A Little Christmas Nip

For lots of people (who aren’t me), today is the end of the week and it’s time to relax. And we tend to relax a little differently during the holidays, don’t we? In fact, we deserve to relax a little differently because if shopping for Christmas presents doesn’t give you a migraine you’ve probably got a hundred other people with migraines who hate your ceaselessly-cheery attitude.

I’ve lost my train of thought.

The point I’m trying to make is drinks. You heard me. Drinks, of the holiday variety.

The treats don’t hurt either, but that’s for another post.

Now if you’re not a “drinker” in the adult sense, there are plenty of awesome choices to imbibe during the holidays. David’s Tea has an awesome assortment of holiday teas, my favorite of which is “Santa’s Secret”, a candy-cane flavored beauty. Then there’s the interesting, sugary concoctions that the coffee shops come up with at this time of year, full of whipped cream and chocolate sauce and candy cane sprinkles. And who doesn’t love a good old fashioned cup of hot chocolate with marshmallows?

But if you are someone who enjoys something a little more powerful after a long day of work/shopping, there are even more options. The classic, of course, is eggnog and rum, which is just a lovely drink to curl up next to the tree with. As an alternative to rum I really enjoy the peppermint-flavored Kaluha that comes out around this time; it’s best enjoyed, in my opinion, in a nice lot cup of coffee, or a nice cold glass of milk. Then there are the candy-cane-flavored Mudshakes that I recently discovered at my local liquor store…ohmygod, so yummy!!

(I’m not an alcoholic, I swear.)

But regardless of your drink of choice and whether or not it involves booze, the best part of enjoying that drink is enjoying it while curled up on the couch, watching Christmas shows with your family or just listening to some nice Christmas tunes. Am I right? You know I’m right, don’t deny it. πŸ™‚

What are your favorite Christmastime drinks to enjoy? Do you have any awesome recipes I should try? Please share!

Accountability Wednesdays: Week 32


Can I just first mention that this traveling back and forth across the country thing is for the birds? Good money, but the traveling part I could definitely do without. I’m on day 2 of the current shift and I think it’s going to be two or three more days before I recover. Anyone know of any good stimulants that aren’t rough on the guts? πŸ˜›

Okay, on to the weekly nonsense.

Goal #1: Lose ten pounds and become healthier overall.

I don’t have much to report here, although I can tell you that I had a pretty decent go of it the last two days. I managed the entire day of travel without eating anything horrible (except for an iced cappuccino at Tim Hortons, but I’m not counting that because I needed the caffeine to survive the 5-hour bus ride). Then, at dinner with my coworkers, I announced to them all that I was not to drink any pop this shift and if anyone sees me with a can they are to slap it the hell out of my hand. So there’s some accountability for you. Also, yesterday I actually managed to restrict myself to a decent number of calories. I don’t know how long that’s going to last before I start having sugar withdrawal symptoms, but we’ll take it one day at a time.

Still trying to figure out how I can fit exercise into my day while I’m on shift but I just don’t think it’s possible without giving up some of the precious little sleep I already get.

Goal #2: Be more active on social media and work hard on my author platform.

A bit of a lull on this one this week. No new YouTube videos because I won’t be able to record any more unboxings until I get home, but Nerd Block Jr retweeted my vid of their recent box, so that’s nice. I’ve been trying to hang out on Twitter more often but I think I’ve waned on Facebook. I can’t say it’s been a bad week, just not a particularly good one.

On a related note, if anyone has any ideas for YouTube videos that I could do in between the unboxings, let me know! I’m actually having fun and I think it’s good for me to slowly get over the anxiety of talking to a camera. πŸ˜› Plus it would keep the channel active during the lull when none of my subscription boxes are available to me.

Goal #3: COMPLETE my zombie apocalypse novel, Nowhere to Hide.

I can’t say that I got a lot accomplished this past week, but I promise that a lot is going to get done this coming week. I brought my laptop out West with me this shift, all fitted up with a brand new battery that actually holds a charge, and my plan is to spend the hour-long bus ride each evening working on finishing the final edits. If I stay true to this promise every evening that will be fourteen hours of editing, and I’m almost certain that will be enough to finish the edits. I did the first day yesterday and managed to edit an entire chapter, and there’s only ten left, so there you have it. Mini-goal! I’m on it!

Goal #4: Write 500,000 words.

Continuing on with this one, I have to report a lackluster week since I’m focusing my energy on goal #3, but it wasn’t all that bad. Because of a few extra review posts and something I whipped up on a notepad during break yesterday, I can report 1924 words this week. If I continue to scribble stuff out during my breaks I may even have something half-decent to report next week, but we’ll see. Can’t focus on everything at once, right? Right.

