Monday, May 26, 2008

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Tipping 101

I have seen and heard quite a lit lately on the crazy American cultural custom of tipping.  Here is a story in a nearby paper where a server wrote a Letter to the Editor complaining about tipping.  He (maybe she) didn't put it into words the best and so got a slew of negative comments...  Erin (I went to HS with her) posted an entry on her blog about tipping the take-out guy/gal. And has more recently asked about tipping the bag boy.  I think overall, tipping has become such a mystery that we all just guess - and no offense, but most of you (us) fail. 

I work two jobs.  As my second I wait tables at a local restaurant.  I know it isn't glamorous, but I really like it.  I get to work in a fast-paced environment with fun people and great food.  Plus I get to walk away at the end of the night with cold hard cash, always a bonus.  

I am going to give you tipping advice - those of you who have been servers can vouch for what I'll say.  

If you go to a restaurant and you are satisfied with the outcome - food, service, etc. You should leave 20%.  If you feel like your server was awesome, leave a couple extra bucks.  Last night we went to Applebee's (I know, fancy shmancy huh??! -sarcasm-) and our bill only came to $29.  Our waitress was awesome.  So I left $8 - and I wrote on the ticket: "You were Awesome!"  Too often all the server hears is negative, so if I felt they were great, I'll tell them and so should you.  - But don't just tell them, show them in the form of a healthy tip!!    

Tipping etiquette dictates that you should NEVER leave less than 10%.  I would disagree, but only in certain circumstances.  If the server verbally insults you or one of your guests, or if they throw food at you, or if you place you order and then never see anyone again.   In instances such as these you should contact the manager.  If a server has behaved this way to you, chances are they have behaved that way to someone else and they should no longer be working there.   If you just leave a cheap tip or leave no tip, they will just think you were there the problem, not them.  We as servers don't know if the 10% tip is because we totally forgot to get you something or if you are just plain cheap.  

I often feel like patrons at our restaurant (which is defiantly a step - if not many - above Applebees btw) are looking for reasons to lower their server's tip.  One of my brothers has so wisely put it: My glass is their tip gauge, if it gets empty, they get no tip.  Not refilling drinks is a horrible thing, as is forgetting customer requests, bad food, slow service, etc...but you as a guest need to look a bit further than your overly tight wallet when deciding what to tip.  

When you don't get that refill right away, is it because your server is lazy or because you gulped it down in 20 seconds.  Is it your first refill or your twelfth? (we have more to do than to be soley responsible for you draining the world's supply of Mountain Dew)  And often, some specialty drinks (flavored lemonades for example) are not refillable, or get only one refill.  When in doubt - ask.  

If your food was bad, chances are your server will have no fault.  Yes, we do occasionally put in the wrong order, but if your steak wasn't cooked right, we aren't the ones over the grill, and we don't cut into it before we bring it to you to check it's doneness... That is why we check back to see if it's ok.  Don't hesitate to tell us it is wrong...well, maybe hesitate.  If you ordered it Medium Rare and you're mad it is red in the middle, that's not anyone's fault but yours.  If we walk back to the kitchen with a Medium Rare steak and tell them you want it well done, you can bet the cooks will be pissed.   And pissed off cooks are NEVER me.  If we do something wrong with the food we should catch it right away...I do...and fix it before you ever even see it. 

A server should make their table feel like they are the only table in the restaurant, but sometimes this is just logistically impossible.  On Thursday I got double-sat.  Hostesses are supposed to sit you one table at a time to ensure good service, but sometimes they don't, for whatever reason (some of them are just retarded).  If you get more than one table at a time it is called getting double- or triple-sat.  So back to Thursday, I was taking the order from my first table as I noticed I was getting a second one sat.  I smiled at the second table with a 'Be there in one minute look' and finished the first.  I went to the second table and greeted them.  They had lots of questions about menu items, and they wanted to order right then.  It took about 7-8 minutes.   When I walked away from their table a guy at table one (they are right next to each other) flagged me and said "Excuse me mam, where are our drinks?"  I wanted to STRANGLE him...I had been standing not 3 feet from him for that ENTIRE 8 minutes taking an order...and he had seen me because I had made eye contact with him several times.  I hurried to the bar and grabbed their drinks and took them out.  He was ticked for the rest of the night and only left me $5 on an $80 bill.  The motto?  If you don't get something right away - look around.  Is your server taking an order?  carrying out food to another table?  (in the land of a server, hot food take priority above EVERYTHING...because we don't want the cooks pissed at us either)  And if you can't see them, it doesn't mean they are in the back playing poker...we are probably refilling your drinks, cutting bread, traying food, making salads or chasing down some ridiculous request of another guest (or maybe even your ridiculous request) 

