Thursday, January 29, 2009

Orla Kiely for Target: Oh YES WE CAN!

Just when I thought life could not get one smidge better: A line of housewares designed by Orla Kiely is coming to Target on February 1. That's Sunday. Get up early, or blow off church (they'll forgive you) and get over there, because very little of it will be available online--you'll be at the mercy of your local Target and its vicissitudes. If your Target is in an area with a high-density of design freaks, pickings might be slim. You know how it is when they have a limited-edition designer range. Some pieces of it go gangbusters, like those elusive John Derian melamine trays, and get talked about and talked about in blogs and higher-end magazines. Those pieces don't stay in stores long, but they should be available right after the line debuts if you're on the ball about it. (Actually, I didn't think that Derian stuff was so stinkin' hot, but Orla Kiely is a whole 'nother thing.)

You might be saying, "What is an Orla Kiely?" Orla Kiely is an Irish designer who is best known for handbags and stationery with pretty, graphic prints. She makes clothing and other things too, but if you know me, you know I'm all about the purses. Her patterns are so appealing and modern, yet to me they also have a kind of 60's Pop-Art sensibility. So she's doing a line of kitchen stuff and organizing accessories for Target. This is kind of a big deal because in the U.S. her stuff isn't just everywhere. You might have seen it in the Garnet Hill catalogue, but that's the only mass retailer I know of who carries any Orla Kiely. The rest is here and there in little boutiques, though Nordstrom has a few things. So she has some crazy devotees, kind of the way those Cath Kidston people are like a cult.

I am behind in my design-blog reading, or I would have known this was happening before today. Caught unawares, people! Here's the folks at Apartment Therapy freaking out about it, and here's Holly at Decor8 freaking out about it. And here's me freaking out about it: I was at Super Target today, pushing my man Hank around in the buggy, and on an endcap back near the throw pillows, I spied some pretty storage boxes. From across the store I knew it was something new and different. I am, like, straight out of that Malcom Gladwell Blink book when it comes to retail. Thinking without thinking, that is my way. But I thought it looked like more Dwell stuff. When I got close enough to see the label, I had a talking-out-loud-to-the-merchandise moment. I said, "Stop it. No way. Just STOP IT!" People were too polite to turn and look. And Hank is used to shopping with me--he knew Mama wasn't fussing at him.

I don't know why my store had a few things out early (the storage boxes), but it wasn't the stuff I really wanted. So here's what's coming (pics from Apartment Therapy). There are canisters (ooh, according to the NYT the canisters have wooden tops), trays, dishes, boxes, tablecloths, napkins, cork placemats, aprons, and more. Holly at Decor8 says it's all priced between $2.49 and $21.99.
What do you think? I saw the storage boxes today, and they weren't a must-get. That flower print is not that special. And the whole over-the-door organizer thing does not really work. But I see several tumblers, placemats, napkins, mugs, serving bowls, and plates that need to come to my house. My fever for melamine has been documented here before, and Mama needs more. Really anything with that pear print will be mine. Those pear seat cushions? They'll be cushioning my seat soon. My only Orla Kiely thing right now is this bag. Hi, precious.

The only problem is that Matt will most likely divorce me if I bring home any more coffee cups or dishes. So I have some tough choices to make.

Thanks for scrolling. I needed to tell someone. Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I'm Going to Rock Your World. With Foil.

Gather 'round, friends. I've learned something that I need to share, because I am a river to my people. You know how aluminum foil, and plastic wrap too, is kind of a pain in the butt, because when you pull the end of the foil you often pull the roll out of the box? And plastic wrap REALLY does this because it sticks to itself, and then when you're putting the roll back in the box you risk severing an artery on the crazily sharp cutting edge? Well, look at this.

See the little tab that says "Press here to lock end"? Well, go on, press there. Push in the tabs on both ends, and the roll of foil will stay in the box. You can turn the open box upside-down (I tried it) and the roll really DOES stay locked in. And my box of plastic wrap has the same tabs, the same magical tabs.

Why didn't I ever know about this? Is everyone doing this but me? Because I don't think so. As many commercials as I've seen extolling the mystical properties of various food wraps, they never mentioned this. So, consider that little problem solved. Now on to more pressing things, like watching Lost.

