Monday, August 29, 2011

Taking a Break

So, aside from the odd day here and there where I've missed blogging, I really haven't taken any time off since I started. Thus, I've decided that I'm going to take a week away from blogging and will return after Labour Day just because I can.

Thanks, as always for reading and see you next week!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Green Card Success

Today’s relief is that I’m going to get to go to England without any green card issues. I had my appointment with the U.S. Immigration and Citizen Services (USICS) office today to try to get a temporary green card until my new one is issued.

I ended up getting a nice stamp in my passport with very little trouble at all unless you count having to wait in line behind a very angry and belligerent African man who clearly wasn’t happy with what he was being told and a pair of Latino men who did a lot of complaining in Spanish about the African man holding up the line.

I don’t speak much Spanish but I knew enough to pick up on some of the conversation plus the heavy sighs, eye rolling and aggressive pointing at the man sort of gave away the topic of the two men’s conversation.

The African man took a very long time to shout at the lady. She kept telling him the same thing which was pretty much that just because he wanted a green card didn’t mean they could just give him one. He needed documentation which he didn’t have. When, finally, the lady gave him a form to fill out, he went away.

It turned out that the Latino men were there on the wrong day. They had made an appointment for September 1st and mistakenly thought it was for today. From the conversation I overheard, it sounded very much like my situation: They had to travel and needed a temporary green card. Unfortunately for them the USICS is rather strict about appointments; i.e. if you don’t have one for the day and time you’re standing at the window, you will NOT be helped. Dejected, the two men left.

Finally it was my turn. I admit that I was a little nervous. I knew, theoretically, that there should be no reason I couldn’t get a temporary renewal but you never quite know, do you? I’ve found that with governmental offices with strict policies, if you don’t follow everything to a T, you’re out of luck. I tried to make sure I had everything I could need: My passport, my (expiring) green card, extra passport pictures, my social security card, money in case there was a fee and all of the documentation that I’d been told to bring including proof of my online renewal of my green card.

It turned out to be easy. I found the lady to be very helpful. She didn’t even hesitate when I told her what I needed. She actually seemed quite relieved that I wasn’t irate or shouting at her nor did I want something that was impossible for her to grant. Within ten minutes, I had a stamp in my passport for a one-year extension to my current green card. I was relieved. Even better, the lady managed to alleviate another little thing I’d been stressing about: My biometrics appointment.

My biometrics appointment is required for a green card renewal. All it really boils down to is a set of photos that the USCIS has to take and a session of fingerprinting. However, you cannot schedule your own appointment. Instead, you have to wait until the USCIS sends you a letter summoning you to your appointment. There’s no way to go before that.

I’d been worried that this would arrive during the time I was going to be in England. It didn’t help that the lady told me that if I missed my appointment, I had to immediately reschedule it or it would give the USCIS cause to deny my green card.

Fortunately, she was nice. I secretly think it’s because she was so relieved to have someone treat her like a human that she was willing to help. She checked on my appointment and made sure it was scheduled for me prior to my trip. That was another relief off my mind.

All in all, the whole process was far more painless than I expected. I didn’t have to wait long. I could see that there were quite a few people waiting with immigration lawyers for appointments with immigration interviewers. My family went through that when we first got our green cards and that is a LOT of waiting. I think the hardest part of the whole experiences was navigating my car in downtown Cincinnati which, like most cities, is nothing but a tangle of one way streets with traffic signals that are not the easiest to see because they hang horizontally rather than vertically.

By the time I returned to work, I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my chest. I really didn’t have any real doubt that things wouldn’t work out but it still felt like it was hanging over me. It’s one of those things that there’s no way to feel better about until it’s done. I’m just glad I noticed my green card was expiring a month before my trip instead of, say, the night before or, even worse, at the airport when I tried to come back into the U.S. That would NOT have been good.

So, I’m grateful as I often am that things worked out just fine and there was an easy solution that I could take care of myself. All that’s left is for me to go get fingerprinted and photographed and then I just have to wait for my green card to arrive in the mail.

In the meantime, I can rest easier knowing that I can travel internationally again without anticipating any immigration problems on the way back. I’m not a fan of airports at the best of times- there’s a reason why in Emmy Goes to Hell that I set the entry to Hell in an airport. It’s a lifetime of bad flying experiences healthily employed as a cathartic release for me as a writer. I’d hate to have had to added “Refused back into the United States” to that list.

And now I don’t have to- thank you USCIS!

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

TV Confessions: Hoarding, Coupons and Collecting Weird Stuff

I have a confession to make. I’ve become slightly fascinating with slightly disgusting reality shows.

I blame the networks. During the summer, just like in school, summers are considered vacation time. This means my usual TV viewing of Grey’s Anatomy, Vampire Diaries (no mocking), Top Chef, and Gossip Girl (again, don’t mock) are all on hiatus along with other shows I watch every now and again. In an effort to fill the gap, there are other summer shows but nothing I remembered to watch in time to become invested.

So, I’ve been filling my summer in other ways. I did a lot of reading. I just now wrapped up all five of the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin as well as various other books I’ve borrowed and been meaning to read and return for months.

I’ve also cooked a lot. Thanks to my slight addiction to farmer’s market’s, vegetables have been the focus of my summer dishes. I’ve perfected my caprese tart, become slightly obsessed with beet salad and found a ton of ways to prepare veggies using a grill.

I also published Emmy Goes to Hell. I’ve written some short stories as well as conceptualize my new novel.

I’ve spent a lot of time with the dogs.

In short, my summer has been quite productive and fun in the absence of TV. It’s just that, well, as a fan of a good serialized show…I’ve missed TV quite a lot. I’ve substituted by rewatching all seasons of Top Chef. I’ve also been rewatching one of my all-time favourite shows, Gilmore Girls. Yet…I’ve seen them before. They’re not new to me the way a new episode of, say, Grey’s Anatomy is new. I did have Game of Thrones for a while and what a great while that was but at only 10 episodes in the season, it didn’t last long. Now it’s True Blood and that has been greatly disappointing this season. I still watch it out of habit but, well, it’s just not very good and thus, not very fulfilling.

So, as summer has started to wane, I’ve been turning on the TV and seeing just what’s on. Thanks to my parents, I already knew about Billy the Exterminator. This is a show that follows, you guessed it, an exterminator in Louisiana. Trust me, it’s funnier than it sounds because Billy looks like someone who fell of a 1980’s hair band with a penchant for the Harley Davison look. It’s actually quite funny especially when Billy has to don his mask (looks a little like Skeletor from He-Man) and his feather boa (helps prevent bee stings. Trust me, there’s nothing quite as bizarre and hilarious as watching this tough exterminator in a long black trench coat wearing feather boa and Skeletor mask fighting a swarm of bees. Billy has a brother too but he’s not very bright although he, too, looks like a 1980’s hair band reject.

I try not to watch Billy at home. I did slip once and caught myself watching it but it was about Canadian geese and I find those quite interesting anyway. Since my parents record it on their DVR, I normally wait until I got there for a weekend and see if they have any new episodes to watch. It makes me feel slightly less guilty of watching bad TV if it’s not on my DVR.

However, it doesn’t stop with Billy. A couple of weekends ago, I was caught between tasks and errands and I flicked the TV on and caught myself watching Hoarders: Buried Alive. I confess. I’m a little hooked. I wrote a blog once about how much the show Clean House annoyed me because slobs are rewarded for their…slobbishness by getting someone to help them clean their house. Hoarders is different. I find myself watching it for the psychological aspect of it. These people have actually to some psychological problem where they literally cannot throw things away. While the show tends to be a little vile at times, particularly when the house is so cluttered that rats are living beneath the mounds of stuff, it’s still oddly fascinating to me. I also caught just regular Hoarders this weekend. I don’t like it as much as the Buried Alive version because I think it tends to be a little too dramatic with the Black Information Cards of Doom that they use to inform viewers of additional information. However, does tend to be a little more disgusting. For example, there was a woman this week who was clearly severely mentally ill who fancied herself a cook. She had no working fridge, dead rats buried underneath trash and she apparently bakes cookies with mealworms and doesn’t tell people. Also, she left a dead squirrel in the butter dish once.

I can’t help it. Disgusting as it is, it’s also fascinating. We’ve established that I have a dark streak- it’s most attracted to the darker side of human nature. I’ve always been fascinated with personality disorders. Hence my fascination with Hoarders.
From there, I saw another show being advertised: My Collection Obsession. It featured a lady who is obsessed with baby dolls and treats them like real kids. Worse still, her husband and daughter let her do this and think it’s interesting. Well, the husband likes it because it means she leaves him alone but…still. There was also a boy who loves vacuum cleaners and collects them. He loves them and has a side business fixing them. I think he was 15. Apparently, he loved vacuums since he was a toddler. While I think it’s a bit odd, I actually think it’s pretty interesting to have a ‘calling’ in life that’s actually quite useful even if it does mean a large collection of vacuum cleaners to go along with it.

Then another day, I came across Extreme Couponing. I didn’t like this one so much. I find that, psychologically, extreme couponers are just another variety of a hoarder. Sure, there are the decent ones who clip the coupons to create care packages for the troops or to give to a homeless shelter. But every couponer also has “a stockpile” which is a very well organized room/closet/basement filled with shelves that are so full, it looks like a grocery store. One man was proud that he had 1000 tubes of toothpaste that he had for free. Then there was a lady who wanted to help her daughter-in-law get a stockpile of her own. So she went to the store, managed to get over 30 bottles of laundry detergent FOR FREE with her coupons and then gave her daughter-in-law five of them. Yes, five. How generous.

They might be well organized but these extreme coupon people are still hoarders. They spend 35-40 hours a week clipping a coupon. They have GIANT binders full of well organized coupons. Their stockpiles boast more of each item than a store generally keeps on the shelves. Sure, they’re saving money but they’re doing it for the sake of getting stuff for free not because they really need the stuff. It’s a different form of hoarding. It’s usually born out of needing to save money and I respect that but if you can go to the store, get a weeks’ groceries for free, do you really also need to get ten more of each item just because you can? Do you really need 71 bottlesw of mustard because you have 71 coupons? Do you need a cart full of diapers because they end up being free EVEN THOUGH YOU DON'T HAVE A BABY????

