiece here.

Time me.

(20 minutes later ...)

Okay don't time me. YouTube takes for.ev.er. You'd think I was trying to upload the entire series of "The Lord of the Rings."

(10 minutes later ...)

Aw, screw it. I'm going to get some Cheerios. Maybe by the time I'm done, YouTube will be able to handle Toby's video debut.

(12 hours later ...)

No, I did not drown in my cereal milk. After waiting impatiently, YouTube rejected my "Toby Eating" masterpiece and I promptly said, "Screw it."

But after dealing with numerous computer glitches at work, I'm home and ironically ready to try anew.

Keep something crossed.

Like a rope. In the form of a noose.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My new toy

Did you know that videotaping is as addicting as crack? Not that I've ever tried crack, of course, but all those early morning drug busts and the hideous mug shots that follow tell me that crack must be pretty powerful stuff to make you risk being paraded around in public complete with handcuffs and eye crust.

Fortunately, owning and operating a camcorder isn't illegal. Because I have a feeling I will be doing a lot of that in the coming weeks.

I got my first taste of it this morning. My parents came down to visit for a few days and even though I risked my life by hitting the record button while they were both still in their bathrobes and slippers, they merely shouted idle threats and mostly amused be because, well, now I have bribery footage. And they better stay on my good side.

Then, after that, I taped the most boring video of all time: Toby eating. And the camera sort of shakes while I'm trying to stifle my laughter. I don't know why I find it amusing. Maybe it's because he never eats above his dish and prefers, instead, to keep an eye on whoever is home. As if we might run out the door and abandon him if he looks away for even a second. So he just sort of gulps a huge mouthful, turns around to face where I sit nearby on the steps, scatters everything on the floor then eats each kibble one at a time.

And I find it hilarious. Hilarious enough that I thought it would be video worthy, apparently.

Which it's not. Not in the slightest.

Maybe once I figure out how to load it to my computer, I'll let you all see how terrible it is. I can't believe for one second that I actually thought anyone would want to see what I film. And now I have the utmost appreciation for TV and movies. Because how the hell they come up with a concept and make millions of people tune in is beyond me. I'm not sure I have an audience of one. I'm not even sold on my own two measly videos yet.

But one thing's for sure. It's fun. So fun that as it started snowing two seconds ago, I actually considered going outside and taping it. Why? Because I can.

I'd title it, "Snow at My House ... Because I Can."

And I promise only to make you suffer through my creations on occasion.

Once I figure out how to bring "Toby Eating" to the masses, of course.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Welcome to my Fancy Fantasy 29th Birthday Bash

Well, it's after midnight so I guess it officially counts as my 29th birthday. If we're getting technical about it, I wasn't born until 3:08 p.m., but, um, yeah no body cares. Except maybe my mom. And only because she's supposed to.

So, lets start the annual festivities where I invite you to a fantasy e-party and you accept graciously for fear that I might rip out your tongue and feed it to you. But don't worry, I'd serve it with that fantastic orange cream stuff that I got on Valentine's Day. And you'd like it.

This year's party is going to be much sleeker than my 28th. Because I just feel more sophisticated somehow. Like if 29 was a dress it would be a perfectly tailored curve-hugging satin knee-length number with a plunging back. One that is so fabulous that every time you slipped it over your shoulders a limousine would automatically show up at your front door to cart you around.

So, without further ado, please don your best mousepad and welcome to my party.

Our yacht awaits.

A chef prepared
a gourmet meal.


Now, um, I guess it's
time to dance. Led by
the crazy party chick.

First stop, Arizona desert
to watch the sun set.

Back to the yacht!
The chef made
birthday pastries!


Next stop, Eiffel tower.

I hope you're not tired,
because we're wrapping up
the night in Vegas, baby!


What? You won so much cash
that you wouldn't feel right
not getting me a gift? Aww.

To play along, just copy a link of the present you’d like to get me in your comment. To show my appreciation, I got you a little party favor, you know, for the memories. Thanks for coming!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Hooterriffic

Hooters waitresses are people, too.

Sometimes it's hard to look past their blindingly shiny orange short shorts and low-cut tanks on the billboards, but there are real people lurking underneath all those marketing ploys.

I know because I went to Hooters for wings last night.

It wasn't my first Hooters experience. A few of my guy friends suckered me into going when I was a freshman in college. I think they thought it would be funny to see me, a fiercely independent female college student neck-deep in women's-lib courses, duke it out with girls who have no qualms about relying on their physical endowments for tips. I know it sounds harsh, but lets face it, Hooters is the strip club of chain restaurants.

So there I was, angry that we weren't, in fact, going to the fun rain forest restaurant in the mall closest to my college campus like they promised, but rather the testosterone-driven beer and boob fest that is Hooters.

I don't remember much other than the wings were surprisingly good. And that it was impossible not to stare at our waitress' chest because it was practically heaving out of her shirt at she struggled to breathe beneath all that Lycra.

This time around was much the same. The wings were just as good as I remembered and our waitress' chest was appropriately Hooterriffic.

I went with a few of my coworkers when they invited me along, and despite the stereotypes that it's geared toward guys, I'm pretty sure it's my boss' favorite restaurant. She loves hot wings and has taken a new interest in NASCAR, so off we went to grab dinner with one of the photographers who was scheduled to work the weekend shift.

