Thank you Martha Stewart, I had no idea

I had no idea that there were only 4 Shakers left….in the world. I guess the whole complete celibacy thing sort of limits the lifetime of any religion. I’m sure Peter and Paula were aware of this, seeing as the remaining four are settled in their neck of the woods. But I had to learn about it via Martha Stewart’s ‘chic urban publication’. There’s a pretty good article on the plight of the Shaker religion, which has been around since 1774. (this is not the article that was in Martha Stewart Living, you can read that one if you’re interested in the super-chic decorating legacy that the Shakers gave us. Whatever.)

Thank you Paula, for reminding me….

Paula commented that one of her pet peeves was telephone prompting to enter all of your information (account #, zip codes, telephone #, last name, etc.) before talking to a customer service rep, who then makes you repeat the exact same information to them. Excuse me, I just spent 5 minutes keying it in, and by the way making that information accessible to the jerk sitting down the street in his van picking up portable phone transmissions. For what? Oh, yes, so you can ask me to repeat it to you. We wouldn’t wanna make the jerk work too hard decoding my random phone-keystrokes, now would we.? Let’s just give him the information, then verbally confirm it.

Let me take this one step further. Of course.

Dear Automated Telephone Customer Service Systems;

Stop fucking with me. No, really, stop please.

If the options are: press __ for billing, press __for account status, press __to change account information, press __ to comment on the crappyness of our services, press __to speak to a customer service representative……
Here is my request: Please keep these numbers in sequential order.

For the love of Gawd people, you are screwing with my sense of order. I expect the order to be thus:
Press 1 for billing, press 2 for account status, press 3 to change account information, press 4 to comment on the crappyness of our services, press 0 to speak to a customer service representative.

But instead I get this crazy shit:
Press 1 for billing, press 8 for account status, press 5 to change account information, press 2 to comment on the crappyness of our services, press 6 three times to speak to a customer service representative.

I need ‘easy’ when trying to complain. Because usually by the time I’ve picked up the phone to ask for help/chew someone a new asshole, I’m mentally fried. I’m primed and ready to anticipate the number I’m going to need to press to be routed to a live human being. I NEED EASY. Not Random numbers meant to confuse me and encourage giving up.

Oh, wow, I think I just had a revelation. They WANT you to give up. Hence the chaos theory applied to their numbering choices!

Concept: If you can’t provide a decent product/service, and your customer service is equally shitty and/or outsourced to the furthest outposts of the least English speaking 3rd World Shithole possible….create a key-sequence nightmare to discourage customers from voicing their dissatisfaction and attempting resolution of complaints.

Genius, really, when you think about it.

Why do I have to complain about this????

This is a no brainer. And I’m AMAZED that nobody has raised a stink with banks (USBank in particular, because they are loudest offenders that I’ve experienced)

“What are you complaining about now, Lisa?”

Oh, yes. I really wish banks would eliminate the “Come Put a Gun in My Back and Take All of My Money” beeps that announce every button you press at the ATM. Serious. At some point, some Brilliant Asshole at A Very Important ATM Managers Meeting, suggested Auditory Confirmation for Keystrokes. I’m sure they all nodded in agreement, that indeed, that was a fucking fabulous idea. I’m pretty sure it was the same Brilliant Asshole who then (following on the heels of his first wildly popular idea) suggested that these Auditory Confirmations should have a minimum decibel level of, oh, lets say 100 dB. That way everyone, the hearing impared, local thugs, nearby roadwork crews, low flying planes will know when a keystroke has registered. And, BONUS, when your cash is actually dispensed, the beeping will continue, rapid fire, at just under permanent hearing damage range (lets say, 119 dB) so that every street gang within a 4 block radius will have equal opportunity to hone in on your now cash flushed-ass. The Auditory Confirmation will then continue until you withdraw your card from the machine, you know, to remind you not to forget your Please Mug Me Card in their Screaming Cash Vagina.

Am I the only one who cringes and shoots furtive glances in 270 degree sweeps whilst franticly keying in my ‘secret code’? I’m pretty sure if I can figure out where the money flows the easiest in Grand Theft Auto (sans Auditory Keystroke Confirmation), then your average street punk is going to make the connection pretty quick too. I’m thinking these guys react like Pavlovs dog down at the old Wells Fargo. My ‘secret code’ is like chum in the water. I’m very happy that Wells Fargo is the Bank that Gives You Choices. I just wish they wouldn’t broadcast them quite so loudly.

