Do You Clean Up Before You Leave A Restaurant?

Before we leave a restaurant I always stack our plates and cups, gather utensils and napkins, and generally clean up the space. I don’t leave my mug and saucer on the table at a coffee shop when I get up to go; if there are crumbs, I usually wipe those up as well.

Before we check out of a hotel, I put all the dirty towels into the bathtub and often strip the bed, leaving the sheets in a neat pile.

And I wonder…do other people do this?

Your turn. Do you tidy up your space at a restaurant before leaving? I do and I always hope it gives the server a tiny thrill to come back to an orderly table? But maybe I’m making their lives harder in some way??

More Weird/Random/True Stuff

These posts are always a lot of fun to write and seem to elicit the most reader participation.

  • We always store chips (and some crackers) in the freezer – it makes the flavour more intense and keeps them from going stale. If we’re going to have a family movie night, the unopened bag goes into the freezer a few hours before the movie so they’re nice and cold and packed with flavour. A half-finished bag gets sealed with a chip clip and stored in the freezer. Always.
  • Speaking of freezers, when I was a child someone loaned me a book and I immediately managed to misplace it. I assumed it would turn up, but when time went by without any sign of the borrowed book, I started to worry. Eventually, we came across the book…buried in the freezer. How did this happen? I have no recollection of reading the book anywhere close to the freezer; thankfully, it emerged unscathed from its sub-zero prison.
  • My nervous habit is chewing my lip. I know that’s not overly original, but I’ve heard people talk about chewing their nails or twisting their hair when they’re bored or anxious. I chew my lip and it’s a terrible habit. Yet I persist…
  • I had some weird behaviours as a kid. When I was 8 or 9, I was obsessed with professional sports, especially baseball and hockey. I memorized details for all the players (including their jersey numbers and the spelling of their names – I can still recite Joe Nieuwendyk’s from memory) and would have my father quiz me on stats. I also conjured up an idea that my favourite teams had hidden cameras in my house. I’d be sitting on the living room floor screaming at the TV as my favourite hockey team played a game and, to a certain degree, believed they could actually see my reactions in real-time. I knew it was an illusion…but I also quasi-believed it after a while.
  • When I was little, someone told me that if lightning gets into an enclosed space, it needs an exit. I was OBSESSED with the worry that if one window was open in our house, a second window had to be open for the lightning to escape. During every electrical storm, I would walk around the house making sure all the windows were closed OR I’d make sure at least two windows were open.
  • I don’t stream many things from my laptop, but when I do I never get ads thanks to the free AdBlock extension for Google Chrome. I almost forget that ads exist on a platform like YouTube…because I never get them. It’s a great web browser add-on.
Toilet paper | Toilet paper humor, Funny bathroom signs, You monster
  • I know I’ve discussed this before, but toilet paper placement is a very big deal to our family. We taught our kids how to tie their shoelaces and brush their teeth and count to ten…and we taught them how to load toilet paper the right way (and, yes, there is a right and wrong way). We are all deeply committed to “over”, so you can imagine my horror when I went to my parent’s rental a few weeks ago and it was UNDER (at their permanent home, TP is stored around a vertical holder so this issue is moot). Who are these people? Was I raised by uncivilized monsters?! To be fair, a friend with a toddler recently pointed out that “under” prevents small kiddos from easily unspooling an entire roll of toilet paper. I’m temporarily giving her a pass, but once that child is grown, judgment will resume.
It might be time to clean the front of my dishwasher?!
  • Our dishwasher is very old and basic and I love it. We have been using it for over 5 years without a single issue and I suspect it has been in this kitchen for at least 20 years. They just don’t make appliances like they used to. Anyhoo…I recently discovered that our dishwasher’s Light Wash cycle cleans the dishes just as thoroughly as the Normal Wash. The day we moved in, I ran a load of dishes on the Normal cycle and basically forgot there were any other options. Well, there are and Light Wash works like a charm while presumably using less water and energy.
  • This fun post by Diane reminded me that for years my go-to weird/true fact was that I’m related to William Wallace. In high school, I made the mistake of telling people I was a direct descendent of Braveheart and my classmates were all very excited…until they learned I didn’t mean Mel Gibson. My grandmother had our genealogy traced back to William Wallace and he is my great (many times over) grandfather!

