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Yesterday was M’s birthday.  We had originally planned for a whirlwind adventure down to Cola and then back up towards Charlotte but due to the gusting winds and generally ick weather yesterday we opted to just go out to eat at dinner time instead.

Now most of my readers know that M is an accomplished cook.  I learned my mad skills (modesty? pffft what is that?) at the apron strings of a master so a restaurant better bring their A-game when she sits at their table.

It doesn’t happen often and sadly did not happen last night either.

We are all still suffering from dinner last night.

Emphasis on suffering.

We went to a fairly well established restaurant, one that has put a great deal of PR into their charcuterie which is what hooked out interest initially.  I mean, I’m currently brining a hog jowl that I had intended to smoke later today but instead I will be using more of a non-smoked application… more on that later on.

Initially, things looked ok.  I did not care for the decor but to be honest my style is somewhere from log-cabin chic to Chateau de Versailles to minimalist Japan.  We were seated at what amounted to the kitchen-door table.  OK, fair enough, the place was moderately busy and we had the kids with us…. not a really valid excuse because my kids are like little restaurant reviewers on their own and at 11, 12 and 16 it’s not like they’re going to be needing high chairs and goldfish.

I digress.

Enter first nameless, wide-eyed, wait staff type person who was not really our waiter but was more of a paid greeter, filler of water-glass guy.  I had high hopes for him.  It was for naught.

Sophie went through her typical spiel of introducing herself and everyone at the table to which he replied (while pouring tepid water that tasted like Greenville City’s finest UNFILTERED tap) “I’m not your server.”

Well ok then.

We read over the menu, made initial decisions and then our actual waiter appeared.  I have a history of entertaining waiters.  It’s kind of my thing.  Some respond well to it (they are my favorites) and others just blink a lot and ignore me.

Guess which one we got?

So I opened with “this is our first time here and it’s M’s birthday!” Happy smiley face! He returned with “Great.” Zero affect, I hate my life face.

OK.

Me- “OK then, well… B will have the burger….” Here I’m interrupted with “You’ll want the kids menu?”

Me- “ummm…. no. He’s a cyclist, they are eating machines, he’ll want the regular size burger”

Blinky- “it doesn’t come with fries”

Me- “ok, we will order them as a side then”

Blinky “the kids version comes with fries”

Me- “ok… ummm… he really wants the bigger burger…..”

Blinky- blink,blink… and then proceeds to tell me what the kids’ burger consists of… which is sliders which B notorious does not like because they aren’t dressed like a burger which is what he wanted.

At this point B pipes up with “I really want the burger please, not sliders” so Blinky heaves a sigh and writes down the order, then in the most put-upon voice imaginable says something to the effect of “you want the regular sauces and stuff on it?” and B nodded indicating yes.

The rest of the ordering went ok until it got back around to me at which point I made another gallant effort to engage Blinky and failed once again.  I asked what he recommended after seeing the variety that we had ordered so that we had a good general idea of what the restaurant could do.

This should have clued him in that I do the occasional review.

It did not.

He pointed out the highest priced item on the menu, something else that I honestly cannot remember and a sandwich.

I went with the sandwich because at this point I was annoyed and just wanted the ordering nightmare to end.

While waiting on our food I had an opportunity to watch many orders being readied for service and also to watch other diners eating their meals.  I noticed that some of the servers took a lot of care in their presentation while others didn’t really give a flying…. well… you know.

I was just getting to a place of calmness when another waiter started screaming in the back. SCREAMING!!! Something about tea, something about coffee. I realize we were sitting in the galley for all intents and purposes but c’mon… people don’t play $12+ for a hamburger to hear screaming while it’s being prepared.

I digress… again.

The food came out and I was underwhelmed immediately with the plating.  The only “Insta-worthy” plate was Xander’s sandwich.  M’s plate looked like they simply slopped whatever available meat was handy onto a plate, Sophie’s as well.  My sandwich and B’s sandwich looked like lonely little satellites on their plates, especially B’s which was missing the fries that he had ordered.

At this point I was still, surprisingly, optimistic.  I can forgive a myriad of sins if the food is good.

