Saturday Endurance at IKEA or The Running of the Ikitarod

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It seemed the most apt picture for this post. © Copyright Bill Boaden and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

The Boffin and I spent the morning at IKEA. A Saturday morning. This is something we rarely do for good reasons. He has more patience for the IKEA Saturday crowd than I do. Me? I call some of them IKIDIOTS, an isolated group of shoppers who ruin it for the rest of us.

For people who are not familiar with IKEA, it is a furniture/home store originally started in Sweden but now based in the Netherlands. Its business model is based upon lower cost, modern design furniture that you put together. (My in-laws called this suppository furniture because you put it up yourself. Fantastic!)

IKEA has grown massively worldwide and is a staple in Europe and in U.S. metro areas. So, the reason IKEA is especially crowded on the weekends in the States is because that is when those who live further afield have the time to get to the stores. I understand that, and I make allowances for people who do not know how IKEA works normally.

But some people are just…um…yeah.

Saturday, Sunday, and holidays are when the IKIDIOTS commence the race that I call The Ikitarod.

Like any endurance race, The Ikitarod has several phases.

  1. Revolving Door Obstruction – The IKIDIOTS always manage to hamper the sensors of the huge revolving door at the entrance causing it to stop. Then they just look around and not actually move their bodies in order to deactivate the sensors. The door actually does not move again until about 5-10 minutes later when the IKIDIOTS figure out they are the cause of the problem.
  2. Atrium Gazing – Once they get past the door, they stare all around at the huge open atrium while standing right at the foot of the escalator, once again, blocking any forward movement. At this miraculous moment is when they realize that they need the pencil, blue product slip, and yellow bag. Then they will go retrieve the items.  Take advantage of your chance to get up the escalator because the IKIDIOTS will return to the same spot to stare at the dining table and six chairs on the floor display.
  3. Sign Search – Upon finishing the ride up the escalator, the IKIDIOTS proceed to look for signs directing them where to go next even though there are arrows on the floor guiding the path. Looking for these signs requires them to stand directly in the middle of thoroughfares, including right at the top of the escalator.
  4. Cart Procurement – Next on the agenda for the IKIDIOT is cart procurement because why block pathways with just their bodies when they can use a portable hunk of metal in an awkward way too? And they only need to push around a pack of napkins, a bag of tealights, their yellow bag, and a dustpan apparently. But don’t worry that is not the end of their purchases because…
  5. Restaurant Stop – The IKIDOTS must stop in the restaurant, having left their carts on the periphery to take up the cause of customer obstruction. They grab the dining tray carts and bash them into your ass when all you want to do is order some meatballs in peace. Then they leave the dining carts around at random while they go off and accidentally grab other people’s shopping carts because everyone else’s has napkins, tealights, yellow bags, and dustpans.
  6. Shopping – Shopping for IKIDIOTS usually means a lot of wandering, trying to figure out tags that give complicated product locations like AISLE and BIN, and wondering what those funny names for those coffee tables actually mean. These activities are very engrossing because…
  7. Sprog Search – Their kids get bored and wander off. They usually end up in the Children’s section on the spinning egg chair.
  8. Large Furniture Pick-Up – Now the fun part comes when the IKIDIOTS either exchange the shopping carts for the flat carts or try to handle both kinds when it comes to picking up the large furniture. They forget how physics really works. At least they forgot how two different kinds of matter cannot occupy the same space, and some things are just too large and dense for certain spaces which leads to…
  9. Customer Injury – They will hit someone as they get that BILLY bookcase off the shelf and/or…
  10. Property Destruction – They will knock over the plants in the nursery section as they look for one last thing even though they have a full HEMNES entertainment center in tow.
  11. Checkout Annoyance – Being too cheap to buy the blue shopping bags, the IKIDIOTS get all butthurt, complain, and try to sneak out of the store with the yellow ones.
  12. Loading– Then they leave the store and come to the realization that the sofa they purchased cannot be adhered to the top of their Volkswagen Passat with twine and Blu-Tack. Then they hog a loading space for an inordinately long time while other people are needing to get in to take care of their purchases.

The cinnamon rolls can wait for mid-week shopping, my friends.

Quality Street and the Advantage of the Tall Tin

It’s the time of the year when many people are fortunate enough to receive tins of chocolates.  But the truth of it is that most of us cave and buy them in November even though we have piles of Halloween candy left over.  At least, that is the way it works Stateside.

