Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I Met a Princess Once...

This is from a long post that I had published in bits and pieces on a cake forum a long time ago at the height of my Bakery Life.  Every word is true; again, you can't make up stuff this crazy.

If it seems pieced together, it is, but it was so funny and bizarre that I had to include it here.

One day my bakery phone rings and it's this woman, who sounds very...normal.  No foreign accent, articulate, friendly, personable, slightly chatty, etc.  She tells me she's calling me from Africa (eyebrow up), and that they are going to be moving 'home' soon to a local mansion that they have bought. They are "renewing their vows" (at this point I'm still with her) before flying off to Hawaii and Disneyland, in that order (other eyebrow starting to go up).

She asks if I can do a pillow cake with a crown on it. I say sure. She says, "Because my husband's actually a prince." I'm thinking, "Okay, your husband's a great guy." But she's trying to say he's actual royalty, and she mentions it several more times. I'm unimpressed (sorry). But yes, I can do a crown-on-a-pillow cake.

Her next request is that she wants a 4-foot-tall Faberge design cake, and can I do this? I say that I can, but first I need to know her wedding date. She says, "Oh...you know...soon." We talk about design for a minute. She's obviously ON my website while we're talking, and she compliments me on various cakes.   All throughout her chitchat, she keeps mentioning that her husband "works at the embassy," and that they are "financially comfortable," (starting to lose me here, why does this matter?). She also needs to tell me that her husband, who's a prince, remember, is half-Australian and half-South African, but that her daughter is: White (me: "Huh? So?"). Both eyebrows starting to frown.

She asks about cake tastings and flavors, and we have a somewhat normal conversation about that--what he likes, what she likes, etc.  She still sounds pretty sane.  I tell them they can come in if they want (when they're in the States, that is). She tells me again, "That would be nice, but my husband's...black.  (long pause) But he USED to be white." At this point, I'm like, WTF??

I tell her to send me a web order online and that I will check my calender and see if I'm available (I'm booked thru June heavily, so that's true.). She says she "only" wants to work with me.  Whatever.

I figure I'm not going to hear from her again. Ten minutes later I get an online order with her info (with her name, I kid you not, as "Princess *name withheld*") and that she will take whatever date I want and give me instructions "when they're in the States". The order has no capitalization (even for the name of the mansion), and the design info is...odd and very random (exactly like those Nigerian email scam orders).

I decided to look up her phone number (duh, Poynt, people), and it's a LEWISTON, IDAHO phone number. Okayyyy. So she took her Idaho cell phone to Africa to live? And the name of the "mansion" they're "buying" to live in, in two weeks, is a major wedding venue I dealt with in Spokane all the time, so I called them and said, "Hey, this is Stef--are you guys for sale right now?" Of course we had a bit of a laugh about it, because of course they're not. But really. What's the POINT of all this???

I emailed the, uh, Princess back and said I'd gotten to my desk and that I did not, in fact, have any dates open in June, best luck in the future, etc.

The same day, I got a TEXT from her Idaho cell phone number, with an incredible photo of a Faberge egg vase filled with gorgeous flowers, like this:

 This should be the inspiration for the 4' tall cake she's wanting. 

What. the. heck?  What happened to the crown on a pillow?

She did sound very rational, but yes, she did keep bringing up her husband's skin color, and yes, I swear she said he's black,...but he used to be white... (I let that one go).  I did tell her I don't care what color he is; bring him in.

I decided to call her and tell her I didn't see any June dates open (and I really didn't have time for a 4' cake that month unless I worked 24-hour shifts, even if she WAS for real).   And, NO sending me extra money.  I'm not that gullible.

She also asked me for a local referral to a caterer's number for her upcoming party, and I gave her one.  Afterwards, I started wondering about the whole thing, so I then called THEM and left a message that if an African princess calls to book you for a party, please let me know.

Also I'd love to know what time is it at the South African embassy, when it's 2 pm PST here? Just a thought...

Assuming I'm willing to go along with the fact that, okay, sure, they're royalty and they don't know their next address, then (possibly) I could be looking at a very expensive cake.  The sugar flowers alone would cost a fortune.

Am I supposed to call her Your Majesty next time? What's the protocol for talking with royalty by phone in Idaho? The whole conversation was very pleasant and chatty, albeit surreal and with way too much odd personal info from her ("Did I mention we're rich?" WHO announces that??), and I was driving in heavy traffic at the time, which makes me a little ADD anyway. But maybe she's just an eccentric princess with party-planning time on her hands, who really just loves red velvet cake and wants a 4' Faberge egg made of sugar.  I've seen odder cakes...

Assuming all of that--she also still reminded me very much of a woman we knew when I was a kid, who actually lived with us in the 1970s, who was very schizophrenic and on heavy meds, and when she would go off her meds, she would call me from Seattle when I was 13 and be like, "Hiiii Stef...I'm having a tea party. Do you want to come to my tea party?" And I'd be on the phone looking at my mom, like, "Isn't Diane still in SEATTLE?!? Seven hours away??" Then, "Sure, Diane, I'd love that. Yeah, okay, well, here's my mom." She was very odd when off meds, but in a sweet believable way.

Here's the next chapter.  I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.

She called me the next day. I knew it was her, because I saved her in my cell as "Princess XX from Africa LOL." My kids are like, "Answer it!! Do it!"

So, she had now picked a date in July and a venue (the nicest one in the area, and no, she's not living in it this time), and also an alternate venue idea.

Now she has picked a cake design from my website, said she wants exactly that design. Except...She did mention she wants it 6' tall.  I stopped her here and said: "OKAY. First I need to know how many guests are we feeding?" She's like, "About 40." I said, "You realize that, for a cake to be 6' tall, it is going to need a LOT of styrofoam dummies, or you're going to have a ton of leftover cake". She's like, that's okay, I love cake. I said, "No I mean, thousands of dollars worth, of extra cake".

So, she completely switches gears and says that it doesn't matter and to please just copy this 4-tiered round cake on my website, but add some pearls and sugar diamonds to "dress it up".

She picked flavors and fillings for all four tiers, although at one point she said she wants ME to pick all the flavors (huh??? um, no). I reminded her that the cake she's ordering will only be like 18"-20" tall. She said that's fine, it doesn't have to be huge (?). This is all starting to REALLY NOT MAKE SENSE. 

