Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Knife Sharpening - Colorado Style

I meant to drop my knives off before I left for California. Really! I did! The last time I got them sharpened was in summer of 2007, and they've needed a resharpening for a while now! Unfortunately, the knife sharpening place at our local mall (complete with a staff sporting mohawks and *a lot* of piercings) closed in early 2008. Every other local place I've looked into (read - not Denver) requires leaving your knives with them for a week! Not over night. Not even two nights. But an entire week! I cook almost every day. Not having my knives for a week is a handicap. Hence, wanting to drop them off before I left for my parent's house.

Fast forward to the present time. Brian's gone all week, and I don't do much cooking when he's gone. I meant to drop the knives off in Boulder on Friday when I was there, and forgot yet again (!!!). Guess I'm not in the habit of carrying my knives with me when I head into town. I was talking to a neighbor about dropping my knives off a for a week, and how I couldn't remember, and he mentioned some guy out in Lafayette who sharpens knives. Although my neighbor hadn't used him, he came highly recommended. So yesterday I made the call. Today after Bible study I drove out to his farm.

Yes.... his farm.

He'd given me good directions, like "after turning on ______ road, just keep on driving until it ends, " and "after you get there, just wander around 'til you find me." After driving to what seemed like the middle of Colorado, I found him. Here, in this setting.........

Here was the view on the other side of all those luscious trees..

I wandered around until I found him out by one of the barns, repairing the engine on his riding mower. His wife was hacking at the weeds with what looked like a machete. Our expert jack of all trades sharpened most of the knives in his mobile sharpening van (which I found out he takes to the Boulder Farmer's Market on the weekends), while doing the serrated edged knives on a different piece of equipment in the barn.

I felt like I'd entered some sort of alternate, "Good Eats" universe. There I was, in the country, getting my knives expertly sharpened on different grinding stones, while my kids played on the farm. The trees overhead were old and lush, a rare gem anywhere in Colorado, but even more so on the plains. Clouds drifted by overhead, and in the distance one could still see snow on the higher Rocky Mountain peaks. I talked with the knife sharpener's wife while the kids chased dragonflies out by the pond and played in the trees. It's almost like I was leading someone else's life. To top it all off, all 7 of my knives were done in just over half an hour, and the cost was only $30. Can't beat that! Now even my straight edged knives will cut through a tomato with no problems at all. Maybe I'll broil some tomatoes with pesto sauce out on the grill tonight.

The downsides of heading out the farm for knife sharpening -- bugs and dirt. Caitlin got a bug bite on her face, and her cheek is swollen. The poor girl's a bug magnet - and a sensitive one at that. The kids are also quite filthy! They had a blast, but the amount of dirt they attracted in the short period of time we were there was massive. They had fun on the tractors and chasing the dragonflies. Good thing they're due for a bath tonight.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Positive Vibes

I saw this article in Sunday's Boulder Daily Camera:

Positive Vibes Sent to Gulf Shore Coast

"It began and ended with the ringing of a bell.

In between, 32 people -- mostly strangers -- linked hands on the shores of Boulder Reservoir and sent their most positive thoughts 1,400 miles to the southeast, where oil continued to wash up on beaches of the Gulf Coast....

"I was so inspired by people coming together with positive intentions focused on the water," said Katerina Seas, who helped organize the gathering via e-mail, Facebook, and word of mouth just 10 days ago. [...]"

Seriously? Positive Vibes? What does that mean, exactly? Acquaintances on Facebook ask for it. People I know who term themselves "spiritual" people (but are very secular) both send and receive these positive vibes. And now it's in the paper. So, what are "positive vibes" to these people? Is it the equivalent of prayer? Sound waves? Is their intentional thinking about the gulf coast going to solve the problem? Will the vibes travel from here to there and make the people and animals of the gulf happy? I've had very intentional thoughts about losing weight, but so far I haven't had any luck. Without God to move the mountains, they aren't moving, people!

I'm all for standing in solidarity with the affected communities. I have nothing against vigils or outpourings of support. But to think that this will help....? I can't imagine that send these vibes did any good whatsoever. A few people drove some distance to get to this gathering. Their money, I'm sure, could have been put to better use had they donated it to a gulf relief fund.