Well, the Nestlé Quality Street tin is one of the British national favorites and is available year round.  John Mackintosh first started making his toffees in his sweet shop in Halifax, West Yorkshire back in 1890.  His business grew so much that he opened his factory in 1898.  Unfortunately, it burned down in 1909, and Mr. Mackintosh ended up buying an old carpet factory and started again.  To make a long story short, after Mr. Mackintosh’s death, his son, Harold, inherited the business, and rebranded the toffees as Quality Street after a J.M. Barrie play.  It was a play off the words, “Quality Sweet”.  Nestlé bought Rowntree Mackintosh in 1988 and have maintained its deliciousness ever since.

As you can see from the French text, I imported ours from Canada with the custard powder.  There was a reason for this.  They had the tall tin.  The tall tin is very important.  The tall tin has the ever important guide.  We got the wide tin last year, and it didn’t have one.  Being that I am the American, I still don’t have the wrapper colors memorized, and I didn’t want to keep bothering The Boffin.  (“Which one is the green one again?”)

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The only other option is to get this tattooed on my arm.

Secondly, the tall tin is a good lesson in sharing for The Sprog because it forces her not to hog her favorite chocolates and leave the rest for us. As you can see from the opening, it prevents the person from rifling through to hunt for the “good” ones.

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And we can easily catch anyone who dumps the tin out. Because someone who hogs one particular kind of chocolate is a nobhead. And the worst thing is if you are left with the one chocolate that nobody likes because the others hogged the good ones. We don’t want our daughter to be a nobhead.  We are a family.  Family means being kind to each other and sharing the good chocolates.

And with that notion, I hope your friends and family share the good chocolates with you too.

Of Custard Powder and Fables

I ordered Horne’s custard powder from Canada, and, to all the Britons out there, no, The Boffin is not starting divorce proceedings.  To the Americans out there, custard powder is a staple within the U.K. and many Commonwealth countries because custard is either served by itself, primarily to children, or it is served with so many desserts the same way you would with whipped cream or ice cream.  It is much quicker and easier to make than traditional custard because you don’t have to worry about curdled eggs.  All you have to do is heat with milk.

It was first invented by a chemist named Alfred Bird of Swansea back in 1837 because his wife was allergic to eggs and couldn’t enjoy traditional custard.  Mrs. Bird was a lucky lass, I say.

The British brand of choice is still Bird’s custard powder, and The Boffin still thinks it has a smoother, silkier mouth feel.  However, we decided to pick up a tin of Horne’s when we visited Canada.  I happen to like that brand better because it has vanilla, and it has four different starches which give it a fuller texture.  So we decided to alternate tins.  This is how an Anglo-American marriage works, folks.  Neither side claims superiority.

Besides, Bird’s is better for making custard creams.

Regardless, the Canadian company where I bought the powder sent a fable with its packing slip.  Service with a smile, so I thought I would pass it along.

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Nothing But the Best for Mom.

I just came home from the pharmacy.  While I was there, I was in the greeting card aisle with a gentleman who was chuckling while taking a picture of a card and sending the photo via his phone.  Being in the States, it wasn’t awkward for me to say, “Oh, a really funny one to share with friends?”

He replied, “Na, it’s my mom’s birthday.  This is her card.”

I realized that he created a new definition of an e-card.

So, is he being cheap, or is he just using modern technology like the rest of us do with birthday greetings?

The Annual American Pumpkin Wars

Labor Day has come and gone and the “Let’s throw copyrights out the window” memes that we know and love have sprouted up on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, etc.  Pick a side, folks, because fall is here, and you can’t be neutral when a squash is at stake.  It’s…

The Annual American Pumpkin Wars

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It used to be that you would only see pumpkin in home cooking, or you buy something from the bakery. Pumpkin would show up in pies, cakes, or soup basically.  Or, if you were from New England, you were on the receiving end of the glory that is the Pumpkin Whoopie Pie.

But along came Starbucks and the Pumpkin Spice Latte, and people who need their usual coffees in the morning are complaining about extra long lines because of seasonal clove-infused overly sweetened autumnal crack syrup.  And capitalism being capitalism, other companies had to get in on the action.  Naturally, there are sectors of the public who are saying, “Enough!”.

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So I went to my local Target to the food section to see how bad it really was. I wasn’t actively seeking pumpkin food. I just took pictures of what was in my eyeshot.

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M&M’s gone hipster. Whodathunk?

I didn’t even go down the coffee/tea aisles, nor the dairy sections. And I didn’t take pictures of everything that I saw.

To compound all of this, Starbucks announced this year that their Pumpkin Spice Lattes will now contain real pumpkin. Of course, we all have to ask, “What was in them in the beforehand?!?!?!?”  The souls of baristas?

