Monday, June 14, 2010

All Good Things Must Come To An End

The life cycle of a star is long; our sun was born approximately 5 billion years ago. Compare that to the lifespan of the Lake Erie midge, more commonly called the Canadian Soldier, which lives only 24 hours. In between those two extremes is this blog, which has been in existence for almost two years. Sadly, its time is now over.

3 Reasons We Must Stuff Stuff On Our List

1. Jared
2. Nance
3. You

Ok. In brief:

Jared is a twentysomething guy with twentysomething-guy pursuits and a twentysomething guy commitment level. You probably noticed that I outposted him at least three to one. Additionally, he has moved out to an apartment with a buddy, and they do not yet have Internet capability beyond their Blackberrys. This all adds up to A Lot Going On And Some Minor Inconvenience, so he is pretty much not going to be posting anytime soon, not that he was doing so all that often, which I covered already. SO! Moving on.

I have two other Main Blogs, so this one admittedly was not my Main Priority. I started it with Jared so that we could Do Something Together. It soon became something of a drag for me when it looked like it was yet another Personal Blog. I can't helm three blogs. This is the easy one to let go. Just like in a work situation, last hired is the first fired.

Finally, this blog has the least number of subscribers and almost no commenters. It's pretty obvious that it won't be missed, and so I feel that I'm bowing to the will of the public anyway. Please know, the few of you that do read occasionally, that I will incorporate a few Lists on my anchor blog over at the Dept. of Nance. The clickable link is in the sidebar here. I won't be taking down this blog; rather, I'll be using it to experiment with some of Blogger's new features recently introduced. That way, I can decide whether or not to implement them worry-free at my other sites.

Thanks for the laughs and for the discussions we had here. It was fun while it lasted.

Friday, May 28, 2010

I'm Outta Here!

The Animals sang, "We gotta get out of this place if it's the last thing we ever do." I find myself in hearty agreement about several Places. Here is my list of

Places That Don't Do It For Me Anymore

1. Applebee's
2. The Gap
3. Old Navy
4. Max & Erma's
5. Express
6. Macy's

I know I usually go in order, but try and stay with me. Let's start with the two restaurants on this list. Those of you who are even snobbier than I am and are ready to start harping at me by saying (with your noses in the air), "Oh, what do you expect when you--assume air of disdainful elitism here--eat at a chain restaurant!?" can settle yourselves down immediately. I live in Ohio, first of all, and secondly, do not have the choices or unlimited disposable income to go eat at Le Bistro de Plus d'Argent. Regardless of all of this, allow me: These two establishments bore me senseless with mediocre food and uninspiring menus. I can make their offerings at home. (And far better. So I do.) I don't think Max & Erma's has put a new pasta entree on their menu since, possibly, 1988. Inexcusable.

The clothing stores start off at a disadvantage for me because I am a difficult individual to fit. The Macy's in my area, which would carry clothing for a 51-year old woman does not stock pants or skirts in a size 2. Also, they lean heavily on the Karen Scott line, which runs alarmingly large and trends toward knits, which I hate. And if anyone can tell me how the hell that store is "organized," and I use the term very loosely, I will gladly listen. That store is a nightmare. Express, which is the only place I buy pants for work, fits me beautifully, but let's face it: I am not their target demographic. I would, however, like to know who in the hell buys puffed sleeve tops, for that is the preponderance of their shirt style. All of their shirts are hideous and overpriced. Even if I were not a half-century old, I would never buy a shirt there. Ever.

Old Navy and The Gap are owned by the same corporation, The Gap being the upscale big sister of the two. In this case, "upscale" means vastly overpriced. Sometimes I go into The Gap just for the entertainment value. I once picked up a little cotton eyelet sleeveless blouse and it was $56.00. Usually, I just wait out The Gap. Sure enough, my patience is rewarded. I really liked a skirt there that was $49.95. Rick wanted to buy it for my birthday. I snorted and said, "Don't be silly. I can beat The Gap. By July, this will be down to twenty bucks." I got it for 14. (On a related note: I am currently waiting out a little sleeveless shirt at American Eagle where they are silly enough to think someone will pay $29 for what is, essentially, gauze. Idiotic.)

Old Navy used to carry some pretty decent stuff for very reasonable money. I would shop for separates there: jeans, jackets, the odd sweater or shirt. Now, it's all crap, period. My sons, ages 22 and 25 don't even shop there. Not even for a sweatshirt. What happened to that store is a tragedy. Their fit got bad, their quality got bad, everything went to hell. Even their commercials. What on earth is that mannequin campaign? Terrible.