So with that said, if anyone feels like encouraging me to eat well and keep editing, please do so. I thrive on positive reinforcement. XD

Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide: Part 5 – Last-Minute Ideas

There’s only a week left until Christmas people! And yet I know that some of you barely have any shopping done…some of you even have NO shopping done. For shame.

For you people, here are a few last-minute, minimal-effort ideas.

Gift Cards

Personally, I’m not a fan of gift cards at Christmas. I can’t help but feel like there should be a note on them that says, “I don’t know you well enough to have any idea what you might like, so here’s some pre-spent money, and please do the leg work for me”. No offense to those who like to give gift cards…that’s just how I feel about them.

That said, there are certain types of gift cards that I feel are acceptable. Two of them are shown above. If you know a Tim Horton’s coffee lover, a Tim Card is an excellent choice because it’s money that you know they’re going to spend anyway. Alternatively, a Playstation Network card (or a Microsoft Points card for the XBox lovers) for the gamer in your life is a wonderful choice because it allows them to “load” their account with funds without having to attach a credit card number to their account. (For those of you who don’t get the whole gaming thing, your recipient can use the funds to download games or virtual goods for their games.)

Depending on what your gift recipient likes there are other good choices for gift cards, but I beg you to avoid certain stores…giving a gift card to a department store says, “I had literally thousands of choices around me, but still didn’t know what to get you”, and please, please avoid those Dollarama gift cards…even if your recipient regularly shops at the local Dollar Store, giving them a gift card for one screams “I think you’re cheap!”

A Themed Christmas Decoration

There are literally thousands upon thousands of themed and licensed Christmas decorations out there these days. They’ve always been available at stores like Hallmark and Carlton Cards, but they’re also prevalent at the department stores and supermarkets now, so you can’t possibly try to say that you can’t find any. For a few bucks you can get your loved one something cute and/or personalized that they can use to decorate their house for years to come.

Does your loved one love the old Rankin-Bass Christmas specials? There are tons of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer decorations out there. Do you have a kid on your list who is obsessed with a particular cartoon? I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find a couple of tree ornaments dedicated to that particular show. My daughter has her own miniature Christmas tree and it is covered in Ponies, Ninja Turtles, Spongebob, Sesame Street characters, and Disney Princesses. Take half a glance in the decoration section of any store and you’re bound to find something, I promise.

A Throw Blanket

Hear me out. If you live in a tropical climate, feel free to ignore this one, but if you live anywhere where, at some time throughout the year, the temperature drops below freezing, this is a great gift. There’s nothing quite like snuggling up on the couch to watch TV/read a book/play a video game/screw around on the computer with a soft, snuggly blanket wrapped around your shoulders. For a cost of between $10 and $30, depending on where and what you buy, you can share this joy. I’ve both given and received these wonderful little squares of material, and they’ve always been appreciated. In fact, I have one wrapped around me as I’m typing this post. Trust me on this one. Lovely, easy gift.


With this last gift-giving guide post, I would like to say one last thing… Pay attention to your loved ones. The reason we all tend to have so much trouble (and stress) shopping during Christmas is because we can never think of what to buy, and the main reason that we can’t think of what to buy is because we simply don’t pay attention to one another. I’m not trying to give the impression that I’m exempt from that statement…I’m as bad as anyone. But the worst offenders, I’ve found, tend to be the parents of young children. Working in retail has shown me that a lot of parents pay so little attention to their children’s likes and dislikes that it actually frightens me, so here’s a hint: if you think that every video game is a “Mario” game, or you can’t name even one of the characters of the TV show that your child loves…you need to start opening your eyes and your ears and stop relying on sales associates to help you figure out what to get your kid for Christmas.

Do you have any gift ideas that you’d care to share with the panicked, stressed-out last-minute shoppers? Leave a comment! We’d all love to hear your ideas!

This concludes Tracey’s Gift-Giving Guide. I hope I’ve helped a few people come up with some ideas for great gifts for their loved ones, but now that we’re down to one week left I plan to not even think about any more shopping. πŸ™‚

Happy last minute shopping, everyone!

Customer Service Suffering

Back in the day (the “day” here-forth meaning “sometime in the past that I can’t quite recall) I was a regular reader of the “Customers Suck” Livejournal account.Β  I used to read those stories day after day, and occasionally contributed one or two of my own, because at that point in my life I had worked several customer service-based jobs and it helped to vent and listen to other people vent.