At least she didn't mention anyone's skin color this time, which was a plus.

She did mention that it was 4 a.m. where she is, and that she was "kind of tired, but she that has to get up and deal with all this planning at wierd hours because that's the time difference to get vendors over there during regular hours." (oooohh-kay).

Now she went on to say she still wanted a pillow cake with a crown and gold tassles (because that's a royal color), with a frog inside the crown, because she had to kiss a lot of frogs to get her prince (believable? sure).

I asked her if she's already booked the venue for this event.  She said it's one or the other but hasn't booked yet. (I have calls in to both to check this). She didn't mention moving INto a venue this time, but did say that by that time "their house should be finished".  So apparently, she's still moving here?

The whole time, I'm thinking, she is so rational to visit with and very appreciative of my taking the time to help her with this, etc., etc., that (aside from the original wacky details) that she could be any customer I've talked to, who's planning a cake.

So I wrapped it up with telling her that I will get all her details into a quote and email it to her. If she wants to book it, there's a $100 deposit to hold the date. The balance is due a month before the event. She said that's fine and that her daughter is here in Idaho and can get that to me. (very normal, no offering of extra funds or whatever). She's like, "Oh thank you so much; I know it will be perfect."

Ok, I do have to interject that she did mention some of the cake is being taken BACK to Africa, at which point I said italian meringue icing isn't a good idea for long travel, and she said they'd be using dry ice. (what EVER)

The whole time, I'm thinking what's the POINT of all of this?

I called my bank and totally enthralled the lovely girl there with the story. She now wants to be on the list of updates when this all does/doesn't happen. ("Call me. I mean it.") She said a cashier's check is okay but can be a fraud, and frauds can go for 7 years out, in terms of them being able to suck the funds BACK out of my account if it turns out to be fraudulent.  She said cash of course is best, or a credit card from the daughter and give everything lots of time to clear, etc. Of course my cake contracts state that nothing is refundable after certain dates, etc. And of course I wouldn't let her 'over'pay me (whoops) and ask for a refund on the overage, so I'm covered there.  Basically by now I was just thinking...yep; I'm booked, lady. er, Your Highness... (muffled laughter)

I also took the time to do another reverse lookup of the phone number she'd been calling from-- remember I said it appeared to be a Lewiston number?

Well. It said it's a...(ready?) LANDLINE in Lewiston.

Ok, so how. IN. THE. HECK is she calling me from AFRICA?

I decided I have no idea what is up with this, but she's got to be lying about everything or, as a friend suggested, making her "one phone call from the asylum today" to yank my chain.

So much for rational, sane-sounding lunatics.

"Yes, hello, Room Service? I'd like a glass of water and some Valium. Thanks." --Stef

Late, late post-script:  I never did hear back from her.  Whatever.

Cooking with My Mom

I have been cooking with my mom, well, for pretty much EVER.  She taught me, from the time I had to stand on a kitchen chair at the counter, up to my first cake entry at a little county fair (which won Best in Fair and got me a HUGE purple rosette), and we still cook together when she visits.  She is an amazing cook who has "been there and done that" in terms of the restaurant/food business.  She has run a lunch and sweet shop that became locally famous for her bagels and hand-dipped truffles; a restaurant that became famous for her scratch pizza and sourdough pancakes (seriously, ONE is enough, sir; they're 10" in diameter), and supplied homemade desserts for a New Jersey restaurant in the early 70's. 
At the Jersey shore with my mom; one of my favorite pics ever.
On one of her last visits, Mom reminded me about how she used to keep me occupied by turning on 'Sesame Street', back when it was a "new" show on TV, while she baked pies at home for the restaurant in New Jersey, so I guess I've been with her in the kitchen for a longer time than I remember.

When she's here, we still spend a lot of our time in the kitchen. In fact, usually we run out of days to make *all* the things we wanted to bake, and the conversations sound like this:
Her:  So, what should we do for dinner tonight?

Me:  Let's do homemade potato pierogi.  We haven't made those yet!  With Polish sausage and saurkraut.
Her:  What about borscht?

Me: That too. And flat bread. And babka! We forgot the chocolate babka!
Her:  There wasn't time. We were too busy making the butter cookies and gingerbread. Enough with the carbs, already.

Me:  We also totally haven't made homemade marshmallows yet.

Her:  I leave tomorrow, remember?

And so on...

This summer she's coming for a longer stay than her last holiday visit, and since I've started putting everything we love into ONEcookbook for our family, I can already tell we're going to be having variations of this conversation a lot.

Monday, June 24, 2013

You Should Write a Cookbook, They Said...

This past week I finally started putting together a project that has been in the concept stage forever. 

I've always baked and cooked, and my mom has always baked and cooked.  It seems like between the two of us, we are always baking or cooking, for ourselves or others.  In my case, this got way way out of hand after someone said: you could totally sell cakes, but that's another story.  The project I have been thinking about forever, though, is a cookbook.  I'm finally not spending everywakingmoment meeting with brides, their moms, their fianc├ęs, their best friends, their children and their bridal parties (Hi, we're here for the wedding cake tasting.  Yes, there are 9 of us). I'm also not constantly at a bakery or up late at night designing, sketching, baking, and creating edible works of art, like turning this sketch...
Into this cake:

When I have free time like this, my mind turns to projects; hence, the idea of a cookbook.

I'm not saying I'm going to whip up a bunch of NEW recipes and call a publisher or anything, but with the combined total of like a thousand years of cooking experience in our family, I thought it'd be a wonderful gift to my two girls as future graduates, wives and mothers, to compile a book with all of our family's favorite recipes in one place.
This will also be a great gift to myself, so I can skip the endless flipping through book after book, muttering, "Criminy! WHICH book has our favorite gingerbread recipe?!?"  This will be a one-stop collection drawn from my many cookbooks, 4x6 note cards,  my Polish grandmother, my mom, my years in the wedding cake industry, magazine tear-outs, etc.  If you've ever eaten at our house or attended a wedding with one of my cakes, you have an idea what it will contain.  So far everyone who's heard about this project, wants a copy, which is sweet but is so not what I had in mind.  (No pressure there; now it has to be Really Perfect).

