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Waiters’ Guide to Getting Big Tips Serving Families with Kids and Babies

Dear waiters and waitresses of the world, you must hear my plea. When we, the families with young kids who come into your establishments, looking for a little break, a bit of recreation, a glimpse at our former lives when we could go out after dark, when we go out to restaurants, you must know: there is a very thin line between having a wonderful night out, and having and excruciating embarrassing catastrophe. We know you are just trying to help, but often well-meaning but inexperienced waiters and waitresses make little errors that tip the delicate balance.

Honestly, though we can be a pain, it can be pretty easy to get a good tip from families. We come and go as quickly as possible, we feel bad because our kids make a mess, and you can totally play us by saying nice things about our kids. Or you can really screw things up by offering bad service that results in whining screaming tantrums. And the kids may get upset too.

So here is a little list that should be mandatory reading for all wait-staff. It will help you get big tips, maybe not just from the family with kids, but also from their dining neighbors.

  1. Make it FAST. Don’t try to be polite and offer a relaxed dining experience. Kids and especially babies are time-bombs waiting to go off. Feel free to take dinner orders right away with the drinks, keep it coming and by all means, get that bill out there fast. You’ll be able to fill your table again quickly and it will score you big points with the family and everyone else in the restaurant.
  2. Bring lots of napkins.
  3. When you are setting up the table, don’t sit all the babies or toddlers together at one end of the table. They must be mixed in with adults!
  4. Make sure babies have clean highchairs with functional seat belts. Or we will make you take them back and get us new ones and maybe even have to leave because there is no way our active curious kids are going to sit still and not try to climb out of the highchairs and we don’t want them falling on their heads or sucking some other kids dinner off of the arm rests.
  5. Don’t set glasses full of water or bowls of soup or hot things or anything else in front of babies or toddlers. They will pick them up and dump them out or throw them on the floor. Duh.
  6. Don’t bring the kids’ food early! So many waiters screw this one up. Sure, if it looks like the kids are starving you might want to check with the parents. But when the kids eat before the parents it means that, when the adults get their food, the kids will be done, whining, screaming and possibly running around the restaurant. Please, feed everyone at the same time.
  7. If there is an utter and complete melt-down, yes, we would like that to go! Bring doggy bags and the check and help us leave with a small shred of dignity.
  8. Tell the parents that the kids are good looking, smart and well-behaved. Unless they are acting like brats because then we’ll know your just sucking up.
  9. Offering to wash off a bottle, sippy-cup or pacifier will score you big points.
  10. Also, for bonus points, provide something for the kids to do. Even and especially if your restaurant does not normally offer crayons and a coloring book, you may want to have them handy. Some places even offer toys to play with. (Yea, parents should always bring these themselves, but sometimes we forget or assume something will be offered.)
  11. Ok, this isn’t the waiter’s fault, but I wish you would offer something green on the kids menu. Kids don’t only eat fries and fried, cheese covered crap. (Though those are favorites). What better time to bribe encourage kids to eat their veggies, than when a fancy restaurant dessert is coming.
  12. Please don’t offer dessert in front of the kids! Ask the parents first! Quietly. Discretely.
  13. You don’t have to seat us off in the back corner or in an empty room. Kids like to be where the action is and if there is a lot of noise and a lot to look at the kids will be happier.

Ok, that is what I have. Any parents or waiters have other pet peeves or helpful restaurant suggestions?

8 comments October 8th, 2007

Dingell Carbon Tax — Is it for Real?

We have a new submission in Carla Wise’s Fun Facts on Global Warming column. She tries to figure out why John Dingell, the staunchly pro-auto industry congress man from Michigan, has suddenly decided to endorse a carbon tax. Is it smoke and mirrors? You decide:

Is John Dingell for real? Floating a carbon tax

September 27th, 2007

More Toy Recalls — Buy Fewer Toys, Buy Natural Toys

Hoo boy. More toy recalls. I really don’t buy into the hysteria and I think there is probably too much emphasis on a few bad toys right now. Generally I’m glad to live in a time where we have monitoring and product recalls.

But the real issue is this — there is a constant market for the newest, cheapest, character branded trinkets. So companies just keep churning out new plastic crap that has an unnecessary environmental impact all the way from production through transportation and finally to its disposal.

The real solution isn’t to more closely monitor China. Really we make better toys that last longer. We don’t need to come up with a new line of toys every few months. Concentrate on making a few simple toys.

