Drive-by Balloon Purchases

During the past weeks, I’d lost five balloons to the heat and humidity. For a while, the stores stopped selling them, or didn’t sell as many. On July 22nd, I had my dental surgery. Since then, I’ve packed on five Mylar balloons. No, make that seven. Definitely seven. One was a present for a job well done. Another was a sleeper I bought at Giant. Three were hallway rescues, that is, lone balloons looking for a home. They’ll make great sleepers, too. Two others were drive-by balloon purchases. Drive-by, meaning I park the car near the store, run inside to buy one item, then back to the car. Except that something else accompanies me on the way to the car.

Every two weeks, I prepare meals for the Aid For Friends, but this time, I ran short on chicken patties. So I stopped by the Acme, realizing a buy-one-get-one-free sale. Trouble was, a horde of Mylar birds perched by the door. I had to get past them to get to my chicken. One of them flew after me and landed on my shoulder, singing “Bye Bye Birdie.”
I haven’t owned a Mylar bird in years. I do now.
Four days ago, I got a five dollar coupon for CVS. Thought I’d do a drive-by and get a pediatric toothbrush for my sensitive gums. I had trouble deciding which toothbrush to get, and my indecision cost me. I didn’t expect the corral of balloons to sit idle while I pussyfooted around the toothbrushes, did I?

Last Christmas, I did a drive-by to pick up refreshments for a party. Ditto balloon purchase.

Lately, these drive-by purchases have yielded more balloons than leisurely shopping with a big grocery list. Let’s say I’m on the road and thinking about getting a sandwich. Before I stop anywhere, I have to ask myself if the store sells balloons. If I don’t, something might accompany that sandwich. Tomorrow I’m heading to CVS to pick up Mike’s medicine. I’ve got a coupon, too. Oh, boy. I’d better look out.

I said I’d lost five balloons before I had the dental work. But I sure as heck found them!

This Mylar balloon belongs to Barbara Custer, author of zombie fiction.

School’s in Session

I’d like to think of it as schooling for me because I find myself tripping on the difference between “lie” and “lay” as well as other words. When I was little, I overheard a construction worker talk about horses, and I thought they were referring to the equine version. If the English language was confusing for people growing up in the US of A, then I feel for people learning the language as adults. They’ve got to deal with our idioms and slang. When I’m writing or editing, I’ve found one of my best friends. Some of the words below have stumped me and I suspect they confuse others, so I’m reviewing the difference between each one.

Aggravate / irritate
Aggravate means to make worse. Irritate means to annoy or disturb.
Cold weather aggravates my pain.
The automated telephone systems really irritate me.

Cement / concrete
Most people use these terms interchangeably, but “cement” and “concrete” have completely different meanings, as you’ll find out if you ask a Home Depot salesman for concrete. Cement is a powder that you mix with other materials to form a solid mass known as concrete. Cement porches, cement pavements, and cement overpasses don’t exist. All of these are concrete.

Everyday / every day
Every day means literally “each day,” as in: I admire my balloons every day.
“Everyday” is an adjective synonymous with “ordinary.” Purchasing Mylar balloons is an everyday occurrence for me.

Loathe / loath
“Loath” is an adjective meaning “unwilling. It rhymes with “growth.” Ex: I am loath to travel in the wintertime.
“Loathe” is a verb meaning “to hate intensely.” It ends with a soft “th” like smooth.
Example: I loathe cold weather.

Less / fewer
These words are easy to mix up, since both mean the opposite of more.
Use “fewer” if you’re referring to quantities of things or people. Example: Because my house was getting crowded, I’ve had to buy fewer balloons.

Use “less” when you’re referring to things that can’t be counted or doesn’t have a plural, as in:
Some jobs pay less money.
This week, I bought less food.

Further / farther
Farther pertains to physical distance and “further” for figurative distance. Hint: farther has the word “far” in it, as in: how much farther do we have to go?
Further applies to metaphorical or figurative distance. Example: If my balloons tangle further with my fan, I’m putting them in a separate room. I’m not talking about physical distance. I’m talking about a figurative distance, i.e. the extent of my balloons tangling with the fan.

