Entries categorized "Mystery Shops" Feed

Saturday 9: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

Welp, I'm starting 22 minutes after the day has officially ended, but that seems to be about par for the course for me, eh? Here we go anyway. Link up here if you're late, too.

Saturday 9: Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is? (1970)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This song asks, "Does anybody really care about time?" How about you? Do you pride yourself on being punctual? Or don't you really care?

I hate being late, but it's not uncommon for me to be late. It's a conundrum for me, especially as an OCD-havin' perfectionist type. Bah.
2) The lyrics refer to a stranger asking the time. When is the last time you conversed with someone you didn't really know? What did you two talk about?

I spent from 3 AM to after 12 PM today in the Emergency Department of the local hospital with yet another ruptured ovarian cyst that had me crying in pain. My male nurse, who came on shift around 0700, and I hit it right off. I learned a lot about his life, the last 20 years of which he's spent in the States after moving here from London, England. We talked about our travels, our backgrounds, and pasts and futures. I guess he didn't have many patients aside from me? Nice guy, though.

3) According to the Top 40 tracker Tunecaster, this song knocked Tony Orlando and Dawn's "Knock Three Times" out of the #1 spot on the charts in January 1971. Are you familiar with "Knock Three Times?"

Yes, because it was on our jukebox growing up. We had one, a real old-fashioned one, in our dance-floor basement in Syracuse. "Knock Three Times" was actually one of my favorites.

4) Chicago is not only the name of the group but also of the midwest's largest city. Chicago is the proud hometown of such luminaries as Bill Murray, Michelle Obama and Derrick Rose. Does your town have any favorite sons or daughters? 

I live in Miami, home of countless famosos. Many of them, unsurprisingly, speak Spanish. ;) Google it. 

5) The group Chicago was originally known as The Chicago Transit Authority, after the city's public transportation system. When is the last time you were on a bus or a train?

About a year ago or so, Chloë (my then-12yo daughter) and I took a big red tour bus all over downtown Miami, Coral Gables, Miami Beach, and Little Havana. We did it for a mystery shop. It was loads of fun!

6) Four of the original seven band members are still with the group … after 48 years! What's the longest you stayed at the same job?

If being a stay-home mama counts, fourteen years is my max.

7) Lead singer Rob Lamm confessed that, at times, being in a band has been hard for him because he is by nature a loner. How about you? Are you more introverted or extroverted?

I'm definitely introverted, but I think lately I have come out of my shell more. Maybe it has something to do with aging, or maybe I'm just forcing myself to do it and break out of my comfort zone, but I've been learning a lot about people with whom I might barely interact lately. I'm enjoying it, too!

8) This summer, Chicago will be touring with Earth, Wind and Fire. Have you seen/will you attend any concerts in 2015?

I'm taking Chloë to her very first major concert around Halloween: Taylor Swift's 1989 tour! She is super excited, and I have to confess, I can't wait!

 9) Random question: What's the last mess you cleaned up?

We were at the point of washing a dish just to dirty it right up again, as all our dishes and silverware and pots and pans were used up while Hubs spent his eight days in the hospital. It took me a day or two (since our dishwasher is on the fritz), but I got them done. And now they're halfway to the same stage again, ugh!

Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday Stealing: Threes Meme


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Threes Meme

From Remember the Stars

1. Three things that scare me: 

a. Losing another one of my children

b. Being laughed at and rejected by people I care about

c. Being laughed at by complete strangers

 2. Three people who make me laugh: 

a. Larry David (he's totally my unaware boyfriend)

b. Hubs (hysterical!)

c. My children, every single day

3. Three things I love: 

a. hearing children laugh

b. not being able to control my own laughter

c. homeschooling my kids

4. Three things I hate: 


Aw, only three?! ;) Okay:

a. being behind a slow, bad driver

b. people who think my homeschooled kids must be awkward and weirdly unsocialized people (they're not... any more than awkward and weird public-school kids, anyway)

c. intentional litterbugs. (P.S. If you're a smoker and toss your finished butts on the ground, THAT'S TOTALLY LITTERING!!!)

5. Three things I don't understand: 

a. Republican values

b. people who have their head in the sand and don't understand global warming and global climate change are real and really happening. but let's not get me all worked up about it, shall we?

c. intolerance, racism, and pretty much all -isms of that ilk

6. Three things on my desk: 

Business cards

a. my beautious new bilingual business cards for JAFRA (they look better than the scan, heh)

b. a can of Diet Coke

c. my ubiquitous Samsung Galaxy S5

7. Three things I'm doing right now: 

a. this blahg post (duh)

b. moderating my auction page on Facebook

c. sneezing (this cold sucks butt)

8. Three things I want to do before I die: 

a. SCUBA dive Australia's Great Barrier Reef

b. gain forgiveness and compassion for the woman who broke my brain

c. quit drinkin' the damned Diet Coke!!!

9. Three things I can do: 

a. knit, and well

b. bake, and well

c. drive, and uh...

10. Three things I can't do: 

Image result for parking funny

a. park my car well, especially when parallel parking is involved. thankfully, I nailed it on my road test 20 years ago!

b. design my own knitting patterns that work

c. sit still and relax

11. Three things you should listen to: 

a. ME, when I talk about the important issues like those mentioned above (get yer heads out of the sand, already!!)

b. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars (and just try not to bounce around to it)

c. your conscience

12. Three things you should never listen to: 

a. people who tell you that you can't

b. people who tell you what to do when you know better and haven't asked for their advice

c. the metal band Cannibal Corpse - it's horrid

13. Three things I'd like to learn: 

a. how to relax and, in tandem with that,

b. how to be patient

c. how to design my own awesome knitwear!

14. Three favorite foods: 

NEW YORK-style all of the following:

a. pizza

b. cheesecake

c. Italian bread

15. Three beverages I drink regularly: 

a. Diet Coke (duh)

b. fruity, girly rum drinks (but usually only when I'm being paid to evaluate a bar or club)

d. a Cosmopolitan (when I'm evaluating a classier bar. Hee.)

16. Three shows I watched as a kid:


a. The Cosby Show (shame about Bill, isn't it?! Ugh)


b. Perfect Strangers (who didn't love Balky and his "dance of joy"?!!)

c. Full House (because Uncle Jesse, mmmm)

Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday Stealing: 17 Meme


Hie thee here and link up thusly if you're playing along today!


17 Meme

Stolen from: Survey Haven
Are you a jealous person? 

Rarely. It's not a "yes" or "no" question for me, because normally I am not jealous of much. However, there have been a few instances in my life when the green-eyed monster came out and surprised me. I'm more jealous of my children getting attached to someone other than Mommy than of, say, Hubs checking out a hot chick!

When is the next time you’re traveling out of state? 

We left Miami last night and spent the night in Palm Beach, which is practically like leaving the country - does that count?

Can you write your name in a foreign language? 

"your name in a foreign language"

Yup, just did it. 

Image result for laughing emoji


My name is my Melanie, regardless of what language I'm speaking. it doesn't change from that to something else when I'm speaking another language - or writing it. However, I can't read, like, cuneiform, so maybe it would be something else in a language with other characters than English?

When you’re getting ready for something, do you listen to music? 

There are two times when I will stop listening to music: When the telly is on, and I don't want to compete with that, or when I'm listening to "IRIS" (my Samsung Galaxy S5's voice) navigate me around parts unknown.

What is your favorite day of the week? 

I'm a stay-at-homeschooling mom, and my husband is retired. One day really just blends riiiiight into the next. I often don't know which one it currently is.

What is something you did yesterday and wish you could have done today? 

Hubs and I went to a swanky French restaurant in West Palm Beach for a mystery shop last night. It was pretty amazing. I had a stellar companion, excellent service, and beautifully presented plating of our food. I would repeat that experience tonight if I could... but I would whisper in my own ear to order the gnocchi instead of the sheepshead (fish)!

If you woke up tomorrow and knew/spoke a different language, which language would you want it to be? 

All of them. I'd be a walking Altavista Babelfish.

What did you last order online? 

After I took the children to see Big Hero 6 at the theater, I immediately went home and pre-ordered the blu-ray/DVD combo pack from Amazon. It finally arrived yesterday. Woot! Such a good flick. I was extremely gratified when it won the Oscar last week.

Do you have any specific hobbies? 

Read my tagline: I blog. I knit. I crochet. I scrap. And sometimes I even parent my three young children. (Not necessarily in order of importance)

What’s a song you recently discovered that you want to tell everyone about? 

 I'm really loving "Bills" by LunchMoney Lewis. I haven't listened to this version before now, just the radio edit.

Favorite fall or winter accessory? 


I live in Miami. Your normal calendar seasons don't really apply. So I pick my nose rings, of which I have a full wardrobe. If it's the monsoon season (June through November), maybe Wellies?

What did you last eat? 


I had an onion bagel with whippity cream cheese. I put entirely too much cream cheese on it, but I like it that way. And no, that isn't a gastric bypass-friendly food choice, but I was about to eat myself, I was so hungry!

Look to your left. What’s there? 

That's about the size and shape of the morass that is my desk at the moment. Eleventy-billion things are on my left. How much time do you have?

How long does it take you to fall asleep? 

I drink about 19 gallons of Diet Coke per diem. It rarely affects me anymore if I drink 'em, so you may be surprised to find that lately, I've been falling asleep at the drop of a hat and sleeping many hours. (Note to self: ask doctor for results of B12 and iron levels from last week's blood draw...)

Is there a TV in the room you are in? 

There is one television set in our abode and yes, it is in this room. It is considerably smaller than the hole in the entertainment center, which drives my OCD-having self bonkers.

What comes to your mind when I say "red"? 

Image result for red lips


"Lips," but if you said it to Chloë, 13yo daughter, she'd probably think of the album by T-Swizzle (a.k.a. Taylor Swift).

Name something you think is pointless?


I couldn't think of anything at the moment other than the turn signals on the cars of most Miami drivers (hey, I use mine, and I even told the kids earlier that when they learn to drive and see that most people here neglect theirs, they should use them anyway), so I polled the room. Here are the responses:

Hubs: Cummerbunds (I disagree)

Sophia, 9: Haz-mat suits (I disagree)

Chloë: Thin socks (I kind of agree!)

* * *

Well, that was fun. Thanks for stopping by!


The 2015 Miami Boat Show #Workflow

021515 Miami Boat Show NauticStar Booth

Of course, I can't tell you exactly what I was doing there, but on Sunday, I had a day-long mystery shop in downtown Miami (at Bayside Mall) and at the Miami Beach Convention Center. We were there for me to "work" at the Miami Boat Show.

Like I said, I can't say why I needed to attend, but I can tell you this: the hosts of the show itself, the sponsors (Progressive Insurance, innumerable boat-related companies, and more), and the hundreds of exhibitors spent beaucoup bucks putting on an extremely impressive event. I've been to other major conventions before, but this one was, by far, the most fantastic.


After we bought our tickets, donned our wristbands, and filled out various and sundry papers to enter the first Exhibition Tent, we meandered around looking at all the sailing-related boats and accessories. We found these awesome Spinlock Deckvests, and the kids went crazy for them. 

We had already been listening to various "Oh, we're gonna need that!" claims from the children over a WiFi-boosting antenna company, life rafts, all kinds of anchors, engines, ropes, and other necessary components of liveaboard boating, so this wasn't a surprise. However, we chose to stop and talk to the Spinlock folks, variously out of the UK and Rhode Island, about their safety vests' designs for children.

The kids were all about 'em. We asked a ton of questions. I picked up a big ol' fatty brochure. We promised to be in touch. And Sophia, naturally, wanted a pink one (which they have). Moving on...


In the same tent, the kids were captivated by this engine-in-a-tank demo set up by one of the companies on the sailboat side of things. They each got to pull the throttle and make it go, and of course we had to worry about Sophia going full-tilt and making it burst. She's always going full-tilt. Our adventurous little wild child, that one...!

I had to admit, it was definitely an effective demonstration.


This woman, talking to the girls about where to jump on the trampoline aft of one of "her" luxury TradeWinds yachts, was April. April was super-nice, pleasant, professional, and helpful - I even admitted to her exactly what we were doing there. I never do that.


April recognized Sophia for the party animal she is, and she remarked that she'll join us on our $10-15,000 TradeWinds cruises and jump with Sophia on the trampoline - and off, into "the drink" (as my beloved Grandpa always called it).


Chloë preferred to lounge on one of the adjustable pads a bit forward of the trampolines, but April persuaded her to do a smidgen of jumping, too. There was quite a bit of cajoling and hand-holding involved in that scenario.


Jack, ever the chicken (like his Mama!), could neither be persuaded to jump nor to completely relaxed. As you can see from my shadow, I stuck by him. Heh.


Paco joined us on this venture. He's a seven-month-old weenie when it comes to us leaving him at home, which is fine for short escapes. However, he has had severe separation anxiety since we adopted him, and if we leave him alone for a lengthy amount of time, he freaks out and tears up his wee little nosy! :( So we brought him with us.

"Pax" was invited up onto all the kabillion-dollar yachts we toured, in and out of exhibition tents and buildings, onto the shuttle bus to ride between the two major sites, and everywhere else. Of course, Rob pointed out that no one batted an eye primarily because one of us carried us the entire time. He was the hit of the show! Everyone wanted to know him. Indeed, he was the key to our introduction to April and her cohorts at the TradeWinds booth. Several folks nominated him "most spoiled dog of the boat show," and I could not disagree. He has us wrapped around his tiny paw.

Anyway, we couldn't find what we were looking for at the sailboat side of things, and then April looked it up on her handy-dandy laptop for me and realized that we were supposed to be in Miami Beach, not downtown Miami. D'oh! She promptly sat us down and, teamed up with her fiancé-partner, gave us a very hard sell on the cruise of a lifetime. Uh. It was then that I realized exactly why she was being so helpful: huge commissions were in her mind from our booking!

I would love - LOVE! - to take the whole fam-damily on a beautiful TradeWinds cruise to St. Maarten, St. Barts, and wherever else that itinerary goes, but it's just not in the budget right now. I told a little white lie to let April know this wasn't going to happen right now, and she and the beau exchanged a deadly glance. Boom. Friendliness gone, class dismissed.

I still feel awful about wasting her time, but c'mon, she knew why we were there! Gah. Anyway.


Sophia and I sat together on the shuttle bus over to the Convention Center, which turned out to be a good half-hour ride. All of Team Odette fell asleep except for moi, and even I started nodding just before we reached our destination.

(Chloë picked out my sunglasses, by the by. Do they look okay? She said I definitely had to get the silver ones to match my nose ring, haha!) (Also, if you look closely at the side of Sophie's hair, you can see the pink streaks she put in it earlier in the morning. She wants you to see that. You can, yes?)

021515 Miami Boat Show Everglades Booth 1

We toured several boat brands on the powerboat side of things. The Everglades 30' we visited was quite nice. Jack spent most of his time playing captain, "steering" her around aggressively. He plays so many different flight/driving/boating simulators on his Kindle, he is probably already a better driver than I'll ever be! (Shh, please don't tell him that. For a little guy, he sure has a big ego about his 'skillz.')

021515 Miami Boat Show Intrepid Booth

We also toured a 50' NO SHOES ALLOWED! yacht by Intrepid. Rob estimated its worth at $1.5 million. It was, in a word, gorgeous. When we went below decks to look at the cabins and other living spaces, the kids breathed in unison, "It's beautiful...!" Sophie begged and begged for us to buy it. She pouted when Daddy asked her if she was writing the check. Seriously, kiddo?! Your 'rents aren't Bill and Melinda Gates, darlin'!