So now you know. I hate listening to people eat. And I hate using ATMs. Both because of the auditory component.

Grrrr. (10 dB)

finally cooling off

Enough that I could go outside and gather flowers from the garden to put in vases in the house. I only brought in a few bugs; some ants, a honeybee and this neat camouflaged bug:

I carefully took both the honeybee and the camo-bug back outside. I got stung on the hand on Monday gathering parsley from the garden after dark (for herb roasted baby artichokes, Arts new favorite veg. dish). Who knew that yellowjackets used the garden as a Motel 6 at night???? Well, now I do. I got it on the palm side base of my index finger. It swelled up like nobodies business and then proceeded to throb for 3 days. Now it just itches like an SOB. I hold on to toxins for an unusually long time, so I suspect it will still be giving me grief for a while. As a result I’m extra leary of the stinging bugs. Stupid yellowjackets. They serve no purpose, I think I hate them.

They usually build nests below the ground/under things? I didn’t know that. This dude found a nest ABOVE ground. And was dumb enough to stand next to it grinning like a moron to get his picture taken. Idiot McStupid.

And then there’s this one in an abandoned truck;

Or this one, the size of a small car, nestled inbetween a couple of cypress trees;

So, really any one of those nests is perfect justification for keeping a flame thrower handy. I’m thinking a puny little can of Wasp-B-Gone isn’t going to do jack shit, except maybe piss them off.

Math just got a lot easier

I made these for Art and Paul this weekend, and think they’re so good I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s called a Lemon Shake-Up and it’s a boozed up variation of a county fair classic (or an italian lemonade, you decide)

Find a few canning jars with lids (Mason jars, Bell jars, whatever)

Fill the jar half full with crushed ice

To the ice add;
juice of one lemon (or 1 oz of the bottled crap, you know, use what ya got)
small amount of lemon zest
1 oz silver rum (’round here we’ve been knocking back the Mount Gay Barbados Silver)
1 oz triple sec (hiram walker 60 proof does a fiiiinnnneeee job for this drink, just fine)

1 oz simple syrup*
Slap a lid on it and shake it like Tom Cruise did in Cocktail. Do not fling it over your shoulder like Tom Cruise did in Cocktail though, that shit makes a sticky-broken-glass-mess when it hits the floor.
Fill to the top with club soda or seltzer water.
Stick a straw in it and suck it down.

These things are so good on a hot day. Delete the rum and triple sec, drop in a maraschino cherry or two and give one to the kids. Drink enough of them and you too will be dumping the calculator and claiming that trigonometry using a calculator is for sissys. Be careful, they sneak up on you and will seriously distort reality, not necessarily in your favor either.

*That’s 1 cup sugar + 1 cup water brought to a boil for about 3-4 minutes then cooled, keeps in the fridge for about 2 weeks

It was hot today

Got up to about 100. We went out to the horse trainers for riding lessons. I felt like crap, so I didn’t ride. Art had a lesson on Jack, so Art and Tracy rode out into the vineyard whilst I stayed behind and half-heartedly messed around with Isabel.

For those of you in the know, yes, I’m aware that saddle is riding her neck. It didn’t matter, I didn’t ride her today, I was too busy feeling crappy, twisting my ankle and getting a mild case of heat stroke. I really wasn’t up for being out there, but I think Art had a really good ride with Jack, he said they had fun.

We stopped on the way home and got sandwiches and drinks, that made me feel a little better. The nap I took when we got home fixed things up even more. We bbq’d lamb kabobs for dinner, they were really good. Nothing like home raised meat. The vinaigrette was only partially home grown (the herbs), we don’t grow the rest of the ingredients.

Overall, it was a pretty mild 4th of July weekend. No fires up here, we’re grateful for that. Fraley reminded Art that we need to have an evac. plan living up here in high risk fire country. Art and talked a bit about that. Pretty much a weekend of bbq, horses and a trip to the city yesterday to pick up my wedding ring (it broke about a month ago, we got it fixed at Derco in the city).

I’ll leave you with a few random things;

A boy and his dog:

A little bit of the garden:

And the recipe for the vinaigrette that accompanied the lamb tonight. It would go well with crusty bread, or on a salad as well. Mostly it was good with lamb kabobs tonight.

