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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Selling Season

Did you know that there is a "season" for schools and organizations to sell stuff? At least this is a theory I have recently created. Sunday at Church I bought tickets to a spaghetti supper to support a local high school band, then I ordered about $40 worth of Blue and Gold sausage products to support choir (I think--it also could have been FFA, which makes more sense). Yesterday at the football game I bought tickets to a hamburger fry supporting a local Christian elementary school. I'm not sure when the 4H bean supper takes place, but I'm expecting a knock on my door for that one, too.

The hamburger fry salesgirl was my favorite so far. I would guess that she is about a fifth grader, and had curly, blond pigtails. You can't say no to a fifth grader with curly, blond pigtails. She had also practiced her speech. She came up to us, told us who she is (don't worry, I already knew her, I'm sure she knows about stranger danger), where she goes to school, what she is selling, what it cost, and what it supports. It was a very good speech. It met all my requirements for buying stuff.

I have stringent requirements for buying stuff:

  1. You have to come to me. Sorry, I don't go around tapping on shoulders, anxiously awaiting my turn to buy an overpriced candle. The only exception to this rule is Blue and Gold sausage (however my Blue and Gold salesgirl followed my rules), assorted Gold Discount Cards, and Girl Scout cookies. I very much appreciate having all of those items.
  2. You have to tell me why you are trying to sell me stuff. I want to know what it is, what I'm supporting, and how much it costs.
  3. Being cute helps, but isn't an absolute requirement. It will probably supplement any deficiencies in other areas. But there is an age limit on cute. Cute will only get you through elementary school, then you're on your own!

If you meet these requirements, I will buy just about anything. It's just a good thing I live in the middle of nowhere, because I'm a sucker when it comes to little kids trying to sell stuff. I remember having to pedal my bicycle door-to-door and I absolutely hated it. I have sympathy for the poor things who are stuck doing it now. And who am I kidding? I'm a huge pushover. You could probably break all of my rules and still convince me to buy something. But don't try right now! I ran out of checks after the hamburger fry. New ones should be delivered in approximately 10 days.

Oh! And if you live in this area, are the type to tap on shoulders to buy stuff, and actually want to buy any of the stuff I mentioned, let me know. All of the girls who sold me stuff are great girls, and fully deserving of a referral. I will send them your way!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

San Antonio Trip

Late Saturday night I returned from a weeklong trip to San Antonio, where a co-worker and I attended the ASBDC national conference. I stayed at the Hilton Palacio Del Rio Hotel, which is right on the Riverwalk and I had a nice view from my room. In this picture you can see a tiny bit of the river in the bottom righthand corner.


The rooms at the Hilton are spacious and comfortable, and I certainly couldn't complain about the lovely little balcony where, in the evenings when it wasn't a million degrees and a thousand percent humidity, I could sit and enjoy the view and listen to the sounds from the Riverwalk activity below.


On the day we arrived, I took a nice stroll along the riverwalk. There are areas of constant activity where you will find various restaurants and stores, and there are also peaceful areas like this where you can have a quiet stroll with an occasional cool breeze.


Since we didn't have to attend meetings on the first day, Sebastian and I enjoyed lunch on the Riverwalk, then walked a few blocks to the Alamo.


The Alamo is in the middle of downtown San Antonio, so it looks tiny compared to all of the commercial structures around it.


That evening, we ate dinner at Schilo's Delicatessen, a cute little German cafe around the corner from our hotel. Apparently they are famous for their split pea soup. I had a sandwich and a cup of the soup and I was impressed. I had enough sandwich leftover for lunch the next day (see the little to-go bag in my hand) and I think this was the least expensive meal I ate in San Antonio!


When I checked into my hotel on Tuesday, I noticed that my room was fairly warm, but I just assumed it was because San Antonio is, well, warm. Apparently not, though. On Wednesday I returned to my room at lunchtime and found my room to be pretty hot, with a big wet patch on the carpet under the return air vent. I called the front desk to let them know there might be a problem with the air conditioner, but told them it wasn't an emergency. I just suggested that they send someone up to check it out sometime during the afternoon.

The lady I spoke to said that they were aware of the problem and had already sent a maintenance person up to take care of it, but since it didn't seem to be fixed, she offered to move me to a different room. I thought that sounded fine, so I spoke to the front desk manager who fixed me right up and even offered me a free dinner in the hotel restaurant. Well, I was certainly pleased about that! Even better, when I returned to my room that night, I found that the hotel staff had left me a little treat for the inconvenience! Overall, I would say their customer service was excellent. Not only did they solve problems promptly, but their staff was otherwise friendly and helpful for the entire week.

