Friday, May 23, 2008

How Much Is A Key Worth?

Wednesday I started on site at a new audit.

Most of the work for this audit can be done in our local office, but for a few days, we will need to be on site at the client’s location pulling information.

Every company I’ve been to has its own quirks. I’ve been on the 10th floor with a window overlooking the lake and I’ve been locked in a room with three other women that don’t talk to each other and I’ve been relegated to a basement with the rats and spiders. You can see why I love this job, right?

Anyway, I was talking about quirks. This company has its own share of them. I went to the supervisor to ask a question Wednesday afternoon and I walked into her cubicle while she was “at lunch”. What was she doing at lunch? Playing Pogo! You just have to love anyone that plays Pogo. Heaven knows I spend my share of time playing on Pogo myself.

That wasn’t the quirk though, just an observation.

The quirk is their bathrooms.

You need your key card to get into the bathroom here! Since we are not going to be on site long, they have not issued us any security passes. We check in with the receptionist when we get here and she lets us in. Pretty easy except for the bathroom situation. Since we do not have key cards, we were issued old fashioned metal keys.

What possible reason could there be to have security locks on the bathrooms? The only scenario I can come up with is that they actually track who goes into the bathroom and when. There is no security pass to get out of the bathroom, but they sure do know when and how often you are in there! That is just wrong in my mind on so many levels!

Today my money making idea is this: I stand outside of the bathrooms with my assigned key and charge a fee to unlock the bathroom door. C’mon now - $5 just so Big Brother doesn’t know you have the runs or that you were retaining water or just need to walk away into a quieter environment! How much could my key possibly be worth in a day?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Weekend Update

In my humble opinion, I think we had a really great weekend.

Brother Jim drove in from Erie and we had a wonderful visit! This time he didn’t pop in and pop out a few hours later. We actually got to enjoy his company for most of the weekend.

In honor of this occasion, I made a big batch of orange spaghetti (anyone in our family knows that dinner!). We were having a little get together on Saturday, so we went out for a bit after dinner just to pick up some supplies. Other than that, I guess it was a quiet night.

Saturday, we took Jim to one of our local restaurants for breakfast. Chello’s isn’t going to be a five star restaurant in anyone’s books, but the owner, Jorge, is really nice and friendly and always comes out of the kitchen when he has time to say hello to everyone. Nice guy, good cook. And, one of the waitresses is really funny. We always ask for her section when we go in to eat and she is never disappointing. We get our food, a few laughs and even some local gossip. Can’t beat that.

We did get a little sightseeing in as we took Jim to the Black River Landing after breakfast. It’s just above where the Black River empties into Lake Erie. More times than not when we’ve been there, we get to see the road that spans the Black River go up to let any tall ships in. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but it thrills the heck out of me! It could be a big freighter coming in or going out or it could be a tall sail boat. I just love watching the traffic up and down the river. Unfortunately, when we stopped by Saturday, all was quiet. No bells and whistles going off that something was coming up the river.

I was making a batch of Hungarian Goulash for our get together that evening. I had everything I needed but the meat. We have a local grocery store in our neighborhood called Fligners Market. While I think some of their prices on items are high, you absolutely can’t find better than their meat counter in any grocery store chain around. They move so much meat, that there is no fancy packaging behind the counter. There are bins and bins of meat that they sell in such quantity, everything is always fresh. You will wait in line to buy anything, so be prepared. No matter how long you will wait, it will be worth every minute.

Since I am not a great cook, and have a limited focus when it comes to cooking, I’m not afraid to ask for help. The woman that waited on us told me she had worked there for over 25 years. If she doesn’t know about meat, no one does! I explained to her what I was cooking and asked for her suggestion on what meat to buy. I thought I was looking for a nice piece of chuck or round, whatever I could get cheaper. After all, this dish simmers for three hours, so that’s a lot of time to make even a bad piece of meat taste good.

