Monday, January 28, 2013

Archiver's Schmarchivers


Yesterday I crossed off another item on my Houston to-do list. I finally visited the Archiver's store in Katy.

I can sum up my experience in 6 words: What a colossal waste of time.

I'm not a scrapbooker but I do like their supplies. I've always thought that Archiver's was THE place to shop for scrapbooking supplies but after visiting I've somewhat changed my opinion.

Was the store huge? Yes it was, compared to your garden variety scrapbooking store. Did they have absolutely everything a scrapbooker could want? Well, I guess it depends on the scrapbooker. They had paper out the wazoo in every brand you could imagine. They had plenty of themed die cuts, stickers and accessories as well. They had lots of different types of albums, tools, rubberstamps and supplies but nothing really impressive. I think your average scrapbooker could be very happy there as long as she never tries to think outside the box (or scrapbook) and has access to unlimited amounts of disposable cash.

I arrived at the store about an hour before it closed, giving myself just enough time to do a thorough judging browsing. I was not greeted when I walked in the door but that was no big deal since there were a few other shoppers there as well and only 2 clerks. However, over the next half hour I made 2 thorough circuits of the entire store and no one ever said hello or asked if I needed any help.

I did intend to buy some colored binder rings if I could find them since that's not something I can usually find discounted. I stared at the Tim Holtz and 7Gypsies sections for a good long time, willing the binder rings to appear since that's logically where they should be. I was tempted by this 7Gypsies ticket holder but decided to pass on it because of the $20 price.

Finally, I gave up on my binder ring search and asked one of the sales clerks if they had any. She stared at me blankly as if I had just spoken in Japanese. Again I said, "binder rings", and made a little 'O' shape with my hands. Apparently this clerk shares a brain with the other one because it took both of them to decipher what I was saying then discuss where the rings might be. The clerk took me to the section where I thought they should be and we both stared at it for a while longer. Then the other clerk suggested another section of the store so we went over there and stared at that section for a few minutes. Then she picked up a package of decorative bottle caps, cooed over them, then took them to show the other clerk so they could gush about how cute the caps were. I took that as my signal that she was through helping me. Now I understood why neither clerk asked if I needed any help. They were both incapable of giving it.

Another thing I was specifically looking for was some Crafter's Workshop templates. They had 4 different templates, all of them the little 6" size. They're the hottest thing in mixed media right now and the Houston Archiver's store only had 4 little ones. They had just a few spritz paints and no regular paint at all. They also didn't carry Gelli Plates which I might have bought if they had them. Obviously Archiver's hasn't figured out that mixed media and scrapbooking go hand-in-hand and if they don't diversify and keep up with the trends it will be their downfall. Their marketing people need to call me. They totally need my help.

I will admit that I'm a bargain/junk shopper to the core and rarely pay full price for anything. For this reason I try not to judge retail stores too harshly for what I feel like are inflated prices. However, in the scrapbooking world Archiver's is the Goodyear blimp of inflated prices. Most of their good scrapbook paper was around $1 a sheet and just went up from there. The few Hambly overlays they had were $3.99 each which was surprising. Since Hambly is no more I thought those things should be put on clearance. Speaking of clearance...

I thought Archiver's saving grace might be the rather large clearance section at the back of the store but I was wrong. There was a lot of stuff on clearance...for 25% off. There were a few items for 50% off but I generally don't take an interest in anything until it hits at least 75%. THAT'S a clearance, in my book. 25% off is an insult.

I made one more quick circuit of the store and spotted the 7Gypsies binder rings not in the 7Gypsies section but in the section with the Cinch binder and other book kits. Which made no sense. They only had the big antique brass ones so I passed.

I managed to find a couple of items that I deemed worthy of the price and took them up to the counter. I told the Bottle Cap Sales Clerk that I found the binder rings over by the Cinch but they didn't have the color I wanted. Then she started babbling about how they never know where anything is because it changes all the time and she thinks it's a marketing ploy to get you to wander around the whole store looking for stuff. Bless her heart, she figured that out all by herself.

I made some offhand comment about how grocery stores put the milk at the back of the store so you have to wander through other aisles to get to it. Then she started telling me this long story about how the Kroger in Montrose remodeled and they put the milk on the beer aisle which she didn't understand but then again, it's Montrose and she never thought she'd get to an age (which appeared to be about 10 years older than me) where she didn't enjoy the Montrose lifestyle anymore but she's finally outgrown it. I wasn't really sure what she meant by that since Montrose is predominately gay so I just smiled and nodded.

