I was informed at the beginning of the week that it was ''Cow Appreciation Day' on Wednesday, preceded by 'Slurpee Day' on Tuesday. For those unfamiliar with 'the Slurpee', it is like snow that has been melted, and has become 'slush'. It is then flavoured with, normally, a bright colour that has no representation to its flavour. One favourite is 'blue raspberry'. Admittedly, when it is cold, my fingers have been known to turn blue, but I have not seen the same happen to soft fruit. However, I digress. Tuesday was 'Slurpee Day'. This meant that we had to go to '7-11', and claim our freebie. The challenge was for me to claim my freebie without spending far more than the Slurpee would have cost, should I have lost all my senses and considered purchasing one! Although this is supposedly a day that shows appreciation for customers, and I do use the store at times, and Dana generally buys his petrol from the pumps that adjoin the store, I find it difficult to just walk in, and then walk out without paying!
Our lunchtime swimming this week has been a more arduous task, due to the heat index, which apparently pertains to the humidity. Being a more of a 'plain English' type of gal, once it gets hot, I know that swimming is going to become more taxing. Appreciating the weather was almost as difficult as appreciating the properties of the 'Slurpee', but I do know that summer is a 'definite' and for that I am grateful!
The beginning of the week started on Monday, which is usual for most of the population, but as I have been out of town for the past couple of weekends, a Monday morning start was starting to become slightly alien. However, I got myself up and ready on the first day of the working week, and headed to the office. The week after 'The fourth', is historically quiet, both in our industry and on the roads. I am unsure as to why, but have made some assumptions. It is the middle of the school holidays, on this side of the pond, and people tend to 'take off' after the Independence Day holiday. Work started slowly, but then, like the best performances ended in a crescendo, building up from lunchtime until around 7pm. I left the office at around five fifteen, and headed to the pool. I swam in the cooler temperatures of the evening, and then read my book until a quarter to the hour of eight, and then called Dana to see if he was ready to be collected! It was as if I had a child in detention at school. "Have you finished your work?", I asked, maternally, with an edge of sharpness, to make sure he had done all he had to do, but with a pinch of compassion, just so he knew I cared! He told me to allow about fifteen minutes for him to 'shut up shop', and then I could swing by to collect him. Although women are supposedly renowned for being bad time keepers, in my experience, when a man says 'fifteen minutes', it is best to allow thirty. I arrived at the office a minute before 8:15, and he was just turning out the lights. He appeared to be satisfied with amount of work accomplished, but said he would have to leave the house early the following morning to be completely clear by the start of the work day.
I was very happy to have an early start on Tuesday, and set about making dinner. Dessert was going to be a patriotic cake, one that Samantha had shown me, where a 'Swiss roll' mixture is separated into three, and piped diagonally in red, white and blue. Although a little fiddly, it was not too difficult. However, it was more of a green, pink and beige cake by the time it came out of the oven, and the apricot puree which I had purchased, was not puree at all, but more of a preserve, which made the cream filling less dynamic than I had anticipated.
The lunchtime swim was followed by the trip to '7-11'. I had requested that we not do what we have done in the past, and travel to several shops to accommodate everyone in the office, but merely go to the store that is on our way back to the office, and pick up one each. I do not partake of the slushed syrup mixture, so I would be donating mine to my husband. We agreed that as we were no longer 'newbies', but in our twelfth year we were more seasoned veterans, the novelty had worn off, slightly, although not enough to fore go the experience completely! I walked in to the shop, hovered around the stand for a few minutes, until I heard the desk clerk mention to another customer, "Slurpee's are free today!" I cautiously walked to the machine, and carefully pushed the tap that would make the slush pour into the cup. "The other way", came a chorus from those who had queued up behind me, and my daughter, who was watching me rather than concentrating on her own cup, which overflowed as the mush appeared to expand as it hit the cardboard receptacle. I pushed the tap 'the other way', and out came the brown slop that is known as a 'Slurpee'. Once the task was completed, we walked to the desk, to show our wares, and were advised that no action need be taken by the clerk, and we could just exit. I managed to do so, feeling marginally guilty at not having purchased anything, but mainly satisfied that I had accepted their token of appreciation without cost. Coke flavoured was the one I took back to Dana, and he was suitably surprised and appreciative.
Sunshine and air-conditioning make for a strange combination. Whilst sitting at my desk in the cooler environment, I looked out at the cloudless sky and yearned to be in the great outdoors. Typically, Tuesday's are the slowest day of the week, and this week proved the point. Dana said that he should not be too late home, and as we were having guests to share dinner, he promised to make sure he arrived home before they were due to land. I took off around five, and headed out into that great outdoors that I had been craving. As I said, sunshine and air-conditioning make for a strange combination, and when I set foot outside the building, the heat made me want to turn around and run back inside. Instead, I walked, slowly, to my car, and as the key turned, and the little engine roared into life, the breeze emitted from the vents like a glorious prize. I looked outside the tinted window, and no longer craved to be on the other side of the door! The feeling lasted for a very short time, and by the time I got home, and took care of some last minute preparations, I was ready to leave the comfort of the manufactured chill, and went to swim for twenty minutes. As I took part in this most enjoyable past time, I was aware of how blessed I am to have the opportunity to swim every day, in the summer, and how spoilt I had become, when I longed for an extra half an hour just to laze and read!
