Monday, November 30, 2009

Has It Really Been 10 Years?!

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend! Mine was actually pretty great. Thanksgiving itself was wonderful. I was surrounded by people I adore and the food couldn't have any better. That even includes my Chocolate Caramel Tarts! I ended up cheated and buying some caramel sauce at the grocery store, which made me sad, but only until I tried it! I think my dessert was a hit! I also successfully baked two braided loaves of bread. Also a hit, and might I add, fantastic for leftover Thanksgiving sandwiches!

I did have to work on Black Friday which wasn't a big deal since I didn't even have to go in until 4:00 PM! Even then my store was only slightly busier than normal and we were pretty much dead about an hour before closing. It was the easiest black Friday I have ever worked. I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing for my store, but I found it to be a refreshing change of pace. I'm sure a lot of my free time that night could be attributed to the fact that I wasn't located in a mall, for which I am eternally grateful.

On Saturday was the dreaded 10 year High School Reunion. I guess our class officers aren't so much into the whole reunion deal, since it wasn't hosted by them. Nope, our reunion was put on by a student council member and all the invites were sent out through Facebook. Turns out that wasn't the most reliable method since several people that I know (who belong to our class' Facebook group) never got the invite. Fortunately for me, one of my friends was in town for Thanksgiving and just happened to run into another classmate at Dunkin Donuts at 4 am on Black Friday and informed him of the little shindig. It was great seeing you, Jay!

The reunion wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Because of budget constraints it was held at the local Jillian's, which turned out to be a great choice since everyone feels more comfortable when they're in jeans, and it would seem like a pool table is an excellent way to avoid long, awkward pauses. All in all I would have to say that the people I was cool with back then were just as awesome as I remembered, and the a-holes were still a-holes. No big deal. There were a few people there that said they were classmates that I swear I had never seen before in my life but mostly everyone looked just like they had expect either skinnier or fatter. One poor girl, I'd say in an attempt to deny the fact that we're all just this side of 30, decided to wear leggings without the prerequisite long shirt/sweater. Let's just say that no one, except for 12 year olds and supermodels, can pull off that look. That's not the impression you want to make on people you haven't seen in 10 years.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Caramel Pipe Dreams

I am flummoxed. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty damn good at baking. Pastry and I have an understanding, a common bond, and a deep and abiding love. This recipe has beaten me though and I feel...betrayed. Let's begin at the beginning.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we'll be having a small gathering. Since I can't cook to save my life, my dad and I usually share the responsibility of prepping dessert. I had seen this recipe for these fabulous little sugar cookie tarts with caramel whipped cream drizzled with chocolate and immediately thought "You will be mine." Let me start by saying that I have never made caramel before in my life. My first attempt resulted in my melting a plastic stirring spoon and burning the caramel. If you think about it, caramel is just burnt sugar anyway, but there's a very specific level of burnt. Trust me, if you go too far it's really disgusting. You have to pay very close attention to your caramel because it can go from perfect to ruined in a matter of seconds.

On my second attempt I knew to look for the warming signs and, I'm happy to say, I hit the nail on the head. Per the recipe, I threw the caramel into the fridge for 10 min to cool while I whipped the cream after which I was to fold the cooled caramel into the whipped cream. This lead to many problems. Turns out that 10 min in the fridge (just what the recipe called for) had turned my caramel into a tasty little brick. So I threw it into the microwave to to soften it up. When I got it to a point where is was somewhat malleable I started to fold it into the whipped cream and my caramel whipped cream dreams came crashing down around me. Not only, did the warmth of the caramel turn my beautiful, fluffy whipped cream into soup, but the caramel turned back into a hard lump when it hit the cold cream. So there I was, looking down a sort of turd shaped brown lump floating in what looked like milk that had gone sour and I bit my lip to hold back the tears of frustration. Then I took the whole big mess and flushed it down the toilet.

I wish I had pictures to show you, but considering that tomorrow is the undisputed pig-out day of the year maybe it's better that there wasn't a camera within reach. Caramel poop in rancid milk does nothing for the appetite. And on that note I'd like to say HAPPY THANKSGIVING, EVERYONE!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Retail Round-Up

So for all of you who haven't had the pleasure of working in retail, let me in on some of the pro's and con's. Just a few little gems. Let's start with the Pro's. Yes, Pro's. Go ahead and laugh, I can't hear you anyway. Jerk.

Pro's: Customers are, for the most part, fleeting. You don't have to kiss their asses like in a corporate environment and worry about sending them Christmas cards and stuff. Even when you do get that really annoying customer, they'll be gone soon. On to the next!

