Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Deep, deep down, I know I'm a winner.

So, here's me, circa 10AM this morning.

Get it?

\


My costume, which seemed pretty evident to me eluded quite a few people.

So let me break it down for you.  I'm wearing gray.  A lot of gray.  In a lot of different shades.  How many shades?  At least four dozen...plus two.

I thought it was genius.  I didn't win. 

Here's a picture of me with someone who did win:

I totally didn't pose like this just so I could touch him.  No, really. I'm old enough to be his...hot older sister.  Also, it's uncanny how much I look like my mother.
My friend, Sebastian is dressed as Sergio Flores - the Sexy Sax Man.  You Tube it.  Just trust me.

Seb even learned the Careless Whisper riff on his saxophone.  He won Best Costume.  Most Creative went to a woman dressed as Sweet Iced Tea.  Just trust me on that.

I'm bummed, but if crowd reaction counts for anything, I'm winner.  It doesn't count for anything.  It's sure as hell not a gift card to Pier I.  Just saying.

But it was a good Halloween.   And now, I have a whole year to come up with another Masterpiece.  Too bad A Binder Full of Women will be passe by then.

Keep your Mounds high and dry.  I leave you with a group shot:

The Nerds also came up empty-handed, which is a travesty.  Velma, of the Scooby gang had to get back on the phones, but she was the best of the bunch.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloweek

I do love me some Halloween.

Here's me, age five:

A princess in pink.  Natch.

I had some of the best costumes, but this is probably one of my favorites.

I'll post this year's costume tomorrow.

ae

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another trip around the sun.

Yesterday, I turned 38.

No big whoop.  My big day coincided with two other, more major events.

1.  The ALS Walk.  Every year, my company does a big fundraising effort for the ALS Association.  I was on a team where my presence was required at said walk.  The team, within our company with the best participation (calculated using a formula akin to differential equations) wins an extra day off - and our team was in it to win it.  So.  Got up and walked with my pals.  It was fun.  As soon as we made it close to my car, I peeled of to head to:

2. Matt's 20th High School Reunion.  GOOOO CATAMOUNTS*!






I got to meet a lot of my sweet husband's classmates.  We thought we might be able to split off to his family's Halloween party, but we were in demand, we were having fun.  There will be other Halloweens.

But lest you think my big day went unnoticed, think again.

On Friday, my dear, sweet friends at work brought me a great sussy**:



A selection of tiny cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes - a bakery specializing in...bundt cakes.

And a card with a metric ton of signatures on it.  I was delighted.

That night, I met up with my friend Jim at his apartment.  We had some work to do for his costume.  We ate some pizza,  I made a salad, and we went to Hobby Lobby and Target for some supplies.  We then blinged out his tooth fairy costume:

Jim sent me a pic.  He looked amazeballs!  That's the tooth!

Amazingly fun.

We ate the cake leftover from the office, and my sweet friend gave me a present - a Crock Pot.  Don't laugh.  It's programmable, it has the lid clamps, and I love it.  I.  Am.  Stoked.  He also gave me a birthday card that delighted me.

Yesterday, my darling husband gave me a hilarious card and a gift certificate to get a massage.  To which, I say, yeeehaw.

Both my sister and sister-in-law gave me gift cards to Amazon. I am contemplating the purchase of a Sodastream.

My very bestest BFF Connie sent me a perfect card.  Love.  Love.

I posted a few pictures on Facebook of myself, age 19, taken exactly 19 years prior:

My big sis, Amy and me.  She's a lawyer now.  Clap hard if you believe in lawyers.

Me, Brian, Beth and some dude.  Brian and I went to high school together, Beth was our sorority President. I have no idea who the last guy is.  He was nice enough.  I look fierce with those lips. Wish I could get my hair to look that nice and shiny and curly these days.  This is a long-ass caption. 



I was celebrated in high style.

And I think already, 38 is brimming with possibilities.



Love,

ae

* A catamount is apparently some kind of mountain wildcat.  They actually have a taxidermied catamount in their trophy case at his school.