It just seems like Extreme Greed to me. Plus, where the heck do they get those stacks and stacks of coupons to begin with? Also, if I got stuck behind an extreme couponer in the grocery store, I think I’d be annoyed. It takes them FOREVER to check out because they watch the cashiers like hawks. Also, if I went to a store to use my SINGLE coupon for a bottle of detergent only to find out that some greedy cow had just bought 30 of them and didn’t leave any for me, I’d be annoyed. LEAVE SOME FOR THE NORMAL PEOPLE!

That’s it as far as my guilty TV goes. I think once the regular TV season starts up, I’ll cut back on my crap-TV viewing. However, I will say as a writer, I do find it insightful and interesting to study the personality types of these people.

Of course, the side effect is that I’m very, very conscious of how much stuff I have in my house. Also, I’m even more conscious of making sure my house is clean. Also, if I see some clutter, I immediately declutter the area because I have a secret fear that I might be becoming a hoarder without realizing it.

Also, after seeing the disgusting Fridge Lady, I did immediately go to my own fridge to make sure everything in it was fresh and not blackened, dirty and 20 years old. Oh, and yes, she actually ate the things from her fridge that were literally 20 years old. This is especially vile because, as I mentioned, her fridge wasn’t working and hadn’t been for many years.

Sorry. I’ve probably disgusted you now, haven’t I? I apologize. Blame the Hoarders.
Although, really, since I’m the one watching the show, I’m really too blame. Oh dear. Maybe that means I have some psychological problem where I’m some form of voyeur for watching these people. Will that be the next show: Voyeurs: Buried Alive by Disgusting TV. Perhaps I ought to go back to reading, writing and cooking and just wait for the real TV season to begin.

Although perhaps I ought to wipe that show I saw advertised about Waiting for the Apocolypse off my DVR first.

I have to face it. I’m a hoarder of a different nature: I hoard things in my brain about freaky people to write about as characters in my novels.

Can we call it research instead? I like that better.

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A LIttle Too Early...Pre-Trip Excitement

I’m going to England in a little over a month, provided my green card gets renewed. I have an appointment to get a temporary one on Thursday so wish me luck. Hopefully I’ll be successful. If not, I find places like the USCIS offices a very interesting place to people watch and make up stories in my head about who the people are.

I’m excited about England, I think. I’m a little nervous about leaving the pups for so long but they’ll be with my parents so I’m sure there’ll be fine. It’s just hard with dogs because unlike, say, with kids, you can’t call them on the phone. Granted, I confess, I am one of those insane pet parents who likes my parents to hold the phone to Sookie and Rory’s ear so I can say hi but that generally confuses them and forces them to try to find out why I’m trapped in the weird little box thing and why I’m not there petting them.

Still, the trip should be fine. Even though it’s paid by my office, it’s primarily a reward trip and thus will not be as much work as just having fun. My office has a nice policy that spouses and partners are also allowed to go and have their expenses paid because the theory is that they’re the ones who have to put up with our sometimes insane working hours/habits and thus they too should be rewarded. I like that theory. I think it’s kind and very generous.

For me, I don’t have a spouse nor a partner. Dogs are not permitted. Neither are mothers, sisters or friends. Thus, like a few others in the group, I will be going alone. I actually don’t mind at all. We get an allotted amount of spending money and if you bring someone, you have to share. As I’m a singleton, I get that money all to myself. Stingy…probably? Luxury? Definitely.

Most of the trip will involve lots of free time. The office will give us a list of activities that we can either choose to do or not and if we choose to do them, the company will pay. The beauty of it is we don’t have to do anything. We can simply enjoy London.

I know, I know…I’m very lucky. I know it and I’m already grateful even though the trip hasn’t happened yet. It’s simply nice to be working for a company who has a Top Performers trip. Even if I hadn’t have qualified, I’d still admire the fact that the company has been doing this for 30 years, each time somewhere new. It’s a very generous way to show your employees that they do matter and they make a difference.

I’m even luckier that not only have I qualified for my first possible trip but also that it’s to London. Usually, it’s somewhere like Key West, Las Vegas or Miami. That’s not to say those places wouldn’t be a ton of fun either but London is definitely better- I’m planning on staying a few extra days to visit my friends and family.

The interesting part of the trip for me is watching our branch administrator plan it. For me, a natural born Brit, things of a British nature are, well, second nature to me. Yet, viewing things through my coworkers’ eyes, I get an entirely different perspective. Everything is new and different. For example, normally when she plans the trip in the U.S., she finds a resort hotel or a hotel with a good concierge who will assist with setting up dining, entertainment and amenities. In England, that is not the case. The concierge will assist to some degree by making recommendations. They might even book theatre tickets. However, when it comes to planning group activities, that’s all up to my branch administrator. She’s finding it a lot more work than usual.

I admire her efforts. Setting up a trip that will end up including around 30 people is not easy, particularly an international one. She has to take care of everything from booking things all the way down to researching how our Blackberries will work, how much a second suitcase will cost to check and how to go about getting tube passes. Then there’s the issue of money. For me, I grew up using pounds and pence. She grew up with dollars and cents. Even how to say the amounts of money is new for her. She’s getting the hang of it though and the trip is coming together nicely. It’s actually quite fun- it’s like I’m Harry Potter trying to show Mr. Weasley how to deal with the muggle world.

I think it’s going to end up being a lot of fun. I think my biggest dilemma will be trying to decide if I’d rather go shopping at Harrods with a gift card from the office or using the time to do more interesting things like go to the Tower of London. I’m leaning towards the Tower just because I’ve never been there and due to my “Game of Thrones” obsession of late, it seems like the closest thing England has to that world. Being a little dark and twisty, I find the idea of seeing where they used to put heads on pikes and conduct torture to be rather intriguing. I know that’s a little sick but, well, it’s more interesting to me than seeing something like the crown jewels.

It’ll be nice to get back to England. It’s been a couple of years since I went back and I’d like to see my grandparents again. If timing had worked out better, I’d actually see my mother there too- she’s leaving for a trip to the UK tomorrow but she gets back about three weeks before I leave.

It’s definitely something to look forward to and even on not-so-great days at work, it’s a reminder that there are good days too and those good days can lead to trips to England. I can’t wait.

Happy Wednesday! (And Bon Voyage, Mummy Monkeypants- have a safe trip!)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tomato Riches

This week is going to be a week that is all about tomatoes.

That sounds like an odd thing to say and, really, when I reread it, it is an odd thing to say. However, it’s perfectly true.

You see, on Saturday, before we went to the Herb Festival, my mother and I stopped by her local farmer’s market. Last time I went, I scored a deal on a bushel of tomatillos. I turned those into a large batch of salsa verde which is now residing in my freezer.

Well, this time, the same kind farmer who sold me my bushel of tomatillos offered me a deal on his tomatoes. I had every intention of buying some of his tomatoes because I’m still waiting for what’s left of my heirlooms to ripen as well as all my other tomatoes. He had lovely heirlooms and I planned on getting a few.

Well, he offered to sell me the entire flat of tomatoes for the low price of $6. This ended up being approximately 10 lbs of tomatoes. No, I’m not kidding.

Of course, I said yes. I would have been an idiot not to take him up on his offer. In Jungle Jim’s, a pound of heirlooms typically runs about $4.99/lb so you can see why I was so excited to get my tomatoes.

I carried the tray to my car with my mother’s help. It was quite heavy. It was also quite a lot of tomatoes. I gave my mother a couple and that left me with approximately 9 lbs. Since she’s going off to the UK this week and my dad isn’t much on heirloom tomatoes, I couldn’t persuade her to take any more.

Which means I am going to have a very tomato-y week. I did make one batch of marinara with them which I plan to freeze and enjoy during the winter months. I’m also planning on making some pico de gallo as well as a tomato tart. Tonight, I’m going to try an heirloom tomato and mint salad.

It’s a good way to find creative uses for tomatoes. My goal this summer is to make sure I have some food squirreled away for the winter that makes me feel a little taste of summer when I go to eat it during the cold months. It’ll be nice to open a Ball freezer jar of marinara sauce when it’s defrosted and know that the tomatoes were fresh when it was made and the basil and oregano came straight from the garden. As much as I like the winter, as a veggie lover, I miss the freshness of summer. Sure, thanks to modern technology and preservation methods, you can still buy tomatoes in February in any grocery store. However, they simply don’t taste the same. They don’t have nearly as much flavour and end up being a poor substitute for a tomato fresh picked from the garden.

So, I hope that I’m going to counter that by utilizing my large amount of tomatoes. I find them far more versatile than the tomatillo bushel I had a few weeks ago. It’s far more exciting to have tomatoes. I know that sounds like a weird thing to say but I will admit, vegetables make me very happy. Again, this is a strange thing to admit but it’s the truth. Vegetables force me to get creative with my cooking. I find little more fun than taking my burlap tote to the farmer’s market and filling it to the brim with beets, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, corn and beans. The great thing is that I always end up using every vegetable I buy. I’m not a vegetarian by any means but I could probably live as one if I had to someday.

I realize that my fascination and love for veggies is a little bit of a peculiar thing to blog about. However, it’s Monday and the alternative is for me to blog about how I don’t like Mondays and I find that I do that a little too often. Thus, tomatoes and vegetables seem like a nice alternative. And yes, I realize that technically tomatoes are fruits not vegetables but I find when people point that out, it’s annoying. To me, a fruit is something you can bake in a pie for dessert. You certainly can make a tomato pie or tart but that’s not dessert, that’s an entrée. You should be able to make ice-cream from fruit to be enjoyed on a hot day from an ice-cream cone. I’m sure some gourmet has made tomato ice-cream but, really, would you want to eat tomato ice cream on the beach?

I know there’s some scientific, herbolistic reason that tomatoes are considered fruits but I think those scientists and herbologists should run the “Ice Cream Equation” by each other next time they designate if something is a fruit or vegetable. Would you go to the store to buy a pint of tomato ice cream? No? Then TOMATOES SHOULDN’T BE FRUIT.

Sorry. I digressed. I actually didn’t realize I felt quite as strongly about the fruit/vegetable classification system. Apparently I do.

Back to my original point: In short, I have to say, there are far, far worse things to deal with than having a large array of tomatoes to use. I’m quite sure I will find a way to use them all up one way or another.