Your turn. Any weird childhood obsessions or beliefs? Do you store anything unusual in the fridge/freezer? Do you have a nervous habit? Do you enjoy thunder and lightning storms? What’s your go-to personal “fun” fact”? Where is the strangest place you’ve found a missing book?

Header photo by Micah Tindell on Unsplash

Dishwasher Pods: An Unexpected Memory Trigger

A few weeks ago I bought a package of lemon-scented dishwasher tabs. Back home in the kitchen, opening the new bag triggered a set of very specific memories from childhood. Each April or May my mother would clean our house from top to bottom. Out came the bottles of Pledge and Pine-Sol. Over a series of days, she would wash walls, clear cupboards, and scrub bathrooms. No surface escaped the scouring pad and dusting cloth in her annual Spring Cleaning Extravaganza.

I have vivid memories of cleaning the baseboards in my bedroom with an old toothbrush dipped into a bucket of hot water with a splash of Pine-Sol. While I wasn’t overly thrilled about the cleaning part, I loved the citrusy, woodsy smells. Everything looked fresh and clean but, even more importantly, everything smelled fresh and clean.

And all of that came flashing back after a single whiff of Cascade Lemon Dishwasher Pods.

Your turn. They say scent is the biggest memory trigger for humans. Is there a particular scent that transports you back to your childhood or a major life experience?

Each time I smell cigarette smoke after dusk on a warm summer night – an admittedly specific combination of circumstances – I remember a particular memory of my time in Montreal. I was 18 years old (a baby!), living with my brother while I worked at a local research facility. He took me to watch the Rogers Cup. We stayed late to see the end of a Rafael Nadal match and ended up walking back to his car around midnight. The air was warm and permeated with the smell of cigarette smoke; while I generally hate the smell of smoke, walking through the streets of Montreal with my brother that night imprinted it deeply into my sensory memory bank in a positive, nostalgic way.

Header photo by Erik Binggeser on Unsplash

The Best $1.99 I Spent in January

We were out grocery shopping a few weeks ago when one child presented with a sudden – and overwhelming – need for water.

I am not in the habit of bringing drinks along for errands anymore; the kids are old enough to manage these things independently and can typically hold out until we get home.

But this time I knew we were at least an hour from wrapping up errands and I also learned said child had not had any water since the previous day (this child usually drinks a LOT of water and I do not monitor their consumption because it is so regular, but they had been at a birthday party the previous afternoon and had skipped supper because they were full…and then had a big breakfast and somehow managed to not get a drink then, either?).

I thought there might be a fountain in a nearby shopping complex, but the logistics of coordinating this pit stop were complicated. But, this was the only logical solution, right?

Water is free! Water is not something we buy! We have a water cooler full of refreshing aqua at home!

As we were standing in line to check out – with a thirsty child and a pile of groceries – I attempted to coordinate with John how to split up and go on a hunt for a water fountain.

And then, shocking even myself, I added: Or I suppose I could just buy a jug of water.

I grabbed a $1.99 4L bottle out of the nearby fridge – it was the exact same price as a 950 mL bottle, so I didn’t throw frugality to the wind entirely – and within seconds our very thirsty child was chugging water. (This is the best water I have EVER tasted was their official response).

Because of my hardwired desire to pinch pennies – and because water is something that I equate with being free – it was not my default reaction to shell out $1.99 to buy a bottle of the stuff. But I did…and it ended up being the most satisfying $2 I spent in January.

Your turn. What’s the best small purchase you’ve made lately – let’s say something under $5. Do you have a hard time spending money on “convenience” items?