And that all comes down to us. Buy the good stuff. By less…

(Here’s our list of the top toys that our kids enjoyed as toddlers and babies. We focus on the best toys that last a long time. Some are plastic and there is a place for plastic. But only when it is not used for some disposable crap that is just going straight to the landfill.)

September 27th, 2007

unearthed, my first solo art show

unearthed, art pottery exhibition, marc grobman at jennifer joyce galleryYou’ve got to come check out my first solo art show! I’ve been doing ceramics for a couple of years now and I guess people have been diggin’ it, so Jennifer Joyce offered me a show at her gallery!

Working in clay has been so satisfying — plunging my fingers into something substantial, away from the computer, in real life. And being able to create things that just ooze out of my brain. No flow charts, no code, no organization, no usability testing.

So, with complete disregard for utility or what anyone else thinks, I’ve somehow been making some nice pieces that people like. I don’t want to whine… I’m not quite satisfied with the work I’m producing. I feel like I’m just now starting to control the clay more than it controls me. But I’m pleased with enough that I’ll be able to fill a small room with some interesting stuff I’ve made.

Anyway, the show is called ‘unearthed’ and you can check out a few pieces of pottery at www.quixo.com/unearthed. You can give each piece a little spin with the fancy interactive-online-art-spinning-widget. And I hope you’ll join me at the opening Saturday, October 13, 5-8pm.

I try not to analyze it too much, but I like to think of it as punk pottery, all spiky and pock-marked. But, you know, not the punk rock of pure oblivion, destruction and fury, but more the throw out the rules, start over from scratch, anti-pop punk. And I’m sure you can see the other influences banging around in my head too. It is abstract but with enough direct connection to the natural world that the forms are sensual, grotesque and maybe a little humorous. The kind of thing you might find in the forest or under a microscope or possibly just after a meteorite has made landfall delivering artifacts from a lost or future civilization. Or whatever. I’m just making this stuff up. Come on out and you can take from it what you like…

Oh, and the art will surely be upstaged by the yummy munchables crafted by Stacy TenHouten who is firing up her new business, Butterlove Bakery.

2 comments September 19th, 2007

Eve Zeisel Los Angeles Exhibit Reminder

Just a little reminder that the Eva Zeisel exhibit at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum is starting September 9 and running through the end of the year. There is more on Eva Zeisel and the Los Angeles exhibit here in my previous post.

We just returned from the opening and this exhibition is set up differently from the San Diego show. In San Diego the work was grouped thematically, but here Zeisel’s work is laid out chronologically. This made for a great tour led by Pat Moore, my step-mom and the founder of the Eva Zeisel Forum. I had heard all the stories before but never all at once, in order and with examples laid out so beautifully. While I’ve long appreciated the work, Zeisel’s biography really hit home tonight. Highlights of the tour include hearing her history including traditional apprenticeship in Hungary, imprisonment by Stalin and a conscious move against the coldness of Bauhaus and modernism. Gonna have to break out some of her books (listed here). Anyways, check it out before the end of the year. (and the circus exhibit, also now showing, is great fun!)

5 comments September 8th, 2007

Beautiful Orb Spiders Coming Out for Fall in Los Angeles

The crows aren’t the only ones coming out for fall in Los Angeles. Huge, beautiful (creepy?) orb spiders have come back. Every evening in a couple of choice locations around the yard, about 15 feet in the air, they start weaving. Before bed I can usually spot a couple not far from where they were the night before. These orb spiders have huge bulbous bodies and, unlike the many jumping spiders, cobweb spiders, house spiders and other crawly friends around here, these guys make big old classic webs. They shoot out long strands between the trees and the eves of our house and then make the circuit, around and around, filling them in for a couple hours. And it looks like they capture big old moths. I hope so, for all that work. Frequently they are still hanging there in the morning with their webs slightly broken, and they seem to hide out during the day.

Lots of good info and photos can be found at the Natural History Museum’s Spider Survey page. You can even participate by dunking your spiders into alcohol, filling out a form and sending them to the museum. (I prefer to leave them in my yard). And we love this book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin for all of our figuring-out-what-bug-this-is needs, also written by folks at the Natural History Museum.

September 5th, 2007

Fun Facts about Fun Facts

Who doesn’t like fun facts? They are… well… fun. And factual. And for some reason they are popular.

Here on Quixo, we have of course, completely exploited them. We have Fun Facts About Spain, Fun Facts About Peru and even a tongue-in-cheek Fun Facts About Global Warming.

Early on we noticed that “fun facts” is a frequently searched phrase. But it has very little competition. There is a good reason for that. People searching for “fun facts” are not getting ready to spend money. So they aren’t worth anything to web publishers. They don’t generate ad clicks and they sure don’t sell product. But they are kinda like Top 10 lists — they are enticing to read and for some reason, even though they are always cheesy, people search for them.