Lastly, we visited an unnamed (by me) boat that was nice and all, but the least impressive of the bunch. The kids were nonplussed. Jack continued "driving" and working the controls, and Chloë pulled up a bench to lie down.


Sophia joined her sister on the port side of the boat. I think this one actually did fall asleep. I know we all wanted to!


As for Hubs, he did very well at the boat show, but it definitely tired him out more than he's been used to. There was a lot of walking involved, not to mention all the climbing and maneuvering around the boats and docks. He's not the spry ninja he once was pre-tumor, but he's getting there! And rapidly, I would say; however, he walked a lot more slowly and carefully by the end of the day than he did fresh out of the box. I'm proud of where he was a year ago and where he is now, but I told him not to overdo the efforts to the detriment of his recovery.

Anyhoo... it was a great, big, fun day. We didn't spend a dime on the many food and beverage offerings there, much as I'd have loved to, because we brought our own food. Probably saved us many dollars, so I'm glad we did that...  The Boat Show ended today, but there is always next year if you wanna go!


Saturday 9: Moon River

Link up here if you're playing along today!

(And dang, those are some white teeth!)

Saturday 9: Moon River (1962)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This song is featured in a Dove candy bar commercial. What's your favorite way to enjoy chocolate (cookie, candy bar, ice cream, hot cocoa, etc.)?

Chocolate chip cookies or Lindt chocolate truffles are my faaaavorites!

2) It was originally written for the movie, Breakfast at Tiffany's. Where's the best place to eat breakfast in your neighborhood?

IHOP is right down the road. We've been there more than once at 3 AM!

3) Were you able to see the moon last night?

I haven't been out this evening, so I guess I missed it!

4) When Andy Williams' show was first telecast in color, viewers commented on how very blue his eyes were. What's the first thing you notice about a person?


I think I notice their demeanor first.

5) The Andy Williams Show gave the Osmond Brothers their first national exposure. When younger sister Marie joined the act, she made her debut on his show, as well. Let's say you have just been bumped up to first-class for a three hour flight. Which Osmond would you prefer as your seatmate, Donny or Marie?

I generally prefer mens' company over women's, so I guess Donny? Neither one greatly appeals to me, though.

6) Even though Andy was a millionaire many times over, he was still careful with money, once saying he would never pay more than $50 for a haircut. This leaves Sam shaking her head, because she spares no expense when it comes to her hair. What's something you splurge on?


I tend to splurge for my kids' sakes. I wouldn't say they were spoiled, but... well, maybe a little. ;)

7) Andy's Moon River Theater still draws tourists to Branson, MO. Have you ever been to the Ozarks?

Yes, once. We went to Branson for a resort mystery shop I did several years ago. Hubs is from Missouri, so we visited his mom and brother in the central part of the state while there, too. It was a nice trip.

8) Andy had a discerning eye for Native American art. His collection of Navajo rugs was sold at auction for nearly $1,000,000. Have you ever bid on an auction?

Only online, never in person. The in-person kind is on the bucket list! (Sheesh, that's long; I better get started!)

9) Andy told an interviewer that his earliest memory was hiding from a storm in the cellar of his family's Iowa home. What's your earliest memory?


Not this young, but I remember being a happy baby-ish girl of about three and running around my house squealing with my arms up in the air. I don't remember why; I just remember the joy.

Thanks for stopping by!



Virgo Birthday Season, Version 2014


It started with a bouquet. 

Yellow roses, to be exact - my favorite color rose. 

We have seen lots of street vendors selling all manner of things that grow from the ground, down here in Miami. Rob has been wanting to buy me flowers from one of them for nearly a year and a half now, but I haven't let him spend the money. This time, though, for birthday season, I relented. Maybe just this once, the three or four bucks could be spared.


Rob's 42nd birthday was on Saturday, August 30th. For his special dinner, we took a mystery shop at a popular nearby-ish tapas restaurant we've been to several times and enjoyed. 

We seriously annoyed our server that night, being seriously undecided on what to imbibe. Finally, having seen the huge girls-night-out party next to us receive a huge pitcher of delicious-looking white sangria, we opted for that. The funny thing was, we also ordered it by the pitcher. For two lightweight drinkers. Ummm... so guess who inherited more than half of our unfinished sangria? The girls next door!


For dinner, we dined on tapas of spinach, codfish balls, various breads and cheeses, and fruit. Utterly yummo!


Next day was Friday (before his birthday). I took another mystery shop at Rob's favorite burger joint for lunch. Hey, if you're going to spend money, it might as well be someone else's. Ha. I kid. (Kinda.)


I had yet another shop at a candy store, so I decided to get Rob some pee and poop. Of a confectionary sort, of course. He enjoyed the joke.


For his "real" dessert, the girls and I went to Publix and picked up some scrumptious cannoli and chocolate-dipped strawberries. We had gotten new Fiesta ware for ridiculously cheap at Kohl's, and that's my new turquoise plate on display. (We had a rather large Fiesta collection already, but with these hard tile floors and five clumsy dish washers, we've lost quit a bit of it to the dropsies. Ugh. We should probably stick with plastic!)


Of course, an Odette birthday season would not be complete without tons of freebies. To start, I used my Dunkin' Donuts app to get Rob a free Mocha Coolatta, which took an inordinately long time for him to finish - but he did!


Sophia gave Rob a new immersion blender, because the one we had before, which Hubs came into this marriage with, either got left behind in Virginia or was broken. Either way, he's missed it ever since. 


Jacky was amused to give Rob a new nose hair trimmer. He needs this! I'd gotten him one before, but that also bit the dust. Jack giggled the entire time he was wrapping and Daddy was opening the present.


Chloë gave her dad a new veggie peeler, because the current one stinks, and a new egg slicer, because the old one broke. We use a lot of eggs here at Casa de Odette!


Rob's wardrobe is slim pickin's, so I gave him a new pair of shorts. He says they're comfy. 


Rob loves scratch-off tickets, so I made sure to get him five $1 ones. I hope he liked the experience of rubbing off that silvery stuff, because he only won a dollar. Rats.


Fast-forward a week to Friday, the 5th of September. My friend Veronica and her mother make authentic Mexican tamales of beef, pork, and beans. To thank me for some odd thing, she wanted to give me some and was thoughtful enough to ask if I ate meat. I don't, of course, so she came over with half a dozen bean tamales that were absolutely OUT of this world. Rob enjoyed them, too! 

Veronica also gave me Ferrero Rocher chocolates for a birthday present. I shared exactly one with Sophia, ate the rest, and then promptly declared myself on a diet for the remainder of at least this month! ;)


Sophia had baseball practice that night, and Chloë came with us. Afterward, we stopped at another flower vendor on the side of the road where I bought her a half-dozen white roses for $3. Her 13th (!!!) birthday was not until Sunday, but as my mother-in-law opines, you get a whole season and not just one day. Especially as a freshly-minted teenager.

Next, we went to Sears, where I picked up that silver heart necklace you see around her neck. It was a $149.99 necklace that I got for exactly NOTHING out of pocket. Sweet! 

(Unfortunately, the chain was delicate, and she didn't realize my warnings to be careful were completely valid. She accidentally broke the clasp the next day when tugging it out of her hair... and spent the next hour dissolved in tears. Poor kid. We'll get that fixed.)


That night, much later, Chloë got a free Blue Raspberry Smoothie from Dunkin' Donuts, as well as a free chocolate croissant from Starbucks. They were technically my birthday presents, but since we practically share birthdays and since I can't really eat what she can, I usually give lots of my goodies to her - and to Rob.


Finally, around zero-dark-thirty on Saturday morning, we went to IHOP and redeemed my free rooty-tooty-fresh-and-fruity pancake meal. Chloë opted to get the peach variety. I took a bite. Okay, maybe two bites. They were so tasty!


On the way home from IHOP, we picked up our free birthday doughnuts from Krispy Kreme. Sophia ate mine, which was fine. I think she ate half of Chloë's, too, which is not unusual...


Chloë was pretty pooped on Saturday after that, so she snoozed while I took Sophie to her baseball stuff that day. However, she was back in the game that night, and we went to Panera to get our free birthday pastries. She chose a cheese Danish, and I selected a pecan roll. I was ravenous at that point, so I actually ate about a third of it before taking the rest home to a hungry husband.


I had tons of Kohl's Cash to redeem, having saved it up for Chloë's birthday, so on Sunday we started at that store shortly after they opened. She went through the entire store, looking at fragrances and cosmetics, candles, room décor, and more before deciding that she wanted to get a couple of nice outfits. This is the first one she picked, although we have to return the shirt because it bothers her sensitive skin.


This is the other outfit Chloë bought with her Kohl's cash. I really had to talk her into the white leggings. She was convinced leggings made her thighs look fat. I am so mad at whoever gave her that idea, because nothing could be further from reality! Really?!!


Chloë told me she felt like 13 was still young enough to like some kid stuff, and she didn't feel too old for another Build-A-Bear, so I used up a bunch of gift cards to that store to give her this Palace Pet one she named Pumpkin. That makes... four?


We started on our Freebie Tour of Miami after Kohl's. The whole fam-damily came with us. Our first stop was at Sonic, where we redeemed our coupon for a free-with-purchase medium Tots. She loves those things. I gave Sophie the "with-purchase" part: a small Lemon-Berry Slush. Hey, if they had to ride along for a full day of birthday fun, they might as well have gotten to join in.


Next up: GameStop. I didn't technically have anything birthday-related from there, but I'd gotten a free $5 gift certificate for downloading a certain app. I only did that to give Chloë yet another fun thing to do! She chose the Wii disk Just Dance for Kids (I don't know which version).


I'd gotten a $10 birthday gift card to Victoria's Secret, so we headed to Southland Mall in Cutler Bay to redeem that. Chloë chose a pretty pink lip gloss, which you can't tell but she's wearing in this picture.


Around the corner, still at that mall, we redeemed the coupon for our free birthday wings from Buffalo Wild Wings. Chlo didn't want those, so Jack was the beneficiary this time. He gobbled those right down, too!


Still at this mall, we went back inside the main area and redeemed coupons at Bath & Body Works and Auntie Anne's. Sophia came with us and helped Chloë pick out five mini hand-sanitizers and a sani-holder from BBW, as well as a prettily-scented lotion. We headed over for our free pretzels and a drink from Auntie Anne's. Her favorite pretzel, Cinnamon Sugar, was "out" at the moment, so they gave us a huge cup of mini pretzel bites in the same flavor. That worked.


Leaving the mall, we headed north on US1. Our next stop was Arby's, where we had a free shake-with-purchase birthday coupon. I bought Rob a chocolate lava cake for a buck and change, and Chloë wanted a vanilla shake. She didn't care for it too much, though, so Sophia received another bonus.


We kept going north and bumped into Boston Market next. I had a $3-off-$6 coupon, so we bought a piece of apple pie for Jack and two small sides of mac & cheese for each girl. Not bad for just over three bucks, and Rob and I each got a bite of mac, too. Good stuff, that.


Up the road we went, to The Falls (another mall). I had gotten $50 to spend at Build-A-Bear: $5 each for my and Chloë's birthdays, and the other $40 gift card from Smiley360.com in exchange for sharing about the Workshop with my friends. Jack was supposed to go in with the girls, but he developed a major "gimme" attitude that I didn't appreciate, and he started giving Chloë and me crap about our birthdays "not being fair." Long story short, he and Rob waited it out while the girls split the fitty bucks and shopped 'til they dropped! More on that to come in another post...

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If ever there was a time for wishing, birthdays are it! We take every opportunity we get, too. The girls both were given shiny 2014 pennies for this special wish. I wonder if they'll come true?


Still at The Falls, we walked over to the Corner Bakery Cafe to get our free birthday cookie. The girls were pooped by that point, so they sat at a table to look at their Build-a-Bear loot while I ordered a chocolate chip cookie, ostensibly to give to Jack. When I returned from there and a pit stop to the ladies' room, the girls had completely overtaken a table with their goodies. Ha! It only takes a minute... and I was so hungry, I promptly forgot about my diet and ate that whole damned cookie. And then I got sick and regretted it. Sorry, Jacky.

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We headed home from there, but not before stopping at our local Dairy Queen for our BOGO Orange Julius drinks. Chloë wanted an Original, and Sophia received the other. Deliciousness!


Before heading home, we drove down the road to Ruby Tuesday to get my free birthday burger Tue-Go. I ordered on Rob's behalf this time, getting an avocado turkey burger with applewood smoked bacon. Not a bad deal, this birthday freebie thing, huh?


We dropped the boys off at home after that and headed to the movies, just us girls. Chloë and I had a free birthday movie coming to us, and I had a third free ticket that I received from donating blood a few months ago. I'll do that again this weekend and get another free ticket for a future movie. Yay!


We three girls headed next door to Chili's for a late dinner after the movie (which was If I Stay, by the way, a real tearjerker). I had gotten a $10 gift certificate to the restaurant from the Viggle app, and we used that plus a birthday freebie coupon for a dessert which we decided to take home to eat after Sophie passed out on the table, dead asleep. The server was alarmed, thinking something was wrong other than the poor child being worn clean out.

(I also got money back from the Ibotta app for eating at Chili's, so this was nearly a moneymaker meal for me. Sweet!)


After we got home and put the Littles to bed, I sang "Happy Birthday" to Chloë. She ate the molten chocolate cake, and I sat and marveled over the fact that I am now the mother of a bleepin' teenager!!

On Monday, my 38th birthday, I only wanted some much-needed sleep and a clean kitchen. I slept until noon! And it felt great. Then I woke up with a migraine, which I still have a day later. Fancy that.


After school, Chloë and I took Sophie to baseball practice and then ran around for a few more freebies. We redeemed for two birthday smoothies at Planet Smoothie - Mango Madness for Chlo, and Screamsicle for Sophie.

We headed to Sephora at Dadeland Mall to get our birthday gifts: mascara and lipstick minis. Since I'm purely a Jafra girl at heart, I gave mine to Sophie. They wanted to stay for free mini-makeovers, but I had a killer headache still and wanted to move out of all that smelly-good stuff.

We had gotten yet another free pretzel pop-up notification on the Auntie Anne's app, each, so we redeemed those while we were at Dadeland before driving up from Kendall to Coral Gables for more freebies.

This time, we snagged a cup of Cherry Garcia from Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, as well as a free Chocolate Soufflé from California Pizza Kitchen!


Back at home after that, we got Sophie settled in bed, and the boys were both asleep, too. Chloë stuck a candle in my CPK chocolate soufflé and sang "Happy Birthday" to me by herself, the sweet girl that she is.


Lastly, before she headed to bed, I let Chloë put on her Sephora make-up. She's wearing it in this, her profile picture on her also-new Facebook account. She looks dandy, no?

The funny thing is, we're only maybe halfway through our list of freebies! Maybe we will finish, and maybe we wont, but the truth is we're kind of freebie'd out at the moment. We shall see...

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: All Night Long

Link up here if you're playing along this weekend!

Saturday 9: All Night Long (All Night)
(because Lia asked for an 80s song)

If you're not familiar with today's song, you can hear it here.

1) This music video was produced by Mike Nesmith of The Monkees. Can you name a Monkees song?

Hmm... I know the show's theme song, and I know "Daydream Believer."