Good luck with your vibes. For the sake of the gulf, I do hope they work. Those people and animals could use some good luck. As for me, I'll continue to use prayer as my medium. I know it's being heard, and can be answered.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Checking Out

Dear King Soopers -
I don't normally write letters to stores. In fact, I've never written to a store (and it's not likely this letter will ever reach you). But seriously, King Soopers, you need another check-out alternative. The choices of having the cashier scan the items in your basket or using the self-check line are just not cutting it! It's been a few weeks since I shopped at your store. It's near my daughter's preschool and not near my house, so I shop there when school's in session. Today was a special preschool camp, so I headed over to your store with a happy heart this morning. I like your store. I like your produce. I like your natural and organic food aisles. I like your sales (was there too much emphasis there?). Unlike Safeway, which is nearby, it's your sales that are very heavily documented in all the couponing blogs in Colorado. So I shop at your store.

But I digress......this is a post about checking out.

With a happy heart I headed to your store today. At 8:30 in the morning. Not a heavy shopping time, based on my experience. But you wouldn't know that at your store. I shopped for a mere 15 minutes, and then spent the same amount of time at the check-out! Out of necessity, I used the self-check line. The only 2 cashiers in the front had lines of 3 or more people with full carts. No loss, as the cashiers are slow as molasses. Maybe slower. I've taken to mental head banging to pass the time. The self-check lines are only marginally faster. The machines are slow. There must be magical, specific ways to operate them which only fairies know, because I can't figure them out. I don't have this problem at other stores. But at your store, and only your store, the cashier overseeing the machines must come and assist me. Eventually. Mostly with words like "you can't scan it that way", and "why did you bring your own bags?"

I realize that this cashier situation is a state-wide problem. I've struggled with not screaming or tearing my hair out at grocery stores since I moved here (and I come from a state with 36 million more people!). I worked as a cashier for many years, and speed and accuracy were pounded into my skull early on. You had to be fast and accurate, or you didn't last. Not so here. Being quick is not required. At all. I have been late to pick up my daughter from school after being in line to check-out for 20 minutes with only one person in front of me (who did not, by the way, have an over flowing cart). My daughter's school is only 1 mile away. Being late never should have happened. I have left partially full carts and walked out because it was obvious that the 20 minutes I allotted myself for checking out was not enough. The invention of the wonderful self-check machine means that there are never enough cashiers at the stores that employ them. One local big box store near my house has 24 cash registers, with only 2 or 3 ever open during the weekdays. They sometimes get crazy, and open up to 6 (gasp! 6!) on the weekends. I'm not sure why they have so many. The main reason I make returns at another nationwide chain (besides things falling apart upon opening the package) is because I'm routinely charged twice for the same item. I don't shop there much anymore. Fast and accurate? Not longer necessary.

With a sad heart, I left your store. Yes, I will shop there again because your sales are good. But I will also visit other local stores. Stores that understand that while their customers must stand in line to pay for their items, they don't want that to be half of their time spent in their store.

Nothing for Lunch

Caitlin had her first day of day camp at her preschool today. This is the third time I've set my alarm for a weekday wake-up in 3 weeks! So nice. I packed her a sandwich and some Teddy Grahams. I had just enough left for a snack.

When I picked her up this afternoon, she gave me a funny look and said she didn't eat her lunch. And was quick to add that she didn't want to, either (she has to eat it at home if she doesn't eat it at school). She didn't like her sandwich, and she didn't like her Cheetos. Cheetos? I looked down at her lunch box, and noticed immediately that it wasn't hers. Even though it's the same kind, down to the smaller details, this one was more worn, and didn't have her name on. I opened it up to find food that wasn't from our house. A quick trip back inside the preschool got the right lunch box back, but all the lunch was gone. One of the teachers did think it was funny when the other girl got soooo excited about the Teddy Grahams! Stuff like that is often forbidden in lunches in Boulder. I'm only partially kidding.