My theory is this, to paraphrase Dale Carnegie: When life gives you a giant box of tomatoes, make marinara. Or Salsa. Or salad. Or a tart.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Herbs, Pigs and Green Cards...Oh My

This is yet another weekend gone too fast. After the rough week of work last week, it seems as though the weekend should rightfully have been longer but alas, I write this on the eve before another Monday, really wishing that somehow an extra day could simply be added to every weekend for everyone.

Nevertheless, Sunday evening it is and thus, the weekend is waning.

It's been a nice weekend though. I drove back to my parents. As has become an annual tradition, my mum and I went to the Wabash Herb Festival in Wabash, Indiana. Unlike last year, we had a lovely dry day. It was, as usual, a lot of fun. There's something completely relaxing walking around placed like that. It's fun to just look and see, poke a little fun at the Society of Creative Anachronism and just generally enjoy both the day and time with my mother. We both ended up with some small purchases- I got a new serving platter and a wall hanging and mum got a couple of plants and a few other bits to begin working on a miniature garden.

It was just a nice morning. We ended up exploring a little in Wabash too. They have a great pet store there that has pets for sale as well as pet stuff. I was quite charmed by the cute little potbellied pigs. I've always quite fancied having a little pet pig but when I pictured trying to explain to Sookie and Rory that yes, they might enjoy bacon but that doesn't mean little Wilbur is food, I decided against it. Also, I'm quite sure that my parents wouldn't be as willing to pig-sit as they are to dog-sit when I go away. They were very cute though and I enjoyed petting them. The pet store also had the largest pet rabbit I've ever seen. It was apparently only 8 weeks old and it was seriously already bigger than Sookie. Apparently, it can get up to 25 lbs. Pretty fascinating and slightly disturbing.

All in all, it was just a nice day. I love days where we have a rough plan but we can spend time just meandering around and discover new places.

Sunday has been a little less fun simply because I made a discovery that made me feel quite idiotic. My green card is expiring in less than a week. Normally, this wouldn't be a problem unless I travel. And, since I qualified for my free trip to London...I'm going to be traveling. This discovery led to a souring of my mood which I feel a little guilty about since I'm sure I wasn't fun for my parents to be around. Still, I filed online for a renewal and I'm going to call to see how I can go about getting a temporary renewal which I know is possible. It just makes me feel a little stupid since I was very careful to check my passport but, for some reason, I thought my green card expired next year. Silly me. Hopefully everything will work out for the best...It was just a bit of a shock even if it was my own fault.

Still, in spite of that, I had a fun weekend and I was sad to leave my parents to return to the normalcy of my routine. My mother is actually going to the UK on Wednesday so I won't see/talk to her for a while. I'm hoping my dad will come down to visit which will be nice- it's always fun to have one-on-one time with both parents.

So, even though the weekend is coming to a close, it hasn't been wasted. Then again, it's hard to waste a weekend. Although it's back to the grind tomorrow, it's definitely nice to know that in five days, the weekend will be here again. It's the time in between that can be a little tricky but this is the start of a new week full of new hope. Let's hope it's a little better than last week. Even if it's not, I have a good weekend behind me to keep me going.

I like it when life is good.

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Long and Squirrelly Weeks

This is turning into one of those weeks. I’m very glad that tomorrow is Friday. I could use a break; this week in the office has been rather stressful.

Our office is not having a great month. We’ve had a string of bad luck with candidates who accept our job, are about to start and then, at the last minute, decide to take a different job. Or, in the case of my coworker and fellow recruiter, he’s had people start a job and then leave within a week. The thing is, this isn’t something we can help. It happens. In the case of the people who leave after a week, it’s usually the same reason that the other candidates don’t end up starting- they find another job that pays a little more and as is so often the case, it’s all about the money.

Today, I had a great candidate who was supposed to start work on Wednesday. I had a bad feeling after not being able to reach him yesterday to set up a time for him to fill out his paperwork. Today he informed me he had a better opportunity and he couldn’t turn it down. He was very apologetic and I know it wasn’t personal but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.

To top it off, I got an email from the consultant I’d fired unfairly a few weeks ago. He was formerly very nice and polite to me. He was understanding that it wasn’t our fault that the employer didn’t want him back. Then, today, he sends me a rather snotty email informing me that he’s suing us. This, of course, came as a shock because we weren’t expecting it. He wants to be compensated for the cost of traveling and accommodations for the time he worked for us. This would be completely understandable if we hadn’t have paid him a government-decreed per diem to cover the cost of yes, you guessed it, the cost of traveling and accommodations for the time he worked for us. I feel bad. I know he’s angry and he’s doing what he can but from a legal standpoint, the reason we pay a per diem is to avoid this type of situation.

It still made things a little ugly though. It’s just been that type of week.

Still, outside the office, things are a little brighter…for the most part. I did come home and find out that the infamous trampoline had been relocated so that it was less than six feet from my fence which meant I had screaming, bouncing kids even close to my garden than before. Fortunately, I think the move may just have been temporary because Dog Whisperer and Wife moved it back later that night. Either that or they heard me loudly complaining to Mummy Monkeypants about it but since I did that indoors with the windows closed, I doubt it.

The dogs and I had an interesting walk tonight. We got out the front door and were almost immediately mown down by Lemonade Stand Girl on her bike. We jumped out of the way only to see her stop short, slam on her breaks and throw her bike down. She’d spotted something.

That something ended up being a squirrel. The poor creature had clearly fallen from a tree. I instantly felt bad, as though I’d cursed it with my harsh anti-squirrel blog. I thought the creature was dead at first but then I saw it was hyperventilating. The little girl squealed quite loud and asked if I thought it was dead. Meanwhile, my avid little hunters, Sookie and Rory, were pulling like mad because they’d scented the squirrel. They wanted that squirrel badly. The little girl bent down to try to poke it with a stick- I told her to do it gently. Then with no warning, the squirrel lurched up and stagger-flopped over the grass. The little girl squealed again which attracted some of her siblings/friends. Meanwhile, my dogs were whining and salivating, trying to get at the squirrel. The squirrel didn’t do itself any favours by stagger-flopping close to the dogs. I tell you, pulling two focused dachshunds away from their prey is not an easy task. With great effort, I got them away although Rory would NOT forgive me for quite some time. I got rather reproachful glares thrown back at me for the rest of the walk.

I would like to have helped with the squirrel situations but having the dogs meant that the only way it would end is with a dead squirrel rather than a maimed one. My dogs are as sweet as can be, normally. They’re loving, good natured girls, always up for a cuddle. However, when it comes to hunting, they are VERY SERIOUS and they turn into to demon creatures who MUST HUNT. I haven’t decided if they’re hunting to kill or just to play with their prizes. So far, aside from one baby bunny last year, it seems that they’re much more focused on substituting their captives for their chew toys. i.e. they get them in their mouth and toss their heads from side to side, trying to get them to squeak.

So, we left the squirrel. I was relieved to see that the kids had got the Dog Whisperer to assist and he was on the scene with a box. The sad reality is that I bet the squirrel didn’t make it through the night but I was glad that someone was helping it. Despite my aversion to the ratty little things, I still don’t like seeing any animal hurt.

It’s just been an odd week. I’m hoping that tomorrow being Friday will automatically make the day good but given the way things have been in the office, I might do better to just hold my breath until the weekend and hope that next week will be full of new hope and new possibilities.

I do, however, hope that next week is a little less full of squirrels. They’re definitely not helping matters. Oops, there I go again…sorry, squirrel. RIP little squirrel who fell from the tree.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Oops..Sorry Squirrels?

It turns out I may have been blaming the squirrels unjustly for the eating of my tomatoes. According to Possibly-Joe, there’s a groundhog living in the garden that’s diagonal to mine. He’s seen it a few times and his dog desperately wants to eat it.

Possibly-Joe has a rat terrier named Chloe that he ties out on a long chain in the garden. He doesn’t have the luxury of a fence the way I do and Chloe is a bit of a runner. There have been several times when I’ve seen Chloe squeeze out the back door when he’s going through and he’s run around the neighbourhood trying to chase her. He’s done it barefoot a few times too. So far, he’s always caught her. He has my sympathies. When I was a kid, my dad had a thing for Afghan Hounds so we had a couple of them. Afghan’s are REAL runners- if they have the space, they will run. There were several occasions when they managed to get out of our yard and we had to chase them like maniacs all around the neighbourhood. It was never fun, always embarrassing and always a triumph when we caught the dog. So Joe has my sympathies.

Anyway, I know about the groundhog because while I was squirrel-proofing my tomatoes last night, Possibly-Joe came out to chat. This was while the Trampoline Gang was at their wildest and I’d desperately been trying to ignore their yelling. Possibly Joe clearly felt the same way I did because the first thing he said to me was, “as if their dogs weren’t bad enough, now we have a trampoline.”

It made me smile. It’s nice to have catharsis in knowing you’re not the only one who’s irritated at something. I was starting to feel like a cranky old spinster because I can’t sit out on my patio anymore without it having the soundtrack of the kids next door. I mean, I am glad they’re able to keep amused and have fun playing but the selfish part of me wished they didn’t have to do it next door while I’m trying to relax.

Possibly Joe had a gripe about Dog Whisperer’s beasts and how they drove Chloe nuts and then he complained about how the kids on the trampoline liked to wind up Chloe which got her upset. I listened with sympathy. As I suspected, Dog Whisperer and Wife didn’t do themselves any favours by installing the trampoline. I know that their yapping dogs drive quite a few people crazy as I’ve mentioned before. However, add to that a trampoline full of shouting kids…they’re not exactly going to be the most popular house on the block.

Anyway, after Possibly Joe was done with his complaints, he mentioned that there was also a groundhog living next door to him which Chloe kept trying to eat. I didn’t know that I had one of the creatures quite so close to my house. Possibly Joe said he’s seen it stick its head up quite a few times and that’s usually when Chloe goes nuts and tries to eat it. Fortunately, her chain doesn’t go that far.

I was surprised. I’ve never seen the groundhog and I can’t help but think that if Rory and Sookie saw it, they, too, would want to join in the Eating of the Groundhog with Chloe. Well, they probably wouldn’t eat it. What would actually happen is that they would bark at it a lot. Sookie would be the leader of the barking and Rory would stand back, trying to be brave like her sister but rather wary anyway. The groundhog would probably stare at the two barking dogs and then saunter off, probably to eat Larry the Potential Serial Killers sweet pertaters or beans. If my girls did get close enough to the groundhog to actually confront it, chances are that Rory would run off, frightened and Sookie would attempt to bravely capture it but would probably run away if it got too close. The groundhog is, after all, bigger than Sook.