Not that you won't be able to maybe snag a copy someday, for a price, but I am nowhere near that point yet, so don't get all excited. 
After talking about it as an idea for probably 2 years now, I finally started working on it this past week.  I actually downloaded what seemed like a very cool self-publishing book program from online, (which shall remain nameless) chose the book size and general chapter titles, and wrote a brief introduction (which will, no doubt, go Long).  I started  with their automatically formatted 'recipe' pages, which seemed AWEsome at first.  Right away I ran into a glitch with their automatic, nonoptional text "bleed" feature, where you can be typing blithely along in a text box on a 2-column page, reach the bottom of the column, and you assume (why not?) that the bleed of the text will carry into the next column. On the same page. 

For some reason, however, this is NOT where your overflow text ends up.  At first, it's not apparent where it ends up, only that there is an "Issue" and that it has been "Fixed".  If you've typed enough of the overflow text or aren't paying attention, you will suddenly realize that you are typing on a whole new page, somewhere Out There in the book, but you are definitely no longer on the same page.
After most of a day spent doing a lot of cut-and-pasting, deleting, undoing, and some major cursing, plus a near all-out I am SO not doing this, I figured out the text bleed thing.  Somehow it bleeds, not onto the same page, (where it belongs) but into the next available blank text box, *usually* the next page.  Wth??  I can only assume that, if the next page were already full, then this random bleed function could also technically put your continuation of "Aunt Lillian's Coconut Easter Eggs" on a page in the Meat chapter, and then Easter's screwed and the BBQ has a funny 'tropical' flare.  But I digress…

Long story not much shorter, I turned it all off for awhile and considered my options (quit, find another program, or figure this out), and decided that I DO want to have this book done in my children's lifetime, so I took a break, turned it back on, and dove in.
So far, I'm pretty happy with the progress I'm making.  It's been a surprisingly slow process, trying to figure out the best way to add recipes:  book by book, and jump around all through my chapters, adding recipes? Or chapter by chapter, sorting through 30 different books for ALL my favorite chicken recipes at once?  I've settled on book by book, mostly because having ALL the cookbooks I own sitting on the coffee table is making the living room look like a major hoarder lives here.  See? 
Not cool…Now there's nowhere to put your feet.
I'm prepared for this whole book-writing thing to take a long time, because there's also still the whole issue of adding photos.  Occasionally I've taken pictures of cool things I've cooked at home, which ususally turn out like this:
(I know, pretty awesome composition, huh?)
Since snapping pro-quality pictures of food at home is not an everyday thing for me, there's an obvious problem here.  Almost every photo I've tried to add have returned an "Issue" with resolution, which the program wants to "fix" by resizing the image to like a 1 x 1" square.  That's totally not what I have in mind, since most really awesome cookbooks usually have glossy full-page photos and could double as a coffee-table book.   I tested it using some of the pro cake pictures I have from wedding photo shoots that were published in print and online, to see if they would work in this program, but even THOSE seem to be not good enough (really??).   Plus, I can't just put wedding cake pictures on every page of a cookbook.

(This says nothing about Marsala Chicken, to me. Even my kids would see through that. Cake chapter photo, though? yes, maybe.)
I haven't figured out how to solve this problem yet, so for now I'm going to focus on just getting the recipes added to the book, leave the formatted spots for photos along the way, and hope to figure it out before it's all done.  Then I will sell it to everyone on the planet and become a billionaire with my own TV show, radio show, cable show, books, magazines, and product line in every major box store, muahahahahaha.

If it's worth doing, it's worth flying by the seat of your pants, is what I always say...or was that Martha? 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sorta Organic Gardening

It's raining again today, which means all my lovely roses in the height of their June flush of blooms are drooping and sad and wet.  The vegetable garden is, well, plenty wet, and the luscious peonies and perennials are splayed almost flat on the ground from the pounding rain we had all day yesterday too.

Sad Golden Celebration, hanging its head
Centifolia Fantin-Latour, pounded flat

Carefree Beauty, waterlogged
So…I sit inside and I wait.  And write :D

But it makes me mad because I know, I just know, that when I go back out, the rose problems that I fight all year, my Big Three of rose problems (powdery mildew, black spot, and aphids) will be fully back in the saddle and taking off without me.
If you've read my background, you know that I took about a 12-year detour out of my Real Life to start up a wedding cake bakery, which amped up my schedule and my stress level for the last 5 years and caused me to absolutely not be home to garden or maintain anything here, so the diseases have been let go.  I grew up in the hippied-out 70s, (a long story for another time), so I GET the whole "organic" thing.  I grew UP organic.  I AM organic.  Which is great, and I'm so thankful to my mom for raising us that way.  I have an abhorrence of chemicals in my food or on my plants, but (here's where the Modern Times girl kicks in), I'm not above using chemicals if I must. 

Sometimes I call the years of not going in the rose garden…an "experiment (polite euphemism) in letting things just do what they do" and see what happens.  Well, I let them "do what they do" and I was sort of pleasantly surprised to find that, sometimes without any pruning, mulching, fertilizing, spraying, thinning, deadheading, babying or special treatment of any kind, they were more or less fine.  They grew and bloomed and spread (some really, really spread…suckers everywhere on the gallicas), and the diseases were present but not debilitating, and everything's still alive.  Keep in mind, though, that most of my roses are old garden/antique roses, which are a shock to the modern rose gardener who's never raised them, because they do not NEED all the mollycoddling that today's hybrid teas need.  Don't get me wrong, I have hybrid teas, too, and I love them.  'Pascali and Love' are blooming right now, albeit soaking wet.

This year I'm *back*, so to speak.  I'm not going overboard with any special treatment, though I have deadheaded, pruned, and weeded some, and I do want to get the problems in check and clean up the mildew, aphids, and black spot.  I haven't had time yet to fertilize, and we're in the first flush of blooms, which, for antiques, means the only flush, but they are (again) fine with it. 