This has been my Works for Me Wednesday, "Where Has This Been All My Life" edition.

Updated to add: LATE BREAKING NEWS. Some folks in the comments report that not all store-brands have these tabs. Target heavy-duty foil and Publix foil are said not to. But my Target plastic wrap, the kind that says "Compare to Cling-Wrap," does. I wonder if the size of the box may matter too? More field research is needed--let's fan out across the country, y'all, and get an accurate food-wrap census.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A New Neighbor for Your Consideration

Here are all the salient facts that I can gather about Danica, a neighbor of mine who I've been meaning to bring to your attention. What finally told me it was time to blog about her is that last week (and all the time we've lived here), Danica had golden hair and a black car, and this week, she has black hair and a gold car. I saw that and thought, "Yes, it is time." As I've said before, it can be hard to contruct a coherent narrative about people we see intermittently, who aren't our close friends. This list represents my best attempt to get a fix on Danica. She lives with her husband and three kids in a ginormous place a few houses down from us. A little semi-private lane leads off from our cul-de-sac, and Danica and family are down there.

  • Danica has a gold and diamond ring that looks like the Confederate flag. Because of this, I think of her as The World's Oldest Living Confederate Widow. Though she isn't a widow and she's not old. She's not even Southern. She grew up in, like, Ohio.
  • Danica has the raspy voice of a longtime smoker. She's very trendy and is forever in the process of opening a boutique with a friend of hers, and telling me that I have to come to her trunk show. Speaking of trunk, she is prone to wearing things that have writing on the butt. She is petite, and prettyish.
  • Also speaking of trunk, Danica frequently tries to sell me things out of her car. Not drugs, usually clothes. The first time this happened, I was in the street watching the kids ride their bikes, and she careened to a stop next to me. Her van's side door opened and she hollered, "What size is Laura? I just got all this stuff on clearance at The Children's Place but none of it will fit my kids." Her van was JAMMED with clothes. So I thought, "Fun!" and gamely took a tunic top for Laura, giving Danica four dollars that I had in my pocket. Later I realized that Danica smokes all the time, and in her car too, and that everything that goes in that car smells like it. So that was the first and last thing I bought out of Danica's car.
  • Danica is a registered nurse at a children's hospital. She works only on the weekends, long shifts, while her real estate investor husband keeps the kids. So she is not dumb, but many of the things that come out of her mouth do not make sense. Like. . .
  • Danica told me, right in front of her then four year-old daughter, that her daughter "is terrified of black men, especially black cops, but really any black men. She has nightmares about them." I said, "Huh, I wonder where she gets that?" And Danica said, "I know!" Good grief. She will go on and on, saying the craziest, or nastiest, or most innapropriate things you can think of, barely letting you get a word in, while you think, "Are you on cocaine?" I am omitting many terrible or merely surprising things she has said to me, because it all starts to blur.
  • Danica is a party girl. She likes to go out with her girlfriends and get cray-zay. Matt and I once went to a party at Mindy's house, next door, and heard from the assembled company that Danica likes to make out with her girlfriends in bars "to get attention." Mindy is sort of in the same party orbit as Danica, and I often see Danica dropping Mindy off late at night.
  • When Mindy's husband died suddenly a few years ago, before we lived here, Danica practically adopted her and did everything for her. Mindy told me that she had never even written a check before, had never done anything for herself, and that Danica would come over and get her out of bed every day. It sounds like Danica basically kept her alive during that time.
  • Danica's oldest son, who is Laura's age, has Down Syndrome, and though he is a sweet kid, he is a handful. He likes to try to escape from their house. She spends a lot of time taking him to different therapies, and I have sometimes thought that a lot of her somewhat-abrasive personality could be because she is operating at the limit--the limit of what a mom can do. Or, I feel a lot of compassion for her, because of all that she's got on her plate. And now she has a one year-old. That said, her parenting method, with all her kids, is screaming. Sometimes mixed with yelling.
  • She drives though our neighborhood too fast. It scares me. You can hear her yelling before you see her car, and the car is long gone before the sound dies away.
That's Danica in all her complexity. So reader, how should I refer to her on this blog? Labels can be so handy--in fact, I now refer to Frenemy Neighbor, Conspiracy Guy, the Mystery People, Normal Neighbor, and Pretty Neighbor by those labels IN REAL LIFE. And of course, these titles remind you guys who these people are. World's Oldest Living Confederate Widow might be a little long. Maybe Juicy Neighbor? Raspy Neighbor? I need ideas. And moreover, what do we make of this person? She doesn't fit easily into any one category. And I do love to sort people. But you know that.

