Mason Jar & Acme General Store

Mason Jar Greer SCLast Sunday, Mr. McB and I decided to head to downtown Greer for lunch. After looking at a few menus, we decided on The Mason Jar, 202 Trade Street.

The restaurant is located in an old store; we selected a table in what would have been a display window. There were a number of families eating at The Mason Jar. The restaurant features a number of special nights and performances including family night, live music, trivia nights, and karaoke. There’s really something that appeals to everybody.

I think that universal appeal also applies to the menu. While they wouldn’t be classified as “gourmet,” there is a great selection of tasty burgers, sandwiches, salads and entrees.

grilled cheeseMcB selected the grilled cheese with fries. This grilled cheese is made in a cast iron skillet and McB said that you could tell from the flavor and golden crispiness of the bread. He was very happy with his selection. He also raved about the fries. As you can see, they are fresh-cut and still have peel on the ends. This is not normally the kind of fry that he likes but he was won over because they were hot, crisp, and perfectly salted.

I selected the “bird dog” which is chopped up chicken planks served with cheese and honey mustard on hot dog buns. The chicken was crispy and perfectly seasoned. The texture of the chicken was a nice contrast with the soft hot dog bun. I had “half-and-half” and really enjoyed the beer battered onion rings. Yummy!

We really enjoyed our lunch at the atmosphere of The Mason Jar and will definitely return.

We concluded our trip with a visit to the Acme General Store. I was curious about what was in the store and after receiving a tip about their ice cream counter, we had to stop in.

The store has a bit of this-and-that. In addition to apparel, toys, soaps, lotions, toys, and outdoor gear, there is a small selection of food products including condiments, specialty beers, crackers, cookies, and nostalgia candies.

Acme’s second floor houses a climbing wall for kids and a nerf ball battle zone for all ages. There are several cannons set up were you can shoot balls at each other. It’s a lot of fun and it’s free. McB wasn’t in the mood to wear a helmet so we shot on the same side but on our next visit, I think we’ll square off.

The battle zone is probably the best thing at Acme but the ice cream counter isn’t far behind. There are a number of fun flavors to chose from. I had Knob Creek bourbon butter pecan and very pleased.

McB selected his standard vanilla shake and wasn’t disappointed by this thick, creamy concoction. Look! It’s the same straw you’d be given for bubble tea and he still wound up eating most of the shake with a spoon.

It was fun, relaxing afternoon in Greer and one that I’m sure we’ll repeat soon.

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Traveling Thursday – Behaving in church

St. Louis CathedralWhile visiting St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, I witnessed a fella jackass making a business call inside the church. He was angry and cursing. He was oblivious and disrespectful. Every visitor in the cathedral gave him a dirty look but it didn’t bother him. He was indignant when a volunteer asked him to leave. It’s an extreme, but true, example of how not to behave when visiting a church.

Churches and other houses of worship are a popular stop on both domestic and international itineraries. Those who aren’t visiting for religious purposes are often interested in the art, architecture, or historical significance of the building. Whenever you enter a scared space, it’s important to behave in a respectful manner.

Silence your cell phone before entering a church. If you are waiting on an important call, tour the church later.

– Inquire about the photography policy and honor it.

– Use your inside voice and keep your language clean.

– Be respectful of those who are praying or worshiping in another way. Do not disturb them.

– Do a little research on the best time to visit the facility. You don’t want to be a distraction during services or mandated prayer times.

– If you want to light a candle, pay for it. When touring a mission in San Antonio, McB and I saw a man who used his own lighter to avoid paying to light a candle. Don’t be that guy.

– Dress modestly. In the US we’re a bit more lenient about what can be worn inside a church but tank tops and other sleeveless shirts, bare knees, bare midriffs, and cleavage aren’t likely to make it inside a church in other parts of the world. For the ladies, if you must go sleeveless, take a shawl to cover your shoulders. Keep the shawl on for the duration of your visit.

– Gentlemen, the dress codes apply to you too. One of my passengers was once turned away from a church because his walking shorts fell just above the knee. It’s best to wear pants when visiting a church. You’ll want to have your shoulders covered by your shirtsleeves. Be sure to remove your hat.

– When visiting a temple/synagogue, both men and women may be asked to cover their heads. Yarmulkes would be provided for men and pieces of lace or another fabric would be offered to women. Men who visit the Western Wall in Jerusalem should be prepared to cover their heads with a cap of any kind.

– When visiting a mosque, be prepared to remove your shoes. Modest dress is also very important here. Women should wear a skirt and blouse (3/4 sleeve) or a dress. The length should fall below the knees. Headscarves or hoods should also be worn. Men should wear pants and long-sleeved shirts.

– If a church/temple/mosque official asks you to leave, just do it. Leave quickly and quietly without making a scene.