I remembered there was an old homemade rose spray I used years ago that consisted of water, Murphy's oil soap, baking soda (and milk? I thought there was milk in there, but maybe not…I'm too lazy to look it up, so whatever).  I mixed up a spray bottle with this (I use the 'eyeball it' method of measuring) and used it on the roses two weeks ago and again a week later, and I watched and waited. 

I'm thinking I'd like to say that everything looks better.  It…might, but the mildew and black spot have a couple of main favorite roses, and so far it is really hard to stop.  My gallica Charles de Mills seems to be the harbinger of mildew out there; that plant is covered from inside to out usually, though it blooms its head off, so I started there.  As of today, it still looks fairly clean, even with the rain.  The hybrid tea Sonia and a mini red (which sxtubsequently turned itself from a minuscule tabletop potted mini into a long-stemmed red that is about thigh high--wth?), have black spot pretty aggressively spreading, even with the "spray" I mixed up.  Maybe it needs milk, or maybe I should look up the actual recipe (duh). 
Meanwhile, I DO have a cabinet full of Ortho rose chemicals for various things, with pleasant-enough non-scary names like Rose Pride, because, you know, Daconil just does sounds…dangerous.  I'm happy to try my all-natural methods of spraying the Recipe (whatever it is; I'm calling it that from now on), and waiting, but I keep the Big Guns in that cabinet, just in case. 

As for aphids…meh,*shrug*…they've never been as big a problem, even though I hate them, too.  I do see them here and there, and sometimes  ("Oh, eww…that's a lot of aphids") I'll hit them with a stream of water or the Recipe (does the soap smother them? I don't know), or sometimes just take my chances and give the bud they're on a good *flick* with my finger so they all go flying off (aiyeeee).  Sometimes the whole bud breaks off and goes with them, so that's sort of, uh, less than desirable. 
It seems like the books always say if you flick or wash them off, they won't come back, which I don't get, because…there they are, at the bottom of the plant, or on the lower leaves, and they're all wth? Did she seriously just flick us?? Well, let's just climb back UP and start over, so I'm not convinced that flicking and rinsing does anything more than give me momentary satisfaction of feeling like Uh-huh, I win.  What they do not know, as I'm rinsing or flicking them, is that I'm thinking (and sometimes I'm saying out loud, but no one's around so you have no proof of this), Yeah, go ahead, suckers.  Climb back UP and try again.  But don't think I won't get the Ortho products out, because, oh yes, I will totally go there.

So I guess I'm just saying, I'm sitting here watching it be like 100% humidity and 50 degrees outside, and I know that I hate spraying with chemicals, but I also know that when I go back outside, once I can go out without seeing my breath (in JUNE--not that I'm bitter), I will not be surprised to see black spot and powdery mildew flourishing with wild abandon, and I will probably give up and go get the Daconil out.  It even has its own scary spray bottle that I creatively drew a skull and crossbones on, just in case anyone is mistaken.  See?  I know, nice, right?

(Gah…I can taste  this stuff in my mouth, just when I hold the bottle.  SO nasty!)
It's supposed to warm up again next week, so I have gloves and spray bottles of both organic and non-organics ready, and I've promised myself, this year, I got this.  In the meantime, I should go look up the *actual recipe* for the Recipe…

Happy gardening!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Facebook Should Have a "Punch" Button

Dear Mark: This is just NOT enough.

I'm not the biggest fan of Facebook, so I'll just throw that out there.  I know I'm not alone, but I felt like I had to Add My Voice.

I get that you can 'Like' someone's post or update or whatever, and I only click 'Like' if I really, actually DO like them.  If you post random song lyrics, happy kittens/rainbows/butterflies with sisterly inspirational poems, or how much you love your husband, I will probably not respond, even though that's nice and all.

What I do wish, is that they gave you other options (besides just 'Like'-- 'Like' is so limiting) for all the random did-I have-to-see-that posts, that I try to weed OUT.  I know, you can select to have someone not "show in your feeds", but if they're family or whatever, then I'm stuck with the almost-as-annoying task of looking them up individually every once in awhile, to see if they have any real news that I might need to see, and then ahhhhhhhhhhHHH noooooo, there are all their daily/hourly profile photo changes and status updates about what the kids had for breakfast/snack/dinner, or the 'how cute is this?' post with the kids hugging/sleeping/dressed as pumpkins/covered in dirt or whatever.
Really, all I would LIKE to receive is just news that, once upon a time, you might have, say, CALLED someone on the phone about (remember back when we used to CALL each other on the phone??  Not text…d-i-a-l  their number and actually say words to each other in real time?)  Stuff you might include in the Christmas newsletter (which I also don't do), or photos you'd send to various family/friends to keep us up to date.  Wow, their kids are sure getting tall! I thought he/she was still about 4 years old.  Has it really been this long?? We should get together more. 

When's the last time you called an acquaintance, who you've possibly never met in person, just to say, "My cats are asleep." See?  TMI.  There should be a filter there.

So, what I do NOT need is hourly updates on everysinglefreakingfacet of your day-to-day life, your marriage, your kids, their potty-training (or lack of), everything they ever say, what you're cooking for every meal, or how your Starbuck's looks today.  It's like total flippin' update overload.  If I wanted to know this much about anyone, I'd have MARRIED them.  Oh wait, I did…  But really, that's a very small group, so for the ones outside the circle of me and Shane…I don't need that kind of constant input.  I don't even ask him for hourly photo updates of what he looks like behind the wheel of his truck, so why would I need them from anyone else?
There are (possibly) five main types of FB posts:

1.  The TMI posts.  ("OMG y'all I just had the best turkey sandwich.  Check it out!") there's a minute I'll never get back…
2.  The check out my kickass life posts.  ("Chilling by the inground pool out back while the spa is being built, after a long day driving the Escalade 100 miles round trip for the best mani-pedi EVER!  J")

3.  The vague status updates.  ("I've never been so offended.")
4.  The wannabe gangsta posts.  ("feelz gr8 chilaxn wid mah boiz tonyt yo.")

5.  The selfie photo upload.  With or without meaningless text, face it, it's just a reason to put your face on here, again, today.  And I'm like, oh look…you look, just like you did in the last picture, what was it…four hours ago?   Oh, wait, this one's from the LEFT side.   Cute.
As a reference, If you have more than two photos of your face, up close, with no one else equally in the picture, on your FB page, unless you've had surgery to add or remove something; or you've had an inspirational amount of weight loss or changed your hair color (even then, that one's on the fence), then you are GUILTY of too many selfies!!   Fifty lashes!!!  Stop, please!