2) The song includes the foreign sounding phrases, "Oh jambali Tom bo li d, say de moi ya," and "Oh, Jambo Jumbo!" Mr. Richie meant to include language indigenous to the Caribbean, but was writing the song under deadline and simply made those phrases up instead. Tell about the most recent time you cheated or "cut corners."

Let's see... Well, it's not really cheating, per se, but it's all I can think of at the moment: I'm a big coupon user, and Target puts out all different kinds of mobile coupons that are a pain to access at the cash register. So instead of dealing with that nonsense, I just took a screenshot of all the codes for the cashier to scan in one fell swoop. Does that count?

3) Richie was a frat boy at college. Kappa Kappa Psi, to be exact. Were you a member of a fraternity or sorority

Uh, no. I was a member of Beta Beta Beta (National Biology Honor Society) and Rho Rho Rho (U. of Miami's Marine Science Honor Society - get it?! We nerds have such a sense of humor), but that's about as Greek as I got.

4) When this song topped the charts (September 1983), Vanessa Williams became the first African American to be crowned as Miss America. Do you watch beauty pageants?

Holy crap, was it that long ago that she was crowned? I actually love beauty pageants, particularly this one, but I haven't watched in at least half a decade. It's been that long since we've subscribed to TV service. We all miss it; whenever we stay in hotels, we're all glued to the television when we're in the room. Lame.

5) Since it's Labor Day weekend, that holiday established to celebrate the American worker, let's talk about the workplace. Tellers work in a bank, actors work on a stage or a set, auto workers work on an assembly line. How would you describe your workplace?

I work everywhere and nowhere all at once. I'm a work-at-home business evaluation specialist, AKA a glorified mystery shopper. I work when I want, wherever I want (within limits), so I'm my own boss. It's great fun with great pay on some days, and lousy pay with zero benefits on other days. Heh.

6) An estimated 40% of us have dated a coworker. Have you ever had an office romance?

When I worked at the Publix near UM during my college years, I went out with everyone and his brother that I worked with. Good times, good times.

7) Labor Day is a big weekend for travel. How did you book your last vacation? (Online, through a travel agent, over the phone...)

We went to New York for my 20th reunion (I've only mentioned it about a thousand times by now) a few weeks ago. I booked that trip with our tax refund back in February online - do people still use travel agents? 
8) Mother Winters won't wear white again from now until next Memorial Day. Sam thinks that's just crazy. Where do you fall in this heated mother/daughter debate? 
I live in Miami, dudes. It's always summertime here. If I didn't have a big ol' fat butt, I'd wear lots of white all year long. Maybe if I ever get my freakin' plastic surgery done, that'll be my new wardrobe.

9) When you look at back on Summer 2014, what will you remember?

That afore-mentioned reunion will top the list. The whole week was pretty grand. I saw tons of friends, and my sister's family, and renewed even more friendships that had lapsed. I'm thrilled we were able to go. It was every bit as wonderful as I could possibly have imagined it. 

Today is my husband's 42nd birthday. He's had a rough year, and I'm thankful he's still with us. Happy birthday, Darlin' Hubs o' Mine!

Thanks for stopping by!


Random Snaps And Schtuff


I'm not terribly much of a flower person, historically, so it's weird to me that I find myself drawn to them since we have been living here in the County of Miami-Dade. I particularly love a huge hibiscus, and those are everywhere, but I also adore all the street - literally, they walk up and down the cars at intersections while the light is red - vendors selling bouquets of colorful roses for five bucks.

I don't get me. I'm the type of girl who finds it much more romantic for you to plant a tree for me than send flowers, but I love them here. They're just so... so... bright, and big, and colorful. And y'all should know I love color.


On Tuesday last week, I had a date with my "big brother" Marc for a mystery shop. Marc and I go back about 19 years, to my college days at the University of Miami. I was his night nurse (Marc has been a quadriplegic for longer than that, and my Chemical Oceanography TA, Beth, needed someone to take over Marc-caring duties while she was out on cruise for school), and we bonded closely in that time. Marc's a great guy, a terrific friend, and I love him dearly. It's wonderful to be so near to him and, now too, his wife and their twins.


I neglected to Instagram our shared appetizer of Ahi Carpaccio, for shame, but I grabbed this shot of Marc's Spicy Cashew Chicken before he dug in. I didn't Gala-gram my bitty crab bites, because though they were delicious, they just weren't photogenic.


Marc opted out of taking a piece of cheesecake home for later, but I bought a piece of Godiva Chocolate goodness for Rob and the kids. Um, yeah, I totally had about three bites of that rich confection before Oscar The Pouch revolted and said, "Slow down, yo." (He says it; I swear.) But holy cow, you guys. We normally get the strawberry regular variety, for Sophia's sake, but this one? Hands-down, my new favorite. I might be in trouble.


Sometime in the past week, I was on Happify doing my thang, and I was instructed to let my inner child out and do something silly and fun. I had intended to jump in the rain puddles, since the sky invariably opens up every summer day here, but wouldn't you know it? We had a sunny day. I grabbed my youngest babe and headed outside to roll around in the grass. She took this picture; not bad, eh?


Like I said a post or two ago, she's never one to shy away from lens, so of course I was inveigled into taking one of her grass-rolling, too.


I think it was that same day, we went the pool for a dip and then came home and found this scene at the row of apartments across from ours. Just glorious. I couldn't quite capture it justly, but I tried. I'm always so grateful for scenery like this; I've said it once, and I'll say it again: it makes it hard to be depressed, living here.

Enjoy your Hump Day!


Iguana Go Back To The Keys


On July 3rd, I found myself having stacked up 13 mystery shops to do down in the Keys, starting from Key Largo, working our way down to Key West, and working our way back up to Tavernier (south of Key Largo). It was a law-haw-hawng day, but I managed to get a dozen of those assignments completed, missing just one lunch in Key West for which we arrived too late. So that's me, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at the start of the day.


North of Key West, we stopped at our usual Circle K for a potty break and Big Gulp refill. We saw this huge-ish iguana, just chillin', you know, relaxin' and maxin' by the side of the road. I crept up oh-so-slowly to get a snap or two, but he bolted. So this was me, trying to get a good capture in one...


... two...


...three, before he escaped up into the foliage, out of sight. At the same station of gas, we found four more, much smaller iggies racing around after each other in the yard. What fun! Of course, there were the ubiquitous chickens, but none wanted to be photographed there that day.


At last, after about five or six shops to the north of Key West, we made it to the Southernmost Point. I had about five or six more shops lined up down there, and my good gosh, it was a HOT day. I was sweating, er, glowing profusely as me grammy would have said. It was a great day, however, much better than our last trip down there, and the flora were blooming mighty prettily all over the island.


Somewhere along the famous Duval Street, this rooster was busy jumping off and on a street vendor's kiosk, taking whatever bits of food was being doled out to him. We were told Mr. Cockadoodle-doo always hangs about, looking for scraps. Chickens amuse me; I don't know why, they just freakin' do.


Poor Rob was stuck walking around as we shopped our way through downtown, since parking is always hard to find and expensive when you finally do find it, but listen: it was the day before a major U.S. holiday, summertime, and might as well have been the weekend. Can you imagine? I parked as close as I could to the center of the action for Rob, but boy was he pooped at the end of the trip. Gratuitous camel ball picture just for shits and giggles.

At one point in this trip, I found myself flat on the ground, wearing a dress or skirt of some sort, on the sidewalk with all manner of passers-by gawking at me, photographing a pizza. Rob wanted to tell them this was my normal behavior, but no one said anything, because hey, it's Key West after all. Anything goes!

I raced against time to get to my last shop up in Tavernier. Traffic was against me, as there were accidents, patrols doing routine holiday weekend sobriety checks, and so forth, but I made it! I was so stoked that I actually made it and got home from a Keys trip before midnight. That, like, never happens.


Saturday evening, the 5th, found us back in the Keys for another shop. I was supposed to have dinner at a semi-upscale hotel restaurant with Hubs, while Chloë babysat her siblings, but I changed my mind and took her at the last minute. So while we sat looking at this gorgeous scenery next to us, Rob took Sophie and Jack to a nearby school playground to burn off some energy.


Sunset in the Keys, as you can probably well imagine, is just beautiful. My little Samsung Galaxy can't capture the gorgeousness substantially; one must experience it personally to fully appreciate it. So, go; put it on your bucket list if you haven't already seen it. I can't wait until, God willing, we live on a boat and get to see the sun rise and set over an expanse of water full time.

Hope you enjoyed. Thanks for popping in!


Saturday 9: Little Red Corvette


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Saturday 9: LIttle Red Corvette (recommended by Smellyann) That's me!

No link this week. Prince apparently is very strict about copyright infringement.

1) The subject of this song is frankly sexual. Do you blush easily?

Why yes, I do, despite the fact that my mind is frequently in the gutter. I hate it (the blushing).

2) Prince is his real name (Prince Rogers, to be exact). Growing up, his  relatives called him "Skipper." Do you have any nicknames within your family?
Smellyann, at you service! (This was bestowed upon me by my older sister, as a middle school joke. My dad called me "Mellie-Ann," and Stacey changed it to Smelly... but I liked it.)
3) Prince says he's "obsessed" with Mozart and reads whatever he can find about the composer. What's the last book you read?
I'm reading Just One Thing by Dr. Rick Hanson, about how to develop a Buddha Brain. It was highly recommended by my former therapist; I enjoy perusing it when I've nothing else to do, so it's not really a stay-up-all-night-reading kind of book for me.

4) Between Prince and The Beach Boys, the Corvette is a much sung-about car. Tell us about your vehicle.
"Miguel" is an '04 Chevy Trailblazer. We had a much newer, much better Honda Odyssey, but, well, we lost "Penelope" in the midst of all our financial desperation after Hubs retired and the brain tumor drama started. Long story short, Miguel gets us from A to B, but other than that, he's nothing to write home about. Still, I'm grateful we have a vehicle.
5) In the 1980s, when Prince was popular, MTV could turn a song into a hit. In 2014, how do you hear new music?
Lamely, I mostly listen to all the Top 40 stations to get my new music. When I get sick of that, I switch around to the "classic rock" station which, to my dismay, now plays all the music of my youth. So apparently, I'm vintage now, too. I also listen to a lot of Latin music and know quite a few of the songs in Spanish. There's a French/Creole station or two that play here in Miami, but I just can't get into that music as much.
6) In 1982, when "Little Red Corvette" ruled the airwaves, Braniff Airways shocked the travel industry and threw passengers into chaos by declaring bankruptcy. When did you last fly? Did your trip go smoothly?
I don't think I've flown since our trip to Europe in 2008, but we'll be flying into New York at the end of July. I'm looking forward to it; I love to fly, and I'll see my sister and her family (and possibly my dad), along with all my high school chums. Can't wait!
7) 1982 is also the year Disney opened Epcot. Have you ever been to a Disney park?
Sure. The last time we went to Walt Disney World was in 2006, and we stayed on property for five days and visited all the parks and Downtown Disney. We've since been back to Downtown Disney several times but haven't gotten to an actual park in eight years. My kids super, rilly rilly want to go, but, y'know, it costs.
8) 1982 is the year Cheers premiered. The sitcom was set in a bar where "everybody knows your name." Tell us about your favorite local bar or restaurant.
There's a tapas restaurant in Coral Gables that I've been to at least half a dozen times "for work" since we moved here. Every dish and drink (get the sangría!) is spectacular; I've put lots of pictures of our "small plates" on Instagram (follow me: @Smellyann).
9) The 1980s were considered a highpoint in professional tennis, with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominating the sport. Do you play tennis?
I have crappy depth perception, but I loved to attempt to play in high school. My serve wasn't bad, though. I'm not really the athletic type, which is a huge understatement. My sis, a Tough Mudder, got the "physical" genes.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy SUMMER!!!

Wordless Wednesday: In Which All We Ever Do Is Eat #WW

Link up here if you're wordy or wordless today!

Again this week, I have a lot of food pictures to share, and again, I'll be a bit on the chattier side.

Let's go!


Last Thursday was a really cool day for Team Odette. We drove up to Fort Lauderdale for a quadruple-play traveling lunch-into-dinner mystery shopping tour. Here, Sophia was doing the spoon-on-the-nose trick at a semi-upscale cheesecake restaurant chain we all (probably) know. That's us, keeping it classy!


When we finally arrived home that night, we were pretty pumped and not yet ready to end the day. While Hubs and I sat outside watching the sunset, the kids rode around the neighborhood on their scooters. It's such a blast watching them whip down sidewalks and around sidewalks like they've been doing it all their lives and not just a week or two. Chloë hopped up on the hood of Miguel, our car, after sunset for one last snap.


We've been getting food delivered from Hello Fresh, on their vegetarian plan. It's awesome, because they send us everything we need to make enough meals for the week and then some, with the recipes included in the package. I love the food, but it's pricey now that our introductory offer is over, so I need to cancel it. Worth a try, though... Anyway, these black bean-and-rice cakes over a corn and pepper relish with lime sour cream were excellent.


We've also been getting all our eggs and produce from a local farm stand nearby, which is by far what I prefer to do rather than have it shipped to us. I've been trying to incorporate as many new foods into the kids' repertoires as I can, and encouraging them to choose the recipes and help me prepare them seems to make it more likely they'll actually eat those newer foods. I had guava, mango, and papaya to use, so we made what turned out to be just regular rice pudding with those fruits and some blueberries on top - but it was still really good.

(Not pictured: A delicious mango bread loaf or two we made the same night but gobbled down before I remembered to photograph it.)


I'm still really, really loving this pizza dough recipe from a recent issue of Martha Stewart's Living magazine. The latest batch a day or two ago was the best yet. I keep meaning to freeze the dough to pull out for whenever, but it kinda just keeps getting used and eaten! This first one was beautiful, both visually and gustatorially. (Is that the right word?!) I used cherry tomatoes, both red ones and orangey-yellow ones, separately blanched, peeled, and puréed to make a color-blocked sauce topped with extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt. Bits and blobs of goat cheese topped it off. That one didn't last a New York minute on the kids' plates!


The kids turned their noses up at this thinly-slivered eggplant parmesan pizza I made up next, but I still made 'em each try a bite. No go. Oh, well, introduce it six times and maybe they'll say "Yum!" on the sixth try, right? Funny story: Sophia walked in on me later that night, helping myself to a square of this pizza but tossing the eggplant before I ate it. Haha! Busted.


I don't do meat, and Rob is trying to give it up as well, but we're still using up what's been in our deep freezer for a few months. The last pizza was ALL Rob, and he found it to be quite delectable. A simple tomato sauce for the base, topped with browned spicy Italian sausage and fresh green and red peppers from the farm stand, along with mushrooms and green olives from Publix. I'd made a similar one without the peppers for him the week before, but he said the peppers really made the pizza, so we had a WIN with this one.


Jack wasn't thrilled with ANY of the pizzas, because he's pretty much a meat-and-bread boy. He doesn't like tomatoes in any form, cheese in any form, or pretty much anything else in any form. Picky, picky. I had a recipe for turkey meatballs from chef Mario Batali in a recent issue of People magazine in mind, so I offered to make some up for him. I don't like to play short-order cook, but since he's a 45-pound 11-year-old, I don't like him to not eat, either. (Put down your phone; he has pituitary dwarfism and will always be tiny!)

I made some without sauce for him and the ever-hungry Sophia, and the rest were cooked in an amazing red wine, rosemary and garlic sauce for Rob. Jack ate a whole two golf ball-sized meatballs, as did Sophia, and Rob ate a half-dozen after his meatzza. He was so full, he could scarcely walk, so he sat at the table for a while after that, completely unable to move. Hee.


