Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pretty Pumpkin Pictures

These photos were taken at the Texas State Fair.  Aren't they spectacular?  I'll try this type of pumpkin carving some day.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Vote

I early voted today.  I'm going to be out of town, training a group of managers in St. Louis, on election day, so I returned from camping a day early so that I could vote today.  

There was a line, but the whole thing only took me 25 minutes (after I found a parking spot).  If the voting place had more volunteers, it would have gone even faster, as there were plenty of empty voting 'booths'.  

We use a touch screen system here in Texas, and it was quite well-done, I think.  There was a lady sitting at the exit door, asking people what the flashing red light at the end of the process meant.  I guess that's their way of checking to make sure people actually submitted their vote.  (The flashing red light says 'VOTE', and you're supposed to press it after you've reviewed your choices and are ready to submit them.)  I just bypassed that lady and walked on.  I guess it's a good thing she's there to check, because people may actually miss that BIG  FLASHING RED LIGHT with the word VOTE on it.  I suppose the older generations may find the whole touch screen/computerized process quite foreign, so I'm sure it was helpful to some, though I didn't see anyone gasp and run back to their voting booth.

Have you voted yet?

More Camping Photos

Above:  My Element tent is wrinkly from being packed away for a long while.  I need to go camping more often.  The back seats fold flat, then up against the sides of the vehicle, making room for a nice twin size air mattress and all the bedding that a cold cold night requires.
Above:  My trusty Coleman tent that I've had for 7 or 8 years.  The friend that I went camping with is the same person I went to Maine with.  She's a dear lady, but she drives me nuts at times.  She's not a creative person or a problem-solver, so I had to show her step-by-step how to put up the tent (there are instructions on the tent bag), how to light the Coleman stove, how to set up the air mattress, how to heat water to use for cleaning the dishes after a meal, etc.  It's like I had to train her in the entire experience of camping.  We're not talking about starting a fire using a piece of bubble gum and a paper clip, we're talking about simpler things.  She obsessed...really, truly, obsessed with exactly how much and what kind of clothing and bedclothes she was going to put on the air mattress in the tent (and in what order).  I had told her to pack very warm clothes and plenty of blankets or quilts, because the night temps were going to be in the 40s.  She must have told me 20 times the day we got to the campsite what she was going to do and another 15 times the following day as to step by step how warm or cold she was at various times throughout the night and what she did with each blanket or quilt as a result.  I shouldn't be surprised.  She also is terribly obsessed with the price of gas, always has been.  And now I'll have to delete this rant very soon because it's really mean of me to type all this.
Above:  Our nice covered picnic table, partically set up.
Above:  Our own pile of firewood and charcoal.  Word of advice, do not buy the Safeway/Tom Thumb brand of charcoal.  It may be the cheapest, but it took forever to get the coals to the cooking stage.  I usually buy the individual small bags that you just light the bag and the whole thing burns.  I should have spent the extra money and bought those again.  The firewood was also from Tom Thumb and was no better than scrap.  It didn't burn for very long.  I should have bought the better quality stuff from another store and gotten some pinion wood as well.
Above:  These are the arms/paws/claws that were right next to the entrails.  So, raccoon or possum?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tasty Tasty Camping Pictures

Above:  You are most likely wondering what this is.  I do know that it is animal innards and what could possibly be a baby of some kind.  I found this on a trek down to the lake.  It was still squishy, so was most likely killed the night before.  I also found blood in several places on the rocks in the surrounding areas, and two partially eaten arms with paws/claws intact.  My two guesses would be possum (which I saw plenty of at night) or raccoon (which I never did see, but heard trying to rummage through things at night).  Anyone know what this is?
Above:  Do you have any idea how impossibly difficult it is to take an in focus photo of a glowing pumping in almost pitch-black conditions?  Very difficult, apparently.  This was the best I could do without a tripod and in extreme low light.  I brought two pumpkins, and my friend and I both carved one.  My friend chose a ghost design on the packaging of the carving instruments.  I opted to create my own design.  I also toasted the pumpkin seeds when we were done scraping them out.  They were ok, but not my favorite.  When it got dark, we placed the pumpkins at the end of the drive to our campsite and set them aglow.  They looked incredible, and I'm rather proud that I was reasonably able to capture the shape of Texas.  It is very difficult to get it to the right proportions.
This is what my pumpkin looked like this morning.  We left them at the campsite for others to enjoy (or throw at each other).
Above:  This is an inlet at Lake Whitney.
Above:  And this was sunset on the first day.  Gorgeous.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