The thing is, Sookie thinks she’s a big dog. This is why when we got out walking, she gives no notice to the Chihuahua’s and Yorkies we pass. She barely acknowledges the miniature poodle. No, Sookie likes to stir up trouble when we pass the German Shepherds or the Golden Retriever. She also is quite fond of barking back at the Great Dane we pass by its back gate. Sookie is fierce and she likes dogs to know it except, really, she’s not. She just likes to bark and when they bark back, she hides behind my legs. This is why I know she wouldn’t really fight a groundhog. A squirrel, she’d fight. She has already taken on a rabbit. She likes voles. She’s fond of bugs. Yet when it comes to things that wouldn’t fit in her mouth, she’s not really that fond of getting too close.

Still, now that I know there’s a groundhog, I’m a little more suspicious of my tomatoes. They were awfully large bite marks in them. I assumed that a squirrel had started the job and Rory had finished since I caught her taking a bite yesterday. However, now I know there really is a groundhog living close by, my suspicions have changed. I’m not sure if groundhogs can climb though- I don’t see how else they could have got to my tomatoes without scaling the fence. Still, it does make me wonder if I did blame the squirrels unjustly.

Hopefully, my chicken wire will suffice. Since I managed to cut myself on it as I was setting it up, I decided it might be dangerous to the girls if they ran through on one of their mad energy bursts that causes them to run round the garden on their circular track. In an effort to remind them the wire was there, I tied some very bright orange fabric all over it. If nothing else, I have the most stylish-squirrel deterrent in the neighbourhood.

Still, I’m going to be on the lookout for that groundhog now I know where he lives. I’ll also keep an eye on the girls just in case Sookie tries to play “Catch the Groundhog” which she is likely to attempt to do if she sees it. My guess is that our chain link fence will provide a safety barrier for both parties but you never know.

On the plus side, all that noise from the Trampoline next door probably discourages the creature from coming out as often as it wants to so maybe there is a silver lining to this after all.

Sorry, Squirrels…maybe it wasn’t your fault this time…

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Defend and Destroy!

I despise squirrels. I know I’ve mentioned this before but, once again, my opinion has been justified.

I find them to be rude little creatures. If squirrels were humans, they’d be obnoxious teenagers who’ve had no parenting, treat the world as their playground and talk back to whoever gets in their way. They’re not threatening, per se but no one really wants to deal with them because they’re annoying.

Both Sookie and Rory hate squirrels too. Their hatred is manifested in their desire to capture a squirrel of their very own any time they see one. They whine beneath a tree when there’s a squirrel in it, they pull like crazy if we’re walking and they see a squirrel and they simply cannot understand why squirrels can run up trees and they can’t.

We call squirrels ‘dirty rotten cheaters’ because they sit there, taunting the dogs as we walk, chewing on some item that’s bigger than their heads whether it’s a tomato, a hickory nut, a slice of pizza or an apple and as soon as the dogs get close enough, they run up the nearest tree.

We consider that cheating. I do, however, marvel at how squirrels manage to climb trees without dropping their food items. It’s not fair that my dogs get so close and then the squirrel cheats by running out of reach.

Worse is when the squirrels talk back. They run up the tree and then sit there, making this weird chittering noise that sounds rather like they shouting at my dogs. This, in particular, drives Sookie a little nuts and she gets a little demented in her attempts to try to climb up the tree. Sookie, my sweet but not-as-bright-as-her-sister dog has not yet figured out that she cannot climb a tree. She tries. Oh, but she tries but she always ends up having to concede defeat. She’s a sweetie but there are times when she’s just a little, uh, dopey. Take for example when I try to put her harness on her for a walk. Rory long since figured out that if she steps into each leg hole, buckling the harness is harmless, easy and quick. Not Sookie. Sookie still acts like she thinks I’m going to hurt her when I approach with the harness. When I get her to stay still, I get her to lift a leg to coax her to put her foot in the leg hole. Then the leg stays lifted and I suddenly have a Three Legged Dachshund. She has stood like that for quite a while. I usually get her to put it down by manually lifting her other front leg. Of course, by this time, the first leg is no longer in the leg hole of the harness but it’s worth a shot. Of course, she ends up keeping this leg lifted for a while and we repeat the process until the harness is actually on. So, her constant attempts to climb trees are expected and, well, endearing.

I digress. Back to the squirrels.

Squirrels make our walks more interesting. There are huge amount in our neighbourhood and so when the weather is cool and breezy, they’re out in full force, gathering food and generally being obnoxious.

I can handle them on our walks. It takes a little wrangling to persuade two enthusiastic dachshunds that squirrels aren’t actually food and thus it’s not worth chasing them but it does keep our walks interesting.

I can’t handle them in the garden, however. There are a couple that live in my neighbour’s trees. They run around, jumping from fence to tree branch to bush to fence and so on. They torment Sookie and Rory by perching on the top of our chain link fence, doing that chittering thing a mere three feet above where Sookie stands on her back legs desperately trying to reach them. No matter how high she jumps she can’t quite bag herself a squirrel. The squirrel, meanwhile, clearly enjoys inflicting torment. I half expect them to pelt my dogs with acorns and berries. For all I know, they do.

The worst part is that they’re thieves and sneaks. Twice now, I’ve noticed that my lovely heirloom tomatoes are starting to ripen and I get excited. I decide that I’ll let them ripen a little more and then I’ll pick them. Lo and behold, twice now on my two largest tomatoes, I’ve gone out the next day to discover half-demolished tomatoes ridden with squirrel-sized toothmarks. The tomatoes are no good and I have to throw them away. They also eat my cherry tomatoes and I find them strewn on the ground, half-eaten. Honestly, I’d rather the bloody creatures just ate the whole tomato. At least then, it wouldn’t seem so obnoxious and wasteful.

The dogs are no help because the squirrels attack my tomatoes while they’re inside and I’m at work. Or they do it at night. I still blame Wife of Dog Whisperer who used to plant tomatoes strictly for the squirrels. They’ve got a taste now and since mine are gourmet tomatoes, heirlooms and lovely, they’re hell bent on eating them.

It’s time to declare war. I have some chicken wire that I’m going to attempt to use to secure the perimeter of my tomato patch. Rory and Sookie won’t like it because I’ve caught them having a bite out of the already squirrel- decimated tomatoes when they think I’m not looking. I suppose they smell of squirrel because they won’t eat tomatoes if I offer them normally.

I’ve been researching other ways of getting rid of squirrels. The internet recommends using dog hair around the plants. Since my girls are shedding rather a lot, I’ll use my Furminator on them tonight and try that method too. I’ve also given the dogs permission to seek and destroy but, alas, that’s not having any more effect than their usual attempts to seek and destroy. Apparently, they don’t need my permission.

I’m hoping to salvage the last of my heirlooms. I have a couple more and I’ve been waiting ages to pick them and enjoy them so you can see why the squirrels have inspired my ire. If I succeed in eating at least one of the delicious fruits that isn’t laden with bitemarks, I’ll be happy.

When it comes to my vegetables, it’s serious business. I will take no prisoners. Those squirrels have messed with my tomatoes for the last time.

Now, if only I could tell them that.

Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trampoline Trials

I find that as I get older and wiser, there are more and more things for which that I wish I could go back in time or retroactively apologize.

When I was growing up in England, our neighbourhood had a lot of kids. We would run around during the summer until all hours, playing our kid games and just having a fine old time. There would be other days where we’d do things like catching bumblebees off our neighbours’ lavender bush. There would be other days where we’d ride our bikes like demon riders, screaming and shouting the whole time. We’d play games like tennis and cricket and rounders and inevitably our ball would end up in the next-door neighbour’s garden and we’d have to ask for it back.

One of our neighbours was an old lady named Mrs. Olly. She didn’t like us much and we dreaded asking her for our ball back. She would shout at us and tell us to stop making so much noise. We used to laugh at her and dare each other to go get the ball.

Nowadays, I feel a little more sympathy for poor Mrs. Olly. I didn’t see this coming. One day, I’m a care free child, not worrying about the rest of the world around me, living in the now and just having a good time. Then, thirty years later, I’m seeing things through another point of view: That of a neighbour who’d just like a little peace from the neighbourhood kids.

It makes me feel rather bad for Mrs. Olly. I’ve had a few occasions where Son of Dog Whisperer is playing catch with himself in the back yard and he’s thrown the ball in my garden. Since the incident where he left my back gate open after, I suspect, retrieving his ball from my yard, I’ve chained that particular gate so that it doesn’t get left open again. This, however, means that whenever Son of Dog Whisperer’s ball lands over the fence into my garden, he comes to my front door, rings the bell and I have to go retrieve it.

It’s not so bad unless I’m trying to do something like cook dinner or read. However, I definitely have a little more sympathy and a whole lot more guilt towards doing the same thing to poor old Mrs. Olly. I know, I sound like a curmudgeon. I probably am a curmudgeon.

It’s just that I tend to try to be quite tolerant in the beginning. Sometimes, I tend to be too tolerant of the neighbour kids. See the Lemonade Stand Incident. Also, this weekend, I sold an old Game Boy at my yard sale for a very good price and I gave the kid a game to go with it it. He’s a young teen who lives three doors down from me. Yesterday, just as I’d finished breakfast, my doorbell rang. He wanted to know if I had any more games for the Game Boy he’d bought from me. Politely, I said I’d look and I’d let him know next time I saw him which is pretty often since I walk by his house with the dogs every day.

I did look for more games because I promised even though I think I only ever had three to begin with and I’d sold them at the yard sale. I figured I’d tell him that he was out of luck. I couldn’t help feeling it was a little assumptive in the first place to go ask someone that after the yard sale is done but he’s about 13 and that isn’t always the most common sensical age for boys.

I didn’t have to wait. He rang my doorbell just a couple of hours later, following up. He seemed very disappointed that I didn’t have any more games but I did tell him to look on Ebay. He bought the Game Boy, the game and the charger with a nice case for $5 so it wasn’t like I’d ripped him off. I only hope that he doesn’t come back to triple check. I don’t know how many ways I can tell him no without being a little short about it.