Nothing local or fresh about dessert that night, but Chloë had been asking to bake some chocolate chip cookies with me for a while, so I accepted her request. We were out of flour after my pizza crust binge, and we needed milk to go with the cookies (duh), and I have been all about the eggs lately, so another trip to Publix was in order. I rode my bike while Jack and Chloë rode along on their scooters. (Sophia was having a bath and was quite annoyed we went without her.)

The kids have only ridden around our neighborhood, and they have been delighted with that because the nabe kids have been home from public school. They've made half a dozen new friends this week, and they keep knocking on our door asking if my kids can come out and play. However, a trip outside the 'hood was a new experience, and along the way to Publix and back, I heard lots of woos and shouts of, "This is exhilarating!", "I can't believe we're doing this!" and "I feel so alive!" that made for a wonderful mom-moment for me, too.

(P.S. The Publix cashier was shocked when I told her I was on my bike and proceeded to put the flour and a gallon of milk on the bottom of my backpack, and then the carton of eggs on top to ride home. But I was right; they survived just fine. Did not try this with bread!)


Still in baking mode this morning, I woke up the family around 0900 with freshly baked blueberry shortcakes and fresh Florida grapefruit halves from the farm stand. Rob laughed at me when I complained that my cream wouldn't whip, before he reminded me that I was using half-and-half and not heavy whipping cream. Oops. Publix again.


Last but definitely not least, dinner tonight was another meal provided by Hello Fresh. I roasted the onions, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, and garlic in some EVOO while boiling the rotini. Tossed it all with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese, and voila! Rob and I adored it; I was kind of grumpy that I couldn't fit more in my little gastric-bypass pouch because it was that tasty. Simple; I'll make it again but with local food.

Thanks for stopping by!



Saturday 9: Vacation

Link up here if you want, I'm not pushy.

Vacation (1982)

Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here.

1) Do you know how to water ski?
I have never been water skiing, but it's totes on my bucket list!

2) Do you have 2014 vacation plans? 
Next week, in fact! We'll be in Orlando from Monday-Friday, and the kids are stoked that it's for a "real" vacation and not just a mystery shop. Me too - though I must confess, I'm stocking up on shops to do whilst there.

3) Do you have a passport? 
Yep, but it's expired. When we moved to Guam in 2002, we had to get them in case we needed medical air transport to Japan. Chloë has one, too, but she was a year old then and, well, she no longer looks like that!

4) If you took a 7-night cruise, could you completely unplug -- no phone calls, no texts, no internet?

love cruises, having been on 5 or so. I can't wait 'til my next one. What was the question? Oh. Yeah. I think so, though I would certainly be tempted. Cruising is so all-encompassing, though, that I can manage.
5) Do you own a travel alarm clock?
I don't even own a real alarm clock. Well, that's not entirely true; I have them, I just don't use them!

6) Though the Go-Goes broke up in 1985, they frequently reunite for live performances. What's the last concert you attended?
Hmm. It's been a while. I think the last one was several years ago at the Norfolk Tides stadium in Virginia: we saw John Mellencamp, Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. It was pretty awesome, as you might expect, but my favorite act was The Wiyos, who opened. I've requested them for my 40th birthday, and Wayne Wiyo said YES!!!

7) Their first hit was "Our Lips Are Sealed."  Can you be trusted with a secret? 
Not really. Yes. Maybe. I don't know?

8) In 1982, when this song was popular, the comedy Tootsie was in theaters. What movie makes you laugh?
I love Tootsie!!What a fun movie. I also love The Toy, with Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason. Recently, I debated getting a copy of it for my kids, but I think they're still too young for it, though I watched it when I was younger than they are. Thoughts??
9) Sam is chewing on a Tums as she composes these questions. What's the last over-the-counter medication that you took?  
A couple Excedrin the other day when I had a crappy migraine all damn day. I hate my Rx for migraines, so I avoid it until absolutely necessary. Thankfully, the Excedrin actually worked.

Friday Fragments, Version 5.2.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Link up here if you've got some brain gems to deposit on us this morning!

So today's the day. I'm headed to the neurosurgeon, CT and MRI images from the last month in hand, to discuss what this means for Ye Olde-Fashioned Cerebrum. I'm nervous, as the lesion that I have can explain some of my symptoms of psychosis, which we've been explaining away as part of my Bipolar I diagnosis. Plus, the vain part of me just doesn't want to shave my head - again! 

I'm on the fence, and this morning's neuro visit may help me make the decision, but I'm strongly considering putting the kids back in public school in the fall. It kind of breaks my heart a little bit, but I feel like, especially as they age up (Chloë will be 13 {!!!!} then), they need more than I am able to give them. I want to give them the best possible chance at success - however they may choose to define it - in life, and deep down, I feel like homeschooling is letting them down in that regard. I don't know. No need to weigh in with your thoughts on this one; I don't really want outside input at this point.

Why do they ruin awesome songs by overplaying them? It's no secret I'm a Top 40 pop music fan, so of course all the songs I listen to are generally overplayed, but it seems like every other song on the radio is John Legend's "All of Me." I adore it, but I'm ready for it to fade out a little bit.

Our washing machine is on the fritz, and we're out of clean towels. Rob has tried, unsuccesfully, to repair it, which sucks. I do not relish the idea of hitting up a laundromat while we wait for a repair!

I've stalled on writing my book. I've written out the whole outline and know pretty much exactly what the whole book will say. It's just a matter of taking the time to get the words out of my head and into print. With due diligence, though, I just know it can be great. 

I did something quite naughty on Facebook a couple of days ago. I tagged my childhood tormentor in one of her own pictures as "The Face of Evil." Of course, she will have to - and won't - approve it, but in the moment, I felt better. Now, I just wish I hadn't put myself out there like that.

I got a new bike! It's adorable:


I'm having fun riding it around the nabe. I hadn't ridden a bike in about 17 years, so I'm a bit wobbly and have wiped out once, but it's good times!

Team Odette went out to Miami Beach last night for a dinner mystery shop. I was supposed to stage a complaint; I didn't have to fake one, though, as there were copious problems along the way. And Rob thought the staff were all condescending hipsters, whereas I thought... they were pretty cool. We often have widely disparate perceptions of such things, which I find interesting. Also, for the amount of money people pay to live and visit South Beach, you'd think the roads wouldn't be so completely sucktastic! Anyway, here's a selfie the lady babies and I took while there:


Have a great day, you guys. Thanks for stopping by!


Key West + Friday Night + Spring Break = Insanity


I took, and confirmed with my schedulers, several assignments for Key West for Friday and didn't remember until it was too late not to go that Spring Break season is still in full effect. Good Lord, please let me kept reimbursed for parking fees!!


We stopped for a drink refill and potty break at a Circle K in Key Largo somewhere, and the ladies and I stopped for the all-imporant selfie. Or ussie, as it were?

Speaking of Circle K, they're pretty ubiquitous along the Overseas Highway. Someone must have received a pretty sweet bonus when s/he landed that contract.

Also, the soda refills, mentioned in the previous Sunday Stealing post, are even cheaper (69¢ + tax) at Circle K than at my beloved 7-11. Can you imagine? I can barely hoist my cup, it's so big, and they're almost free. I filled up about eight times yesterday.


And speaking of ubiquitous, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing or hearing a rooster crow. The further south you go, the more you see. I love those crazy chickens.


And speaking of chickens, I did a quick #cockadoodledoo search on Instagram (I'm @Smellyann there, if you want to follow) and found this gem. Rob and I laughed about poor Sally from Mile Marker 12 or so all the way down to MM-0.


About 5 miles outside of the entrance to Key West, where US1 turns into Roosevelt and you can only go either left or right - you know the place, right? - I had to stop and take a nap. I hadn't slept much or maybe at all the night before, and it's a 6½-to-seven-hour round-trip. The caffeine stopped being enough 2¼ hours in. Anyway, the girls decided to pass my naptime by making faces, which I only know because evidently I took this picture. I kind of don't remember a little bit.


After we got into the most westward of Florida Keys, I took Chloë with me on my first assignment. Jack and Sophia were supposed to be wandering around that strip mall with Rob, but they all pretty much hung out in the car the whole time. With the windows down. I had the only car keys, so they had to sweat it out. Methinks we oughtta get a copy made. Or two.

Finishing up job #1 some 45 minutes later, Chloë and I piled back into the car and headed to Duval Street to look for parking. I knew it would be a nearly impossible task, so imagine my surprise when I found a parking spot near the action! Of course, the fee was gigantic, so after I parked and found out how much, we quickly vacated the spot for the guy who was so patiently waiting for that gem.

Little did I know, I shouldda kept that spot. I ended up 0.6 miles from the action, which is nothing, or would have been nothing, except that meant over a mile of walking back and forth to get things done. Rob walks with a cane. (NO, we still haven't gotten the disabled person placard... shoot.) You do the math. The cost wasn't horrible, so we forked it over. 

I grilled Rob as to whether he was well enough to stay with the girls while Jack and I did the shop. He insisted, and seemed lucid enough to say so, that he was. Nevertheless, I gave Chloë specific instructions for what to do in case of Daddy Emergency of any kind. She understood. Jack and I left.

Unfortunately, I was rushing too much and forgot to pay attention to the cross streets where I parked. I had done a walking navigation route to my destination, but when I later went to get reverse directions back to my origin, where the car was, it wouldn't work.


So, Jack and I did this assignment as quickly as possible while still trying to have some semblance of a good time. Fortunately for me, he was pretty scared and ran through many of the exhibits, so I didn't have to feign a reason to have to leave earlier than I wanted to.


Jack's not much of a selfie-taker (ussie), and it took four tries to get this one halfway-decent shot, so he was more than exasperated with me by the time I let him climb those stairs! Also, will that other front tooth grow the rest of the way in, please? He looks ridonkulous.


After we finished my Job #2 of the day, we headed back in the general direction of the car. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, well give or take, more or less, so I wasn't terribly worried. I took a picture of this sign at Rick's on Duval because it's so... severe compared to the general Key West atmosphere, y'know? So serious. So ... strict! I mean, it is still a night club, you guys. Please.

So then, I got a text from Rob insisting that he was okay, but that he fell. He and the girls were just going to sit in the car. I had given him the keys, in case they needed to get back in car for any reason, so I knew they could at least have air conditioning. I hoped, anyway, that after he'd hit his head, he wouldn't forget that part.

I couldn't find the car. I text him. No answer. I called him. No answer. I texted, called, texted, called, and grew ever more frantic. Finally, he returned my call and told me they were on Applerouth.

Now, even if you know Key West, you probably don't know Applerouth, because it's really just a short alley way and not really a full street at all. I walked the length of it with Jack about six times, but no sign of a parking lot, let alone our car.

I texted Rob. I called. No answer. Text, call, text, call. "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE BLAST THE HORN FIVE TIMES IN A ROW!!!" I finally sent through the airwaves. But no answer.

A sense of deep dread came over me. I imagined him and the ladies, passed out, possibly dead from heat exhaustion in the car. I was terribly afraid of what I would find. Jack reassured me that the girls were smart enough to get out of the car if they grew too hot. I had to believe him. And yet... and yet.

So I found this tapas place, which doesn't bill itself as much but really is, called 2¢ on Applerouth. A man came out, and I inquired quite vehemently as to whether this was the only Applerouth on the island, or was there another stretch of it somewhere. He gave me a short answer, affirming it was the only one, and I thanked him and turned away.

A tall, blond man came out. My guardian angel must have sent him. (Thanks, Mom.) He told me his name was Chris, he was the owner of 2¢, and asked my name. And Jack's. And said I was looking pretty frantic. And offered to help me.

To say I pinned all my hopes in the world on this one man would have been an understatement. I was picturing my daughters and husband dead in the car, people!!

I told him the problem, and he said something like, "Are you sure he didn't say, 'Angela,' because it sounds like this little parking lot on Angela."

You guys, I had never heard of Applerouth Drive before. It's a really, seriously weird name, in my opinion, and there was really no mistaking that Rob had told me Applerouth. I had even gotten Chloë on the phone, before Rob's phone died and he didn't have the wherewithal to realize that and plug it back in to recharge, and asked her to tell me what she could see, so that I could find them.

"There's really nothing here, Mom," she had insisted then.

"Chloë, this is very important. What can you see? Anything! A street name, a building, a really big tree, anything! WHAT. CAN. YOU. SEE??!"

"There's a small white building. Centennial Bank." 

"Thank you! I will find you!"

And yet, I couldn't, because the closest Centennial Bank I could find on Maps was somewhere way the hell up in Miami-Dade or Broward County.

So when Chris told me he knew where the parking lot was, and Centennial Bank, and that my husband must have said Angela, well, I followed him frantically and prayed the prayer of a woman who did not not want to lose two daughters and a husband, you know what I mean?

(By the way, Jack, famous for being a complainer, was a real trooper. I can count on NO fingers the number of times he complained about the heat, the walking, the being lost, etc. Not one complaint. The kid could sense Mom was in a panic, I guess, and to have complained would have compounded the issue.)

Chris led us the stretch from Duval and Applerouth, which is where Rob insisted he was, up to Angela and Whitehead. And he pointed out a parking lot ahead. And I recognized it, along with the attendant. Oh, my God, I recognized it.

I thanked him - I'm sure I thanked him - and then I took off at a dead sprint for the car.

I'm not a runner, folks. I don't run unless someone scary is chasing me, or I'm about to miss a bus. But I ran as hard and fast as I could. Thankfully, Jack followed me.

And I opened the car door, and looked inside, and there sat my husband, blinking back at me. And I looked in the backseat, and there sat my daughters, blinking back at me.

And all the dread and fear and worry of the past 70 minutes came flooding in, and I don't know exactly what I said, but I do know one thing: I was LOUD.

Panic over, relief set in, I made sure everyone was fine, and then I did the one thing I could do at that moment, other than yell.

I took another nap. For an hour and a half. Maybe two hours, I don't recall. I slept.

Thank you, God, thank you. My babies are alive. My husband is alive. <----- Last thought before falling asleep, first thought upon waking up again.

I missed Job #3 because of the fear and the nap, but I was determined to go do Job #4. I had to go by myself, which sucked, but this time, I made damned sure I knew exactly where the car was at the time. And I gave Chloë her dad's phone.


This time, this walk, I could enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful, zany Key West. Like this chicken crossing the street. (No, Julie, I didn't ask him why he did it.)


Like these shakes, a Strawberry Banana Protein no-sugar one for me, and a Nutella Espresso one for Rob, at a local café instead of the Haagen-Dazs across the street. Because local is so much better than big box, y'all.


Like this barefoot musician and his faithful dog, playing Pearl Jam for tips on a Duval sidewalk. The sticker there reads, "Wag more, bark less." I loved this whole little vignette.

And then I was finished. The kids were all right. Rob was all right. 

We headed home. It took three hours. I drove straight through, stopping only for potty breaks and refills.

Of course, it rained. It rains every time we drive home from Key West. Every. Single. Time. But this wasn't a driving rain, and it didn't last the duration of the trip. Just a sprinkle from Key Largo to Homestead.

When we arrived home, I had to go pee, and the kids were all asleep. I ensured Rob was all right, and got them into the house to go to bed, and then I went to use the bathroom. 

When I came out, Rob was still outside, so I went to help him into the house. He was sitting in the parking spot next to ours, stunned. He'd fallen again, and this time he said he'd hit his head on the grass. 

Dammit, damn, damn, damn.

