Mustang Sally

20160204_222721We had expected cars to be expensive to rent while we were in California after we discovered we’d be there over the Super Bowl weekend.  We were pleasantly surprised that the prices were not jacked up. We were doubly surprised when we found a convertible for the same price as a standard/smallish regular car. The weather for the weekend was expected to be in the mid 70s, so we thought we might as well enjoy a bit of convertible weather in February!

The reservation said “Mustang Convertible or Similar” which we were looking forward to just for the fun of it. When we got to the rental counter, the young woman put on the full court press.

“Do you want to prepay your gas”  “No.”

“Are you sure? It can save you money.”  “I’m sure.”

“Do you want the insurance for the car.”  “No, our company has insurance that covers it.”

“Are you sure? Even for a convertible?”  “Yes, and even for a convertible.”

“Well, if you are sure they would cover you.”  “I am.”

“Ok. Oh, look, for only $20 per day, I can upgrade your Mustang to a Camaro.”

“Nope, that is fine, just what we planned for.”

“Are you sure?  It’s a pretty nice car.” “No, the Mustang will be fine.”

So, having failed at all her up-selling efforts, she sends us to the lot to pick up our car. We tell the attendant we are looking for the Mustang Convertible and show him our paperwork. He says they sent the last Mustang off an hour before, all they have is the Camaro Convertible.

Yes, we were already scheduled for the Camaro that the car rental counter person was trying to get us to pay extra for as an upgrade.

No, that doesn’t seem scammy at all.





Java Jive

A friend of mine on Facebook bemoaned his fate during the recent blizzard. He, a veteran of many long, snowy winters had been confident that he was prepped and ready to go before the recent Jonas super storm, even mocking others who were less experienced with snow than he. Then, he discovered on the first day of the deep snow that he had very little coffee in the house.

This would not happen to me.  I always have a spare package.  Often one open package, one spare of beans and a second back up package. Of course some I have decaf to brew which offers taste if not substance. Finally, if some horrible thing happened and I was trapped in my house for days, I have a big jar of instant in the back of the pantry, and maybe a jar of instant espresso that I have on hand for some recipe or another. I also have a jar of instant decaf that I use for late night cups mixed with cocoa (I have become wimpy about drinking regular coffee late at night). Oh, and those little individual packets of Via or Taster’s Choice that I take with me when I’m traveling– those are around here too.

It would have to be a heck of a blizzard to leave me without coffee!

Well That’s Just Super!

This is the conversation Philip and I had last night.

Philip said, “I made our reservations to fly into Oakland on the 4th. Our event with Bob is on the 5th and we’ll stay the weekend and have our meetings and training sessions through the next week. See what hotel you can get close to Fremont.”

So  I clicked away and checked out our regular haunts.

“Looks like there is some big event going on, the hotels are either unavailable or really high priced that weekend.”

Then I googled “Super Bowl.” I knew it was going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, I just didn’t know it was that early in February.

Philip knew it was on the 7th, he just didn’t know it was in the Bay Area.

So, here is the ugly truth– we are sports illiterates.  We are not fans, we are not followers we didn’t watch the Royals in the World Series, but did follow the final games online. We didn’t watch the Chiefs in the play-offs, again catching the final score online. We are happy for both teams doing well this year. We are happy for our friends who follow every game, who watch the Royals in the burning heat or the Chiefs in freezing cold.

We are not those people.

But those people were driving up the cost of the hotel rooms we usually stay in when we are in California.

We spent almost 2 hours finding a hotel that was within driving distance to our event on Friday  and that cost less than a month’s mortgage. We’d  enter our dates, search for a hotel , find one that listed some reasonable price, click select and the next page would show that price for one night, a price 3 times as much for the following night, and a warning that rooms were paid immediately on reservation with no refund for changes.

Um, NO!

We finally used some (a bunch, actually) of Hilton points to offset the cost of one hotel and the on Saturday we’ll move to Windsor, north of the city. I haven’t got the rooms for the rest of the week yet, but we’ll figure it out. By then, the fans will have thinned out and the prices won’t be so hard to take.

And this way, I’ll be strolling the square in Healdsburg to taste some wine while the fans are cheering on their teams. And they and we will all be happy!

On the Road Again

We just got back from nearly a week in Texas.  It was 4 degrees when we left home and in the mid-50s when we got to Galveston.  Not sun bathe at the beach weather, but certainly warmer than home.