At first, our waitress was all business: perky, polite and a bit flirty -- even with a majority female table.

"Yeah, it's impossible not to stare when they're right out there, huh?" I asked the rest of the group after she took our drink order.

They agreed.

But after an accidental slip up, I saw the real person beneath the Hooters.

I was mid-story when our waitress was delivering our food, and right when she was about to ask if we needed anything, my story included a giant "Shut up!"

And she did. She clamped her mouth tight, visibly stiffened and just sort of stared at me, wondering why I would say something so rude for no apparent reason.

"Oh my gosh! I'm sorry, I didn't mean you! ... I was just telling a story and ... I guess it came out at the wrong time!"

She played it off like she knew it all along, but we shared a moment. Me and the Hooters girl. I made a joke and she laughed. We were friends.

I'm still appalled that someone, probably an entire executive board of men, has deep pockets because young girls have boobs and are willing to shimmy into revealing uniforms. But, well, they could choose to work at Olive Garden or Red Lobster. But they don't.

So I guess I shouldn't judge.

And if I can find a bumper sticker that says, "Hooters have feelings, too" ... I'm so buying it.

There are no words

I think maybe Nationwide Insurance picked the wrong person to do the "life comes at you fast" commercial for the Super Bowl.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

He really just wanted to play his new video game

This morning, Jerry decided to be thoughtful by kidnapping Toby and leaving me all alone in bed so I could sleep.

Moments later, when I figured out what had happened, I stomped downstairs in a groggy fog with one eye open and scowled at him.

Waking up alone the one day of the week we get to wake up together is no fun.

I think he gets it now.

Silly Jerry. Thoughtful is hand-squeezed orange juice.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Because you've always wanted to see a picture of my dog peeing


P1012602
This is the gigantic pine tree in our back yard. And
this photo doesn't capture another 20 feet or so. Now that
the snow has stopped, needles are scattered all over.


P1012603_2
Toby being brave.


P1012604_2
This was after the first day when the snow was still somewhat
reasonable for him. And, um, here he is taking care of business.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Up to our asses in snow

Like everyone else in the Northeast, my little town got inundated with snow this week. But you won't find me complaining, because it was our first winter storm of the year. And if you make it to mid-February in central Pennsylvania with only a dusting of snow? Well, lets just say if there was a bet to be made, most Pennsylvanians would put their money on the Earth opening up and swallowing the entire continent whole rather than us not getting any of the white stuff until this late in the winter season.

Thanks to modern technology and overzealous weather forecasters, we knew it was coming. The television news did everything short of scream, "THERE'S A STORM A BREWIN' SO GIT YERSELF SOME BOTTLED WATER AND TOILIT PAPER! ... er face cert'in DEATH!"

Fortunately, our household was well stocked in the life-or-death department, so when the snow hit, we were ready. Plus, it didn't hurt that we had the foresight to buy a shovel a few weeks ago.

Big, fat flakes started falling and didn't stop for three days. In total, we got about a foot of snow, although some drifts are easily up to my knees. Jerry and I took turns shoveling every few hours, but each time we went outside, Mother Nature had negated our work. A fresh layer coated every footprint and shovel scoop.

At first we were clearing every inch of sidewalk around our entire house: the back walkway, the entire alley between houses and the front sidewalk, porch and steps. Jerry even dug out our neighbors on more than a few occasions. But after awhile, we just cleared a shovel-width. Our backs, arms and shoulders could do no more.

But the weather has been the hardest on Toby. While it might be up to my knees in spots, our entire yard is filled with snow up to his back, making any sort of movement next to impossible for him.

To top it off, he isn't tall enough or upright enough to use the handrail on the back steps. And he's slipped going up and down enough that even a hint of white causes him to hesitate. Actually, "slipped" isn't quite the right word. More like tumbled back-first to the ground, four legs flying in a million directions, pawing at the air. It's seriously one of the funniest things I've ever seen. Once I know he's okay, of course.

The only thing funnier is trying to watch him go to the bathroom. With cold snow up to the spot where his balls used to be, a look of sheer panic spreads across his face. At first, he plowed into the snow, trying to make it to his favorite spot under the pine tree, but he got stuck mid-trip. There he stood, frozen with fear and uncertainty, unable to progress forward, and unable to retreat. He couldn't even turn around to face me, so he just started whining.

Once I got done laughing, I stomped down a clearing and cheerleaded him to it. My utmost enthusiasm for this AWESOME SPOT OVER HERE prompted him to give it one more go. So he could go.

Then, in true Toby style, he picked a bird's route directly back to the door, which also happened to be the longest stretch of unshoveled snow to the walkway. Dumb ass.

I just watched as he used every muscle to nearly step up over his head, get a foot on somewhat solid snow, then come crashing through it as it collapsed under his weight. Every step swallowed his entire leg. He was working so hard, whining and struggling and pretty much hating life. If I wasn't still laughing so hard that tears were freezing to my cheeks, I might have been able to help.

But he did it. And he couldn't get into the house fast enough. Snow-be-damned, he sprinted up the back steps with such determination you would've thought a swimming pool of Cheerios, Milkbones and ice cubes awaited him at the other end.

And now that the comedy of watching him struggle with the snow has worn off, we've actually shoveled him a path to his bathroom spot. I mean, we're not total tyrants.

But the promise of seeing that again almost makes me look forward to the next whiteout.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Even better than 'scrumtrulescent'

Tonight I had THE BEST MEAL I'VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE (or TBMIEEIMEL for short).

