Thursday, April 22, 2010

What we've been up to...

Trying to spend more time alone in the mornings, getting up before the boys, has given me a bit of time to try to blog. I'm just doing a picture post for now. Here's what we've been up to:

Here's Sprout and Macaroni in the tub at Kate's house in NOLA. They were so cute. We went down for Kate & Eldon's housewarming/anniversary party. It was a crazy weekend, and Shawna and I decided that we might just have to move to New Orleans.

This is the chicken coop my father-in-law and I have been building in our backyard. It is built totally out of stuff I got out of alleys. I love spring blitz month in St. Louis! I know it's kinda crazy looking, but I love it. We don't have chickens yet, we are waiting to finish the coop and fence first, but we will be getting four Australopes. Sprout is so excited about the chickens.

I also painted the fence blue. Just because. Best comment I've gotten was from Shawna, who helped me paint. She said "It's like the freakin' Mediterranean out here!"
That's all for now, going to wake up the boys.

Thursday, April 08, 2010


photo by Emily Thenhaus

Sprout is three. I cannot believe how quickly this day came. I love being his mama.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Christmas knitting is coming along. I have three projects started and one finished, with maybe two more to go. We'll see. Most of the gifts I'm giving this year are homemade, of the edible variety and were canned this summer. I also have plans to bake about seven thousand cookies and to make use of the skills I learned in the candy making class I took with Gretchen. Hope you all are hungry.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Customer service: response

My friend Rachel recently blogged about a horrifying experience she had at a Fashion Bug store in Alton Mo. Here's the link, go read what happened to her. I'll wait, and we can continue afterwards.

That's disgusting, and I'm so sorry that Rachel got sick. What I cannot believe is that no one apologized to her. I've been working in customer service my entire life and the first thing you always do when there is an incident is apologize, no matter what happened. If you messed up, you apologize. If it was someone else's mistake, you apologize. If it was an act of God, you apologize. EVEN IF THE CUSTOMER IS AT FAULT you apologize. Common decency, people.

I am appalled that no one has called or contacted her after her letter. Those who know me, know that I am a great believer in writing letters to companies, both when I've had great service and when it's been crap. I like to think that taking the time to actually put something on paper, something people can see I took time to write makes an impression; and I usually get a response, even if it is a token form letter, but perhaps those days are over.

My sister has worked in clothing retail for the past six years and recently posted on her blog about the failings of customer service in retail stores of late. We both think that the corporate downsizing many of these companies have been doing to reduce their payroll has resulted in crappy service. When retail companies downsize the highest paid managers, those who train other employees, the business starts to show it.

I do a fair amount of hiring and training at my job, and one of the things I tell employees is to always say "I'm sorry." Even if it's not your fault, you apologize to the customer. Then you try to fix the problem, or find someone else who can, or even ask the customer, "Please tell me how I can make this a more positive experience for you."

The other thing that pisses me off about what happened to Rachel is that the clerk made a comment to the tune of "Well, I don't know how we are supposed to clean that!" This attitude falls into the category of "It's not my job, blame someone else." I HATE THIS ATTITUDE. It's my opinion that if you are working, if you are on the clock being paid, and something needs to be done, THEN IT IS YOUR JOB. Too many people refuse to take responsibility when something like this happens. Too many people want to do the minimum amount of work possible. I know that when you are making a crappy hourly wage, getting no benefits and having to deal with public in general, motivation is tough. But when a business offers great customer service, word gets around. I drive out of my way to the Old Navy by South County Mall because the sales associates in that store are friendly and helpful and always go above and beyond to find stuff for me.

I know how poorly paid retail positions can be, and I know that the hours are long and the job is often thankless, but I'm sick of managers (and district managers and so on up the corporate ladder) not giving a damn about how customers are treated in their stores. This is one of the major flaws of big businesses.

I don't want to get up on my soapbox about buying from small, independent locally-owned businesses, (because like Rachel said, she just wanted a long-sleeved t-shirt, and those are easiest to find at chain stores) but I've found that one of the many things that the little businesses are doing right is focusing on customer service. I'd just like to tell the HR departments of these chain stores that maybe taking the time to focus on customer service training really is worth it. I browse for books on, mostly because they have an amazing database, but I order and buy the books I want from Left Bank Books here in St. Louis. They get me what I want swiftly, and usually can recommend something in the same vein for next time. That (and Spike the pettable cat) is what keeps me coming back.

Okay. Enough. I might have to go write a letter to Fashion Bug. I'm sure it'll go into the circular file with no response.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I woke up this morning at six-thirty. Starving. When I came downstairs, the back yard was foggy and the neighborhood smelled like the brewery. I love living in south city on days like this. When I smell the brewery I can imagine what the city was like a hundred years ago, when our house was built. So I'm making breakfast, drinking my coffee and enjoying watching the last of the fog burn off. I've got cheddar-green onion biscuits in the oven, bacon on the griddle and fried green tomatoes, leftover from Saturday. I'll slap some eggs on those tomatoes and maybe a squirt of horseradish mustard aioli and have my self a huge, unhealthy breakfast before I start the day.
The boys are still asleep and I can't start making phone calls to all of the assorted doctor's offices that I need appointments at until nine, so I'm just going to gorge myself and relax on the porch.
I'd forgotten how much I love getting up early. I won't resist going to bed before eleven again.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Eating habits of the free-range southside toddler