She suggested this big roast that was really close in weight to how much I wanted. I told her that might be ok, but that was going to be hard to cut up into cubes. She offered to cube it for me. What? Where do you get this kind of service? She added that at no extra charge, she would cut it up into cubes for me, bag it up and I’d be ready to go. She verified that I was making something similar to a beef stew and that stew chunks should work. I was thrilled! Less cutting for me! And, the roast she picked out was $.20 cheaper a pound than what I would have ordered on my own. Bonus!

As another added bonus about Fligners, it’s one of the last places that the bagboys will take your groceries out to your car for you. Some days, that does come in handy. Nice piece of personal service.

After the store, Jim and Ron worked on Jim’s computer (sometimes I think Jim comes to see Ron more than he comes to see me!) while I worked on getting dinner going. We had the Hungarian Goulash over Slovak halushki (similar to spaetzel) and I made a nice big mixed salad on a bed of baby spinach. I couldn’t have asked for a nicer dinner. To top this off, I even made raspberry margaritas! I’m telling you, I was the hostess with the mostest, as someone called me!
Everyone left about 10:00. Made me realize we are not the crazy party people anymore. If your party breaks up before midnight on a Saturday night, that can’t be good. Hmm. I think everyone had a good time!

I threw one load into the dishwasher and headed up to bed. Sunday, Ron had to go to fix someone’s computer, so I had some quiet time to recover from the past two days. I lounged around, played Pogo, did some laundry, put the second load into the dishwasher, and just had quiet time.

For dinner, Ron and I were scooping up some leftovers from over the weekend, so no problems in cooking dinner. It really was a great weekend. It may have been busy, but it was great to spend the weekend at home. As the saying goes, there’s no place like it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Vacation Photos!

Sunday our day was filled with being tourists and family fun.

We started by going to the parents of the bride from the wedding the day before for a housewarming party. We had a nice visit with everyone without everyone rushing around like at the wedding. Aside from two dogs in the house which had me cowering in a corner, the visit was wonderful!
After the housewarming, Ron and I headed to Coon Rapids Dam. We got to walk over the dam, right across the Mississippi River! Here is a serene picture looking upstream at the Mississippi River:

I really can't tell you how beautiful this spot was. It has quickly become one of my favorite spots to see. Here is the actual dam:

And, then of course, the picture downstream after all that:

I truly couldn't capture the magnificence of this site in these pictures. It was just awe inspiring to see the power of the water rushing through the dam. Here's a picture of Ron! Hey, I was the photographer which means I'm allowed to take pictures of anything I want to! Hi, honey:

After a great walk all over the dam, we headed to pick up Ron's youngest son Vince, for some family time. We started with a late lunch then on to Taylors Falls which is half in Minnesota and half in Wisconsin. I wish I would have taken a picture of the sign at Taylors Falls explaining the lava flows and the potholes because this place is really hard to describe. To start with, the gorgeous St. Croix River runs through this park. The park is formed from lava flows from years and years ago. Somehow, the water sitting on the lava has through the years, formed "potholes". These are almost perfectly circular holes in the lava rocks that really are hard to believe are not man made. The largest one there that has been explored is 63' deep and about 20' across. It's absolutely massive. Here are pictures of some of the smaller ones.

We hit the site late in the afternoon so sometimes the light was against me in taking pictures of some of the potholes. These two came out the best.

The fun though was climbing all over the rocks. What the hell do I think I am? A kid? Well, I found out really fast just how much of a grown up I was when Vince was standing on the edge of some rocks and instead of just freaking out on him, I quickly snapped a picture and then climbed down so I wouldn't have to see him perched so precariously on the edge! (I know, I am a wuss.)

This area was again, some of the most gorgeous land around. Here are some pictures of the St. Croix River going up and down stream:

Some of the rock formations here at Taylors Falls also are popular with real rock climbers. In this first one, you can see the girl climbing and at this point she is maybe 20 feet up. You can see her towards the top right of the picture:

We walked away for what I thought was a few minutes, 15 at the most, and when we came back down the trail, the girl was off of the rocks and this guy was taking his turn. Again, he is in the top right corner:

Keep in mind, he is close to the top which I'm guessing is about 80 feet up. It was scaring the crap out of me watching them too! There were a few groups of rock climbers out on that path, practicing their hobby. It takes all kinds, I guess.