That in itself is no small feat. Sure, I realize I'm no Bobby Flay. And I know no one is going to ask me to be a guest judge on "Iron Chef" any time soon, but I like to think I have somewhat of a distinguished pallet. I mean, psh, I subscribe to Bon Appetit.

And if that doesn't give me enough culinary cred, I'm a veteran cruise-goer. As in, floating fine-dining that easily expands your waistline by three-inches in seven days because they employ some of the best chefs in the world and it's impossible not to eat your way through the entire ship. Plus, well, gluttony is my favorite of all the sins. And in that respect, I'm a well-seasoned sinner. (The only sin I do better is taking the lord's name in vain. And frankly, if he didn't want us to do it so much, he should've made "Oh God" less applicable. I mean, it works in so many situations -- pain, frustration, ecstasy, excitement, sympathy. The only word more versatile is, well, the F bomb.)

There wasn't any one thing that made this meal TBMIEEIMEL. Everything just combined perfectly so that when we walked out of the restaurant, I felt compelled to exclaim, "That was THE BEST MEAL I'VE EVER EATEN IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!" And although that endorsement should be all the description necessary, I find it unworthy somehow. Like it doesn't do the five courses enough justice. Like it doesn't capture the essence of exactly how good this meal was. And, unfortunately, even my reliance upon making up word won't quite cut it in this case, either. I mean, "awsomenesstastic" isn't quite right. Not even my favorite fake word, "scrumtrulescent," works in this case.

It was even better than that.

The ironic thing (and, yes, I seem to be having a lot of irony in my life lately) is that I wasn't even all that psyched to go out. I mean, don't get me wrong, there's nothing better than a holiday that makes it okay to splurge on a fancy meal. It's just that we could use that money toward SO MANY things right now -- replacing one of the failing appliances in our kitchen or the outrageous fine we just received for my outdated vehicle registration, for example.

But my mom sent us a Valentine's card with a little cash in it toward a night out. And Jerry's mom called before our reservation and said, "Buy a bottle of wine on me." And it wouldn't be right to let our parents down. Especially when they are the most awsomenesstastic parents ever.

The other ironic thing is that I wasn't that sure about our restaurant choice. It's a small unassuming place a few blocks from our house. A few weeks ago when we were deciding where to go, I picked it out of sheer convenience. With Jerry's new schedule, staying out late on a week night isn't fair to him, so it seemed like the obvious choice.

We had been there once before when my mom visited, and the food was excellent, but I wondered if it could compare to last year's Valentine's feast at the restaurant our friend owns. I mean, a steaming pot of cheese fondue for two is kind of tough to top.

I didn't even know what I was in for.

The restaurant actually had a special Valentine's Day menu where you can choose from two selections for an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert. One item from each category jumped out at me immediately and, despite its hefty price, I didn't even need to look at the regular menu. Besides, if ordered a la carte, I knew the meal actually was quite a deal. (Not to mention I saw a plate of chocolate-covered strawberries on a dessert tray on our way to our table and knew I had to be having those.)

The first course was an explosion of flavor. It was a beautifully arranged ravioli dish with "hand-harvested" mushrooms of some sort. When our server set it down in front of me, I could actually smell the roasted nuts that the chef sprinkled on top. It was a-maze-ing.

The second course was a smooth crab bisque served at the perfect temperature, accompanied with fresh bread, topped with a light dusting of Parmesan cheese and pads of butter shaped like rose buds.

The third course was an Asian pear salad with beautiful greens, sugar-coated nuts and two slices of warm brie. I am an avid fan of brie, but warm on a salad? GENIUS.

By the main course, I didn't think I could eat any more. Even though the previous portions were reasonable -- the soup was served in a dainty tea cup, for example -- I just felt full. But when my giant sea scallop-topped lobster tail came out, and the aroma of all that delicious goodness hit my nostrils, it was as if everything in my stomach magically shifted to one side to make room. And I'm glad. Because I can tell you, in all seriousness, that I reenacted the deli scene from "When Harry Met Sally." Only for real. It was like great sex on a plate.

And then, just when I didn't think it could get any better, I was presented with three of the most perfect chocolate-covered strawberries ever with a fantastic orange cream sauce. And I don't even like orange flavor all that much. But this? THIS orange cream sauce? Divine.

As our waiter continuously returned to our table to check on us, I kept wanting to tell him that I hope the food is this good in heaven, but my mouth was too busy discerning all the flavors in everything to bother articulating anything. I mean Cognac-glazed pureed sweet potatoes in a ramekin? Where do I even begin? (I mean, other than by taking the lord's name in vain for lack of anything better to say. It's hard to believe, but "Oh. My. God." doesn't even come close.)

To top it all off, the service was incredible. Completely worthy of a 25 percent tip. Sure, it didn't hurt his case that he started off the evening by corking our champagne with the compliment, "I'm sure you don't want to talk about work, but if you don't mind my saying, ma'am, I really love your column."

Even though it completely caught me off guard and totally made my day (maybe even more so than the chocolate-coated strawberries), I will never mind if everything out of everyone's mouth after "If you don't mind" is followed by such a statement.

He even said that he and his daughter saw my poster at the mall last weekend. And at that moment I was glad he was filling my glass. Because I needed a swig.