My first bite of Reuben was potentially good. The flavor was intense but entirely too salty for my preference. The bread was good tho.  Sophie said she enjoyed her ribs, however she didn’t eat them all. I did taste them and the flavor was ok, not my favorite spice blend, but ok.  B said the flavor of the burger was good, tho a bit plain. X’s sandwich went soggy rapidly so the enjoyment factor waned a bit but he said it was ok. M’s meal tho… it was not good.  The brisket was predominately fat.  The pulled pork flavorless without the sauces which did not taste balanced at all to any of us. The hash which is my bench mark judge of any place that even tries to do a BBQ was horrible.

HORRIBLE.

It wasn’t so much hash as really finely minced pork in the terrifically unbalanced sauce over undercooked rice. Not crunchy like bottom of the rice steamer rice… but this-rice-has-had-about-10-minutes-in-rapidly-boiling-water rice.

That, my dear readers, is an unpardonable sin.

Blinky did come around several times and kept the drink glasses full, thankfully as our salt intake was sufficient enough to cause dehydration.

I tried to ask him about other items on the menu and I’ve never had a waiter undersell a menu as much as he did.

Me- “tell me about the popcorn!”

Blinky- “it’s just crackerjacks with bacon and grease mixed in” (yawn  implied by tone)

Me- “oh… well then… nevermind.”

And then he asked if we wanted dessert, we said no and we paid and we left.

As far as I know, M’s birthday went under the radar even though I mentioned it not only to the hostess, but water-pouring waiter and Blinky.

There did seem to be a lot of excitement (aka yelling) about one of the other tables so maybe they were distracted, I don’t know.

So, needless to say we left a bit unhappy.  M was not impressed and my birthday present to her is writing this review.  I’m leaving out the restaurant name as I honestly in my heart feel like maybe there is a management problem, maybe a staffing issue as I’ve seen posts on their social media that they are hiring all positions… that would indicate something not working exactly right to me.

I don’t like leaving bad reviews, likewise I don’t like that I felt like we were judged and minimalized as “worthwhile” guests when we walked in.  Had the waiter been upbeat about menu items we would have ordered them, but his “meh” attitude indicated to us that it wasn’t worth our money or his time to place the order.

We took our left overs to J who was stuck in the ED and even he had a hard time with the saltiness and the unbalanced sauces.  This morning found him green and queasy with a sudden dislike of all BBQ and more than once we feared that he would actually need that emesis bag that we kept in the backseat of Landy from when the kids were little.

That doesn’t tend to induce future visits.

So cross that one off my list of restaurants to try in G’ville.  It’s the first one that failed so horribly and cause our entire house of foodies to feel like we had been clearing trees and burning brush while snacking on salt licks in the pastures.

I’ve left enough unique descriptors in this post that locals should be able to easily figure out where I’m talking about and I’d like to leave it at that.  I like the premise this restaurant is trying to achieve with supporting local farmers but I feel that there’s a bit of the emperor’s new clothes effect going on.  Just because you are doing the trendy thing does not mean you can drop the ball because it’s a Thursday and you don’t think diners will notice. Calling yourself a “restaurant that just happens to serve BBQ” means that your BBQ game needs to be strong, otherwise don’t do it and stick to your charcuterie.

 

Planners and Journals

2017 Journals and Planners

I have always loved planners.  Way back in my hellish days at Erskine, I had a class with some forgettable professor who mentioned briefly that using a DayRunner was only for people who could be dedicated to using it properly. I was insulted that his tone indicated that no one in the lecture had that level of dedication and spurred to have the need to prove him wrong.

A couple of years prior to that I had briefly been an exchange student to Belgium and one of the things assigned to me at school was my first student planner. I loved it and used it even after I returned home for the rest of that school year.

During the time before I was married, when I trained and exercised horses and farm-sat locally, I relied on a DayRunner to keep me on track. I never needed all the features in a DayRunner, but I enjoyed having a planner to map out my day and keep up with my clients and expenses.