The clerk offered, several times, to add me to their database so I could get coupons by email. I knew they would be 10-25% off which would just piss me off so I declined. Several times. I took my purchases and headed home, a little disappointed that my expectations were not met and a little relieved that I would never be tempted to visit again.

Did Archiver's have any redeeming qualities whatsoever? Yes it did. Even though I would never buy their overpriced scrapbook paper, I did enjoy seeing such a good variety of what's available. They had brands I'd never heard of before but will keep on my radar. One was called Little Yellow Bicycle which was more reasonably priced than some of the other brands and had some really cute patterns and color schemes.

And...well okay, that's about the only good thing I can say about it. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Is that an innuendo or are you just happy to see me?

Sunday fun with the Thibodeauxs included some automotive repairs, a 3-hour-tour that only took an hour and a half, lots of dry heaves, and more innuendos than you could shake a stick at. Heh. Get it? Shake a stick? Yeah, that was the theme of the weekend.

Every time our friends visit we just happen to be in need of some minor car repairs such as a brake job or a power steering issue. It's just pure coincidence that these things happen while Chad is here and he happens to know a few things about automotive repairs. Jayson's power steering has been giving him trouble to the point where it's really hard for him to make sharp turns. Chad and Jayson went outside and did whatever it is that guys do under the hoods of cars then declared the problem fixed.

Jayson had been having some 'tummy trouble' all morning so of course we had to discuss all the details of that because it's just what we do. While the guys were washing up at the kitchen sink we somehow start talking about stinky kid hands and how Collin's smell like ass. It's a good thing that kid is well adjusted and has a great sense of humor since apparently he has Milk Dud nipples and ass hands. I have a feeling we might need to make a contribution to his therapy fund.

At one point we were sitting around the kitchen table listening to Chad tell a story about...someone...or something...or some time.... I really have no idea what he was saying because all I could focus on was his right eyebrow. At some point, maybe while working on the car, it looked like he had rubbed his face in an upward direction but only on the right side. All of his little eyebrow hairs were standing straight up on that side but the left ones were laying down smoothly like they're supposed to. I was so distracted I had to stop his story and ask him to either smooth down the right side or make the left side stick up. It didn't matter which one, they just needed to match. In true guy fashion he just made the right side stick up even worse and I silently had an aneurism.

Houston Port Authority Pavilion
Sunday's activity was a boat tour of the Port of Houston. We've tried to do this a couple of times but I never could get reservations. The tour is free so it fills up fast. We managed to get in this time so I reserved 8 spots: 4 for the Thibodeauxs, 3 for the Greens, and 1 for Jamie's sister Jess who lives in Conroe.

One of the mosaics at the port authority pavilion.
I made all the reservations online and printed out their strict instructions that ALL adults MUST bring a valid photo ID with them. No adult would be permitted on board without a photo ID and absolutely NO ONE would be permitted on board without a reservation. We also had to bring our printed reservation confirmation.

Somewhere during the reservation process I went brain dead and ended up putting my name in twice and leaving Jess's off. I didn't think much of it and figured we could just straighten it out when we got there. The next day I received a phone call from a very nice woman at the port authority asking me if there really were 2 Shannon Greens on our tour. It surprised me that they actually paid that much attention. I figured they must have pretty tight security post 9-11. I told her I was just an idiot and we fixed it.

When we arrived at the gate we had to present our IDs to Barney Fife who barely even glanced at them. Jayson asked what he was looking for and Barney said he was making sure they were valid and not forgeries. Barney never really looked inside the car to see how many adults and kids were there so we started thinking maybe security wasn't as tight as we thought.

We proceeded to the pavilion, which had some lovely mosaics, while we waited for the tour to start. Everywhere we looked there were signs that said no photos allowed but there didn't appear to be anyone around to enforce that rule. Chad took a picture of me taking a picture of the no pictures allowed sign, which is like double defiance with a cherry on top. Mind=blown.