So, here I am hours later, so pleased with that meal that I'm already looking forward to next Valentine's Day. And the one after that. And the one after that.

And no broken dishwasher or lame excuse for a police ticket will ever make me feel guilty for splurging on that caliber of a meal ever again.

Best. Meal. Ever.

Happy Valentine's Day!

P1012595_2

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife ...

It never ceases to amaze me when real-life irony just chomps down and bites me on the ass.

There are a lot of deadlines in life where Jerry and I have it together. Movie rentals? Always back on the day they're due. Returning things we borrowed from friends in a timely manner? Absolutely. Paying our bills on time? Please. Give me a real time crunch ... like putting out a daily newspaper.

But when it comes to our vehicles, deadlines come and go unnoticed. Like when the inspection sticker is up.

In fact, Jerry's inspection was so overdue that the annual deadline came around again. As in, his car was supposed to be inspected in February of 2006. Fast forward a year and we finally realized that it needed to be taken care of. In our defense, those tiny window stickers are, by design, intended to be overlooked and not obscure a driver's line of vision. Well Department of Motor Vehicles, maybe they should be a little bigger. Like coating the entire windshield. Because who the hell keeps track of such things? Okay, well, besides my anally organized parents.

So, when we finally realized that Jerry's inspection was overdue by an entire 365 days and counting, he made an appointment at a nearby garage for later this week and we vowed to only drive my car in the meantime. Fortunately, our new schedule allows us to do that.

And here's where Captain Irony rears his twisted humor-filled head.

While driving to work on Monday in my car, Jerry got pulled over. Apparently police officers who are forced to take the graveyard shift have nothing better to do than look for the minutia.

My registration sticker was overdue. Since April.

As an aside, just to add further insult to injury, the officer was a fan of the radio morning show that Jerry replaced. When the cop asked what happened, Jerry just laughed and said something along the lines of, "Any second now, you're going to turn into my mother and there's going to be a circus monkey juggling flaming swords in the back seat and then I'm going to wake up."

I guess the cop laughed. But he still womped us with a $150 fine. Suck.

But you bet your ass I'm going to fight it. We went online later that afternoon and updated my registration, we both filed a change of address and even had the DMV send a notice to voter registration. And Jerry's car will be fully legal by tomorrow afternoon.

I'm pretty sure there's a moral to be learned in here somewhere, but all I know is that I feel like I'm trapped in an Alanis Morresette song.

Monday, February 12, 2007

It felt like a good idea at the time

Home design shows on a budget always rely heavily on spraypaint. Got a light fixture in gold that you want in sliver? Spraypaint. Need to update some lampshades? Spraypaint. Want to create a painting for above your couch? Spraypaint! Refinish some chairs? SPRAYpaint! Change the color of blinds? SPRAYPAINT!

But, in reality, it doesn't work like that.

I know because I tried to spraypaint the guest bedroom blinds from canary-guts yellow to white in hopes of saving a little cash on our room redo.

And the one accordion blind I was able to transform with the three cans of muted white I purchased, is now solidified in a permanent closed position. Sure, it looks great, but it's stiff and hard and unable to function. All for the low, low price of $9.

So now I have one working canary-guts yellow blind in that room. And another white blind that doesn't work and fades to yellow where I ran out of spraypaint at the bottom.

I'm not positive, but I think this is what you would call a home-improvement disaster.

So, as you're looking through the "after" pictures that I've now posted, try to ignore the crazy mismatched blinds.

Or I'll come to your house and spraypaint your eyelids closed.

Here are three of my favorite shots:

P1012555
I heart this bedding. I've always wanted to do a bold black
and red combo. And it's gender-neutral enough so that when
Jerry's guy friends need to crash, they won't feel creepy.

P1012564
I completely fell in love with that vase when I saw it.

P1012569
And if I was a teenager trying to teach
myself how to kiss, I would totally want
to practice on this pillow. It's that fabulous.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worse than a 360-degree mirror

So apparently my picture is up at the mall. I knew awhile ago because I got a ton of grief about it at work over the past month. As in, "Hey Kelly, I saw you shopping at the mall today." And when I responded that, no, I wasn't at the mall, whoever was taunting me at the moment would break into a huge grin and say something really impressive like, "YES YOU WERE!"

Because of this, I have been afraid to go anywhere within a 100-mile radius of the mall. I can't even drive past it. Which is a very confusing feeling. Because ever since my pre-pubescent self grasped the concept of retail therapy, I've felt a friendly tug from any mall, drawing me in to see it's wares.

Not anymore. Now it's like we're adversaries. Somewhere within those walls stands a life-size image of myself holding a keyboard with a clear shot of my left armpit.

So when Jerry suggested yesterday that we get his favorite Chinese food, which just happens to be in the mall food court, I nearly crammed an entire throw pillow into his mouth just to keep him from completing the sentence.

"No. Absolutely not."

"C'mon. Aren't you the least bit curious? Everyone tells me it looks great. Just think about it."

"Okay ... mmm ... no."

"We can look at clothes and you can give me ideas for your birthday."

"Girly store clothes?"

"Absolutely."

"Well ..."

"And I'll buy you a yogurt at TCBY."

"With Reeces?"

"With Reeces."

"Okay."

So, with the promise of endless girly store clothes browsing and a smooth frozen treat, Jerry coerced me to overcome my fear.

