Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My, Aren't We Groovy?!

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

10 Ways To Lose Your Tip

I went to dinner the other night. Granted, it wasn't a five star restaurant. It was maybe a 2 star restaurant if I'm lucky. But still, after waiting tables from Detroit to San Diego over the course of 9 years, I formed a few opinions about waiting tables. And one of them was that you don't have to be serving $45 Filet Mignon to do a good job. If you work for tips, you should smile, give good service, and treat your customers like they're eating at The Ritz. Unless they don't serve food at the Ritz. Then forget that analogy.

Anyway, the waitress who served us made about every serving error I can think of. And my sweetheart of a husband still left her a 5-spot. But I thought I'd share my thoughts about waiting tables and losing tips when I'M paying the bill.

If you want a good tip...

10. Don't forget to greet me, ask how I'm doing, and introduce yourself when you come to my table. It's a small thing, but a basic friendly greeting isn't so hard to do. And giving your name so I can call it out later when you are royally screwing up is key too.

9. Keep my drink filled up. I think most people would agree that nothing irritates them more than having an empty drink glass. Whether it's water or pop, just keep it filled. And don't ask me. If you see it's nearly empty, and I'm not walking toward the front door yet, just bring me another drink! As quickly as this will lose you your tip, keeping on top of my drink will increase your tip.

8. Check back on me shortly after the food is delivered. Worse even than having an empty glass is sitting there with a hot steak and no silverware to cut it with, or no steak sauce, or no ranch for your fries, or your side dish being wrong, or your side dish being missing...AND THEN WAITING FOREVER for the server to show up. When I worked at Appleby's, a singular nightmare of a job, one good thing they did right was require a 2 minute check-back on your tables. Within 2 minutes of the food going down, whether you delivered it or someone else did, you checked to see if everything was OK. This is a must.

7. Don't make me look for you. If I need something throughout the meal, I would hope I could catch sight of you within 3-4 minutes. If I don't, I WILL flag down your manager or anther server to go hunt you down, and that will be an automatic tip deduction. (No lie, at dinner the other night, I had to get up FIVE times to go look for something the server should have brought me/the server herself/another person to help me. That server should have owed ME a tip!)

6. As much as this may sound contradictory considering my last two points, you don't need to ask me how everything is EVERY time you pass by. One check back at the beginning, and a few visual check backs, where you look and see if I'm glancing around for someone or not eating, is all you need until the meal looks like it's winding down. I do like my server to be visible and available, but I don't like to stop my conversation every 2 minutes to say, "Yes, everything is STILL fine." You know?

5. When you refill my drink, please bring me a new glass before taking my old one away. It makes me very uneasy when you take the glass I'm currently working on (leaving me with nothing while you're gone) and bring it back to me. How do I know you're not going to accidentally mix it up with a total stranger's while you're in the back??

4. And while I'm on the subject, take my empty glass away. And my empty plates. You should never leave the table side empty-handed. Clear something away with each trip, and when you see that we're done, don't leave the plates to go get the check; take them with you! It's nice to be able to have some clear space in front of you after you eat to lean your elbow on or set your purse on while you look for your money. This is especially true of a buffet style restaurant or one with a refillable salad bar. If I'm going for my second round of food, I better not find my same plate there when I get back.

3. Don't be afraid to apologize. And make things right if things go wrong. I know, as does anyone who's ever worked in a restaurant (or anyone with any common sense), that a lot of the mistakes that take place with food are not the server's fault. If the food is slow, it means the kitchen is backed up. If the steak isn't cooked right, I don't blame the waitress for overcooking it. And if I asked for no sauce but it showed up with sauce, I'll give the benefit of the doubt that she ordered it right but the kitchen screwed it up. But regardless of who is to blame, it's the server's place to apologize and make it right. If it's a minor thing, have it remade. Bring a free app for me to nibble on in the meantime. If it's a big screw up, bring over the manager, have him apologize, and make sure he adjusts the bill. In all my years working in restaurants, I've never once heard a manager say, "I can't believe we had to discount that check." But I've heard many complain about angry customers walking out because they weren't treated right. Comped food is cheap, lost customers cost a lot.

2. Room for Dessert? I may say no, I'm too full, but knowing me I chose your restaurant because of the desserts, not the food. So if you fail to ask me if I'd like to see a dessert menu, you're not only losing out on a potential ticket increase, but potential tip too.