So, what about you, Stuff readers? What places are you over and done with?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sounding Off On The Sporting Life

I don't participate in Sports; they require that you exert effort and I might, therefore, become sweaty. I do, however, watch Sports on television. (Sometimes, I might even go to A Sporting Event "live.") Spectating also allows me to observe those in attendance, and I have to tell you, there is a lot of

Stuff That People Need To Stop Doing At Sporting Events

1. Sending text messages
2. Talking on cell phones
3. Trying to get on television
4. Inserting themselves into the event
5. Taking off their shirts

Even if you don't watch Sporting Events on television, you can undoubtedly appreciate the righteousness of these arguments. Consider:

1. There is nothing so idiotic and irksome to me than to watch, say, a championship Sporting Event whose prime seats go for a thousand dollars, and to see some bozo or bimbo sitting there with a cellular device, thumbing away. If you are going to ignore The Major Sporting Event in order to send vowelless gibberish to your friends, then just stay home! I don't get it. And it is People Of All Ages who are guilty of this transgression. I know dozens of people who would literally mow down the elderly for lower bowl seats to an NBA playoff series game, and some airhead is sitting courtside sending random bullshit to someone who is probably sitting next to him/her.

2. Ditto with cell phone usage. Every time the camera zooms in on a batter in an MLB game, some yahoo behind home plate with excellent seats is on his phone. Naturally, the goofball he is talking to is watching the game at home and tells him he is on TV. Now the doofus has to wave and stand up and act like a moron so that his friend can say, "Yeah, I see you! I see you!" Sigh. Sit down and--here's a novel idea--watch the game!"

3. Sometimes there are pre- and post-game interviews near the seats/stands. This means that sad, attention-deprived fans who are maturity-challenged will stand behind the interviewers and jump up and down, make faces, keep wandering nonchalantly back and forth, wave, etc. in order to be on television. Sometimes they will helpfully yell the name of "their" team or the statement "We're number one!" Stellar.

4. Recently, a teenager decided to run onto the field during a Phillies baseball game. He was tasered when he kept running and eluding security. According to some reports, this idiot even called his father first to tell him he was thinking of doing it. He just wanted the game to be memorable. To quote my son Sam, "Hey. Save your ticket stub." Police also had to taser a golf fan on May 7th. And Danny Ainge, the Boston Celtics General Manager, tossed a towel into the air while an opposing player was shooting a free throw during a playoff game. He was subsequently fined $25K for insinuating himself into the game. What is wrong with these people? THE GAME IS NOT ABOUT YOU. SIT THERE, WATCH THE GAME, GO HOME. HOW HARD IS THAT?

5. What is it about going to a Sporting Event that makes men act as if they are having Their First Beers Ever? Then they take off their shirts in a manly display of...what? It would be different if they were Fine Examples Of The Masculine Form. But, more often than not, they are tubby, flabby, chalky ickmonsters who then jiggle their puddingy selves while their bad haircuts get sweaty and some of them then throw up. Ugh. Again: I don't get it.

All sports have rules. It's part of the game. Maybe it's time for there to be stricter rules about Watching the Games, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We Can Put A Man On The Moon, Huh?

I used to hate it when people would say, "We can put a man on the moon, yet we still can't..." But now? Now I get it. The USA put people on the moon because they wanted to. They had drive. Ambition. Curiosity. I see how this works. However, the question remains: Doesn't it take significantly less of each of those attributes to do a few minor things that are relatively practical and provide everyday functionality for everyone? This brings me to my list of questions:

Hey, How Come We Can't...

1. Make a cordless vacuum?
2. Have normalized television programming?
3. Make a faucet that doesn't sound like you're rinsing dishes with Niagara Falls?
4. Make cooperative car cupholders?
5. Create a straw that does not leak?

1. That cord is terrible. Running The Sucker is really two jobs. Job 1: Vac. Job 2: Babysit and wrangle the cords constantly. This is terrible. Also, while we are at it, can we do something about the noise that this thing makes when you inevitably suck up a little bit of the cord? Really? Do the neighbors need to know that you failed at Job 2? Everytime I suck up the cord a little, I feel like I have to get ready to defend my fail. "Am I OK? Oh, yeah. I'm fine. Just sort of accidently navigated over this here cord. Yeah, I know it was loud. Right. I know. It's fine. Thanks."

(Is there such a thing, technically, as a "cordless" vac? Yes. Absolutely yes. It is called Roomba. However, does anyone really trust these things? Let me get this straight. You turn on a ROBOT that glides around your house and supposedly knows where all of the dirt is? And I am just supposed to TRUST this contraption? Not a chance. If a person doesn't vac, then no sucker-running has taken place. We are not The Jetsons. Also, I am not one of Those Men. Those Men that think that housework is for women. Oh hell no. I was not raised that way. Men, run that goddamned vac. Please. Not tough.)

2. QUICK! What time and on what day does your favorite show air? Exactly. Now, don't get too comfortable with this. Because for no reason, and without warning, it will change. Also, new episodes will be interrupted with re-runs for weeks before the continuance of the prior episode. This is egregious. And I want it fixed. This is why I like ESPN. I know EXACTLY what time my shows are on. And if something preempts it? It is simply, easily, and VERY publicly moved to another one of their networks. Flawless. Take notes, Network Bitches.