A-Camping I Will Go

Hi ho the derry-o, a-camping I will go.

You simply cannot conceive how much stuff is packed in my car so that I might enjoy my camping experience to the extreme.

The weather is absolutely, positively, could not ask for more, PERFECT camping weather!

A cold front rolled in yesterday afternoon, and today is a big crisp, with the temps dropping to the 40s tonight.  I packed plenty of fleecy and blankety things to keep me warm at night.  

I'll try to remember to take plenty of pics of my campground setup.  I love love love to set up camp, don't ask me why.

And now, I must away...I'm meeting a friend at the grocery store where we're going to buy the gargantuan amount of food we plan on cooking and eating while camping.  Yummy!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Going Camping

This is Lake Whitney State Park.  I took these pictures about a year and a half ago, after the area had received flood level rains.  




The campsites are all by the lake, which should be at an appropriate level now, unlike these pictures.

I'm looking forward to renting a canoe or kayak (depends on how many friends decide to join me), or even a jet ski, from one of the outfitters on the lake.  I also love to cook over an open fire, or better yet, make a complex meal that requires the use of a wood fire, a charcoal grill, and my small Coleman stove.

I also can't wait to lie in my hammock for hours and read or take long naps, go hiking, swimming, looking for deer, heck, maybe even fishing!  I've not gone fishing in a really long time.  And there is a fish cleaning station/house on the campgrounds.  I'll have to go and see how much a basic set of fishing 'stuff' would be.  Then I need to learn how to clean a fish!  

This is all becoming very exciting.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Color Purple--Part I

My going to see The Color Purple on Thursday was a journey in every sense of the word.  I hope you enjoy the retelling of it.

I purchased my ticket online, as I always do, but having decided to go see the musical less than a week ahead of time, I thought it best to just pick up the ticket at Will Call.  This was my first of many mistakes.  

I left home about 90 minutes before showtime (my first of many smart things) and swung by the bank to get some cash for parking (my second smart thing).  Parking was going to be $10, and I wanted to make sure I had some extra, just in case.

When I arrived at the fairgrounds, I wanted to park where I always park when I go to see a musical, but I was informed that it was a valet parking only lot, and at $25 for this service, I thought I'd just as well find a general parking spot and walk over to the Music Hall (this was my second mistake).  I drove back around to the same parking gate I used when I went to the Fair with my friends last week, and as I was waiting to give my $10 to the nice man there, I remembered that I didn't have a ticket to get into the fair and subsequently get to the Music Hall (my third mistake).  Fair admission is included with the musical ticket, but I didn't have my ticket on me.  It was waiting for me, all comfy and air-conditioned, at the Will Call area inside the Music Hall.  

And so I asked the parking man about this, and he informed me that it would be up to the gate attendant whether or not they would let me in.  Well, poop on a stick.  And yet, I knew I had plenty of time to figure something out, so I kept following the line of cars to park.  I followed, and I followed, and I followed; then, when I thought I was done following, I followed some more.  The nearest open parking spots were in the next county, it seemed.  Thank goodness I had more than an hour till curtain.  

To get an idea of where I parked, you can click on THIS link.  The Music Hall is in the lower left corner, and I was parked in the upper right corner.  