And I am piggybacking on Keely's Random Tuesdays, to try and justify the haphazard nature of these tidbits. Go check it out.


Sunday, January 25, 2009

What Did You Think of What They Wore?

I was riveted by the coverage of the Inaugural festivities on Tuesday, not only because it was an exciting, historic day and all, but because I wanted to see what Michele wore and what she put on her daughters. This may sound strange, but it was a rare chance to see someone wearing her big, important outfit for HOURS, in all different situations, and to judge how her choice held up over a long day, not just for one photo op or red-carpet moment. Watching the fashion parade on Tuesday fed two preoccupations of mine: what goes into producing the images we as the public see, and I mean not just images as in pictures, but image in the sense of a person's whole public persona, of which clothing is a HUGE part; and the hidden, "background" work that women do for their families. So, Michele and Malia and Sasha all turned out for Inauguration Day held a LOT of interest.

When I saw the yellow suit, I thought, "That's the right dress on the right woman." Sometimes there is just no doubt. And there seems to be almost unanimous approval of the yellow day outfit. Here's what a bunch of designers thought.

On TV all day, it was fun how the outfit kind of revealed itself. It took a while to see the details, like the lacy texture of the fabric, the cardigan, the chiffon bow, and the jeweled collar. The yellow dress looked beautiful in the morning light as they were going to church, and again in the sunset when they were walking down Pennsylvania Ave, but there were lots of moments in between when I thought, "She looks cold and her feet are killing her." I think the color was genius--you could pick her out of every crowd shot. And the styling of the dress and coat really continued Michele's way of picking less severe, buttoned-up looks. For example, I was struck by how many times during the campaign she picked a dress when a suit would have been the conventional choice. So chic! My only quibble with this ensemble is that a coat that closed up completely might have been better. Many times, you could see that she was trying to pull the coat closer or hold it against her. A coat that buttoned, like Jill Biden's, might have given her a look of more repose. And I think all the women of the world were sympathizing with her as she walked down the street in those Jimmy Choos. I wondered what time her day had started.

Now, the girls' Inauguration Day outfits were custom-made for them by J. Crew, which has been in a paroxysm of self-congratulation ever since, putting out press releases and publishing their sketches. And I must say, I think the dressy coats with sashes were a perfect choice. They look pretty and childlike, and the clothes are classic--they don't date to any particular time. It was really amazing that the same outfit looked age-appropriate on both of them. When I saw the girls, I thought, "Somebody spent hours getting them ready this morning." Even before you get to how carefully their hair was fixed, it takes a long time to get a 7 year-old into a dress, coat with sash, and matching tights, shoes, gloves, and scarf. I'm tired just typing that.

That WSJ article in the link above says that J. Crew made 15 ensembles, with about 6 pieces each, for the girls and Michele, and that they weren't gifts--that Michele will be billed for the clothes. I wonder what the total will be? Bespoke clothes made over Christmas in New York instead of Hong Kong by a special team. . . I'm thinking $20,000 at least, but that could be low. Actually, given that J. Crew's share price jumped 10% after their press release, I wonder whether Michele should bill them?

You see that, Gymboree? That's what happens when your every new line for girls has either a little doggy or a cupcake on it. The First Lady doesn't pick you to dress her daughters. And you're left with only those "Jon and Kate Plus 8" people. I tried to tell you. (I did try to tell them. I wrote them a note explaining that little girls aren't baked goods, and that their continuous metonymic linking of the two is getting old.) But that? That's a whole 'nother thing.