As a server, once all my tables have gone for the night I am assigned SideWork (SW) to do before I can go home.  SW varies from restaurant to restaurant but every place has it.  We have to polish all the silverware before we go home.  This may not seem like much until you think that each restaurant guest uses at a minimum 3 pieces of silverware: Salad fork/soup spoon, dinner fork and butter knife.  You add into that steak knives, crab forks & crackers, bread knives, pasta spoons, dessert forks/spoons, etc.   Times that by hundreds of guests and you have a whole boatload of silverware.  We also must fold 100 napkins each...not just any fold either, a cute little silverware envelope contraption.   The rest of the SW includes: taking out the trash, taking out the linen bags, sweeping, mopping, cutting lemons & limes and wrapping them for the next day,  cleaning breadboards, wiping down large and small trays, disassembling the soda fountain and cleaning all nozzles, refilling ketchups, steak sauces, salt & pepper shakers and oil & vinegar bottles.  Refilling sweetner caddies, consolidating water/soda glasses, filling trays of ramekins with butter & sour cream, organizing and putting away all the polished silverware, wiping down countless walls, counters, racks, etc.   The kicker is that while we do this we are getting paid $2.13 an hour.  

My philosophy on tipping is this: If you are ever debating on how much to leave.  ROUND UP.  The extra $1-2 won't break you, but it will make the server's night.   Also, when you are factoring the tip, think of all the special requests you and members of your group made.  Did you require things that were not on the menu?  extra sauces?  an exorbitant amount of refills on your soda?  special things for your kids?  - make sure you compensate your server.  Oh, and just a friendly piece of advice, you get the best service and food outside the dinner rush (6pm-8pm).  

As far as takeout goes, I think it doesn't hurt to leave $1-2 bucks if the order is for a few entrees - especially if you asked for things on the side or extra anything.  Once again, the extra $1-2 won't break you but it will make their night.  

Bag boys are another story.  Those of you on military bases (at least the ones in VA and RI) should tip your baggers because they are not paid a wage.  But here in 'civilian-land' they are I wouldn't tip them - except if it is pouring rain or snowing and you want them to come cram 2 carts of groceries into your car...or right before Christmas, slip the kid a $5...make his day. 

Bottom line: Don't be cheap.  And maybe even cheesier...think What Would Jesus Do and leave the extra $2.   

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Finally some good news...

So Nathan had a job interview on Thursday...and barring any complications arising from a background check (...I don't think he's a felon) HE HAS A JOB!!!!!!

It will be selling insurance - which is something I never would have thought of for him, but after the interview he seemed really excited about it and apparently you can make some pretty good money - which is good 'cause adopting a kid from every continent is going to cost us a small fortune. 

The guy he will work for said the hours can be long - which will be tough - but if I'll be going back to school in the a.m. and waiting tables in the p.m. my days will be long too - the only ones who will be ticked are Besta, Winston and Frank...but I think they'll live.  Well, as long as their food dishes never get empty... 

The other good news is that once things get started (after background check and passing licensure tests) we can do the home study for adoption!!  Whoohoo!  

All this was perfect timing.  We had set a 'deadline' of sorts for the 22nd of May - if we hadn't found something in the way of a suitable job for Nathan by then we were going back into the Navy - which wouldn't have been a bad thing, but I really want to finish school and adoption laws here are a lot more friendly than in some other states.  Plus, we've been spending a lot more time with family and in the local mountains and I am getting kinda hooked.  So all of you RI folks who are bummed (maybe I'm kidding myself) that we're not moving back right now - just think - Nathan will make enough that we'll be able to come visit!!  

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Oh, and the funny part is...