We left Taylors Falls and hooked up with Ron's middle son, Derick and his wife Amanda. Here is a nice partial family photo:

Yeah, I'm not the greatest photographer and I was even using a flash.

Ron's oldest son, Alex, had to work. Since he is a server at one of the nicer chain restaurants, Mother's Day was a day he definitely could not take off from work. He was stuck there until closing, so the group of us headed to that restaurant to see him! Since it was late by the time we showed up, we were his last table for the night. The good thing about that is, Alex then had a chance to sit and relax with us a bit after taking care of the last of his customers. It was nice that all of us could be together around the table. Here is a picture of Ron and Alex:

After the late dinner, and after an extremely busy day, Alex begged off of more festivities that night as he did have other plans. So, Ron, Vince, Derick, Amanda and I headed out for fun. What fun you ask? Why midnight bowling of course!

Now, I haven't been bowling since I lived in Texas and even back then I was never that good! Since then I've had back surgery so I was a little apprehensive about this undertaking. But, since none of us were out for blood, heck, none of us were particularly good at bowling, I gave it the ol' heave ho down the lane. I ended up with a 108 and a 95 for my efforts! I don't think that's too bad for someone that doesn't know what they are doing! So as not to be embarrassed alone, Ron's scores were 105 and 95! Yeah, we both sucked! But we had a ball. While we are obviously a lot older than his kids, we were both showing our age when all was said and done. I don't know who was hobbling more out of there.

We almost need a vacation to get over a vacation trying to keep up with the kids!
It was all worth it though. We really did have a great time.

Monday was going home day; always a sad day. All of us met up one more time for lunch at Rose Garden. What a blast! I know I'm definitely going to miss the food there. We finished lunch and still had time before we had to head to the airport for the ride home. We decided just to be able to spend more time together, we all headed back to the Mall of America which is basically right next door to the airport.

We walked, we shopped, we gabbed, we laughed. Then it was time to head out. We all walked out to the parking lot and hugs were passed around.

It was a strange event at the airport. There were two scheduled flights from Minneapolis to Cleveland. Our flight which was scheduled to depart at 4:55 pm and the next flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30 pm.

When we checked in at the airport, they told us our flight was going to be delayed but not to worry, they'd get us home. That did not make me feel the warm fuzzies! When we made our way back to the gate, all it said was our flight was delayed.

Finally, a gate agent came and filled us in on the scoop. Our plane due to depart at 4:55 pm was coming from somewhere on the east coast and had gotten stuck in bad weather. The weather delayed it so much that now it wasn't due in until after the 6:30 flight departed! Since our flight and the 6:30 flight were both light on passengers, they ended up cancelling our original flight and put all of us on the 6:30 flight, which did leave on time. The sad thing is, with two flights now combined, we had only about 20 passengers on a 50 passenger plane. We had a lot of stretching out room! It was definitely a quiet flight back, especially since I slept most of the way home.

It's a good thing Ron and I took yesterday off as a recuperation day since we sure did need it. Like I said, the kids had us running and gunning the whole time and I wouldn't have had it any other way!

Today was back to work. Ugh. Vacation is definitely over.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

It WAS As Good As He Said

We had a nice quiet morning on Saturday.

The wedding started at 2:00 and our hotel was less than a mile from the Church. So, we did a little shopping then decided to have an early lunch.

For as long as I've known Ron, one of his famous sayings is "well, it's good, but it's not as good as Rose Garden". If I heard it once, I heard it a thousand times. Really, how good can one restaurant be? I love Chinese food as much as the next person but can this place really be all that?

I was about to be indoctrinated into the nirvana that is Rose Garden. Just to antagonize Ron, I really didn't want to like it. I planned on ending with "it was ok. Not all that, but ok". You have no idea how I hate it when he's right. Which by the way, is all too often!