Not that we were heading to the beach anyway. This was a work week, so we spent most of our time in conference rooms, training centers, or working in hotel rooms.  That said, we try to have some fun on the road. But, we arrived on a Sunday, so we did take a bit of time.

I had googled “Wineries in Galveston” and found one nearby, in Santa Fe, TX.  We stopped at the Haak Winery  and tasted several of their wines.  When we are tasting several, we always share a tasting, both to save money and so we aren’t drinking too much.  We sat on their deck, which was possible because they had heaters, and enjoyed the sunny but chilly day. We bought a bottle of their White Madeira to take home, and walked around the vineyard a bit and drove on to our hotel.

Rooms were a bargain in Galveston, cheaper than nearer our client site, so we drove an extra few minutes in return for a view of the beach.  Originally we had a view of the back parking lot, but the sink in our room didn’t drain, so we were moved across the hall to a room with a patio/deck and yes, we could see water, if we looked across the Walmart parking lot and the road.  I’m not complaining, since I wasn’t expecting a view. And it wasn’t as if I was spending my time on the deck drinking margaritas!

We ate at a couple of local places.  It felt like the local prices were high (tourist town) so we also went to our fall back position for diet friendly,  fast and economical– Wendy’s salads. Oh, such connoisseurs are we!

When we finished with client work there, we drove for one last night in north Houston, and finally found what Philip had been wanting– Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen had cheap oysters on the half shell.  So he had a dozen oysters, I had a shrimp cocktail with 9 large shrimp and we each had a side salad and a glass of wine and we were very happy.

Client visits went well, had some different food, found a new Texas winery.  Working hard but taking time to smell the roses (you know, the ones planted at the end of the rows of grapes!) Great way to start the year!



Oh, and the Waffle Bar. . .

We had our annual brunch on January 1. The day was bright and sunny, and we had a good turnout– about 45 people, open house style, so they could come and go.  This year, they seemed to come early and stay a while which I love, because it makes for a high energy group– lots of mingling, talking and eating.

I generally gave people who are new the quick rundown of what is in which crock pot, where to find the coffee or the decaf or the iced tea, which pitcher has OJ and which has Mimosas, and, nearly every time as an after thought I heard myself saying “Oh, and the Waffle Bar is on the buffet.”

The menu was carb heavy, and other than the waffles, we lean toward savory as opposed to sweet. We did offer ham and shrimp and deviled eggs, and even a fruit tray and a veggie tray. I have eaten more from the left over veggie tray in the last two days than 45 people ate the day of the party. Philip laughs when I get the veggie trays, because he knows people don’t eat veggies at our brunch. Even so, I always have a veggie tray.

A lot of people say “Oh, I never eat waffles except at this party!” as they are adding the whipped cream. But that makes it a treat, and makes one more reason to have one last day of the holiday season where we eat our waffles instead of our vegetables.

Time for a Reboot

Zebra pattern rubber bootsLast year started with the best of intentions, but soon, I got distracted. I got a diagnosis in March that led to surgery and 6 weeks of recovery, and while they were confident they “got everything” and even though the lymph nodes were clear, they still recommended just a touch of chemo and radiation—I finished in September. While I was at it I had all the other tests too—mammography, colonoscopy, that weird mole looked at—you know the drill– and all of those tests came back fine. Truth is, I have a lot to be thankful for from 2015.

Once I went back to work after surgery, even though I didn’t miss more work unless I was having a procedure, I didn’t always have the energy to do things I normally would. I didn’t travel for work very much. I didn’t go out as often. I suddenly was watching a lot more tv than I ever had before. I was low energy.

But I’m feeling much better now!

I’m looking forward to 2016. While I have quarterly physical exams for the foreseeable future, the doctors tell me the stats are that I have a 5-10 percent chance of a recurrence, which sounds pretty low to me. I’m getting my energy back, and ready to start 2016, which looks to be a good year for Philip and me. I have a lot of things that I want to get done this year, so I’m brushing off some of my organization skills and planning how to make up for lost time. I’m really excited to be getting stronger, getting my hair back and getting on with things.

I am hoping that I can build up some momentum this year. The business is poised to grow, I’m in the mood to do more “things” and frankly, I’m feeling optimistic and healthier than I have for a long time. So—here I go. Pulling on my boots and getting ready to wade into life again. Should be fun!

