The Poster Queen brought me these lovely souvenirs from her trip to France: a beautiful lace bookmark and chocolate. Also cheese and Sirop de Liege, a wonderful sort of apple and pear butter. If you click the link, you will hear some nice music and can find recipes using the sirop, though there is a preponderance of rabbit and liver, so I think I will just spread it on mes tartines, as the package suggests.

Here you will find a recipe to make it yourself, should you be less fortunate than I and not have a friend bring you some. A long time ago, Selphiras asked me to post my recipe for peach butter, and this is how I do it, so I now feel less guilty for not getting around to posting it. I confess, however, that I just put the fruit through a blender rather than pushing it through cheesecloth. I do this with apples, pears, plums, peaches, and nectarines. I have heard of people using pumpkin as well, though I have never tried it myself.

Lace, books, fruit, cheese, and chocolate: this is certainly an image of perfect utopia. You may want to stop reading now, because the rest of the post is not so pleasant.

Well, as far as I know, #1 daughter and son-in-law are fine, and they will in fact be visiting at the end of the month. They can be part of the utopian vision.

#2 son tried to turn in his AP class summer assignment on the due date, but no one was there to accept it. I called the school the next day and determined that they had not yet been picked up, and called home to tell him to have his brother take him right over to turn it in. He claimed to have done so, but in fact did not (he was busy with his friends), and so he now has a zero for the summer assignment. Not to mention having lied to me.

#1 son has quit his job before finding another. We all have appointments today with the eye doctor whom he has left in the lurch. She was also the one with whom he had arranged to do his senior year internship. Not sure quite what he plans. He hasn’t done his college applications, either. He is, it seems, well on his way to realizing his ambition to be a drifter.

#2 daughter has a temporary job, a loaner car, and an apartment furnished with a sleeping bag, a computer, and boxes of books and clothes. She does have applications in for a bunch of cool jobs. I keep telling her this is fun and exciting. She responds rather as I do when she shrieks “Immersion!” at me while I am driving on terrifying freeway overpasses.

That is to say, a dignified silence.

My husband was not doing very well with the loss of his second daughter to the wide world, back when she had a job and therefore wasn’t coming home. Now that she doesn’t have a job and is still not coming home, he is sinking into the slough of despond. He fell asleep in front of the TV last night and left for work this morning having said nothing but “Where’s my shirt?”

I have nothing to complain about personally (apart from having a husband in a slough of despond, which I assure you is no picnic) but I have begun whining, so I might as well continue.

We have ants in the house.

And let me give you a taste of work during back to school. Yesterday, I was doing a little clerical chore, sending coupons to particular customers depending on their shopping habits. I do this at the computer in the middle of the store where we check people out, pausing when customers need me. I did this all day, and will be doing it again today.

Add a couple dozen shoppers. 40% of them are talking on cell phones, and the rest are often talking among themselves. The sound track should include the exclamation “Girl! What are you doing here?” every eight minutes. There should also be lots of complaining about the heat and the ending of the summer vacation.

There is still classical music playing softly, but it is now entirely drowned out by the unaccustomed noise level.

Now put in the children. Mostly happy children playing with the train, but there must also be cries of “I pooped in my pants!”, “I want that!” and “That’s mine!” And some hitting. This is the background sound.

Now you must add the actual interactions with customers. Again, most of this is pleasant. Conversations on how to teach digraphs to emergent readers, or tours through the store finding all the things with a cowboy theme.

But you also have to have plenty of whining, because we are running out of things. Or, as the customers usually put it, “Everything is picked over.” There has as yet been no swearing or stamping of feet, but people are being cross. They are describing in minute detail the particular star border that they want, and the entire history of how they have bought it here in the past and exactly to what degree they now need it and why. They seem to think that we will say, “Oh, well, okay, if you really need it, we have a secret stash right here under the counter. We were saving it for the person who really needed it.”

JJ comes up after these interactions and whispers fiercely that it is their own stinkin’ fault for waiting so late. I try to look as though she has been saying how much she enjoyed discussing plan books with that customer.

You must also add the phone calls. These come every 2.5 minutes. We are often checking people out at this time, a process which may include adding and subtracting things so that their total will match their purchase order, or checking the database to see which book their friend bought so they can be sure to match. We do this while also answering the phones.

The calls are things like people wanting to know all the different kinds of art paper we carry, with the prices, dimensions, and number of sheets in each. Sometimes they want us to pick out a second grade science book for them, or they want to know whether the other store will have a particular poster and where their laminator is. They want to know what it will cost them to homeschool their ninth grader, and whether we have bulletin board letters that will coordinate with tiki torches, and where they could rent an overhead projector.

Every fourteen minutes there is a phone call asking where a customer’s faxed purchase order is. I have no idea. The Empress is doing all the purchase orders at the other store. I don’t know where their stuff is or when it will be delivered, and have no way of finding out. This naturally infuriates them, and probably makes the customer I am with at that moment wonder about me, too. They probably all excoriate me on their blogs later. I really hate this.

And in the midst of this, I snatch moments to work on my clerical task. This means I have to find the box into which I piled all the paperwork and stamps and postcards when the last customer came up to check out, and get back to the right screen on the computer, and try to remember where I was and make sure that I left nothing undone on the last item, and just as I get to the next item, someone walks up to the counter and the phone rings.

I try to make eye contact with the customers and speak in a low and calm voice. This is to avoid stampedes.

Ironically, one of the interesting discussion going on at the knitting blogs right now is whether crafting blogs present a utopian fantasy of domestic bliss. The irony, for me, is that I try not to whine, and now have spent nearly the entire post doing so. If anything, this is probably more typical of the craft blogs that I read, except that I haven’t offered you any pictures of yarn.

Tomorrow.