And really, do you seriously have 755 ACTUAL FRIENDS??  No, silly.  You have, like, 4.  Just like everyone else on the planet.  I can't imagine having that many people privy to my everyday life.  It's freaky.  What if suddenly one of your 'friends' shows up at your house?  Knock knock.  'Hello?' 'Hi, I'm Bob.  From Facebook.  We've never met, so I searched you online, Google mapped your house, Googled your social feeds and family info, and just thought I'd stop by.  We have the same birthdate."
So, in the interests of everyone having a better understanding of how their FB friends really feel, I think we should have more than ONE way to respond to the people we choose to stay connected to.  Maybe if we were allowed to show our immediate reaction to posts, FB would sort of self-correct.  Here's a start…feel free to add on from here.

1.  Thumbs down = "Dislike" 
2.  Two thumbs down = "Dislike and a warning not to post like this again."
3.  Three thumbs down = "DISLIKE and turning off your feed."
4.  Fist = "Punch" (for idiot posts)
5.  Mouth with X over it = "Shut.UP."
6.  TMI = TMI, dude, seriously.  No one needs to know what song you're listening to.
7.  Rubber ducky = Selfie and/or ducklips limit reached.  Stop, please.

8.  Clock = Tick tock. Why are you still awake, posting? Don't you have a life?

9.  Bar of soap = Too much profanity.  Puh-leez.

10. Blurry stick figure = Too vague.  I don't want to try and figure out whatever it is that you do 'not want to talk about', in public.

11.  Candycane = Too sweet.  You've reached your quota for inspirational quotes.

12.  Foghorn = Too many updates in one day.  We're friends, not Siamese twins.

13.  :P = Eww, gross.

14.  >:(  = Rude.   
15.  X  = Political ranting limit reached.  STOP with the outspoken, in-your-face posts and links to rants about religion, politics, gay rights, gun rights, fair trade, left/right wing stuff, etc.  You aren't going to change my mind in any category, but your constant yelling about these topics makes YOU seem intolerant and arrogant, and is making me reconsider why we're friends in the first place.  Huge problem.

16. UF = Unfriending you -- peace out dude.
Whoa.  That was supposed to be a list of maybe 10 things…Well, you get the picture.  I'll be over here, NOT on FB.  Feel free to send a Christmas newsletter.

Someone Stole Our "Hose"

A few years ago, I had to make strawberry margarita cupcakes at the bakery, which have Jose Cuervo tequila IN the recipe, brushed straight ON them while they're warm, and mixed in the icing (they were AWEsome, by the way).  I'd never had tequila, but I realized that I liked it, so I brought home the bottle, because it was still 3/4 full.  May as well not waste it…

For reference sake, I will stress here that my husband and I differ on the correct pronunciation of the name Jose.  He pronounces it "HO-zay", and I pronounce it "Ho-ZAY".  Dialect stuff; I'm from the Montana/Idaho border; he's from the North Bench (at least 20 miles away).
Anyhow, this is a text convo I had with him while I was at work, involving the Cuervo in print only, so bear in mind no one was actually drinking any of it at the time this conversation happened.   Love autocorrect.
Also bear in mind that, at the time, we actually did have a nice contractor-grade, heavy-duty hose attached to our irrigation system, out by our driveway, about 15' off the main road, so it's an understandable mistake.
Shane:  Someone stole our hose.
Me:  What?
Shane:  Yeah, it's just gone.
Me:  WhAT?!?
Shane:  The hose is missing.
I'm thinking: wth?? Some jerk actually got out of his car, walked onto our property, and took our stupid HOSE??
Me:  You have GOT to be kidding.
Shane:  Nope.  It was right where we left it, and now it's not.  Where is it?
Me:  How should I know? It should still be right there.  Are you saying someone just walked onto our property and took our hose?
Shane:  Well, I didn't take it.  It was on the door.
Me:  ?
Shane:  Door.
Me:  I don't know what the door has to do with it; it WAS outside.  I can't believe someone would steal our hose!!! Losers!
Shane:  Are you drinking? Why would it be outside?  I mean the HOSE.  I was going to make a drink, and there's none here.
Me:  What? No, I'm at work.  Why do you need a hose? Just use the faucet.
Shane:  You're totally drinking, aren't you?
Me:  Of course not, you're the one who's not making sense.  Did someone steal our nice hose, from out by the driveway, that we wash the car with??  I feel violated!
Shane:  No, what are you talking about.  HOSE.  Cuervo.  
Me:  OHhhhh you mean the tequila?! It's in the cabinet with the cooking stuff.   Jose. Cuervo.
Shane:  Wow.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Helpful Mom Text

Actual text conversation from my youngest, on her last day of school.  I think they had the usual terrible things like a pizza party and a scavenger hunt planned...

Her: "I don't wanna beeeee heeeeerrrreee".

Me: "Enjoy the day...it's almost over; and then you can weed with me."

Her: "oh great"

Me: "Yeah. You're welcome."

Sometimes you just have to, you know, encourage them. *muffled laughter in background*

Say no to B&B's

Here’s the reason I’m a huge fan of hotels, as opposed to B&B’s.   Let me also point out that, seriously, everything in this story actually happened.   Every. Single. Thing.  You can't make this stuff up.  If anything, I have left some stuff OUT.  But it's a long story, either way.
Last year my husband and I decided to use a free gift to stay at a local B&B, as a special getaway.  We had looked at the online brochure for this place, and it looked perfect.  In my head, I pictured us sitting on the porch of our private cabin in the morning mist, sipping coffee while looking out at the mountain meadow, listening to the birds, possibly seeing deer grazing past…you know, kind of like those old Folgers coffee commercials, cozy sweaters and all.