So, the ball gown. Hmmm. What did you think? I think Michele always looks terrific, but the dress didn't really do her justice. The waistline made no sense to me. I think that either a lower-waisted, longer bodice would have been good, or something crazy like an Empire waist. And the one-shoulder thing is huge right now, but meh. When Matt saw it, he said, "Is she wearing the Bjork dress?" I was just so proud of him for remembering the Bjork dress.

I know there's a tradition of white inaugural gowns, but I thought it was a little bridal. Another color, as long as it wasn't boring presidential red or blue, would have been more exciting. What about gold? Too "let-them-eat-cake?" It seems like other people are underwhelmed with the white gown, given that way, way more has been said in praise of the yellow suit.

Here's what a bunch of designers thought about the white dress.

In this slideshow of "private" moments on Inauguration Day, we get this picture of Michele between parties.

Very sweet picture, right? But again, I'm thinking, why doesn't she have a coat? In the slideshow of white inaugural gowns, we see that Jackie Kennedy had a cape that went with her dress. I think some kind of wrap would have been more comfortable, and she would have looked more put-together.

And Barack looked good too. I'm sure we'll see that suit again, though, and I was a little too blinded by the blinding aura of power and competence, with all its blindingness, to really focus on his outfit too much. Except the white bowtie was balls. Pure balls. And Aretha needs to be taken bodily and put into the Smithsonian Institution. Her hat said, "It's party time," but the fact that it was the same fabric as her dress said, "I'm keepin' it real, y'all." Loved it.

What did y'all think?

Updated to add: Some of you commenters made the very astute point that, sure, maybe the white dress IS bridal, but what is wrong with that? I just heard Cathy Horyn in the New York Times say that the white ball gown "wasn't as sophisticated as the yellow outfit, but maybe it was an expression of Michele's fantasy." That rings true to me, and I think it's what you guys meant by saying, when else do you get to wear a big white dress? Horyn is a smart analyst of clothes. Here's the audio slideshow of her discussing the inaugural outfits.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sign(ed), Sealed, Delivered

Hey Homies. My brother Dave, whom I've introduced on this blog before, just put up a couple of stories from the Inauguration on his blog, Better Than Machines.

There he is with his sign, and here's his story of the crazy reaction the sign got. (That pic, which is awesome, was taken and tweeted by Twitter user Infernoenigma.)

And here's his "7 Things I Learned at the Inauguration." Go take a looky!

I am just jealous, because it seems like everyone in the world, including my mail lady, went to D.C. for this event but me. Seriously, Margaret, my mail lady, almost crashed her little jeep in my front yard to jump out and tell me she had tickets.

Stay tuned: later today I'll be discussing the Obamas' Inauguration Day outfits, and then tomorrow I've got a LOT to say about White House china. If you were riveted by the discussion of the commemorative bowl, then you won't want to miss it.

Stay warm, my friends!

Updated to add: the twitpic of that sign is getting a lot of attention on Digg:


Monday, January 19, 2009

Tiny Snow Things

We just this hour got back from a weekend at the mountain house in North Carolina, where it snowed enough to hold a person's interest all day long, especially if that person is a kid. Hank, I'm sure, doesn't remember last winter. This white stuff? Totally new.

This crew gets to play in the snow maybe once or twice a year. And our friends from Florida joined us, and those folks NEVER see snow, so OH BABY, it was a big deal. The chilluns started playing just after dawn, I kid you not.

There was also birdwatching. Look at these purple finches. Up close, they are kind of punk rock.

And Mom had the cute idea to make tiny snowmen instead of big. Much easier to do while sitting on the porch, and your hands don't get as cold. Hank was really into this.

I am getting into the Inaugural spirit here, and I'll post more soon. I hope you all had a cozy and warm weekend!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

How I Spend One Hundred Percent of My Time

Or that's what it feels like. You?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's a Knick-Knack, Patty Whack

The mainstream media is dropping the ball on this majorly important story, and you may have missed their fleeting mention of it, so I am bringing it to your attention to get your input. After he is sworn in as president on January 20, Barack Obama will have a "luncheon" with members of Congress, and they will give him an inauguration present. It will be this crystal bowl on a little pedestal.

