Sunday, June 29, 2014

I opened the tab..........

I opened my Blogger tab so I feel like I HAVE to write something here. As usual it's been way too long since I blogged. But I have a (sort of) good excuse!

We went on a vacation to Montana. The awesome thing about this trip was that it was pretty much a REAL vacation and it was a whole week long which is extremely rare for us as a family. Ok, so one day Jeff did his volunteer thing with the American Chemical Society at the University of Montana in Missoula. But even that day was fun because Arlie and Harrison hiked the "M" on the hill while Hannah and I watched from the safety and comfort of the minivan (and I might have taken an hour-long nap. Ahem. It's VACATION!).

But we also went to Glacier National Park and - oh wow. I cannot even come up with the words to describe this place. It is the very essence of natural beauty and everywhere you turn there is something amazing. We hiked up to Avalanche Lake. The sign said it was four miles round trip. The brochure said it was five miles. Whatever - it was freaking LONG and exhausting but totally worth the view at the top. Breathtaking. Literally. There was a moment when I seriously considered turning back - we had failed to bring food or water because our original plan was just to walk the short "Trail of the Cedars" but then we saw this sign and people telling us it was an incredible hike so.......we just went, completely forgetting the ten essential items every hiker should have. I'm not sure what all ten of them are, but I know food and water are numbers 1 and 2. Anyway, I started to feel a little hungry and every so often I have this weird low blood sugar thing where I get all shaky and sweaty and really, really hungry and I was afraid that would happen along the trail because it went on FOREVER. But I decided to push on and I'm so glad I did because, WOW! I did almost ask a complete stranger for an apple slice, but I restrained myself. The water was so cold it actually hurt to step in. But we stepped anyway. We drove for miles around the park and ended with magical sunset.

Then, we went to the National Bison Range which sounds kind of boring, but was totally NOT boring at ALL. For one thing, BISON! We saw several, although none up close (well, not REALLY close), but we also saw a mama bear and two cubs, several deer, antelope, a mama deer nursing her baby, a huge buck and two baby deer, and a lot of really pretty birds. Plus the drive was spectacular - you just wind up and up this mountain side filled with prairie grasses and views that stretch for miles.

Also, I FINALLY saw an elk in the wild! I had begun to think they didn't exist but I know they do now, because I saw one on the side of the road, up on a hill, just standing there. I was too surprised to even grab my camera (that, plus Jeff was driving almost 80, so...). Still, I SAW AN ELK!

Then, we spent a whole day in Helena being treated by one of Jeff's contractors from work who has become a friend to us. He lives in Helena and took us out on his boat for a tour of Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River. Again, it was unbelievably beautiful. The weather was perfect and the boat was well-stocked with all manner of food and drink. We got sunburned, took a ton of pictures, and ended the day at a BBQ at Shane's house. There was even a little fireworks action involving coffee cans.

We almost went to the Lewis and Clark caverns but opted instead to just drive to Coeur d' Alene where the "baby" cousins were visiting. They're not babies anymore - almost 7, two almost 4 year olds and a 2 yr old, but they're still a popular attraction. We made it in time for dinner and a visit, then headed to Spokane to stay overnight with Jeff's parents. In the morning we took the Spokane cousins to breakfast and then made the long trek home.

It was a GREAT vacation. I took almost 400 pictures and countless memories. And while it's great to be home and sleeping in our own beds, I'm looking forward to the next road trip which starts in......a few more days!

Yay, vacation!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Applebee's - you suck.

Tonight I met a friend at Applebee's for happy hour. We sat down in the largely uncrowded bar and proceeded to look over the happy hour menu. Almost immediately our waiter came over and said "Hi." I noticed he was wearing a rather large button that said "Happy Father's Day" with a picture of an adorable little girl on it. Nice way to get some extra tips, I thought! I complimented him on the button and he asked us what we would like to drink.

He was heavy on the upsell, and while my dining companion, Jenny, held her ground, I was a sucker for the "top shelf" margarita so I agreed to the $8 concoction, but only after "John" waxed poetic about it for five minutes. I then asked him if he could also take our appetizer order and he said yes, so we ordered mozzarella sticks and chicken taco won-tons. John said "Instead of cole slaw would you like chopped lettuce and pico de gallo? That's how I like them! I call them John-tons instead of won-tons." Uh. No. Just the drinks, the food and some water, please.

After a while, John arrived and set a martini glass in front of me, sporting an olive on a toothpick. In his other hand he held a shaker and said "You are going to love this!" I noted that I had ordered a blended margarita and so how could it be blended in a shaker? Also, what's with the martini glass and the olive? John looked thoroughly confused and said he would "be right back."

A bit later, he arrived with a Long Island Iced Tea (Jenny's drink) and my margarita - this time properly blended and in a margarita glass with a salted rim, but still sporting that damn olive. What the HELL? Why would anyone want an olive in a margarita? I did note that he had added  (almost as an afterthought since it immediately slipped off the toothpick and sank in my drink) a tiny slice of lime. Also, no water. Except in my glass because that "top shelf" margarita tasted just like water. And not much else.

A few minutes later, a different server arrived with our food. She set it down and walked away so fast she must not have heard our "Can we please have some plates?" And napkins. We waited a while for someone to come by who could provide us with plates, but although four servers had a lively conversation a few feet away, and John talked to the couple at the table behind us, no one came. Finally I got John's attention, let him know we needed plates, napkins and the water we'd ordered and he said "No problem" and was gone again.