Header photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

It’s Okay, I Know I’m Bad At…

Everybody’s good at something, and nobody’s good at everything. Here are a few things I can categorically admit to being “bad” at…

  • Whistling. Not only do I whistle off-key, but I have a very quiet whistle that “breaks” constantly. I have a strong singing voice, so this musical flaw irks me.
  • Team sports. Let’s just say I did not rise to the top in high school gym class.
  • Dancing. I am horribly uncoordinated (I have a good sense of beat and have been singing my whole life, but moving my body to a rhythm is a truly pitiful sight). I look like I’m slowly and painfully dying from a series of random electric shocks if I try to dance. Sigh. I wish it was fun and natural for me but, alas, it is not.
  • Making decisions. Going to a new restaurant with a big menu? This is my worst nightmare! But it doesn’t end with food; I am indecisive about many, many things. (To be fair, in some areas of my life – e.g. makeup, clothes, hair – I just don’t care very much and can make decisions quickly and without regret).
  • Waking up early. I blogged about this last week. I am groggy and grumpy and just a whole bundle of unpleasantness. Mostly these feelings bounce around inside me, so I don’t think my family realizes how much I hate being out of bed before 8 am.
  • Remembering movie (and fictional book) plots. This is especially frustrating because John is very good at remembering movie plots (and quotes). I swear that before the credits have finished rolling, I’ve forgotten the names of at least half the main characters. Within a week, I can’t tell you who lived, died, or turned out to be a double agent. Within a month – if I happen to see the same movie – it’s like I’m watching it for the first time.
  • Conflict. I mean, I don’t think very many people enjoy conflict (though I’ve met a few argumentative types who seem to treat conflict as a fun hobby), but I loathe it. I hate feeling like someone (anyone!) is upset with me. This is problematic because as a parent, spouse, friend, child, employee – basically in any human relationship – there will be points of conflict. I’m working on handling conflict better. I tend to be a turtle who pulls into her shell and tries to avoid discussing a matter which, almost always, makes things worse. I know this but I hide out in my exoskeleton anyway, hoping things will magically pass me by.
  • Driving stick shift. When we got married, John owned a manual car. I drove as infrequently as possible. Out on the highway in 5th gear? No problem. But I was horrible at starting/stopping on hills or any precise maneuvers that required cycling through lower gears. We have only owned automatic vehicles for the last decade, but driving a manual car is a skill I wish I had fully mastered.
  • Applying eyeliner. How do women do this? I look like a toddler got loose on my eyelids with a giant black crayon. I’ve tried gels and pencils…and simply cannot figure this out.

Your turn. What’s something you’re “bad” at. What’s something you’re “good” at? What’s something you thought was a character flaw (e.g. a flair for bossiness when you were a kid) that has turned into a big asset in your life (e.g that bossiness now presents as strong leadership capabilities)?

Header photo by Alok Sharma on Unsplash

More Stories from the Mud (And Apiary)

People seemed to enjoy my first set of anecdotes from the mudflats, so here are a few more.

After I finished my undergrad, I stayed on as a research technician for the summer between graduation and the start of my post-graduate degree. It was a lot of fun – I had multiple years of experience, but zero responsibility with project design. In other words, a better paycheck…and a whole lot less work!

Our research lab did a lot of cage work – we’d build them out of bamboo sticks and aquatic netting and then track impacts on diatom and amphipod densities (the primary food sources for sandpipers), and snail movements in control vs treated areas (the netted cage areas prevented plovers and sandpipers from foraging). Setting up semi-permanent cages in the mud required a major team effort. We had to get everything set up during low tide, so it was a race against the clock. Or, more specifically, the gravitational pull of the moon!

One day, we were installing cages about 500 meters offshore. We had huge metal mallets, rebar (also metal), and one very tall lab tech named Colin. It was a warm, overcast and muggy day. At one point another tech looked at me and said, Elisabeth, what’s wrong with your hair?

Apparently, my hair was standing completely on end – like I had my hand on one of those statically charged balls at a science exhibit.

Static electricity can be blamed on winter weather |
Like this…

Problem was, I wasn’t touching a ball!!! Within seconds, we heard the first boom of thunder.

Here we were in the middle of a mudflat that had only recently been uncovered by the ocean. It was flat. Covered in a thin film of salt water (highly conductive). We were the tallest objects for miles around. We were working with metal tools and supplies. And we were 500 meters away from shore. Our supervisor happened to be with us and gave us the all-clear to drop our equipment and run (knowing that if the storm didn’t pass in time, all those tools and supplies would be swept out with the tide).