Congress commissioned it from Lenox, Inc., the china company, who also did the inaugural gifts for the last several presidents. It took hundreds of hours to make, was handcut and etched, and weighs 8 pounds. According to the press release from Lenox (which all of the news reports just reproduced), "As the bowl is rotated, the president's residence can be seen through the cherry trees on each side." Well, golly! Apparently Joe Biden will get a similar bowl, but with a picture of the Capitol Building.

I didn't even know that Congress had a tradition of giving gifts to the newly sworn-in presidents. When I saw this bowl, I thought, "Um, really?" In the press release, Senator Dianne Feinstein says that the bowl "captures the beauty and dignity" of the inauguration. But when I look at it, my reaction--dare I say--is, "That's tacky." Something about the way his name and "The Presidential Inauguration" is etched right on there. . . to me it makes it less beautiful and more like a souvenir. A tchotchke. Like a shot glass or, ooh, one of those ceramic bells you can buy in truck stops.

Okay, okay! It's not a shot glass. I kid. It's not TOTALLY vulgar. But it is a tiny bit vulgar. The engraved pedestal makes a statement, and the statement is, "This object is for show, not to be pretty and useful. You'll want to use this for showing off." If they had etched the name and date onto the bowl somewhere, instead of having that extra piece, it would have been 100 times klassier. So it's for show, but unlike other beautiful objects that are "just for show," like a china plate on a mantelpiece, it never had a life as a useful object. It also has no history except what it announces, itself, with its engraving--it's designed to be an "instant heirloom." And its $2,500 pricetag does not justify its sad ostentation: it is showy--"here's a gift, we had your name put on it for you"--but it lacks either artistic importance OR real beauty. The bowl is touted as one-of-a-kind, but it doesn't seem like that. It's safe, it's boring, it would be better as a snow globe. Or is my reaction weird? I know that the issue of taste is a minefield. What do you think?

I am just picturing Michelle's reaction when Barack brings it home and hands it to her. Like, "What am I going to do with this?" So Michelle, not that you need help in this area, but here are a couple of ways that this gift can be used tastefully, in my opinion: First of all, lose the pedestal. Like, put it in a drawer where no one can see it. Now, either put the bowl on a hall table as a cellphone-and-keys receptacle, or put it in a guest bathroom filled with little toiletry products. That would be witty and appropriate. Any other ideas? And Michelle, I would love to chat about that or anything, so call me, girlfriend. I mean, Madam First Lady.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Tiny Bit Glamorous

I've been meaning to tell a little about the trip I took to San Francisco right before New Year's. It was a great time. If you have kids, you know how important it is to get away from them once in a while, and this trip turned out to be the perfect parenting intermission. I went out there to go to an academic conference and to interview for a job (more on that below). All of that was fine, but I really loved the chance to be with friends and bustle around in the city. There is nothing like gorgeous weather and a good hotel in San Francisco to make you suspect that you are secretly a Queen of the World. (You probably are.)

So, here's Where I Went and What I Drank There:

1) You may recall my tale of how I wound up in first class on the way to California. It was everything I ever dreamed, in the sense that it did not suck like economy class. After I settled into my huge seat, the nice lady brought me a very robust gin-and-tonic. Then, THEN, there were warm nuts. Like, a little ramekin of mixed nuts that had been magically heated.

Yum. So that's what's going on up there in first class, besides the free booze. Warm nuts, y'all.

2) My dear friend Erika and I roomed together at the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill. When I checked in, the clerk told me that we'd scored an upgrade on our room. It was my day for upgrades. Lucky duck!

A total dump, right? Yeah, it was beautiful. It's the kind of place I could never stay in without special conference rates.That brick-looking facade on the left is a huge gingerbread archway, which made the lobby smell wonderful. It would be so great to take the kids to a good, big city hotel at Christmas sometime, I thought. Here was the view from our floor.

Turns out the UN charter was written here, and Orson Welles ran into William Randolph Hearst in a elevator after making Citizen Kane (awkward!), and all the presidents have stayed here, and several cocktails were imbibed by me here. Off the lobby there was a very pretty tea room/bar where they made a delicious pomegranite and cucumber mojito. I didn't think those things went together, but now I'm a believer.
Totally worth the $12. I think I wound up in this bar three separate times. But it's all in the name of professionalization, right?