Still, he seems like a nice boy even if he is a bit persistent. I don’t mind him as much as I’m starting to mind Son of Dog Whisperer. I try very hard to be friendly to the child. I know he has some type of learning disability and, frankly, he’s a bit of a weird kid. Yet I try to treat him nicely even when he bugs the crap out of me. I do find it a wee bit disconcerting when he stands in the middle of my lawn, doing that “HUT!” thing with his football while appearing to stare in my window. Sometimes, when he’s playing alone, he plays with a light saber and he just walks up to me when I’m working outside, doesn’t say anything, points the light saber at me and walks away, muttering something incomprehensible.

All this, I can deal with. It’s just when he’s with his little pack of ruffian friends that I’m starting to get annoyed. In general, as a pack, they have that arrogance that only packs of children can have. They ride their bikes in the road with that confidence that the cars will swerve to avoid hitting them so they don’t really have to look where they’re going. Sometimes, one of the older girls will ride her bike, pulling a younger one who is crouched on a skateboard, behind her. They’re connected by a long rope and there are times when the skateboard is on one side of the intersection and the bike at the other. It scares me and I’m not even sitting on the damn skateboard but the kids seem to think it’s fun. All it would take is one of the cars to zoom through the neighbourhood, unfamiliar with its layout and geography of our Stop Signs and that child would be in some serious trouble.

The two little girls are siblings to Kenny who appears to be Son of Dog Whisperer’s BFF. As a group, they’re loud and obnoxious. They have no problem yelling at people when they pass by. They leave crap all over the path ways and their bikes are often cast aside wherever they feel like jumping off and running.

All this, I could deal with. It is annoying but I figure it’s penance for the years of my wild childhood and playing in the streets.

Now, it’s got worse. Son of Dog Whisperer now owns a large trampoline. The trampoline sits in the back yard. It’s got one of those ‘safety’ nets around it though I’m not sure what purpose it serves as the kids seem to be able to climb under the net and it doesn’t seem to be very stable.

For the past three days, those kids have squealed and screamed and run around Son of Dog Whisperer’s back yard like a pack of wild hyenas. They bounce and squeal. They fight constantly. They throw things at one another. Then they bounce so more.

I suppose from the point of view of his parents, buying the trampoline seemed like a good idea. Son could get some exercise and have something outdoors to do with his friends. Yay, trampoline.

Though…not yay. I can tell you what will happen. For the first few weeks, Son of Dog Whisperer and friends will bounce a lot. They will view it as a novelty. Then…they’ll get bored. The weather will get cold and that giant trampoline will sit there, gathering puddles, killing the grass underneath and just basically being a giant space-waster.

My sister has a trampoline. I’ve had friends who had trampolines. Unless a child aspires to be a professional trampoline-ist, chances are that bouncing will get old quite quickly. It’s like bouncing on the bed as a kid. It seemed like fun for a while but then it ended up being rather monotonous and that was that.

I know, I know…I sound REALLY crotchety, cranky and old. It’s just that for the entire duration of living in my house, I’ve suffered the yipping and barking of the Beasts of Dog Whisperer. There’s no control there. No matter how much I try to befriend the dogs, they keep yipping at me. Son of Dog Whisperer has been a wee bit of a pain but until the trampoline, it was easy to escape from.

Now, he and his friends are outside ALL the time. Good for parents of the child. Not so good for me who enjoys a little sanctity by looking at my vegetables and sitting out on my patio, reading. My reading is now punctuated with BOUNCE-SQUEAL-“HEY LOOK AT ME!”- “YOU’RE A DORK”- “NO, YOU’RE A DORK!” “WELL, YOU’RE A GIRL. GO AWAY. BOYS ONLY!”

I’m trying to be tolerant but, alas, it’s hard. There’s no escape and there’s very little I can do. The child is entitled to his trampoline. He’s entitled to play with his friends. He’s even bloody well entitled to that lemonade stand of his. It’s just that there are times when I can’t help but wish the neighbours could have a say in what’s allowed and what’s not. I can guarantee that those dogs wouldn’t be so noisy and there’d be no trampoline, that’s for sure.

Still, for now, I’m starting to contemplate that privacy fence again. I’m also mentally atoning for all of the times I probably had the same effect on my neighbours when I was a child. It’s a vicious cycle and now I feel bad. Poor Mrs. Olly and the other sufferers of our childhood oblivion.

I suppose the small thing to be thankful for is that we never had a trampoline because then, I’d feel really bad.

Ok…that’s my complaining for the day. It is Monday, after all…tomorrow will be better and Wednesday even best because that’s when the kids go back to school.

Poor kids. Happy Neighbours. I can live with that.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

People Studies: Lessons from a Yard Sale

So, I had my yard sale this weekend. It went about as smoothly as any yard sale could go. Having been to quite a few garage/yard sales in the past, I've learned what works and doesn't work and I was well prepared for mine.

It actually went off without any hiccups. It was supposed to be the annual neighbourhood yard sale but there weren't many participants. The first year I lived here, there were a ton of sales. Last year, there were less. This year, there were even less. However, I was fortunate enough to be part of a cluster. There was one next door at Mr. Enormous Trouser's house and two across the street at the older folks' homes.

Being in a cluster is good. When I got yard/garage sale-ing, I look for clusters. It makes it worthwhile to find somewhere to park becuase you're getting more for your time.

I did have an early start to the day. My intention was to take the girls for a walk and check out to see how many sales looked like they were going to be set up. Then I'd come home and set up since the sales weren't supposed to start until 9 a.m. It was a little alarming that by 7:15 a.m. when we started on our walk that both Mr. Enormous Trousers and the lady across the road were already setting up but we went for our walk anyway. I did notice that as we walked on by, some 'early birds' were already converging on the lady across the street's sale. This was the reason I had planned on setting up later. Also, since Mrs. Enormous Trousers is an Avon lady, that's primarily what they sell at their sale and it takes a lot more time to set up than my bric-a-brac.

However, I set up by 8:30 a.m. and was ready for my first customers who arrived as soon as I went to sit in my chair and peruse my magazine. My last customers came right aroun 1:45 p.m. In between the first and last, I learned a lot about people. I think if you want to study human beings, having a yard sale is a great way to do so. Here are a few things I learned:

1) People are very, very cheap. Sure, they pretend that they're just like to get a bargain but what this means is that they're cheap. If I'm selling a high quality musical piano for $30 when it costs about $120 brand new, NO, I WILL NOT sell it for $5. Be realistic. Yes, ok, so I came down to $20 because a young boy fell in love with it and both his parents were encouraging and, well, I'm a sucker but $5? Come on.

2) See #1. I had lots of nice messenger bags to sell. Some even had the tags still on them. I was selling them because I simply didn't need them nor do I have the space. When they're priced at $1 and they have a TAG ON THEM that says they were originally $10, do you really think I'm going to be happy when you offer me $.25? Come on. It's a dollar.

3) People are cautious. Someone asked if I had bedbugs before she purchased some books. Firstly, ewww! Secondly, even if I HAD bedbugs, do you really think that I would confess it in front of a yard full of people browsing my stuff? Thirdly, ewww! (I don't have bedbugs, for the record). Of course, as fate would have it, my nice Terminex inspector did decide to come and check up on the house after the problem back in May DURING MY YARD SALE but fortunately, she wasn't in her company truck and secondly, she came during a quite time. Oh...Murphy, your laws are funny.

4) People are discriminating. I had a little side table that I got for $12 at IKEA and was in mint condition (AND ASSEMBLED, take that, IKEA!) that I was selling for $2. I thought that was reasonable. I also used the table to display other items for sale. I had one lady take everything off said table, flip the table upside down, inspect it for about five minutes, put everything BACK on the table and then sigh and walk off. Lady, it was a $2 table, you're not going to find a designer stamp on it. Sorry.

5) People always have a story. I had a lovely dog carrier on sale. I originally paid $45 for it and got it for Sookie when I went to claim her. Since I ended up coming home with a Rory and a Sook, it was already too small. I had it up for sale with the original tags and paperwork for $20. A lady came and asked if I'd take $10. I said no. Then she launched into a story about her friend who rescued baby animals like racoons, possums and skunks. She works for a non-profit, has no funds to buy stuff but does it because she loves animals. I said I could take $15. We ended up at $12. What can I say, I'm a sucker. Also, I happen to think baby racoons are adorable and living with my parents who live on a major highway, we did have a few occasions where we were asked to foster baby racoons after their mothers were hit on the road and they were left abandoned so she hit a personal note. The lady was nice and even came back to thank me again and tell me all about her own experiences as a skunk rescuer/expert. She studies skunks.

6) People are cheap (yes, I know, I covered this in #1 and #2) but it's still true. I'm sorry but a Sony Playstation One with controller, power adapter and two games is a bargain at $5. Sure, the Playstation One is out of date and irrelevant but you can still find games on Ebay and it still works. I'm sorry but no, I will not take $1 for the whole pack. The same goes for the 27 inch TV I was selling and had marked at $10. It's a working TV that served me well for the entire time I lived in L.A. and until last year when I caved and upgraded to an HDTV. I will NOT take $1 for the TV. I did end up taking $7.50 but that was only because it was really heavy and I didn't fancy lumping it back inside.

7) Kids can be cute. I had a box of toys with an old pirate sword I had for a costume once. A little boy who was about five saw it and his entire face lit up. He literally dived into the box to claim it and he was NOT letting that go for anything. He even looked suspicious that I'd take it back when he proudly came to give me his quarter. The same goes for the little girl who couldn't have been older than four who proudly picked out an old Eeyore, Teletubby and a bear from my toy box and was so excited when I said she only had to pay fifty cents even though they were a quarter each. Kids can be so cute.

8) Kids can be a pain in the rear. Son of Dog Whisperer and his friends drive me a little crazy. For one thing, Son of Dog Whisperer oddly decided that my front lawn was his 'football practice field' at about 9:30 a.m. He proceeded to put his football down and do that thing that football players do at the beginning of the game- you know, where they're leaning with one arm down on the ball and the other pointed to the sky right before they do that "Hut" thing? Oh, you know what I mean. Anyway, Son of Dog Whisperer kept doing this except he just stayed in that pose for quite some time. It was a wee bit creepy, truth be told. I was a little annoyed he was on my lawn but since he wasn't doing any harm, I figured I'd let it go. Of course, that was before he actually started throwing the ball. At one point, he threw it and it hit some of my yard sale stuff at which point I told him he needed to stop throwing the ball and go play in his own yard. He did stop throwing the ball but didn't get out of my yard. The annoying part is that at some point, BOTH Of his parents were outside, doing stuff and only one time did Wife of Dog Whisperer say "Did you ask [captain monkeypants] if you could play in her yard?". When Son of Dog Whisperer said no, that was it. There was no scolding, no "Well, you should." It was clearly a formality that his mother asked. Even if I did tell them that I'd prefer it if he stayed off my lawn, it wouldn't stick. I know Son of Dog Whisperer has some kind of learning disability so I feel doubly bad for being such an old curmudgeon but, well, it's MY lawn...They have their own yard.

