Sunday, December 25, 2016

Eats, Treats, and Peeps

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy (belated) Festivus for the Rest of Us!

Thank goodness I only have to wear this once a year!

Hope we don't end up on a dinner plate, too!

We had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner last night and enjoyed the company of our fellow Amazonians Susan and Rodger.  Dad did a stupendous job frying the calamari and shrimp and grilling our treasured halibut and salmon from our Alaskan trip.  Mom made linguine with mussels and clams in her homemade marinara sauce (something she doesn’t make very often anymore—she usually uses Barilla jar sauce!)  Between the antipasti, fishes, and Mom’s cookies and New York Style homemade cheesecake, I was as stuffed as Templeton the Rat from Charlotte’s Web!

We had a major cold front move in last week, with temps dipping to the teens!  Hard to believe since it is in the 70s this weekend.  For this Rat from the Northeast, there is something inherently wrong with running the air conditioner on Christmas!

My parents finished up their Amazon gig on Tuesday with mandatory overtime.  Yup, can you believe it—the first and only time all season that mandatory overtime was called.  Ironically, there was very little work for ICQA anyway.  Insult upon injury, they only get paid for straight time since they used their 10 hours paid time off on Friday!

We all are relieved the season is over and we survived another peak!  To celebrate the achievement, a bunch of us got together at The Rock.  It was loads of fun, and even my parents’ Manager and Production Assistant joined in the celebration.  The best thing about Amazon is the people you meet, and this year was no exception!

Did I mention that my parents are masochists.  Yup, they already reapplied to Amazon for the 2017 peak season!  Although there is speculation as to whether workampers will be welcomed back to Haslet or whether they will assigned to another location.  We shall see!

To get into the holiday spirit, we did a little shopping in Fort Worth on Friday.  I was disappointed that there were not many pretty store decorations, especially compared to when we would visit New York City to see the Rockefeller Center tree and the uniquely-designed store windows of Macy’s and Sak’s Fifth Avenue.  We then dined at Saltgrass, a steakhouse chain here in Texas.  It wasn’t bad, but it cannot light a candle to Benjamin’s in New York City, where we would visit about four times a year, including at Christmastime.  My mouth waters just thinking about their scrum-delicious porterhouse steak for two!   Yummy!  Sorry, I digressed—I do that often when I speak of food.  Anyway, when I still felt a bit like the Grinch, Mom and Dad took me to Arlington, Texas, to see the Lake Interlochen Homeowners’ Association Festival of Lights.  For 40 years, the residents of this neighborhood decorate and light up the outside of their homes for the holiday season.  Literally thousands of folks visit during the one week event, and we were thrilled to be among those to see the spectacle.  Most people drive through the neighborhood, following the police directions for one-way traffic.  But Big Boomer would have never made it through the maze of narrow streets and cul-de-sacs.  So we parked about a mile away in a shopping center and walked up and down each and every street, which actually offered us better views!  Of course, by the end of the night my paws were killing me—we walked more than 8 miles!  But attending the Festival of Lights was just the cure for getting me into a festive mood!

Well, it is time to start our Christmas feast of roast beast! Happy eating to all, and to all a good night!  God bless us, everyone!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Hopes for Bringing Home a Bounty of Benjamins Blown to Bits

Hi, everyone.  Hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving!  We followed our usual traditions--Mom cooked a full-blown  turkey day feast, we watched a little football,  and we kicked off the holiday season by viewing  "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"!  We just love this film, depicting the All American dysfunctional family!  I think we all must have one Cousin Eddie or Aunt Bethany in our family closets!

Amazon's peak season is in full swing, so we are told.  But considering it was Black Friday and Cyber Monday, my parents felt things were not that busy compared to last season.  In fact, there is an inordinate amount of VTO (voluntary time off) offered and taken by both full-timers and work-campers.  Mom and Dad came back to Haslet with the expectations of having significant overtime opportunities, whether mandatory or voluntary, like last year.  But, alas, this is not the case.  The fact that all Haslet work-campers are assigned to ICQA precludes work-campers from getting mandatory overtime.  And because my parents have been relegated to water spidering for weeks on end and were never given the opportunity to cross-train for stow or pick (which was done by random selection), they are not eligible for any voluntary overtime.   Heck, they don't even get to participate in the "power hour" competitions or earn "SWAG" (Stuff We All Get) bucks.  So looks like my Christmas stocking won't be stuffed with as much Swiss cheese as I was hoping for!  Rats!