We managed to find some humour in the situation; as we raced back to shore we were quick to identify that Colin – at least half a foot taller than anyone else – would be the first target in any lightning strike. (Spoiler alert: He survived and went on to become a doctor…but apparently mudflats are pretty dangerous places!)

We had come to the site in two vehicles and one lab tech had taken the second vehicle to another site. So when we arrived back on shore there were 8 of us and one pickup truck. A few people – including me – drew the short straw and had to hunker down in the truck bed.

The storm passed after 30 minutes and we rescued the equipment but it was a real hair-raising experience (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Working on the mudflats was incredible exercise. It was exhausting but in a good way. The natural resistance of mud, along with walking kilometer after kilometer along transects, all while carrying giant backpacks full of samples (heavy mud and/or water) was an excellent cardiovascular workout. Not surprisingly, mud would splatter everywhere and we came back to the lab absolutely filthy.

It was the early 2000s and I was young and didn’t always remember to use sunscreen, especially on my legs. One day we were out for hours and hours and hours and mud had splashed on my legs and dried. When I washed it off that night it looked like I had leprosy. There were giant white spots (in random patterning) ALL over the back of my calves. For the rest of the summer, my legs looked absolutely ridiculous. I wish I still had pictures because I would 100% share them but, alas, I lost most of my photos from this pre-OneDrive era.

That same summer, one of my friends and fellow labmates wanted to research nocturnal feeding habits of sandpipers – low tides happen at night, too! Our team received funding to purchase night-vision goggles. But, for obvious reasons, military-grade night vision equipment is not available at the local hardware store. For some reason, I was the one tasked with calling the supplier (who normally dealt with military contracts) to ask: Um…we’d like to purchase some night vision equipment. Why you ask? Just to look at birds. I promise!

Fun fact, John and I had only been dating a few months when he volunteered to come with us on one of those night shifts. For safety reasons (see above and my mud “quicksand” story from last week) we had to have a set number of crew out at any given time, so he trudged to the mud at 2:30 am (unpaid, I might add) with me. True love!

Speaking of John and mud, I might have told this story before, but it’s one of my favourites from our love story. When we had only just met and were arranging for our first “date”, I asked him to meet me at the lab mid-afternoon. There was a mix-up and I was convinced he had stood me up (he hadn’t). In the end, we rescheduled for that evening. I got there very early and selected a microscope right in front of the window so I would look all sciencey. And so it was by design that I was bent over a microscope looking very intense and studious when he walked by the window. He tells me seeing me like that took his breath away and he said to himself: Don’t screw this up. We’ve now been married almost 14 years but I was looking at…NOTHING. It was all a ruse!

There’s an “Abby” inside me, we just hadn’t met her yet.

I planned to continue avian work for my Masters and, for the first few months, actually put together a project in this area of study. But I ended up switching gears to bees. (Yes, I have heard plenty of “birds and bees” jokes over the years.) Because I didn’t need a large number of hives for my research – and because the beekeeper providing us with hives lived quite a distance from the university – my supervisor offered to store them on his property. Every day John would drive me in my giant beesuit to collect a fresh set of bees. This all happened while I was pregnant with Abby and battling morning sickness. There is a sickly sweet smell around beehives and it made me very nauseous. One warm summer morning it was more than I could handle…and that’s how I came to upchuck my breakfast smoothie all over my supervisor’s rhododendrons.* (*I don’t actually know if they were rhododendrons; I was too busy barfing to worry about my horticultural proficiencies.)

Fun fact: I only got stung a single time in two years of working with honeybees! I was studying operant conditioning and had to secure individual bees into modified pipette tips. Once, I didn’t quite get enough wax in place and the bee managed to wiggle free and straight down into my latex glove where she proceeded to sting me.

Fair enough.

Your turn. Any weird workplace stories? Are you a fan of thunder and lightning storms? Any bizarre tan line stories to report?