** My family's slang for a surprise.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Addictive Personality

So, I don't drink a lot.  I mean, I drink more now than I ever used to - but by that, I have maybe on average, two drinks a month.  Of course, that could mean four drinks one night, and then nothing again for several months.

But still, I'm pretty moderate when it comes to fire water.  Some of my ancestors had problems with the hooch, so I try to be careful.

I clearly have issues with food.  It's been duly noted.  And if you need proof, I have my weekly passbook for Weight Watchers.  If Donald Trump would like to offer me $5 million to release my records, I will be happy to publish.

I'm clearly a social media addict.  The interwebs love me, and I love them right back.

But my newest addiction is my smartphone. It's just so shiny and fun and new.

Specifically, there's a game that has me captivated.  It's called Draw Something.

Now, this game is nothing new.  Those of you with smartphones have been playing it for ages.

But me?  I'm new to this, and I'm in love.

The premise of the game is that it's online Pictionary and you're playing with a stranger.  Or, if you can con a friend into playing... there's that.

I talked my friend, Jim, into downloading it.  We've been locked in battle for about a week.

Here's a little something I concocted for him:

  


Golly, I'm clever.

So, it's not booze, or boys or pills.  It's not food or shopping or trash TV.

It's...art.

ae






Sunday, October 21, 2012

She'll be comin' 'round the mountain...

The weather is starting to cool down some, and let's be honest - I've been a complete slacker in the kitchen.  Actually, the whole house is a hot mess.

But I was screwing around on the interwebs and saw a recipe for chicken and dumplings in the crock pot, and I thought, yes, I can do that.

It's nothing personal - you're just delicious.


So that's what is in the crock pot, crocking and potting as we speak.  It's a total cheater recipe.  Canned cream of chicken soup, Bisquick dumplings.   But since this ho made it, we're calling it homemade.  And I bought fresh herbs to pretty everything up.  So I feel good about it.  And it's a comfort food from my husband's childhood, so he's happy.

Yes indeedy..

And now, I'm waiting on Matt to get ready - we're heading to Costco, and we'll get some lunch. 

And we'll have chicken and dumplings when she comes. 

ae

Friday, October 19, 2012

Here's why I'm not in Marketing (or Management)

Once a week, our CEO publishes his End of Week Thoughts. 

If I wrote them, here's what they'd look like:

My colleagues,

There’s no denying that Fall has arrived. Fall isn’t just a season, it’s a verb. It’s a call to action. So is Spring for that matter, but we can have that discussion in six months.

Now is the time to “fall” into some great business habits. Recently, I was reading a book entitled Slim Business for Fat Cats; A Green Belt’s Guide to Fiscal Fitness, and I learned a lot from it. I won’t spoil it for you, because you should read it yourself. I’d loan you my copy, but I really think you just need to go out and buy it.

In this book, I learned that there are four seasons, and that Fall is one of them. I think it’s important to remember that. Why? Because without any one season, the others would grind to a halt.

In the coming weeks, you’ll notice people becoming increasingly agitated and possibly frantic. You may notice people no longer working here who were here just a few minutes ago. Where did they go? Who should we contact in their absence? These are some of the beautiful mysteries of Fall. Some of your colleagues are literally “falling” off the face of the Earth.

I hope that if you have questions or concerns, you’ll internalize them. Just stuff them deep down and cover them up in something else. I find that food, alcohol and sex all make excellent distractions for problems. You may notice your health suffering? That’s just your body’s way of telling you to add more distractions.

Whatever you do, even if I tell you my door is open, I’m lying. My door may be open, but my mind is firmly shut.

Make it a great week!

The HMFIC*



*Head Mother Fucker In Charge

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Epiphanies, and shit.

I've been totally out of sorts the past few weeks.  I'll allow a garden variety of reasons.  Ranging from the banal (PMS) to the kinetic (stiff neck) to the logistical (no travel) to the emotional (I'm feeling disconnected from the people I love).  I haven't really felt quite right.