I left that site a long while back because, personally, I felt that my fellow posters were unnecessarily abusive to each other, but I now read “Not Always Right” (and it’s sister sites) on a regular basis for the same reason. Even though I haven’t worked with customers in about eight years or so, I still shudder when thinking about some of the things I had to put up with, and I still see and experience things to this day that make me wonder if half the consumer community wasn’t raised by packs of rabid wolves.

Image via eurokulture.missouri.edu

I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite personal stories.

1. Zellers: The Liars
Zellers, for those who don’t know, is a Canadian department store chain that recently went out of business and sold most of their stores to Target. I worked at two different Zellers stores in my customer service career, and the first one was actually my first retail job. I got a part-time position there coming up to the holidays, and I quickly learned that half the people I’d grown up around and lived near my entire life were dirty, rotten, filthy liars.

See, the thing about Zellers (that was their own damn fault) was that they would often put on all these sales (sometimes last minute without them even being in the flyer), but not program them into the registers. So we cashiers would just scan things along and have to rely on customers to let us know if something had scanned wrong. If a customer pointed out a wrong price we would have to call one of the floor walkers to go find the product and let us know what the sale was. That is, if there actually WAS one. See, everyone and their dog knew that this happened on a constant basis, and most of them also knew that cashiers at Zellers had the power to change prices on the register without any help from a supervisor or anything like that. See what I’m getting at?

The last few days coming up to Christmas was the worst because there were lines 20-strong of customers with hundreds of dollars worth of merchandise each, and we only had one or two floor walkers in the store. You could literally wait 20 minutes for a floor walker to call you back about a price, and in that time your line of 20 customers would inflate to 40, all of them extremely mad that you were taking so long. And EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. THEM. would claim that at least one of their items was scanning wrong. In the interest of not having a riot in the store, my fellow cashiers and I would often just override the price to whatever the customer was saying it was, only to find out hours later that everything they said was 100% BS.

I’m convinced that this combination of the stores refusing to update their registers properly and customers being dirty rotten liars is why this chain of stores went out of business in the first place.

2. Sirius: “Are you deaf or just an idiot?”
I spent several months at a call center, a job that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemies. My particular contract was for Sirius Satellite Radio, and one of my main jobs was activating people’s new radios. I would take down all their information, payment method, etc, and then go through a little spiel before hitting the button that would send a signal to their radio. The main point of this spiel was, “Is your radio currently plugged in and turned on, and does the antenna have a clear view of the sky?”

You have absolutely no concept of how often the answer to that question was “Yes” when the reality of the situation was “No”. At least two out of every three of my customers would wait the obligatory few minutes, inform me that they still weren’t getting a signal, and then feel free to inform me that, “Oh, by the way, I’m in a parking garage. Is that okay?”

People, evidently, have no idea what the words “clear view of the sky” mean.

I even had one particular lady tell me that everything was great, hang up, and call back later to complain that her radio wasn’t working; after a short, painful conversation we determined that she hadn’t even taken the radio out of the box when she called to have it activated.

3. Cape Breton Post: Cheapskates
Here I’m going to give a piece of advice to anyone who currently has a newspaper subscription. That advice is plainly, and simply, to pay your damn paper carrier. If you honestly can’t afford the (very affordable) cost of a newspaper, please cancel your subscription, because if you don’t pay what you owe that money literally comes out of the pocket of the kid who brings your paper every morning. Literally. From the pocket of the kid. The newspaper company isn’t losing a cent, because that’s how paper carriers work. The kid has to pay a bill every month that corresponds to how many papers they deliver. Whatever is left over after that bill is paid is what they’ve earned. If you refuse to pay them they still have to pay the bill, which means they make less money on a job that already pays beans.

If you are like a few of the customers I had, who were completely loaded with cash but still absolutely refused to ever pay me…dear news reader, there is a special place in hell for you.

4. Tim Hortons: Lunatics with weird ordersThis is actually my husband’s story, not mine, but it’s too ridiculous not to include in this post.

Another piece of advice, this time for anyone who ever stumbles into a Tim Hortons coffee shop. Ladies and gentlemen, if you wander into a Tim’s pretty much anywhere within the country of Canada, and you order a “regular” coffee, you are going to get one cream and one sugar. It may be different elsewhere, but that’s what “regular” means in Tim Horton’s jargon, so please don’t lose your mind if you receive your coffee and that’s not what you meant to get. Just explain what you actually wanted, and they’ll be happy to remake it for you.

Additionally, if your coffee order is the kind of order that no one in their right mind would ever order, please explain yourself thoroughly instead of ordering “regular” and then pitching a complete fit.