After parenthood I needed something smaller and moved into a Sanrio Hello Kitty planner.  It was just a little A6 size 3 ring binder but it kept me on track and it amused me with its bright colors and illustrations.

At some point I decided I needed to be a grown up and moved into a Filofax which I adored… until the elastic broke and it started to fall apart.  Then I moved into a Franklin Covey that also fell apart on me (curse you magnetic closures!). Somewhere along the way I used a couple different Moleskines for farm records and even used spiral notebooks at one point.

A few years ago I ran across Midori Travelers Notebooks and really felt like this was a thing I needed in my life.  It took another year or so to convince myself to purchase one and when I did I opted for a cheaper version just in case it didn’t work out.

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Thanksgiving 2015

Long story short, I love TNs. My brother is also a fan and we spent a recent Thanksgiving making various versions of notebooks and inserts. I was in love with the Tomoe River paper that Midori uses in their inserts so instead of buying the Midori inserts I bought a ream of TRP and made my own.  Aren’t I clever? I use many of these inserts in a year as I use my standard TN for art journalling and mind-dump journalling.  I use my larger B5 TN for all my farm and horse records.

However they still did not fulfill my planner needs.

Enter the Hobonichi Techo.
I got my first Hobonichi last year and because I was nervous about ordering something too expensive that I would not like, I opted for one of the cheaper iterations… the A6 English Planner with one of the simpler pink covers.

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2016 Hobonichi and TN journal (and a hatchet!? must have been a bad night!)

It was love.

I know most people who use the Hobonichi are quite talented artists and do these beautiful watercolors and stamped themes.

I am not that person.

I used my little A6 to simply record the things that were going on and to keep me on schedule… with the occasional sticker or washi tape thrown in for kawaii effect.

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2017 Hobonichi Cousin Sunflower

So for my birthday, J surprised me with the bigger A5 Cousin with the ohhh so lovely Sunflower leather cover.

I can’t even.

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Daily Spread Hobonichi Cousin

I have been in the Cousin since the first of the year and with it I have found complete planner peace.  I still use it primarily as a planner, but also as a way to record the highlights of the day and an expense tracker.  I have succumbed to the sticker frenzy and while my dailies will never be artist quality, they make me happy to flip back through and that’s winning right?

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2017 Hobonichi Weeks Meow Meow (gaaahhhh it’s so cute)

He also gave me a Hobonichi Weeks in the Meow Meow cover. It’s a week on one page with notes on the facing page. I use it to record farm expenses and important animal information.

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Weeks Interior

I think there is a lot to be said for liking the esthetic of a planner/journal and the feel of the paper and the look of the covers really feels all of my needs.  My family knows that my planner has nearly holy book level status as I use it to keep up with all the little minutiae that used to clutter up my brain instead.  It is, in effect, my external memory storage device of choice!

So my last farm post has been a few months ago.  Farm life has been tough as we are in the throes of “the bad year” and while I know having a farm means being close friends with Death it doesn’t mean I enjoy the visits.

We lost Bingley to a pasture accident and Rosalea and Maddy to old age and possibly a broken heart with Maddy… I knew she would not stay long after Belle as those two were closely paired. One of our oldest cats, Sheegwa, recently passed as well after an altercation with a couple of stray dogs that turned up in our woods. 

And then because that wasn’t enough, we hit the teenage years with the children.  SJ spoiled us with her easy waltz into the teen years.  The boys haven’t been so kind.  They are excellent kids mind you, but I was ill prepared for teen-age boy emotions and dramatics.  I feel sorry for them really. They managed to get a hyper aware mother, hyper aware grandmother and eccentrically attentive father.  They can’t catch a break.  SJ communicates tacitly more often than not, and years spent observing body language in the horses and other farm animals mean that I notice even the slightest “tell” in body language. And the boys’ “tells” are pretty easy.  And when they try to “pull the wool” as many teen-aged boys do… they run into J.

