Tuesday, December 17, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Women are natural shoppers

Maybe learning life lessons from Hollywood isn’t a reliable standard, but, I have to say, I really have learned a lot from the movies.    

For instance, Judy Benjamin, the lead character in the 1980 Goldie Hawn film, Private Benjamin, had to decide on what her Army career duty choice would be, and it just seemed obvious to her that women are natural purchasing agents.

So when I told my sister-in-law, Lisa, that I do not like to shop, it started me thinking about whether this is an accurate statement.

Really, what I mean by not liking to shop, is that I am not one to browse, hang out at Walmart, or run around to bricks and mortar stores to find bargains--which today seem to be all made in China, so not really bargains in my opinion.

But, I do enjoy being the family purchasing agent. I think much more like a purchasing agent than just a consumer. I mostly shop online

Purchasing agents look at the big picture more than whether they save a dollar on one item. This becomes very interesting when the economy is bad, prices are skyrocketing, and quality is suffering. 

What does this look like in my real life?

I shop in bulk for many food items that I use regularly. I do this not only at Costco, but more and more at Amazon. I have used their subscribe & save grocery store, and not only do I have regular shipments of things like oats, coconut oil, raisins, coconut, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, and nuts for my granola, cultures for my yogurt making, soup blends, veggie stock, almond milk, coconut water, and dried beans, free trade coffee, cocoa, chia seeds, hemp hearts, hawthorne tea, and more, but these things arrive at our apartment so that hubby gets to carry in the heavy boxes, rather than me straining to get things from the car to the door. 

I also get a 15% discount and because I am a Prime Member, free shipping! I don’t have to hunt these things down, and they are always in stock. Awesome. Saves on gasoline too.

Also, I no longer make the $180 milk trip to Costco. I now have everything in stock, so I only need to go to the store for fresh produce and the occasional item I know I need. I get in, and get out. Simple now.

Amazon is great also for some clothing and household stuff. I recently found a Tommy Hilfiger hooded, down coat ($400 retail) for $79.00, free shipping. I did look at many stores for this, and nothing even compared in style or value to what I got online at Amazon.

For 40 years I have been an Amway distributor, and I buy all my household products, beauty supplies, nutritional supplements, and various other things, from my own store, at wholesale prices, and am assured they are high quality and “green.” I really miss things like Scrub Buds, SA8, LOC and other essentials when I am traveling, because there is nothing like them on the shelves.

Recently, since my hair stylist had surgery, I have switched to having my color and cut done at a beauty school. I was a little apprehensive at first, but both the color and cut were very well done, and the cost is one quarter of my usual salon. That means I can get my hair done, have manicures, a monthly massage, and even have hubby’s haircut for the same cost as just my hair cut and color. That is pretty irresistible. And, they have late hours so hub doesn’t get all frustrated rushing home from work for his monthly cut. 

I hardly ever go out to eat anymore unless I have a Groupon or Living Social discount. With restaurant dining becoming way more expensive (we don’t do fast food), we can still enjoy lovely meals at half price. We also use these companies for weekend getaways, and I have bought Egyptian cotton sheets, a Sherpa blanket, and other items with extreme discounts. 

So I am not just looking for cheaper stuff or services. These are the same quality products and services I used to pay much more for, with much more convenience and less stress.

For most shopping, it has to be something I really need, really have wanted for a long time, or something I am giving as a gift. I don’t look for ways to spend. I look for ways to get what I need at savings without too much effort. And, yes, I think Private Benjamin was correct. For most women, this attitude comes pretty naturally. Yes, some women do like to browse and shop recreationally. But, I don’t know any women who don’t make smart purchasing decisions. They seem to have it in their DNA to ferret out the good prices.

The whole coupon idea is big business, and probably because women see the value. I have never been big on clipping coupons for three reasons: usually it takes a lot of time and planning to be of value, most items are processed food, which we don’t eat much, and storing and remembering which coupons are where is a big deal and often involves going physically to many stores to find brands. But, I understand those who do this. I used to pay my kids 10% on weekly savings to do the clipping and match coupons to our menu. That was fun, and they enjoyed the income when they were too young to earn other ways.  

So, no, I don’t usually love shopping. But, yes, I do enjoy the art of purchasing. 
    Would love to hear your stories.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

LOFT LIFE: The heart of the matter

I’ll start right out with the disclaimer that I do respect doctors, nurses, medical personnel and health care workers of all kinds--if they have the heart to help. When you really need them, they are wonderful.

The problem is, even with good hearts, bad teaching and vested interests sometimes get in the way of people even when they have the intention to help. I guess we all help with a bias, hopefully a bias created from truly believing in something.

Okay, so what am I talking about?