I really enjoyed the fruit and cheese. I don't like wine, but I did drink ice water out of the nice glasses! I didn't want the bottle to go to waste, so I brought it home for a special occasion. For now, it's sitting on top of my refrigerator looking pretty.


Our conference ended on Friday evening and Sebastian and I were a bit overdressed for the casual "Taste of Texas" closing reception. Sebastian took off his tie when he arrived and saw that we misunderstood the dress code. Here we are in our fancy duds, when many others were dressed in jeans. Notice the wine glass in my hand. Remember how I said I don't like wine? Sebastian had gotten a glass for himself and his date, who hadn't arrived yet, so he wouldn't have to wait in line again when she got there. I held it for him so he wouldn't look like a lush in the photos. Don't we look fancy?


On Saturday morning we had some free time before we had to head to the airport for our return flight. We decided to visit another of San Antonio's five historical missions, Mission San Jose. We walked a few blocks to the right bus stop, then waited in the sun until Bus 42 finally arrived. It was worth the wait. This mission is much larger than the Alamo; it's actually the largest of the five. 230 years ago, Mission San Jose was a major social and cultural center known as "Queen of the Missions." According to the educational video shown in the visitor center, this community became home to about 350 new Christians, who eventually became part of the cultural group now known as Tejano.


Sebastian and I had a great trip. We learned a lot at our conference and enjoyed visiting San Antonio. I was so ready to come home by Saturday, though!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Winner: Cookie Dough!

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that the cookie dough claimed victory over jogging last night. But I'm not too embarrassed, considering it wasn't exactly a fair battle. You have to take a bite of cookie dough when it summons you from the refrigerator. Well, actually you have to dig out an entire chunk and sit in front of the tv in your underwear watching Cake Wars while you eat your chunk of cookie dough. I'm pretty sure you can even give it the credit for curing my Monday Headache.

The football game was a bit of a dud. The only points the home team scored were for the opposite team. Yup, that's right, a poor kid ran the wrong direction. It was a super good play, though! The ball bounced out of the other team's hands, little #7 caught it, and ran for the end zone. Unfortunately he should have ran the other way. And to give him credit, it's not like that was the play that lost the game. Three little points (at least I think that's what they get for a "safety") weren't going to make a difference in a game with a score of 32-0.

And who really cares about a football game when you get a delicious concession stand cheeseburger and brownie? That was the best part. Now I'm hungry for a concession stand cheeseburger. I wonder when the next game is...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Jogging Vs. Cookie Dough

Some days were just meant to be spent on the couch. Chocolate, popcorn, cheese, cookie dough, and Dr. Pepper within reach would be a super awesome bonus. Today is one of those days. Not that it has been particularly bad, or even worse then normal. It has just been a Monday. Mondays give me headaches.

This evening I need to do three things:

  1. Go to a junior high football game (non-negotiable, unless this headache takes a turn for the worse).
  2. Go for a jog--I haven't even put on my running shoes in four days, yet I'm supposed to participate in a 5k in less than two weeks.
  3. Sit on the couch and eat cookie dough.

Since #1 is non-negotiable, time constraints force me to make a big decision regarding #2 and #3. Going for a jog has mostly long-term benefits, such as helping prepare me to not look stupid in front of a ton of people by passing out in the middle of a 5k. Eating cookie dough has immediate benefits, such as a happy belly and the likely usage of relaxy pants.

When given the choice between jogging and cookie dough, which would you choose?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cutest Food EVER

I'm the first one to make fun of the blogs that do step-by-step instructions on how to cook things. You can see here, that I generally think these are very silly. However these little pies are worth looking silly. They are so stinkin' easy! And even more stinkin' adorable! And you need to go buy some pie crusts today so you can make some, too! My favorite part of them is that the fanciest piece of kitchen equipment you need is a muffin pan. I'm sure you could be fancier if you wanted, but I tend to like to take the easy route.


You start by punching circles out of a pre-made pie crust. As you can see here, I'm not cool enough to own a round cookie cutter, so I used a plastic cup. My plastic cup turned out to be the perfect size to fit into my muffin pan.

If you're resourceful, you should be able to get six circles out of one pie crust. You have to use the scraps to patch parts, but you can do it! I'm too cheap to buy extra pie crusts. I punched little fork holes in the section that would go face-down in the muffin pan. Pie crust bubbles scare me. I go to great efforts to prevent them.

Next, you squish the pie crusts into the pan, then go crazy punching holes all over the crusts, even on the sides. This prevents bubbles. And I am fully against anything that limits space for pie filling. For the sake of all things yummy, please poke lots of holes in your pie crusts!