At first, it was okay. We used an unpopular entrance and had a direct destination: Jerry's diced chicken and shrimp combo with fried rice from Wong's Wok. It was a straight shot up the escalators and a left turn to the food court. Deep breaths. I can do this.

Then it happened.

"I see you."

"What? WHERE?!"

"Over there, between The Gap and American Eagle."

"DON'T POINT!"

Then, my typical knee-jerk reaction set in. When I'm in an uncomfortable situation, I laugh. I laugh like a hyena on speed. Which is really unfortunate at funerals.

Jerry dragged me into the line for Chinese so at least I'd be productive while I was trying to breathe again. As we ate, I felt it looming over my shoulder.

"We have to take your picture with it for your mom," Jerry said, in between bites.

"Oh God. No. No, I don't think I can. Seriously."

"Who cares? It'll take two seconds. Do you really need to worry about what any of these people think? ... Especially that crazy lady over there in the stained sweatpants?"

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

So, after we ate and I plowed through my vanilla yogurt with Reeces, we headed toward it. It. With the intention of taking my picture with my picture.

But I couldn't do it. I just grabbed Jerry's arm and forced him to keep walking as my hyena laugh noisily escaped from my throat again.

"I can't do it. I just can't. Lets do a lap and maybe we can get it on the way back."

So we walked. And by the time we came back around, I was ready. I felt emboldened. I could stand next to myself and give a big middle finger to the other mall patrons if need be.

And as I stood there, feeling utterly horrified as Jerry took his sweet-ass time lining up multiple shots, I watched as group after group walked past, turned around, looked at me, looked at the image of me and put two-and-two together. My favorite was a bunch of skater-looking tween boys who said intensely, "Hey, look, that's her," as if they had come to a long-awaited life-changing conclusion. Like "E=mc2!" By God! It's HER! It's HERRRRRR!

Then I couldn't get out of there fast enough. The Gap has never felt like more of a safe haven. Even with all of its hideous, horrendous, horrible, hellish (and any other h-sounding negative adjectives) spring line. It almost made me want to wrap up in its atrocious knee-length faded sweatshirts with poufed short sleeves and somehow figure out a way to jam my hands in the weird front pocket stitched in at crotch level. Instead, I regained my composure in the men's section where Jerry found a winter hat for $2.79. Score.

So, all in all, it was one of the most eventful trips to the mall ever. And I didn't even get anything. Well, other than the yogurt. And that was delicious enough to count.

So, here it is. The photo that almost made me break out into hives.

P1012550

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pictures, finally some pictures

P1012537

I've added my most recent guest room rennovation pictures here. Just look for the blaring yellow at the end of the slideshow. I know, I know, I've only posted the "before" images. But a girl has to accessorize! I'll have the "afters" up sometime later today or tomorrow.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Spackle-coated Jerryism

P1012546
"I feel like a porn star."

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Even my bone marrow feels tired

To describe my feeling of utter exhaustion can only be related to two periods in my life: pledging a sorority and buying a puppy.

This change has not been easy on me.

Mostly it's because I can't get a full night's rest. Toby has not adjusted very well, but I can't blame him. He goes to bed with Jerry at 6:30 or 7 p.m. and then is expected to sleep until 10 the next morning. Not even a sloth rests that long.

So, in addition to the 3 a.m. whine fest when Jerry leaves, Toby has usually had enough downtime by 9 a.m., stretching his front paws into my face, alerting me that it's time to get up. Even though I desperately need to remain in bed.

In total over the past four nights, I've probably gotten about 16 hours of really good rest. The kind where your body is nearly unresponsive and just concentrates on recharging.

In addition to my lack of sleep, I also made one of the worst decisions of my life and opted to renovate the guest bedroom this week. If I could rewind to Sunday when Jerry asked, "Is this really the best time to do this?" I would've said: "No. No it's not. I need an intervention. Help me put down this paintbrush."

Instead, in my desperate desire to see what that room looked like in a shade other than something reminiscent of an overweight canary exploding in it, leaving a jarring shade of yellow coating every wall surface in the room, including the ceiling, I pulled out the high-hiding primer and got to work clearing the room and laying down drop cloth.

At first, I thought I could roll the primer directly onto the drop ceiling. But those lightweight foam insulation squares kept popping up. So I enlisted Jerry's help and he pulled them down while I covered them in white. I had every intention of sticking them back up until I took my first look at the actual ceiling, eight inches up.

There were admittedly a few cracks. But it looked a lot like the dining room after we had stripped off the epilepsy-inducing wall paper a few months ago.

I could fix it.

So, a few hours before the Super Bowl, Jerry reluctantly pulled out his power drill and helped detach the metal grid that formed the drop ceiling, saying again "for the record" that he didn't think it was a good idea and "couldn't we have picked a better day to do this?"

Probably. But I'm obsessed. It was my project. I was determined.

Just raising the ceiling those few inches changed the entire feel of the room. It was less "high school classroom" and more "bedroom in an old Victorian house" -- a huge improvement already. I spent the next hour spackling the screw holes from the drop ceiling and covering the cracks. My arms were numb and my neck felt broken from looking up for so long, but it was going to look amazing and add a ton of value to our house.

The next morning, because I wasn't sleeping anyway, I went to the hardware store to buy a few gallons of lightweight plaster, mixed it with white paint and painstakingly refinished every surface in that room, including the ceiling. Jerry helped for a few hours when he got home, then, feeling dead on my feet, I went to work for the night.

