Thursday, April 29, 2010

A neat coffee trick

So I'm at the salon awaiting my mani-pedi (trying gel-based polish on the fingernails, supposed to last 3 weeks, will let you know) and there's coffee brewed. It is thin enough to read the paper through. Yuck! I'm about to pass it by when a woman walks up, apprises the situation, and teaches me a new trick.

She took the basket of wet grounds, scooped two fresh tablespoons of coffee into it, and poured the thin coffee through into her cup. And just like that, strong coffee. See one, do one, teach one. I followed suit. Had never thought of doing that before.

So, if you make weak coffee and I'm at your house, you'd better hide the fresh grounds.

And this, a column about one of my favorite things--coffee--is my 500th! Hard to believe, but then since I started in Aug 2006, that's a more than reasonable number. I need to write more.

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Monday, April 26, 2010

The Curmudgeon learns a lesson or By now, I should know better

So I'm in my boutique make-up store, having made a couple of purchases which I don't need immediately, but I can see the bottom of the bottle, so to speak. Therefore, it's time to buy while I'm there since said boutique is in Dallas and I am not.

The clerk is new and anxious to please and we've chatted amicably. The bill comes to just under $20 since I've been able to cash out my frequent shopper card for $10 off. I hand her a fifty, and as I'm doing so, a little voice is whispering in my ear: "Ask if she can make change for that." Despite being near closing time, most people pull out a card and she might not have change for that, but I don't ask, and thereby hangs the lesson.

She doesn't look at the bill. She plops it atop the twenties and counts out my coinage as she shuts the register drawer.

"I gave you a fifty."

She is flummoxed and looks at her supervisor (store manager?) to open the register. The store manager shoots us both daggers with her eyes. All of a sudden I'm the customer out to bilk the store for $30 and her new clerk is the annoying victim. But she has to open the register and she does so with much punching and distrust.

Oh, my. Look atop the twenties. There's a fifty. Hmmm... I don't say anything. The manager grabs the bill, puts it where it should have been put in the first place, the secret fifty/hundred slot, and smiles weakly as I get my $30.

Next time I'm asking if they have change for that.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

A short trip down technology lane

In 1989, my husband decided to videotape his fellow Rotarians making predictions for the next 10 years. He used our rather large video VHS camera. Ten years later, he showed this time piece, everyone had a good laugh (the best prediction had been the price of a Chevy pick-up) and he taped again.

The technology had changed. We had a new camera. Instead of a VHS tape, he used a VHS-C. In order to view our many VHS-Cs we had to buy an adapter which was the size of a VHS tape. The most accurate prediction of the 1999 tape was the price of a first-class postage stamp at 42 cents, only off by 2 cents.

We hid these treasures so well it took a day or two to find them when it was once again time to dust them off. However, the adapter had corroded for some inexplicable reason, so we had to find a new one. This was not particularly easy, but $30 later, was accomplished.

But, once again, technology has marched on, and we have a new video camera, acquired with the advent of the first grandchild. We don't need adapters for the little DV-video tape, just plug it into the DVD recorder we bought to convert all existing tapes over to the new(er) technology.

That is how I spent a portion of my yesterday afternoon, converting all three onto one DVD tape. Then we separated them into two spaces, DVD at the house, all video tapes elsewhere, and we're ready for 2020 as long as we can find a machine which will play DVDs.

Providing, we escape the 2012 Mayan meltdown. Personally, I think they ran out of stone.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Tomato updates

The tomato in the Topsy-Turvy, three weeks in. Variety: Celebrity. There are blooms.

The tomatoes in the tomato bags:

The Better Boy, in the back, is doing, uh, better. It's also planted in Miracle-Gro soil while the Big Boy is planted in another brand, the name of which escapes me. Varietal difference or soil? Hmmm.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

The curmudgeon taps her foot again

So I have a question, just a question mind you, of a salesclerk in a store. This store sells wine and kitchen gizmos and exotic jewelry and furniture from around the world. Nothing's real expensive, but there's not a price displayed on a package of cookies. They come in three flavors, mango, strawberry, and apricot, and they look like they'd be just right for the bridge group. But I have my financial limits on what I'm willing to pay for 12 cookies from Portugal, so I take the package to the front counter.

Which is where our story really begins. The young woman in front of me is having a heck of a time getting her credit/debit card to go through. The young male clerk is little help. He keeps pushing buttons on the register which will lock up, then not. The woman explains that there's lots of money in that account. Lots. They just sold property. Oh, maybe it's the wrong card. She tries another. Same song, second verse.

Then our clerk lets go the truth: the machines were down the evening before. I'm thinking it's not that someone has drained the accounts, but that maybe the machine isn't back up and no one in the invisible back office has told the clerk. Finally, she pays cash, about $20, and vows to go check at the bank. I bet the teller got an earful.

I find out my cookies are reasonably priced, the register is working for that bit of info, and I go to load up.

Reappear at the same register, same clerk, different shopper, this one about my age, same problem. By this time, I'm wondering 1) where management is and 2) why this guy isn't still stocking, because customer service of the-credit-card-machine-isn't-working-ma'am type, is severely lacking. The amount in question this time is a bit over $5. She gives up and writes a check.

Now, if the credit card machine isn't working right, then the instant-verify your check isn't working either. Finally someone shows up to take the line of customers to another register. Trust me, I paid cash.

Management said she was sorry for the wait. That's when I unloaded: told her I'd waited twice. That the clerk was on his own. Why hadn't someone come to help him sooner?