1. Check, please! Other than the frustrations of an empty drink glass or a wrong food order, waiting for your check long after you've finished is up at the top. It's not so hard to print out the check as soon as the customers have started eating so it's ready to give them when they're done.

So those are my restaurant pet peeves. And honestly, avoiding them isn't that hard. Smile, be friendly, communicate about problems, keep up on drinks and dirty plates, and fix things when they go wrong and you should find yourself with a nice big tip at the end of the meal.

Unless you wait tables in Utah. In which case, I'm truly sorry for you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Storm of the Century

For those of you out of state, or those of you who didn't happen to watch the news last night, Utah battened down yesterday evening for the worst blizzard to hit the state in at least a decade. Some were predicting the worst winter storm in a century.

Schools closed early.

Universities called off evening classes.

Concerts were cancelled.

Hospitals postponed surgeries for another day.

Holiday travel plans were forfeited in lieu of staying safe.

There was a rush on emergency supplies like flashlights, batteries, and thermal blankets.

Grocery stores were flooded with people doing their Thanksgiving meal shopping a day early because, as the weather reports foretold, there would be so much snow on Wednesday that you would not be able to get to a store.

By 4pm yesterday evening, nearly the whole state, from top to bottom, had shut down and people could talk about nothing else.

So, for the enjoyment of all of those of you not able to look out your window and see it for yourself, I give you...









Wait a minute. Let's try a close up to see if we can see that snow better.

Hmm.....maybe let's try the back yard instead.

Ummmm....uh.....no...WAIT! I see some! There on the wicker sofa!

Boy, I sure am glad all those weather guys went to meteorology school for all those years. But, hey, it is 13 degrees out, so maybe we should give them some credit?


They're all fired. I hope.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Basket Case

I just cried at a Folgers commercial. A FOLGERS COFFEE COMMERCIAL!!! I'm a disgrace. I mean, this wasn't even a Hallmark commercial. Not even one of those touching AT&T ones where somebody calls their grandma on her birthday after she thinks everyone forgot. This was a commercial about a guy coming home from Africa for Christmas and bringing his sister a present, and she sticks the bow on him and says "You're my present this year" and then they drink coffee while I bawl like an idiotic baby. Over a coffee commercial. Nevermind the part where the guy smells the Folgers and says "Mmmmm, coffee!" like he never got coffee the whole time he was in Africa. Hello, coffee COMES FROM AFRICA. But did that stop me from turning into a sobbing mess? No. Because I'm a total freaking basket case.

Thanks, hormones. Thanks a lot.

Monday, November 15, 2010

McPhee Madness, Part 3

While scanning through saved drafts of posts I never published, I ran across this one: the final installation of McPhee Madness. McPhee Madness took place over a year ago when I came across a catalogue for McPhee gifts and novelties. With a slogan like "Slightly Less Disappointing Than Other Companies," I had to go to their website to see what they were all about. And what I found was...interesting, bizarre, gross, hilarious, and sometimes even disturbing. But mostly clever and hilarious. So here, only belated by 23 months, is the final installment of McPhee Madness, sharing some favorites from the McPhee catalogue.

1) I always thought toast was a boring breakfast item. Now I know I'm not alone.

2)Too chicken to get your own tattoos? Then tattoo your young daughters! And wear a shirt to brag about it.

3) There's a special class of nerdiness reserved for people who like to mix Greek history with fantasy play. You know--you sat next to him in homeroom. And here is the perfect present for that kid. Plus, it's been updated to the 21st Century with a black leather pants-suit for Medusa. Groovy.

4) Just tell me why-oh-why someone would want to wear this shirt!

5) Tired of all the squirrel johnsons hanging around your yard? No problem.

6) Um, this is just horrible and wrong! (And I know my son would absolutely LOVE it!)

7) Sacrilege or Sensational? It does have wheels in the feet for smooth gliding action and a list of biblical quotes on the back.

8) In case that Jesus Action Figure wasn't cool enough, they do make a deluxe version. And I had to quote their description: "There is no action figure more deserving of a deluxe edition than the Son of God. This 5-1/4'' tall, hard vinyl figure comes with eight amazing plastic accessories: five loaves of bread, two fish and a jug for turning water into wine (not guaranteed to work for real). Also features 'glow-in-the-dark miracle hands!'" Unfortunately, this version does pose a choking hazard, so not for disciples under 3.