I made reservations.  This process in itself was several years in the making, since, for some reason the B&B was always booked for any and every date we called them about, until I quit telling them up front that we were using a 'free' stay.  On like my fifth attempt, I just said I wanted to book a night, then sprang the 'free' part on them after they said they had a night open.  Sneaky, but it worked…

We drove out for our getaway, talking about how great it would be to have our own private cabin, a coffee maker, a night without kids, and a nice home-cooked breakfast tomorrow.  That was about as close as we got to the dream actually coming true.
We arrived after driving down what seemed like a reallllly long gravel road, and then a realllly long dirt driveway.  We could see the cabins and the surrounding pastures and hills, just like the brochure.  The hosts had called and said that they’d be out in the pastures feeding animals or fixing fences or something farmish like that, but that they’d left a note inside for us.  There were a couple of kids sitting around a fire outside, toasting marshmallows, and they told us to let ourselves in the main house.

Right inside we found a note.  Ahh, we thought, here are directions to our cabin, and there’s no one here, so it’s nice and quiet already! Yes! Peace!  The note said “Hi guys! Welcome! Please make yourselves at home.  We’ll be back shortly.  Your room is down at the end of the first hall to your left, and the bathroom in the hall is yours.” (eyebrow up—the hall inSIDE the main house..??)  We thought, OK…wow, this is not what we had in mind, but whatever, I’m sure it’s fine.  Maybe we have, like, our own wing or something.  We walked down the long tiled hallway, past a laundry room (with laundry running, in the evening) and a bathroom, to the end of the hall, where we found:  Our Room.
The room was solid wood.  I mean, floor to ceiling.  Wood walls, wood floor, wood trim, wood ceiling--decorated like a granny’s bedroom, with just a single rocking chair, the bed, an antique tiny dresser with a mirror, and that’s..IT. (No wait, there was also a window).  No closet and thus, nowhere to hang clothes.  No TV.  Not even a radio.  There was a large box fan on the floor, which we wondered at…but ok.  We set our bags down (because, that’s all you could do with them), and sat on the bed (which immediately said “squeeeeeeeaaaaaaakkkkkkk”).  Maybe it was Granny's bedroom, who knows?
We decided to check out the hallway bathroom, which seemed very nice—hey look, a giant round jetted tub (score!) AND a double-headed shower (yay!).  We started the tub, and the jets, and got in.  It wasn’t *quite* big enough for us both, so he had to sit with the faucet sort of jabbing him in the back, but we pretended not to notice.  Unfortunately we had added some bubbles, which were now multiplying at an alarming rate, until they had billowed up around us and over us.  Pretty soon we couldn’t see each other at all.  Now we’re covered in soap suds, so we’re like, “Hey, no problem--we can just hop across into the 2-man shower (and it was huge), and rinse this stuff off." 
We stood up to get out and realized there were two towels for us, but nothing on the highly polished tile floor to keep us from falling and killing ourselves while getting out, covered in soap bubbles.  We laid the hand towel on the floor between the tub and shower and carefully stepped out and across to the shower to rinse off the soap.  Everything was all still pretty much OK at this point.
I turned on the shower head on one side, and we’re like, yeah, this will work.  Since there’s two heads, (how cool is that?) my husband turned on the other shower head for himself, which immediately sucked all the hot water from the shower on my side (and possibly the whole house) into THAT head, leaving me under a stream of freezing cold water.  “AAAAieee!! Eek! Yikes! Shut it off! OFF! OFFOFFFOFF!!” 
We managed to get rinsed off, shared a towel getting out, stepped back out onto the single hand towel ‘island’ in the middle of the shiny, super slick tile floor, and tip-toed back to the bedroom to sit on the bed (“squeeeeeaaaaakkk”).  On the way out of the bathroom, I also noticed that if we were thirsty that night, we appeared to be limited to the tiniest Dixie cups imaginable, next to the sink.  Ok…
We decided, well, the communal living room's not our thing, so we may as well try to sleep.  We got in the bed, which appeared to have been short-sheeted by the Housekeeper from Hell, so we spent the night yanking and tugging on the blankets and sheets.  The pillows also appeared to have been constructed by taking three feather pillows and combining them inside one pillowcase, so they were HUGE and caused us to have our necks bent at almost a 90-degree angle when lying down.  Awesome.
We immediately noticed it was too warm to sleep.  It was August, but the room (or the house) appeared to have no cooling or heating system that we could discover.  Then we remembered the box fan under the window, ahah!--so I opened the window and turned on the fan to ‘low’.  It sounded like a 747 was coming through the bedroom, but at least there was air movement.  We left it on as long as we could stand the sound, but we eventually felt it could be a fire hazard at the rpm it was approaching, so we turned it off and tried to relax, still tugging at the bedding.
At some point, we realized we were thirsty, but we also realized there was no nightlight in the hallway OR the bathroom, so we had to either turn on all the lights or creep through the dark on the tile to get to the Dixie cups in the bathroom for our 2-ounce-at-a-time shots of water.  Ahhh, that’s refreshing!
Then the family appeared to have come in, with their kids.  Or a basketball team.  It was hard to tell from the AMOUNT OF NOISE COMING FROM DIRECTLY OVER OUR BEDROOM.  It sounded like they were getting about a dozen 9-year-olds ready for bed.  From the amount of yelling and thumping around, I thought they were possibly having a tumbling meet and/or playing full-court basketball upstairs.  We waited for what seemed like FOREVER, and they finally settled down.  But seriously, right above us??  We had to be quiet, (shh, you'll wake up the hosts), so we were reviewing the night in totally annoyed whispers, which made everything freaking hilarious, and trying to do 'silent' laughter just made the bed squeak. By now it just felt like we were trying to sleep at some strangers' house.  They weren't even like family enough for us to yell at them to "Hey, shut UP ALREADY, we're trying to sleep!" Absolutely unbelievable.
So, house quiet (still hot), window open, fan off, necks at 90 degree angles, we tried to sleep.  We must have dozed off, because at about dawn I realized the temp outside had dropped, and now we were freezing under the short-sheeted bed covers.  What actually woke us UP, though, was the wolves.  Yes, wolves.  Howling.  Outside.  Not coyotes.  I’ve lived here a long time, and I know coyotes.  These were definitely not coyotes.  What the--??  We shut the window and yanked the sheets further up.
Ahhh, morning.  Breakfast sounds were going on, and we got up and dressed, put on our coats (because it was like 50 degrees, INside) and went down the hall into the main area, where three couples were already sitting at the dining room table (only one table, and it’s full, sorry) lingering over the end of their breakfast.  The hosts greeted us, looked oddly at our wearing coats, offered coffee, and said the table would be free anytime now, and then they’d be happy to serve us breakfast.  We nodded and held out cups for coffee, went to the small couch and sat down to read a magazine and wait.  We waited and read.  And waited and read.  Refilled the coffee.  Finished the magazines, cover.to.cover.
The couples from Seattle made no attempt to finish and leave but sat loudly discussing all their traveling (can you name drop any MORE?? We don’t CARE where you’ve been, we just want to eat and leave!) Then they started in on how cool their homeschooling was going.  Next they moved on to the issue of our local theme park and how the safety on the rides was in question, and how could the park discriminate like that, by making people move around on a ride, based on weight.  Isn’t that discriminatory? Someone should really make a complaint...It’s really nothing like the park at Blah Blah Blah and our trip to Blah Blah Blah, and on and on.  And on.  It was too cold to even sit on the porch with our coffee, so we were trapped there, in our coats, listening to them.
Occasionally one of the hosts would say “Can we get you anything while you wait?” and we’d say loudly, “No, three cups of coffee will do.  (glancing at table and then at the clock) We’ll just WAIT.”  Pointedly.   The super-cool folks finally decided that they’d loudly talked about everysingletraveldestination that no one else in the room had probably been to, so they put on their L.L. Bean jackets and left.
We got up and moved to the table.  The host said finally, “All-righty folks, now, what sounds good for breakfast?” I’m thinking “Yeah!! Breakfast!” so I said, “Oh, I’d love an omelet and some bacon.”  He's all, “I don’t make omelets.”  ???  Excuse me—what??  So I said “What DO you make?” He said he made really great scrambled eggs, and I was pretty sure that scrambled was ALL they offered at that point, so I said, sure the scrambled eggs would be great.  After the amount of time it takes to chase a chicken down, teach it to lay eggs, and then fly to France and learn how to make cheese for the eggs, he finally emerged from the kitchen with my eggs.  Not, however, two plates.  Just mine, in a bowl.  My husband looked at them and said, “Wow, that looks really good…”  The host looked at him and said (I swear I’m not making this up) “Oh, did YOU want some too?” Seriously????  Long pause while he made another bowl and we ate what was left of the fresh fruit from the cool Seattle folks. 
We sat there in our coats and ate our eggs, while the host and his wife kept hovering around trying to make small talk with us.  Finally I just said, “I’m really not much of a morning person; I just like to sit and stare, in the morning.”  So the wife disappeared, and we didn’t see her again.  I guess I have that kind of get lost voice, in the morning… 
We managed to smile and thank them for the stay and their hospitality, but we drove home alternating between hysterical laughter and stunned silence.  No, I'm definitely not a B&B fan. 