Don't they already look perfect and adorable when they are just out of the oven. But wait! It gets better!

They flip out of the pan just perfectly. But the cuteness hasn't ended!

Don't you wish you could eat a mini pie crust right now? They are pretty much the cutest thing I have ever made. And this includes all those sickeningly adorable Mother's Day cards we made in elementary school.

I filled my mini pie crusts with delicious chocolate pie. Mini pie crusts look even more adorable when you surround them with mini things. Such as my adorable little Fiesta fruit bowl, or a little chunk of a Hershey bar.

I can't wait to experiment with my mini pie crusts. Pumpkin pies might be next. And then possibly chicken pot pie. You could even use them for a little taco salad! I need more muffin pans!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Pre-Wedding Festivities

This has been a very busy couple of weeks! Last Saturday, we had the guitar shenanigans with Blondie and then on Sunday there was a pot-luck lunch and shower in our honor at his church. This weekend Julie and Sarah had a personal shower and luncheon for me at Julie's house, then on Sunday there was a shower for Blondie and me at my church. The following is a photographic timeline of the past couple weeks' events.

Blondie's new guitar:


On the same day as Blondie received his guitar, his family thought I should get a present too. Blondie and I will actually both use it, but they must have known he would nave never picked out paisley bedding! His parents gave us this lovely brown and turquoise paisley comforter set and his siblings gave us the pillows and curtains to go with the bedding:


This is the two of us at one of our wedding showers:

Some of our favorite gifts included an engraved Bible from my parents:


A very attractively wrapped Fiesta place setting from Julie. We registered for various colors of Fiesta dinnerware and so far we have received several pieces: Scarlet from Blondie's grandma, Tangerine from Julie, Sunflower from my boss, Shamrock from my parents, and Cobalt from my granny.


A handy tool set from Blondie's grandpa:


A handmade doily from Blondie's grandma:


A very sweet scrapbook of our California Adventure from Carina:


Men are invited to the pot luck showers at Blondie's church. I'm pretty sure they would rather eat a bologna sandwich at home than have to sit through a shower, but they're good sports. Here's a photo of two of Blondie's uncles, and his cousin Art, wondering when the festivities will draw to a close.


This Saturday Julie and Sarah hosted a very sweet personal shower and luncheon for me at Julie's house. Here's a picture of the cute decorations they used for the tables. Julie's house is perfect for an event like this. She rearranged her living room to make room for several card tables and it looked super cute.


Here are my friends playing one of the fun games Sarah created. She used wedding-related words to create game cards to replace the regular Apples-to-Apples cards, then we used the actual Apples-to-Apples cards to match up. I got to choose the card I thought best related to the wedding card and the first player to collect seven wedding cards won. It was lots of fun!


Here's a photo of me with my gifts before they were opened. I can't post an after picture here. I wouldn't be embarrassed, but some of the party guests might be! I received some very tasteful honeymoon attire...and some not so tasteful items as well.


All of these pre-wedding festivities have been so much fun and I would like to thank everyone who has played a part in making all of these events so memorable!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blondie's Big Surprise

I have been planning a very special surprise for Blondie for quite a while! Back in the spring when we were attending basketball games out of town, we would try to find things to do in the towns where we went to watch games. One of the towns where several of the games were held is a town I visit frequently for work and I knew they had a music store Blondie would enjoy. The first time we went there, Blondie found a very special guitar that he loved to play. We visited the store a couple times together, and Blondie even went once by himself to play that guitar. It was too expensive for him to even consider buying, but he did like it enough that he always asked to play it when we went there.

That is why I decided it would make the perfect wedding gift for him. I couldn't remember exactly how much it cost, but I figured I could swing it. I went to the store one day with lots of hundred dollar bills in my purse and found that the number of hundred dollars in my purse and the number of hundred dollars on the price tag were pretty far apart. I knew the employee I was talking to didn't have the power to negotiate that much, but I asked him what he thought the bottom dollar price would be, and he gave me a ballpark figure. I decided I would have to bring more money next time.

Then, I had a better idea. Blondie's parents wanted to get him something very special as a wedding gift, so I asked them if they would like to help me give him this special guitar. This definitely qualified in the "special" category. This guitar is a one-of-a-kind piece made by Breedlove for an industry conference in 2009. It is a Revival Series OM Deluxe with a Redwood top and Ziricote back and sides. Blondie's parents liked the idea, and his brother also chipped in, so the next time I went to the store, I had more hundred dollar bills.

