"If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes", has perhaps never been more prominent than this weekend. Our annual shopping for all, or y'all as they say here, was to take place on Saturday, and we were going to be focused. The temperature promised to be pleasant, and the rain was supposed to stay away.
The week had gone from cold to warm, and back again, several times. It was probably the slowest business week we had endured in several months, and whilst I am always grateful for 'busy', it was nice to be able to catch up with some of the things that are always set aside for such times.
Baking was the order of the day last Sunday. I had promised Samantha that I would make some 'mini chocolate Christmas puddings', the recipe for which was obtained many years ago, from Sainsbury's supermarket in England. I had forgotten that after preparing the mixture, it had to go into the fridge to set before being rolled into the spherical globes, (or globs,) that formed the pudding shape. I decided that during this time, I would make my husband a cup of coffee, and then thought, perhaps without too much thinking, that it would be nice to treat him to a cake, or something sweet, so why not make some small 'fairy' (cup) cakes. As I looked for the oven temperature, I found my 'gingerbread men' recipe, and decided to embark on another round, as the first batch appeared to be such a success! The coffee that was going to be made at 2:30, was not made at all, as by the time I had finished baking and clearing away, it was nearly six, and time for dinner, rather than afternoon tea! However, I had a lot of sweet goodies to take into the office for all to enjoy.
As always, the Christmas puddings disappeared very quickly. They always receive the response, "These are g...., WOW, these ARE GOOD!" Made with chocolate, syrup, and a little bit of love, of course they are GOOD! I always add, "They are English!"
We walked at the beginning of the week, wearing trousers, and hoodies, with the hood pulled up, to protect our ears, but by Friday, we were dressed in shorts once again. Boots replaced shoes, which replaced boots once again.
The highlight of my week was when I made the return journey from Joe's on Wednesday. Rather than take the traditional path, I chose to go the alternative route, and wave to 'our tree'. Although dwarfed by its fellow shrubs, the sparkles still shone in the middle of the 'forest'. My friend Kelly, who drives past it each day on her way to the office, remarked that although it is small, it is the most decorated, as you cannot see any 'tree' at all!
Saturday morning, although slightly drizzly, was fairly warm. Samantha and I left home at 8:20, and headed south. Our first stop was on the north side of the town of New Braunfels, which is over half way to San Antonio. Samantha had wanted to pick up some things to take home, specifically from the Buc'ee's Beaver store, a giant convenience store that is really quite unique.
The outlet mall in San Marcos was not particularly busy when we arrived a little after 9:30, and we parked the car fairly swiftly. Victoria's Secret was, as always, rather busy, and we spent longer than anticipated, deciding whether we needed all the things we had put into our shopping bag, handed to us at the front door, and by the time we got to the cashier, we had discarded most of the 'bargains' originally picked up. Things that we thought might be nice to have, were put back, as although they were very cheap, the probability of non-use, outweighed the possibility of use!
Our plan was to leave the outlet around 11am. We had not completed the first section by midday! "First and last name?" was the familiar question. "Why?" was the familiar answer. "So we can put it on your receipt", came the next familiar quote. "But I know my name", was the following familiar quote. The shop assistants could not fathom why I did not want to give them my name to enter into their system. I do not feel the need to be recognised when shopping in their store. However, because this has now become protocol, (or at least the initial request,) I am the one who appears to be contrary by not giving them the information. They stare at me as if I am breaking some kind of rule. I stood my ground!
We returned to the car a little before one, and drove across the road to the next section. Parking in the middle, which was not occupied by many vehicles, we walked the furthest end, and entered Cavenders, the "Western" store. Samantha had decided that after twelve and a half years, she would finally succumb to the norm in Texas and purchase a pair of 'real' cowboy boots! "First and last name?" came the familiar question. My daughter, who does not have the same mindset as myself, answered accordingly. "Zip code?" No harm in letting the seller know an area, for demographics. "And your address?" This prompted Samantha to look at me and ponder. I asked "Why?" and was told that it was for said demographics. "But you have the zip. Does that not give you enough information?" I was now on the 'cantankerous' list, no doubt heading to Santa's naughty list. "You need it for your receipt". Again, I explained that we knew our address, and they already had her name. A large sigh was followed with additional explanations that the boots would not be returnable without a receipt, and they could not prove purchase without the address, as the 'purchaser' would not be in the system. "But you have her name! She could provide ID with her name! How many people with her name do you have in your system?" Now, not only was I put on this year's naughty list, but I was in danger of being excluded for parole to the 'nice' register for the next decade! "It's for our demographics! We need it! It's for our system so you can bring the boots back. It's so we know who you are if you lose your receipt". I looked closely for the 'on/off' button, as I was unsure as to whether I was dealing with a human or an android! She had become so 'robotic' that I was waiting for smoke to start coming out of her ears. I was tempted to tell her to add me to the 'does not play well with other's' list, but did not want to add insult to injury! I looked at Samantha and told her that she did not need to give her address and would she have somewhere very safe to keep her receipt, should she wish to return the perfect pair of boots that we had just spent over thirty minutes to find. She assured me that she would take good care of the receipt and had no intention of returning the boots. A smile almost returned to the salesperson's lips, but the tears were definitely welling in her eyes. I wanted to tell her that she had not failed, but again, kept quiet. It did not seem to occur to her, nor perhaps anyone else, that during this busy shopping season, when we are told to pay attention to 'security', and 'safeguard our homes and belongings', that giving your name, and address, with a phone number, to a total stranger, in a public setting, could be construed as rather careless. Samantha was many miles from her home, and obviously not in it!