Rose Garden is small. There might have been 10 tables, maybe 12 tables. After a little reunion with the owners (who are good friends of Ron) we took one of the last empty tables. Keep in mind, this place just opened for the day and it was already almost full. By the time we were done there was a line of people waiting on a table.

Ron told me it was a buffet but I didn't see any buffet tables. They do what they called "buffet" but it's not like a buffet I've been to before. You sit at the table, they bring you your beverage and then one at a time they come out with the bowls of food and they go table to table offering portions. Remember, I didn't want to like it. In the end, I can't tell you which dish I enjoyed more. I can tell you I didn't care for the egg rolls but aside from that, holy crap. Right then and there I told Ron he was right, and trust me, saying those words hurt!

From the steak and onions to the chicken and broccoli to the best sweet and sour pork I ever had. On the side was absolutely the best fried rice and lo mien in the world. This truly was one of the top three restaurants I've ever been to.

After all that, we ended up back at the hotel to get ready for the wedding. It was now raining like heck, but I've heard that's good luck on a wedding day. The wedding went very well with a gorgeous bride and a handsome groom and crying parents and grandparents and lots of smiles and hugs around.

The reception was at a golf course country club. I guess in Minnesota the golf playing days are a lot fewer than in other places. I guess that accounts for the fact that there was a ton of guys playing golf in the rain! Maybe they were just happy it wasn't snow.

The reception was very nice with champagne for everyone. Gotta love that! We met a lot of new people and had a very nice time. By the time that was over, we had definitely had our fill of food for the day. The rest of the evening was spent resting at the hotel.

The adventures for today are still in the works. Here's to day two of our vacation!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

From Pathetic To VIP

Ron and I are on vacation!

We are now in the cool and breezy vacation wonderland of Minneapolis MN. Yes, Minneapolis MN. You vacation your way, we'll vacation ours! Actually, the daughter of a very good friend of Ron's got married today. We came to town for the wedding and for Ron to get some family time here. Let me tell you, so far it's been a whirlwind!

Friday we flew out of Cleveland on a regional jet that is the kind of plane I always seem to fly. Since I am the one that made the reservations, I got to pick out our seats on the plane. I happen to love the last seat on the plane so that's where we sat. This is however, the very first time I've been in a plane that was this empty.

The plane seats about 50 people and I don't think we had 20 on this flight. While I may love the last seat in the plane, it seemed that no one else liked to sit back that far. We had the entire back of the plane to ourselves. To the flight attendant, we were affectionately called "the trouble makers in zone five"! I love it when I am recognized and accounted for! Well, she was joking, sort of. Yes, we were in zone 5 but aside from her having to walk all the way to the back of the plane to check on us, we were pretty quiet. Then again, I tried to make an agreement with her that if she just stayed in the front of the plane, we'd try to be REAL quiet in the back of the plane! ;-) Yes, she caught my drift and wondered to the back of the plane as often as she could. Oh well, I went to plan B in which I napped all the way over here.

We left the airport in our rental car and headed over to the Mall of America. The biggest damn mall I've ever seen! Aside from the usual mall type stores and kiosks and stuff, this mall has a huge amusement park right smack dab in the middle. This is complete with at least two different roller coasters, plus a Ferris Wheel and a ton of other rides. We did sit for awhile to watch the faces of the riders of one ride. This coaster type ride started by going straight up to the glass ceiling. The ride then went over the crest and came screaming straight down almost to the floor before it went upside down through the loop da loop. All that inside of a mall. Crazy!

We also went to a few stores in the mall. One of the most amazing was Lego Land. This ain't your mama's legos. They sold all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors of legos. They had dinosaurs built from legos, they had people built from legos. The lego pirate ship and bi plane were indescribable! They also had a kit for you to build a scale model of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars! For a mere $499.99 the pieces needed and the instructions were yours with a wish good luck! Regardless, to see what they've built with legos and to see all of the possibilities and the kits, it was an amazing store.

Ron then called his son, Derick to let him know we made it to town. Derick asked if we had plans for the evening. As we were pretty much playing everything by ear Friday, we said we were free should he have something in mind. Boy, did he have something in mind! For the first time in my life, I can say I actually had connections! I finally knew people! Big time score for us!