3. Full disclosure: I hate noise. Of all sorts. Most things are too loud and probably don't need to be as loud as they are. And I hate it. I HATE the noise that the faucet makes. It sounds like someone is standing at my kitchen counter with a fire hose and they refuse to stop until the nonstick coating is permanently destroyed on every pan and that the glossy coating on the plates is totally obliterated. And what's more is that they don't give a FUCK that I am trying to watch television, read an article or do anything that is NOT listen to the goddamned life-ruining faucet.

4. There's this annoying little rubber insert thing in cupholders. I understand that it is there to try to stabilize the beverage in question. And, hell, if you take them out? Why, then you can theoretically fit a larger drink in there! ERRONEOUS! What happens then is that your drink is wobblier than a drunken Teletubbie. And when the thing is in there? As soon as you free your beverage from the visegrip that is your cupholder...get ready because that obnoxious little bugger will attach itself to your delicious refreshment. Brutal. This is why I refuse to use the cupholders in my Focus. Unwieldy, at best.

5. We have combs that will not break. We have bridges that basically use wires to hold up TONS and TONS of poundage every day. We even have fabric that will resist a stain. However, for some reason, any time you whack the end of your straw in an effort to break the opposite end's cellophane enclosure, your straw is liable to bend and break. Not visibly shatter. But create a small leaky crack that will undoubtedly challenge your ability to use it to enjoy your drink of choice. I can run a comb over with a car that weighs 4356758667567 pounds with ZERO DAMAGE, but I cannot simply open a straw without fear of ruining it? Furthermore, it isn't even being ruined by using it. It's being ruined by trying to prepare to use it. Am I the only one that finds this ludicrous? I cannot be.

So, Stuffers, what do you find yourself unable to come to terms with due to modern mankind's lack of effort, despite the fact that MEN HAVE WALKED ON THE MOON!?

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Have Seen The Enemy And The Enemy Is...Delicious

Sometimes, the thought of an entire meal overwhelms me. I'd rather just snack, or graze, as some people call it. Often, though, this turns into the sad and horrifying spectacle of me shovelling mass quantities of the snacky food into my gaping maw. What is it about some foods that just make us completely lose control? Here are my own personal

5 Dangerous Food Nemeses

1. Lays Original Potato Chips
2. Fresh Guacamole
3. French Fries
4. Garlic Bread
5. Shrimp Cocktail

Okay. The simple act of looking at the nouns listed above is driving me nuts right now. But for you, I will endure.

1. I have written about my unseemly adoration for Lays Original Potato Chips ad nauseum at my other place. I have been known to hide my Grownup Card and have only the Foldy Chips from an entire bag for dinner if I can't think of anything else that sounds good. I once made my husband hide the chips from me when I couldn't trust myself around them anymore. I hope the staff treat me kindly at The Home when I get there.

2. Last summer I discovered the ease of making fresh guacamole in a bigass Ziploc bag and let's just say that the Ziploc bag was not the only bigass thing until I got my addiction under control. But holy crap, I love that stuff! Do you know that for over 45 years, I had never tasted an avocado, let alone guacamole? I blame my mother for this, and I lived in a part of Ohio that had a significant Mexican population. When avocados go on sale, I get unnaturally excited. Just thinking about it makes me tear up. And store-bought guac sucks. Period.

3. First, let's agree to some basic terminology: those things at McDonald's are not French Fries. Not even close. Wendy's fries, yes. Burger King? I have no effing idea what those fakey things are, but French Fries they are not. They taste like generic, off-brand Pringle's. I love hand-cut, real-deal fries with both vinegar and ketchup, and don't be stingy with the salt, either. If you're an Ohio or Michigan reader, think Cedar Point's Berardi's fries. But, failing those, even good old Ore-Ida fries, deep-fried (don't bake your fries, come on!) and golden with the aforementioned condiments will see me through my jones.

4. More than once during my pregnancies, I made entire meals of garlic bread. I love good bread. When Rick and I plan a trip to Cleveland's West Side Market, we always make sure we go well before 10 AM, or all the bakeries are sold out of their gorgeous artisanal breads: asiago, rosemary garlic, kalamata olive, pepperoni, challah, and before they stopped making it, an astonishing chocolate cherry. If there is garlic bread served with a meal, though--warm, chewy, fragrant and buttery--look out. Forget the pasta for me. I'm parking next to the breadbasket and smacking the paws of anyone else who ventures a grab.

5. When I was little, my dad used to bring home the little teensy frozen glasses of individual shrimp cocktails. They were 99% sauce with about 5 miniscule shrimp in each one. I thought it was the most wonderful stuff in the world. I still love shrimp cocktail, and I'm forever just blown away that the shrimp are so much bigger and so much better. As a result, whenever cocktail shrimp appear, I act like it may very well be the last time in my entire life. But really--isn't shrimp cocktail terrific?