Flexible schedule: This one is actually kind of a mixed bag. It totally sucks never being able to count on having a weekend off and the holiday season can make even the most Fa la la la -iest of us Grinch-out. But on the plus side, making Dr and dentist appointments is easy and getting your holiday shopping done on a Tuesday morning when all the rest of you 9 to 5 schmucks are at work is a dream. I mean think of it - you get a parking space, wait behind maybe one person in line and get back home before lunchtime! Gives me time to deck the halls.

Con's: Customers. Sure, I said they're fleeting, but man are they a pain in the rump when they're in your presence. I submit for your approval: Orange T-Shirt Joan. A few years ago I worked at a clothing store where OTJ frequents. She doesn't yell, she doesn't complain but she will... talk. She will take two orange t-shirts, the same size and color, and try each of them on numerous times. Each time she will ask all staff and available customers how it looks. She also repeats herself.
"How does it look?"
"It looks good"
"Yeah. How does it look? I mean, does it look good?"
"Yep. Looks good"
"I don't know. Do you think it looks good?"
That's not even an exaggeration. That's a verbatim conversation. And it will continue for at least 3 hours. I know, because when you have a customer like her you keep a close eye on the clock. 3 hours is getting of easy.

I saw her again tonight. At least now I know that every store gets the same treatment. Thankfully, there's nothing in my current store that she can try on, but don't worry, she found plenty of things to repeast herself on. Also she came back an hour later to return a product that she'd broken. Then, after I sent her on her merry way, she came back and bought something else. Somewhere between the counter and the door she saw something shiny and managed to break something else before she left the store for good. I actually had to call my old store to tell them of my horrors. They laughed at me. It's ok though. I would do the same if our situations were reversed. In fact, I plan on it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cute, but Crazy

I am the proud owner of a Boston Terrier/Beagle mix. Some people call them Boggles, but I have trouble using those cutesy "designer breed" names, especially when it happens to also be a favorite childhood game of mine. Besides, it seems pretentious. Like I scoured the earth for some animal specifically bred to have a name that makes me sound like a douche bag when I say it. For the record, he's a rescue dog. He just happens to be absolutely adorable. His name is Brooks, and he's every bit as crazy as he is cute.

Look at all the cuteness!

Perhaps it's because he's had a few bumps to the head (he has no sense of his surroundings and has run full tilt into walls and fallen off furniture) but he's kind of paranoid. Whenever my ex would be gone for the night Brooks would keep me up all night growling at perceived (and imaginary) threats. This summer he got stung by a yellow jacket in the groin (poor thing just wanted to pee on the mailbox and ended up stepping on a nest). Granted, that would be a traumatic experience for anyone, but since that day my little guy has become slightly obsessive about his junk. He might just be walking down the hall when all of a sudden he'll stop and sniff at his little boy parts. Once he's convinced that there isn't anything going on down there that should be happening he'll continue on his merry way. This happens numerous times a day, and is more frequent when he's outside and windy.

That being said, two nights in a row this week he has woken from a dead sleep on the couch and run like a bat out of hell to find shelter (once under the dining room table, once under the computer desk). The first time he did it, no one was in the room I just assumed that, with his lack of understanding of "edges", he had fallen off the couch in his sleep and scared the crap out of himself. Then it happened again the next night, but this time with witnesses. There he was, just napping on the couch when he suddenly jumped up and bolted under a desk, shaking like a little brindle leaf.

So what's the deal with my dog already. The TV was on, but that's never bothered him before. It's not like there was a doorbell on the tube and even if there had been he just gets up and checks the doors. So I've narrowed it down to two theories:

Theory 1) My dog has horrible nightmares. This actually wouldn't surprise me. He dreams all the time and they often include lots of running, kicking, muffled barks, growls and howls.

Theory 2) Poltergeists. Some unseen force is freaking the crap out of my dog because they're bored, dead, jerks.

I'm open to other ideas, but these are the only ones I can think of right now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Dreaded D.O.M.

Any one who has ever worked retail will tell you that sometimes you get some really talkative customers. The ones that latch on and just won't let go tend to be the elderly. Makes sense, right? Sometimes they're lonely. They don't get out much and on that rare occasion that they have a captive audience the flood gates of their life experiences open wide. Personally, as long as I'm not super busy, I enjoy settling in for a little conversation. I've heard some fascinating stories over the years.

Lots of people who work retail have little nicknames for these types. I use L.O.L.'s for "Little Old Ladies" (it didn't have the same meaning when I coined that one) and L.O.M.'s for "Little Old Men". There are variations of course, some of them are cute and sweet, some are bitter and ornery but none are scarier than the D.O.M- The "Dirty Old Man". If you are a lady working retail you know the D.O.M and you run the other way or hide in the stockroom when you see him coming.