Well, when you are over 60, and deem it necessary to walk into the medical system, you should know they have a bias. It’s medicine. They believe in medicine. They have been taught to believe medicine is the answer. It is a rare doctor, or even nurse (most of my friends have been nurses, and the others are usually in health care of some kind), who can see other options. Of course, chiropractors and naturopathic health people do not believe in medicine. But, the medical people write these people off as quacks and ignorant do-gooders.

So when my very, I say very, very goodhearted ophthalmologist suggested I may be developing glaucoma in my right eye, he proceeded to give me three options for treatment--if it did, indeed turn out to be glaucoma. The three options are: eye drops, which he says would have to be used every day for the rest of my life. I hate the statement: you have to do this every day for the rest of your life. I think to myself, Well, what if God heals me? How will I know if I am lowering my eye-pressure with eye drops? Treatment two is laser surgery, which they say only lasts about three years before having to be repeated. So I figure that would maybe work out if it bought me time for them to perfect and legalize medical marijuana, which would really be my first choice.

NO! I have never used it, not even without inhaling. But it is a natural, plant-based treatment, which seems better to me. But then my doctor told me he wouldn’t prescribe it because using it would entail being “stoned” 24/7 or it wouldn’t work. *sigh.*

Then he added another layer of confusing choices. It seems that having glaucoma in only one eye is extremely rare, and so he thought it would be a good idea if I just had a brain scan, “just to be sure nothing else is going on,” AND a second opinion from a glaucoma specialist.  Also, I seem to have convinced my doctor that when the med books say that in 97% of cases blah, blah, blah, but in a rare 3%, blah blah, I am ALWAYS in the rare 3%. Always have been. So he believes me and thus the second opinion thing.

Well, sorry to make this long story even longer, but then, how are you going to really understand the dilemma unless you have these details, right?

So, I thought, probably I will get the second opinion before I have the brain scan. No sense dabbling around the brain if the specialist says absolutely you do have glaucoma in one eye.

I called her office, and they reacted strangely. They first ask your birthday--before any other questions. So the secretary says, “Oh so you’re on Medicare, right?” “No,” I say. That seemed to throw her even when I told her I would pay cash up front.

“Well, I will have to ask the doctor. I don’t know how she wants to handle this,” she said.

“What’s to handle?” say I. “I am paying cash.”

She seemed very, very irritated at me. 

I received a pre-invoice for $1200, which I am sure raised both my eye pressure and my blood pressure. Oh, did I tell you I have been monitoring my blood pressure and it has been mildly to moderately high some of the time.

So, I stewed about this whole dilemma for a few weeks. In the beginning of October I called my own eye doctor’s office to tell them about my bad reception at the second opinion doctor, and about their invoice, which I have a hard time imagining is the “self-pay” cost for what my own doctor does for half that. My sweet Whitney at Dr. E’s office sympathized and said she would call them to see what was what.

In the meantime, I had read about and ordered Hawthorne tea to see if it would reduce my blood pressure. It did, along with my walking two miles a day and drinking more water. The blood pressure is now completely normal 120/80 when I do all three, which is almost daily. When I don’t do all three--skip the walk, the water or the tea--it goes back to about 140/89, which isn’t probably life-threatening, but I want it lower.

I called Whitney back after a couple of weeks of this treatment and said, “So do you think I will die of my brain tumor or go blind before January?”

She laughed at me. They get me there. No runaround. No huge combat experience because I am not on medicare. She said, “Marjorie I don’t think you have a brain tumor, and I think if the doc thought it was urgent, he would be pushing harder.”

“‘Cause I want to save up my HSA deductible for once, and if I spend $1200 for a second opinion, $1200 for a brain scan, and $1200 for laser surgery (which I was still considering), I will never get this saved up. And,” I told her, I am also seeing my blood pressure back to normal with my Hawthorne tea, and I am thinking, maybe it is also lowering my eye pressure. NOTE: eye pressure is supposed to be 10-20 somethings, and mine is smack in the middle, 14, making my “possible” one-eyed glaucoma what they call “Normal Pressure Glaucoma.”  

Then I was listening to a health station on my Internet radio and the guy was talking about HEMP HEARTS! HMM. I Wondered if hemp hearts could possibly do what marijuana does without the “being stoned 24/7” effect. So I ordered hemp hearts from Amazon with my order of Hawthorne tea.

So I am also thinking that between the hemp hearts (which have only recently become legal in the U.S. because they were so much like pot, they were outlawed) and the tea and the walking and the water, I just may get my eye pressure down to 12 and impress Dr. E. 

Whitney said that would be okay and to call in January or February. (Don’t you all think that from July to November--and then to February--I would have some brain tumor symptoms if that were a problem?) I am asking. Your input is welcome.