With my metaphorical soapbox having been disassembled and stored away or future use, we continued on our way. My sister, for whom most of my purchases were being made, was awaiting another phone call, from another store, to give a final determination on whether or not to 'buy, buy, buy', and time was marching on. "Yes, yes, yes" was the answer in the penultimate store, and we queued up to make our purchases. There were no requests for 'vital statistics', and we were most grateful. Instead, we were complimented on our accents, and wished a "Merry Christmas", which we accepted, and reciprocated.
After making our final purchases in San Marcos, and returning to the car which was now hidden in among a section full of vehicles, we headed north, back to the indoor mall. It was 3:30, and I warned my sister that the next phone call would be past her usual preferred 'bedtime', but she was willing to make the sacrifice as we were making the trip. Although the car park was reasonably full, the amount of people inside did not correspond. I was expecting more queues, but apparently, 'Super Saturday' is next week, and the 'best' bargains will be obtained when we are in England. However, most stores were doing the 'super' bit this weekend, and we headed to the two that were going to be our last for this years extravaganza.
Why was I looking for a summer item in the winter? The salesman in the store which is apparently 'phasing out' the moose as it's logo, was attempting to understand what it was that I was looking for, and after telling him that it was definitely an article that his store sold in the past, he passed me over to a colleague to see if he could decipher my question and answer more accurately. Summer items were not kept in the store once the 'fall' wardrobe was on the floor. Perhaps I should try the outlet mall. Feeling as if I was an authority on the outlet stores, I told him that they did not carry the item either, and he sighed, politely, and we both shrugged our shoulders in defeat.
Our final stop was in JC Penny. Although an unintentional stop, Samantha spotted some items which she could not leave on the shelf. The phone in the department was ringing constantly. The salesman (or boy) was picking up the receiver, and each time was heard to say, "No, this is the home ware department". Obviously the telephone operator did not know any other extension! As Samantha reached the desk, he answered the phone again. After explaining that the caller had been put through to the wrong department, he sent them back to the operator. "Would you like these wrapped, ma'am?" he asked. Receiving a positive response, he asked, "Do you have any brown paper?" I was tired, and as you have probably guessed, rather punchy. "Who me?" I asked, rather cheekily. The look I received was not dissimilar from the original one I got from the girl in the boot store. He dismissed my humour, obviously not considering it humour, and leaned across the counter to his colleague to take two sheets of wrapping paper. The phone rang again. "Do you want me to take the calls, so you can finish wrapping", I said, not aware that my voice was carrying far further than to my daughter's ears. (Yes, you would think I would have learned that when I am tired, especially when I am tired, I am rather louder than I realise.) Once again, the humour was not received, and he picked up the receiver and said, "No sir, this is the home ware department"! I kept quiet!
Leaving the mall was not as easy as gaining access, and we exited onto the highway, going the opposite way to that we had initially intended. However, rather than turn around, we continued along the alternative path, giving Samantha an opportunity to wave to 'our tree', which was still the most sparkly in the forest!
We arrived home at five. The dog was delighted to see us. Dana had fallen asleep, having expected us to arrive home a few hours earlier. We separated our purchases, and Samantha headed home.
I changed out of my three quarter length trousers and short sleeved shirt, and put on a pair of regular pants and a longer sleeved top. Although the 'high' for the day had been 78 degrees, (25 Celsius), the temperature was due to drop, dramatically.
Sunday morning was very cold. At 27 degrees (-3 Celsius) all I could think was, "Welcome to Texas, y'all"! From shorts and a t-shirt, to boots, hats, scarves, gloves and thick, thick coats. The wind, which was non-existent the previous day, was howling around our unit, ferociously. Taking our weekly constitutional, Dana and I met no one. Dogs were not being walked. Neighbours were not venturing out on to their balconies. The pool was deserted. Everywhere looked rather bleak, with the exception of a few Yuletide decorations that hung from a few units, and one tree that was rather prolifically decorated. It was not the weather that is preferable to the native Austinite.
As I always say, in the words so often used by my late father, "This time next week, it will all be over". My daughter and I are leaving our respective spouses and heading for the motherland. We are looking forward to some quality time with the family. Although our bags are not yet packed, we are ready to go, and enjoy a few days of solid, not necessarily freezing, but constant temperatures. Once again, to all those that celebrate, I wish a Merry and peaceful Christmas, and to all others, a peaceful and joyous holiday season. I shall be home for Christmas, and .... another story!