The customer in question walked up to my husband, ordered a “regular” and received his one cream, one sugar. He then proceeded to take a sip, spew that sip all over the counter, and start screaming “Are you trying to kill me? I have diabetes!” It turns out the customer wanted something that no other customer in the history of Tim Hortons has ever ordered: one cream and one milk. And he thought that this abnormal request was a “regular”.

To this day I can’t fathom why someone would want cream and milk in the same coffee.

5. Every damn place: Rudeness…good old fashioned RUDENESS
I’ve worked a number of customer service jobs, and endured all the idiocy that comes with such a career, but I never really fathomed how unbelievably rude people are until I became the shopper in the situation. See, I was never much of a shopper when I was younger, but these days I regularly spend great deals of time shopping for groceries for my family, presents for birthdays and holidays, and just generally wandering around the stores to get out and keep the baby from getting too shack-wacky.

And what I find with every single trip is that people in general are rude, ignorant arses. I know that sounds terribly cynical, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I couldn’t begin to count the number of times that I’ve seen people block off entire aisles with their carts, push in front of people without so much as an “excuse me”, and act like you’re a huge inconvenience to them because you happen to be in the same store at the same time.

In one particular example, my husband was leaving the store while carrying two huge, heavy containers of kitty litter. At this particular moment two old ladies decided that directly in the center of the doorway was the perfect place for the conversation they were having. I was with my husband at the time and there is absolutely no way that they didn’t see him standing there, glaring at them, waiting to be able to pass. In the end, after waiting way longer than I would have, my husband ended up shouting for them to get the hell out of the way, to which they responded by shooting looks at him like he was the asshole. I nearly died from laughing, I’ll be honest.

In other example, a recent one, my daughter was sitting on the floor of a toy aisle. She had one of each of the four Ninja Turtles down on the floor with her, playing with them. My husband was in the aisle with her at the time. Enter lunatic woman, who wandered down the aisle, swooped down, and snatched up one of the turtles that my daughter was currently playing with, and walked off with it. Please note, at this time, that there were plenty more of that particular turtle sitting on the shelf. That woman chose to grab a toy away from a child rather than take one off the shelf. And besides that, even if the one my daughter had been playing with was the only one left, what right did this woman have to just snatch it away? How did she know that the child’s father – who was standing right there, I’ll remind you – wasn’t planning on buying those toys?

As the holidays grow closer and people start to lose their minds trying to get their shopping done, things only get worse. People argue about sales prices with associates who have no power over the pricing. They rip open packages to examine the product, thus making that particular item unsellable. They pick up items (usually something that is meant to be kept frozen) and drop them in random places rather than put them back or give them to an associate to put back. And they’re rude, rude, rude to one another, standing in each others’ way, snatching items away from each other, and just generally acting like a bunch of animals.

It all makes me extremely glad that I got out of that racket a long time ago, but also makes me sad that I still have to watch it every time I venture out to a store.

What about you? What kind of terrible customer service stories do you have to share? Have you ever had a customer completely lose their mind on you? Have you ever completely lost your mind on an idiotic customer? Please share! I know I’m not the only one! πŸ˜›

Accountability Tuesdays – Week 34

Fellow bloggers, do you ever peruse the spam section of your comments folder? I’ve been flipping through there lately whilst permanently deleting them, and I’ve got to say it’s quite a riot. The spelling and grammatical errors, the blatant inability to properly speak English, the giant walls of Chinese character text, the ceaseless waves of adds trying to sell me things like Viagra. It’s really quite amusing. That said, thank the makers of WordPress that the spam filter on this site seems to work really, really well. I think if I had to put up with all this stuff popping up in my main comments folder every day I would absolutely lose my mind. πŸ˜›

Okay then, let’s get on with it!

Health and Body Image Goal

Last week was the very embodiment of “sitting on the fence”, wavering between healthfulness and the exact opposite of thus. See, last week my husband, our daughter, and I went on a shopping trip. We traveled one province over to Fredericton, New Brunswick and shopped for two days straight…then we drove backwards a little to Moncton and shopped for another day…and then drove all the way back to Halifax and shopped for another day before finally heading home in the late hours of the night. Now the thing about four straight days of shopping is that it involves a lotΒ of walking (healthful), and in our case also a lot of carrying the baby around because she’s a lazy little bugger (healthful to everything except my back). By all rights, by the end of that trip I should have lost about five pounds, that’s how much “exercise” I got. Ah, but then there’s the other part of a four-day shopping trip away from home…fast food. Yeah. I believe we had a healthy breakfast on two of those days, and an actual restaurant supper on one of them. Everything else was Tim Hortons coffee and donuts, Taco Bell Big Box Meals, and A&W Chubby Chicken Wraps. It goes without saying that no, I didn’t lose any weight while I was on this trip.