Okay, many of the examples involve balloons. I don’t think any blog would be complete without at least one reference to my balloons. Maybe someday I’ll ride in a hot air balloons. This brings me to another confusing word set – someday versus some day. “Someday” means an indefinite time in the future, but “some” is an adjective indicating a specific day. Example: I’m heading to the grocery store some day this week.

There are dozens of other word sets that confuse people. Can you think of any?

Steel Rose features zombie fiction by Barbara Custer

When Balloons Lead to Change for a Website

I’m going to begin with a balloon story.

The other day, the Acme had great sales on items I needed, but they had a plethora of lovely Mylar balloons. So I put on my track shoes with the intention of running through the store, snatching up groceries as I went, so that the balloons wouldn’t catch me. I shopped early in the morning so that the store would be empty, allowing the run.

As the doors slid open, I barreled in…and collided with a grove of Mylar Margaritas and other balloons. So much for running. A Mylar Margarita snagged around my shoulders and plopped on my head. I continued running, hoping to dislodge my Mylar rider, but it clung to my head. Rather than be called on shoplifting, I paid for the balloon, explaining that it stuck to my hair. Got a lot of giggles for that one.

That’s right, Bar-ba-ra, the balloon whispered. You can run, but you can’t hide.

Mylar balloon Barbara Custer loves her zombie fiction.Out of the mouths of balloons come words of wisdom. For months I’ve been avoiding the issues with the print on my website. Running away from the problem, if you will, but I couldn’t hide. The glaring green hyperlinks kept staring at me every time I added or changed material on the website. I kept telling myself I’d read a book on CSS to change the font myself. It never happened.

Then the “aha” moment came to me at the Philadelphia Writers Conference when Cecily Kellogg discussed blogging and recommended dark print on a light background.  Those words slammed me against my chair as I got to thinking about my red background, white and green print. Tiny print. Change can be frightening. You can run, but you can’t hide, the balloon whispered.

I started reading posts about the best color combinations for blogs and websites, and got mixed opinions. So I ran a poll on Facebook, and the dark print on white background won hands down. The responses were helpful and much appreciated.  A couple of years ago, I’d entertained Walter Mitty fantasies of having a Zombie Apocalypse theme for my website. These fantasies rekindled, and I installed the theme. It gave me red print for the links and black for the posts.

Over the next weeks, I will likely want to do some tweaking with the images, but I feel great about the graphics and readability of the print.  Thank you, Miss Margarita Balloon, for pointing out the need to change.

Capital Fate

Barbara Custer celebrated the release of Blue Plate Special with more balloons.

I did a great job saving on groceries this past week. Yesterday, I released another NTD zombie book by Harold “Hal” Kempka, titled Blue Plate Special. The Philadelphia Writers’ Conference is coming, and I needed a few things, so I headed to the Acme this morning.

Capital fate.

I arrived with a list of five items – notebook, ice cream, latex gloves, scar cream, and stockings. Ahead of me, a sweet voice called, “Barbara!”

The speaker was a Mylar flower tree. Yes, he was big as a tree. He nuzzled my hair when I approached him.

“Big balloon, isn’t he?” called a cashier. “He seems to like you.”

“Yes, he does,” I replied, and then I saw his price tag – $14.00. I shook my head and backed away.

“Why not?” The balloon stretched toward me. “Do you need everything on your list? Why ice cream? You’ll get plenty of desserts at the writers’ conference.”

“Good point,” I told him. “Let me think about this.”

I turned away, wondering what I was doing in this store. My hand fished out folded paper from my pocket. The list. Oh, yes, that’s right. I needed a notebook, among other things. Good thing I’d brought my list.

At the school supplies section, I found the notebooks. I picked out the cheapest one they had.

“Attagirl!” another balloon called to me. It was Cinderella, a Mylar Disney character. “Buy cheap, and then you can take me home with you.”

She really was a beauty and well inflated, but I had so many, more than 70. Could I justify buying another large balloon?  “Well,” I said, “let me think some more.”

I tried tiptoeing, keeping my head ducked so that other balloons wouldn’t notice me. It worked, at least through the detergent aisle for the gloves and the health supplies for the scar cream.

“You can run, but you can’t hide,” a flower balloon crooned from the front. Miss Sunshine, as I name her, wooed me with her siren song. I tried to telling myself to watch the money for the conference, but the telling did no good when I beheld her brilliant sheen.