1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives (do not use black olives….yuck) minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 TBSP capers minced
3 shallots thinly sliced
1 TBSP oregano minced
1 TBSP fresh mint minced
1 TBSP mustard (not the bright yellow stuff….yuck)
1/3 cup, or more, red wine vinegar
1 cup good quality virgin olive oil

Mix the first 7 ingredients together. I don’t recommend using a food processor, it will make it into mush. You want it minced up and a bit chunky. Stir in the vinegar, then the olive oil with a fork. It doesn’t need to be emulsified. Season to taste with coarse salt and coarse cracked pepper, maybe a little more vinegar if you think it needs it. I did. Let it sit for a while before serving to allow the flavors to blend.

The lamb kabobs were simply lamb stew meat seasoned with coarse salt and pepper, coated lightly with olive oil, then skewered and placed on a very hot charcoal grill (as in, you can’t hold your hand over the grill for any longer than a second, that hot). Turn them every 2 minutes for about 8 minutes total for med/rare. Longer than that makes them tough. Let them sit about 2 or 3 minutes before serving to redistribute the juices.
This recipe was taken from the Summer 2008 Best of Fine Cooking: Grilling. I didn’t modify it at all, it was damn perfect as it was. I love that publication.

Hondo; been there, done that.

I just realized I didn’t post about my trip to San Antonio, and more importantly: Hondo!

Hondo lived up to everything I expected, which was not a lot. Thankfully.

I saw three taxidermy shacks within 5 miles of each other, one with the added bonus of a Real Catfish Lake. Uh, yeah. This was, in reality, two man made “lakes” each about the size of a football field around which there were some strategically placed white plastic lawn chairs. Betcha some good eatin’s come outta thar.

Hondo Bowl, which, according to everything I read on the internet was the obvious ‘epicenter of entertainment’ in Hondo???

Yeah, not so much. Closed down “some time ago, but we’ve got a video store a little ways up the road” Wow. Who needs bowling on a Saturday night when you can just fire up the old vhs player? Silly me!

What there was in Hondo that was worth noting was BBQ. Some of the best bbq I’ve EVER HAD, hands down.

(wonder if that catfish they’re advertising in the background on the building comes from a certain local ‘lake’??? hmmmm)

Every bbq joint from San Antonio to Hondo, and it’s equally non-impressive sister town D’Hanis, sports one of these bad boys:

I am convinced I need one. Note the white thing behind the smoker??? That’s a flippin’ van, people. That smoker is beyond huge. It is mammoth and as far as I’m concerned it is a tool of the Gods. The hands that feed it are the hands of sacred servants who’s elevated duty on this earth is to cater to the bbq that fuels the souls of Hondo’s indentured masses. And the souls of those of us merely passing through. Yes, Billy Bob’s Backyard BBQ employs demi-gods. There, I’ve said it. And it is true. Demi-gods who serve dill pickles with every to-go order that leaves their talented hands.

And while one establishment cannot provide tasks for all the bbq demi-gods in the Hondo local, others have found their calling a short piece up the road in Castroville. Home of The Pit Stop bbq. The nicest woman of moderate girth and excessive social skills (dang she was friendly!) took my order (the second one of the day) for bbq quarter chicken to go. She smiled wide when I declined the side dishes and told her I didn’t want anything that would distract me from what obviously has to be the best bbq on route 90. She nodded and called out the order to a older gentleman who called back “no sides??? jes’ the chicken???” Smiling friendly lady confirmed. This was a customer who knew what she wanted and warn’t messin’ around. Awesome bbq. And Diet Pepsi. They don’t serve Diet coke down that way, just the Diet Pepsi. Interesting.

There was one thing in Hondo that gave me pause for thought, that didn’t seem……quite right.

Juan’s Bar.

Here was a bar in Hondo I really wanted to slink into, order a whisky and slam the shotglass. But everytime I passed it was closed (I went to Hondo twice, don’t ask why, I just did). Tell me if it doesn’t bear a striking similarity to the Titty Twister in the movie Dusk til Dawn (if you haven’t seen it, please do. It’s so great, and so bad, and yet so very great)

I didn’t see George Clooney, Juliette Lewis or anyone even trying to imply that they were not on the family vacation that it seemed to be. Nor did I see any vampires, so I’m assuming the two are not part of a Juans Bar/ Titty Twister Vampire Chain/Franchise, but then again, I wasn’t there after dark, so you know, who can say for sure. 😉

A lotta gruntin’, sweatin’ and dirtin’ it up

This is what I came home from Texas to. Huge piles of sand and gravel relandscaping the driveway. They were taller than me. The dogs were in heaven, sand flew everywhere. Then the heavy machinery started showing up. And I do mean heavy. As in gigantic. Earth-moving equipment.