I needed to make a trip to this town for work, so when I scheduled my trip, I called the music store to make sure the owner would be there to talk to me. I called several times and never could reach him, but was repeatedly assured that he would be there. Fortunately, when I went in that day, he was there! We talked about the guitar and agreed on a price, which was even a little less than I was prepared to pay. It felt good to be able to give Blondie's parents some of their money back. I felt like I was being a good steward of their resources...well, as good of a steward as one can be when spending hundred dollar bills on frivolous musical instruments.

We planned the big surprise very carefully. We let Blondie think it was his idea to invite the whole family over for dinner on Saturday night. His dad traditionally creates a scavenger hunt for gifts, so he wrote some very clever riddles which led Blondie to his new guitar. Blondie acted very annoyed that we had set him up with this silly scavenger hunt, but he secretly loved it. He finally found his fancy new guitar in his new computer/music room, which I had recently painted just for him.

I had been planning to let him find the guitar in there all along, so I had asked him not to look in that room until I was finished painting. I told him I wanted it to be a surprise. I figured he would be really surprised when he found a new guitar in addition to the new paint job. He didn't know that I had actually finished with the project a few days before, so he wasn't sure if he was allowed to go in there!

I was relieved that no one spilled the beans about the surprise before it happened and we were actually able to pull it off! He says he loves the guitar, which makes me very happy. He told me he was really glad we had given it to him now, rather than 25 years from now, because it will "season" over time and aged guitars sound better than new ones.



Thursday, September 9, 2010

Lunch

How many of my readers work in an office? How many eat lunch at work?

I have been eating lunch in my office a lot lately and it's beginning to wear me out. Our office manager goes to lunch at 11:00, so she and I are the only people here during the typical lunch hour. That is a common time for people to drop by or call, so if I'm here, she thinks I'm available to take calls or see clients. Unfortunately, in my experience, those clients are usually the biggest time wasters. A couple weeks ago, I had someone call and spend my lunch hour talking to me about stuff I didn't care about, then schedule an appointment for after work later this week. Did I mention that I'm an exempt employee and all of this lunchtime work and after 5:00 work is uncompensated?!

One day I had had two students come in looking for jobs (the day before, I only had one). I have no authority to hire anyone! I do not want a copy of your transcript. I want you to apply online like everyone else. But please wait until there's an actual job posted.

Yesterday I had clients during lunch, yet again. Except this time I hadn't brought my lunch. By the time I was able to leave at 2:00, my boss interrupted that plan by asking me to teach one of our students how to create a specific type of report. I was just standing in the students' office doorway talking to them when he came in, and I think he viewed my casual visiting with them as slacking off, so he wasn't really concerned with my schedule. I didn't appear to be doing anything important, so I must be available to take on this task. Fortunately, I had eaten breakfast, so I wasn't dying.

Having to work while I'm technically at lunch is the main reason I hate bringing my lunch; I don't get a break all day. I don't mean to complain because I don't do anything really demanding all day, but it does get tedious when I'm doing it for 9 hours straight. I have decided that it really is beneficial to actually leave the office during lunch time. I don't need a whole hour, and rarely take that much time even when I do leave, but I do need to actually leave the building in order to get some peace and quiet away from my desk.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adventures With Lucy

Lucy and I are fairly well-set into our jogging habit. It's a pretty good way to kill thirty minutes after work. And Lucy really enjoys a good opportunity to sniff things outside of her yard.

Last week we set off on a perfectly sunny day for our jog. We had safely gone 1 1/2 miles and were about 3/4 of a mile away from home when the wind started to blow. It wasn't just a regular Oklahoma wind either. It was like a storm without the rain (there was even a tiny bit of lightning). You could feel the cold front come in and dirt was hanging in the air.

Lucy and I stood there and considered our options. We have a friend that lives pretty close to where I was--definitely an easy jog. I could go knock on her door and beg for shelter. Since the dust storm wasn't really scary, mostly just inconvenient and uncomfortable, my other option was just to be brave and try to get home as quickly as I could.

I didn't even have a chance to weigh my options before my hero in a maroon Chevy pulled up behind me. One of our neighbors saw the storm heading in (I'm not sure how--it must be that veteran farmer's eye for storm clouds) and decided to get off his tractor and head home. He was driving past the corner and saw me standing there in a cloud of dust. We loaded Lucy in the back of the pickup and he dropped us off by the door.

I'm so glad to live in a small town where neighbors act neighborly and help each other. They will even let you load your dog up in the back of their pickup so she won't have to walk home in the storm alone. That would be sad and lonely and she would probably hate me forever if I abandoned her in a storm.