I kind of came to a conclusion that I need to just really think about what I want as an end result and then either start doing or stop doing whatever is keeping me from that result.

I need to eat better, which I'd do if I were more organized, which I would be if I had more time, which I'd have if I would make use of my evenings, which I could do if I were more motivated, which I would be if I were getting better sleep, which I'd get if I were exercising more, and I'd be doing that if I could find more classes and... you get the idea.

We call this, in my line of work, Root Cause Analysis.  One of the ways to get to the root of a problem is to ask "why" five times.  They call this The Five Whys.  Yeah.  I know.

Anyway.  That's going to be my new modus operandi.  Because the unexamined life is not worth living.  Though, as I once wrote in a journal, the examined life is no great shakes either, sometimes.

So, that's that, bitches.

ae


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Holy Shit, I'm Hilarious.

Look, I don't like to brag, but sometimes, my posts on Facebook are hilarious.  Don't believe me?  Here's a sample from the first 14 days in October:

After several travel delays, my flight was making its descent into PHL, and since I had to stow the Kindle, I hit up the crossword puzzle in the Sky Magazine. Number 14, Down. Five letters. Clue: "Stick between the legs?" Well, P-E-N-I-S fit, so I wrote it in Sharpie, all caps. Take that, Will Shortz. No idea what the actual answer is. I'll look it up on the flight home *.

Inexplicably, my two final flights of this trip have me seated in First Class - Priority Boarding, a special line in security... I know better than to get used to it, but I can't say I minded giving a benevolent smirk to the peons who boarded the plane after me, trudging their way back to coach. Yes, you simple fools - the white wine tasted as refreshing as it looked.

One last tangential observation about this week's travel. Pennsylvania is home to two snack companies: Herr's and Utz. Said together, they sound like noises Lola makes when she coughs. Hhhhhhherrrr's! Uuuuuutz! I'm sure the chips, pretzels and cheese balls are probably delicious. 


It's not that I enjoy shopping at a place called Dress Barn, but admittedly, if you need a dress, and you don't want to spend a ton of money, you could do worse. I just think it would be more honest to call it "You're Cheap and Not Especially Picky".

I appreciate that my colleagues are embracing the season with some sort of scented potpourri device, but honestly, if I wanted to smell synthetic apple-pumpkin mystic cinnamorgasm, I'd go hang out in the gift shoppe at Cracker Barrel - because at least there, I'd have easy access to biscuits and hashbrown casserole.

 
I'm considering Botox. Not because I want to look younger, but to take the effort out of looking surprised all the time. The looking younger part would just be gravy.

My friend Rosie and I kept switching back and forth between the debate and Project Runway (priorities, people!) - based on that, what I'd really like to see for the remaining debates is a format where the candidates are put up on the runway and grilled by Nina Garcia, Michael Kors and Heidi Klum. Maybe throw in a wacky guest judge (what's RuPaul up to next week?) to keep it real.
On that one, I actually commented, too:
I'm sorry, what I should have said was, "CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Michael Kors". I think that's a contractual obligation of the show.

Big Fall Pledge Drive this week on Nashville Public Radio. I'm tempted to call in and ask how much I'd need to donate to receive the Nina Totenberg Totin' Bag, but what are the odds they've heard that one before? 

  
Naturally, the people at NPR are waaaay ahead of me.


So, I started thinking I should have a theme menu for the debate Tuesday: Chicago Dogs for Illinois, Boston Baked Beans for Massachusetts - a little Hawaiian Pineapple and Michigan Cornflake Cookies for dessert. It's when I starting trying to choose between Freedom Fries or Dictator Tots that I realized... I have a problem. I also have a full-time job, so instead of a theme menu, I think I'll just throw something in the Crock-Pot, call it "Melting Pot Surprise" and let that be it. 

*Turns out, the correct answer was broom.