How about you, Stuff readers? What little snacky or grazing foods make you lose all control?

Monday, April 5, 2010

In Which I Am Praiseful And Laudatory Of Little Things In My Employ

I like to think that I do not take things for granted; that I am a thankful person who appreciates--for the most part--How Good I Have It. In this spirit, I want to recognize the little everyday Unsung Heroes that make my life easier or more pleasant. Bet you never stopped to think about these

5 Little Everyday Doodads I'm Glad I Don't Live Without

1. Q-tips®
2. Paper Clips
3. Ziploc® Bags
4. Clicky Pens
5. Kleenex®

(Can you tell that my former student Ian taught me how to do the "registered trademark" thingy?)

Okay. First, let's just dispense with the fiction that no one puts cotton swabs into their ears. Yeah, right. They have to put that crap on the label, same as the Ambien® people have to put the "may cause drowsiness" warning on their label. Everyone puts cotton swabs into their ears. Jared, part-time co-author of this blog, has a serious Q-tip addiction; he has a 5-swab-a-day habit. Why? Because it feels wonderful. Also, because it gets the ick out of your ears. I need Q-tips because I apply mascara like an amateur, despite being 50 years old. I need it as an Eye Makeup Eraser.

Next, paper clips are to me, an English teacher, Organizational Crack. I get them in all sizes, including the gigantic ones for entire stacks of multi-page papers. I can't live without them. Especially wonderful are the binder clips, too. They are easy to attach and detach, but they don't store as nicely.

At home, Ziploc bags, or any generic equivalent thereof, are indispensable. I get frustrated trying to find the correct lids for my plastic containers (which may or may not exist, subject as they are to my sons' whims and fancies, i.e., "maybe I'll bring this home or maybe I'll just throw it away or leave it in my car until it molds beyond all use"), so I employ the various-sized Ziploc bags for many leftovers. If it's a messy, liquidy leftover, no problem! Just cut the corner of the bag and squeeze it out that way! Ziplocs are also wonderful for loose hardware, small suitcase items, unreliable jar contents (slip the jar into a Ziploc for insurance), guacamole making (put all ingredients into the bag and just smush it all together, cut off the corner, squeeze into bowl!), and for freezing anything.

Now, I was at first uninitiated to the Wonders Of The Clicky Pen until my colleague/buddy Roger sat me down and set me upon the Path To Righteousness one day in the Teachers' Lounge. And he is right. The Clicky Pen, a.k.a., the Retractable Pen, is the perfect writing device for a busy teacher. No lid to worry about keeping track of, no ink tip bare and mistakenly leaving marks on your skin or clothes or in the bottom of your pen cup where it clots and dries onto other writing utensils, no having to remove the lid in order to jot a quick note, and you can click the clicky part to annoy students or to help you think--both useful endeavors.

Finally, I am continually reminded of the Benefits And Gladness Of Kleenex because my husband is a Hanky User. I know. How Sad. We fight over this all the time. What on Earth is the attraction of keeping a wadded-up swatch of snotted and boogered cloth on your person when you can always have a fresh, clean, hygienic alternative at the ready? And he is an allergy-sufferer! As for me, I will continue to use a pleasant and delightful, soft and clean tissue whenever I need to...evacuate my nasal passages. And then throw it away and get a fresh one. Again and again.

Wasn't this uplifting and pleasant? What Little Heroes make your existence bearable? Sing their praises and see if we share your joy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

March Mania (I promise this will be better than the NCAA tournament)

Supposedly, this is March. And in some ways, I know that it is. But it just doesn't feel like it. Usually, I get excited about it. My birthday, the NCAA tournament, the NBA coming to the stretch run...things are supposed to be coming along.

However, it just doesn't FEEL like it's March for some reasons. And it is these reasons I am annoyed by.

Stuff About March
1. The NCAA tournament sucks.
2. The weather is absolute bullshit.
3. My birthday will happen.
4. There is baseball beginning to happen.
5. The Easter Bunny is at the mall.

Let's separate these into reasons that it obnoxiously DOES feel like March, and reasons that it. does not.


2. The weather is bullshit. Honestly, one day a couple weeks ago, it was 70 degrees. I went out that night and was comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans with no jacket anywhere near me. I promise, this happened. Do you know what happened two days later? It snowed. Swear to god, this is a fact. Also, two days ago, it was 60 degrees and gorgeous. Of course, as a result of this, I worked ALL DAY. Today? Today is my day off and it is 40 degrees and has been raining all day. Now, if it were gorgeous, would I be active outside? Probably not. But I would like to have that option.