By following these fairly simple rules, you show respect and ensure that you’ll have a meaningful visit.

Finally!

I’m happy to report that my search for gainful employment is over. I received a call yesterday and accepted a position at Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research. As part of my job, I’ll be promoting the graduate program in automotive research. I’m thrilled for the opportunity and look forward to taking up this new challenge.

This job search really humbled me.

First, I can’t believe the number of folks who said prayers and shared encouragement along the way. Words can’t describe how you helped me get through this. I am blessed. I am also so lucky to have a loving husband who encouraged and comforted me. There were times that he believed in me more than I believed in myself.

Second, it was a great reminder that the Lord does everything in His time. I was first invited to interview for this position the day after we returned from our family trip to Disney. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to enjoy that very special time with my family before I began work again. I have also learned that there was a very good reason for what seemed like a delay in the hiring process. Again, He was taking care of me through the whole thing.

Finally, this process taught me that we are all so much more than what we do for a living and that people shouldn’t be judged by their job title or employment status. It reinforced the importance of kindness and respect in our interactions.

I know the days ahead will be even more humbling. It’s been seven years since I started at a new employer. I’m vowing to cut myself some slack during the adjustment period. There’s a lot to learn and I won’t be perfect. I never am. There will be awkward and frustrating days. It will pass. I will get better.

Traveling Thursday – Keep your luggage off TV

There’s a new reality TV show that focuses on people who buy unclaimed luggage that was lost by the airlines. These folks bid on bags containing trash and treasures that used to belong to travelers like you and me. As long as there is air travel, there will be lost bags but these tips might keep your luggage from becoming a reality TV star.

Keep it in the carry-on Minimize the pain of a lost bag by not putting medicines, passports, IDs, expensive jewelry, eye glasses or any other must-have valuables in your checked bag.

Tag that bag Make sure your bag tag displays your name and current contact information. Select a permanent tag with a strap/band that will stay attached to your luggage. If you want, double up with the paper tags available at the airline check-in counter.

Out with the old Remove any old airline routing tags from previous flights.

Demand attention Whether it’s a bright ribbon tied around the handle or a strip of neon duct tape bearing your name, mark your luggage in some way. This will help by making your bag stand out from the others and reducing the possibility that someone take your item by mistake. Luggage straps are also a great way to mark your bag. I like the fact that those straps can also help cinch your bag shut if the zipper breaks or there’s some other bag-related catastrophe during your journey.

Don’t forget the inside Your name, address and phone number should also be found on the inside of your bag. It’s also a great idea to have contact information for your lodging spot(s).

Take notice and maybe a photo You’ll need to describe your bag to the representative if it’s necessary to file a missing bag report so be sure you can describe your bag in detail. If it helps, take a photo of your luggage with your digital camera before checking your bag.

If your bag is lost, work with the airlines. They’ll do their best to get your bag back to you as soon as possible. It’s also a good idea to contact your travel insurance company if you’ve purchased a policy that covers bag loss or delay.

I might regret this later.

You know those instances where you really want to say something even though you know it’s bound to get you in trouble later? Well, this post is one of those times. I should just keep these thoughts to myself until I’m employed again but I can’t help myself. Honestly, if even of this keeps me from getting a job offer, I probably didn’t belong there in the first place.

Looking for a job is harder and weirder than ever before. The economy stinks so employers have the upper hand and some, not all, of them are enjoying the opportunity to use it. I’ve interviewed with a great company recently and am hopeful that something will work out there but I’ve also had some odd interviews that have turned me off from a job I might otherwise want.

What do I mean? Well, there was the job interview that featured all behavioral questions. “What color would you be if you were a color?” “Name three historical figures you’d like to dine with.” I understand throwing one or two of these out in an interview because you get to see a person think on their feet when faced with a strange situation. But a whole session focusing on these scenarios instead of the skills required to do the job?  I think I handled it well. I didn’t get the job but then I wasn’t the most qualified person and maybe the new job holder decided on a better color than I did.

A few weeks ago, the interviewer I spoke with played with a stress ball during the entire interview. She didn’t make eye contact. She sat in her chair turned toward the wall throwing that little stress ball. At one point I thought about answering a question in Pig Latin. She wasn’t paying any attention to me and I didn’t want the job any more. That whole affair was a colossal waste of my time and money- gas and parking. I wonder if interviewers like this understand how this behavior reflects on their organization.

I’ve had great interviews and some reference calls and background checks recently; unfortunately, that was more than a week ago and I still haven’t heard anything. I’m not sure if they’re still in the decision making stage or if they’ve made a decision and are afraid to let me down. Anyone who makes it to an interview deserves notification, especially when its been promised. If X Co. is afraid to tell me they’ve selected another candidate, how do they handle hard decisions and difficult conversations that are just a part of doing business? If I’m still in the running but the process is taking longer than expected, just send a brief e-mail to that effect. It’s just the considerate thing to do.