On the way home Caitlin proceeded to tell me about her horrible wrong lunch, and how it had a salami and cheese sandwich on buttered bread. It must have been terribly disgusting for her, since she wrinkled up her nose the whole time she told me about it. The Cheetos must have been some sort of healthy alternative, since Caitlin has never once turned her nose up at Cheetos. Or any chip, for that matter. She's never snubbed the healthy alternatives, either, so who knows what those icky Cheetos were made of! The teachers were extremely sorry that this happened, so I'm sure she'll get her correct lunch tomorrow. Caitlin requested her favorite lunch of pickles, cheese and crackers, plus grapes, when we got home. All is well in Caitlin's world.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How Tired Am I?

After an early morning, two flights, and a 3 hour layover in LAX, I'm standing in the bathroom brushing my teeth. But instead of brushing my teeth, I'm waiting for the electric toothbrush to start up. It's never going to start up, being that it's in Colorado and I'm in California, and have a regular, manual toothbrush in my mouth. I've now realized it's not going to brush my teeth unless I move it. I've been up for over 18 hours, and I'm tired.

How tired am I? I forgot to push the "publish" button for a few days.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Chilly Reception

Due to impending thunderstorms and our predicted 55 degrees and raining weekend, going to the outdoor swimming pool (our usual hangout) was out of the question today. I asked the kids what fun thing we should do on this chilly day (it's not even 65 degrees currently), and the vote was to head out to Chick-Fil-A for lunch. It was wildly crowded at CFA when we got there. More so than any day, even a Saturday, that I've seen. We did manage to get the last spot in the overflow parking lot, though!

Once inside, the kids went to the play area while I ordered. A few minutes later, they came back to tell me they'd secured a table, and also to tell me that one of my friends said hi to them. We do live in a very small town, so it's not unusual to see someone I know when I'm out and about. I scanned the area, but didn't see anyone I knew. A few minutes later I saw someone I use to know emerge from the play area. She was part of a MOPS group I use belonged to, but I haven't seen her for about a year. She was gathering up her kids to go, so I went over to say a quick "hi" before she left. I mean, she already knew I was there, so I didn't want to be rude! She was sweet, we talked for a few minutes about our growing kids (her littlest was only 6 months old last time I saw him). Her best friend, who had been the leader of our MOPS group, was there as well. Not to be rude, I also said "hi" to her friend.

Her response? Something akin to "Hurrumph!"

In her defense, she might have said "hi", or "hello". We were in a loud, crazy restaurant. However, it came out as if she was a crotchety old man in a sitcom who wasn't happy that the teenagers came home.

I should have been offended, I guess, but instead I was amused. I tried not to laugh out loud at her gruff response. Apparently I'm *not* her favorite person! It's funny, because she was exceptionally friendly and warm when I met her in early 2008. She made me feel welcomed when I visited her MOPS group. She asked me to be on steering and I accepted. That's when it all changed (cue up music from horror movies). We had our retreat and first meeting, and my opinion of her was never the same. She went from a warm and sweet woman to a rather blunt and tactless leader to our group. In unpublished posts, I described her as "rude and pushy". She was brusque and abrupt all the time. It got to the point that I could only handle in small doses. She was the reason I took my blog link off my Facebook page (when I got her friend request, which was a shock, I decided I really didn't want her to have that much access to how I feel). When Caitlin broke the car windshield with her head, thus making me late to our first steering meeting, she was mad at me for being late. Seriously? My daughter could have had a concussion, and she was angry I was late. A few months into it, I was mentally just done with that group. I wanted to quit early, and she was one the main reasons why. I had only committed for one year, so I did my one year and was out of there. I have never looked back, and I haven't missed it, either. I needed to leave for my own well-being. Honestly, I think I've just reached a point in my life where I'm unwilling to put up with people like her. With the exception of one person, the only reason I'm ever contacted by members of that group is for "purchasing events" (i.e. "Come to my Shaklee event - just to look at products! No presentation!" "Come to my Pampered Chef party!" "Come to my open house for the books I sell from home!" "Buy all your Christmas presents at our auction, bizarre!", "buy from me!", etc.) It was a long year, the year I was with that group of women. I call that my year of trying too hard.