Standing In Lines

(I wrote this about a year and a half ago, at the height of my running-every-direction with cakes and kids phase.  It's an interesting peek at how stressed for time I actually was...)

Is there a Fast Pass for this line? Somebody??

So, if you are one of those people who doesn’t mind being THAT person who is holding up the whole line behind you at the store, possibly keeping the cashier from taking a lunch break or their omg-i-need-too-pee break, or you are possibly delaying the ACTUAL STORE FROM CLOSING, please, if you are that person, just go read something else.
I’m not that person.
You can see where this is going, right?
Ok.  Today I promised my 12-year-old that I would go and get her 30 dominoes for a school project that she is working on after school, and this is something that will cause the project to not turn out, and she will fail this class, and possibly end up living in a van down by the river, if I don’t produce 30 dominoes.  I said, sure.  Because, you know, how hard can it be?  I’m not sure where you find dominoes, but I’m positive I can handle this grown-up responsibility.  I see them winning the award for the best project and her smiling at me like “Hey, we couldn’t have won without you getting those dominoes.  Thanks Mom!”
I left the house at a time that would give me plenty of time to accomplish this, plus go to the bank, stop at the spa supply store, and make a quick stop for my husband to pick up some hunting supplies at a sporting goods store.  Yep, definitely enough time.  Maybe even too much.
Got through the bank, no problem.  Hit the freeway and zipped over to the sporting goods store, which is walking distance from the spa store.  Ha, I think—I’ve GOT this.  I send a quick text to my husband to double check what I will need to get for him, and while waiting for the answer and not being one to waste time, I pop into the spa supply store to grab my two super-easy “I just need chlorine and shock” products.  Easy in, easy out, right?  No.
I walk up to the counter and stop behind the only customer at the counter, being helped by the only guy at the counter.  Actually the only employee on the property, by the looks of it, but I’m like, “Ok, no problem.”  So I wait.  Because the products I need are actually:  Behind The Counter.  So I can’t just grab them and be hanging out in line.  I have to Wait For Help.  Ok, still, no problem.
It turns out, however, that the guy (and his wife) in front of me, are in the middle of a very complicated purchase of a WHOLE HOT TUB SYSTEM, including delivery, setup, chemical analysis, and maintenance programming.  This is a big deal for them; yes, I get it.  But I’m starting to think, “wow, bad timing, huh?”  So they’re being helped by the guy, who is of course happy to help them.  It’s a big sale, you know, so I’m still pretty much ok with it.  They have lots of questions about electrical things that sound like “tie-in” and “GFS circuit”, and I have no idea what they’re talking about, but eventually they sign all 50 documents, get everything but a guided tour of the store, and they’re (tah-dah) done.  So I think, “Yay! I can get my stuff and jam outa here.” 
Meanwhile I’ve missed two calls from my husband, trying to let me know what he will need from the sporting goods store.  (Because I’m one of those polite types who turns their phone OFFPEOPLEOFFTURNTHEFREAKINGPHONEOFFINTHECHECKOUTLINE).  Sorry. Did I say that out loud?
Moving on…
As they leave, finally (yes, I’m happy for them; a new hot tub is awesome, go, people, go in peace),  I start to take a step towards the counter, when, out of the corner of my eye, I see…this guy.  From nowhere.  Step right UP to the counter in front of me.   I think, “Ok.  Maybe he was here before me, and if I step up ahead of him, he’ll freak totally out that he’s been waiting forever and he’s NEXT”, so I stand there and wait some more.  I’m starting to check my clock on the phone, because I am on a tight schedule with the whole dominoes-get-to-the-school-by-3:30 thing, and I still have the sporting goods store to go to.
He starts out with “Yeah…I have this little part on my hot tub that’s broken…” and I sigh.  Can’t I just pay for my two products and go? Please?  So the guy helps him figure out WHAT part he has that is broken, and whether it’s black or white, and what brand it is, and they look it up, call China for the part number, and ring him up.  “That’ll be $4.17.”  Yes! So close now.  He’s paying.  I’m almost leaning towards the counter, ready to spring.  Then he says, “so…Tell me about this XZY brand hot tub? Is that the same as the QRS hot tub you sell?”  The employee launches into an explanation of how the two companies were different, but merged 4 years ago, so now they’re “sister” companies, and starts in on the pros and cons of the brands.  I’m drumming my fingers a bit on the ledge behind me, and checking my clock.  I can hear it going TICK TOCK.  TICK TOCK. 