3) My interview was in a corner suite at the Fairmont. The search committee's view was truly jaw-dropping. They could see Alcatraz, Coit Tower, and the bay bridge. (I didn't think it would be appropriate to pull out my camera and take pictures though.) So it went fine, but not a slam-dunk. There were three interviewers, and they were very nice and said some complimentary things about my work, and asked a lot of questions. I think I said everything I wanted to say, but I didn't sound all that sharp to myself. Still haven't heard anything from them about the next phase, which is probably not good news at this point. But as my advisor keeps telling me, it was really good to get a conference interview at this stage in my work. Definitely a good learning experience, and I'm at peace about it. A successful first go-round on the market. And I looked cute, which is of course what really counts. I wore a tan suit from Banana Republic with a top that looks like this, only it was silk instead of poplin. (That is not me in the picture. It is a poor headless model.)

What I drank: Ice water, which was free. And when we were saying goodbye, one of the professors said, "Thanks for walking up the hill." And I said, "I'm on the 21st floor, so I just had to come down the shaft." Then I thought, "That sounded dirty." Whatever, y'all! I threw a handful of warm nuts at them and fled.

4) One night I went out with David, Michael, Veronica, and her fiancé Patrick. They took me to Ti Couz, a Breton crêperie in the Mission. Fun and delicious. Leave it to San Francisco to have not just French restaurants, but an authentically Breton one.

And there they had a cocktail which I think was just called the "Ti Couz," which had I-know-not-what inside of it, except I do remember a lot of berries. Veronica should be able to tell us, because she had two. I also can't remember what that set me back, except it was less than $12. I only had one drink because I was saving all my love for the banana and nutella dessert crêpe.

5) Then late that same night, we went up to the Top of the Mark, the top floor of the Mark Hopkins hotel, which is next to the Fairmont. It's kind of a San Francisco institution, I guess. It was too dark to take pictures of our party, but here are some more glamorous and better-hatted people from different eras.

I love the kind of tourism that consists of sitting in a beautiful location and talking with good friends. As my sister-in-law Kate says, you feel like you're doing something even if you're just lounging and holding a drink. I had a Hendrix gin martini with cucumber. It was $12, which seems to be the going rate. And because I know you want every detail, I wore this silk top, in emerald green, with a little black jacket.

I looked better, because I had a head. (A lot of my weekend wardrobe wound up being Banana Republic, because of some last-minute stress shopping coupled with after-Christmas sales.) Also, I wore kind of a lot of eyeliner. Dramatic eyeliner, not whorish eyeliner. Here's hoping.

So I also went to some great panels and learned stuff. You know how it goes. But mainly it was just a great time to see friends I love, and to feel renewed by a beautiful city. By my last morning there, I could feel that the invisible rubber band that joins me to my house and family had stretched to its maximum, and I was ready to snap back into place. But boy, I loved being there. Attention fellow moms! You've got to get away by yourself, even if just for a night. Go stay with a friend. Anything. If you know me, you know I preach this all the time.

In other news, Matt's LASIK went well, he's convalescing, it will not stop raining, and we're watching North By Northwest on PBS. I hope y'all having a great weekend. Here's to lots of warm nuts for everyone.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Corn on the Cob Through a Picket Fence

Maybe your kids aren't costing you enough money. If so, I recommend sitting down with your child's dentist for an orthodontic consult. I did this yesterday, and he said that Laura has a crossbite, and needs a palate expander to widen her upper jaw. When she closes her teeth, it's like trying to put a tupperware lid on a bowl that it's too small for--you can get one side closed but not the other. So her teeth overlap and her jaw moves to the side.

I didn't have to be convinced that she has a crossbite. You can see it in pictures of her. Look at how one of her front teeth is behind the lower teeth--her bite is wonky. Now that I look at this, it seems like her chin juts a little to the side.