I'm still laughing at her reaction. It did surprise me. I certainly don't hate the woman. She's usually very nice on a casual level. Her leadership skills, though, leave a lot to be desired. Although I had my own opinion about her and how she treated me, I'm not exactly sure what I did to her. Was I extremely transparent? Was she mad that I was late that one time? Maybe she was upset about my leaving her group? I'm not sure, but I won't be losing any sleep over it. Most of us can almost always be nice for short periods to someone we don't particularly like. We can smile, or say "hi". We can fake it. Guess she can't. What a chilly reception! In retrospect, my decision to leave that group was a good one. This whole area has a small-town feel, so I'm bound to run into to people from that group. And I'll still say hello and smile. But maybe I won't smile quite as big to her.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Play My Way!

I'm sitting in my front room, reading online about some local news in our town. I should be taking a shower, but the news is compelling so I haven't gotten that far yet. Brandon and Caitlin are painting rocks on the back porch. They're pretty happy. Our neighbor kid, Big J, came over about half an hour ago to play, which is fine with me. But he seems genuinely perplexed that Brandon and Caitlin are happily playing together, and don't want to do what he wants to do. I keep hearing "Hey, guys, I didn't come over here to play by myself. I came over to play {can't understand what he's saying here}."

As a person who is generally aggravated by loud people, I'm ready to send him home. But as mom, I'm holding my tongue, hoping they'll work it out. I'm curious about the outcome.

Brandon has made a few suggestions of what he wants to do, but his friend wants nothing to do with them. Instead, he wants to play in basement, which is already a disastrous mess from last night. Brandon and I spent a little less than an hour this morning cleaning up his Legos so he could use his train table for trains again. It was quite an undertaking, and it's no surprise to me that Brandon and Caitlin want to play with trains. But Big J destroys train tracks, and has destroyed all of Brandon's Lego creations. So I'm also not surprised Brandon doesn't want to play a game that involves trains and bombs.

Oh, the outcome has already played out. Big J has decided that he doesn't want to make rock bugs, play trains without bombs, or play the computer game (which is usually a huge hit). He's decided that he's leaving. Brandon's now very sad. I think his ego's hurt, so I should be a good mom and go comfort him.

Tuesday Evening Get Together

A month or two ago I though it would be a good idea to open our house over the summer on Tuesday evenings for our neighbors to come over. Nothing set, nothing formal, just bring your own meat/main course and something to share. We'll provide the house and the grill, so come when you can. It's not an original idea - some friends of ours back in California did this for a summer when Brandon was about a year and half. I can't remember if it had happened the previous year, or even happened the next summer, but I remember the summer we attended very well. Their house was uniquely set up for such a fun gathering. They had an L-shaped back yard with a pool at one end, and the rest of the back yard at the other. They had set pool times, and around 6:00 the pool was closed off, and everyone convened in the back yard for food. It was fun, and we went when we could.

Last night was the first night at our house.

It was fun. Two of my neighbors came over, along with another friend. In total we had 7 adults and 5 kids. We had our gas grill all fired up, and chairs everywhere. The kids were thrilled to have playmates over. Two other neighbors couldn't make it due to other commitments, but said that their families would be here next week. I'm sure we all ate too many chips, and my basement is a kid-game disaster, but it was worth it.

Community has been hard to come by in these here parts. I'm sure you're all tired of my rants, but it's been true. I met up with a friend of mine yesterday at our local pool, and she said the same thing. She's been here almost three years. We hardly ever get together because of her work schedule, but plan on doing more this summer while she's off. She was happy to gather up her family for a spur of the moment open grill night at my house. That's a nice feeling. Neither one of us has any great desire to hang out at home by ourselves, so this is a perfect way to combat that issue. Originally, I'd thought that opening up my house would be a fun way to get my neighbors together, but now I'm seeing it as an open house for other friends as well. I hope they can see this as a very informal way to hang out, eat, and share a fun time with others.

So, if you're reading this and you're in Colorado, feel free to come hang out next Tuesday evening at my place. The grill will be hot, the drinks will be cold, and the house is fairly childproof. See you here!