As I'm leaving the cashless woman with the still spinning check standing at the counter, management is leaning over asking what's wrong.

Sheesh! And she even tried to get me on their mailing list!

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Monday, April 12, 2010

ETA: Edited to add

An addendum to the previous post:

And stubborn. That child is stubborn. The looks I've seen on her face remind me of someone who'll be paying for his raising for the next few years.


Happy birthday, sweetheart!

Three years ago today, and six weeks before expected, our first grandchild was born. Emily could be held in her daddy's hand. She was big enough to breathe on her own, but not developed sufficiently to suck. Thus began three weeks in the NICU.

We treated her as if she were made of glass. Her uncle was afraid to hold her at her christening eight weeks later. She was cosseted, prized, and handled with utmost care.

Yesterday we celebrated with a birthday party and an active little girl who is growing taller every day. It looks like she'll be slim and athletic, with lovely verbal skills and a sharp wit.

Happy birthday, Emily.

And thank you, God.

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

It's a small brain...

... but it's dedicated.

This is what I think about our cats. From kittenhood, they've maneuvered us (mainly me) into doing what they want. It's akin to letting a toddler have his way just so he'll leave you alone. Not that I ever did that.

Cat Pyewacket has developed some sort of affliction whereby he's lost a lot of weight, but still eats like a pig. Vet and lab tests later, it is not immediately apparent what is the cause. The cost, however, was sufficiently high that Pye is going to have a comfy, if somewhat shorter, life. Since he'll be 9 in a month, 'shorter' becomes a relative term. Therefore, I've taken to supplementing his dry cat food diet with canned food. Not much, just enough to get him in the habit of bugging me about 11 each morning until he gets his special food. His obese brother gets less.

So I was opening cans of fruit for a salad the other day and the manual can opener was not making a dent in either one of their sleep patterns. I came to the can of mandarin oranges. It was a pop top like their cat food. I popped--and immediately they were alert, their heads swiveled expectantly in my direction. Pye even went so far as to give me the pleasure of his presence. I explained that oranges were not on his diet. Then I had to explain it again and again and he finally got the hint.

The same holds true with pulling out a bag of cat food from the pantry. Their bowl may be full with the same dry food, but they want a bite--just a bite--of the new. It must be akin to a new car smell.

Can't get enough of it.

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Saturday, April 03, 2010

Why I'm waiting on iPad 3G

I readily admit to being an Apple-ista, Mac-ista? Love the products. Have never had any other kind of computer. But, I don't jump on the bandwagon the minute it leaves the barn. I wait.

I waited on the iPhone for two months. I let them work the little bugs out. Now, I have a 2 1/2 year old original iPhone which doesn't get 3G (a moot point since WE don't get 3G where I live), but has a wonderful contract with the phone company. To upgrade, I'll have to have a not-so-wonderful contract (by comparison) so I'm sticking it out until my iPhone won't phone no more.

The iPad went on sale today. Yippee! And since it's not a phone, there's no extra fees for use. It gets by on wi-fi, so you'd better have one of those at the house or have access to it, like at Starbuck's and all those "we have free wi-fi" cafes and stores. In a month, the more expensive 3G version comes out and I'm waiting for it.

Why? To defeat the hotels. Granted, getting 3G access means signing on (and paying) the phone company for its use. But the way I understand that "feature" is it's an on-again-off-again thing.

But it gripes me that hotels, the more expensive the better, charge for wi-fi. Even my favorite Homewood and Hampton Inns have stopped having free wi-fi in the rooms. Go to the office center or the lobby. So, I'll just hook my iPad to the 3G network (and yes, I know I'm paying), and download to my heart's content. While I can access my email now on my iPhone, Safari is really tiny and slow. I want the real thing when I travel.

Who knows, if enough of us do it, maybe we'll get our free wi-fi back in moderately priced hotels. Until then, I'll see Apple at the end of April... or maybe May. Let them get the bugs worked out.

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

The $100 tomato

Ah, 'tis spring, and a young (or any other age) gardener's fancy turns to tomatoes. Beautiful, red, just-picked tomatoes. Fresh from the garden. So many tomatoes you have to give them away.

Sigh. Alas, those days have been behind us since we gave up large bed gardening a few years ago. I've planted in the flower beds only to have less than stellar (as in no tomatoes) results.

But, not to be stumped--and of late failure is our middle name where vegetable gardening is concerned--we are trying again.

Try number 1: The Tomato Grow Bag. Offered by Gardener's Supply Co and only $13.50 each if you buy two or more (and why not?), we snagged these beauties in January. A couple weeks ago I got a garden-itch and scratched it with two tomato plants, one per bag. Did not realize that it would take over two 2-cu-ft bags of potting soil to fill them. They're about $10/per, give or take because I did buy the good stuff. So far, they look good. One is even blooming.

Try number 2: The Topsy-Turvy Bag. If we have difficulty growing them upright, why not try hanging from a plant hanger on the patio. Why not indeed? I already had the potting soil (see above). Bought a tomato plant, hardened it off next to the others and it's been looking fine. Until I went to plant it this morning and it was dried out. It went in anyway. And getting the Topsy full is no walk in the park. I had to hang it first! That meant a ladder. Up and down, up and down, filling it with soil. I dragged the hose over to water and will eventually get my nerve up and go see if the plant perked up.

Let's see: grow bags (plus shipping), Topsy, soil, plants: first tomato off the vine? Maybe only $80.

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