She is not yet 8, so there is plenty of time to expand her upper jaw using a palate expander, which the dentist called an RPE, or rapid palatal expander. It's a little appliance that goes up in the roof of her mouth, attached to her teeth, that we turn with a key every day. This goes on for 6 months or so and costs $1500. I questioned him thoroughly about it, and he doesn't think she will need any braces at this point--just that the crossbite needs to be fixed to prevent future tooth and jaw problems. It seemed to me like a moderate approach. That said, I don't really want to change this beautiful face, and I hope the palate expander won't make her face look different. Has anyone been down this road?

So we are lucky enough to have some orthodontic coverage as part of our dental insurance, but it's a lifetime max of $1000. I think that's pretty standard. Here's where the whole insurance game gets tricky. Dentist guy said that if he bills them the $1500 for the palate expander and all the appointments that come with it, they will pay $750, leaving us to pay the other $750 out of pocket. But if he bills them $3000 for "Phase I Treatment," which includes the palate expander and any braces that came right afterwards, he could "capture" the whole $1000, leaving us to pay just $500 out of pocket. The HMO doesn't care how much he bills, 'cause they're only in for the first $1000. I was like, um, why don't we do that then? That is some serious strategery.

And strategery is what is needed in dealing with these health insurance people. I won't name names, but their initials are Humana. They're all very nice, or at least the people you actually talk to are, but I think the actual business operations must be handled by insane weasels. I am locked in a life and death struggle with them right now over a flexible spending account reimbursment. You know, flexible spending accounts? Where you give them YOUR money before taxes, and then ask for some back to pay for medical or dental expenses? Only they aren't happy with the documentation you give them, because they think that maybe that check you wrote at the dentist wasn't used to pay for dental services? And I'm like, "What other kind of service could there be at the dentist? A mani-pedi?" But don't get me started. And no worries, I will prevail.

So that is the news from our checking account. And Matt is getting LASIK tomorrow morning--on both eyes no less. Hey big spender! So I am reliving my childhood, in which both of my siblings got expensive orthodontia and I didn't need it, for which I still think my parents owe me $5000. It's only fair, RIGHT? And I'm being penalized for having perfect vision too! I think I need a new diamond ring, because WHERE IS MY EXPENSIVE THING THAT'S CUT WITH LASERS??

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Date Yourself

Today at Finslippy, Alice did a "Here's how old I am. . ." post, and the first item on her list is: "I remember when Banana Republic sold nothing but faux-safari clothing."

That hit me right in the gut. I remember that too, and I loved nothing more than those white t-shirts with the engraving-style illustrations of animals on the back. There was no Banana Republic store in Pensacola (STILL isn't), but when Dad had to go over to New Orleans for work or something, I would beg for a t-shirt from the store down at the bottom of Canal Street. I would love to have some of those today. And remember how the BR catalogs were like little faux-safari journals? I thought that was cool. It was a simple life.

So not only am I that old, I am so old that I used some of the first money I ever earned (by sitting in a cornfield selling corn, but that is a whole 'nother story) to buy the Footloose soundtrack. On vinyl. On that shopping trip I also bought a big pink hobo purse that was made of sweatshirt material and mesh.

I remember the beginning of MTV.

I actually took an electric typewriter to college. TO COLLEGE. It was pretty snazzy because it had a little memory buffer that could remember one line of text and let you edit it. Sadly, it got stolen my first semester because I trustingly left it in the study room. (Like I trustingly left my boombox, pea coat, and rainboots in the study room with the same result.)

I remember going to see E.T. in the theatre, and I remember what I wore. I was like nine, but this is who I am. (Navy polo shirt, khaki shorts, and a skinny red belt.)

I once thought Jeremy Irons was hot. (Dead Ringers, anyone? Who's with me? Guys?)

Okay, let's see what you got, Old Timer.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

In Which We Get Locked Out, Are Doofuses

We were up at the mountain house from New Year's Day to tonight, just the four of us. It was a good, quiet getaway, even though the weather was chilly and gray. Friday, after we ate supper, we decided to go out for a nighttime walk. Matt had gotten the kids some LED flashlights to play with, and we bundled up and set out in the dark. It's all just dirt roads around the house, and there aren't many people up there. We had a glowstick we were throwing around, and the flashlights made spooky effects in the fog. It was fun. We walked up to the old tractor and ran up and down hills until Hank was tired and ready to go home. Laura was the first one back to the house. When she called out that the front door was locked, I felt a sinking sensation. I just knew that all of the FOUR other doors would be locked too. And they were.