I hopped a tram (smart thing number 3) which took us to the Pan Am gate to the fairgrounds.  I asked the lady in the ticket booth if I could go in the fair without a ticket so that I could get to the Music Hall.  You can guess what her answer was.  Instead, she told me what I was dreading she'd say; that I would have to walk all the way around the perimeter of the fair grounds to get to the Music Hall.  Now, it's been a few years since 9th grade Geometry, but I'm still pretty sure that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, and seeing as how it was a fair distance to the MH from the gate by going through the grounds, I had concerns about having the necessary time to hoof it all the way around the outside.

Dejected, I walked away from the ticket booth, and then I spotted a clear path through the gates.  No one was watching the side by the train museum.  I could just dart through there, and most likely, no one would notice.  Maybe...maybe no one would notice, but my darting capabilities are severely diminished recently because I've done something to my left foot in the past couple of weeks that makes regular walking painful...quite painful, in fact.  So, after 3 seconds of seriously considering it, I decided not to be a cheater and a thief (smart thing #4).  And so, I walked on.

I still had about 45 minutes to curtain, and I didn't know if I was going to make it in time.  The day wasn't exceptionally warm, but I was wearing a black blouse and I started to heat up fiercely.  Nice, I thought, I'm going to arrive just in time to run to my seat, then sweat next to some stranger for the entire first act.  Poor stranger.

After a long period of walking, I came upon Gate 4 whereupon I was told the same thing by a ticket lady who looked remarkably similar to the prior ticket lady.  Now, I've often thought if I were cuter or prettier, then I could probably get total strangers to do a lot more of what I ask/want, but knowing that option was not available to me, I tried reason instead.  "Would it be possible," I asked, "for you to let me through this gate so that I can get to the Music Hall?  I'm going to see The Color Purple, you see," I told her in my logical yet imploring-sounding voice.  "You can clearly see that I'm going to the musical by how I'm dressed," and I punctuated this by touching my blouse in a sincere gesture.  "My musical ticket is at Will Call, but I know that fair admission is included in the ticket."

I was rebuffed again and told...again...to walk around the perimeter.  Well, freeze dried rat droppings!

My foot was really hurting; I was limping from the pain, and I was hot and sweaty.  But, by golly by damn, I was going to make it to my seat on time.  And so I walked.  And I walked.  And I limped, and I thought how smart I was to wear khaki slacks instead of black ones (smart thing #5).

And I finally rounded the corner of the fence and began the journey through construction to try to find how I would get into that bloomin' Music Hall.  There was the Music Hall.  I could see it; I was standing just on the other side of the fence from it, but I couldn't find a way to get into it.  It wasn't very long until curtain, and I was getting mad.  I was mad at myself, mostly.  I was about to go back to the nearest gate and pay the ticket admission again when I finally saw a way in that was rather hidden by multi-layered fences.  

And so I walked in with a group of people, a nice lady led me through the lobby to the Will Call booth, and I picked up my ticket.  Holy freakin' finally goodness.  I was hot hot hot so I bought a bottle of water and then walked upstairs to the first balcony where I thought my seat was.  After a quick trip to the ladies room, which was really unnecessary considering I had sweated out all liquid from my body, I joined the line to be seated and I began speaking to a couple of ladies about the music from the show.  They hadn't heard the music and were surprised when I told them there is a CD of the Broadway Cast Recording.  One of the ladies asked me where she could buy it, so you can guess what I told her...always working am I.  

Then I looked at the Aisle number on the wall and thought to look at my ticket.  Crap, I was on the wrong level (fourth mistake).  I was very careful, or so I thought, when I booked my ticket, because I refuse to sit on the sides of the Hall.  I prefer first balcony to the side Orchestra seating any day.  

It took me only a moment to excuse myself, head back downstairs, find my Aisle, and grab a Playbill.  After a quick question about my seating area, I found my seat and was happy to sit down and take a load off my foot.  And I still had 15 minutes to curtain.  Well how about that?  