4. I hate it. I am so fucking sick of all things baseball, that I could throw up all over myself as I type this. It is the single most boring sport ever. Will I go to a game in person? I don't know. Can I get loaded and have pizza and wings before it? Also, can I spend less than fifteen bucks on my seat? Do I have to drive? If the answers are, in order: yes, yes, and no...than yes I am in. Will I watch a game on television? Not unless I am suffering from insomnia or am pulling a Dimmesdale and punishing myself for something. I don't ever want to watch a baseball game on TV again...that's how much fuck baseball.

5. The Easter Bunny is always there, and I always wonder why. Do kids ask him for stuff? Isn't this why we have Santa? Also, it isn't even remotely believable that it is a real bunny. For real. At least with Santa, he is the size of a real person, looks like a real person, and IS A REAL PERSON! That "bunny"? Not even close. It's big, plastic, doughy eyes sort of stare at you blankly. Then, there's that weird seam between his neck and his do kids buy this? Are they THAT stupid? Also, the Easter Bunny was spotted smoking a menthol cigarette in the alley behind Harry Buffalo. Just sayin'.

Does Not

1. I used to enjoy the NCAA tournament. I used to get excited and throw a bunch of money away on brackets, call off of work on the first day of the tourney, and use it as an excuse to get loaded in the afternoon. Now? I hate it. The basketball is not high quality, the athletes--for the most part--are not high quality, and the announcing is ridiculous. And can we stop the charade that every team has a chance? They don't. A 16-seed has never beaten a 1-seed. Let alone win more than that game or a title. To hell with college sports. They are crap. Except BGSU women's basketball; those of you that know me, know why this is...can you blame me?

3. Evidently, I will be 25. Who knew? I feel old. Not OLDER than I was/am. Just OLD in general. I don't want gifts, I don't want a party, I don't even really want/need to use it as an excuse to get loaded. I think that being 25 means that you don't need a reason, or a defence for your desire to do so. I will have dinner with my parents and potentially my brother and grandmother. I will enjoy a great meal and my family's company, and really, what more do you need from a birthday? I had a girl ask me recently, "What are you gonna get for your birthday?" What? I don't know. Nothing? And that's fine. All I really need is jeans and boxers. Maybe a t-shirt. Am I concerned? No. The one disconcerting thing here is that I used get AMPED for birthdays. Old sucks. And the real bad part? I am only getting older.

I don't mean to sound like I'm being bitchy. It isn't that March has been terrible. Not for me at least. How about all of you?

Here's to April bringing better weather, better basketball, and of course, the NFL Draft.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Break Time Is Over! Tell These Bores To Stuff It!

I've been a real crabass lately for a variety of reasons that I won't venture into here and now, but it's led me to create this list of

Stuff That People Need To Stop Boring Me With

1. Showing me pictures on their cellphones
2. Telling me about the dream they had
3. Making me watch them do something on the computer
4. Forcing me to wait while their baby/toddler/pet performs something
5. Compelling me to look at pictures of people I don't even know

All of these are interminably horrid. If you don't know why, please continue reading. If I've begun to bore you senseless by telling you something you already know, by all means, go read something else and accept my profound apology.


1. This is terrible because it is ridiculously small and I cannot see it. Also, it does not stay on the screen long enough to survive the exchange from cellphone owner to cellphone viewer, and I am not cellphone savvy enough to know how to get it back on there. Already, my patience is taxed beyond belief. No picture is worth this unless it is, say, Johnny Depp naked and holding a sign saying, "NANCE, I NEED YOU. CALL ME AT (and his cell number appears here)."

2. Bill Maher, thinker and political satirist once said, "Nobody wants to hear about your dreams. That's why they play in exclusive engagements in your head." Moreover, your dreams are weird, incoherent, and make absolutely no sense, even to you. You were held hostage in the night by your dreams; that does not mean that I must be. More than once, I have had to listen to lengthy monologues that begin like this: So, I was at my house, but it wasn't my house, but it was, you know? And my mom was there, but it wasn't my mom, but it was, and she was wearing like this gold thingy on her head that wasn't exactly a crown, but I can't really explain it. Then, all of a sudden, we were at my cousin's house having dinner. And my third grade teacher was there, and this dog...." Ugh. Spare me.

3. Watching someone else do something--anything--on a computer is Almost The Epitome Of Boring. I don't care if it is a seminar at which we are suddenly told that we cannot get the software ourselves, but "It's okay! We can do the demo and you can at least See What You Could Have Been Doing!!!!" or some kid who wants me to watch him play Elmo's Happy Fun Alphabet Maze. B-O-R-I-N-G. At least serve me a martini or some wine and a few nibblies so that I don't have to grind my teeth and chew on my own hair.