I'm glad it wasn't the concrete, but...

I helped him unsteadily to his feet and led him inside, to the couch. He's been up to pee and get meds since then, but otherwise he hasn't moved. I will be calling to make us both a doctor appointment first thing on Monday morning. 

Speaking of insanity.

This is how our life goes.


Sunday Stealing: The Bonus Questions Meme


Link up here if you're playing along this week!

Bonus Questions Meme

From Friday 5Bonus Questions


What’s your favorite frozen treat on a stick?


No stick needed!

Once in a while, I will still cave in and have one - maybe one a year - but then I get really ill afterward. So I wait until I forget just how sick, and that takes about a year, before I have another. [P.S. Homemade are better.]

What’s your favorite lollipop?


I'm not really a fan of hard candy in any form. I have to be hard up for something sweet to go that route. Espcially now, when sweets are few and far between for me.

When you passed notes during class in high school, who was mostly often the recipient?

I'm offended that you think I'm too old for having texted my way through school instead of doing that ^^ - not. I kid.

Usually it was my good pals, Dr. Lisa, Shana, Stacey K. or others. Girls. Rarely would I pass notes with a guy, but it happened! ;)

Who among your high school friends was the first to get his or her own car?


I got my car first, I think, amongst my group of friends. However, I never got to drive it without permission! That's another twisted story that illustrates how dysfunctional my family was. If I haven't shared it before, I will have to get to that another time, because I'm in too good a mood.

Who’s the black sheep in your family?

We used to say it was my sister, Stacey, because she was so different than the other three of us. However, I'm the only one who doesn't still talk to everyone else (except her of course), and maybe that means it's me. You know what? I'm fine with that. I've jettisoned away from all that negativity.

Who’s the family historian?


Again, that would be me. I like to keep track of everything and encapsulate each moment. I hope that my children will appreciate that some day, the way I love looking at pictures of my parents and their youths, and sometimes, even my own.

What was the last thing you sprayed from a spray bottle?


Probably Windex - and I need to do it again. My bathroom mirror is 'sgustin'!

What was the last thing you sprayed from an aerosol can?

Maybe not this brand, but it was definitely sunscreen. We went to the beach twice while Rob's brother and his kids were here last week. No, wait, I think I sprayed the toilet with some gunk a night or two ago. It stains easily and looks gross, and I clean it at least twice a week because of that.

When did you last make reservations for something?


I have to do it fairly regularly for my shops, so I think it was the last time I went to the tapas place. Good stuff, that.

What’s your next upcoming appointment?

I have to schedule an MRI for this week. I mentioned it in Friday Fragments a few posts down, but a CT scan revealed a lesion on my left temporal lobe, and we need to find out what, exactly, it is. I'm not freaking out. I'm not freaking out. I'm not freaking out.

What store’s departure from your preferred shopping mall most saddened you?

Maybe I'm not normal, but it would sadden me more if such a silly thing saddened me. Really? I don't even get this concept.

What’s good to eat at your preferred shopping mall?


Dude. I don't even have a preferred shopping mall, let alone know what's good to eat there.

I'll tell you this, though: When we go to a mall, almost always for a shop, we (my family) enjoy making the food court circuit and getting a hundred samples to eat. It's a free, full meal for me and the tiny kids, and it's a good snack for Rob and Sophie.

What services (as opposed to goods) do you pay for at your preferred shopping mall?

What's with all the mall questions? I'm, like, getting a headache and stuff.

Okay, my attempt at answering this question will be: no, can't do it. I'm not a girl who gets her hair and nails did at the mall, and I can't think of any other mallular services.

What’s a store you’ve never been inside at your preferred shopping mall?


Ten points if you can guess how I arrived at this ^^ picture!

I've probably mystery shopped 95% of the mall stores of which you've heard, and I've probably been in the other 5% of mall stores of my own volition. Oh, I know! I've never been inside the smoke shop. A store just for tobacky? Kill me now Count me out!

What kind of store would you most welcome in your preferred shopping mall?


My ideal mall doesn't exist, but if it did, it would be unrecognizable as a mall. I don't know what kind of person I am, to give you an easy label, but generally speaking, if it fits in at a regular mall, I probably wouldn't go there.

What did you most recently purchase at an office supply store?

Office supplies. "That's kind of a 'duh'!" as my older daughter would say. (But it was probably printer ink. I go through a lot of it.)

What did you most recently purchase at a book store?



Well, I won't "duh" you and say it was a book. I'll tell you: it was an SAT study book, thick as anything and full of potential, for Hubs. Then he got sick, and, well, that $30 book is probably never going to get used now. You want it?

What did you most recently purchase at a drugstore?

Drugs, duh! 

Last night, when we were in Key West, I got hungry. I went into the Walgreens there and got some Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. I knew I wouldn't eat them all, and I wanted to get something I knew the kids would enjoy.

What did you most recently purchase at a convenience store?


That's my home-away-from-home, I swear. I'm currently re-addicted to caffeine and diet soda. For $2.66, I can get an enormous 52-oz bucket cup refill and four yummy mozarella sticks with marinara dipping sauce. I get some every day, sometimes a half-dozen times. Today though, after Key West, I'm poor, so I just got the 99¢ soda refill on my way home from church.

What did you most recently purchase at a thrift shop?


Hey looky, I made it through a Sunday Stealing images post without a "KEEP CALM AND..." picture! You're proud of me, I know.

Hmm. I love thrift shops. I'm currently looking for a cool, matched-or-not set of chairs to replace the ones that we currently don't have. Huh? you say. We have two or three wooden ones at our table for six, but I don't know what happened to the rest when we moved. We currently use folding chairs from the card table set, and I'm super tired of that.

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!




Friday Fragments, Version 4.11.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Hey folks! I haven't fragged in a long, long time, since I've been such a horribly inconsistent blahgger during this past Year of the Brain Drama. So, welcome back, if you're visiting here from Half Past Kissin' Time and, somehow, still remember who I am. If not, welcome! Stick around, I'll be posting here again soon. Like, within a month, I swear. ;)

Link up here if you're playing along today - and read the post to see how you can win some cool prizes, too!

It was the weirdest thing, y'all: I got stung by a pissed-off bee? Wasp? Hornet? I don't know. Some kind of flying black insect with a nasty sting and a bad attitude. He dropped dead shortly after injecting me right below my left eye with his venom, and part of me cheered his demise while the biologist in me felt bad for helping to hasten it.

ANYWAY... it hurt like hell, but by the time I finished the drive home from Tampa to Miami, the swelling had gone down and it didn't hurt a bit. So it was with my surprise that I realized, the next morning, that the swelling had not only returned, but my left cheek was numb as well. This went away, and returned, and went away, and returned, repeatedly over the next few days, until Monday afternoon when my friends insisted I go to Urgent Care and get it checked out. Steph (of Stim fame) urged me to go immediately, and so I went.

After hearing my tale and seeing my left-side-droopy face, they sent me to the Emergency Department at the nearby hospital. The PA there diagnosed me with Bell's Palsy, completely unrelated to the sting, and ordered blood tests and a CT scan.

While I was getting my blood drawn, the lab techs informed me that my room was ready. "Room? What room?" I asked, puzzled. Long story short, my bloodwork was fine except for dehydration, but my CT showed a lesion in my left temporal lobe. What? Seriously? The doctor said it could be anything from nothing at all to an old infarction (a stroke? a temporary ischemic attack? Who knows?) to a tumor. They ordered an MRI for the next day and told me to sleep. 

Short story long, and I suppose this is now about three fragments too long for this post, they cut me loose the next day and told me to have an MRI as an outpatient. I'm getting it next week. I wasn't worried until I started losing some of my memory and partial sight in my left eye tonight, but I'm still not too terribly panicked. Hubs and I can't both have brain tumors, amIright? That would just be insane.

Having had a craniotomy to remove his tumor on February 5th, Rob is doing, well, not much better. He still uses a cane and, sometimes, even needs to revert to his walker. He sleeps all the time. However, we can carry on a semi-normal conversation now, and he can still make me laugh like nobody else. I guess when they remove mineralized bits of your brain and dig around inside your skull, it's pretty amazing to think you should have been all better by now (had it not been for last year's Cyberknife procedures). I won't rush him.

You know what I hate? When the po-po are out cruising on the Turnpike and going 5 MPH under the speed limit. Are they playing games with us, or what? Of course, everyone stays behind the police car for fear of getting a ticket... everyone except me. Ain't nobody got time for that! I always pass the officer, going no more than 5 MPH over the speed limit, yet keeping a careful eye on my mirror. I mean, I've only gotten *mumble, mumble* speeding tickets in the last 20 years. #scofflaw

Speaking of the Turnpike and weird things happening, guess what? I live in Miami, right? One of the biggest, busiest, most heavily-trafficked cities in the nation? So imagine how much I laughed when I had to divert my path off the Turnpike today because several cows - yes, cows, like, moo-moo - were wandering around, blocking the cars. HEE-larious.

I had this conversation with 11-year-old Jack and 12-year-old Chloë today:

Chloë: "Mom, I stubbed my toe on that levitated thing between the bathroom and the bedroom. It hurts!"

Mel: "I'm sorry. But, 'levitated' means floating in the air...'

C: "Oh, so what should I say? 'Elevated' is the right word, right?"

M: "You could say that. I would just say 'raised'..." (I always trail off, it seems.)

Jack: "Wait, what was levitating?"

C: "Nothing was!"

J: "No really, what was levitating?!"

C: "UFOs, geez!"

M: **laughs**

{End scene.}

Wednesday was the 30th anniversary of my mom's death at age 33 from untreated diabetes. I was seven years old. It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life, and mine have not been an easy 37 years. So you'd think, after three decades of asking my sister and me on the phone, "Do you know what today is?" my dad would get the clue that no, we will not ever forget the day.

(Get yourself checked out regularly, folks. Senseless deaths like hers ... sigh.)


So, tomorrow we drive back down to Key West. I have lots of work to do down there. It's great because, hey, money... but I have no jobs to do on the way down or back, and it's a good three hours each way. And it always rains on the way back. Never fails.

Thanks for stopping by! Maybe, just maybe, I'll see you again here next week for more fragments. (My grandma always told me the road to hell was paved with good intentions, which I never really understood as a kid because I thought she was telling me I should have bad intentions!)


Sunday Stealing: For Old Times' Sake


Link up here if you're a latecomer, like Yours Truly!

From For Old Times' Sake 

The For Old Times' Sake Meme

When was the last time you swam in a pool? 

March 5th or 6th. It was cold, in Suffolk, VA, with an unheated indoor pool. I preferred to jump into the pool, warm up in the hot tub until I was about to pass out, then lather, rinse, and repeat. Ah, good times.

 Do you like to party? 

I didn't go to a single frat party during my years at the Universities Miami and South Florida. I studied hard, and I worked up to three jobs at a time, besides. Apologies in advance to all you Greeks, but I don't like to be told with whom I can be friends, what parties and games to attend, and what guys to date. And I didn't want to check my brain at the door and share the community one. So nope, I didn't rush, pledge, or whatever those sorority girl-types do these days. Ah, I've waited a long time to say that "out loud." (I mean, uh, no.)

Describe the shirt you're wearing? 

It's green, with a peek-a-boo slit where you would be able to see my cleavage - if I had any.

What is one feature film that you don't like?

If Ernest went there, I hated it.

Would people describe you as happy? 

OMG, is anyone else sick of being told to Keep Calm yet?! Anyway, long story short, yes, I am generally considered to be happy. So much so, my dad called me "Joyous" as a kid. Nowadays, though, I need to take my meds like clockwork in order to be anything but a total $%^&* bitch. Sad to say.

Sleep with or without clothes on? 

I generally crash in whatever I've been wearing for the day. I have about four sets of PJs that haven't touched my skin, other than to be moved from drawer to box and back again, in ages.

Oh, and don't do a Google Images search for "sleep naked" with kids around. Consider yourself warned. (*ahem* I don't know whether to apologize or say "you're welcome" to my 11-year-old son now...)

Does it bother you if people swear around you? 

Are you kidding me? I'm a native New Yawka, my husband is a sailor, and... no. I don't mind. I'm trying to quit, but truth be told, I'm not really trying as hard as I could be.

Do you prefer Wednesdays or Thursdays? 

My favorite day of the week used to be any day that Hubs was home from work, spending the day with us. Now that he's retired, every day sucks. Haha! I kid, I kid.

Like to travel? 

Is the Pope Catholic?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Do I like to swear?

Yes, dudes. I live to travel.

Think you're attractive? 


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You tell me.

Are or were you a good student? 

I didn't get a 100 average in high school; I got a 119. I'm 37 years old now and other than this silly ol' blahg, no one in the world cares anymore. It was important at the time. I went into college as a mid-year sophomore and graduated from a 5-year program in 3 years with a double major and what would have been a triple minor if I'd gone another year. 

Yeah. I was a good student. But who cares? (ME, obviously! ha.)

Are you currently happy? 

So my husband left his critically-important medicine at the ballpark last night (why he brought it there is beyond me), and now he's retching between sobs. I feel bad for him. It's hard to be happy at this juncture.

Colored or black-and-white photo? 

I mean, there are great color pictures that would lose their grip in B/W, and vice-versa, but as for me? I live my life right out loud, in living color, every single day. Give me turquoise, give me fuschia, give me chartreuse any day of the week. I'll take the brightest, noisiest colors you have. (Oh, was this question not supposed to be metaphorical. My bad, yo.)

Do you consider yourself the life of the party? 

Not without major chemical assistance, no

Do you drink? 

I prefer to drink when they pay me to do it (my job has its perks), but yeah. And, I seem to imbibe a lot more frequently since Rob had his brain surgery. Coincidence?

Do you make fun of people?


Never say never, but I generally try to be nice. On the other hand, that girl at the store tonight should not have been wearing that strapless dress with all her bacne. I'll stop there.

Do you think dreams eventually come true? 

I think I'm some special kind of psychic, because I often have realistic dreams about mundane conversations or real-life situations that, the next day or a week later, actually happen. Does that count? And is this just moi?

Also, sure they do, or else I have been an idealistic daydreamer for nothing my whole life... and I refuse to allow for that possibility!

Favorite fictional character? 

I'm rather fond of Anne of Green Gables, but that's just the first name that came to mind... (P.S. It occurred to me, just before hitting "publish," that I only thought of characters in books. Interesting little factoid to probably no one, huh?)

Go to the movies or rent? 

Remember the days when your parents used to take you and your sister to the drive-in in your paneled wood station wagon, and they'd put the seats down in the back and buy you candy and popcorn, and there would be a cartoon before the feature started? And then you two would fall asleep, or at least that's what your parents thought before they started smooching, and everything was all right with the world?

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'll pick the theater, if only because it brings me back to that place over three decades ago.

Have you ever moved? 

Follow me: Monroe, NY ► Syracuse, NY ► Aiken, SC ► Coral Gables, FL ► Warrenville, SC ► Coral Gables, FL ► South Miami, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► South Miami, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► Sarasota, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► St. Pete, FL ► Tampa, FL ► St. Pete, FL ► Panama City Beach, FL ► Panama City, FL ► Hagatna, Guam ► Yigo, Guam ► Norfolk, VA ► Virginia Beach, VA ► Portsmouth, VA ► Homestead, FL ► ???

Have you ever stolen anything? 

I stole a Koosh Ball once, quite by accident. I walked out of the store with it, forgetting it was in my hands, until I got back to the car. I didn't return it. I felt so guilty, I just stuffed it into the back of my closet. I don't know what became of it after that.