The theatre was filled with older, retired folks.  All of them were probably smart enough to use the $25 Valet Parking.  But me?  No, I'm too cheap!  And so I laughed at myself as I sat in my seat, which was quite a good seat, as it turns out (smart thing # I lost count), and watched this group of 4 ladies try to find their seat for the next 13 minutes.  Really, that's how long it took.  I had to get up a few times to let people pass through, so I just stayed standing, and there was something about my black blouse and khaki slacks that make people think I worked there (though I seem to get that no matter how I'm dressed and no matter where I am), and so I kept getting asked to help people find their seats.  I helped 4 or 5 people then I finally stopped the 4-lady party and pointed them to the right place.  

They had no way of knowing I was the one who, 15 minutes prior, was on the entirely wrong level of the building.  Shhhhh, don't tell anyone, ok?

And then, shortly after 2pm, the lights lowered, the stragglers scurried, and the orchestra began the overture...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

So I Was Talking to This Man...

Last night at work I was talking with a man who was looking for the Pat Boone recording of the Rodgers & Hammerstein musical State Fair. 

It was his lucky day, as I had ordered in copies of all State Fair related items a couple weeks ago in order to create a display to highlight the Fair.  He was very excited that we had the CD and told me how he was going to play some of its music on his radio show Friday night.  I never did ask him who he was or what radio show he has.

Because we were having such a nice conversation, I shared with him how I was going to see The Color Purple today, and told him about its connection with being the State Fair musical.  He then asked me if I liked Michael Buble.  Boy, do I!  I loves me some Michael Buble.  It turns out this man's wife has an extra pair of tickets to Michael Buble's concert Saturday night and is trying to sell them.  The man's wife ended up procuring a pair of 3rd row tickets, so now they have a spare pair.  It's too bad I'm working and unable to make other arrangements, because I'm certain I would love that concert, but I highly doubt they would be willing to just sell me one ticket anyway.  It would be very difficult to sell the remaining single ticket.

I know Charles goes to shows by himself, and of course I do as well, but we loner-show-goers are in the tiny minority.  I even know people that refuse to go see a movie or go out to eat by themselves...and heaven forbid they go on a trip by themselves!  That's so silly.  I say go if you want to go.  Why should you not go do something you want to just because you don't have someone else to go along with you?

And so, it was one of the nicer conversations I've had with a total stranger lately, and I thought it worth mentioning.  

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Bees Knees

My mother had knee surgery 7 days ago.  My father is keeping us updated via email.  She seems to be doing well, and he is hanging in there, too.

Though I really just want to sleep on my upcoming days off, I offered to drive to their house and stay with her if he wanted some time off from nursing her.  

Tomorrow I am going to see The Color Purple at the Music Hall.  I'm going to the matinee because I don't want to wrangle with evening Fair traffic and parking hassles.  I can't believe the price of the ticket.  I don't think I paid that much even for my Wicked ticket.  But I do have a sweet seat, so hopefully there won't be the sound problems that there were when I saw Wicked.

I go camping in about 3 weeks, and I can't wait.  I'm so exhausted, and all I want to do is cook food outdoors, eat it, and take naps in my hammock.  I might rent a canoe and paddle around the lake while I'm there, too.  I have always enjoyed canoeing, though most of my experience is on rivers rather than lakes.

When I return from camping, I train a new GM, then I go to St. Louis to facilitate another classroom style training session.  I'd better get cracking on preparations.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Black Like Me?

I was called a n***er yestserday several times by a very unpleasant man in my store.  Of course, as soon as he saw he had an audience, he proceeded to repeat that several times, continue on to call me a fat bitch, use the f-word multiple times, and generally behave in a completely inappropriate manner.

My response to these folks is always the same.  I tell them their behavior is inappropriate and they must leave.  Then I take a step towards them and they take a step back.  They shout some more, call me more names, then I repeat what I said and take another step, and so on and so forth until they are out the vestibule doors.  They usually don't even realize what I'm doing while I step forward and make them step back.  