4. Let's face it: everyone thinks his or her kid/pet is the cutest and the smartest and is the First One To Do Anything Charming. That's fine. Mommies and Daddies, whether their kids are animals or human, have to feel this way. It's their job. But when they inflict this on me, I have to protest--even if I keep it all inside or only vent on the Interwebs. How many of you have had the Dreaded One-Way Telephone Conversation whilst Little Wunderkind merely breathed or gummed the phone when he was supposed to be saying something? Or how many of you had to sit and watch for forty-eleven minutes while a dog cocked its head until its ears switched places because its owner swore up and down that it could say I Love You? Aaargh.

5. The Parade Of The Unknown is an event I have come to dread, especially at school. Students love to haul out massive amounts of pictures, sometimes in albums, and trumpet, "Want to see the pictures of my aunt's wedding?" HELL, NO! I want to scream at them. I used to smile and say, "Oh, sure." And then have to witness interminable snapshots of complete and total strangers with a running commentary that bordered on the bizarre thoroughness of a director's notes supplied with a DVD of a major motion picture. Finally, I just got downright brutal. Now, I say, "Will I know anyone in these photos? Are you in them? If so, pick out 6 or 7 of those, and I'll look at them. That's all I really have time for, and I don't know anyone else, so I won't need to look at any others." Sigh.

CONFESS! Do you bore people with this Stuff? Or do you have other Boring Stuff to add to my list?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

How I Learned To Love Animals And To Ignore My Parents At The Same Time

When I was a kid, my mother said, "There will absolutely be NO PETS IN THIS HOUSE!" Here, then, is a list of all the

Pets I Grew Up With

1. Gerbils: Xavier and Myrtle
2. Mice: Shasta, Pepsi, and Millie
3. Several Turtles whose names I forget
4. Dozens of tanks of tropical fish, including a piranha
5. A few garter snakes
6. Hamsters: Peanuts and Amy
7. Dog: Dusty
8. Guinea Pigs: Cory, Toby, and Eric
9. Chicken: Elton
10. Bunny: Shiloh

It is worth noting that every single one of these pets lived in the house, except the bunny, who had a deluxe pen outdoors. Not one of these pets made it into our home with my mother's prior approval or her permission. They merely showed up and she could do--and did--nothing about it. My father merely shrugged his shoulders and smiled, knowing his involvement would be nil. Also, my mother immediately liked all of them with the exception of the snakes and the mice, which brings me to a story that is very telling about my mother.

When the mice showed up, Mom was supremely irked, and she made my sister Susan and I promise to keep them upstairs so that she didn't have to see them. As usual, we had no idea how to take care of these pets, and we didn't realize how easily mice can escape any enclosure, no matter how small the opening provided. The mice getting loose was an hourly occurrence, and my mother started threatening to suck them up in the vacuum. One day, she saw Susan's mouse, Millie, the most Houdini-like of the three, scurrying along the livingroom baseboards as we were getting ready to leave for school. "That's IT!" my mother screamed. "NEITHER OF YOU GIRLS IS GOING TO SCHOOL UNTIL YOU FIND THAT MOUSE!"

Millie enjoyed the run of the house for most of the day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Can You Come Out To Play?

Everyone is making a bigass deal out of these Zhu Zhu pets, the motorized hamsters that became the must-have gift last Christmas. Crappy toy, in my opinion. What can you really do with it? No staying power there. Reading that article got me thinking about my own Favorite Playthings from my childhood (way back before computers and microchips but well after dinosaurs and log cabins). Here's my list of

Top 5 Toys

1. Spirograph
2. Etch-A-Sketch
3. Play Doh
4. Fun Flowers Thingmaker Set
5. Crayola 64 Crayon Box

These toys all had major staying power because they were interactive and produced something. They weren't necessarily--bad word here--educational--but you did more than just wind them up and watch them.

Spirograph: This was the most incredible toy. I'm sure someplace some engineer thought altruistically, "I'm teaching kiddies about parabolas and geometry and sine and cosine" or something mathy like that, but I never thought that. I just picked out a disc, stuck a colored pen in the hole, and started carefully fitting the teeth together of disc and stationary part. It was awesome the way a beautiful snowflakey-looking shape suddenly appeared. I used to sit and do this for hours. Once for Christmas I got a huge pen with about two dozen different colors of ink in its barrel that could be used interchangeably. It made Spirograph 24 times more exciting.

Etch-A-Sketch: Man, this thing also kept me busy forever. I got so I could draw almost anything on it, but my favorite thing was a nice, neat house with windowboxes, front steps, and even a house number. I was always curious about how it worked, but my dad told me, so I never had to break it open. I still love this toy, and both my kids always had one. Truth be told, I think I played with it far more than they ever did.

Play Doh: Let me tell you, I played with this stuff far longer than is probably normal or healthy, and the fact that my little sister is five years younger than I am prolonged my Play Doh Playtime, a fact for which I am immensely grateful. I especially loved that simple extruder toy, The Play Doh Fun Factory. I used to sit and make a ton of pretend baked goods, plates of pretend restaurant entrees and desserts, you name it. I was especially proud of of my Play Doh Fruit Plates.