Why do so many of you need my social security number before the first interview even takes place? In today’s world, we’re taught to fiercely guard those social security numbers and now I’m required to turn it over without a fight. I understand that everyone runs a background check but let’s meet for the first time before you get my social. I’d also like to know what happens to the paperwork containing my social, DOB and other sensitive information. In the case of X Co., there’s now a formal background check floating around in their offices. How can I be assured they’re handling this information properly?

Obviously, I’m frustrated. Some of it is just being worn down by the search and missing a job that I loved, but more of my ill-temper results from the way that applicants are treated today. We’ll surely see a return to common courtesy when the economy improves and job seekers are in demand. I just wish we didn’t have to wait that long.

Ford’s Oyster House and Cajun Kitchen

During our friend’s visit, McB and I wanted to show her the many charms of downtown Greenville including Falls Park, Mast General Store, Liberty Bridge and the Swamp Rabbit Trail to visit Cleveland Park and the Greenville Zoo. We love Greenville and just get so excited whenever we have a chance to show it off. After our lunch at Ford’s Oyster House and Cajun Kitchen, we may make it required eating for every visitor.

We arrived just after noon on a Sunday and were seated on the patio per our request. The patio is fairly large but it’s popular and filled quickly.

The service was great. Our waiter was careful to check back often while assuring us that we should take our time when deciding our on orders.

We started with a basket of crawfish tails. Their slightly sweet meat was very tender and the fry-batter was just a bit zesty. The aioli that accompanied the tails had a nice kick and added to the flavor but the tails were also delicious with just a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

crawfish carbonaraFor his entree, McB selected the crawfish carbonara. The folks at Ford’s were happy to hold the mushrooms per his request. He liked the dish and found the cream sauce to be light enough on what was an increasingly hot and sunny day. The only downside to the dish was the inclusion of diced green peppers. This was not mentioned on the menu and had he known, McB would have asked to have them held off the dish as well.

Our friend selected the blackened salmon BLT for her lunch. She enjoyed the large sandwich and the side of grilled zuchinni and squash. She did find the fish to be a bit spicy so consider yourself warned.

 

 

 

I could write an entire post about the heavenly flavor of my lunch. Even though it’s been two weeks since the meal, my tastebuds can still tap into their happy memories of the delicious fried oyster po’boy and red beans that graced my basket. We’ll start with the sandwich. This monster is served on Gambino’s french bread. Yes, the New Orleans Gambino’s. It is dressed with lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and more of the delicious aioli. The oysters themselves are plump and juicy. When smashed together, the textures and flavors of the sandwich’s ingredients produce the most amazing delight. It’s a bit of a bear to handle but when you’re lost in food bliss, you don’t care who’s looking at you.

Of course, I can’t stop writing about my food until I cover the red beans and rice. My only complaint is that the portion wasn’t  big enough. It’s not a fair complaint since I could have had a quart and still not been satisfied. These are some of the best red beans  I’ve ever had. Smoky, spicy and peppered with bits of sausage – this is how red beans and rice should be done.

As I wipe the drool from my keyboard, I do have to amend my statement about bringing every visitor to Ford’s. I’m not sure it’s the spot I’d pick for vegetarians. I feel there are other places that offer better veggie entrees and I’m not sure that the average vegetarian is wild about Cajun food in the first place. If you’re a vegetarian who loves Ford’s be sure to leave a comment with ordering suggestions that we could pass along to vegetarian visitors.

Ford’s is now my favorite restaurant in the Upstate. The food and service are both amazing. The prices were very reasonable for the quality of the food and portion size. McB and I look forward to heading back for the Sunday brunch buffet which features bananas foster french toast, an omelet station, chicken and waffles, oysters on the half shell and many other choices. My belly can hardly wait.

Traveling Thursday – forget Mom’s warning, just this once

For whatever reason, many moms worry about the state of their children’s underwear and what others (particularly EMTs and ER nurses) will think if of those ratty undies. With all due respect to the moms of the world, those are just the kinds of panties and bras I encourage you to pack for your next big trip. When you have finished wearing the undergarments, just toss them in the trash. It’s where they should have been in the first place. Now you have an incentive (more luggage space) to throw them away.

I’ve applied the same philosophy to other garments as well. I often pack those things that have been worn frequently and are now a little too worn/faded/shapeless/snagged… to donate. Some of my favorite pieces have been pulled out for a grand final wearing before they end up in the hotel’s trash bin. It’s a great tactic for freeing up space in the suitcase and getting rid of clothes that you’ve worn too much to donate.