So, on the outside of the house: the four of us, the dog, and our unlocked van. Inside the house: our keys and our phones. It was 35 degrees. We were all wearing good jackets, with a couple of hats and pairs of gloves between us--and we were warm from walking so the temperature didn't seem like an immediate problem. Matt and I walked around the house. It is not the kind of house where you can wiggle a window up--this place is new and tight as a drum. Some of the doors were deadbolted, some were only locked at the doorhandle, some were locked both ways. We had left all the lights on, and there was an open bag of tortilla chips sitting on the table. I thought, "Dang, those are going stale."

The problem is that there are just no close neighbors to go to. What houses there are are vacation places, most of them, and I don't know the whole mountain well enough to know who is a year-round resident. I thought I had heard sounds coming from down the hill earlier in the day, so I left Matt and the kids trying the windows, and I started off down the road with the dog trotting along. (Later I heard Laura telling this story, she said, "Mom ran into the forest for help." I love that, like it's a fairy tale.) The two closest houses were dark, but then I rounded a corner and saw a house all lit up. This is a place we've often walked by, and I had never, ever seen anyone there. I knocked on the door, and these people let me in. They were there as renters for the week--it was grandparents, parents, and little kids--and they let me use their phone while the kids fed pieces of steak to the dog. I got Dad on the phone in Pensacola. I thought maybe he could get his builder, a local guy who has a key, to come let us in, but he couldn't reach him. When I told him we were locked out, one of the first things out of his mouth was, "It would be very expensive to break a window." Silly Dad! We weren't going to break a window--I wanted to break the pane of glass on the door by the hot tub. Break a window--what an idea! Ho ho. I admit that I am so clueless that I hadn't even thought of a locksmith. Good thing I called, right?

So I used the yellow pages and called Jackie's Locksmithing, and Jackie picked up the phone. Another lucky stroke. I gave Jackie very detailed directions to the house, and my new best friends gave me a ride back up the hill. Matt and the kids were hanging out in the minivan. Half an hour later Jackie arrived with her husband, also named Jackie. They looked alike, too. They got to work with their little picks, each on a different door. And damned if I didn't think they weren't going to be able to get in. It took a long time. Not like in the movies. At one point Mrs. Jackie broke her pick off in the deadbolt and had to use a super-big magnet to get it out. It was starting to feel colder. And they worked and worked. I was back to considering what other options we had besides getting into the house, but I figured that having taken on the job, the Jackies wouldn't give up easily. Finally Mrs. Jackie got the deadbolt to turn slightly, and used Mr. Jackie's pocket knife to open it the rest of the way. Whew!

All that time the Jackies were working, I thought, "Hmm, the meter is surely running on this--I wonder what this will cost?" Not that it wouldn't be worth it, of course. So after we were in I asked Mrs. Jackie if she took plastic (she did), and she said, "If you don't mind, that will be fifty dollars." Fifty dollars! I thought it would be two hundred at least. I was looking around for a bottle of booze to give them. Anything. Later I told Matt that if emergency locksmithing is that cheap, then I'm just not going to even carry keys anymore. He didn't really think that was funny.

So it could have been way worse. We could have gotten locked out without warm clothes on. Or the house down the hill could have been empty. Or the Jackies could have been unavailable or unwilling. Or, horrors, we could have been locked out while we were hot tubbing. (Then we would have broken a window for sure.) And this isn't the first post I had planned to write after a week away from blogging. (Hey internets! I missed you so much and I hate it when we're apart! Let's never do that again!) Tomorrow I'll update about my trip to San Francisco. But I am still slapping my forehead and saying "Doh!" every time I think of us standing outside with our noses pressed to the glass. Have you ever done something like that? I mean, I have never even locked my keys in my car, and here we were standing in the cold, dark wilderness with little kids outside and open Tostitos inside. Think of the Tostitos!

So that's what we've been up to. I hope you guys had a lovely New Year's week!