Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Best food ever

Dark chocolate covered Pomegranate seeds may be the most delicious thing I've ever tasted.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The power of punctuation and caps lock

The building that my store is in is owned by the same family that owns Al Johnson's Swedish restaurant which is just across the street. Al's is known for the goats which graze on its roof and for the dirndls (traditional Swedish Dress/apron thing) which the waitresses must wear. The mastermind behind all this is Al's wife, Ingert, who was born in Sweden. And just to prove it, she wears a dirndl every second of every day. Though she stands at just 5 ft tall and weighs no more than 100 lbs, she is the most frightening woman I have ever met. Any time I cross her path (which happens many times a day because she is constantly running around their property watering plants and tidying up EVERY inch), her one good eye bores into my soul disapprovingly, and makes me feel utterly American and worthless. Thankfully, her other eye, lazily rolls into space.
The most charming aspect of her character is the fact that she cannot spell and she has a skewed understanding of English grammar and punctuation. I know this because she tapes signs all over the building full of misspellings and other hilarious errors.
For your viewing pleasure, here are some from the staff bathroom:

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Beautiful and The Damned

It’s mornings like today’s that make me feel I’d be better off dead, or at least anywhere but here. Suddenly my two days “off” each week are gone, and I’m back at Sovereign Collection, huddled behind the desk, on the world’s most uncomfortable chair, praying the sweet strains of Mazzy Star will help this hangover go away. I scared off two customers soon after I opened at 9 am, I think because I did not notice I was still wearing my oversized sunglasses while rocking back and forth behind the desk in partial darkness because I chose not to turn on half the store lights.
You might be thinking “her poor boss, what a bad employee!” but stop right there. My boss, Lori - 20 some years my senior but more fun than most people that I know who are my age- also owns the store, and she is the one who took me out last night and forced one or two bottles of wine down my throat. She’s probably fast asleep at home right now, and really doesn’t give a shit if I open late, and that’s why I love her. However, due to the strong sense of loyalty I feel to that fabulous woman, I was right on time, always am. Give me nothing and I’ll run a mile, but give me an inch and I’ll only take half.
Also part of my promptness was due to the fact that I was wide awake at 5:30 am (despite crawling into the sack, fully clothed, at about 1:30), feverishly and sloppily trying to finish two articles, due to my editor by 9am this morning. I had originally planned to finish them upon my return last night, that did not happen. They actually turned out ok though, I hope, I pray.
Despite my current misery, yesterday was a wonderful day, though, like every day of my life, full of quirks.
I spent the morning working at the newspaper office editing and uploading. One of the gifts I received for my birthday last week was a certificate for a massage at The Spa At Sacred Grounds- lame name, cool place. My masseuse’s name was Pat, and boy was she/he a Pat! After a blissful hour there I made my exit, stopping to take a photo of an interesting sculpture in the Spa lobby. Just as I snapped the shot, a hippy-dippy looking man- wearing linen everything, long hair, long beard- walked into the frame.
“I’m sorry did I get in your photo?” He asked.
“Yess.” I said with mock irritation.
Where any other might have just said “sorry,” and carried on, this dude goes “Oh. Let me see” and walks over to me, very close to me, uncomfortably so as my personal space shield is quite large, and stared eagerly at my phone screen.
I just got a new phone, and I really haven’t figured out many of its features, like the camera, so to get to the photo of him, I had to scroll through all the pictures saved on the phone. They started off with about 30 of my former dog, Barley. “You got a dog?” He chirped. Not wanting to venture down Julia’s Failures Lane with this stranger, telling him the sad truth, that I gave Barley back to the shelter, I just said “yes.” Then, in excruciation, we also had to get through about 50 photos of my new kitten. Finally, I found the photo of Mr. Hippy which made him chuckle. I mumbled some form on "Gladyoulikeitgottago" and ran away.