Older gents have been flirting with younger women since time began [citation needed]. That's not the problem. The typical encounter consists of a Golden Oldie telling a young lady that she's pretty, has a nice smile, has a lucky boyfriend/husband, etc. All perfectly harmless and both sides get a little bit of an ego boost. There is, however, a line. Some older men just have lost that self-censorship that keeps those dirty thoughts in their brain where they belong and they just come tumbling out. In those cases the man doesn't even realize he's said anything wrong, like when little kids ask inappropriate questions in public (usually loudly and often directed at some unfortunate stranger). These are uncomfortable situations of course, but easy to brush off after the fact.

Some encounters are creepier, more insidious. Like the D.O.M.'s that starts out harmless and emboldened by a smile or a giggle, take things too far. He may start out telling her she's quite a catch and then end up telling her he could guess her bra size or ask if her father is a baker (apparently because she has nice buns, I had to ask about that one). I've even heard of one instance where a male co-worker had to threaten to throw a D.O.M. out of the store because he wanted to ask a pretty little thing (who I think was only 17 at the time, BTW) if he could pay her for sex. This guy wasn't senile either. He knew exactly what he was asking, he just didn't think there was anything wrong with asking any young lady he found attractive to whore herself.

Seriously?! That seemed appropriate?! Age isn't even a consideration at this point, that's just...ewww. Why kind of a response does a guy (young or old) expect after that? "Oh wow, I'm so turned on by your lack of tact and social graces. Please, objectify me some more!" (swoons). Ugh. Listen, if you're a guy and you're reading this, just stick with "pretty smile" or even a "nice hair". If you start complimenting any feature below the chin it's just gonna be creepy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Pre-Christmas Rush?

I know that it isn't even Thanksgiving yet, but yes, I started my Christmas shopping today. My goal this year (other than not spending too much) is to NOT go to the Mall! I spent 7 years working at the mall during the holidays and it's as much of an anti-Christmas you can experience. Pushing my way through throngs of angry shoppers after spending 30minutes to an hour trying to find a parking space just doesn't put me in a "most wonderful time of the year" mood. To wit, my mom and I decided to do a little bonding over Christmas shopping and headed out to the nearest Christmas Tree Shop.

As soon as we got close we could see crowds of people gathered at the store's entrance. There went my idea of beating the crowds! As we were walking through the parking lot a lady in her car stopped us and asked us if we had any coupons. "Uhhhh, no". Well, surprise! She wasn't asking for them, she was giving them! She gave us each a coupon for 20% off our entire purchase. We decided that we would put everything together and save the other coupon for another day this week, since we can never get everything we're looking for in just one trip. Turns out we didn't need to do that either. No less than 4 people in the store tried to give us coupons!

Sure, the store was packed and there were a couple instances of shopping cart collisions but the vibe in there was much different than I expected. Instead of muttered curses and exasperated sighs the cart bumps were met with laughter and jokes about each other's driving skills. People may have had that strained "I'm on a mission" look on their faces but there wasn't that cut-throat mentality usually associated with Christmas sales shopping. I would have to say that most of the people there were making good use of their coupons and were in a good mood! There was almost a feeling of camaraderie. We were sisters in sales!

So times are tough. People are stretching to make ends meet and not always succeeding. But maybe that means that we're looking for happiness in different places. Maybe finding a good deal on wrapping paper and a cheap set of Christmas lights goes further now than it used to. Delight in the little things, my friends. Take it wherever you can get it!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

In The Beginning...

I'm sure we've all heard the saying "Every cloud has a silver lining". I wish! Clouds may all have linings, but they aren't all silver. Mostly, I'd say that they're brass. They look nice enough, but not worth a whole bunch. Now don't go thinking that I'm super cynical. I tend to look on the bright side, but lets be honest, sometimes the bright side is just a nightlight in a child's room. Just barely enough to keep the thought of monsters away.

I started this blog because sometimes you just need to put your thoughts out there in the world. Right now my thoughts center mostly on being single, unemployed and living with my parents. Oh, and my car is dead. Wow...When I type it out like that it makes me seem pretty pathetic. I don't think that I'm alone out there though, not in this economy. So here's a little bit about me:
At the beginning of April I got laid off, as did my company's pregnant secretary. At the end of April I left my boyfriend of 4 years and took the dog with me. I moved back home with my parents. At the time it seemed mutual, but a month later he was trying to reconcile. Looking back on it, I think he just wanted the dog back. In may I registered my car and went to get it inspected. $350 and 2 garages later it turns out that there's a valve in my engine that needs to be replaced and that it would take $1300 to $1500 to do it. I didn't even have the $350 I'd already spent so there was no way I was going to dump that much money on a 10 year old car.

So that's a nutshell version of how I got here. What's your story?