7) People can be creepy. There were a couple of older men who were walking around the sales. Two of them seperately sidled up to the table where I was sitting, looked around shiftily and asked if I had "any gold or guns?" Well, no...sorry, I'm not a gold and guns kind of gal. One of the men was quite persistent about the gold. He wanted me to go in my house and check. He even showed me his little scale where he could weigh my non-existent gold. Since I'm not in possession of much gold, I tend to prefer silvery jewelry over gold and most of my jewelry isn't exactly high quality anyway, I didn't oblige. Besides, I wasn't about to abandon my yard sale to find gold for Mr. Creepy. I had at least two others come by later and ask if I had any gold or guns. It sounded a bit too Old West for me, honestly. What, do they think I've got a collection of Smith and Wesson rifles and gold bullion bars under my floorboards?

8) If it's free, someone will want it. I had a set of curtain rods with brackets that I took down from my Tuscan room when I redid it. They were sturdy and in good shape but no one wanted them for $2. Later, when it was getting obvious I'd be making a Goodwill run to donate the stuff I didn't sell, I marked the curtain rods as free since I wouldn't get anything by giving them to Goodwill. Lo and behold, within seconds, someone took them. I know it's a bad economy but they were only $2 to begin with!

9) No matter how cheap something is, someone always wants it cheaper. I was offered a dime a couple of times for an item I'd priced at a quarter. Yes, this is a variation on #'s 1,2 and 6 but...well, I know people like to bargain and get a deal but, really, you don't think a quarter for something is a deal? Really? Even when it's in the original packaging and looks pretty new? A dime? Really? Sigh.

10) People buy the stuff you don't expect to sell and leave the stuff you had trouble deciding to sell anyway. I had a few treasures that I had reluctantly decided to sell because I didn't use them much and they took up space even though I liked them. No one wanted these. They wanted the, uh, junk I had decided to try to sell and intended to donate afterwards. This included the pair of slightly-too-big hideous patent leather shoes with a giant bow that I had bought used for a 1980's costume party ($1!), the terrible French cookbook that was only $1 from the dollar store and proved to be...terrible (I got my $1 back!) and the shower curtain rings that were a pretty bronze colour but were terrible because a) they weren't closed all the way and whenever you opened the shower curtain, they'd slide off the rail. Also, they left a nasty brown powdery residue where they rubbed against the shower curtain rail. I made $2 on those! Meanwhile, my lovely Mikasa Christmas oil/vinegar/salt/pepper cruet set didn't sell for $3 (I decided to keep it after all) nor did my nice new-ish pink and khaki messenger bag for $1. That old "Someone else's junk is someone else's treasure thing is very true."

All in all, it was a successful sale. I sold 75% of everything, made a little money though, because people are (say it with me) cheap, I didn't make as much as I should and I had a nice time meeting some of my neighbours. Of course, I did have two sulky dogs who couldn't figure out what I was doing out there all day and I got quite sunburned because after a while, you cannot scoot back under the overhang of the house anymore without being indoors- thus, I was in the sun a lot. Sure, Son of Dog Whisperer did eventually find his 'posse' which, sadly, still doesn't include Raymond and they converged on my sale, threw a bunch of the toys on the floor and then ended up only buying one weird little dolphin snowglobe thingy for 25 cents but it was an interesting day. Afterwards, I confess, I was a little exhausted but there was something satisfying about taking my last few boxes of stuff to Goodwill and knowing that even by just a little, I'd decluttered my house a bit.

It's entirely possible that I'll build up more clutter over the next year and decide to have another sale when the next Annual Neighbourhood Sale date comes around next year. I think if that happens, my strategy will be to double the price on everything so that when people offer me less, it'll seem like a deal to them even though I'll secretly be making what I actually wanted to make on an item. You live and learn...right?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Back to School and Balmy Days

It’s a beautiful day out there today. We’ve finally broken our heat and humidity streak and the weather is positively beautiful.

It made it incredibly hard to be inside at work today. It’s going to be even harder tomorrow since it not only is supposed to be equally as gorgeous but also, it’s Friday and it’s never easy to concentrate on Fridays anyway.

Still, I’ll give it my best shot. Of course, I’m already a little preoccupied with preparing for the Great Garage Sale of 2011 but I’m making progress. Except for those random strolls through the house- both mental and physical- where I try to find other items to sell, everything is priced and ready to go. It took a while but I think I’m ready. There’s a lot of things to do tomorrow night to be ready for setup on Saturday but I think that I’ll just make a list.

Of course, there is a chance of rain on Saturday. I’m dearly hoping it holds off until the afternoon. I’m selling and awful lot of items that wouldn’t really do well in the rain.

However, I’m very much keeping my fingers crossed that this lovely weather continues. I think sitting outside in 84 degree weather with a light breeze will be rather nice. Given that a week ago we were up near 100 degrees with stifling humidity, things could be much worse.

These are typically the Dog Days of Summer. It’s unusual for us to have the hot weather in July and cooler weather in August. I can’t remember the amount of back-to-school first days where we’d dress in our new clothes which were really designed for more autumnal weather and we’d be hot and sticky as soon as we stepped outside.

It’s strange that it’s already that time of year. The stores are all full of school supplies and the aisles full of sulky kids who clearly don’t find joy in having to buy new pens, notebooks and the like because it means their freedom is over.

I remember this time of year too. I always liked school but was never terribly fond of the social aspect of school. I was one of the kids who cared what people thought so I’d worry about trivial stuff like where my locker would be, would I get it open, what if I dressed wrong on the first day and what if I didn’t have any of my friends in my classes. Now I look back, it really does seem a little silly because the things seem so minor. Yet they weren’t minor to me back then. They’d be the kind of silly things that I’d think about and not be able to sleep or, worse, I’d wake up in the night and start thinking about them and couldn’t get back to sleep.

It’s amazing how our perspective changes with experience. Not getting my locker open or wearing the wrong shirt used to matter to me because I wanted to fit in. I used to pretend I wanted to be a rebel but, deep down, like so many other kids, I just wanted to be accepted. Looking back, I now know that it was a pretty common fear and probably at least half the kids I wanted to be accepted by probably felt the same way I did.
Yet I didn’t know that back then. I was stuck in the awkwardness of my teenage years, trying to find self-confidence and self-esteem and trying to hold onto them. As I’ve grown older, I do still struggle with these things but never the way I did back then. It’s just not as important as it used to be. What is important now wasn’t even on my radar back then: having a job to pay the bills, being able to provide for myself and the dogs, being able to find time to see my family regularly and just generally finding contentment in the small things.

I do still remember the days of having to go back to school though. They’re not quite distant enough to be foggy and blurred in my mind. Thus, I do still have sympathy for all those students I see having to go back-to-school shopping. For the mob of kids in my neighbourhood who ride their bikes and run around until it starts to get dark, their reign of freedom is drawing to an end. It won’t be long until they’re no longer running around shirtless or in swimsuits up and down the street, yelling and, instead, they’re dressed and waiting for the school bus in the morning, sluggish and miserable and dreaming faintly of the carefree summer that’s just slipped out of their fingers.

I do remember those days and the cloud of commitment that rises up at the beginning of August and stays there until somewhere at the end of September when school has become a familiar routine, it vanishes and the summer is but a distant memory.

Of course, even though I do remember those days, the adult in me has to admit, I quite prefer it when the kids are back in school. There are far less near-misses as one of the kids zooms out into the road on his/her bike without looking even though I’m watching for them anyway. It also means far less yelling and screaming outside my house and kids running across my lawn to take a shortcut. Yes, I know…I’m getting old.

But at least I don’t have to go back to school. I can just enjoy the sales on school supplies and use them for fun purposes at home.

Being an adult definitely has its advantages.

Happy Friday and have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Hollywood Needs to Stop With the Remakes

So, I just read something online that irritated me rather a lot. They’re remaking “Dirty Dancing.”

I’d say I don’t know why they’re remaking “Dirty Dancing” but, really, I do…it’s Hollywood and they appear to have thrown creativity out the window in favour of trying to make a quick profit.

It’s sad and rather ridiculous, honestly. I mean, ok…so “Dirty Dancing” wasn’t exactly “Casablanca” or “The Godfather” to begin with. It’s a slightly cheesy film with some rather silly dialogue (“I carried a watermelon,” and “Nobody puts Baby in a corner!” come to mind) but, over time, that dialogue has become classic, quotable and instantly recognizable. There are movies that are just good and then movies like “Dirty Dancing” which come out and everyone just…loves. Take my dad, for example. “Dirty Dancing” is one of his all-time favourite films. Granted, his taste isn’t very…great to begin with, I mean the man must have watched “Starship Troopers” more times than is humanly necessary. However, there’s something about “Dirty Dancing” that made it one of those little movies that could. It resonated with our generation.

When “Dirty Dancing” first came out on video, my friend Amy and I would have sleepovers. We’d creep downstairs after my parents had gone to bed and watch movies. My parents knew but they just couldn’t sit through the same movies over and over the way we could. Amy had a crush on Patrick Swayze so we ALWAYS had to watch “Dirty Dancing.” I (yes, I’m ashamed to admit it) had a huge thing for Tom Cruise and we had to watch “Top Gun” a lot. We were creatures of habit and we knew what we liked.

Even now, I can watch “Dirty Dancing” with a certain fondness. It’s a little dated but it’s still fun. It’s still got that ‘magic’ that made it a phenomenon.

And yet now Hollywood wants to remake it. The original choreographer from “Dirty Dancing” is going to direct.