Before I posted all the pics from the wind caves I told you I had only hiked them once before - in the dark.  I forgot to post the story when I posted the pics, so here it is.

I was living in my Great Aunt's basement with my BFF Becky going to our first year of college.  We had a group of guys (and a few gals) we were friends with and would often hang out and do things together.   My Great Aunt's house was about 20 minutes north of the University and the rest of the group lived pretty close to campus.  One night I get a call from one of the guys asking us if we want to go hiking...which would have been great except it was about 10 or 11pm.  After some persisting they convinced us to go and we made the trek into town and then up the canyon to the trailhead.  We hiked all the way up in the dark and made it to the top.  I don't remember any moon that night so once we got to the top I couldn't see the grandeur of it all or see just how close I was to falling to a painful death.  We sat all lined up on the edge of the cavern on the right (in the photo in the post below where Nathan is a little tiny guy in a white shirt) and gazed at the stars.  

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Wind Caves

Our first adventure in our Summer of a Million Hikes went one died. I thought I was going to, but I survived. I was honestly quite shocked at just how out of shape I am...I shouldn't really expect any different, but man oh man I am going to have to do some serious conditioning to be ready for some of the harder hikes.

My brother Mitch and his cute wife Michelle came up to make the hike with us. The hike is about 2.5 miles long and it took us 2.5 hours. I was awe struck by the beauty of the canyon, it was as if I had just taken it for granted and forgotten how majestic it is.

Here we are at the trailhead. Besta was so excited I am surprised he didn't pee himself.

This is part of the switchbacks winding up to the can see part of the cave - it is the dark spot in the upper left hand corner.

Mitch found this rock and had to climb it - so Nathan helped to get Besta up on it...

At one point the trail forked...and there was cute little sign that pointed to the right...well which direction do you think we went?? Yep, Left. Mitch assured us this was a shortcut. Well it was but it was awfully steep for a bit and we had to teach Besta to rock climb ...If I hadn't been so scared that I would have fallen to my death I would have taken a photo of our cute dog trying to be a mountain goat.
Right before you get to the actual caves you get to these beautiful rock outcroppings. I went to one and Mitch and Michelle sat on the other and I took a photo from across the 'great divide' hehe

From where I took Mitch and Michelle's picture I turned right and took this one. See the little guy in the white t-shirt? That's Nathan. The pic of us below in the big cavern is in the cavern on the left. We are standing right at the edge of the green.

Mitch and Michelle and I made our way over to where Nathan was - this is me down in the cave while Nathan is uptop snapping the photo.

This is standing (right where we are in the pic below) in the big cavern looking back up/out. Behind Michelle there is a spot that has obviously been camped in - there were even remnants of a campfire.
Mitch took this for us - this shot puts it all in to perspective - I can't believe how high up the caves are. Right behind where we are standing there is a HUGE dropoff (see three photos up)
Here are Michelle and I with the flowers Nathan picked for us. I am smiling so big because we are almost done. :)

As we were just getting ready to head back down the trail, Mitch spotted some deer on the side of the mountain - he then had to watch are our boys watching the deer.
Besta did pretty well - he has to be in front though, which is kinda funny. When we got to the top of the hike he DID NOT want to be anywhere near the edge of the cliffs . After the hike we went to Iggy's to watch the last half of the Jazz-Lakers game. So sad...oh well, there's always next year!

Up next: Crimson Trail

Stuffed Pasta Shells

A while back I posted about some Stuffed Pasta Shells I had made and Abby kindly asked for the recipe - which I never posted because I am a slacker. But I figured better late than never - so here it is:

Stuffed Pasta Shells Holly Style ;)
  • 1 box large shell pasta -
  • 1 jar of spaghetti sauce (or make your own...I like the Prego one with mushrooms)
  • 4 C shredded mozzarella cheese