On a brighter note, we have had more time to relax and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow RVers.  We have regular Tuesday night fire side chats with our neighbors at Texas Star RV Park.   And we recently visited Chimera Brewing Company with fellow Amazonians.  The Brewery is located in the Fairmount section of Fort Worth,  a quaint historic neighborhood comprised of houses dating from the late 1800s to the early 1920s.  It is also the home of the annual "Festivus" Christmas Celebration, which sounds like a lot of fun (trying to talk my folks into taking me there on December 12).     For a little corner pub, Chimera has a nice selection of beer and the food was darn good, especially their pizza!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here.  Yes, the rig is all decked out for the holidays, from the lighted garland with vintage ornaments, to our Charlie Brown Christmas Tree, to the very first Christmas decoration Mom bought for our first home 30 years ago, to my Grandma's nativity scene.   If you look closely, you'll see even Stewey and Dewey got in the act, hanging a Santa hat on their fish tank!  And our trailer trash decor would not be complete without a couple of lighted blowups outside!

Thursday we were in Grapevine for its holiday parade.  We went in early so Mom could get new glasses at America's Best.  They advertise that you can get two pair of glasses for $69.95 when you get an eye exam performed on site.  Mom phoned them the day prior to ask their hours for Thursday.  She asked if an appointment was needed for the eye exam and was told walk ins were welcome.  The receptionist offered to make an appointment for Mom, but Mom said she didn't know what time on Thursday she would be in the area, so she would take a chance at just walking in, which she did.  That's when we learned there is no doctor on duty on Thursdays!  WHAT!!!!  Why wasn't that mentioned in the phone call and why did the receptionist offer to make an appointment if the doctor wasn't in today?  OK, a little snafu, but the receptionist on duty came up with a quick fix.  There is another America's Best location just 15 minutes away in Hurst.  The receptionist on duty checked their on-line schedule and made an appointment for 12:50, just 40 minutes from our time of arrival at Grapevine.  OK, a little bubble in our plan, but still workable.  So we haul ourselves down to Hurst to learn they don't have an appointment for Mom for that day.  How is that possible?  Apparently the receptionist hit the wrong date on the calendar and made the appointment for this past Monday!  And the Hurst location was booked with appointments for the next 2.5 hours, so they could not squeeze Mom in.  WHAT the heck!  Mom was ballistic.  Is everyone a moron!  As comedian Ron White always says, "you can't fix stupid"!  Mom did appreciate the fact that both the manager and receptionist at Grapevine called her to apologize profusely.  But needless to say, she didn't get her eye exam/glasses done that day.

Dad knew a good remedy to calm Mom down (and satisfy my appetite as well):  Margherita pizza and antipasto at Grimaldi's Brick Oven.  Delicioso!

Visiting "The Christmas Capital of Texas" was lots of fun.  Arriving in Grapevine during daylight offered us better opportunities for pictures and less rambunctious kids running around!  I actually got to take some selfies for a change!

The parade was even better than last year, featuring some really fun floats, two with a "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" theme!  And this year they had lots of cute, cuddly canines in the parade, with animal rescue groups showcasing German Shepherds, Whippets, Huskies, and Basset Hounds.

As I'm writing this, Mom and Dad just got their release date from Amazon:  December 23.  Work-campers were offered to extend a few days, but my parents didn't want to ruin our holiday plans by working on Christmas Eve and Canada's Boxing Day.  Anyway, we are set to leave on December 28 to head home to Livingston and need time to repack all the Christmas decorations!

A cold front is coming in tonight, with temperatures expecting to dip as low as 19F degrees!  Time to put on my thermal underwear!

Talk to you again soon! 

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Zombies, Spiders, and Seekers

Hope everyone had a spooktacular Halloween!  Mine was quite fun!  Dad and I dressed up as "Amazombies" and Dad ended up winning 1st place for his shift in the Amazon Halloween costume contest!