This is the city docks where they hide all the bodies.
Even though our tour was only an hour and a half and not a 3-hour-tour, we couldn't help but assign everyone an alternate Gilligan personality. Chad was the skipper and Taylor was Gilligan. She asked why she had to be Gilligan and I told her it was because she IS Gilligan. This did not make her happy. Jamie was Ginger, Collin was The Professor (or Professor Milk Dud) and Emily was Mary Ann. They've never heard of Gilligan's Island so they didn't much care for our game. Jayson and I were Mr. and Mrs. Howell and Jess was the voice that came out of the radio. We sang the theme song just long enough to embarrass the kids then it was time for the tour to start.

I just know this one is full of IKEA furniture.
We boarded the boat and no one asked to see our printed reservation paper and not a single person asked our name. Anyone could easily walk on to the boat without a reservation as long as they showed Barney their drivers license. We were discussing how odd this was when Jess pointed out that they probably asked for our names so they would have a list to work with if the boat sank. Then it hit me. That's why Barney Fife wasn't really paying much attention to our IDs. The only reason we were required to bring them is to help identify our bodies. When I made our reservations the boat was over half full and it holds over 100 people. Maybe half that many showed up...it's free so you've got to figure there's a high no-show rate. Because of that they can't identify our drowned bodies just from the reservations so they require a photo ID as well. Brilliant!! Or...terrifying. The only thing I couldn't figure out was the reason for all the no photo/video signs. Even after we were on board and the captain started talking about rules and safety stuff, he never said a word about photos being against the rules. I might need to take the tour 2 or 3 more times to figure that one out.
"DO NOT DOUBLE BREAST BARGES"

We saw lots of really cool barges and freighters and some industrial stuff and a fun sign to add to my collection. We were served a free soft drink and had an enjoyable cruise. It's one of those things that we're glad we didn't pay for but we're glad we went. Know what I mean? So if you're looking for some free fun in Houston, take a tour of the port authority. Don't expect a whole lot, but enjoy what you get. I liked it.  

After the tour we did the clown car thing again (8 of us in Jayson's Durango) and headed for the nearest Outback Steakhouse, which was a good 15 miles away. Jamie and I both had generous gift cards burning a hole in our pockets so we decided to remedy that. A portion of the trip was on a not-so-well-traveled industrial looking street...you've seen a similar one in every movie where the mob is driving to the docks to dump a body. The only other car on the road was a pimped out white pickup with 3 teenage guys inside. They were driving a little erratically and when we pulled up beside them we could see they were most likely chemically altered and jonsin' for a race. With us. A 10 year old SUV packed full of families.

While the pickup boys were making fools of themselves they failed to notice the 2 cop cars parked along the side of the road until one of the cars pulled out and started after them. We saw the pickup do a less than graceful downshift and hit its brakes which just elevated our laughter. The cop car switched lanes and passed the pickup, which continued on at a good 10 mph under the speed limit. We figured those boys had all just peed their pants. Chad asked if we knew which one was the real cowboy. Of course it's the one in the middle. Not only does he not have to drive, and he doesn't have to mess with the gate, but his manhood has to survive a violent downshift while he's straddling the gearshift.

As we made our way to the restaurant, Jayson started intentionally jerking the steering wheel just slightly in an obvious attempt to test his newly repaired power steering problem. Chad said, "Still hard?" which made us all laugh until we cried because we're just immature like that.

We had a very nice meal at Outback where our waiter was an awkward young man who was very shy and probably new at his job. He did really well but I just wanted to wrap him up and take him home. He was so adorable and I felt sure he needed a mother. Taylor scolded me and told me I needed to stop bringing home strays. She's probably right. We couldn't help but notice the dessert menu in the middle of the table with nice big pictures of all the yummy desserts. One was called "The Thunder From Down Under". Chad said, "Hey, that's what Jayson had this morning." We're all about 10 years old on the inside.

When we got home we chilled, we visited, the kids went to bed and the grownups decided to play Rummikub while snacking on these tiny little cucumbers that Jamie found at Wal Mart. They were tasty. I'm not very good at Rummikub because it reminds me of chess in the way that you have to think several moves ahead before you make your move. By the time I get to the end of my planned move, I've forgotten what I was supposed to do first. Oh well. I like the game so I'm content to lose. Jayson is a pretty good chess player and can plan his moves a lot better than I can. He was very close to winning one game and started making a series of complicated moves. In the middle he paused and rearranged some of the tiles on his tray and said, "Oh wow, I almost lost it in my own hand." Okay seriously? How can anyone not laugh at that? Granted it was late, we were tired, and we were laughing at things that probably weren't really funny. But that one produced some gut wrenching, eye watering, pants peeing laughter. Jayson just rolled his eyes.