You Say Tomato

This year, there is a farmer’s market on our drive to work that opens early each Wednesday morning. This makes stopping in to pick up a bit of fresh produce very easy. It is not a very large market, but then, do I need 8 choices of home grown tomato, or will one or two do? We picked up tomatoes, cantaloupe, green pepper and fresh garlic on our first stop, and all of it was great.
Depending on if I can schedule a day or so and get the produce, I hope to make some special pickles this summer. I am out of lime pickles and want to make Christmas cinnamon rings and maybe (for the first time ever) watermelon rind pickles. But, it depends on my schedule and the price of the produce. I have not had a big garden since I moved into this house over 10 years ago, and I don’t really feel bad about it. With our travel schedule we are not assured of being home to care for or harvest a garden, so putting in a garden seems like a fool’s errand.
So, until our schedule changes or we find some magical no care garden method, we rely on the supermarket and the farmer’s market to get our fresh produce, along with the occasional care basket from my parents or my baby sister, who have farms and gardens.
So, do you garden? Do you preserve your harvest? Is there a family favorite item you can or pickle?

The Best Laid Plans…..

I have been in charge of planning an Annual Summit for leaders of an organization for the last couple of years.  For the one in April 2015, I’d spent over 6 months working with committees, coordinating with the venue, planning the meals, entertainment, awards presentations, sending invitations and working on the agenda of what was going to be a great 4 day meeting.

And then I didn’t get to go.

Turns out, I needed some surgery.  My husband thought maybe I should try to talk them into scheduling it after the conference, but I figured that if we are taught not to fight with our hairdressers since they will be cutting our hair, the same rule should go double with our surgeons.

I sent carefully labeled packages, detailed check lists and had a few phone conversations coordinating as much as possible, and the conference went off very well.  I haven’t decided if that is a good thing (Yay, it went well) or a bad thing (Boo, I am expendable). I’m taking it as a good thing.

I’m three almost weeks post surgery. Though I’m recovering well, i would not have had much luck with work, so I am glad I have a few more weeks off.

Hello, Gougères, Where Have You Been All My Life?

We got an invitation to a wine dinner in California, but we were not going to be anywhere near California at that time and we didn’t want to pony up the cash to attend. (Side note–is it called an invitation if you are paying to attend?) But the menu looked intriguing and one thing stuck out. They were having Truffled Gougères. I had never heard of them, so I Googled them.

Baked cheesy dough.

How could that be bad?

I was having a party soon, so I pulled up a recipe (Alain Ducasse’s Recipe to be specific) and tried them, since I’m at least astute enough not to make a new recipe for a party without a pre-party trial.

And my taste buds said “Yay”.

Philip tasted them. More Yay!

These were a definite winner. Sort of like a savory cream puff, little hollow cheesy balls that people loved as an appetizer.  Easy to make, tasty, a traditional tidbit with wine, adaptable and wowed the crowd. While we used Gruyere cheese, which I believe is traditional, I have read several recipes that say you can switch flavorful cheeses, so I’m looking at trying it with a blue cheese and with a sharp cheddar. And I haven’t even begun thinking of filling ideas.

So, have you had these, and why didn’t you tell me about them?

New Rule! New Rule!

I used to have one rule that I’ve shared from time to time. That is, no one should spend more than 5 minutes a day looking into a magnifying mirror. Five minutes a day is enough time to put on your make-up, keep the brows plucked, for a man to shave, whatever. Longer than that and you end up spending your time finding flaws. No one needs to spend too much time looking for tiny flaws using a 10X magnifier. No matter your age, you don’t need to dwell on blemishes or wrinkles for too long. We all have enough reason to be self-conscious without finding things too small to see with the naked eye.

This week, I have another life rule.

No one over 50 should ever look at a life expectancy chart.

I looked at one the other day, originally just to research something– then I checked out my age and how many years the chart said people my age have left, on average.


Not as many as I’d expected or hoped!

I would have been happier not knowing! But, after my initial horror, I got to thinking. First off, I should get my checkups, as that will help prevent my time left from dwindling too fast. Secondly, I need to get on with the things I want to do but have put off. Thirdly, I need to ignore this and assume that since many of my relatives had very long lives, that I will too—so maybe I’ll go longer than “average.”

But, I will stand by my new addition to things never to do.

Don’t spend too much time looking in magnifying mirrors at any age and don’t look at life expectancy charts after 50.

Some things can’t be unseen!

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