So yeah, I'd say I'm pretty damn funny.  Now how to channel this to take over the world?

ae  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Nice.

Today was Oktoberfest in our Germantown neighborhood.  Interesting to note, both Chattanooga and Memphis also have areas called Germantown, leading me to believe that Tennessee had its fair share of Krauty Settlers.  This is not a bad thing.

Why?  Because it means I get to go to an Oktoberfest.

Now, I've been to Munich, and it's an amazing city.  I was there in May - I can only imagine what fall in Bavaria must be like.

But, not to be outdone, our little neighborhood has a festival, and so, I went.  I met my friends there and decided I'd have a small beer - the half liter was sufficient for my needs.  It was deliciously cold and went down easily.  One was enough.  My friends, being guys, and being better at drinking in general, all had liters, and I know that at least two of them went back for seconds (and thirds and fourths...).  The people watching was sublime.  Lots of people with dogs.  I saw at least 40 different breeds.  I'd name them here, but it's the lazy way to pad out a post, right?

We ate a little, we walked a lot, we talked and goofed and talked some more.

Randy bought a dozen of these:



Tiny little doughnuts, made right there and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  The vendor was Ellie's Old-Fashioned Doughnuts and these are called Sweet Babies.  Yes, please.

I probably could have eaten a dozen myself.  Then I remembered, I have an angry gallbladder that would likely counter with an "Oh, no you di'int" finishing move.  I ate two.  They were amazing.

What a lovely day, though -  friends, good weather, beer, laughter and doughnuts.  I also, not to shirk my wifely responsibilities, made a nice little stir fry for dinner.  We're kicking back now, enjoying the end to a nice day.

Oh, and my neck? Better,  much, much better.  I took a Flexoril last night with a NyQuil chaser.  Kids, don't try this at home.  But it worked like a charm.  I'm still not 100%, but one more good night and I should be right as rain.

ae


Friday, October 12, 2012

Come on!

So, the gallbladder seems to have righted itself.  No further issues.  But as an adjunct to that debacle, I woke up with a stiff neck.  Finally, after four days of it, I went to the doctor, who examined it and concurred that my neck muscles are stiff. 

She gave me a scrip for a relaxer, and sent me on my way.

Well, I'm still kind of stiff, but recovering.  Now, I'm also starting to get the beginnings of a cold.  I attribute all of this to my body finally coming down off the high of a three month Travelpalooza.

So, here's the plan.  I'm going to continue taking Tylenol, I'll keep the hot pack on whenever I can,  I may try to get a few Airbornes under my belt between now and end of day.


Full day's supply of Manganese.


And this weekend... sleep.  And laundry.  And sleep.  And groceries, and sleep.  And sleep.

The face of wellness?

Good times.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The unmitigated gall!

So, as it turns out, I'm not invincible.

Over the weekend, I woke up with killer heartburn, got up, took a little baking soda and belched for a few hours.  That was late Saturday night/ early Sunday morning.

Last night, about two hours after dinner, I was gripped with stomach cramps like I'd never had before.  Gut wrenching, agonizing pain.  I thought it was food poisoning.  I also thought I was dying.

After two hours of no relief, no vomiting, I called the Dial-A-Nurse that my Insurance Company offers.

We talked for about five minutes and she broke it down for me.  Gallbladder.

I could have smacked my own forehead.

Fair, fat and forty - of course it's my gallbladder.

It's also a wakeup call. 

Because, I don't need to do any surgery and I want to lose the weight and be all smoking hot.

Plus the pain was brutal.  I ended up (at the nurse's direction) taking an OTC painkiller, then, AMA, I took two industrial swigs of NyQuil.





I'm dragging at the office this morning, but this too shall pass.

ae








Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sleepytime Herbal Me

I cannot tell a lie.  I have done a lot of sleeping this weekend.  My body needed it, I think.

In addition to that, I did a few more useful things.

I did some laundry - mostly socks and things for my mister, but a few other little odds and ends too.