(Small dog included to illustrate the scale)

Machinery that digs, hauls, crushes and compacts. And so the boys got to work. Fraley showed up on a Thursday. He didn’t leave until Saturday. By then he was sporting Art’s shorts and my t-shirts and horsie baseball caps.

I don’t want to talk about that part. We paid him in bbq and booze.
This is how it went;
They shoveled. I tried to help but mostly got in the way, so I made the afore mentioned bbq and boozy drinks (which went well with the heavy machinery operation)

Art the Husband hogged the big earth mover

While Cupcake commandeered the Tonka-Toy Tractor and the steam roller;

Together they were two best buddies performing an intricate dance with heavy machinery. It was a beautiful thing, trust me.

They did a LOT of surveying, scoping, and really just kneeling down and grunting in approval or disgust;

They used complicated surveying equipment (home-made, no less!)

AND THEY USED TRIGONOMETRY!!!!!!!! (this part was pretty freakin’ entertaining and involved the internet, my i-phone and a moderate sized piece of cardboard. I continued to make boozy drinks in an attempt to make math easier)

They scraped and dumped and leveled. Well, AtH scraped and dumped, then instructed Cupcake and I to “Just grab a rake and level it, okay???? Geeez, how hard can that be?”

The answer to that question is, after staring in awe at piles of sand half as tall as we were: Pretty fucking difficult. Cupcake and I swore a lot each time Art the Husband rumbled the front-loader away to scoop up another mountain of sand for us to “level out”.

Eventually we used the Jeep to drag a piece of steel grating around behind it in big circles to level everything out. Less sweat and swearing.

Later, after the equipment had been returned and everything was level (thank you Jeep) the 10 foot panels were laid out and erected. Again, more math, swearing and booze. The end result: perfection.
Fraley made damn sure that neither of our horses would have to do any calculating of screwy angles whilst running around in circles. Safety first! That means Trigonometry my friends! Trigonometry = safety, in case you were wondering.
Here’s the final results, with husband and dogs added to once again, illustrate the scale of this project;

There was some final raking this morning

And a test run with the dogs

D-Square HATES it. She didn’t mind when the panels were laying flat, but now that they’re up she’s discovered there’s no fast/easy way out save for the gate. She is NOT impressed.

But I am, impressed that is. AtH and Fraley were AWESOME together making this thing happen. Hell, it wouldn’t have happened without Fraley’s help. This was a concept born sometime back in October 2007, and has finally come to fruition July 2008; 9 months, 5 pounds of babyback ribs, 3 pounds of wings, a gallon of bbq sauce, two bottles of rum and a case of beer later. Now, we just need to bring the horses home from the trainers and we’ll be in business!!! (small detail)

Yes, they can fly

I came home Wednesday afternoon to get Andretti so he could donate blood for a patient that needed it at work. I had to pee. So, having nothing better to do whilst peeing, I glanced out the bathroom window. There were 26 turkeys milling around the yard and perching on the split rail fence, a few taking dust baths in the ‘potential garden’ under the window.

Most were baby turkeys, there were about 5 adult hens. For the record, turkeys are ugly.

I finished peeing and got my camera. I wandered along about 5 feet behind them taking pictures until they tired of me pestering them and flew away into one of the oak trees in the lower pasture.

It’s pretty weird to see a huge bird like an adult turkey just pick up and jam like that. They’re built like Goodyear blimps, but they can fly pretty well. I mean, their shazz hangs down and all, but they can score some pretty serious altitude.

This is the second time in two weeks I’ve seen this flock of turkeys around the house. The last time I saw them one of the barn cats was stalking some of the babies. Not a good plan. One of the big hens whipped around and started stalking the cat, giving it ‘turkey eye’ the entire time. That’s like evil eye, but avian. The cat decided that perhaps baby turkey wasn’t really a wise menu choice and wandered off to find out if the cat food bowl had been stocked. Probably a good idea seeing as the turkey probably outweighed it by several pounds.