How's the weather right now? 


Last time you cut your hair? 


On March 9th, I got this haircut. I like it.

Last person you talked to on the phone? 

A scheduler for a mystery shopping company called me to have me do an evaluation. 

Last time you showered? 

The water pressure in our shower sucks butt, so I prefer to take baths. Normally, I hate baths, so this irks me. I did shower a couple days ago, though, because it is faster, and I was in a hurry. Hey, you asked.

Loud or soft music? 

When I'm alone in my car, I love listening to loud music. I turn it down for the kids' sakes, though.

McDonalds or Burger King? 

I prefer Panera.

Night or day? 

You saw what time it was on the weather question, right?

Number of pillows? 

One if it's firm, two if it's so squishy that my head hits the mattress. I mean, what are the point of those?!

Piano or guitar? 

My friend Shana plays (among other things) the electric violin. I think that's pretty cool.

Current longing? 

I just want Hubs to...

Current disappointment? 

I was hoping for an avocado-on-toast, with cheese and lemon, sammich. I forgot we were out of the cheese and avocados, though. Bummer.

Current annoyance? 

Jack, my son, is watching Gravity behind me. He's talking through the entire freakin' thing. (Yes, he's awake at this hour. They all are. Our sleep patterns are all messed up this past year of Brain Drama.)

Last thing you ate? 

I'm eating sunflower kernels right now, since the last disappointment.

Last thing you bought? 

These are free at Walgreens this week, so I "bought" six. I drank three already, and I'm not wired.

Pick a lyric, any lyric or a song...

When I hear John Legend singing "All of Me" on the radio, it makes me question why no one's ever written a song like that for me. And sung it to me. I've always wanted to be serenaded outside my window in the middle of the night. Or ten o'clock. Because, you know, neighbors...

But Hubs can't sing. And he can't dance. However, no one makes me laugh harder than he does. And behold, that is good.

Pick a movie quote...


... But my favorite line in Dirty Dancing is, "Just put your pickle on everybody's plate, College Boy, and leave the hard stuff to me."

I actually say it all the time, when the moment's right. Crack myself up, I do.

Well that was fun. And long. Speaking of pickles...


Upchucking Puppies And Other Odd Schtuff


So remember Pepper got butchered neutered on January 11th, and it didn't go well? You can read more about that here

Welp, between getting the cat fixed and necessary car repairs, we didn't have the money to take him to an *ahem* real vet to get looked at, once the almost-obvious infection set in just two days later, on Monday, 13 January. I was chatting online with a friend about my concerns, and that friend - y'all, I have some amazing, terrific, wonderful friends - sent me the money immediately to get Pepper seen.
So we took him to a vet uptown, and we waited, like, no lie, five hours in the waiting room.
We made a lot of buddies in the waiting room, like this fellow, Chiquito, who licked the crap out of Sophia's face. Friendly little guy, mangy, but super cute just the same!
Then there was this little adorable Pomeranian puppy, Melody, who I wanted desperately to steal and take home with us, but alas, I don't t'ief me some puppies. Is she not the cutest thing EVAR?!
This quartet of pups, just a couple days old, had to go home without their mommy. They broke her pelvis coming out, poor thing. The dude had to go pay the vet bill and asked me if I would mind dog-sitting them for a few minutes. Would I mind?! Um, no, not hardly, sir. (I'm a dog person. We have five cats, and I'm a dog person. I was in animal-lover heaven over there, y'all.)
At last, it was our turn, after visiting with every other animal in the waiting room, and even after I went to the Publix nearby and shopped for a quick meal of bananas, granola bars, Babybel cheeses, and flavored waters. We kind of got the stink eye from other waiting room patients, but you know what? I did not care. MY babies were hungry, and I shared with the toddler-sized owner of Melody. So bite me, stink-eyers!
So anyway... Chloë and I went into the exam room with Pepper, and there we met the vet tech, whom I'll call Chuck. Chuck was super-smiley, and friendly, and caring. The vet, a woman (woohoo!), came in, and Chuck held Pepper down while she examined his poor, sore bally-sac (technical term there, ya know). Then she left, after giving me the spiel about what he needed (antibiotics) and what, thank the good Lord above, he did not need (a re-neutering, basically). 
So Chuck, who was fresh from Cuba, overheard me talking to Chloë in Spanish, and we had the following conversation in that language:
Chuck, to me, about Chloë: "Oh, does she speak Spanish, too?"
Me: "No..."
C: "But... you do...?"
M: "I've forgotten a lot, but I'm working on it."
C: "Are you from here?"
M, thinking he meant Miami, "No. I'm from New York."
C: "You're from the United States?!!?!"
M: "Yes...?"
And then he switched to English, excitedly, as if he had just made some amazing discovery: "But your accent, and your grammar, were perfect! I thought you were Latina! I didn't know what country you were from, but I thought South or Central America!" blah-zay-blah... 
Long story short, I was immensely flattered, and my head blew up to 490 times its normal size. He told me he was looking to improve his English, and we exchanged celly numbers to talk down the road and help each other out. I was pretty damn excited.
Oh, and Chuck? Actually a vet in Cuba, who had recently taken his boards to become licensed in the U.S. For whatever that's worth to ya.
The next day was a cold one. We stayed in, did school, and looked after Pepper and Rob. I say Rob, because he's had his share of medical drama lately, too. He had his MRI the same day I met Chuck, and we went to the neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning. 
As far as that goes, it turns out that he still has the TUMOR. What the what?! Rob has been going in to see Dr. Neuro by himself, while I sit out in the parking garage with the Littles, so I haven't been privy to their conversations, but... Just exactly how muddled does your thinking have to be that you can't remember the doctor telling you that you still have a TUMOR in your BRAIN? And, in fact, remember him saying that it's gone? Really, now. Pretty dang muddled, apparently. (So, for those of you who have been asking yourselves, like my dear father did recently, if Rob is all better and is ready to "hit the ground running in the new year and get a job and/or go to school," the answer to that is a big fat hell-to-the-NO.)
So he can't work, can't go to school, can't drive, can barely walk, rarely functions, sleeps 34 hours a day, and yeah. Fun times for Rob. :(
The good(ish) news is that he was ordered to start stepping down off his horrible horrible meds, but the downside to that is he feels like total crap. Crap, crap, and more crap. Bear with me while I say it once more: CRAP!
We went to Cyberknife that afternoon, per Dr. Neuro's orders, to get another consult with the Radiation Oncologist. No-way, no-how did he want to do another Cyberknife, but he and Dr. Neuro are at odds on that score. So... we're going with the Rad-Onc's wishes, but we'll be seeking a second opinion soon. He did agree about stepping off the meds, so that's what my babe is doing. Miserably, but somewhat happily so.
That Friday, I audited a grocery store down the road. It took over two hours, and you know what? After staring at food for 135 minutes, I was pretty damned hungry. I went home and whipped up my former signature mashed potatoes: along with the regular butter and milk, I added sautéed onions and garlic, corn, shredded Cheddar cheese, and maybe, after taking this Insta-pic, I added a small dollop of sour cream. So delicious. I have no business eating that many carbs, but I'm careful to eat just a tad and then pass the rest of my bowl to Rob...
Saturday, I ran up to Hialeah - a good hour's drive from home - and did a bunch of home improvement store shops. Not one of them panned out the way they were supposed to. I try to remember that it really doesn't matter, because I'm just there to report what DID happen and not really care whether what was SUPPOSED to happen did, in fact, happen, but I came home rather annoyed. When that happens, I take a nice break and calm down, so that I can report objectively. I sat outside in our beautiful, sunny Miami weather and surveyed my surroundings. And my feet. I know. I have ugly feet and minuscule toenails. In college, my friend Jorge Alarcon (Are you OUT THERE, Jorge?!!) asked me once, seeing my painted toenails, "Are you trying to show off what you DON'T have?!" Hilarious.
Sunday, I did more grocery store and home improvement audits around our hometown, and then I went off to visit my new friend Chuck. I had intended to bring him home with me, for reasons I won't go into just yet, but that didn't work out as planned, so I stayed there and practiced my Spanish while he worked on his English. We talked for, like, two - maybe three? - hours, animatedly, sometimes stiltedly, about a wide variety of rather intense topics. It was pretty great. Pretty, pretty great.
Inspired by my renewed zest for all things Spanish, I cleaned the kitchen on Monday and cooked with Mojo Criollo. Of course, I told Chuck about it, and he was all "guau!" which is, duh, "Wow!" in English.
Along with a pork loin in Mojo, I made rice and, because I didn't soak the red beans for long enough, green beans. Then I completely forgot about the red beans soaking in a pot until two days later when, in Rob's words, they turned into "a hagfish." Seriously, gross. I had to throw out the whole freakin' pot. Ugh. Good thing that was a cheap bag of beans, but I absolutely abhor waste of any kind.
While the kids hung out upside-down on Tuesday morning, I went down to the Upper Keys to do a couple more grocery store audits. Those managers weren't too happy when I showed up after a holiday weekend in the Florida Keys, as all their stock was wiped out, but I had no choice. It's lovely, always, to go into Monroe County. I love it.
What I also loved on Tuesday was that I went to work rockin' my first ponytail since buzzing off all my hair over a year before! Woot woot! It was long enough to all go in and, more importantly, stay in! Hey, I'll take any kind of victories I can get.
I worked all day Wednesday, in between giving assignments to the kids, and then I came home, took a bath, and sported a mud mask. See? Muddy, muddy mask. My face is sooo soft now! Wanna feel? Here, rub the screen.
I've got nothing else inane to report for the mo', so I'll sign off. I have to head to my glaucoma appointment in an hour anyhoo, so have a splendid day!

There Was A Little Girl Who Had A (Thousand) Little Curl(s)...



Yesterday was super-fun for Chloë and me. We had gone bowling a couple days prior, and we spent the entire day together, just the two of us, on Thursday, too.


Of course, it was all for a mystery shop. I don't move unless I'm getting paid for it anymore. Ha! I kid - but not by much.

This time, we had to take a bus tour around Miami and surrounding cities, including Miami Beach, Coral Gables and Coconut Grove, and Little Havana. Thankfully, it did not rain and was not freezing, like it had been on Tuesday when we went bowling, so we were able to sit on top of the double-deckers we rode. That meant a ton of wind through our hair, especially on the expressways, and low-hanging branches hitting us in the face when we forgot to duck, when in the neighborhoods!


The bus tour was such that one could hop off and hop back on at dozens of spots, so when we hit Coral Gables, we decided to see if we could find an old college of professor of mine. I'd unsuccessfully tried to find him a time or two since we moved here, but I was bound and determined this time. Here we are on the famous Miracle Mile of Coral Gables, where shops upon shops lure passers-by to separate from their funds.


I've passed by the famous Biltmore Hotel many times in my life, but it wasn't until the narrated tour that I learned a lot of interesting facts about it - all of which forgotten now, I'm sure. My mind is like a sieve these days.


To get to the University of Miami, Chloë and I had to leave the bus, hop the trolley to the Metro, take that train down to the University station, and then walk all the way through campus to get to the Cox Science Building where I spent the vast majority of my college learning days. She was exhausted, having been up much of the night before, but she didn't complain, not even once!


I knew where Dr. Dan DiResta's office should have been located, but then I found the entire Marine Science department under renovations, and his name was not on any of the nearby plaques. Rats. But I took a chance, and knocked on a female Ph.D.'s office to ask if she knew of him. She did, and he was right upstairs, and she took us there!

Dr. D. made my entire day - no my WEEK - by turning around when I knocked on his door and called, "Hellooo!" and, after taking one look at me, exclaiming, "Melanie!!" I thought I'd have to explain who I was, since I first met him 20 years ago next month, but he knew me immediately!! And then he went on to say that I looked exactly as I had those 20 years ago when he first met me. What a nice, decent guy to say that, especially now that I'm approaching 40 and was 17 when we first met. I glowed the entire rest of the day.

Dan is a tall fella with at least a foot on me, so he was hunching down a lot to take this "selfie" on which I insisted. I wanted to take him to lunch, but it was 1:30 PM by that point, he'd already eaten, and he was on his way to a meeting with another former prof of mine. So we spent about 15 minutes catching up over the past 17 years (I graduated in '97), with promises to grab that lunch the next time I was going to be in the area.

Can you believe he remembered me so clearly, so instantly, after hundreds upon hundreds of students have filtered in through his door? He's not just a professor, after all, but a student advisor, and many years have passes since our last face-to-face encounter. Of course, I was one of his top students and became a student mentor for incoming marine science students myself, so we worked together a little bit, but like I said: YEARS. What a huge thrill.


After I hugged Dr. Dan about five times and said good-bye, Chloë and I went over to the student union, AKA the "UC," to get her some food. We passed by this giant |__| that wasn't there when I was matriculating at the school, and that made for a good photo-op. Curls decided that she wanted to go to college at UM, too, which made me gulp more than a few times. As Florida's most prestigious private university, it comes with a stiff price that I'm still struggling to pay off myself, even with my hefty scholarship! Eek. But it's a great school, where 15,000 students a year flock to enroll at all levels from around the world, so if she can get in, it would definitely be worth it to have her join my legacy there.


After a quick bite to eat, we headed back to the Metro station, where Romero Britto left yet another one of his marks. They even talked about Britto on our bus tour, which was cool, because I was able to share a few things the guide didn't mention. Namely, that we have a Britto in our living room, heh heh. Kidding, I didn't really mention that, but maaaan I want to meet that guy!


After we took the train to the trolley, and the trolley back to our bus, the next stop was in Little Havana. We stopped right next to this really cool Domino Club in a local park and watched the old-timers play dominoes. It struck me as being very authentically Miami-ish, and I enjoyed the scene playing out before us.


Hopping back on the expressway, we made our way back downtown to switch to the South Beach route. I mentioned two posts previous that I love the city, love the view, love it all... and I do! When it opens up before you, even on the highway, it takes your breath away. I admit, I am absolutely a city girl at heart. The hustle and bustle, the always something new to do... it's right up my alley.


This was approximately 2.5 seconds before a palm frond whacked me in the face. Ouch! Oh well, at least my phone didn't get knocked out of my hands!


Here's our view on the causeway over to Miami Beach. Lovely. I learned a few things on this trip, too, but mostly I just petted Chloë's sleeping head on my lap. She was sooo tired by this point.


Our tour bus guide for this leg of the trip was trés entertaining, and I laughed a whole lot. I felt like his jokes were for me, since most people didn't speak much English and I was sitting right next to him, and I know he enjoyed my appreciation! He had an accent, so I thought maybe he was from South/Central America or maybe even Italy - check out those hairy arms! - but after he polled the top of the bus for everyone's origins, I asked and discovered he's originally from right here in Miami. He found it quite surprising that we live here, too, so I had to come up with a little scenario about us "playing tourists" for the day! Really nice guy and really entertaining; I enjoyed this leg the most.


I've been to SoBe dozens of times, and I never tire of it. The Art Deco is just the style of art that I really like, partly because it's so geometric, partly because it's so functional, and partly because of all the bright pops of color everywhere. Yes, just my style.

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We had free drink coupons for The Clevelander from our bus tour, so we hopped back off the bus and made our way over to that fine hotel. I don't know what I drank, but it was fruity, and cold - and strong! Chloë had water, even though I'd been promised they had non-alcoholic concoctions for the young'uns, because the server said nope!