  • 1 large container of ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbs oregano
  • garlic (use how much you like - I usually use 3-4 cloves minced, but I LOVE garlic)
  • parmesan-reggiano blend cheese (the Kraft kind in the green container works well..I prefer shredded but grated works too)
  • 1 red pepper - sliced
  • 1 yellow pepper - sliced
  • 1 large yellow onion - sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Boil pasta shells - and drain. (You don't want to overcook them or they will get soggy when baked - boil them until they are al dente.)
  3. Saute the peppers, onions and a bit of garlic in olive oil until just barely not crisp.
  4. Mix mozzarella, ricotta, egg, garlic, oregano and 1/4 C parmesan-reggiano cheese in a bowl until mixed well.
  5. Spread a small amount of sauce on the bottom of a 13 x 9 pan (to keep the shells from sticking)
  6. Fill shells with cheese mixture and place in pan. (This is the tricky want to allow the shells to cool for a minute or two because handling hot pasta can burn you! I usually use a larger table spoon and hold the shell in my left hand and the spoon with cheese in my right. I will slide the spoon in the opening of the shell and then hold the shell shut with my left hand - to keep the cheese in - while I slide the spoon back out...sounds tricky, but after one or two you get the hang of it - oh and your fingers will get messy but that's part of the fun!)
  7. Once all the shells are filled, lay/pour/spread the peppers and onions over the shells.
  8. Pour the spaghetti sauce over all of it.
  9. Top with a little shredded mozzarella and parmesan-reggiano mix.
  10. Bake until cheese melts and sauce is bubbling (usually about 15-20 minutes)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Summer of a Million Hikes

I have decided to set a 'Resolution' for myself (and thereby Nathan too, and sometimes Besta). We live in some of the most beautiful country around and I would like to see more of it. So starting last night I decided to make a list of hiking trails I want to conquer before summer is up (or before we move if we do indeed move...)

We did our first one last night and while it cannot in actuality be called a 'hiking trail' it was a good warm-up for Nathan and I who have been a little sloth-like as of late. We did not take photos to document our travels, but we're going to do the trail once a week - we took Besta and he LOVED it - so next time we go I'll take and post some pics.

Tonight (well, this evening) we are hiking the Wind Caves - I have never done that in the daylight (funny story...I'll tell you when I post pics) so it should be fun.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

One Step Closer!

Nathan has been searching for a job since he'll be GRADUATING (!!!) next Friday. He had one interview with an insurance company and they called him back for a second one today! I am super excited because if he gets this job it puts us one step closer to adoption!! We will be able to meet with the social worker and start our homestudy and then all we need to do is find us a birthmother.

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Receptionist's Day!

Our Crusher Foreman comes walking in today and says he heard on the radio it was National Receptionist's Day, asks me if I am a receptionist and I say yes and he hands me a pack of Oreos! :) What a sweet guy!!

So I went online and sure enough - today (second Wednesday in May) is Receptionist's Day. I saw one website call us (receptionists) Director of First Impressions, I like that title and I think I might use it on future resumes.
So Happy Receptionist's Day to all my fellow Directors of First Impressions!

Thursday, May 08, 2008


You've been caught show yourself!  (i.e. leave a comment so we know who you are...)

That was NOT in the job description

I noticed the date today (not that I don't notice it everyday) and it occurred to me that I have been gone from the Chamber for 2 years.  I got all nostalgic and my memory wandered to the many odd tasks I had been asked to do over the years.  Data entry while being 'grounded' to my desk is bad but I have been asked to do worse.  

When we moved to RI I contacted a temp agency to help me find a job.  I was assigned one and I showed up on Monday the following week.  The second day I worked I was asked by my boss to remove all the drapes from the windows in the building and then hang the new ones - after ironing them of course.  So there I was all dressed up an standing over an iron...
It got me thinking - what are some of the most outrageous things your past (or present) bosses have asked you to do?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

...more later... the later came a little later than I intended, and quite a bit longer than I thought, but ah well... (I will still love you if you don't read it)