After the spa, I went home to get ready to go to an art showing at a local gallery of the artist Pamela Murphy (to see her stuff go here: http://www.pamelamurphystudio.com/gallery.htm), who is also a frequent patron of Sovereign Collection. Lori was coming with me, and I picked her up at the store around 7. Lori commissioned Pam to do a piece for her years ago in exchange for clothing from her store. This year they finally broke even,which was another reason to celebrate.
We got to Fine Line Gallery not too long before the show ended. Luckily we made it in time for wine and hors d’ oeuvres though. Mrs. Murphy looked stunning, dressed in an outfit I helped her pick out in the shop the week before, and Lori and I were, as usual, walking advertisements for the store as well.
In typical Lori fashion, she wasted no time getting to the bar and pouring herself and me a large glass of wine. We walked around chatting and looking at the paintings, enjoying the advancing liquid calm. Just as I was starting to feel really great, I saw him staring at me from across the room, the Hippy man from the spa. I tried to look away but I was spotted. Trapped, I smiled, and he came at me.
“Well fancy seeing you here!” He exclaimed, just three inches from my face. This guy obviously must have been raised by a pack of Europeans. His disregard for getting too close wasn’t really creepy, just unnerving.
“Oh hi, how are you?” I asked.
“Great, great,” he nodded, then “Gees you look great.”
I tried to smile, but cringed, hating compliments.
“Thanks,” I shrugged, “I showered.”
Instantly I wished to take back my words as I noticed (and how could I not? He was standing so frickin close to me) that he had not showered since I saw him last, nor anytime in the last few days it seemed.
He didn’t catch it though, or maybe he just didn’t care. Instead, Dan- we managed introductions - launched into one of those conversations that begins “Man, I’ve had such a crazy day,” then rambles back and forth, pausing only so I could nod. Before I knew it, I was up against the wall and he was bracing himself, one arm on the wall over my left shoulder, telling me about his band, “Toivo.”
The conversation was made even more uncomfortable as he stared intensely into my eyes while talking, and though I tried to respectfully maintain eye contact, I had a lot of trouble because he had the kind of eyes that were such a dark brown that I almost couldn’t see his pupils. They were little bead-eyed rag doll eyes.
Luckily, after not too long, Lori seemed to catch my rigid body language message of distress, and she came over and said “Julia I want to show you the painting I want.” I excused myself.
Several glasses of wine later, the gallery folks were putting away the appetizers, signaling the end of the show, so we said our congratulations to Pam, and I waved goodbye to Dan, running out before we could exchange any actual words. Lori was especially giggly as we headed to the car and proclaimed “I’m drunk!” so I drove to T. Ashwell’s, my favorite DC restaurant, for drinks and more appetizers.
The bartender at T. Ashwells, Zak, is a mastermind. He makes the best martini I’ve ever tasted, and he is a fantastic conversationalist. I was delighted to show up with company since the last time I went there I was alone, which caused Zak to ask one of the most depressing questions one can ask a young woman at a bar, “Flying solo, Kennelly?” Yeah, Zak, rub it in.
Lori and I sat at the bar and had appetizers- Ahi tuna spring rolls, coconut encrusted goat cheese crostinis, and beef carpaccio-, a martini each, and we went through two bottles of wine. Recounting our favorite stories of nightmare customers, and moving on to the inevitable “I just love you” s of drunk conversation between good friends, we passed hours and hours at the bar, making friends with everyone around us and having a grand ole time. Unfortunately, perhaps too grand as I have spent all of today holding in vomit and counting down the seconds until I can take more ibuprofen.