"Take me home and I'll rock your world" - did I write that?! ;)

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I wish I could claim she got those Shirley Temple ringlets from me, but those are ALL Rob. Beautiful, beautiful hair on this gorgeous little girl. I'm not biased, am I? Ever since she made her way into this world over 12 years ago, I've thought Chloë the most stunning child ever. Okay, maybe a little biased... ;)


Since we arrived at Happy Hour, we decided to have a snack. Chloë had the pretzel bites, which were long like cigars but much fatter, like a... well, never mind. But bites? I think not.


The server recommended the fried calamari to me over the coconut shrimp, so I went ahead and took he advice. Delicious! Total bill for our food and alcohol, including the tip? $13. Not too shabby!

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We still had time before the next bus was due to arrive, so we decided to run down the beach and stick our feet in the water, just to say we'd been to the ocean in January. It was way more empty than the last time we'd come to this beach, in August, with my pal Kellee. Not warm at all, but warm for the Northerners who were surely all over the place, I figured it would be a little more populated, at least. Maybe they were all indulging in Happy Hour, too?

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Even the lifeguard shacks on South Beach are Art Deco-y!

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Chloë decided it was too chilly, after all, to stick her feet in the water, but I was not so easily discouraged. I had a skirt on, so I tiptoed right in and whoo! Cold! I watched the waves swallow up some seaweed, and then we made our way back up toward the bus pick-up area.


As we passed the Fountainblue, with it's risky-for-its-time sculpture, I made a mental note to come back soon. South Beach is about an hour's drive from home, like most places around here, but I've got so many good memories of the place.

And another free drink coupon to use, too.


Saturday 9: That's My Kind Of Night



Link up here if you want to be famous! Er, whatevs.

Weird formatting aside, because Typepad and Explorer don't mix well, here we go!

Saturday 9: That's My Kind of Night


Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here.


1) In this song, our hero offers to take his girl down to the river to catch a catfish dinner. What is your favorite seafood?

I'm more of a crustacean kind of girl. I like my shrimp and crab almost MORE than I like lobster, too. But I'm trying to quit all of it and go full vegetarian. I've been saying that for a long time, though; you probably no longer listen!

2) Luke Bryan went to Georgia State University, home of the Panthers. What was your school mascot?

High school - the B'ville Bees

College - the Miami Hurricanes

Grad School - the USF Bulls or something, I believe. Didn't pay much attention; I'm a 'Canes girl!

3) Have you ever tried acupuncture?

I have, in my intensive therapy after losing my son, to help me with anxiety, PTSD, etc. It worked but not long-term. If insurance would pay for it, I'd go nonstop.

4) Just last night, Crazy Sam threw away a jar of Miracle Whip because it expired in September 2013. Is your refrigerator neat and organized? Or is it a disaster area, like Sam's?

Right now it's full of mostly condiments and take-out since we've been on the go a lot. There is fresh milk, and there are plenty of eggs, but that's about it. It's messy, though. I'm forever railing about people cleanin up after themselves in there!

5) Which is more important to you -- saving time or saving money?

Saving money. I'm always on the hunt for the best deal!

6) Sam's next door neighbor is named Jim. He's retired, smokes a pipe and drives a red Corolla. Tell us about one of your neighbors.

Our neighbor across the street is our gate security guard supervisor. He calls me "Cutie" every time he sees me, and asks me how my twins are. Since one of my twins isn't living, he's obviously talking about two of the other three kids - but which two?! And does that mean I'm not really cute, since his vision mus not be that great? Dang. (He doesn't recognize me when I'm wearing my glasses, so I think I have my answer.)

7) What's the most recent magazine you flipped through?

Something mom-oriented, like Woman's World or something. It was all about getting organized for the new year, which is pretty unoriginal if you ask me. I didn't find any tips I hadn't already thought of myself or read before, but I did discover petvacay.com if I want to become a dog walker. And I might, since I'm a total dog lover and we have five cats!

8)  Could your vehicle use a trip to the car wash right now?

Yes it could; I was just saying I needed to find a mystery shop for that to Hubs a few days ago. The recent rain helped, but it's still pretty grungy.

9) Did you hit the snooze button this morning?

Nope, I woke up at the butt crack of noon today. I'm not feeling well this week and needed my rest.


The Concrete Jungle


There is a lot of highway mileage covered when you're traveling in and around Miami, whether it be for mystery shopping or any other reason. It's a really beautiful city, as cities go, with the highways and bi-ways lined with palm trees, crystal-blue waters, and all kinds of orange and green (two of my favorite colors, and not just because I'm a 'Canes girl.) (Okay, maybe it is.)

There is this place, when you're heading south on the Turnpike from northwest Miami, that, when you turn the corner, it changes up from the beautiful scenery mentioned above to a vast interlocking labyrinth of overpasses, exits, highway turns and more. Everything is cement gray. It's kind of cool in an ugly way, and ugly in a cool way. That is my least favorite place in Miami, because you can't see ANYTHING orange or green, just the gray, but it's also really interesting because it only lasts for a moment (if traffic is actually moving), yet it has a huge impact on your eyes. We only hit that not-so-sweet spot once or twice a month, because every time we head out, it's on a different stretch of road, but it kind of takes my breath away each time I do see it. And I think, This. This is what Charlie Stross and all the rest of those guys mean by 'The Concrete Jungle.' 

And just like that, you've zipped past that bland, dingy vista and are deposited back onto your road with the beautiful trees and blue skies reflected in bluer water, and you remember why you moved to Miami in the first place.

* * * * *

Speaking of Miami, we found ourselves in Neverland this past weekend. Oh, my gosh, y'all.

The thing about mystery shopping is, you have a lot of training to read before you go, a lot of observations to make while you're there, and a lot to write about when you get home. It's not a 'cake' job; it's not the 'fluff' people assume it is. Most folks hear "mystery shopping" and thing, oh, dumb job for dumb people who like to shop. Not so, mon frer, not so.

It's work. It's a real job for those of us who take it seriously, and it's not easy for anyone who knows how to do the job properly. I'm as highly trained as they come for the work I do, and I have years of experience. I've done almost everything under the sun when it comes to evaluating businesses, and I have loads of anecdotes for anyone who wants to know ... if I were free to share them. But I'm not.

Anyway, the point is, there is a certain level of unspoken promise between my companies and me, the independent contractor, that they will prepare me properly for each job I have to do. They tell me exactly what to expect and to do to get the job done right, and on my end, I have to follow through with that or I won't get paid my fees and reimbursements.

So imagine when that promise is broken, and what could happen. Let me paint a little picture for you of what happened to us this past weekend:

I was supposed to do a couple of valet parking shops, to assess the level of service provided by the valets at each of two locations. No big deal. I thought I knew where I was going, near a popular marketplace in Miami, and therefore I felt I did not have to dress up too much. Since all five members of Team Odette are feeling slightly bedraggled lately, I decided to slum it and went out in my U of Miami sweats and a semi-matching tank top. Nothing fancy, nothing upscale, but dressed enough to hit up a mall. Y'know?

Except, wrong. Not a mall. Not slum-worthy.

We ended up in Miami's Financial District, and I made a wrong turn at Albuquerque while looking for the first valet stand. I drove into a parking garage, thinking I could just turn around and head back out. But, uh, no. Denied! We were there in our run-down 2004 Chevy, surrounded by the latest models of Porsche, Maserati, Ferrari, you name it... all sleek, all shiny, all expensive. We were thoroughly out of place.

And I could not get OUT! One had to have the special clicker doohickey to even open the "out" gate. I drove up to a guy washing his black convertible something-fancy-or-other, blasting his music, wearing his expensive (even for car-washing) threads, with his slicked-back hair, and begged him to let me out. I expected airs and eye-rolling, but he could not have been less conceited. He motioned down the guard to let me out, and out we went. Rob and I had a hearty laugh over that mistake.

And then what happened?

I drove up to the first valet stand, having realized my initial wrong turn mistake, and found the restaurant I was supposed to visit boarded up, under construction. The valet I was evaluating ran over, informing me that it was closed. Clearly, we were at least $2 Million too broke to be anywhere near this place, so I had to think fast. I had to play it totaly cool. I had to park, after all, to fully do my job. 

"Can you park the car for me?" I asked. "Where are you going?" he asked, suspiciously, since he had already told me my intended destination was not currently open for business, and the rest of the building was residents-only-please-and-thank-you.

"I... uh, I need to run a couple of errands." "Like what?" he persisted. "Well, really, we just want to look around," I stammered. "No... I don't think so. It's for residents only. I need a name." "Uh... well... okay. Thank you." 

Pfft. Cool, my butt. That's the last word anyone would ever use to describe this girl, and while I did my best to get in that building, I couldn't think quickly enough on my feet to get 'er done.

And then what happened?

We drove around the block to the second valet stand I had to evaluate. The valet, who looked just like a Hispanic John Mayer, took one look at our loud, growling dump of a car and raised quizzical eyebrows at me. He was nothing but pleasant, but I could tell he was thinking, "Who invited these people?"

I told him where we wanted to go, another restaurant, and asked if he could park the car. He was happy to do so, but he remained puzzled. I could just tell. The "What in the world?!" look on his face was exacerbated by three little kids getting out of the back and my decidedly un-fancy attire.

Oh, great, I thought. I prepared myself to be mortified. At least I had thrown on a bra that morning, whew!

So we walked into the restaurant, which had an obscure-sounding, esoteric name that left no clues as to what kind of establishment it was. I didn't even know if it was a restaurant until we walked in the door. And walked right back out to regroup and re-plan.

"Follow me," I told Rob and the kiddos, after deciding what to do. And that was, go in there and act like we belonged, despite the fact that it was painfully obvious to everyone in that place that we did not.

I had to sit in the bar and order drinks. I had three kids with me. Do you see the problem? So I spoke to the hostess, who said we could sit in the lounge area and make sure they didn't, you know, drink the alcohol. That much I could handle, y'all. I don't make it a habit of letting my 8-year-old toss back a few shots.

So we sat down in a cozy area, with ostrich skin-covered couches and calfskin rugs. My vegetarian self cringed at the thought of it, but I rolled with it. We ordered our drinks and some appetizers, used the fancy restrooms equipped with tooth-flossing stations (weird much?), and sat there for the required half-hour like we had every right to be there.

And you know what? We may not be among the super-rich, we may not be the elite, but we're people, too. Or so I kept telling myself, amidst all the curious stares from the Beautiful People.

And then, after the shops were over, I went home and told my mystery shopping company that they had better do a better job of prepping the next people to do this or any other shop, because, yeah. If I can't perform well, they don't get a decent report, and what's the point then?

It was a learning experience. And don't get me wrong - I've done many an upscale shop where I had to play the part of the rich lady who lunches or whatevs - but I've always known from Jump Street that I had to assume that role. It's not my favorite role, because I'm more the casual girl-next-door type, but I can certainly do it if I know about it in advance.

Ah, well. It was worth a few good laughs after we got back in our old Trailblazer and zipped, er rather, chugged away!




Wine Me, Dine Me...


Christmas lights in Miami's South Beach, 23 December

It's been a whirlwind, the last week for Team Odette! Phew! Let's see:

  • Dozens of mystery shops to complete, and the matching reports to write
  • Our 13th anniversary on Thursday
  • Same night relapse (maybe??) for Rob's brain tumor issues, with successive trip back to the neurosurgeon and the wait for another MRI while the local machine is down
  • Trips from Fort Lauderdale to Key West

Yeah. We keep busy here, and it's not about to let up anytime soon! Here are a few things we've done, which involves a lot of eating and drinking. Sirrusly, if I get chubby again, blame the job!


On Boxing Day, we went up to Fort Lauderdale to visit our friends, Erica, Kevin and their daughter Kira. The four of us grown-ups chatted away for hours, and the kids played in Kira's room. I fell asleep for a couple hours at one point! So rude, but so needed. Jack and Chloë zonked out on Kira's bed, too! Sleepy time for us, I guess.


Selfie with Chloë, 27 December


Two days after Christmas, we visited The Cheesecake Factory with a large gift card I had received. I had a lovely salad, here, and...


... a way spicy bowl of bean and rice something or other to eat. And, oh, yes, there was cheesecake! 


The kids shared this slice, and Rob and I took home a Kahlua slice for later. I didn't like it much, though, so I stopped after a couple of bites. He didn't much mind.


We still have tons of unpacking to do, so we decided to plunge in before the new year and dig the kids out of their rooms. Rob and Jack worked on the boy's room, and I spent an evening, all night, and the entire next day working on the girls' room. Of course, they helped me when they were awake, and this is the result. I wish I had taken a 'before' picture, because there was a tremendous difference! They are SO happy to have a nice room now!


Jack's room remains a work in progress, but they're almost finished. I love this photo of Jack peeking out of one of the giant moving boxes!


Selfie with Jack, 29 December


On 30 December, we headed back to Key West, about a 7-hour round-trip from our home, for four back-to-back high-end mystery shops. Here is the obligatory chicken picture. We stop at the same Circle K outside of Key West every time we go down there, and each time, I am possessed to take a chicken picture. I can't explain why.


We had major babysitter issues in the Keys for that trip, since I had two bar shops to do and couldn't have the children with us, but eventually we worked it out. I even called Stephanie up and asked for her input, and she telephone-interviewed a couple of folks for me, which is fantastically helpful! I wish I had gone with her final choice instead of what I did, which was call the nanny service recommended by the concierge of a top hotel in the area. The sitter we ended up with was nice enough, but a bit brain-dead, overpriced, and well, I just don't think we'll use her again. So we sat and had a Corona for Rob and a piña colada for me - okay, two each, while the kids ran around Duval Street with the dim-witted nanny.


We had to eat there, too, so Rob had wings, and I had a delicious quesadilla. I made it festive for, you know, the holidays and such. Silly me.


Rob posed for me next to the beautiful pool, at the tiki bar I evaluated in Key West. Looks delightful, huh?


On our way to the second bar shop, we passed a yacht or two. We'll call this shot our pipe dream...


Selfie with Rob in Key West, 30 December


We were supposed to have two more mystery shops in Key West that day, and another in Key Largo, but none of the three panned out. One of those was for a dinner at a world-class restaurant, but I had needed to make reservations about a month in advance. My shop didn't allow for that, though, so I was out of luck, no matter what I tried. I spoke to the manager of the hotel, who gave me his business card and told me to call him personally the next time I was going to be in town, and he'd get me a table there. Then he told us that Stevie Nicks had been there recently, and I had to hide my disdain. Ask Rob: I am not a fan! Here, Rob posed for me next to a classic car (I forget what kind) in the garage on the way out of that experience.


On New Year's Eve day, the five of us headed up to Coral Gables, toward Miami proper, for a fancy lunch shop. I had a Cosmo with my lunch, because a drink was expected of me. It was delish, which is more than I can say for my lunch:

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 1

Don't get me wrong, my crabcake appetizer was delicious, and second only to Uncle Chuck's crab cakes (he of the famous Virginia Beach Farmer's Market), in my not-so-humble opinion.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 2

Rob loved his tuna tartare appetizer, as well as...

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 2

... his yummy lobster ravioli. Mmm, lobster. On the other hand, I lost out of my lunch.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1a

See, the scallops I ordered looked beautiful, right? But what's that in the risotto? Oh, it's pancetta. I don't eat meat, other than certain sea creatures and only on occasion. The pancetta wasn't in the menu description, so as requested by my shop requirements, I sent it back to the kitchen.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1b

When it came back, it looked like this! Full of red pepper sauce. I don't do spicy - I just can't handle it - so I didn't have a bite. Not one single taste. Ugh. I was so looking forward to it, too!