I'm going to a wedding in two weeks, so I purchased a dress for that occasion:



It looks different on me.  For one, this "Plus Sized" model is clearly a size 10.  I am not.  She's also six feet tall.  I am not.  But it's a cute dress, it was 30 bucks and I'm done shopping.  Well, I need to buy a wedding present.  But that's easy squeezy compared to clothes shopping.

Maybe I can wear this same dress to Matt's 20 year reunion.  Whatevs.

Anyway, we had a good weekend.  We went to a surprise party for our friend Seb - he is exactly nine years and fifty weeks younger than me - we celebrated early.

We started by breaking into his apartment to surprise him, then moved it to a local bar.

Where this happened:

Waiter, there's someone's fly in my drink!



Oh, and how could I forget the most critical new piece of news from my weekend.  I finally trudged my way into 2012 technology and bought this:

I'm still figuring out how to use it, but I already love it.  And it's RED!  Yay!

All in all, good weekend.  I wish I'd gotten groceries, and done more housework, but what would I have had to give up?  Sleep?  Penis infused beer?  Friends?  Retail therapy?

Unthinkable.

ae

Friday, October 5, 2012

A Season of Firsts

Below is part of an e mail I sent to two of my colleagues from Maine about my recent trip. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent and to honor NDAs.  I added the photos to give it some visual interest.




So, what a long strange trip it’s been.  I’m home,  and glad to be here.

Lots of “firsts” on this trip, starting with getting to the airport.

The AHOD [quarterly company meeting] on Tuesday was running over, and I mentioned to Kelley that I had a plane to catch – she suggested I share a cab to the airport with Bill, the Mark of Excellence guy.  He was fine with it – and as it turns out, the cab was actually a town car.  So, I had “a car” take me to the airport.  Fancy.  Bill was also a really nice guy and we had a good conversation on the way.

I ended up delayed in Cincinnati due to bad weather in Philly.  I had a quick dinner, then did some work while I waited.  Once I got to Philadelphia, two hours late, I picked up my car, which once again, had Tennessee tags.  Ha!  Drove to the middle of nowhere in New Jersey, and almost procured enough venison for the winter when Bambi and Faline darted out in front of my car.  Thankfully my braking foot was swift, and they were swifter.

I slept for about six hours, got up and met the sales rep, then we went to our meeting, which was just weird.  I don’t normally give demos, but I think I did a good job in Jill’s absence.  The main guy we were working with looked a lot like Peter Sellers.  I didn’t mention that to him, but I could not stop thinking of Dr. Strangelove.

Purity of essence, Mandrake.


Once I got back on the road and stuck in horrendous traffic, it became clear that I might not make my flight.  I swore my way through New Jersey and Philadelphia and made it to the rental return without fueling the car…another first. I will probably get reamed by accounting for it, but I stand by it – they were boarding when I got to the gate.   I will point out that my connections that night were so tight, I ended up not eating dinner, so they can take it out of that, if they choose.

I arrived in Greensboro, NC and took a cab to the hotel.  Had a really interesting conversation with the cab driver – he was from Liberia, and was impressed that I at least knew that the capital city was Monrovia, so named for James Monroe.  From there we touched on Mia Farrow, Naomi Campbell and blood diamonds.  And then, I got to the hotel.  It was late, I was tired.  That’s pretty much all you need to know.

Just take me to my hotel, where I can take a hot shower to wash off the shame.


Yesterday morning, I met the sales rep for breakfast and she outline her plan for the two meetings.  My plan was to listen to what they wanted and then wing it.  That’s always my plan.  I don’t share that with the reps though, because it freaks them out.

