Saturday, October 24, 2009

Fraudulent Charges... Again

A couple months ago while doing my routine Saturday morning bill paying, I stumbled upon a charge to my debit card I didn't recognize. A couple hundred bucks charged at a motorcycle and moped store in Belgium. Figured pretty quick it wasn't me.

I called it in to my bank (SunTrust), and the automated voice instructed me to send a letter to them outlining the details and they would look into it. Within a few weeks the charge was reversed.

This morning it happened again. Same place, this time for $305.55, on a different SunTrust account (my business credit card). This time when I called and was instructed to write a letter, I pressed zero and spoke to a live person.

"No. I will not write a letter. I didn't do anything here- you were the ones that either let my data get hijacked, or processed a fraudulent charge for some other reason. YOU write ME a letter and fix it."

They said ok- they would send me a letter that I could sign and return and would take the charge off. Stupid bank.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Eighth Annual Leipers Fork Chili Cook-Off

A couple Saturday's ago I was mowing the yard in the early afternoon and I smelled what I thought was the annual Leiper's Fork Chili Cook-Off wafting through the air from nearby "downtown." I was mistaken. It was just the wild onions in my yard.

I thought for sure I missed it this year, just like last. Although, truth is, we didn’t really miss it last year. We showed up late, all six of us, and most of the chili was gone. And even if it wasn’t, we had forgot to bring cash to the cash-only event.

My disappointment was fueled further when a friend mentioned a couple days later that the cook-off had happened already. Turned out it didn't. While we did miss the Heritage Day event on Oct. 3rd, the Cook-Off wasn’t until Oct. 17th. And that day is today.

It was a perfect day for a chili cook off- 45 degrees, cloudy, with a stiff wind blowing and rain barely held back. The place was packed, with far more people then I recall seeing the last few years.

I paid my $5.00 (I was all by myself- Michelle was taking L, A and R to make-up piano lessons, and K had no desire to go), grabbed my spoon and voting ticket (to be dropped off in a numbered bin representing my vote for "people's choice" award), and hit the circuit.

Here's my booth-by-booth rundown of the contest:

Booth #1: One of my favorite Puckett's staff members and his wife-to-be were sitting under a canopy of white with wedding bell decorations. They're getting married NEXT weekend and were competing for the $1,000 grand prize to help with expenses. Their chili was very traditional, very meaty, with a moderate amount of spice.

Booth #2: These guys win the award for best staging. They were decked out in cowboy attire, and even had a "set" framing their spicy offering. The best part of the chili was the huge pieces of jalapeño peppers. Other than that bit of solid food, the rest was too soupy for me, and even reminded me and my tasting neighbor of minestrone.

Gotta love it when someone uses a 2" by 4" to stir the chili.

Booth #3: Wow. If Booth #2 got the prize for staging, booth #3 wins my vote for performance. A trio of folks decked out in wacky clothes and spooning out "Pork in the Fork" chili. It was solid, chunky, but not spicy enough for me.

Booth #4: Definitely unique- a traditional chili base, loaded with organic ground beef and full of tomato tastiness and a secret ingredient- locally roasted ground coffee beans. They offered it in mild and spicy, and I tried both. Hands-down my favorite chili of the day easily winning my vote for "People's Choice."

Booth #5: With a banner proclaiming "Cajun Salsa Chili" I was prepared for a spicy feast. I was half right. Incredibly spicy and demanding some quick hydration (made possible by the bottles of water they were selling), it almost had my vote. The down side for me was too much salsa-taste, and too little meat.

Booth #6: Owls Hill Nature Center offered a surprisingly (and sort of disturbingly) sweet chili. The best way I could describe it would be "desert chili," if of course such a thing existed.

Booth #7: These super nice and enthusiastic people ladled up some very veggie chili. There might have been meat in there somewhere, but I either didn’t luck into some in my tiny cup, or it was ground into minute pieces.

Booth #8: Two very nice ladies were offering very traditional tasting chili with a bit of various peppers thrown in. Good, solid, everyday chili... but it didn’t light me up.

Booth #9: Well... this one threw me for a loop. I got my little cup of "chili" and downed it in one gulp. And I almost spewed it out all over the people standing around me, many looking like they were about to do the same thing. Turned out it wasn’t chili at all. It was salsa. The sign that said "salsa" and "chips," should have clued me in.

Booth #10: No show.

Booth #11: Soups on! Great people that seemed to really be having fun talking it up with everyone, but the chili was a bit too much like beef and vegetable soup for me.

Booth #12: Touting themselves as "Cheeseheads" from Wisconsin, I got my little cup with what I thought were stringy pieces of cheese (wouldn’t you with the banner they had?). Turned out to be spaghetti. I'm a big fan of Chili ON spaghetti, not spaghetti IN my chili.

Booth #13: Another salsa booth. I learned my lesson from booth #9 and didn’t chug it or use my spoon. Took a few chips, dipped away, and LOVED IT. Darkish salsa, moderately spicy with a roasted tomato flavor. Well done.

You can spot the music-themed booth. The lady on the left spotted my old Gotee Records sweatshirt and asked if I knew Todd Collins (former A&R gent from the label). Yes I do.

And finally, Booth #14: These were great folks taking the time to pose for a photo. Their sign said it all- stove top chili. And it tasted just like mom used to make. Mmmm.

Here's a few more random photographs from today's festivities:

And my favorite picture of the day... the classic "Cowboy on a Cell Phone" shot.

That's it. Hope you enjoyed the run-down. Until next year!