Here is a Fun Fact about Fun Facts. They are absolutely tied to the school year. Check out this Fun Facts graph from Google Trends. I haven’t done any scientific research on this (yet) but I’m guessing kids need fun facts for reports. And teachers need fun facts for their lesson plans. And look, ‘animals’ and ‘geography’ follow the same pattern. Ooh, and check out the similar search trends for cliff notes, book report and bullies.

And here is another Fun Fact: Fun Facts do not pay off for webmasters. Before all you web content providers rush out to exploit this popular phrase, note that you won’t make any money off of it. Both the students and the teachers are searching, probably at the last minute for a class the next day. They aren’t about to spend money. They aren’t even gonna buy books because they don’t have time to get them delivered.

And one more Fun Fact about Fun Facts search trends. “Trivia” is much more popular than “Fun Facts.” And trivia and fun facts seem to trend inversely. I guess people are really into trivia during the holidays and slightly more into to it over the summer. And it must be more lucrative than fun facts — there is a lot of ad competition for that phrase in internet advertising programs like Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing. I bet websites sell all kinds of books and games related to trivia.

So get ready for the Fun Facts season, here it comes. And remember, here at Quixo, when we offer you Fun Facts (and Top 10 lists), we know we are completely pandering. And we also know we won’t make a dime off them.

August 29th, 2007

Crafty Goods for Kids

I’ve fallen in love with a website for hand-crafted kid stuff. Well it is more like a crush, I’ve only known about the site for a few days, but I just dig the whole hand-crafted movement, the beautiful design of the site and the idea of one-of-a-kind toys that are not plastic and were not made in China.

Mahar Dry Goods is a Santa Monica based web store with clothes, toys and other paraphernalia for kids. The site and brand are reminiscent something by retro comic hero Chris Ware. It is a wonderful world to visit where you can buy hand made objects or just check out the blog for the latest on hand crafted toy food or inspiring crafty art.

A couple of weeks ago I posted a bunch of the best toys that were our favorites when my kids were small. It was a few years ago that we struggled in our search for more obscure and natural toys. I even designed a bunch of odd custom stuffed toys for babies and almost even finished sewing one (hey, twin babies are a little time consuming). And now it seems like there are tons of crafts people making brilliant original toys. (We also used to, by the way, search long and hard for cool, interesting or punk toddler clothes, and now you can’t open a trendy magazine without getting them crammed down your throat — hello, it is not cute any more. And toddlers shouldn’t have ‘juicy’ on their butts.) Anyway…
What I really enjoy about Mahar Dry Goods is that there seems to be a movement of people creating craft that is art and is still new and modern and is anything but mass produced. And the latest internet mumbo jumbo makes it possible for online communities to develop and share these very low-tech pleasures. It helps me understand a little better my appreciation and enjoyment of pottery. We are hooked into and inspired by this digital world, but there is still a place for tangible objects that are made from the earth and show the imprint of the person who made them.

1 comment August 26th, 2007

The Crows are Back

Well they’re back, whoopin’ it up at dusk in huge numbers in the local trees. I refuse to believe summer is over, but the flocks of crows that like to party around here have started their antics. Last month it was a very very loud mocking bird making some kind mating call through the warm summer nights. Now it looks like the crows are getting together for some nice fall roosting.

For a few years I had wondered about the raucous crow festivities here in LA, so in January I asked asked Kimball L. Garrett of the Natural History Museum a few questions about crows in Los Angeles. He has some insights into crow behavior and some perspective on why they seem to take over urban areas. Basically, we’ve replaced the native scrub habitat with crow-friendly trees. And we don’t shoot them like farmers do (it is against the law, so don’t try). Read the article to learn more.

And I’m sure we’ll hear more complaints about the flocking crows this year. I’m still betting that someone here in Santa Monica will come up with a bazillion dollar crow birth control program. So stay tuned for that….

August 26th, 2007

Peru Earthquake Relief: How to Help

The folks here at Quixo have been busy communicating with friends in Peru about the devastating 8.0 earthquake that hit last Wednesday.  We’ll be posting some more travel information soon, but in the meantime, please help any way you can.  Donations to any organization with folks already on the ground there can make a difference.  These include the Red Cross, the Embassy of Peru, and many others, including many religious organizations.

(Our friends at the Peru Food blog have some moving pictures and more earthquake news.)

More very soon -CC

August 23rd, 2007

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