It seems as though this is happening more and more. We didn’t need a new “Arthur,” but we got one and it was pretty awful. We didn’t need a new “Karate Kid” but we got one and while it featured Will Smith’s cute son, it lacked the fun cheesiness of the real Mr. Miyagi’s waxing on and waxing off. We’re getting a remake of “Footloose” whether we like it or not and I’m sure it’s going to be terrible. Ok, so rewatching the original shows it to be horrible dated. Kevin Bacon’s exclamation of “Jump Back!” when he finds out there’s not dancing allowed in town alone makes the film completely cheesy and silly. Yet it’s a fun cheesy and silly because when “Footloose” originally came out, you couldn’t resist taping your toe and wanting to leap up and dance along to the theme song. It was the 1980’s and it worked.

Maybe the remake of “Footloose” will be good. I’m not holding my breath. It’s too soon to be remaking films from the 1980’s. Give it another 20 years and maybe we’ll talk then. If I, someone in my mid 30’s can still remember renting the video as a new release, it’s too soon. Sorry, but it is.

I have no hopes for “Dirty Dancing’s” remake. Why bother in the first place? The chemistry between Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze made the film what it was. You can’t recreate that. The thrill of waiting for the climactic dancing that follows, “No one puts Baby in a corner!” won’t be the same. You can’t recreate a movie that wasn’t manufactured to be a huge hit….it just became one.

The sad this is, as I said earlier, I know why Hollywood is doing it. They want to make money and they don’t want to lose it. “Dirty Dancing” won’t cost a fortune to make because it doesn’t have any need for flashy effects or big-name actors. It may make some money because the tweenies and teens who think the old one is dated might go see it. More than likely, it’ll be aimed at Glee crowd just as so much crap is these days. Glee appears to be the television equivalent of “Twilight”. It was a huge hit and Hollywood is trying to figure out how to bottle that success and find it elsewhere. They do it by releasing shows and movies that will appeal to the same audience. This is how we got “Red Riding Hood” which is a perfectly awful movie that clearly was made from the same mould as “Twilight” and is just as ridiculous. It’s why we have “The Glee Project” on TV and several other shows about singing and dancing.

It’s just sad though. I probably have a skewed perspective because when I moved to L.A. ten years ago, it was to attempt to become a screenwriter. The trouble was is that without knowing anyone in the industry, there was nothing but closed doors and lack of interest. I think I had some good ideas and I think I could write well but there was no way in. I met other young screenwriters like me who also had the same problem- we couldn’t get read because we weren’t anyone important and there was no time for us.

I’m sure that even though I gave up screenwriting in favour of novel writing, there are still thousands of writers who move to L.A. each year for the same reason. They have great scripts and great ideas but they can’t get an agent to give them the time of day. If they’re lucky enough to pitch their ideas, they rarely go anywhere. It’s disheartening.

I’m sure that some of these unknown screenwriters have actual, real, great ideas. I’m sure some of them even have fantastic scripts. They can’t get the time of day because behind the studio’s creative doors, you’ve got some moron saying, “Hey, let’s remake “Dirty Dancing!”

You get my point. It’s easier for Hollywood to make a quick buck than take a risk and maybe win. Easy and cheap always wins over risky any day. It’s business, it’s not personal.

It’s just when they take something like “Dirty Dancing” that feels as personal as an old, beloved friend you’ve known for more than half your life, it feels rather personal.

Still, it’s going to happen anyway. I suppose we should be lucky that it’s a 20 year old movie. Since they’re already rebooting “Spiderman” even though the Tobey McGuire version is not that old, you have to be thankful that they’re not remaking more recent films. The last thing we need is them to start remaking the “Harry Potter” movies. I mean, after all, the first one is around ten years old now after all.

Nevertheless, I live in hope that this creative drought in Hollywood may end soon and we’ll be back to original scripts. One can always dream, I suppose.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Preparation for the Great Garage Sale Event of 2011

I’ve decided having a garage sale is rather a lot of work. In theory, it seems like a good idea. I think it is a good idea. It’s just…a lot of work.

I’ve had the intention of having a garage sale for a while. I suppose since I’m not setting it up in my garage, it’s probably really a yard sale but I like the sound of garage sale better.

I had originally hoped to have a joint one with my sister but since that didn’t look like it was happening, I decided to join in our annual neighbourhood garage sale day which is this Saturday. Naturally, my sister decided to have a sale on the exact same day without telling me. I admit, I was a little irritated. It would have been nice to have a joint sale merely because it’s going to be tough to run one alone. It means that every trip inside to use the bathroom or grab something to drink or check on the dogs will have to be squeezed in quickly in order to make sure that my items being sold are guarded at all times and so that no one has to wait.

So, you can see why I’m a wee bit irritated especially as my sister will have backup from her husband whereas I, the singleton, won’t have backup.

Still, I’m determined to make it work. I don’t have a huge amount of stuff for sale. Mostly what I have are items that I once liked/loved and needed/wanted but over time I’ve either lost my need/want for them or they just don’t suit me. I have a lot of bags, for example. I went through a huge messenger bag phase. When I used to work on a college campus, this was perfectly ok. I had a use for messenger bags. Nowadays, I tend to use either my purse or the bag I got from work. That’s it. I have a bag that I use when I take the dogs to the park. I have another bag to use when I go to my parents. But the other ten bags? I really don’t need them anymore. That’s not an exaggeration, by the way. I have 11 bags/purses for sale.

I also have books, old appliances and some knickknacks for which I could never find a place. Redoing my 1970’s retro den and turning it into a Tuscan haven meant that I had a lot of stuff I’d tucked away in the den that no longer had a place in ‘Tuscany’.

I’m hoping to sell most of it. My strategy is to price is super low. I’m not really in it for the money as much as the ‘purging’. My highest priced item is a dog carrier that I used exactly once. It still has all the paperwork. I paid $45 for it. I bought it for Sookie when I first went to claim her as my own. Of course, when I ended up getting a Rory Gilmore to go with my Sookie Stackhouse dachshund pup, that put a bit of a damper on the small, individual-dachshund sized carrier. The two pups fitted in the carrier once- when I first brought them home. Then they grew and, voila, I had to upgrade to a larger carrier. I’m hoping that $20 won’t seem too much for it but it’s a super nice carrier and still way less expensive than in stores.

Mostly, I’m selling things for 25 cents, one dollar or, gasp, two dollars. I do have a rather lovely evening gown that I’m selling for $5 because while it still zips and technically fits, I’m a bit less of a stick insect than I was when I originally bought it and my curvier figure doesn’t suit the style.

The problem that I’m finding is that I’m a wee bit obsessed with my sale. It’s this coming Saturday and any time I allow my mind to drift and not focus on, say, work, I’m suddenly doing a mental tour of my house and thinking of other items I could stick in the sale.

The actual preparation for the sale is quite time-consuming too. I’ve been placing things that I intend to sell in a pile. Last night, I started to price things, thinking it’d take a short time. I’m not even half-way through. It’s amazing how many things can really fit in a large storage tote.

I plan on spending a little time each evening pricing out my items and making sure everything’s ready to go. Friday, I’ll have a checklist. I have things to do like running an extension cord outside so people can test the electronics I have. I’ll need to get everything ready to lay out. I plan on putting all my boxes of stuff out before I start putting it on the table. Even though the sale is supposed to start at 9 a.m., the irritating early birds will be out way before that. I’ve seen them before- they swarm on any sale that looks like it’s about to begin and start digging through boxes that aren’t even unpacked and ready for selling yet.

I think it’s going to be an interesting experience. I have a feeling Sookie and Rory might agree. Sookie will have plenty of people to guard me from as she watches from the front window. Guarding the house is Sookie’s hobby and any time an ‘interloper’ walks by the house, she lets me know with her “STRANGER DANGER” bark. I’m expecting a lot of “STRANGER DANGER” moments on Saturday.

I think I’ve covered my basis- I have plenty of change. I have a place to store the money. I have a table to sit at and a chair to match. I have a display rack, a table (although I really would have liked the other one my parents could have loaned me but my sister is borrowing that…grr) and a box of toys for the kids to rummage through. My experience of being a buyer at garage sales has taught me what to expect.

All that remains is organizing and pricing which may not seem like a lot of work but it is. I think I’m glad I have a few more days to go because I’d never get done otherwise. Of course, it would probably help if I didn’t keep thinking of new stuff to throw in the sale but I don’t seem to be able to help that.

I’ll keep you posted. Maybe by Friday…I’ll be done.


Happy Wednesday!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Oh, Monday!

Mondays continue to be my least favourite day of the week. I hate having this bias but it seems like not-good things always happen on Mondays. Three Mondays ago, one of ‘my’ consultants was found dead in his hotel room. Two Monday’s ago, I had to fire someone and last Monday, I had to meet with the consultant who I had to fire for no reason other than the company decided they wanted to bring someone back and didn’t have room for both programmers. This week, one of my candidates managed to get us banned from sending any more cnadidates.

I’m thinking I should just take Mondays off. It might be easier. Today’s incident was due to the fact that despite my strong counseling against mentioning it, my candidate decided to blurt out the fact that he was going to be quitting programming in order to become a lawyer in two years’ time. I promise, I’m not prone to shady counseling. I don’t usually tell my candidates to lie. In this case, I didn’t tell him to lie. I just told him very, very specifically that if he wanted the new job, it would probably be best if he didn’t let them know he might be leaving in two years.

The thing is that in the IT development world, two years is a long time. In my job, I deal with a lot of contractors who feel that more than a six month stint at any job is too much of a commitment. Contractors generally enjoy moving around, trying new companies, working on new projects. It’s not for everyone but there are a lot of folks out there who like the temp jobs because they get variety.

These days, developers are very much in demand. It’s a candidate’s market. They have the freedom to pick and choose when they decide they want a new job and where they end up going. It’s hard to let companies know that. It’s the reason that my old company is desperate for a couple of developers and can’t figure out why they’re not getting any decent resumes. They simply don’t move fast enough. If a Java developer puts his/her resume out on the job boards, they will literally be flooded with calls from recruiters within ten minutes. If you want to work with them, you have to move fast. By the time they’ve interviewed and been offered a job with my company, chances are they already have three other offers on the table.

This is not an exaggeration. This is why it’s hard to explain to big companies that they can’t put a Java developer through two phone screens and two rounds of face-to-face interviews. It’s a nice idea and an definitely the ideal- if you’re bringing a new employee on board, you want to make sure they’re the perfect fit. However, in the present job market, it’s just not feasible if you really want to get someone hired. There simply isn’t time. It’s a nuisance but it’s the truth.