9) Probably the weirdest and most disturbing item in the whole catalogue, is the baby(?) on the cover of their memoir book. I'm having nightmares already, and I'm still awake!

Well, that about does it. Feel free to go back and re-read my other McPhee Madness posts for more hilarity. Or just head on over to the McPhee website to start your Christmas shopping early. I guarantee they have something for that difficult-to-shop-for someone who has everything.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Me and My Boyfriend, Blogging Jones III

My relationship with Blogging goes something like this:

1. First Sight. Blogging Jones III and I met in 2008. I first noticed Blogging watching me from across the smokey room. He was cute. I felt excited, even a little elated at prospect of someone new and interesting in my otherwise mundane life. I felt curious. A little nervous. A little like I might want to throw up. But mostly curious and excited.

2. The Introduction. After that first glance, I started kind of keeping an eye on Blogging. We had some mutual friends, so he kept showing up at places that I went. Ya, Blogging was attractive. But I didn't really know him at all. Mostly all I knew was hearsay, what my friends told me. I decided I needed a way to get to know him better. So I asked a friend to introduce us.

3. Giving It A Go. It was clear from the start that Blogging Jones and I had some things in common. I had a feeling we could be friends. But could it be more? I wasn't sure what kind of a partner Blogging would make. Would he be fun? Demanding? Boring? Would he talk to much? Or not enough? Would he bring me around to meet his other friends? Or would our relationship be so exclusive that we would become solitary and lonely after a while? Despite all these worries, I decided the only way I would find out was to give Blogging a try. So we went on our first date.

3. MAJOR Infatuation. Blogging and I, as it quickly turned out, got along great. He was everything I hoped he would be and then some. He brought me joy. He introduced me to great friends. He was exciting. He got me to think and analyze. He encouraged me to take more pictures, to work on my creative writing, to communicate more. Overall, he was a really supportive, scintillating, thrilling new boyfriend. I'll admit it: I was madly in love.

4. The Real Thing. As all new relationships do, my relationship with Blogging Jones III soon reached a crossroads. For a lot of people, after the fire of infatuation dies down, they discover either that they really don't like the person they've been with, that he wasn't as cool as they first thought, and that their former passion just wasn't meant to last, OR their infatuation turns to warm, glowing embers, the perfect temperature to roast a marshmallow on. That's how it was with me and Blogging. The initial fire may have cooled down, but it had reached a nice comfortable place, a place of honesty and genuine caring. We were happy together.

5. The First Fight. I can't say that Blogging and I had a real knock-down, drag-out fight ever. But we kept having disagreements. About how much time to spend with each other mainly. Because, the truth was, he had become a little demanding after a while. Then we would fight about how I wasn't paying enough attention to him, or he wasn't paying enough attention to me. Some of our friends became jealous of the time we spent with each other, and that caused each of us stress. So the more demanding he became, and the more my friends complained, the more I began to withdraw. And soon the distance between us was palpable; things weren't all peachy keen anymore.

6. The Break-up. Once the signs of trouble in Paradise began to surface, I found myself avoiding Blogging a little bit. And his response? He began ignoring me back. And my response to that? I was hurt. And then mad. And then a little jealous when I looked around and saw all my friends enjoying great relationships like the one Blogging and I used to have. And then I decided the only way to protect myself was to become indifferent. So without really making any formal declarations, Blogging and I decided to take a break.

7. Reconciliation. It's true. I really did love Blogging. Nothing showed that to me faster than a little time apart. I realized how much I missed his attention, his wit, the way his positive attributes rubbed off on me, the way he brought out my good side, and the honesty we shared with each other. I knew we had to get back together. I just missed him too much! (And then we had a really good make-up session, Blogging Jones and I.)

8. The Carousel. Since our first fight, separation, and reconciliation, Blogging and I have had our ups and downs. Things have never gone back to the way they were at first. I guess they never do. You can never hold on to that giddy, head-over-heels feeling you have when you first meet and fall in love. But we still like each other a lot. We still spend time together when we can. We still value the things we give to each other and get from each other. The nostalgic part of me is probably keeping him around out of remembrance of the good times--man, there were some fun ones! And, I suppose, part of it is that we've never found anyone else to replace each other with. (Plus, I've become pretty good friends with some of his friends, and I wouldn't want to give THEM up). So we'll probably keep going like this for a while. I'll keep Blogging Jones III in my life as long as the relationship continues to be mutually beneficial.

