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Posts tagged ‘community’

Rodeo Fun! Mutton Bustin Anyone?

Photo Credit: rodeohouston.comIt is RODEO time in Houston. Every year this time the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is in town for a few weeks. It usually is here during spring break so it becomes one of our day trips as a family. If you have never been to something like this it can be an all day event. Not only do they have a carnival with tons of rides, games and food vendors but there is also over 480 retail vendors with everything like cowboy boots, candy, jewelry, scented candles, furniture, clothing, kitchen gadgets, etc. They also have a kids zone with fun exhibits, rides and interactive activities. Want to see an egg hatch live? They have it! Want to see them milk a cow? They have it! Want to walk around thousands of pens full of stinky pigs, cows, horses, chickens, etc? They have it! They also have livestock auctions and competitions.

The big event is the rodeo and concert held inside Reliant Stadium. They always have a concert after the rodeo that features a headline singer or group. Although I am not a huge country music fan I am impressed with the A list of stars that have sold out shows each year like Blake Shelton, Miranda Lambert, and Reba McEntire. The rodeo itself includes bucking horses and bull riding, chuck wagon races, barrel races, the calf scramble, calf roping, etc. One of my favorites by far is the “Mutton Bustin”. The announcer actually puts it the best when he says “this is the part of the show where we strap our kids to farm animals and call it entertainment”. If you have never seen it you have to watch the video below. Basically it is a  child around 5-6 years old wearing a heavily padded vest and helmet  put on the back of a sheep, told to grab on to its wool, and then hang on for dear life when the gate opens. As the sheep runs across the pen the object is to see who can stay on the longest. Over the years I have seen a few kids with tears but the majority have huge grins on their faces and are pumping their fists in the air with excitement after they take that dive to the ground.

What is your favorite thing about a rodeo?

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Is Phone Etiquette too much to ask for?

Thankfully most of my friends and family are caring enough to use proper phone etiquette but I often have the unfortunate opportunity to speak with customers who could use a little schooling on what they should and should not be doing when on the phone. You would be surprised at how often these incidence happen. These calls could be uncomfortable in any situation but especially to a customer service agent speaking with a complete stranger! Here are just some of the things we are subjected to listening to:

  1. Using the Bathroom: Seriously, we can hear you! Especially when you flush! Please do your business before or after the call and if it is an emergency either ask us to hold or call us back. Just don’t take us with you!
  2. Television or Radio TOO LOUD! It is very hard to get your information when we cannot hear anything but our TV commercial going in the background. What is worse is those customers who cannot hear us either but don’t think to turn their volume down in order to hear better. I am not going to scream to compensate for your loud TV!
  3. Eating: Munching in my ear is bad enough but when you have a mouth full of food and trying to give me your contact information it is impossible to understand you!
  4. Watching Porn: Just like using the bathroom we can hear this too! Please please please take care of your personal business before calling and do not make us listen to your porn during the call. I have asked people to turn their TV down in this situation but believe me I will hang up if it doesn’t stop or I feel you are doing “anything else” during that time. GROSS!
  5. Baby Crying: When is it ever a good time to order something or call someone when your kid is screaming bloody murder? Please get them back to sleep, give them a bottle or calm them down before calling. Certainly do not hold a screaming child when you are on the phone because being that close to the phone that is all we can hear!
  6. Dogs Barking: This is basically the same as the baby crying. If your dog is trying to warn a squirrel or mail man to stay out of your yard please put them up before calling or go into another room!
  7. Gases: Oh yes. We do have ears and we can hear every fart and burp so cover the phone, put us on mute or excuse yourself for a moment please.
  8. Fighting: It’s probably not a good time to call and order a product when you’re in the middle of a fight with someone at home! We are literally the fly on the wall and know all your business now!
  9. Swearing: This can be both happy and angry customers believe it or not. Some just have incorporated swearing into their everyday vocabulary and will just let words fly when doing a normal order. Others get angry and the words start coming. Please realize you are still speaking to a human being and swearing is not acceptable. We do have the authorization to hang up on anyone swearing if we have asked them to stop and they don’t.
  10. Prank Calls: It is bad enough from the kids but as an adult grow up! Even with a few beers in you it isn’t funny to call an order line for a kitchen appliance and ask what the customer service agent is wearing. You really think we sit around in lingerie waiting to take your call? Oh and by the way, we do have Caller ID so you’re not so anonymous anymore!

I am sure the list can go on but these are the most common of the phone etiquette problems I encounter on a pretty regular basis. Just realize that although someone cannot see you they certainly can still hear what is going on. Remember our children are learning proper etiquette from us. Take care of what you can before getting on the phone or even answering a phone call with anyone to avoid an inconsiderate situation on that call!

What unpleasant things have you had to listen to while on a call?

Cash vs Debit Card?

Photo Credit: budgeting.thenest.com

I thought the introduction of Visa/MasterCard debit cards was genius! I hated carrying around and writing checks, carrying cash or using my credit card for purchases only to have to write a check to pay off that amount from my checking account later. Having quick access to those funds makes my life simpler for certain, but does it also have its drawbacks?

The other day my kids had asked if I had any money and I realized that I usually carry less than $5 in actual cash at any time. I always rely on my debit card. It also got me thinking about experiences in the past that maybe I should have learned a little more about the pros and cons of cash vs debit cards.

First we have been victims of identity theft. Around Christmas one year we found someone had spent almost $1,500 fraudulently from our account. Thankfully the charges were flagged immediately at our bank because they were coming from Canada and not where we live so they shut down our debit card access. This was both good and bad. Certainly no further funds were taken fraudulently however we had no use of our cards for transactions we normally use like gasoline purchases. We had to rely on checks and cash until our new cards came in. We also had automatic payments assigned to those cards which we then had to contact those companies to set up a new payment option. By using our debit cards as much as we did it put us at greater risk of identity theft. Although we still use them we are more cautious about where they are used.