So, where did I leave off?  Oh yes, the week of hell... Lets start with the physical, it is a little less complicated.  I woke up Tuesday with a stiff neck, I thought I had slept on it weird and that it would just go away...but it didn't.  It got worse by the end of the day (stress at work likely a contributing factor...keep reading for the details) and after a shift - albeit a short one - at work I knew something was wrong.  I came home from waiting tables, took some pain killers and went to sleep.   Wednesday when I woke up it was worse, I could barely move my neck at all.  I made an appt with a chiropractor and went in over my lunch.  I had two bones in my neck that had slipped out of place - one in each direction - and it felt a little better once they were popped back into place.   Thursday morning when the alarm went off I couldn't even get out of bed to turn it off.  Nathan called into work for me because I couldn't get up and I spent the day in bed flat on my back except for my trip to the Chiropractor.  Friday went ok...I walked like a penguin most of the day and Sat came and went with a bad night at the restaurant and Sunday morning brought me the worst pain yet.   I went to the chiropractor again today and he said that waiting tables is putting stress on my neck and back and I need to be careful because I am on the verge of causing a permanent injury.  Now don't get me wrong...I LOVE having my neck snapped back and forth and all...I just don't love shelling out $20 a pop for the this rate I'll be working the restaurant just to pay for the spinal adjustments for the pain and injury I incur while working at the restaurant...does that seem like flawed logic to anyone else??!?

Ok, now for emotional.  So Tuesday I was already not feeling well (neck) and so when my boss came down on me for something that I was 'not doing' (but in reality I was doing,  apparently just not fast enough for The Giver) I fell apart.  (Readers Digest Version: I had been asked -about 2 weeks ago - to input the data from about 400 or so sheets of inventory.  When I had been given them I told The Giver I would never be able to finish them on time - it was just too much for me to physically do...well Tuesday the boss came out because he had the 'distinct impression' I had ben told not to do it by someone else and was mad because it wasn't done.)  I had heard stories from many others who work there about his tirades and I had just thought them exaggeration until one of the said tirades was directed at was the first one I had seen in over a year of working there.   After 'the incident' just kept to myself and worked non-stop on the inventory, putting off everything else.  In fact everyone was told to stay away from me and not to give me anything to do until I had finished.  (I am still not done.  I still have about 130 sheets to go...they were supposed to be done last does give me some satisfaction that I was right about not having them finished...even though the last week has SUCKED because all I have done is data entry...and that is all I will be doing this week too...yippee)   Then on Wednesday (neck worse) my boss came out and said he was getting the idea that I wasn't happy with him and then he said: "Haven't you learned yet that what I say goes?"  Word.For.Word.  There was also something about how I should never question what he says to do.  This is when the stubborn streak in me prevailed...I was not going to let him think I was mad because he told me to do something...I told him that I was mad because I HAD been working on the inventory and that I had told The Giver (who incidentally happens to be my boss' son) that I wouldn't be done when he wanted and that I would need help.  When he (boss man) heard this (although it took me several attempts to get it all out because he kept cutting me off...and by the end I was crying) he mumbled something, rolled his eyes and walked away.   I couldn't function.  One of the other guys I worked with (lets call him Joe) walked out just then and all I had to do was see him and I started crying.  He told me there is 'no crying in construction' (nice League of Their Own reference on his part) and smiled at me with one of those "I've been there" smiles.  Joe just happens to be dating a girl in the office (lets call her Suzie) and within moments of him walking away Suzie comes up (he must have clued her in) and sees the mess I'm making of myself and asks what happened.  I relay the info in-between hysterical sobs and she tells me to go take a breather.  I went to my car and cried uncontrollably for 10 minutes.  Now you may be thinking 'Man, she is overreacting' but you have to take into consideration all the extenuating circumstances...the hurt neck, the stress of getting yelled at, hormones I had been on for PCOS, and the impending major life change(?) of a move (?).    

Then comes Saturday.  I had asked about the manager opening at the restaurant and had been told they weren't going to fill it...well they did.  And yep, it is not me.  Add to that the BIGGEST JERK I have ever waited on or met IN.MY.LIFE.  and the neck pain and you get one hell of a shift.  

So that's where I'm at today.  Lets review shall we:
-I am 'grounded' to my desk with the never-ending inventory pile.  
-My neck is staging a revolution against working two jobs.
-We still don't know where we'll be in four weeks.
-I haven't slept a solid 2 or more hours in over a week.  

Pretty good for a Monday.  

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Long week..

Sorry I haven't has been one hell of a week. I have had to ignore the blog because of physical and emotional limitations...all of which I will explain when I post later...for now I just wanted to remind anyone who is a a bookgroup reader (or anyone who wants to join) head on over to the bookgroup and vote for a book for May.

More later...I promise