I'm wondering if I should be worried that my son, who is now two and a half, has started requesting that we go to certain restaurants. About a month ago, he woke up one Saturday morning and said "Get up now Mama. We go the Rooster with Verona and Shawna. I eat French Toast and bacon." When asked this afternoon which Vietnamese place he preferred, Lemongrass or Mekong, he responded "I like Mekong. They have my tofu noodles. And baby corn. I like baby corn." He even has an opinion about pizza. A true St. Louisian, my boy loves Imo's. For those of you who are out of town, Imo's is the epitome of St. Louis style pizza, once described by a friend from New Jersey as "tomato paste and processed cheese food on a cracker." People either love it or hate it. I think pizza's pretty good, even when it's bad, so whatever. Joss loves Imo's, and picks it over my favorite, which is Joanie's. Joanie's has every vegetable you can imagine, and they don't bat an eyelash if you ask for no cheese. (I eat with a lot of vegans.)
So anyway, the question is, am I raising a food snob, and if so, is that a bad thing?

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I'm so sorry Bean. I wish I'd been able to get to know you better. When you go back into that great cosmic stew pot from whence you came, know that I loved you with all my heart, and will forever cherish having had the chance to be your mother.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jam Sessions

I'm up to my eyeballs in summer fruit this year, I'm getting good deals from all the local farmers. In June I canned strawberry jam for the first time, and all but four jars of that are gone, given away to friends and family or eaten by the boys here at the petting zoo. In July, Barrett brought me ten pounds of blueberries from Michigan, some of which were frozen and the rest went to make blueberry jam. Yesterday Mom and I made white peach jam and canned nine jars of fresh peaches.
I bought ten pounds of concord grapes at Soulard market this morning, and this week, I'm attempting jelly for the first time. From what I've read, it is a bit more labor intensive, and takes longer to make, but I just can't stop myself.
Maybe being pregnant has addled my brain, but I feel like I HAVE to can all this fruit for the winter this year.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A short rant, with no point, really.

I read a lot of knitting blogs. I don't knit as much as I used to (you try making charted lace socks on dpns while chasing a feisty two-year-old), but I do enjoy ogling the work of others. One of my regulars is Dr. Steph's . (that link isn't working. sorry.)She's interesting, and she doesn't write just about knitting. Recently, for instance, she wrote about television. This is something I've been thinking and talking about quite a bit lately.

For years, I refused to pay for television. I grew up in a house without cable. When I lived with an ex-boyfriend in Chicago we had cable, but I was working and going to school full time, so I didn't watch much then, also, he was a nazi with the remote so I never got to pick anyway.

When I moved back to St. Louis, I don't think I even had a t.v.

We watched a ton of videos at the Cleveland house, but television didn't factor into the equation. It was easier to get five or six people to agree on a movie than a show.

When Matt and I bought the Petting Zoo we were young and unmarried, child-free, had less debt, yadda yadda. Long story short, we got the digital hookup. I was IN LOVE with cable. It was one all night DeGrassi marathon after another. I was addicted to the DIY channel, the Home Improvement network, Adult Swim and the power hour (John Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Monday thru Thursday, 10pm central.) I watched the Sopranos, Big Love, Entourage, and Flight of the Conchords. I saw every episode of BSG. I adored BBC America, SciFi, Nick at Night, Sundance, IFC, The N, and the stupid network whose name escapes me that played all the old Star Trek episodes in the afternoons. I watched miniseries, "made for Lifetime movies" and (cringe) VH1 exposes. Basically I wasted a TON of time.

Now, t.v. can be a good thing, educational and helpful and all, but I was having too much of a good thing. It did its job, got me through the first six months of nursing, since Josser would not let me read a book or knit while he was eating. But when we finally couldn't afford it anymore, I wasn't so sad to let the cable go. I figured if I really needed to watch television, we still had the networks, right?

Then came the announcement that all television was "going digital." Anyone hooked up to cable already was fine. The rest of us had two choices; get cable or buy a "box." Since our government knew that the American people might actually riot in the streets if their beloved teevee was taken away, we all have been issued "coupons" by the government to give those of us without cable a discount on a digital converter box.

I refuse to get cable, and I refuse to buy a digital converter box because I don't want to let television back into my life. Mattie and I decided to cancel the cable service to save money about nine months ago, and I will never go back. We can watch whatever we've "missed" on Hulu, making it more of active entertainment-seeking than passive. I know we watch less of it. Every show, cable or network, seems to be available on DVD immediately after the season ends, so Netflix and collector friends are providing us with hours of entertainment.

I really feel that television can become controlling. It is too easy to veg out in front of the idiot box when you have nine billion channels to choose from. Even if there's nothing on, there's still something on. So I'm sticking to my guns. No teevee.

I have made a few observations. People I don't really want to talk to, have nothing to talk to me about. Once we cover the weather, we have nothing more in common to discuss. It may sound evil, but I'm fine with this.

Since The Sprout doesn't watch teevee, he doesn't recognize all the "marketed at kids" crap that is out in the world. My son doesn't know Dora from Adam. He doesn't ask me for fruity-oaty-bars or super-sugar-puffs at the grocery store. He knows not the Disney.

I'm sleeping better. I don't stay up late watching movies, or reality shows or whatever.

I get a lot more done around the house. I don't put off doing something "until the commercial" or "after this is over."

So basically, I don't miss television. I feel better about myself for not buying into the government coupon opiate scam, and I think I'll go spend the forty bucks I would have wasted on the box on a Botanical Gardens membership. That's all now.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rooster with Kate and Eldon

Hmmm. It seems smaller than I wanted it.