Things I Have Tried To Like (But Don’t)

Some things, despite my best attempts, remain firmly in my “don’t like” column. I feel like I should enjoy certain foods/experiences because people I know and love enjoy them. But, at a certain point, it’s okay to throw in the towel and say This just ain’t working.

  • Opera. Opera seems so cultured and highbrow. I guess I am not cultured and highbrow. I also don’t speak Italian or German or French and can’t understand a single word being sung.
  • Ballet. Ditto above. It’s fine. I’ll watch The Nutcracker without consternation. But what I really want are some words*!!!

*Digression: on numerous occasions over the years I have ordered picture books into the library based on beautiful covers, only to discover that they are wordless books. I never, ever bother bringing those options home. I have a perfectly suitable imagination – and even though I was reading these books to toddlers and could have made up any words or descriptions I saw fit – I WANT WORDS HANDED TO ME ON A SILVER PLATTER! That is the point of books!

  • Wine. I grew up in a home with absolutely zero alcohol consumption. On the whole, I think my disdain for alcoholic beverages is an overwhelmingly net positive trait (Canadian health authorities just released new guidelines basically saying complete avoidance of alcohol is best and, if you are going to drink, two drinks a week, tops; no problem, says I). Still, in some social settings, it would be nice to enjoy imbibing. Champagne is tolerable (especially in mimosa form), rum and coke or hard cider are okay in a pinch, but wine? Shudder. I drink it only occasionally and dislike it every single time.
  • Fancy cheese. Once we get past mozzarella, you’ve lost me.
  • Spicy food. I just can’t do it (sorry, Kae).
  • Group events. I want to be energized by group settings, but they drain me. I avoid these situations whenever possible; if I have to attend/participate, I put on my game face, but my brain is screaming Run. One-on-one? Amazing. But give me a room and a big crowd, and I wilt.
  • Scary movies. Horror movies have always been a hard pass for me, but now anything with intense suspense is not my cup of tea.
  • Driving in traffic. Puttering around our little town, I quite enjoy driving. But navigating in a city is NO FUN. Also, I have literally only had to parallel park a handful of times since I took my driving test, so the thought of having to parallel park anywhere – but particularly in a city – terrifies me!
  • Mornings. I have tried to put a positive spin on mornings for over a decade. I can’t do it. I simply am not a morning person. I don’t want to sleep in late, but anything before 7:30 am feels horribly early to me. In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to exit my room until 8 am. This does not happen very often, as you can imagine…

Your turn. What’s something you’ve tried to like, but finally had to acknowledge was too much of a forced fit? Do you like ballet and opera? Fancy cheese and fine wine? How about scary movies, driving in traffic, and big group environments? Are you proficient at parallel parking?

Header photo by Hudson Hintze on Unsplash

Oh, We Can Change the Battery?

We own a single vehicle. It’s from 2011 and when we bought it (second-hand) 8 years ago, it came with two fob controls.

A little over a year ago, the fob I use stopped working. To gain access to the car, I had to use the key to manually unlock it. While many generations lived this way, in an age where keyless entry is the norm, it irritated me endlessly. Rainy days were especially triggering for my wrath.

To solve the problem, I started using John’s key fob instead. Since we only have the one vehicle, it wasn’t a major issue to share keys.

Cue wailing and gnashing of teeth last week when HIS key fob died, too.

Somewhere along the line, I had heard about key fobs needing to be replaced entirely if something went wrong. It never crossed my mind that a simple battery swap at home could correct the issue.

Now with two non-functioning key fobs, John said: I wonder if the fix could be as simple as switching out batteries?

Turns out, it is exactly that simple.

Keep in mind we are two relatively high-functioning adults. And yet it never crossed our minds to switch out a battery that is at least 8 years old on a BATTERY-operated key fob? (In John’s defense, his fob worked perfectly well, and I just shrugged and assumed mine was unfixable).

After a year of fighting with a non-functional fob…it took less than 5 minutes to fix the problem.

Your turn. This ties in with my post about What great feature might I be missing but with a subtle twist; more of a What annoyance do I tolerate every single day without attempting to find a solution? Is there something bugging you that might have an obvious fix?

Header photo by Ivan Shemereko on Unsplash