The guy asks for a brochure.  I’m like, seriously?!?  REALLY?  He finally goes away, and I am able to quickly step up and ask for my two products, and pay for them.  No, I don’t want any extra products.  I don’t want to be on the mailing list, though for some reason, it does take him awhile to “find” me in the computer.  I didn’t realize I needed to be IN there..  I’m holding my debit card here; what else do we NEED for this?  I sort of quick-step to my car and throw the chemicals in the front seat, and quickly call my husband back as I run/walk across the parking lot to the sporting goods store.  The nice couple ahead of me waits for me and holds the door for me.  Thanks.  J 
I get inside, and fortunately what he needs are two things that are easy to find, so I grab them and head to the counter, where, again, there is one tired girl helping a long line of people preparing for Hunting Season.  I know I have to wait, so I’m standing there behind the couple who held the door, waiting.  A guy shows up and opens the other till and says “I can help whoever’s next in line.”  Everyone (I swear) just looks at him, but no one moves.  (eyebrow up)
I say “Well, *I’ll* go over there.  So I step around to that side, and find myself somehow half a step behind the couple who held the door.  That’s cool; whatever.  We’re still way ahead, right?  No.  They are returning not one, but TWO axes, or mauls, or whatever they’re called.  So the new cashier here has to fill out some: Paperwork.  He needs their receipts, both of them, with the yellow tag still attached.  He needs their photo I.D. (really?)  He needs “the card # ending in….0413”.  He runs it as a credit but somehow it is wrong, so he has to repeat the process.  I visibly slump.  The lady keeps glancing towards me, but I refuse to meet her eye while I check my clock and wonder where the closest place to find dominoes is.  I still don’t know.  Do grocery stores have dominoes?  There’s one close, but if it DOESN’T have dominoes, I will have used up my allotted time searching.  Wal-Mart? Too far.  Target?  Ah-hah, maybe. 
The couple also decides they are buying something.  I slump a bit further.  I now have 15 minutes to get to the domino purchase and back to my car and get to the school by 3:30.  Sigh.  They are finally done.  She finally actually catches my eye and says, “Sorry!” I say, “no problem” because I know, it’s not technically their fault.  I think it’s me sometimes; I swear I cause lines to      s     l    o    w   d   o    w     n until time has no meaning.
I pay and jog to the car, still wondering where to go for dominoes.  I decide to actually CALL Target and ask them.  This turns out to be somewhat complicated to do while driving and being 2 stop lights away from the actual stop light for Target, where I will have to either decide to pull in and walk into the actual store to find out, or get past the recording with “Thanks for calling Target.  Our store hours are blah blah blah” etc., to a person who I can ask about “Hello? Yes! I’m almost to your storeandIneedtoknowifyouhavedominoesbeforeIhavetoturninatthelight.” I’m thinking hurry hurry hurry, please WILL YOU HURRY UP? I’m almost THERE!
The lady who answered puts me on hold twice, saying they are finding out if they carry dominoes.  I’m getting closer; I’m only one light away.  Turn in? or keep driving to Wal-Mart?  Tension!  I slow down a little to catch a red light (who does that? Lol) and buy some time.  She comes back and transfers me to Toys, where Jenny answers. 
Thank goodness for Jenny!  She says they carry them.  I’m at the light.  Do they HAVE them? She is going to look.  I’m turning into the parking lot as she says they DO have them.  I tell her I have to be AT the school in 15 minutes, what part of the store are the dominoes in?  She says, of course, the farthest back corner from the door.  On the wall, in the corner.  Of course she does.  But Jenny is awesome, and she says she has them in her hand, and she will come meet me up front with them.  I am so grateful! I’m in 3” heels and I don’t think I can run that distance and back to my car in 4 minutes.  I want to adopt her.
I walk in and see a girl just inside the doors, waving like one of those folks at the airport waiting for their party…”Dominoes?”  “YES! I love you! You are my new best friend!”  She also walks me right to the customer service desk where I immediately hand the guy $4.00, and I am heading for my car in less than 1 minute.  I think I’ll buy some Target stock if the market ever comes back…and one for Jenny, too.
I race to the school and get there with just minutes to spare.  I am so proud that I got all my errands run; I have Saved The Day.  I feel like one of those soccer moms who run errands and have kid stuff all organized and projects completed on time, every time, without any excuses like ”this-will-have-to-work-because-i-don’t-have-time-to-make-one-more-stop-for balloons, toothpicks, spraypaint, duct tape, and a goat hide (you need WHAT?) for the project tonight.”  Super. Mom.  Yep, I got your 30 dominoes.
The girls come out, and my daughter asks if I remembered the dominoes.  Like she’s really hoping I did NOT forget (she does not want to live in a van down by the river).  I smile and hand them to her.  Of COURSE I totally got the dominoes.  She’s getting a ride with her friend and her friend’s mom, so the other mom comes over to touch base with me about the project.  She sees me handing them to my daughter and says,
“Oh, I already got some dominoes. You don’t need those.” 
I know, right? 
By the way, the box I got only had 28 dominoes.  /:{