“Come now,” she coaxed me. “You already have stockings. You don’t need more, right?”

I had to agree.

“Besides,” she whispered, “you just released another book. A very good read. Shouldn’t you reward yourself?”

I nodded.

“Come, let’s go,” she said, perching on my shoulder. “Balloons know best.”

This Mylar balloon lured me with her siren song.

This balloon lured me with her siren song.

Why did I cave in? Perhaps my fellow peeps encouraged me to buy. Perhaps I was celebrating Blue Plate Special because it’s got a lot of flash horror fiction. While those things are true, I must confess, I’ve become a magnet for balloons.


When Flowers, Kindness, and Coupons Lead to Mischief

A wise coworker wondered if shopping at several different stores just to get bargains was a good idea. I compare prices before going market shopping, but she suggested that I might spend the money in gas.

Giant is having a special where they double the dollar coupons next week, but most of the groceries on my list I needed this week. The thought crossed my mind that I could postpone purchasing some items with dollars off coupons until next week. Then I got to thinking about my buddy’s advice. I don’t use much gas to go to this Giant, but it’s a dicey area for getting nabbed by Mylar balloons.

Right away, as I walked in, a large Disney character balloons tried to get at my cart. I had to run. I think I burned some serious calories fleeing from balloons.

Another work buddy did me a big favor, so it crossed my mind that she would love getting a daisy balloon. The daisy went into my cart. That balloon has her name on it, I told myself.

I picked up food to make for the Aid for Friends. Our church bulletin reported that food supplies had run low, and alas, the recipients do not have the funds or health to go to the store. Some of the recipients are homeless. So I decided to help by cooking a few meals.

I decided to do all my purchasing today, and never mind the dollar-off coupon deal. Good thing I did. After I finished shopping, the daisy started nuzzling my ear. What? I asked.

There are more balloons like me, the Mylar daisy whispered, and you know full well you want one for yourself.

Not this time, I told him. I am watching my budget.

Of course, you are, the balloon told me, and you’re helping other people. That’s great. Don’t you think you should reward yourself?

Oh, well, uh. More rustling from ahead of me. Another daisy waltzed over to my cart. I admit, I badly wanted that daisy. As I approached the register, the Disney character balloon jumped at me. Next time, I’ll get you, he said, smiling.

After I paid for my groceries, I said to the cashier, “This store is mighty dangerous with its balloons.” He laughed.

If I had gone back next week for the double dollar coupon sale, I might have saved on the respective items, but spent more on balloons. My coworker gave me good advice about shopping at one store.Barbara Custer loves her Mylar balloons and zombie fiction.


The Call of the Wild

I never thought I would blog about my balloon collection, but as the cliche goes, never say never. Today was an unusual day for grocery trips. I went to a different supermarket, one that didn’t tempt me to buy balloons. More bad weather was coming our way, so I concentrated on buying supplies. I decided to check out the dollar discount store to see if I could buy some of the things needed for less. The dollar discount had a huge array of paper products, everything costing $1.00 each. Since birthdays are coming up for people I care about, I headed down the gift aisle for wrapping paper and cards.

That was when the balloon trees nailed me.

Actually, the courtship began as soon as I walked in. Balloon trees filled with bright reds, silver, and Valentine messages swarmed toward me. The individual balloons there, plenty of them at that, didn’t tempt me so much, but they might have if the balloon trees hadn’t overwhelmed me. There were so many, they literally ran wild. Even the storekeeper couldn’t contain them. Each tree boasts six smaller foil balloons, plus one large one. It could be a Valentine frog or bear. I went with the frog because of its pretty shade of green. Total: seven balloons for $8.00.

I had to sit my passenger seat flat to fit the balloons in the car. They threatened to break loose, so I shut the door fast. Later, after I’d gone to the supermarket and came back, I noticed balloon ribbons sticking out between the door and floorboard.

Why a balloon tree? Perhaps I am celebrating Alien Worlds, the book that I collaborated with Tom Johnson. Newly released, it will be available on Amazon in a few weeks. Maybe I was thinking of giving a couple to Mike for his birthday, and I will. Maybe it’s just because I love balloons so much and couldn’t resist the call of the wild.

City of Brother Death features zombie tales and horror fiction by Barbara Custer

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