Or until he cheats. Then he's DEAD MEAT.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Mouths Of Babes

Today Beck came up to me with a mini Halloween slinky he got in his trick or treat bag. He stretched it out in front of my face and said, "Let's see how big your head is, Mom."

He looked at the slinky as if it had measurements. I was curious to see what he'd decide to tell me. And then came the result:

"Wow! You're 14 dollars!"

That's a pretty big (expensive?) head.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Thinking SwimSuit Season Yet?

I know, I know. It's November. 3/4 of a year away from swimsuit season. At least half a year away from spring break/I-might-go-somewhere-warm-where-I-might-need-a-swimsuit season. But if you wait until either of those two to look for a swimsuit you'll find A)high season prices and B)most likely the best selection is long gone.


I just got a 50% code for Hapari Swimwear. They make really cute, modest tankinis (Jr's sizes too, in case you have a tween/teen). I usually spend all summer lusting after them but not being willing to shell out full price. As of today, I THOUGHT AHEAD. Or shopped ahead, I guess, and got myself a cute tankini for next year. Bring on the spring break trip to Cancun!

Or maybe I'll have a baby. Whichever.

FYI, if you don't see the code on their home page, it's "fall50."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Honeyguide Bird and the Badger

In case you don't know, my preferred method for sugar intake is mixed with flour, butter, salt, eggs, usually chocolate, and then some amount of baking. Frosting is also usually involved.

I'm not much of a candy eater. Certainly not milk chocolate. I think there was a time when I preferred milk chocolate to dark. I think I recall being pissed off when I got a Special Dark in my Halloween bag. But somewhere along the lines, that changed. And milk chocolate became too intense for me. But even back in the days where I enjoyed it, candy just wasn't my thing. And chewy, sour, fruity candy wasn't even close to being on my favorite treat list.

So come Halloween, I would usually dump out my pillowcase full of candy, organize it into groups: candy bars, gum, fruity candy, candy with little pieces, suckers, etc., then further break it down by name, count it all up and write it down to compare to previous years, and then retreat to my room to eat a few choice pieces. Usually the Almond Joys and Mounds first. Then a Twix. Maybe some peanut M&M's. But by the next day I was pretty much over it.

My mother's great idea for sparing our teeth from weeks of eating sugar was to demand that all candy be consumed within 24 hours, and whatever wasn't would be confiscated. And despite the fact that I neither relished my candy nor intended to eat much of it past the first day, I am, by nature, a saver. Mostly out of panic of not having something later when I really want it. So I would find secret places to hide away most of my candy so that it couldn't be taken away. In shoes. In coat pockets. In jewelry boxes and Barbie car trunks.

And then I would forget all about it. Ya, I might run across a small stash now and then. I can't remember if I would eat any of it. I just know that keeping the candy was very satisfying to me. Eating it? Meh. Christmas was the same story. Easter? You guessed it. One time I got a giant 1 lb Hershey's Kiss from a friend for Valentine's Day. After a small nibble, it went on a shelf next to my knickknacks until it eventually went stale and got thrown away. Or so I thought... But more on that later.

My sister, who bunked downstairs from me, was cut out of quite a different cloth. Her love affair with candy was not the patient, bashful one mine was. It was passionate, voracious, and all-consuming. She usually DID eat all her candy within 24 hours. Halloween was her fondest dream, as far as I knew. And any opportunity to spend money was always, always spent on candy.

So flash forward to years later. About 25 years later. My sister, brother, mom, and our spouses were sitting around one night playing games and laughing over old times when my sister confessed to me that she would secretly sneak up to my room following each holiday and hunt around for candy. She knew of all my secret hide-outs (even my mom never bothered to look in my snow boots, but Jennie did). She scoured every corner. She unearthed all my stashes. And ATE THEM. Ate every piece. Remember that giant Hershey's Kiss on my shelf I thought had been thrown away? Eaten. Slowly. Once tiny slice at a time over a period of weeks. Carefully, so that I would never notice.