Her boss came and got us, and we got to Big Tobacco Conglomerated, Inc.  for the first meeting.  So, that was weird.  Being in Winston-Salem, I expected some level of tobacco culture, but this place was insane.  There was a huge artsy hanging sculpture in the lobby of Davey Dromedary [one of their logoed mascots].   Once we got into the offices, there were all these vintages cigarette ads, and even a huge Smokey Smokes [brand cigarette] box – about the size of a Great Dane was placed next to the elevators.  I mean, it was a nice office, but it was bizarre.  And it got weirder.  In the conference room, there were ashtrays on the tables.  And two of the guys we were meeting with had spit cups and were actively using them.  Awesome.  Full disclosure:  Matt uses smokeless tobacco from time to time and I hate it, but it’s not a battle worth fighting.  He also smokes cigars from time to time, and that doesn’t bother me at all.

My mother has this poster in her laundry room and has for over 35 years.  Not surprisingly, I'm not a smoker.  Well played, Mother.  Well played.


Anyway, it was a really odd meeting.  We suspect that they’ve already picked a different vendor, but are required to have three proposals, so we were just there for the dog and pony show.  I suspect this because the main guy asked me a question about a report, then gets up and walks out of the room as I start to answer him.  What could I do?  I just kept talking to the people who were there. 

After BTCI, we had lunch at a little Mexican place.  It was fine.  Better than Taco Hell, not as good as my favorite place, La Hacienda.  It was lunch.  The two sales reps, neither of whom I’d spent any time with before yesterday, asked me about myself.  What to say?  I can’t give them full Allison in a 30 minute lunch!  I told them about Jellygate, which, to my mind, gives them my essence without having to work too hard.

So, after lunch, we headed to the Delightful Dream Doughnuts HQ – aka, the real reason I went on this trip. 

They have an office right off the interstate, and it’s a pretty building.  We walked in and the receptionist signed us in, gave us badges, then pointed to her left and suggested that we get coffee and doughnuts while we were waiting for Larry.  They had a huge glass case filled with doughnuts, and every kind of coffee and coffee fixin' you could ask for.  I selected a chocolate iced cream filled and basically inhaled it. 

Larry came to get us, and we walked through the lobby past a “water feature” – sort of a fountain that looked like a sheet of frosted glass with water cascading down it – it looked just like the glaze bath they run the doughnuts through.  And you know that’s not just a coincidence.

The meeting went well.   I sometimes wish that sales would remember we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, but that’s my beef.  The Delightful Dream folks were impressed with my knowledge of their brand.  They were mentioning a location in Atlanta where they’d need training in about four additional languages, and I said, “Ah, would that the one on Ponce de Leon?” They were amazed.  I know my doughnuts, people.  I also know my hometown.

I think I love you...

As we were leaving, I mentioned that the water feature reminded me of the glaze bath, and he beamed as he told us they’d had it specially made for that.  He then showed us a hall that had photos spanning the 75 year history of the company.  I told him it must be great to work for a company that brought joy to so many people.  He said it was.  Score one for Allison. Larry encouraged us to get some more doughnuts.  He pointed out to-go boxes and suggested we fill up before we left.  The local rep got some for his kids, I got a glazed to go, and with that, we were off to the Raleigh airport.

So, for some reason, I got booked first class on both legs of my trip home.  I got to go through a fast line at security, for starters.  That was pretty sweet.   Then, I was working at the gate and they made an announcement that they would check any roller bags to your final destination for free because it’s a full flight.  SCORE!  I dumped my bag and went and grabbed dinner.

Now, I’ve never flown first class before, I may never get to again – but it was kind of nice.  They kept calling me Mrs. Everett.  They knew who I was!  I got to board early and drink a glass of wine while I watched the teeming masses pass me by.

They also offered me snacks.  I took a fun sized Snickers, which actually goes well with white wine.  Who knew?  The second flight – from Atlanta to Nashville, clocked in at 35 minutes and in that time, my seat mate got up to use the bathroom three times.  He was the window seat.   Really, guy?

I got my bag, took a non-descript cab ride to the house and that’s pretty much it.  With that, I guess it’s time to start getting back into the rhythm of being a curve dweller. Hope you are both well.  Had I thought they would survive the journey, you know I’d have sent doughnuts.  Instead, I send my best wishes.  Hardly as sweet, but certainly less calories!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Come Fly With Me

So, at 3:15 PM today, I hit the first of six airports in 48 hours.  That's vaguely impressive.