It’s been tiring.  I think I completely shut down all social interaction from January until recently because I just couldn’t deal.  I was using so much energy to just hold it all together that I didn’t have anything left.  Friends were going through their own personal hells and I didn’t feel like I could be there for them and save myself at the same time.  We finally worked out a code for “I’m overwhelmed and don’t know what to say but I’m with you” by sending “…” just so we knew that some one was listening even though we didn’t have it in us to talk.
I have an alarming number of “…” messages.  It would appear that we weren’t the only ones having a tough year.

It’s my hope to work with the blog more this year.  I’ve found inspiration in helping one of my high school best friends start a blog to chronicle her life changing move away from corporate work. She and her daughter are embracing a more nomadic lifestyle in hopes of improving her daughter’s health.  As soon as her blog is up and running I will link to it as I’m sure their adventures will be incredible!

And then there are my friends with established blogs that just blow me away with their creativity.  I’m overwhelmed by all that they do and they inspire me to write more and find my old story-telling voice again. Be prepared for farm stories, life stories, hauls, hobbies, reviews and the ever popular rambles.  I hope everyone will weather this brief period of uncertainty with me as I find my blogging mojo once again.  I’ve missed writing so much and realizing how rusty I am is frustrating but I’m determined and that’s half the challenge sometimes 🙂

Some days living on a farm can be really depressing.

Some days it feels like all I post on here is how yet another of my senior horses has died or some other tragedy.

Some days writing feels more like admitting defeat than anything else.

Some days it’s a struggle to just get out of bed because everything will be the same, over and over and over again.

Some days that thing that makes you tick, that thing that makes people like you… just isn’t there.

Some days you manage to lock your keys in the car when it’s not suppose to be possible.

Some days you help other people with their blogs and realize yours has gone stagnant.

Some days you bump into other local bloggers and you become overwhelmed by all that they are doing and how WOW their blogs are.

Some days you wonder why you even bother anymore.

And then…

Some days the kids show you how all the effort really has paid off as they sit politely in a local cafe overrun with unruly children left to go nearly feral while their parents seem oblivious.

Some days you catch a glimpse of Pip being a complete idiot cavorting around his paddock, sliding in the mud then completely busting his tail as he loses his traction, falls, then pops up like no one could have possibly seen it all.

Some days the daffodil man is at the flea market and it’s hard not to suddenly become passionate about daffodils when hearing him talk about them all.

Some days you get three subscription boxes in one day and it feels a little bit like Christmas.

Some days you turn out a meal for the family that really is quite spectacular.

Some days you realize your husband is awesome as you watch him climb a tree and saw off a dead limb just before going to work because he can.

Some days you realize that even though you’re failing more often than not, you haven’t stopped trying.

Some days you watch movies with 4 dogs and 2 cats and at least one kid all piled up in the chair with you because everybody needed a snuggle.

Some days you realize that you really miss writing whether or not anyone is reading anymore.

Some days you write.

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Twenty three or so years ago I was struggling. I was at a college that I hated, eating up my parents’ money on an education that I didn’t have a clue how to utilize.  Just before the end of the final semester of my freshman year M told me about a lady she knew that worked with Mustangs and how she had a little weanling that was for sale.  M wanted me to go look, so on a weekend escaping the hell of higher education I snaked through the back roads and found Belle.

She was tiny and spunky and full of challenge. I was in love. $300 later I was the proud owner of a ’92 Mustang, brown with black trim… my college friends didn’t find the humor, sadly.

Belle started my career as a trainer.  She was trained “out the wazoo” and it was with a broken heart that I realized that the little bay mare was only ever going to be a horse first thing in the morning as by noon she was well under 14.2hh.

Belle was never an easy ride. She was a challenge and many of my students had spectacular bolts and falls due to her sass and attitude.

I loved her though.  She saved me when I was lost and didn’t know what to do with myself after I left school. I nearly killed her with my ineptitude on more than one occasion and I learned a lot of my more subtle and softer training methods while working with Belle.

She was a fixture in the pastures, the last of my original stock of horses.

This morning she woke up on the other side of the rainbow bridge in a big beautiful pasture, with Spring and Brandy, Aimee and Alise, Baxter and little Seiji… and all the others… with no fences and all the grass and watermelon she could ever want.

 

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