Well, I didn't notice. Not with the Kiss. Not with the Easter candy. Not with my Christmas stocking. And certainly not with my many stashes of Halloween candy. I guess I pretty much functioned as The Candy Store Upstairs. I just never cared about candy enough to notice. (You're welcome, Jennie). I think, really, we had a symbiotic relationship. Like those fish that follow sharks around and eat the slime off their gills. Or those birds who live on Rhinos' backs and eat all their fleas. We worked well together, even if I didn't know it at the time.

So what now? What am I going to do with my sister living a thousand miles away and all this extra candy around the house?

I think today I found the answer hiding behind the couch....

Perfect. At least until the next dentist visit.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Power of Many

I recently redecorated...or rather decorated (finally getting around to decorating here) my kitchen with a red and white theme. We finally, after 8 years of marriage, got a real dining room set. It's black and rather modern looking. And then I have accented my kitchen with red and white cushions for the chairs, red and white valances for the windows, and red and white dish towels and other accessories. But what I'm missing, what would really complete the look, is some red and white candlestick holders. I'd love a set of three. Varying heights. Red and white stripes would be perfect. Red and white polka dots would be very nice. But even some other pattern with bright red and white would probably work. But I can't seem to find any anywhere! Red? Yes. White? Yes. But red AND white, no! Not even with Christmas approaching.

That's where YOU come in. I know the power of the internet x the power of women x the power of shopping online = many many eyes all over the massive world of .com shopping who might just run across the perfect set of candlestick holders for me.

SO...if you do, please, pretty please, let me know? I might even persuade Santa to send a little sumpin extra your way.


Free! Free! Free!

Ok, Who wants something free???

Here are your choices:
1) a free 20-page 8x8 photo book with hard photo cover. (I have bought several of these. They're gorgeous and great for Christmas gifts to hard-to-buy-for relatives.)

2) 10 free 5x7 flat stationary cards or 10 free 5x7 folded greeting cards. (Time to start thinking about Christmas cards already!)

3) 101 4x6 prints (Need to run off pictures from that full memory card? Here's your chance to get 101 of those prints free!)

4) or $10 off an order at Shutterfly.com.

What's the catch? All you have to do is be my friend and be one of the first 5 people to request one of these freebies. It's Shutterfly's gift to me to give to my friends (FYI, if you're already a Shutterfly member, you can only get 10% off an order.) I have ordered several photobooks and custom designed photo calendars from them and they've all been beautiful. So anyway, if anyone would like one of these freebies, let me know!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Plundering Egypt

This was a fun Halloween. It's the first time that both kids "got it" and were looking forward to it for days ahead of time. It made it so much more exciting for us to have them excited. Daphne was especially excited about the prospect of dressing up as someone who died by self-inflicted cobra bite. (I'm not joking. She really thought that part was cool.) By Halloween day, the kids were counting down the hours until they could get their costumes on.

Since I only put the Halloween decorations up 3 days before, you can rightly guess that I never got around to carving the pumpkins. So just before we went out to get candy, I took a moment to carve one of the pumpkins. I felt like it would be some kind of holiday disgrace to not have a lit jack-o-lanturn on the porch. Like Christmas with no star on the tree. Like Easter with no Easter egg hunt. Like Thanksgiving with no giant nap! Anyway, while I was carving the one pumpkin, the kids took a moment to stab the other pumpkin to death. I think that was their favorite part of the day.

About the time we were mutilating pumpkins, it started pouring rain. It dumped for several hours leading up to Trick or Treating time. It was still sprinkling a bit as we headed out, though it cleared up after our first two houses. But the ground was still wet and puddley, so after a few houses, we had to come back and change Daphne's golden sandals into brown leather Mary Janes. Not very Egyptian. But very dry and warm.

The kids took the first shift of trick or treating with me while Big Daddy handed out candy. We hit the three culda sacs on our street, then down one side and up the other of the street our street comes off of. It actually wasn't as many houses as you'd think because about half the street was dark and not handing out candy (LOSERS! What's up with that??). Then we switched off--Big Daddy took the kids to the next street over while I handed out candy.

Aside from the soggy feet and Daphne's costume being soaked 4 inches up the hem by the end, it was a good night. And the loot was pretty decent.

Now to take down the Halloween decorations. Already. Sniff.