I'm tempted to have a pre-flight or in-flight Bloody Mary.  If I didn't have a one hour drive at the end of this rainbow tonight, I would.

I've gotten awfully cavalier about air travel.  I am cutting this arrival at the airport closer than I would ever have done in the past.

But it's our company meeting today -and that's pretty exciting.  I'm emceeing again.  My schtick this time is a red sweater vest, which is a nod to the President of our company.

As soon as it is done, I hit the parking lot and speed to BNA.  From there, CVG.  Catch a flight to PHL and then to the Avis counter for a sub-compact.  Take the car to New Jersey, and from there... sleep.

Tomorrow at 9AM, I have a call at the hotel.  Then at 1PM, I have a customer meeting.

From there back to PHL to ATL.  Catch a flight to GSO and cab it to my second Doubletree in less than 24 hours.  Thursday AM, picked up by a sales rep and we drive to Winston-Salem and meet with a customer.  Get back in car, drive to Raleigh, meet with another customer.   Drive to RDU and catch flight to ATL.  From ATL to BNA, then home.

Lord have mercy, I'm tired. By Thursday night, I may not know my name.

ae

Legend:

BNA - Nashville
CVG - Cincinnati
PHL - Philadelphia
ATL - Atlanta
GSO - Greensboro
RDU - Raleigh-Durham




Monday, October 1, 2012

Buttal and Rebuttal

I received an email back from the State Fair peeps:



As the University of Tennessee Extension Family and Consumer Sciences agent in Davidson County, I have been asked to address your concerns about the standards for judging jelly. Since I did not judge jelly at this year’s Tennessee State Fair, I cannot give specific reasons as to why your jar was not opened. There could be a number of reasons for this happening.
As recommended by the National Center for Home Preservation, judging of home canned goods begins with visual assessment.
·         Is the product in a standard canning jar?
·         Is the jar sealed?  
·         Is the approved processing method listed on the jar’s label?
·         Is the lid (ring and flat) clean and free of rust? Judges will remove the ring to check for cleanliness and to see if there is the proper amount of headspace in the jar and that no paraffin has been used.
·         Is the jelly clear, free from sediment, cloudiness, pulp or crystals?
·         Is the jelly a natural color (natural color of the dominant fruit)?
·         Is the consistency of the jelly correct? The consistency of jelly can be judged without removing it from the jar. Turn the jar on its side and give it a single sharp shake. Then rotate the jar slowly at an angle or on its side. The jelly should pull away from the jar cleanly, without breaking and without leaving a residue on the jar.
It is my thinking that the judges eliminated your jelly on one or more of the above criteria.
Both the National Center for Home Preservation and the Ball Fresh Preserving Award guidelines, recommend that judges refrain from tasting home preserved food in the judging process. This recommendation is made for the safety of the judges. 
The judges who judged the jelly division this year have over 20 years’ of experience in judging at the Tennessee State Fair.
I encourage you to continue participating in the canning competition at the fair.  
Naturally, I had to get the last word:


Jane,

I appreciate you taking the time to answer.  It’s interesting and helpful to know the criteria used.   My concern was that this was the first year I received an entry back, unopened; as it is the standard, it’s the first year that I’ve experienced it being followed.   I wouldn’t have thought much of it, but first the volunteer pointed it out as unusual and then another competitor agreed with me that hers are always opened as well.

As long as the standard is being applied consistently, I have no problem with method the judges use.  I don’t call into question their experience, but wanted to make sure I understood the process.    I can appreciate that safety is a factor in not sampling the canned goods, but from an outsider’s perspective, it is now clear to me that you are judging adherence to the practice rather than the end result of product – as I take a lot of care with both.  Again, provided that the methods used are consistent, it’s a perfectly reasonable explanation.  Knowing this,  I’ll definitely be curious to see what happens next year.

Thanks again for your time.