The morning after that, despite a feeling of total exhaustion filling my pores and seeping right down into my bone marrow, I painted. One coat of white on the ceiling, two coats of light gray on the walls.

In the meantime, our entire house was a disaster. Here we are trying to adjust to an entirely new schedule and I had to go and make it harder by adding another stress into the mix. Not only were Jerry and I tiptoeing around in the dark trying not to wake the other person up -- him in the morning and me at night -- but we were also tiptoeing around a mattress, box spring and metal bed frame in the upstairs hallway, all of the furniture from the guest room, buckets of paint and plaster and a toolbox. I guess it was my penance to slam my right foot into the toolbox Tuesday night, sending me to my knees on the bedroom floor in an awkward silent pain, trying not stir the guys.

But it's done. The room is complete and the house is somewhat back to its pre-renovation state.

Sure, it looks fantastic, but I'm too exhausted to even enjoy it. I'm physically, mentally and emotionally drained to the point where I would consider taking a personal day if I was the type to use them as personal days rather than planned vacation days. Or, to put it another way, if I was in college, I'd be skipping my classes today to lay on my couch and eat a tube of store-bought cookie dough with a spoon.

Is this week over yet?

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Day Two

This morning was not better. Not at all.

In fact, it was worse because Toby was well-rested this time. After going to bed with Jerry at 7 p.m., he was raring to go at 3 a.m. It was party time. I have a feeling he would've been leading the kegger if he had opposable thumbs and could wield a tap.

Hoping to prevent Toby from using my face as a springboard to leap to the floor repeatedly as he tried to decide between hanging out with Jerry or curling up with me, I asked Jer to close the bedroom door, not giving him an option.

So when the back door slammed, alerting Toby to Jerry's departure, his little heart broke. His world crumbled. It was dark. He was wired. And his play buddy had just walked out.

I, on the other hand, was exhausted. After practically no sleep the night before and a really late night at work, I was dead on my feet. I had climbed into bed a mere 30 minutes before Jerry got up and wanted nothing more than to go back to the blissful dream I was having about getting a full night's rest.

But Toby was beside himself. You would've thought we had just broken all his limbs and placed his favorite flavor of pig ear just out of reach. Unable to stop himself from expressing his absolute displeasure, Toby hopped down on the floor, rolled on his back and howled.

I tried being the good cop first, sympathising with his confusion and anxiety. I can't imagine a life-changing experience without having any prior knowledge or time to process the information before getting thrown into it unexpectedly. So I called him up onto the bed in my "Hey! This is great!" voice.

But when Toby is upset, his hind legs seize up and refuse to work. It's as if his brain uses all of its neurological power to concentrate on his feelings and can't manifest any physical strength. So he ends up lethargically flinging his body against the side of the bed in a pathetic attempt of getting my attention. If he was a teenager, he would be the worst kind of emo. One who wears cheap eyeliner and picks at his chipping black nail polish, hoping the world simultaneously notices him and ignores him at the same time.

After what seemed like a 20 minute-long temper tantrum, bad cop officially took over.

"TOBY! THAT'S ENOUGH!"

And like a wounded soul who's bad luck just got immeasurably worse, his whines turned near silent -- just loud enough for me to hear them, but not loud enough for me to scold him.

Finally, I gave in. I turned on the light. Got up. Reached down and picked his pathetic ass up.

After settling back into bed, he curled up in his typical "don't leave me" stance: perched on my face.

But I didn't even care.

I just wanted to sleep. And if having fur up my nostrils was the only way to get it, so be it.

Here's to hoping tonight is better.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Maybe I just need some more wine

Oh this is bad. Very bad. Filled with much badness.

I'm not sure when it happened, but sometime after college when my roommates could've had a kegger right in my room and I was disciplined enough to sleep right through it if I needed to, I turned into a light sleeper.

And it sucks. Especially now that Jerry needs to get up at 3 a.m.

Ironically, I was more worried about Toby. I thought for sure he would be absolutely beside himself that Jerry was leaving before they had ample "toss the fluffy things around" time. And this was a concern of merit. On the rare occasions that Jer has left the house before I'm up, Toby throws a fit. He whines. Then he jumps off the bed and runs to the window only to see that Jerry's car is gone, retreats to me and whines some more as if to convey his profound feeling of loss.

If I'm lucky enough to sleep through Jerry running around and getting ready, I'm certainly not able to sleep through Toby pouncing on me and laying on top of my face to make sure that I don't abandon him, too. I'm pretty sure Toby thinks that if he throws all of his 10 or so pounds on my head, I'll just lay beneath him for eternity. Because who could resist his furry ass? Especially that up close and personal.

In preparation for the start of Jerry's morning show today, we got up relatively early on Sunday. Well, for us anyway. And instead of accepting any of the Super Bowl party invitations we received, we opted to have a low-key day in pajamas and make a vat of slow-cooked chili for the big game. And when it was over? Lights out. That would give Jerry about five hours of sleep.

I'm not sure how we did it seeing that we normally go to bed at 3 a.m., but we did. Jerry made his lunch during the half-time show, set out some clothes for the next day and set his alarm.

When it went off, touting the Rocky theme song, I whispered "good morning" in the darkness. I'm not sure if it was because he didn't sleep at all or if it was out of sheer adrenaline, but Jerry popped up and hit the shower before the snooze button. He kissed me goodbye, I wished him luck and he shut the bedroom door behind him.