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 1

We ordered creme brulee for dessert, and that was tasty. I was still semi-grumpy about my scallops, though.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 2

We also ordered chocolate lava cake for dessert. Hey, two desserts spread amongst five people is not outrageous, right? I didn't have any, but it was devoured by the rest of the fam.


I had to visit the ladies' room there, and check out the foyer before the actual restroom. The ladies' room was almost bigger than our house. Man...!


We ran the kids home, got our babysitter and changed clothes before heading out for a New Year's Eve bar shop at a tapas restaurant, again up in Coral Gables. I had a rum runner or something, but the drink was not as memorable as that enormous slice of lime!


Rob had some prosciutto or some other thinly-sliced cured meat, and I had Caprese Tomate tapas, which were, in a word, incredible. I can still taste them; I crave them, and I will definitely order those again!


Still hungry, we shared some bread with cheese and fruit tapas after that. Delicioso!


Selfie with Sophia, 31 December


"Happy New Year!" selfie, taken around 2300 before the year changed to 2014. By midnight, I was asleep. I think it was the first New Year I didn't ring in since I was a baby. Am I getting old on me?!


On New Year's Day, we went to the fair down the road from home. Oh, my word, you guys. I got hit on a hundred times, more or less, by the carnies working there. Rob was standing right next to me half the time!! And the carnies, of course, shared three teeth among the bunch of them. One guy was completely drunk and would not leave me alone to go operate the ride we were on, and I was with the girls. Gross. Another carnie winked at me and told me I was cute. He and a third guy, who stunk horribly, told me to come back and visit him alone that night... crazy hilarious. As if!!


Aside from that mess, though, the kids had a fantastic time at the fair, as did their parents. That's what matters the most. I took a lot more pictures, but I'll just stick with these two from the fair for now.


The next morning, January 2nd, was our 13th anniversary. However, it was Chloë I took with me for breakfast in Key Largo, as promised. We had a mystery shop there, and boy... it did not go too well. But my mommy-and-daughter time with Curls was worth the trip.


That day, I took Jack to get some pet fish, as we'd discussed the previous night. They're in their aquarium now, but I haven't taken photos of that yet, like I know you're anticipating. Meet Taco and Rocko! He's super excited about his pets - and the girls were, too. So much so that they pooled their saved allowance money and bought themselves an aquarium set-up and each a fish, too. No pictures yet of Wiggles and Multi, but those will come down the pike sooner or later, unless the cats eat them first. Ha!

010314 BJs drink

Rob had his episode that night, so we had to abort our dinner shop for that night right after we got there. We're still waiting to get him in to the imaging department at the local hospital for another MRI, so in the meantime, we did a lunchtime shop at a brewery yesterday. I had a weak Mai Tai to drink, and I think my report was so scathing that the bartender will get severely reprimanded, if not fired. I'm trying not to feel bad about it, remembering that if he did his job well, my job wouldn't have hurt him.

010314 BJs food

We had the calamari for an appetizer, and that was the one good thing that happened on that shop!

On that note, I have to go see about getting ready for more evaluations today and tomorrow. I have a bunch lined up, and as long as Rob's brain wants to behave, I better go do them. TTFN, folks!


Sunday Stealing: Reflections On New Year's Eve

Link up here if you're playing along today!

Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection Meme

 1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
I could say it was moving back to Miami, or Rob retiring from the Navy, or any number of things. But the absolute best-best thing was when we were seriously down-and-out over the summer and early fall, and dozens upon dozens of people stepped in to help us out in innumerable ways. We were struggling to pay our most basic bills and put food on the table for our three young'uns, and we were wowed by the impact of all those people banding together to support a Navy veteran and his family in need. It was incredible and really re-instilled my hope for humankind.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Well, like I said, we really struggled for several months this past year, but the biggest challenge was when we lost our Odyssey, Penelope, in the midst of it. We could no longer pay the car payment, of course, and it got repossessed. I'm saddened when I think of it, but joyful now that we are out from under that car payment and have a somewhat-reliable vehicle, Miguel, which we were able to purchase with funds from the many donations we received.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?


There were many, but the most recent one happened yesterday. My 10-year-old son, Jack, has had a huge escalator phobia for years. He'll cling to his father or me, desperately terrified, for the duration of the ride. Yesterday, he decided he was going to overcome that fear and stepped bravely - four separate times - onto and off an escalator while barely touching me, except for stability. I'm super-proud of my boy!

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

In May or so, just as he was retiring and we were losing all our Navy income, outstanding insurance, and so forth, Rob's previously-diagnosed cerebellar cavernous angioma started acting up. It resulted in five Cyberknife surgeries to vaporize the tumor, but there were unexpected complications from that, too. He still struggles with those as well as side effects from the meds to treat them, and it's caused us to have to delay his plans to return to school for a nursing degree and pursue any kind of work.

5. Pick three words to describe 2013.  


Interesting. Stressful. Amazing.

6. What were the best books you read this year?  


Those are the books I want to read, but I only got to read ONE book this year, and it was not a good one. Here We Go Again by Jennifer Somebody is not one that I can recommend.

7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?  


That's me and Jack, 10.


That's Sophia, 8, on the left, and Chloë, 12, on the right.


And of course, that's me and Hubs. My family are my life; they mean everything to me.

8. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? 

I continually struggle with making poor decisions, many of which only matter inside my own head, and then I dwell on them forever. I have got to learn, in 2014, to just let. things. go!

 9. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?  


I have long pursued an attitude of gratitude, and I think my appreciation for all that I have been blessed with has grown by leaps and bounds this year.

10. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?  


I have come to understand myself and my beliefs more clearly.

11. In what way(s) did you grow physically?  

Stealing this one from my friend Erica! I definitely added a few pounds this year. I'm working diligently to remove them, but it's proving to be a bigger challenge than I expected. I'm going to have to start, you know, exercising and stuff. (Well, I already started, but my motivation has flagged over these holidays...)

12. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?


I have long played the part of doormat in the family in which I grew up, and I stood up to those people when I felt like I was getting that same ol' treatment. It feels good, and now I feel like I have more of an equal footing with them.

13. What was the most enjoyable part of your work?  


I took a six-month hiatus from my "job," and now that I'm back, I realized just how much I enjoy the work! I really missed it in those latter months of my sabbatical.

14. What was the most challenging part of your work?


Walking away for those six months was really difficult, since I have been doing the same work diligently for 7½ years now. I needed the respite, but I felt like I was letting a lot of people down, including myself. In the end, though, I'm glad I took the break.

15. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? 


The internet, of course. Sophia said I spend more time on the computer than anything else, and I vow to change that in 2014! (I don't necessarily think she's right, but I do spend a lot of time online, and I don't want that to be her main memory of Mom!)

16. What was the best way you used your time this past year? 

Absolutely, that would be homeschooling our trio of Odettelettes. They are so worth every second of time we have devoted to this endeavor!

17. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

That quote about holding onto resentment meaning you're letting that person rent-free inside your head? It's so true. I've pretty much let it go. Almost.

18. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2013 for you.

Charles Dickens said it best!

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This was a good one; I've enjoyed it. Cheers to all you thieves!




Wordless Wednesday: Self-Flagellation




{I've been a tad naughty on Facebook this morning, so I'm punishing myself: I'm extremely nauseous from migraine side-effects right now, so of course the last thing I want to see are alcoholic beverages and rich desserts! Ugh. On the other hand, mystery shopping ain't such a bad gig, as seen from these recent shots I 'grammed... ;)}

Link up here for more WW posts.


Double Whammy: Saturday 9 & Sunday Stealing

"Wow, I can't believe Smellyann is late with her memes," said no one ever. :\

Link up here if you're late on Saturday 9, like I am!

1) Sam has affection for this song because, when she was very young, she tap-danced to it for a Christmas recital. Her parents told her she was wonderful. Do you have any memories from a school/church program or pageant -- either as a child onstage or an adult in the audience?
I have lots of them. My first really big show was as the Caterpillar in a 5th grade production of Alice in Wonderland. My stepmother sewed me a kick-ass costume with lots of arms and legs (hey, no one is 100% evil), and I completely stole the show when I came out. I sang, I danced, I won over the crowd. It was awesome. I'll have to find a picture of that some day.

2) Ok, she admits it: After too many cups of holiday cheer, Sam did a few steps of her "Jingle Bell Rock" routine at last year's company Christmas party. Have you ever done anything at a co-worker get-together that you now regret?
I've never been to an office holiday party. However, I have done some things with my boss(es) at various jobs. I was unattached at the time, but... they weren't! :\ I think I will keep the rest of those stories to myself. For now.

3) Since that unfortunate Christmas 2012 incident, Sam can't even look at a cup of egg nog. How about you? Do you like egg nog?
I like egg nog, always have, but I've never had it spiked. I can no longer drink Goldschlager for a similar reason, however, after having to live with the smell of puked-up cinnamon schnapps outside my college dorm window (I didn't quite make it OUT the window and had no way to clean up the mess) for an entire semester! Blergh.

4) For special events, Sam slips on her favorite piece of jewelry: a charm bracelet that once belonged to her grandmother. Do you have a special treasure from a previous generation? 
I have all of my mom's vintage costume jewelry. My dad held onto it for over 25 years after she died and finally gave my sister her "good" jewelry and me the costume pieces. I can remember her wearing some of them, which is wonderful because I have so very few memories of her at all. ♥

5) The only Christmas card Sam has received so far in 2013 is from her insurance agent. How about you? Have any holiday cards arrived yet?
I just have one from Jafra HQ and one from the University of Miami Alumni Association. I sent out our cards early, knowing no one would have our new Miami address yet, but.. it doesn't seem to have mattered. It doesn't matter. I still love sending them to our loved ones!

6) Because of the chill in the air, Sam gave her dog his Christmas gift -- a sweater -- early this year. He's already gotten compliments on it. Are there any pets on your gift list?
Our three male cats need to get neutered, but I'm putting that off until 2014. Getting your nuts whacked off isn't much of a gift, after all. We did get our five cats some catnip treats, which we've already given them, and they went appropriately crazy for them!

7) Do you need snow to get "into the spirit?"
Fortunately, no, because it'll be a sad thing if we get snow down here! I do like the lights, trees, music and all o' that, though. Just no schnae, please. ;)

8) Are you going to get/have you gotten a flu shot this year?
I got one in September. I confess, I totally got it just so I could get a 20% off coupon for my entire shopping trip!

9) December is an important fundraising month for charities. Here's your chance to plug a worthy cause that means a lot to you.
We donated several dozen toys in our son's memory to U. Miami's Holtz Children's Hospital this year. We'll donate more for Robby's birthday in March, too. We also donated oodles of toiletries, along with coffees and sugars, to the local Ronald McDonald House, which I'm glad for because we stayed at the one in Pensacola when our oldest daughter, Chloë, was admitted to the NICU for ten days in 2001. And finally, I donated more toys to the Toys For Tots bin at a local retailer a couple weeks ago. All great charities. Thanks for the chance to plug them!
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And now, link up here if you're playing along with Kwizgiver and the gang today!
The Blerp Meme
from Lucy B.'s Surveys

When you get a headache do you take painkillers right away or try to wait it out?  
Generally, I treat as soon as I recognize an oncoming brain pain. If I don't, mine almost always turn into full-blown migraines. They almost never just go away on their own.

 Is there a really funny YouTube video you’d like to recommend to me?  
I'm not much of a YouTuber unless I need directions for a knitting or a baking technique or something. I rarely watch it just for kicks. 

Did you watch Sesame Street when you were little?  
I did, along with my sister and our then-BFF, Ursula. Her mom babysat us, and we watched it every morning!

What’s the last thing you touched, other than your computer?
I just put the plate from the cheese-and-onion omelet Hubs made me into the sink. Delishamus!

When was the last time you talked to your best friend?
We chat on Facebook more than on the phone anymore, except when I have a medical question and she's not online. Which isn't all that infrequent, but I don't think since Summer. I'll have to call her for Christmas and remedy that!

How often do you listen to music?
I always have the I Heart Radio playing on my iPhone while I'm sitting here at my desk, which is daily, and the same station on the car radio whenever I'm driving. Rob and I have a rule - whoever is driving gets to pick the station.

What color is your cell phone?  
It's white, but the Otter Box covering it is pink, because they were out of Orange and Green (go 'CANES!!), boo.

What is the last non-alcoholic beverage you drank?
I made a 7-Eleven run tonight with Chloë. I refilled my Enormous Gulp and my Super-Humongous Gulp with Diet Mt. Dew. It's better than Diet Coke, but not much... I drink the organic stuff when I can, but that shit's 'spensive, and I chug a LOT.

Do you like to wear sweatpants?  
I do, but you know what? Apparently it's not cool to wear them in public. I didn't really know that until the interwebs told me. And to think I wore them with Tevas, t-shirts and a ponytail in my college days, along with all my designer label-wearing co-eds. Heh. (Toldja I wasn't very cool.)

What song are you currently listening to? Who sings it?  
I've got Katy Perry singing "Hot N Cold" in my ear at the mo'.

Have you ever gotten a black eye? 
I have walked into my share of things, but I've never gotten them from a fist, fortunately!

What caused it?  
Oh. See, I never read ahead. I like each question to be a surprise. I did have an ex break my two front teeth, once. Smelly's no stranger to violence, but thank God it isn't something my children experience, let alone on a regular basis. The buck stopped here.

How many times have you checked up on your ex?  
The aforementioned chops-busting ex isn't even on my radar, even though a mutual friend informs me about his life on the regular. I really don't care to know. I did care, however, when I learned he was tracking me! I had to put a stop to that with some Facebook blockage. As for others, I'm still friends with several of them, and the few that aren't in my life aren't worth mentioning.

If you had to get a tattoo what would it be?  
I can't imagine a scenario other than being in a concentration camp where I would be required to get a tat, in which case I wouldn't have much of a choice, so I'll have to plead guilty to not understanding this question. HOWEVER, if I wanted to get a tattoo, it would probably be a sirrusly artistic rendering of my four children's initials.

How many tabs are open right now?  
On Chrome, I have three - this one, the Sunday Stealing one, and the Saturday 9 one. I also have three tabs open on Internet Explorer, which I prefer but which doesn't allow me to do everything blahg-related that Chrome does. I hate Chrome in most cases, though, which is why I refuse to use it most of the time. Don't even speak to me of Firefox!

Are you scared of needles?  
Nope. I have no qualms. Which is good for the Red Cross and the local bloodmobile, since I'm a proud donor of my O-neg blud, as often as I'm allowed. It took me months upon months to find a place to donate here in Homestead, but I'll be back every 56 days, like clockwork, now that I know where to go! (Okay, I admit, even I have to turn my head away while that big, fat needle is going in my arm.)

Do you believe love can last forever?  
Of course I do. Rob and I have been together 13 years now, and I know we're going to grow old together and turn into trees, rooted into the ground, with inseparable branches. Our grands and their grands will have picnics under our shade! ♥

Are good-byes easy or hard for you?
Oh, very hard. I suck at good-byes. Hellos are much more Smelly-friendly. I'm one who says, "So long, see ya later," rather than "Good-bye." :) 

Would you rather sing or dance?
I can do both fairly well, but I'd rather be exceptional at both - and frequently, I daydream that I am!
Here's to another fun week ahead! Tomorrow, I have to pretend I'm the richest of the super-rich, which should be fun, since the most expensive thing I own probably comes from Old Navy. Ha!