My stance in all of this?  I love pumpkin, but I love the real thing, so I bake my own goodies.  I tried one Pumpkin Spice Latte and only took three sips because of how cloying it was, and I only go crazy for the pumpkin cereal bars at Trader Joe’s.  (Speaking of which, I need to stalk them and don my crumpet helmet too.)

But that does not mean I will protest against anyone else loving pumpkin this time of year.  Freedom of eating is an implied right really.  After all, The Boffin and The Sprog lose their minds around the holidays where everything has peppermint and chocolate infused into it.

It all balances out.

Edited to add:  According to the Washington Post, pumpkin flavored anything added up to $360 million in sales this past year up to July, up 11% from the previous year and up 80% since 2011.  I wonder how much sales will be this year.

Costco is There for You.

Costco (or Sam’s Club or BJ’s) has been a fixture on the American consumer landscape for quite some time.  They are called wholesale clubs, and what you do is pay a membership fee every year, in theory, to take advantage of being able to buy household and office goods in bulk at wholesale prices and to get a limited supply of retail goods at a lower cost.  Remember, that’s the theory; the reality is you have to comparison shop like anyplace else. In the United States’s Costco stores, anyone who is able to pay the membership fee can be a member.  In the U.K.’s stores, only certain people are allowed to be an individual member or a trade member.

So is it worth it to be a Costco member?  Here I go being mealy mouthed again.  It depends.  It’s the cheapest place to get gas in town, so that makes it worth it for us alone.  Considering the price for our favorite cereals too, we have our membership covered in no time.  Plus, we sleep at night knowing we will never run out of bog roll ever again.  If only I weren’t too lazy to put it away.

"Why is there toilet paper in your living room?" "We're trying an alternate fuel source in the fireplace."
“Why is there toilet paper in your living room, Karen?” “We’re trying an alternate fuel source in the fireplace.”

For $55/year, you can’t beat the entertainment value of shopping there either. I personally love the gift card section because you see stuff like this pack from Einstein Bros.

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I know this is meant for a boss to give to his or her employees, but let me explain my amusement. There is one Einstein Bros. in this town, and it is a pain in the ass, as far as driving or walking to the place . The food and drinks are mediocre, so you can get much better things for breakfast and lunch in the area. By giving out five of these puppies, it is a dead giveaway that the boss bought the 5-pack at Costco, so the employees are only worth 80% of the gift card’s value each.  Gee, thanks.

Costco is also a place of discoveries. I found out where all those flowery sleepers the Sprog received when she was born came from. No, I am not complaining. I valued every stitch of clothing that came my way during her infancy, as parents understand what happens with babies and their orifices.  Which only goes to show Costco is there from cradle…

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To grave…

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Non-emotional and non-threatening…imagine a Costco employee scanning your card while you are being lowered into the ground.  Are we talking do-it-yourself funerals now?

Don’t look for this display. They don’t have them in the stores anymore, but Costco sells the caskets, urns, and sympathy flowers online.  It’s nice to see there is expedited shipping on most of the items.  So what do you do, if the casket is on backorder?  If they can stick Nelson in a brandy cask after Trafalgar, I bet a hot tub and whatever beer is on offer at Costco…

You can certainly get enough food there afterwards to feed the guests after the ceremony. The cupcakes alone are obscene enough.

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Go big or go bigger.

Pick up a movie while you there. They love the Anglophiles.

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Although I though every romantic Anglophile had to be in possession of this movie by law.  (For the record, I still haven’t seen it.)

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On that note, I leave you with a parting thought.

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(Snicker.) Knob (Snicker.)

A Spirited Recommendation for Oprah

Some time ago, The Boffin and I were in Binny’s, the big chain liquor store known to those in the Chicagoland area, and I was fortunate enough to stumble across this recommendation.

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Now that was very nice of you, Oprah, and I will certainly keep that in mind next time I have $270.00 lying around to buy a bottle of liquor that will make me punch random passersby in the genitals. But please, let me return the favor.

I offer you this.

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Yes, you read that right. 192 proof. The 750 ml bottle only costs $22, so it provides a hell of a lot more value for your money than that tequila you are hawking. You can use it to make your own flavored vodkas and baking extracts. You can liquor up your fruits and use them in cakes and other baked goods. You can use it for medicinal purposes, even if the medicinal purpose is to forget about what ails you.

You know what, Oprah, I even have a craft idea to go along with it. I made a biodegradable personalized carrier sleeve to go with the bottle. Check it out.

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I should stick that on Pinterest.

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