Much to my surprise, Toby didn't even stir. I far underestimated his laziness, even when up against his loyalty. I could practically hear his thoughts: "Wha? Where are you going? Aw, screw this. The sun isn't even up. Yeah, I'll be in bed if you need me."

I, on the other hand, was trying to ignore my bladder. At that point, I realized why going to bed early had been so easy for me. A few glasses of wine tends to have that effect on people. So I just willed myself to stay in bed. To concentrate on sleep. Not getting up.

But that didn't last long. My head kicked into high gear and started thinking about all the things I have to do today. Stupid me. Why did I have to decide to renovate the guest bedroom yesterday? I need spackle. And one of those wall reinforcers for that one chunk of plaster that fell off when we removed the drop ceiling. Maybe two for that weak spot above the door. And was gray the best color choice? Too late now. I wonder if I plugged in the backup drill charger battery. If not, I'll do it first thing when I get up. And how are we going to get rid of all of that metal from the ceiling? Will they take that with the trash? Will it even fit down the stairs without bending the long ones in half? And what the hell ever happened to my perfect black dress? Seriously. I cleaned out my entire closet and can't find it anywhere. It's been missing for months now. Did it even make the move? I remember ... wait a minute ...

And in my crazy delirium of random thoughts, I had an epiphany. The little black dress that I've been wondering where the hell I put it is probably on the back of the bedroom door. Underneath Jerry's tan suit that needs to be dry cleaned. Because we wore those outfits to our friend's wedding in June.

Sure enough, when my thoughts forced me out of bed at a completely unreasonable hour, I found the dress.

And Toby? Still in bed. The bastard didn't even flinch. I could have a kegger in the bedroom right now and he'd sleep right through it.

So yeah, this pretty much sucks. It's not even 6 a.m. and I work the night shift. Bah. Maybe tomorrow will be easier. Out of sheer exhaustion.

On the bright side, I get to tune into Jerry's inaugural morning show.

And plug in that stupid drill battery.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Capturing the magic

If there ever was a moment where I wished I had a video camera, last night was it. I'm not sure how the quality would've turned out in a dimly lit bar filled with the lingering exhalation from a rowdy group of chain smokers, but I'm telling you the humor would've translated even with the poorest of visuals.

Jerry opted to go out with a few friends after work, so when I finished earlier than usual, I called and asked if he would mind a little company. The guys always go to their crappy hometown bar that is situated on an unassuming corner with a tiny gravel parking lot. The structure looks like a large double wide without windows, decorated with an occasional neon beer logo. It's called "Coaches," but most people call it "Roaches." And that nickname is about the best description I can give it and its typical clientele. But, oh, I love it so.

I got there a few rounds in, so everybody was overly enthusiastic to see me. Moments after saying hello to Jerry, someone on a microphone called his name. So he kissed me on the cheek and said he'd be right back.

Apparently it was karaoke night.

Never one to shy away from a microphone, I should've known what we were all in store for. But not even being with Jerry for the last three years could've prepared me for this.

He greeted the bar, which was fairly crowded even for a Friday night, took off his hoodie in a rockstar fashion by flinging it around his head and shooting it to a nearby chair. Then he dedicated his song, "Eye of the Tiger," to Rocky. And, incidentally, he just happened to be wearing his Rocky shirt and displayed it proudly.

When the song started with its succession of three beats, he threw up his arms and pounded his fists to the music. By the time the underlying beat joined in, he was full-out dancing and encouraging the crowd to clap along.

Although Jerry has an awesome voice, he mostly rocked out, screaming his way through the lower notes and laughing through the falsettos. He thrusted. He pumped his fists. He jumped. He clapped. He spun. He even allowed the toothless man at the end of the bar to jokingly molest his chest.

And while I was too busy trying to breathe from the sheer hilarity and shock of it all, the rest of the bar went crazy.

I couldn't take my eyes off of him and the spectacle that ensued. It might've been the funniest thing I've ever seen in my entire life. Better than the time I watched one of my friends shoot guacamole out of his nose at Taco Bell when we were in junior high.

By the time Jerry was finished, the bar was cheering wildly, and I even watched as a girl walked up and hit on him. But, hey, who can blame her? After that outlandish performance, he could've used that microphone to propose to any girl in the place and none of them could've possibly said no -- including me if we weren't already married. But we are. So it was awesome watching him brush her off immediately and walk over to me.

He was winded and grinning wildly as he put his hoodie back on.

"So? What'd ya think?"

"I think I'm an idiot."

"What?"

"I was so paralyzed with laughter and busy wishing that I had a video camera, that I forgot about my regular camera."

"Probably better that way."

"Why?"

"YouTube couldn't handle this."

Friday, February 2, 2007

Bigmongous news!

So I can finally share the big news around here. And that in itself is so exciting that it makes me want to pee my pants a little. I have been unable to write about it or even hint at it for at least three months and the knot in my chest from stifling such weighty information feels like I'm carrying around a basketball in my ribcage. A big hairy basketball filled with news.

JERRY GOT HIS OWN MORNING SHOW!

For those unfamiliar with the world of radio, the morning drive is the most highly coveted of time slots. It's less music, more talk and, in my admittedly biased opinion, the perfect environment for Jerry to spread his crazy wings. He will co-host the show with his longtime friend and coworker Troy. It will be called "Troy & Jerry in the Morning," you know, after their names.