The Fun Flowers Thingmaker Set: This toy would never fly in this day and age, for it reached temperatures of probably five hundred degrees, used bare metal plates without a safety covering, and the Plastigoop had more poison/toxicity warnings on it than a medical waste facility. Basically, it was a nightmare. But I loved making the rubbery little flowers and faces and leaves and then putting them on florist's wire and...having them. Bunches and Bunches of them. My mother detested cleaning up the oily residue of the Plastigoop from the carpet and table and floor (during one memorable summer, she even forbid me from playing with the Thingmaker on the concrete front porch), but she never seemed even remotely concerned with the dozens of burns I got on my fingers. Moms back then were way less hovery.

64 Crayola Crayon Box: Not only was this The Big Box Of Crayons, it had a built-in crayon sharpener! This was THE BOX OF CRAYONS. I got one of these for Christmas every year because it made My List every year. Sometimes, I got one for my birthday. Holy Crap, I loved this box of crayons. This used to be The Biggest Box They Made. There were days I would take the crayons out and just organize them in the box: you know, put all the greens together, all the oranges together, all the blues together, etc. I knew the names of the colors like the saint names in the prayer of the Eucharist at mass: apricot, burnt sienna, thistle, sepia, bittersweet, magenta, cornflower...ah! What the Crayola people have done to some of these classic colors is shameful. I still find coloring in a good coloring book very therapeutic. Good luck with that, though--finding a good coloring book. Most are shills for cartoon characters. Sad.

You know what's next, Stuff readers: your turn to take that stroll down Memory Lane and identify your favorite childhood toys. Let's see what you toss into the playpen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Been Gone Since Like...November: Come Here Often?

Oh, hello there. Come here often? What's shakin'?

Yes, it's been a while since I've been here. There is no excuse for it. I want to make that known right now. Nance will tell you it's because I'm a slug, lazy, and sometimes apathetic about most things. What do I say to that? Good call, Mother. Also, that I have been, albeit regrettably and inexplicably, cantankerous as of late.

Now that we are caught up, let's get down to brass tacks. ("Brass tacks"? How old am I?)

My new favorite night is Thursday. Thursday is Boyfriend Night. What is that? Basically, if girls can call each other girlfriend, we can call each other boyfriend...and we do. The place: Harry Buffalo on Boyfriend Night. Let's explore some of the worst pickup lines that I may or may not have used on Boyfriend Night, in descending order of how much I like them. Not based upon their results, but how much I like them. I may (or may not) have been a couple of pitchers deep when these lines were (or were not) uttered.

5 Worst Pickup Lines

5. "Hey, I'm Jared. Does your boyfriend know you're here tonight? Just checking."
4. "Whatever you're drinking, I'll buy one."
3. "Hi, you feel like coming and sitting with us? If you do, great, and if not, that's cool too. Just asking."
2. "Are you drinking Bud Lite? Oh, good thing. Why? Because it's awful and you look like you need a Long Island. I'll take care of that."
1. "Hello, can I buy you a water?"


5. This is an EASY way to see if the girl is attached to someone. Either it's a "yes" meaning "I have a boyfriend, guy. Back off," or it's a "no" meaning "I have a boyfriend, and he doesn't need to know I'm here. Back off, guy". Or, even better, it could be "I don't have a boyfriend". What's that? Oh, that works out well. See what I did there?

4. Basically, this is being straightforward. All you want here is to buy a drink. Who turns that down? Nobody. And that's the key. If you buy the drink, she accepts it, and then reveals that she has a boyfriend, you didn't get rejected, she was CLEARLY interested, just has someone already. In fact, it's HER FAULT for leading you on. See? Basically, you are spending three bucks to see if a girl has a boyfriend, is a cheater, or just likes to have a good drink from a guy with a dominant beard. Three dollars well spent, I say.

3. Nonchalance at its finest. No urgency, not smothering, basically saying, "I'm interested, but only if you are." This needs no further explanation. So simple. So perfect. Plus, it'll give her and her friends something to talk about. You, sir, have done your job. Make interest known? Check. Put ball in their court? Check. Give them a discussion topic for that night and if they see you there again? Check...and...Check. Well played, sir.

2. First and foremost, Bud Lite sucks. Ok? Budweiser? Fine. Bud Lite? Why bother? Second of all, who doesn't love a Long Island? I know I do. And you probably do too. It's got enough booze to be manly, but it's sweet enough to be girly. It's the perfect drink to have WITH a girl. Also, you've communicated that you have good taste. What's more, you have also let her know you have her best interest in mind that evening. Basically, for a beautiful girl to drink anything other than a Long Island is preposterous. Biggest drink turnoff for me and my boyfriends? Cranberry and vodka. Cliche, boring, stupid, and makes me want to throw the drink across the room. Top drink I would immediately fall for a girl if she ordered it upon my offer to buy? Gin and Tonic. I'm marrying that girl. Hands down. As long as it isn't Beefeater.