I am excited to get back to St. Louis in a week or so, but I’m gonna miss Lori to pieces when I go. I never really used the word fabulous before I met her, but there really is no other word that describes that woman. Life in general is just more fabulous when she’s involved.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wine is made from grapes. End of story.

Much to my delight, my assignment this week for the newspaper was to go on several winery tours & tastings, three of four or my choice, and to do a write-up about each one.
I slated in two for Tuesday and one for Wednesday, as trying to do three in one day might jeopardize the experience of number three due to my potential drunkenness.
I started out at Stone's Throw, located in Egg Harbor. I've had Stone's Throw wine, specifically their 85/15 and 50/50 at some local restaurants and I really enjoyed both. As far as labels and packaging, it seems to me that Stone's Throw, compared to other local wines, takes a more sophisticated approach.
The building was modern, classy, and the wine bar inside was right in line with that appeal. It was $5 for a six glass tasting, and I got to keep my glass at the end of it. The bar was packed but I shoved through and lamely explained to the bartender that "I'm doing a story on wineries for the Pulse, and I'd like to do a tasting of the wines you're known for."
The bartender didn't really seem to care that I was with the newspaper, and I didn't care that the bartender didn't care. Too often people that I interview or ask questions of get all nervous and jumpy when I tell them I'm with the newspaper. But let's face it, the Pulse is not exactly the Times.
The rugged, mahogany bar was very crowded. Some people looked like they knew what they were doing, some just had no clue. The couple to my left looked like maybe it was their first date and they were just not hitting it off. Obviously hoping alcohol would help them "loosen up," they each did two rounds of tasting.
So I stood alone, of course, sandwiched in between the bored couple and a family of five.
The bartender selected six of their most popular bottles for me to try, starting off white of course, and moving to reds. Their Riesling, one of their most popular, was actually very good and I usually do not like white wines. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma 2005, was excellent, as was the 85/15, a blend of 85% Zinfandel, 15% Tempranillo. My favorite was the Big Mouth Red, well balanced and peppery, and only $18 for a bottle. Friends expect presents!
After my six glasses, a little bit tipsy, I decided to walk to a nearby cafe for a cup of coffee before winery number 2. Awakening my senses was a dumb move as I should have been dulling them, preparing for an assault.
The Door Peninsula Winery, located in Sturgeon Bay, gives free tours all day, every half hour. Free is rarely a good thing.
The winery store was cute, kind of kitschy, but still somewhat tasteful. I waited by the front with other prospective tourists. Our tour guide greeted us begrudgingly and took us into a smaller room where he told us the history of the building...very slowly. He spoke as if reading, with the aptitude of a first grader, from a script.
Five minutes later we were ushered into the very cold basement/wine-cellar, though there was no wine in sight. Sitting in uncomfortable folding chairs we were forced to watch a DVD about the winery. The film was narrated by a talking cartoon cherry. The cherry told us all about the wonderful fruit wines made at the Door Peninsula Winery. Cherry wines, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry and more. Shock and horror pervaded my body. I was coming off of my buzz from Stone's Throw, and the only relief in sight was via fruit wine (is there anything worse?)... oh the horror.
Our squat, unhappy tour man took us through the processing rooms (which were interesting) at lightening speed, and before I knew it we were at the bar for tasting. It was like a bad dream; all the people around me seemed to have no problem ordering "Sweet Plum," or "Chocolate Cherry," and what's worse, they seemed to be enjoying it!
I couldn't even bring myself to look at the list so I explained my plight once again to this bartender and asked her to bring me some of their most popular wines.
"Ok!" She chirped. "This is our number one; its a blend, called Sunset Splash." It tasted like super sugary white grape juice laced with Strawberries and not a hint of alcohol. As I choked it down I heard the woman next to me proclaim "Oh I just love the Sunset Splash!!!"
Next, I was brought "Razzle Dazzle Raspberry," followed by "Cranbernet."
How do they expect to be taken seriously with names like that?! Everywhere I looked I imagined the stupid cartoon cherry bouncing around asking patrons how they liked their juicy-juice.
The bartender offered me a glass of "Panacea Peach," but I had had enough. I left, terribly sober and slightly offended.

The moral of this story is that wine should be made from grapes and grapes only.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I hope the apple falls far from the tree.

An excerpt from a conversation (though I hesitate to use that word because it's more like her rambling off thoughts that are in her head which she just can't keep there so she lets em loose on the nearest possible person, and if there's no person around she simply talks to herself...) I had with my mother this morning:

(Note that the sound of the hairdryer obstructed this whole thing as she dried her hair much to my starved frustration as I waited for her to be ready to go to breakfast)
Susan: Oh! You know what I was going to tell you?
Me: hmm
Susan: You know Cindy that I work with?
Me: mm-hmm (I really don't).
Susan: Well she paints gourds too, and she has a cat named Bill.... Oh no wait, her husband is Bill. Her cat's name is Bob.

You can't make this stuff up.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The breaking point

Every day I work in this shop it becomes more and more likely that I am going to hurl a lamp at a potential customer. I am reaching my breaking point, and maybe I'm already there. All I know is I really can't take it anymore. Everything is starting to get to me. For example, idle wandering really irritates me. I cannot remember the last time I just slumped slowly through a store or anywhere without some kind of purpose. Old women, men, people who have absolutely NO business looking around a women's boutique still come in and wander around. Don't they have anything better to do? The worst is the people who are "just looking." That means they have no intention of buying anything, yet it still forces me to perk up, put a smile on and ask them to "let me know if you need help with anything."
Earlier in the summer I allowed shoppers, even if they did not buy anything, to use the staff bathroom in the back room. Now we no longer have a bathroom. There's one in the lobby of the restaurant across the street.
Also, if one more person holds up a garment from across the room and shouts "what size is this?" to me, when it is clearly marked on the tag of the item and the price tag, I'm just gonna have a nervous breakdown.
Retail is not for me.