Derick happens to be the manager of Acme Comedy Club! This club has been featured on last year's season of Last Comic Standing and will also be featured on this season of the show as well. Since Ron and I are both big fans of comedy, we definitely took Derick up on his offer. Not only did Derick give us free tickets to the show, but we got VIP seats (that means right next to the stage!) and free drinks for the night. Can you believe it? VIP treatment! Too bad our timing wasn't a day sooner since the Comedy Club hosted Robin Williams the night before. While we didn't get to see Robin Williams, we did get to see Greg Warren who still had us rolling in the aisles. It was a great night.

Today was another stellar day. We had a great time at the wedding, but that will be the next blog.

For now, rest and relaxation time. After all, I AM on vacation!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

I'm Not Fighting It Any Longer - I AM Pathetic!

I was driving home from work yesterday when I realized that somehow I had picked up a hitchhiker.

Right there on my windshield was a huge BUG! I don't mean that he went splat on my windshield, but rather he was actually sitting there hitching a ride. Or else he was eyeing me through the windshield wondering how much fun I'd be to terrorize or to bite. I started driving like I was in a Ford or something when I saw him! Not that I'm an expert on bugs, but I don't think I've ever seen something like this before. His body was about 1-1/2" long. At first I thought it was just a bee because I saw the striped body. But his hind legs looked like grasshopper legs. And his antenna were at least as long as his body! Weird looking thing. Scary too.

Of course I called Ron. (I did use my hands free blue tooth via my Garmin to do it though!) I must have been in a slight panic since he did have to ask me to repeat myself. I told him there is a huge freakin' bug on my windshield and it's lookin' at me! When he stopped laughing, he suggested perhaps my windshield wipers would do the trick. Ok, yeah, I never thought of that. But then again, the more I did think about it all I could see was smearing it all across my windshield. Besides, it is in the outdoors where in belongs. If he was in my house, all bets are off. But outdoors, I can't just kill him for being on the outside of my car.

I told Ron that I had planned on stopping at the store on my way home, but now I'm not sure if I can get out of my car with that thing looking at me. The good man that he is, he suggested I pull into the driveway at home, he'll get the bug off of my windshield and then I could pull right back out again and go to the store! Now THAT sounded like a plan!

Then I thought that sounded kinda pathetic. Yeah, Ron did have to save me from a spider last night, but hey! That was in the kitchen and he was right over my sink. How's a girl supposed to do dishes with a monster right in front of her? But I digress. I'm talking about the bug on the windshield.

I didn't want to be so pathetic that I had to go home for bug control on my windshield. I told Ron that hopefully in the three miles or so I had to go, maybe the bug would leave of his own volition. Then I could get out of the car safe and sound at the store. Yes, I was going to be an adult and be brave and head right to the store.

Big mistake.

If you hear of any news reports of a woman having a seizure at Walgreens or just acting crazy, that was me.

The bug was still on my windshield when I pulled into the parking lot. I sat there and stared at him while he stared right back. Then I got the bright idea that he was content on my windshield, he's been there at least for the last five miles, so perhaps he'll just remain content on there while I go to the store. Not.

As soon as I got out of my car and shut the door, he comes after me. He's flying/jumping around my head while I'm doing my best to duck, cover and slap the crap out of him. My arms were flaying overhead, my legs were kicking and I'm not sure, but I think there might have been a scream as well. The store manager happened to be outside having a smoke and was nice enough to watch the whole thing. From a distance. Go figure.

The bug left me no worse for the wear I guess. I lost some dignity, and burned off quite a few calories I'm sure with that bug fighting exhibition. I then straightened my blouse, and headed into the store like a pseudo-professional woman and did my shopping. I paid no attention to the fact that the store manager continued to follow me through the store, again from a distance.

But, from now on, I'm going to accept that I am pathetic and go home and make Ron take care of my bugs! Otherwise I may no longer be welcome at Walgreens!