1. COME ON! This....this friends, is flawless. You are doing so much here. So much that I will, in fact, give this its own top five. An unprecedented move here at Stuff:

A. You are showing your amazing sense of humor.
B. You are still clearly demonstrating an interest.
C. Follow it with "Oh, I'm sorry, that was rude. My name is Jared, what are you drinking?" and it shows humility, willingness to admit you were an ass, and willingness to atone for your ass-holier-than-thou attitude.
D. If it fails just brush it off as "She doesn't have a sense of humor. Not right for me." It's about built-in outs.
E. Water is free. That is all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside, And I'm Just Getting Warmed Up By Dissing Winter

(Sigh. It seems I'm again on my own here at Stuff. Certain co-bloggers are not pulling their weight, and I can't let you down (all 5-6 of you), so I will press on and endeavour to bring you a post. AGAIN. Ahem.)

We here in NEO (NorthEastOhio; this is the Cleveland Plain Dealer's attempt at making this region of the country trendy and cool. Yeah. Right.) are in the throes of winter. Winter sucks. People who like winter mystify and annoy me. Probably they are severely mentally ill and need intense therapy, but that's not my place to judge. Here, though, are my

Top 7 Reasons I Detest And Abhor Winter

1. The cold
2. Snow
3. No gardening
4. Lack of sunshine
5. Cold car
6. I worry about my fish
7. Wardrobe boredom

Here's the part of the show where I entertain you with my explanations:

1. Although saying, "It's cold" seems patently obvious, I cannot explain to you how horrifying this state is to me. I literally suffer in the cold. Those readers who know me know that I am, in a word, little. The cold does go right through me no matter how much clothing I don. My hands are constantly cold and, no, I do not have Reynaud's Syndrome. There are times when I sit on the couch in fleece pants, fleece robe, heavy socks and my Slanket, and I am still cold. I cannot go out to eat in most restaurants without leaving my coat on because I am cold (are you hearing this, Cheesecake Factory?). If my home thermostat is not set to at least 72 degrees, I cannot function. Do not even begin to contemplate how the rest of my family--all tall, strapping men--deal with the Project That Is Me.

2. Snow is pointless and horrid. Large parts of the world get along just fine without it. It is inconvenient, dangerous, and a bitch to drive in. Additionally, it needs to be shovelled. Why is it necessary? It is not. Do not give me that dewy-eyed bullshit about "how pretty it is." How pretty is it when it turns to greyish-brown road snow or is piled up in parking lots and does not thaw until July? NOT VERY. How do you like cleaning it off of your car after a hard day at work? Do you think it lovely and scenic then? Hmmmmm....!

3. I love my herb and tomato garden. It does not thrive in winter. I cannot cultivate it in winter. Want fresh chives for my baked potato in January? Tough. Not gonna happen. Want fresh basil and tomato for a nice, impromptu bruschetta? Screw you. It's January.

4. So far this January, we in NEO have had TWO days of sunshine. This is normal. Winter = Grey Cloudy Days. I am positively suicidal in winter here. Unless I am braindead and amnesiac. Wait...are those the same thing? Not sure. What? Nlkle980389^(*#Ljkng*(*(. Sorry. Lost track of what me doing.

5. Nothing is worse than getting into an ice-cold car and waiting eleventy thousand minutes for it to warm up. My ride to work is about 3.5 minutes long. Which, normally, is great. Except in winter when that, in Freezing Time is equivalent to fourteen hours. And don't give me a lot of Sage Advice about "warming up the car first." That is a waste of gas. I abhor waste as much as I abhor winter. I know; I'm impossible. Part of my charm.

6. I have an outdoor pond. In it are my dear pet fish, one of which is almost ten years old. All of them have names and personalities (Hey! Don't judge.) and I care deeply for them. Every winter, I have to worry about the pond freezing over--which is bad--and I just don't like the idea of all of them (there are 5 now; we lost one mysteriously over the summer) out there in a state of suspended animation, waiting for spring. Even though they've done it for years and are fine, it still bothers me.

7. By the time the middle of February rolls around, I am so damn sick of bundling up in all my sweaters and fall/winter pants, having worn them since late September, that I just can't take it anymore. Mainly because I know I still have about a month and a half to go. That's the problem with winter in NEO--it is often seven freaking months long. I look at my clothes and think, "I hate all of you." And I do, even though I mix stuff up, use accessories and all that crap. After a while, it's like watching reruns of The Office every night: you love it, but you know it so well that you're tired of it.

So, as my students say, "Do you feel me?" Are you a Winter Hater, too? Pile on! What do you hate about winter?


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