When I got home I took a photo of the dust storm. You can see my friend's house along the horizon. I was a little past it in the other direction when the dust starting flying. I was picking dirt out of my ears for days after that. That maroon Chevy was a welcome sight!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Going Into Business

I had a newspaper reporter email me recently to ask if he could write a column about my work. I thought that sounded pretty interesting, so I obliged. I work for the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center. We see a lot of clients who are thinking about starting a business and don't quite know what to do to get started, as well as a lot of well established businesses who are growing or diversifying or just want some general advice. I can't say much about my clients, because we keep things confidential here, but I can tell you what I do for them!

When I meet with a client who wants to start a new business, I generally discuss all of the basic things one needs to do when considering going into business. We start with legal structure, discussing all of the pros and cons of each. Then I explain how to get a Federal Employer Identification Number, we talk about whether or not the client needs to register a trade name and get a sales tax permit, and what to do when hiring employees. Some businesses require a license or a permit, so depending on the industry we might discuss that as well. I also talk about insurance and credit cards.

Most small businesses need financing to get started, so that is almost always our next step. We talk about the importance of a well written business plan and discuss the client’s financial goals and projections. Many times, this is the first experience a client has had with business planning, so we go through the topics that should be covered and talk about what lenders are looking for.

If a client is already in business, the possibilities are limitless! Since I work with clients on an individual basis, I can tailor my services to suit their needs. Our organization helps lots of successful clients obtain financing for growth and expansion, and we have also helped some clients get out of business. We do everything from advising individual clients on strategic business decisions to conducting market and financial research to marketing assistance with graphic design services.

That's it in a nutshell!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Evil Tortillas

C. is a volunteer firefighter, and went to two fires Tuesday. This caused him to get home pretty late, so I wanted to make something quick for supper. Quesadillas! Last time I bought groceries I was very excited to find tortillas for 69 cents.


Warning: don't buy tortillas for 69 cents. Specifically, don't buy these tortillas at all.



You will end up becoming quickly frustrated with your inability to separate a single tortilla from the stack.



You might even throw a hissy fit and tortillas could end up on the floor. Your husband will come in the door and laugh at you because there are tortillas in the floor instead of in a pan.

The tortillas that do not get thrown in the floor will end up in the trash.

You will eventually have to throw the floor tortillas in the trash and get the Dust Buster out for the crumbs. But it is incredibly satisfying to throw the deformed tortillas in the floor as you are doing it.




Eventually, you might be able to separate one that is good enough to make a delicious, cheesy quesadilla. You will be so excited about the cheesy goodness that you can't stand still long enough to take a clear photo. Not that most people take photos of their quesadillas.

Sadly, since you were only able to wrangle one tortilla out of the stack, your husband will have to eat chicken nuggets and Fritos instead.


One thing that aways comes through: Dr. Pepper. It will never disappoint you. It will never refuse you its sweet deliciousness. It is always kind. It is always good.

The moral of this story is this: Just because a package of tortillas is 69 cents does not make it a good deal. I basically spent 69 cents on one tortilla (the rest really did end up in the trash). Next time I'm blowing an extra 50 cents on the name brand tortillas. Maybe I will get more than one tortilla out of that package! There will be quesadillas for everyone!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

September

September is shaping up to be a busy month! It is September 2 and I have already seen three new clients. That's pretty unusual. One of my clients is really fun, though! He's from New Zealand and I just like listening to him talk. That works out fine, because he's pretty chatty. Yesterday as he left my office, he called me "mate." I'm pretty sure that means we're friends, right? According to Blondie's wise and well traveled aunt, though, it just means he acknowledges that I'm not an inanimate object. Whatever. We're buddies. I just know it.

This weekend my cousin has organized a fantastic family picnic for the entire extended family. She's such a kind soul. Trying to organize our family to do anything is like trying to herd cats. She sent out an email to the entire group, asking people to "reply all" with the item they planned to contribute to the picnic so everyone would receive it and know what had already been offered. Easy, right? One would think so.

I'm the worst of them all. I thought, "I'll be really nice and email her and tell her that I can just bring whatever no one else volunteers to bring." Unfortunately, that's what everyone else does, which results in no one volunteering to bring anything! We just wait for someone else to make a decision so we don't have to. Not cool. So, I told her I would bring some baked beans and drinks.

In other news, the wedding invitations are going out today! Over the past week I have written all of the addresses, I double checked my list, and I probably still forgot someone. Yesterday I sealed and stamped all of the envelopes and today I'm taking them to the post office. It's a big deal. I did not use fancy stamps on the wedding invitations. I had a whole roll of regular old American flag stamps and I used those instead. I decided that no one cares if their invitation arrives stamped with LOVE. If you do care, you probably have way too much free time and you should have come and helped me write addresses and seal envelopes.