Despite the lack of patriotic colour, and lack of extreme flavour contrast, the cake was a great success. Apparently, the more delicate fuse that had been created by mixing the preserve with the fresh cream was just enough, and the colours were extremely 'pretty'. More to the point, it all tasted delicious, and that was marked down as a successful experiment in my book!
Dressing for the next 'Appreciation Day' took slightly more effort on Wednesday. I drove to Joe, wearing a dress that in no way represented a cow! Chick-fil-A would have a hard time admitting that I represented a bovine creature of any variety. A purely 'chicken' establishment, their advertising amusingly depict cows telling people how good chicken is! In a state that is known for steak, steak and more steak, this has always been a source of mirth! Samantha had brought her costume to the office, and mused on the age of the black and white suit, and how she had not realised quite how much wear she would get from something that had been made on a whim! After my lunchtime swim, I changed into a black and white dress, and threw a black and white 'tie dye' effect jacket over my shoulders. Once again, we decided that as veterans of 'Cow Appreciation Day', we would only hit the one store, as to try and feed the entire office would be time consuming and rather unfair to the establishment. The novelty had not so much worn off as 'thinned out' slightly. As we entered, we were met by many other 'cows', both young and older. As usual, my daughter's costume received a large amount of 'ooh's', and 'ahh's', and I stood in line with my piece of paper. At the counter, I presented my magazine, which depicted a cow, standing on two legs, wearing a black and white dress, and a hat. The cover simply said, 'Marie Clare', and under the picture read, 'What sofistikat cows are wearing in Paris, 2016' - July edishun'. (I failed to mention, the cows on the advertisements are not excellent in their spelling!) My 'alternative' costume, together with the explanation, actually received applause from one member of staff, and enough laughter from the others to provide me with my 'appreciation' dinner, which once again, I took back for my husband. I had no problem with walking out and not buying another meal, or purchasing anything further! I was 'appreciated' and that was good enough for me!
We arrived back at the office as Jason was leaving. "Is it 'Cow Appreciation Day?', he asked, as Samantha was still wearing her suit. Hereditary sarcasm is perhaps not the kindest gift I have handed down to my daughter, and she replied, quite smartly, "No, I just felt like wearing something different today!" There is a lack of understanding, sometimes, between 'us and them', and it took a couple of seconds for the proverbial penny to drop! However, it was all taken in good part, and laughter was once again heard, as we headed into the cooler climes of the office!
Thursday afternoon was a very different story. I went to HEB to pick up some cheese and salad fixin's, and although appreciation appeared to be given, I had to pay hard cash for my items! Samantha stood behind me by the cash desk, and as I paid and received my change, I took a little time in gathering my things. "Come on", she said, in mock annoyance. "People are waiting". The lady at the register looked at me slightly quizzically and then asked, "Do you know this person?", quite convinced that I did, as she has seen us together many times. "Never seen her before in my life", I replied. "And I think she is very rude!" The laughter was enough appreciation from the member of staff, as she found this remark to be somewhat 'hysterical'. Sarcasm does have its highlights!
"Fifteen minutes" was a phrase that was thrown about on Thursday and Friday, and both times I gave my husband the benefit of the doubt. "Should I take the car and pick you up later", was answered with said phrase, preceded by, "I will only be.........". Both times we left the office over an hour later, and my evening swim was cancelled. I could have taken to the water and had dinner slightly later, but I chose not to change my routine too much.
Saturday took its normal course, and I enjoyed doing very little after the trip to the supermarket. It was a 'special' birthday for a neighbour who lives at the 'other end' of the complex, and she had a few friends over to help her celebrate. I declined the offer of a pina-colada, although it was tempting. If there is one thing nicer than the sound of children laughing and playing in the pool, it is the sound of laughter of 'like aged' women, playing in the pool! I reluctantly left the area at six thirty, and headed up to my condo in order to get ready to go out for dinner with my husband, who had spent all afternoon, sensibly, inside!
Dinner was, eventually, delicious. Cow was on the menu, and we were planning to enjoy it, despite the message given by those at the 'chicken kitchen'! However, the first piece I received was still vaguely mooing, and whilst I like rare meat, this was still chewing the cud! The manager was most upset, as she had delivered the meal and asked us to 'cut into it', before she left the table. I did not want to make a fuss, but she insisted it be exchanged. She brought the second one to the table, and this was almost cremated. Visibly concerned, she offered to take it away again. However, Dana said that his meat was a little under cooked for his liking, and he would enjoy mine better. We swapped, and she came out with a whole meal in a take out box, for us to enjoy 'tomorrow'. No longer do most restaurants 'remove it from the bill'. (Perhaps they have been 'burned by scammers', a little too often, and it no doubt works out cheaper to replace a meal with an extra meal.) I assured her that, as a customer, I felt appreciated, and there was no need for concern. We would return and we knew this was not the norm for her establishment.
The only routine thing that I am expecting next week is the heat. I hope to swim twice daily, when possible, and appreciate it! I am told that the weather in England is still unsettled, and so until my trip back, I am going to make the most of my summer. With only a few hours until another week starts, I am going to appreciate the rest of my day, without thinking for a few hours, about how I am going to appreciate the ability to write ........ another story!