Mom didn't enter the contest, although she says she looks and feels like a zombie every work day!  Especially this last week, when she and Dad were asked to work an 11-hour day as "water spiders".  "Water spiders" have a much more physical job than working as counters in ICQA or even compared to working in Receiving.  They must haul pallets, lift totes, load the automated K-SAW, run the VRC elevator, etc. Basically you need the multiple "hands" of a spider and must keep a maniacal pace to ensure all stations on the floor have ample work.  

The day before she worked at the tote stacking machine, which entailed loading the stacked totes on pallets and hauling them to other areas of the building.

These are jobs that some of the Workampers (and full-timers for that matter) don't want or like to do.  But Mom and Dad are willing to do anything--they get paid no matter what task they do and it gives them a break from counting.

I just realized that Amazon is a world of acronyms and strange titles.  For example, a "Seeker" is the person who assists the Stower by handing them items to place in the bins, theoretically increasing the Stower's rates.    "VRC" (mentioned above) is the "Vertical Reciprocating Conveyor".  Mom says Amazon should provide a special dictionary/vocabulary guide when you start to work there!

Looks like the last of the Workampers have arrived at Amazon now, and we have had fun meeting new folks and sharing good times with friends from last year.  In fact, a group of us went into Fort Worth to visit the Rahr Brewery one Wednesday.  For $10/person, you get music, camaraderie, 3 full pints of beer from a choice of nearly a dozen plus a half pint of their specialty seasonal beer (pumpkin rum was on tap the day we visited).  I had a hard time getting in to the joint since I left my rat I.D. at home.  But I finally beguiled my way in.  Thank goodness I am blessed with good looks and a charming personality!

Sharing an ale at Rahr Brewery!

My Rat ID.  Now you know why I left it at home--it just doesn't fit comfortably in my wallet!

My new friends!  This little lass is 10 month old Everest!

Meet 347-pound Major, complete with his own drool bib!

My family took a day to visit the Stockyards, checking out the longhorn steer as they paraded down the street.  They are some BIG  boys!  We stopped at the Fort Worth Water Gardens as well, relishing in the calming effect of the unique pools and falls.

Let the taste-testing begin!  Yes, Mom has  started her holiday cookie baking!  Her cookies and bringing back fish from our Canada/Alaska trip are the only reason we have a chest freezer, but what worthy reasons they are!

Speaking of Canada/Alaska, our Bank of America AAA Visa card announced recently that it will no longer charge foreign transaction fees. Would have been nice if they put this into effect earlier in the year when we incurred fees for traveling through Canada enroute to Alaska.   Mom whined to them, so she was successful in getting us a refund of $9 for charges from August, but she is disappointed that they could not make the refund retroactive to cover the entire $75 of fees we incurred since January.  But it is good news for the RVillage North to Alaska Class of 2017, as I am sure other credit cards will follow suit.

I keep myself busy while my parents are at work.  I tend to get up with them at 5 a.m. (after all, who could sleep with all the racket they make preparing for work!)  There is something so spiritual about watching dark turn to light, witnessing the break of dawn.

My parents usually use their motorcycles to get to work.  So one day, I left Tabby, Stewey, and Dewey at home unsupervised and took Big Boomer out for a joy ride (don't tell my parents!)

I visited Marion Samson Park, which offers scenic views of Lake Worth.  They have lots of trails, but they are geared toward mountain biking rather than hiking, and very few of the trails are actually marked.  So I just lingered at the pavilion and lounged on the great expanse of grass soaking in some sunshine and enjoying the local scenery.  

Seemingly, Tabby entertained herself in my absence.

We are still experiencing very hot, humid weather in Texas.  In fact, October turned out to be the hottest October on record!  And November 1 was about 15 degrees above the historical norm.  Can't wait to get to the dry, arid desert of Arizona!

Congrats to the Cubs on their historical win!  I'm not a big sports fan, but even I was glued to the TV.  It was one heck of a nail-biter! Chicago is in the news for reasons other than the World Series:  apparently they have a bad infestation of rats!  People are adopting cats from shelters and offering homes to stray cats just to keep the rats at bay!  Good news for cats in need of a home in the Chicago area, bad news for my rat relatives and friends!

Well, I've rambled on enough--time for me to say goodnight.  Talk to you again soon!