This guy caught on after about 3 steps, and he planted himself and dared me to make him leave.  By this time, four of my male employees had run up to the front to help me out.  Bless their hearts, I love those guys--in a totally work-appropriate and non-harassing way--for coming to my rescue.  I walked away and let my gentlemen handle it.  The guy soon left, but was shortly thereafter seen trying to make cars stop on the 6-lane road in front of the store so that he could cross to the other side in the middle of the block.

And the punchline for this non-joke is that the mean nasty man was African-American, and I'm not.  So I ask you, dear readers, am I supposed to be offended by his calling me the n-word, or shall I just continue to laugh at him inside my head for his obvious oversight of my whiteness?

Please advise.

Also, I'll post more State Fair stuff soon.




Wednesday, October 01, 2008

State Fair---The Food, Part I

Today I went to the Texas State Fair.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  The weather ranged from sunny and warm, to sunnier and hot, though it was never terribly hot.  I preparedly had put on sun screen and wore sunglasses and a straw cowboy hat, all of which helped save the day.  

I had started planning for this excursion with the intention of sampling all eight 2008 Big Tex Choice Awards Finalists in the food category.  Last night I printed a map of the fairgrounds with big red dots and numbers where those foods are located.

I met my friends in the parking garage of my old store, then drove us all the 2.7 miles to the fairgrounds.  After a quick entry to the parking area and a short wait in line at security, we were in!  All the fair was before us, and it wasn't even 10:30 in the morning yet.  

Most of the food vendors weren't open, but we all were very hungry, arriving at the fair knowing we would want to eat a lot.  I bought $40 worth of coupons, telling myself that I was going to eat until I burst.  We checked out Big Tex (more on him tomorrow), and walked around a bit until we found a Fletcher's Corny Dog stand.  See my beautiful, smokin' hot corny dog and Dr. Pepper below.

We sat for a short while and finished our corny dogs.  Then one of my friends had a conference call to be on, so my other friend and I moseyed around the Cotton Bowl (picture tomorrow) in search of the food item I was most excited about....CHICKEN FRIED BACON!!!  We found the stand and waited in line for about 5 minutes to get some which we then brought back to our other friend.  See below for my catch.
I have to say that I was bitterly disappointed in the chicken fried bacon.  All that hype with nothing to substantiate it.  It really didn't have any kind of taste.  A healthy dose of cracked black pepper and some salt on the bacon before frying it would have worked wonders.  Oh well.  For a short while the breeze gently blew bitter disappointment at me.
After visiting some of the buildings and exhibits (again, more on that later), I found the Fire & Ice stand.  I'm all for deep fried pineapple ice cream, but as you can see above, there wasn't any ice cream to be found.  Instead the 'dish' consisted of battered and fried pineapple chunks covered with strawberry sauce, whipped cream, and powdered sugar.  I had a couple, shared with my friends, then promptly threw it all in an obliging garbage can.  

Curses!  The State Fair food gods are conspiring against me.  How can it be that 2 out of 3 dishes thus far were sub-par?  Is it possible that I am too picky?  Have I too much of a refined palate?  Read on, o excitedly drooling one, read on... 

Up next is a delicious little creation known as Fernie's All-American Fried Grilled Cheese Sandwich.  We waited in another longish line, though not too long.  Forget the tomato soup dip (yuck!), just sprinkle a bit o salt on these tasty sandwich bits, and you've found grilled cheese mecca.  This was, by far, my favorite food item of the fair.
Now, if you pair that with a traditional funnel cake (after all, who doesn't like fried batter topped with powdered sugar?), and what we have here is a complete fair meal that covers the two main fair foodgroups:  fried and sugary.  Boy howdy, we finished off all of the sandwich and all of the funnel cake, youbetcha.

And that brings Food--Part I to a close, my dear readers.  Stay tuned for tomorrow's installment of Food--Part II whereupon I go in search of Fried Chocolate Truffles and Jelly Bellys and run screaming from the creepiness that is Big Tex.

Until then, remember to get yer friendly on.
Good hair to you.