Sure, this is going to mean big changes for us. For starters, we will be working exact opposite shifts. Jerry will work 4 a.m. to noon and I'll work 4 p.m. to midnight. But like everything thrown our way, we'll make it work. We always do.

It isn't going to be easy. Especially because we're now going to bed around the time Jerry will be getting up when his show starts on Monday. There will be no gradual transition. In three days, our schedule will be turned on its ear.

But Jerry is so excited that there isn't even a word to describe it. Not overjoyed, not ecstatic, not even jubilant. More like jubiljoystatic. And I can deal with a little interrupted sleep for that.

The weeks leading up to this transition have been busy. Jerry and Troy have been creating a concept for their show, working on the advertising campaign, designing a logo, creating promotional spots and pitching their ideas.

From what limited information I've been privy to, it's shaping up to be a fun fresh start for people's mornings. Again, biased, I know.

But I still think it's going to be great.

And, ahh, that feels so much better now that the secret's out.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams

Every year on February 1, I start referring to myself as being a year older. If someone asks my age, I tell them the next number up. When I was little, it was out of excitement. Now I find that it usually lessens the blow.

This year, in another 19 days, I will be 29. The last and final year in my twenties. And I'm surprisingly okay with that. Frankly, I think turning 26 was traumatic enough for both of them. I was all: "Oh GOD! I'm entering the downward slope of my twenties. ... I can't even say MID-twenties anymore! Now I'm just OLD!" And I spent most of the day being a complete ass and crying in a bathroom. Well, that and my boyfriend at the time was entirely self-absorbed and couldn't see that I obviously needed to him to get in the trenches with me, make me laugh, then take me out for dinner. Jer would know to do that.

But 29? Bring it. I'm probably pretty close to where I thought I'd be at 29. Well, if I had thought ahead that far. I stopped knowing for sure after college graduation. That's where it sort of gets a little blurry. There isn't any societal norm after all that education. You're sort of given a diploma and a gentle shove out the door cushioned with an emotional graduation speech that makes you feel like if you grab life by the balls, you'll end up feeling fulfilled and wealthy beyond your wildest imagination.

Then you realize you're broke, don't have a job and are forced to move back in with your parents. And stumbling around from 22 to 26 can be a bit of an adventure.

I've come a long way since those years. Not financially or in terms of maturity, but certainly in sense of self. I know who I am and, at the risk of sounding like a complete freak by switching to the third-person, I like her. And maybe I'm okay with 29 because I'm interested to see how this new number suits me. I have a feeling it will be a good fit.

Another tradition at the beginning of February is that everyone starts asking me what I want for my birthday. And unlike Christmas, where I'm so busy trying to determine what everyone else wants that I don't have time to figure out what I want, I can dedicate ample thought to possible presents. And who doesn't like thinking about presents?

This year, my list is long and all-encompassing. Homeownership will do that. So I have to get brutal and figure out if I should ask for something I want or something I need.

Well, that didn't take long. Birthdays are for splurging and indulgence. Birthdays are for wants.

But just out of curiosity, part of me wants to compile a disgustingly expensive list detailing the projects and things I have floating around in my head. I know the final price tally would be staggering. Don't get me wrong, I could get absolutely nothing for my birthday and be entirely content with what I have. I know the only things I really need in life are the two other breathing beings under this roof, my family and friends ... and maybe my computer because I love it so.

I guess what got me thinking about the cost of my wants was a recent poll I read about. Opinion Research Corp. asked homeowners how they would spend a $10,000 windfall. And I couldn't believe it, but that dollar amount, which at one point would've seemed staggering, now feels like a drop in the bucket. My house could eat $10,000 for breakfast.

So, just for fun, here is my champagne-wishes-and-caviar-dreams birthday wish list along with ball-park figures, rounded down to the reality of what I would actually be able to afford if I were actually to get any of these things:
  • New gutters (flashy, I know): $2,500
  • Dishwasher: $300
  • Refrigerator: $400
  • New kitchen countertop: $800
  • Paying contractors to lay tile in the kitchen: $500
  • Paint for the guestroom: $20
  • New bedding for the guestroom: $100
  • New curtains for the guestroom and master bedroom: $200
  • Paint for the office: $20
  • Furniture for the office: $500
  • Backyard patio or deck: $1,500
  • Removing a tree in the backyard: $800
  • New lighting fixtures: $200
  • New ceiling fans: $200
  • 6' x 9' rug for the living room: $150
  • 6' x 9' rug for the dining room: $150
  • Refinishing the hardwood floors: $500

And the grand total is ... envelope please ... (opening): $8,820!

Huh. Well, hell, I guess I have to aim higher and upgrade to stainless appliances, granite countertop and fans made of pure gold melted down from rappers' teeth. No worries. Toss in a couple pairs of shoes, a professional camera with an exterior light source, a laptop, a Vista upgrade for my Dell, the video camera I want, Lasik eye surgery, professional teeth-whitening and a few new couture wardrobe pieces to replace everything I'm selling on eBay, and I'd have that $10,000 spent before my breakfast. If my house couldn't eat it entirely, I certainly could.

So, in summation, I'm ready for 29. And I hope it comes with a big fat shiny envelope filled with $10 grand.