The second thing we learned about debit cards is they mean nothing when you have no power! During Hurricane Ike everything you wanted required cash. Checks were not even accepted because there was no way to verify funds. So even if I had a million dollars in the bank there was no way to access funds. Thankfully many stores and gas stations had power restored within a few days either by the electric company repairs or a power generator. Those few days without any power around town made many people realize how vital an emergency supply of cash is.

The third thing is I have been somewhere and had a purchase that was only a few dollars and without cash I had to use my debit card. Stores are charged a fee for card purchases so I am not doing them any favors by making them pay a fee for my small purchase. If I had a little more cash it would be a better option in those situations.

I am sure there are plenty of other pros and cons of both debit cards and cash. I certainly still like the convenience of the debit card but know that cash cannot disappear completely without effecting our lives at some point!

Which do you prefer to use? Debit Cards or Cash?

Valentines Day Red Velvet Cake!!!!

Photo Credit: grouprecipes.com

My husband’s family grew up loving Red Velvet Cake which quickly became a favorite of theirs for birthdays or special occasions. I had never tried one until I had married my husband. The recipe is said to be the actual Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake served at their hotel and after trying it you could certainly see why. Although if you search it online as Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake you will find a few variations of the recipe.

I have tried to make cakes from scratch before and they have never turned out as tasty or easy as this one. I have to admit that if I am short on time I have cheated and made a store-bought red velvet cake however I will not cheat on the icing. This icing is to die for! It is not like a traditional cream cheese frosting you will find on many Red Velvet Cakes. This one is almost like whipped cream but is very rich. It also is fairly simple to make as long as you follow the instructions and make sure the flour mixture is completely cooled before preparing the remainder of the icing.

This still is the cake my husband loves for his birthday and of course being red it is perfect for Valentines too. I am never so fancy as to do multiple layers as shown but I have cut the cake in half and put a layer of icing in the center. Although I have never done it before these would make really fun cupcakes for Valentines parties too. If you have never had red velvet cake, or never had this recipe you HAVE to try it! Click HERE for the recipe:

What is your favorite cake or frosting?

Alternate Cooking Methods

Are you prepared to cook food when your power is out? If you do not have a gas stove or an outdoor grill with plenty of propane you could be really in trouble. We were without power during Hurricane Ike for 17 days. Thankfully we did have a gas stove and were able to still cook.  This did however make the  rest of the house which was already hot from no air conditioning even hotter. Having alternate methods for cooking can ensure you are still able to prepare meals when there is no power or usual method of cooking. Listed below are several devices you can make at home with little or no expense. Although there are commercial products that are available these can work just as well and save you the cost of an expensive investment. I would prefer to invest in other emergency supplies and even a generator before buying a solar oven. These are simple enough to make and can make a great activity for a church group or scouting event.

Picture Credit: robnoxious.wordpress.com

1.  Rocket Stove:  This video demonstration shows step by step the cutting and assembly of a cans rocket stove. This is mostly consists of just different sized cans cut to make this stove. You can then use it to cook anything in a pot or pan like you would a regular stove top. The fuel is simple twigs and sticks you could easily find lying around however if it is wet it may be more difficult to get them lit. A suggestion given is to have twigs and small sticks already gathered and store them in a sealed bucket. You could also just purchase a packages of shims at a lumber or home repair store that will work just as well.

Photo Credit: odcooking.pragerfamily.net

2. Box Oven: You basically only need a heavy-duty box that can either has folding side flaps or a lid to close it (you can get a heavy-duty box at any liquor store for free). You will line the inside of the box with heavy-duty aluminum foil.  To secure the foil in all the corners and around the edges you can use a aluminum foil tape found at most hardware stores. This type tape is usually near the insulation section of the stores. Once assembled you can put either rocks or even a piece of tile on the bottom to prevent the coals burning through the bottom. You certainly can put skewers or wire hanger cut into strips to make a rack or another option is what you see with using full size or even half-size soda cans to elevate a metal rack. You can find metal racks like this in the kitchen section of  Wal-Mart, Target or other kitchen supply stores. The main thing is to make sure the rack is raised above the coals. You use regular charcoal briquettes and get them started outside the box. Once they are hot but no longer burning you place them in a pie tin below the rack. Use 1 charcoal briquettes for every 40-50 degrees you need to cook. So for 350 degrees you would need 7-8. Close lid and let it cook. You can even take a cooking thermometer and stick it into an opening to monitor the temperature in the oven.

Photo Credit: thermalcooker.wordpress.com

3.  Wonder Oven or Wonder Box: There are many places to go learn how to make one and they are pretty easy to assemble  Many people will assemble the wonder oven and place it into a rubber tub for ease of storage and transporting. Basically food can be started on the stove-top, oven or even a propane grill or camping stove and then once they reach the temperature they need to cook at you can transfer them to the wonder oven. When sealed off it will then contain the heat and continue to cook it.  It is also good for transporting hot items and keeping them hot.

Photo Credit: williamgbecker.com

4. Home Made Solar Oven: If you cannot afford a manufactured solar oven then this is something to consider if you or your spouse are a little handy. If you do a search on the internet for home-made solar ovens there are a variety you can make from card board boxes all the way to one built with wood.

Photo Credit: energywhiz.com

5.  Pringle’s Can Solar Oven:  Oh Yes. I had to see it for myself and it is really cool. This would be fun to do with the kids but also could come in handy in emergencies. This would mostly be for skewer cooking like hot dogs, or shish-kabob but it would be better than nothing!

What alternate methods for cooking do you have?