In other news, however, the leak in our basement that I mentioned in yesterday’s post – along with the overwhelming stench of cat urine that I couldn’t seem to locate the origins of – led me to began scouring down the basement yesterday. I’ve got it clean almost back to the pellet stove, which (you’ll have to trust me on this one) was a good bit of work. I have some more to do throughout this week, but the point is that soon I’ll have my basement back in working order and cleared of all the junk that we’ve been tossing down there, and I’ll be able to start exercising down there again. That’s not to say that I will (I’m a terribly fickle person, you see), but that’s my intention. Those of you who pray, please pray for me to have some motivation, please and thanks.

Editing Goal

This one stands exactly where it stood last week. I’m still transcribing my notebooks (they seriously feel as though they’re never going to end), and through this am also editing as I type. By all rights I should be working on editing my zombie apocalypse since that was the original subject of this goal, but these notebooks are another distraction like the supernatural romance was – I feel like if I don’t get them out of the way I won’t be able to focus on my apocalypse. It’s really quite frustrating. Sometime in the future I have to figure out how to better organize myself. I’m the very stereotype of the scatterbrained writer who can’t keep track of anything they do.

1,000,000 Word Goal

Because of the aforementioned shopping trip, I didn’t exactly have a lot of time to write this week. It’s not an excuse, it’s an explanation. The trip had a purpose, one which we achieved gloriously in my opinion, so that’s all there is to it. Despite this distraction which tore me away from my writing, however, I did manage to pluck out 11418 words. Most of that was morning pages, but there’s a bit of blogging and transcription in there as well.

And with that, I have a mini-goal for myself. My best week yet was somewhere in the range of 24,000. This week I’m going to try to break 30,000. That’s over 4200 words per day. It will be very difficult, I think, but all the transcription I have to do will surely help me. Wish me luck!

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Today you get to enjoy a bit of a brain dump because I have a few things to mention, none of which really justify their own separate post.

First of all, I’ve made a couple of small changes to the site. You’ve probably noticed the little character off to the left of the screen. I’ve made up a number of little avatars which are meant to show my current writing progress. Presently, my little character is enjoying the life of editing a manuscript…see the little displeased eyes and the pile of red-marked papers behind her? Yep, that just about covers it. I’ll change the character every now and then to match what I’m currently doing: for example, come November I’ll be taking a break from editing to participate in NaNoWriMo 2012…so you’ll get to see a new little avatar (or two) at that time. In addition to my little characters, I’ve created a new page for information on my projects. You can see it up there between “About” and “Follow Me On”. Currently I only have a small blurb for my zombie manuscript, but I’ll be adding more in the future when I get a chance to decide how I want the page laid out.

Second, I feel the need to share something that happened near home recently that really accentuates the theme of corporate greed that I’ve been mentioning so often lately. Last night, during the night shift at a local Tim Horton’s restaurant, one of the staff passed away. I’m not privy to the details of her death, but for the purposes of what I’m about to share, she died in the restaurant, during her shift…my heart goes out not only to her family, but to the coworkers who had to witness the event. But witnessing the event is nothing compared to what happened then…the manager/owner/whoever-was-in-charge of the restaurant refused to shut the Tim Horton’s down even for a little while…the remaining workers were forced to finish their shift…after their coworker had just died in front of them. I cannot express my disgust over this. As with the other examples I’ve given of late, Tim Hortons is a multi-billion-dollar corporation, and the idea that one would refuse to shut down for a couple of hours (during a middle-of-the-night shift at that) due to the sudden death of an employee is absolutely sickening. This misplacement of priorities in this situation make me want to retch. I sincerely hope that the other employees involved in this get together and sue the company for emotional distress and neglect. No one should have to deal with something like that, much less for goddamn minimum wage.

Third, I came across an article on Cracked.com today that I wanted to share for all the readers/writers out there. 4 Ways High School Makes You Hate Reading is about exactly what it’s title suggests, and I agreed with each point made. There are fewer readers in the world today because of the exact reasons Christina H suggests, and that’s truly a shame. A common theme throughout her article is that as adults it seems like we are expected to read “fine literature” and that anything less is shallow, useless junk. This is a point that I both agree with wholeheartedly and notice often when talking about my own projects. Whenever anyone finds out that I’m writing a book they will inevitably ask me what the book is about, and I will watch their eyes go from impressed to politely bemused when I tell them it’s about zombies. It’s like adults aren’t allowed to have fun while reading, or something foolish like that.

Fourth: holy hell, it’s already October! I’ve got to get to work on the baby’s Halloween costume! *runs away*