This next part is kinda gross so if you have a delicate constitution just stop reading now. 

It seems like we had barely recovered from the laughing fit when Emily came downstairs and said, "Mom? Collin just threw up." Talk about a buzz kill. We all went upstairs to see just exactly what had happened and it was a scene very similar to this:


Collin woke from a dead sleep to throw up so he didn't have time to even try to get to the bathroom. Fortunately he was facing away from Emily. All the adults in the house were trying to get the bed stripped and help Collin get cleaned up but it was very difficult since we were all bent over dry heaving with eyes watering so badly we couldn't see. I'll spare you gross details but I will say that I might never again be able to look at sweet barbecued ribs. 

We hauled all the pukey clothes, bedding and pillows out to the backyard where I turned on the water hose to get rid of the chunks before putting them in the wash.
JESS: Shannon, do you want me to do that?
ME: No, hhgguuuuhhhhh, no, I've got it. 
JESS: Really, I don't mind.
ME: That's okay, I hhggguuuhhhgguuu can do it.
JESS: It doesn't bother me, just let me do that.
ME: I've got hhuuuhhgghhhhh it.
JESS: Okay seriously, give me the hose.
ME: No, it's uuhhhgguuuuhhhh...  Okay, here.
I let Jess finish hosing off the chunks then got some big bags to put everything in so we could bring them inside to wash. I will never forget the sight of Chad bending down to load the washer with his head turned almost completely around, gagging and heaving so bad I thought he might produce. Gagging is like laughing...it's contagious even if you don't know what you're gagging (or laughing) about.

We got everything cleaned up and moved the kids to another bed. Collin wasn't sick, he probably just ate too much junk food after dinner so he was feeling fine. He apologized which was sweet but totally unnecessary...there was nothing he could have done differently under the circumstances. It happens. I won't name names but one of us might have had to change clothes due to some heaving induced pants peeing.

That reminded me of a story a friend told me years ago. She was an older woman, probably my mom's age. We were talking about stomach viruses, I don't know why. I am aware that I seem to be the common denominator in these situations but I choose to ignore that fact. Anyway she said that during her last stomach virus she realized that she had hit an all time low in her life. She was kneeling in front of the toilet puking like all get-out, and at the same time she was peeing on the bathroom rug and when she looked up she saw her false teeth staring back at her from the top of the toilet tank. Not one of her better moments. But hilarious all the same.

We got everything cleaned up, washed, and completely deodorized thanks to my BFF OdoBan. Febreeze wishes it could be as awesome as OdoBan. On Monday the guys took the kids to a family pool hall because it's every father's duty to teach their children how to hustle pool. Jamie and I went shopping then it was time to say goodbye until their next scheduled visit at the end of March.

On Tuesday I was rummaging around in the fridge for a snack when I spotted the one lonely little cucumber they left behind. It was exactly what I needed. When I talked to Jamie later in the day I told her to tell Chad that I ate his little cucumber. *snort**giggle*

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Dirty Balls, Soul Geeks and Bikini Threading

Our good friends Chad, Jamie and their kids Collin and Emily are here visiting for the weekend. No matter what we do or don't do we always have a great time with them.

Today we went bowling at Main Event in Katy. Jayson has his own ball and shoes which he said he hadn't used in probably 10 years. When he opened the bag he found a couple of small toys that Taylor had when she was a toddler, along with a score card from 1998. It's been slightly more than 10 years.

His old bowling towel was in the bag as well and looked like it hadn't been washed since 1998. One of the kids asked why his towel was so dirty and before I could stop myself I said, "Because Mr. Jayson has dirty balls."  That caused fits of giggles and an entire day filled with juvenile ball jokes.

After bowling we wandered around Katy Mills Mall for the rest of the afternoon. The kids spotted the EuroBubbles and couldn't resist taking a tumble. I'd never seen these before and was fascinated. The kid crawls inside a big plastic ball that is sealed up and pumped full of air. Then they tumble around in a big pool of water. I guess when you run out of air it's someone else's turn.