This is all my way of explaining why I told my candidate NOT to mention his lawyer aspirations. I didn’t want him to lie. However, I didn’t want him to mention it because the company where he interviewed still doesn’t understand the revolving nature of working with developers. Two years is a very long time to a developer. To a major company who still does things as they did in the 1980’s, two years is a drop in the bucket and not worthwhile to bring someone on board.

So, naturally, when my candidate DID mention his timeline, the company got a little upset. They were furious with me and my company for wasting their time. I didn’t see it as a waste. I saw it as an opportunity to actually add someone to their staff who was a good developer who wanted to work there. Considering they’ve been trying to fill the position for several months, I saw it as a good option for them.

They did not see it this way. They saw us screwing them over. They promptly informed us that we were not to send any more resumes as the hiring manager refused to work with us.

Obviously, I felt horrible. Even though my boss encouraged me to send the candidate in the first place and encouraged me to remind him NOT to mention his career goals as a lawayer, I still feel that it was my fault. Of course, it really is my candidates fault for not using his common sense but in the long run, there’s nothing we can do. It makes me look like a bad recruiter, it makes my account manager look shady and it doesn’t help our company much.

When I finally asked my candidate why he ended up mentioning his career plan, he said that the interviewer asked him what he liked to do in his spare time so he mentioned law school. I get that, I suppose. It's what he does in his spare time but, well, I can't help thinking if he'd have just said something or cooking or hanging out with his wife/kids, that might have been a wee bit more sensible but that would be too much to have hoped...right?

Still, the deed is done. My lesson is learned. Once again, I cannot control what my candidates say and do. It’s just the nature of working with human beings. I don’t always like it but it’s what makes life interesting.

Of course, I also quite like it when things aren’t quite that interesting. I’d actually rather like a Monday where someone doesn’t get fired, die or get us banned from a vendor list. Maybe next week will be better?

Here’s hoping. I’m a firm believer that there’s always hope.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Summer Vacation in a Weekend...

This has been a really nice weekend. I tend to think almost every weekend is nice merely because it's a weekend but this was a particularly good weekend.

I headed to my parents' on Friday and got to spend a nice evening with them. The pups explored my parents garden which is significantly larger than ours while I had a great time just relaxing with my parents. After a not-so-great week at work, it's nice to relax without having to think too much about work.

Saturday, my sister, mum and I hit the local farmer's markets. I'm a bit addicted to farmers markets in the summer. I came home with a huge bag of goodies including tomatoes, eggplant, corn, swiss chard, beets and an entire bushel of tomatillos. I'm not actually sure what I plan on doing with all those tomatillos, to be honest. I didn't even want that many. However, last year, I bought some tomatillos off my favourite farmer at the market. Then, on my next visit, he ended up giving me all of the tomatatillos that he had left because he was going on vacation and needed to get rid of them. I think I got a bushel for about $4. I made a lot of salsa verde. Well, this year, the farmer remembered me and was excited to tell me he had another bushel of tomatatillos for me and I could have them for $4. He's so nice and so low-priced that I ended up taking the tomatillos off him because he really seemed to want me to have the tomatatillos.

If anyone has any idea what I can do with a giant bag of tomatatillos aside from salsa verde, please let me know.

After the farmer's market, I got to have lunch with Saz who was in town visiting her parents. We had a lovely time just catching up and hanging out with her family and friends at their annual church campout. I only stayed a couple of hours but got to play "Cash SUV" which is the same concept as the TV show "Cash Cab" only Saz's dad drove us around the State Park in an SUV while Saz and I attempted to answer the trivia questions. We determined that neither of us had science or maths as our strong suit though we did well on the literature and history stuff. It was a lot of fun.

My final activity on Saturday was dinner and a movie with my parents. My dad really wanted to see "Cowboys and Aliens". I don't know why. Well, I dad loves cowboys and he loves aliens. I believe they made the movie for people like my dad. It was somewhat entertaining but I can almost hear the filmmakers saying to one another "Let's put cowboys and aliens in the same movie! Brilliant!" Unfortunately, that's pretty much as far as they got with their creativity because the reason for the aliens and cowboys being in the same movie was pretty lame. I won't spoil it but it's pretty anticlimactic. I think the movie could have been a lot funnier but then again, I said that about "Sherlock Holmes" and they're making a sequel to that so maybe I'm in the minority.

Nevertheless, not-terrible movie aside, it was a lot of fun to hang out with my parents. I like being an adult and getting to take them out to dinner and stuff. I figure for the amount of years that they paid for my food, it's nice to treat them now and it makes me feel like a grownup.

The rest of the weekend has been low key. I'm having my first yard sale next weekend so mum and I did some searching for treasures to sell. I'm bound and determined to be one of the good sellers in my neighbourhood- my sale is part of the annual Neighbourhood Garage Sale. I'm pricing stuff super low because I figure even if I make $1 on something, it's $1 more than I got by letting the stuff sit around my house. Most of what I'm selling are things that just don't fit me anymore- as I've grown up and developed more of my own style, I have a lot of things that just aren't me anymore, whether it's clothes, bags, interior decor or books.

All in all, it's been a good weekend. Sookie and Rory are pleased to be home- they don't like the car ride much from home to my parents and vice-versa but they like the destinations. They're currently passed out on the couch since they haven't slept much today- at my parents', there are far too many new smells to explore to get much rest.

Even though tomorrow's Monday, I'm going to start the week with a smile knowing that the weekend has been relaxing and for once, I managed to escape thinking about work as much as usual. I find that sometimes, when you have a real vacation of several days, you end up being more tired than if you at work. And then there are other times where you have just the couple of days of a weekend and you manage to feel like you actually had a lovely long vacation in just those two days. I feel like that tonight and I will say, it's a nice feeling. It's a good way to kick off a new week.

Happy Monday and I hope you had a good weekend too!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Day to Rant and Rave...

Some days, I find that I wake up in a good mood and I’m feeling fiery. I don’t know why but days like this I find that the smallest things inspire me to a passionate reaction whether they’re good or bad. Today is one of those days. So I’ve decided that this blog will be about the small things that both drive me a little crazy and make me strangely happy.

The annoying little things

1) Passive-aggressive female bathroom users. These are women who go in a stall, find it’s not flushed and immediately leave to use another one. Yes, it’s vile and disgusting but just flush the damn toilet. You don’t have to use it afterwards but flush it anyway. Be a doer, not a dodger.

2) Annoying cutesy shortened words. I hate things like ‘FroYo’- sure it’s clever but just say frozen yogurt. Please. Say ‘vacation’, not “Vacay”. Also, I hate when people say, “I’m on the ‘puter”. It’s a COMputer. It’s one syllable. Seriously.

3) Paul McCartney. I don’t know why but he inspires rage. I think it’s time to quit, Paul. You are NOT the Beatles. You were only one of them. Go do a nice kids show like Ringo and then I might rethink it. Also, I think you disrespected Linda when you got married to that weirdo very shortly after she died. I can’t help it. I think that way. Also, I know people want to see you sing because you were a Beatle but you should stop touring anyway. Let it go. Also, I know you’ve had plastic surgery. I think it’s pretty obvious.

4) Mosquitoes. I am covered with bites. I’d still like to figure out their purpose on this earth because, really, I think we can do without them. Also, they’re evolving. We have a stripey kind now in Ohio that apparently is an Asian Tiger mosquito. It appears to be immune to the power of my Off-Mosquito Fan.

5) True Blood. I used to love that show. I used to get excited on Sunday evenings because it was on. Now it’s just a giant mess of storylines that leave the main character almost as a peripheral and focuses on far too many stories and really annoying characters who really should just go away (Tommy and Tara). Alan Ball, I know you’re trying to create a world that borrows from the books but creates a separate reality but there’s no need to take stories from four or five of the books and cram them into a TWELVE EPISODE SEASON. There’s nothing wrong with loosely just following the books. The first season was great. Yes, I’ll still watch it for now but, as with Glee, my patience is wearing thing.

6) Tarragon. I really want to like it. I like licorice after all. I just can’t like tarragon. I’ve tried.

7) Those African tribal type of ear rings that make a giant hole in the lobe and just keep getting bigger. They’re weird. I should have the urge to throw wads of paper THROUGH YOUR EAR HOLE. I know, I know…it’s a form of self-expression but, well, don’t you think it’s a little odd that people can see you neck THROUGH YOUR EAR? Sorry. I can’t help it.

The good little things

1) I published a book and having friends who are so supportive that they’ve bought it already either on the Kindle or the paperback makes me happy. Thank you!

2) I published two book. This was my dream as a young ‘un. Granted, it’s not the same level as if a huge New York publishing firm bought it and marketed it for me but that doesn’t happy very much anymore and I tend to think that if we want something to happen badly enough, we just have to do it. I did it. Even if no one but my friends (see #1) buy it…hey, it’s out there…right?

3) Bacon. Yes, I’m on the bandwagon but bacon is good. I’m not on the bandwagon where it should go in everything (I’m not into the bacon ice-cream thing) but I do think it makes a mighty fine addition to many soups, vegetables and entrees. Mmm….bacon.

4) Fresh veggies in the summer. Last night, I made cabbage with juniper, sautéed zucchini and yellow squash and potatoes with sage. All were from the farmer’s market or my garden. There’s nothing better than pickin’ it, cookin’ it and then eatin’ it.

5) My job. Even on bad days, I’m incredibly grateful to have a job that I actually like with a boss who STILL says “thank you” when I do something well and coworkers who make me laugh and not want to run away. Also, in this economy, I’m incredibly grateful to have a job.

6) My dogs. There’s nothing better than getting home from work, sitting on the couch and having two dachshunds fight over who gets to slam dance with love into my lap first.

7) George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series of books. Seriously. I’ve been reading them for two months and I’m getting worried about what to do when I finish this last one, they’re that good. WRITE FASTER, GEORGE!

8) Long weekends. I took tomorrow off just because I wanted to and because I wanted a long weekend. The freedom to do that is a luxury.

9) Peaches. Fresh peaches from the farmer’s market that are so juicy, no matter how hard you try, there’s no way to eat them with dignity.

10) That today, my list of good things is longer than the bad which is a good thing unto itself.

Happy Friday!