More time passed and another server arrived with plates. No John. No water. No napkins. John did finally bring both water and napkins, but not before a cheerful server arrived and tried to put two large Ceasar salads down in front of us. We told her she had the wrong table and she stood there and said "Really?" Well, yes, really. She delivered them to the table next to us and went on her way.

Not long after that, another server brought us two large glasses of beer - that we didn't order. We sent her packing to another table and then another server brought out two meals and began to ask us which one of us had ordered the steak. Guess what? It was neither of us!

In the meantime John came by and said "I have your ticket here, but, um, what did you order?" We asked him to check the ticket he wrote our order down on. He said "I know but I guess I wrote it all on the same one so I will have to go print yours out on the computer - hang on" and he was off. When he returned, he said "Oh yeah, I guess I put everyone's food on your order." EVERYONE'S food? I snuck a look at the ticket and there were at least ten items on it! He then said "If you just tell me what you ordered, then I can get your food going while we figure it out." We actually had to tell him that we already HAD ordered, and, in fact, eaten our food and were just waiting for our check. Which we would please take from the manager.

About this time Marisol entered the picture. Marisol the Manager. We explained the night's debaucle and Marisol said "You must think you're on Candid Camera!" Actually, that would have at least made it a little bit funny. But, no, the whole mess was simply the result of John just doing a really bad job. We tried to be nice - we joked and laughed at first, but when we saw John apologizing to the table behind us for the VERY same thing, it was hard to imagine exactly what was going on in his head. Way too many screw-ups in one night.

The manager comped us our appetizers and gave us $5 off coupons for our next visit (which said "Happy Father's Day" at the top, so we were probably going to get them anyway). I'm not sure there WILL be a next visit, at least not to the bar. Applebee's Happy Hour? Two thumbs down!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Messy week..........

It's been a rough couple of weeks for several reasons, but this past week was notorious for something that happened EVERY morning.

Monday, just as I was slinging my purse over my shoulder to leave for work, I heard a crash followed by the sound of water being poured out - and this went on for an alarmingly long time! As I rushed to see what happened, I found that Benjie, our special-needs cat, had (after a week of trying) figured out how to knock over a very heavy vase full of flowers - and about a gallon of water! The water spread in a large puddle across the floor and also poured through the crack in the "entry table" which is what we call the furniture near the door - except that it's really an antique sewing machine! Water poured through the machine as flowers scattered in wilted repose across the hardwoods and met their untimely demise in the trash as I scurried to clean up the mess. One huge beach towel later and a text to my daughter telling her to clean up "her" cat's mess, and I dashed out the door - late!

Tuesday, as I attempted to fill my water cup to take to work, I noticed the ice maker making a grinding sound - but no ice was coming out. I opened the freezer to investigate and a virtual iceberg crashed to the floor, scattering ice in all directions across the hardwood floor! Seems the mechanism was a little wonky and the ice had been storing up inside the (very small) receptacle. An iceberg formed and when I opened the freezer door, it created an instant global warming effect that necessitated another big clean up - only this time it was worse because I had to scoop up hundreds of ice cubes. I dashed out the door - late again!

Wednesday, I was heading downstairs to grab my purse and lunch to leave for work when I happened to turn my head and notice some dark spots on the carpet down the hallway. Upon further investigation, what I thought might have pet puddles turned out to be several large spots of dog diarrhea soaking into the carpet. I yelled to my son to come and help. Half a roll of paper towels, half a cannister of Lysol wipes and two very thorough passes of the carpet cleaner later we both headed out the door - late again. I didn't think the school would appreciate the note I wanted to write "Please excuse my son for being late - he was cleaning up shit" so I just signed a generic note my son penned on the way. I got to work - late.

Thursday, I woke early to the stench of dog crap. NOT AGAIN????? Mysteriously, I could spy no tell-tale stains save for one small spot in the dining room. The smell, however, permeated the house and made me gag. WHERE WAS IT? I finally found the offending pile of - you guessed it - more soft-serve dog crap, this time right outside the kids' bathroom door. I could NOT be late to work again, so my son and I worked frantically to clean it up. We used up the rest of the previous' day's paper towel roll, the rest of the Lysol wipes and I plugged the carpet cleaner in to do the final cleaning. I grabbed the hose, pressed hard to suck up the nauseating poo and suddenly noticed my hand was wet! The hose had broken WHILE I was using it, effectively leaving my hand soaking in freshly-washed dog shit. After steaming my hand with soap and a scalding flush of water, I found some duct tape and quickly "fixed" the hose. But not before texting my husband a picture of the hose, lying on the floor leaking crap, and secretly wishing bad things upon him for leaving early two days in a row and leaving me on doggy "doo"ty. I finally got the carpet marginally cleaned, scrubbed two layers of flesh off my hands under hot, running water, and left for work - late.

I realized at this point I was on a roll. Four out of four days running I'd had to clean up a mess. Surely Friday would be better?

Friday, I headed downstairs and fixed myself some toast and an instant breakfast drink. I prepared some packages for mailing, grabbed my lunch, my purse, the packages and my drink and headed for the door. The packages were unwieldy - a long, flat one, a shoe box and a much smaller box, and I was trying to re-adjust them in my arms so I could lock the door. As I did so, I inadvertently poured my breakfast drink all over the entry way floor! This time, however, I was not surprised. I knew something like this would happen, given the four previous days, so I simply wiped up the mess and carried on with my day. And I got to work - on time.

Life is messy. Clean it up.