 Me, Jamie and Taylor spent a good deal of time searching for the perfect clearance bra at Victoria's Secret. Jamie scored 2 cute ones at a great price but Taylor and I struck out. The men and kids waited as patiently as they could for us in the massage chairs just outside the store. Jayson called on my cell to check on us since we'd been in there for so long. I explained to him that bra shopping was an extremely difficult and strenuous activity for most women so we might be there for the rest of the day. In an attempt to be helpful he pointed out that if we couldn't find what we needed there, he spotted a Frederick's of Hollywood a few doors down. They both have bras so he thought one was just as good as the other. Bless his heart.

While Jamie was paying for her new bras, I joined the guys in the massage chairs in the mall. Jayson fed $1 into the machine and some awesome rolly massager ball things started massaging my neck. They didn't really get the neck and shoulder area very well but when they traveled down to my lower back my eyes rolled back in my head and I'm pretty sure my toes curled. The massager thingies went back up to my shoulders and worked there for a while. When they started heading for my lower back again I told Chad he might want to ask the kids to leave for a few minutes. It was that good.

Taylor and I have never been able to walk side by side. According to Taylor I walk like a staggering drunk which causes us to bounce off each other like we're in a pinball machine. However, I was pleased to discover that Jamie also walks like a staggering drunk but instead of slamming into each other we weave in the same direction like a carefully choreographed drunken dance. 'Twas refreshing.

Jamie and I checked out Old Navy to see what was on sale and I managed to find 2 pairs of jeans that were on clearance and actually fit! One of the pairs was on the clearance rack but it didn't have a price on it. I decided to take it up to the register and see how much they were. I told myself if they were under $20 I would get them.

While Jamie & I were in the checkout line, Jayson sent me a text message to check on our status. My text tone is a series of beeps and bleeps from R2D2. I'm geek like dat. When the guy in front of me heard my text tone he said he had the exact same one and had never run across anyone else who had it. We laughed at how geeky we both were then he showed me the screensaver on his phone that was Darth Vader holding a Guinness. I just can't outgeek that. Then a few minutes later I noticed that he was holding a small Bath & Body Works bag. I looked down and in my hand I was holding the exact same bag. I don't know for sure but it wouldn't have surprised me if he bought the same lotion I did. He was probably my soul mate. And that's a terrifying thought.

When it was finally my turn, I told the register gal that I couldn't find a price on one of the pairs of jeans so I asked her how much they were. She entered a bunch of codes into the computer then finally looked up and said, "They're 47 cents."

I said, "47 dollars?"

She said, "No, 47 cents," as if she says that a hundred times a day and it's no big deal. I decided I'd go ahead and buy the jeans then I thanked Jesus for the gift. 

We entered the mall next to the Rainforest Cafe so we started making our way back in that direction. Jamie called the guys and told them to meet us at the giraffe's ass. I regret that I forgot to take a picture of the giraffe's ass, but if you've ever been to a Rainforest Cafe you know that I am talking about a life sized statue of a giant giraffe. With a giant ass. We were tired, it was funny at the time.

On our way to the secret meeting location (code name: giraffe's ass) we passed by one of those kiosks in the middle of the mall where they do eyebrow threading. We had passed by this location once and noticed a lady laying in the chair getting her brows threaded. We commented about how she has a bigger set than we do to be able to do that in the middle of a very crowded mall.

When we passed by her again a few minutes later, the technician was threading her neck. Seriously. Okay, most women over a "certain age" have had to deal with the occasional chin hair and the wild ones that pop up in inappropriate places. But to do that kind of personal grooming in the middle of the mall takes more estrogen than I'm capable of producing.

Once operation Giraffe's Ass was completed and we had rendezvoused with Team B, we loaded up in the car and headed home. When Benny and The Jets came on the radio, Jamie and I felt the need to sing along at the top of our lungs to all 4 words of the song that we know. Then Chad said that he's always thought the New York Jets should hire a quarterback named Benny. In my loopy exhausted state of mind, that sounded like the most profound thing I'd ever heard.

Then Jamie started telling the guys about the lady getting her neck threaded in the middle of the mall. I don't remember who said what but the conversation went something like this:

Seriously?
I know, right?! Who does that?
She might as well just hop up in the chair and ask to get her bikini line done.
Brazilian.
(then suddenly we all had Asian accents)
You just drop trou, I take care of you.
Ohhhh, this going to take a while.
I need assistant for job like this.
CLEAR MY SCHEDULE!
We use rope instead of thread. It better.

Yeah. Good times.