Okay, so I am gambling a bit with my life. But, I ask you, if I can bring my blood pressure down 20 to 40 points with tea, why would I take gnarly blood pressure meds with really bad side effects? And, if I can (we will find out) lower my eye pressure with natural, non-stoning plant-based solutions, why would I take eye-drops or have surgery? The only reason I can think of is that we have somehow deified the medical route beyond all reason. 

Yes, it may be a gamble, But so are those medicine side-effects. I would rather gamble on this, and keep thinking health and not disease. Whitney assures me that if these natural methods do, indeed, reduce my pressure the same way eye drops would, Dr. E. will count that. He just wants the best for me, which I really do believe.

What think you?

Monday, October 28, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Shootout at the Ware Groupon lesson

I promised you the full story of my very first shooting lesson, which hubby dear was very excited about. As previously mentioned, he grew up on a very large cattle ranch in South Dakota, where guns, shooting, and generally keeping “critters” in categories of pests, profit-makers, pets, and wildlife are just a part of life.

 “Popping” prairie dogs, as they call ridding the ranch of these pests, is not considered to be cruel. In fact, not “popping” prairie dogs and letting those sweet cows break their legs in the holes left by the pests, would be considered cruel.  

 I might want to add here my disclaimer, that this is a perspective of a city girl who has only visited the ranch a dozen plus times, and the opinions expressed here have not been approved by the ranch owners or their relatives, or their South Dakota, non-city-people neighbors. I heard a nasty rumor that the ranch folks think I actually hate the ranch, being a city girl and all, which is absolutely untrue. I love the ranch. I just need to learn how to do ranch life, which no one seems to think I am ready for.
  That said, I found it somewhat amusing that when hubby dear, who loves guns, “popping” prairie dogs, hunting, and eating deer, bear, pheasant, and the like, discovered that he had sired a daughter who would say things like, “Aw, look at that poor (whatever the present roadkill was) creature. Can’t we take her to the vet to maybe save her?” hubby would look at me and wonder how in the world to answer such a strange question.
  Her compassion for animals has since shifted a bit, mostly to cats, and she loves the ranch, and has learned to enjoy shooting--so her father is proud.
  But, I have steered clear of the gun thing for our 33 years together, until I received a Groupon for a shooting lesson. 
  This seemed to be a sign, and I decided it was time, in light of all the fuss over second amendments and rights and such, to at least pick up a gun, figure out how to hold it, and maybe take a shot or too.   

  Arriving at the Ware Gun Shop, the outside was extremely different than I had imagined. This was a little house-like place, very rural, and not at all looking like a school for shooting lessons. Not that I really know what that would look like. Of course, we ventured in, Groupon in hand.

The owner, Mike, refused to introduce himself, or confirm that I had talked to him on the phone, and seemed to want to hurry us out of the main retail area, if you want to call it that (the place didn’t have a shiny, clean appearance).

I was fine with being escorted down the stairs to the basement area where there was a lot of open space with targets all around.  

But when Mike began to do his lesson thing, I found him rather fascinating in a grumpy kind of way. He started with a casual interview on why we wanted to have a lesson. Of course I told him I hate guns, but sweetie loves ‘em and I was doing my wifely duty learning a little. I pointed out that my cowboy husband probably didn’t need a lesson but was there to support me. Mike look dubious.
  Next was the laser gun with the red dot thingy, that as he was about to hand to me, I asked, “Um, have you germicided that?” He didn’t answer, and you could feel the humorless countenance beginning to boil behind the eyes. “I mean, how many people have touched that?” I clarified.
  Mike looked at Jay and said, “Is she serious?” Jay of course smiled and explained I was sort of “pulling his chain.”
  Later Jay, also a pretty non-sarcastic sense of humor guy, tried to explain to me the irony of asking about germs while holding a lethal weapon, to which I, of course, replied, “That’s why it’s funny.” I guess not to everyone.
  In any case, Mike had threatened to return our Groupon investment and tell us to leave if I proceeded with any more questions like that. I think he had real people coming in after our lesson, and there would be no more silly questions to waste his time.
  Just so you know, when I get anxious, which happens when holding a gun for the first time, I get funny (or try to be). Since this was lost on Mike, and somewhat on Jay, I figured since I had no audience, I would shape up. I was, after all, here to do something sweet for hub.
  I used the practice laser gun and didn’t feel a whole lot more confident, but cowgirled on.
  When it came time to move on to the big guns--well in my case a .22 or something like that, I started getting serious, especially when Mike began to lecture us on muscle memory, and the three important areas to train.That reminded me of Jack Reacher, and having read the first four books, this lesson began to take on some challenge for me. Jack won’t even shoot until he gets his heartbeat under control. I thought I would try that, if I could remember to while training my muscles to shoot.
  I am, as you regular readers know, extremely audio and Mike is such a clear teacher that the input into my audio file was really very thorough. 
  So, my first ever attempt to shoot a real gun resulted in the cluster you see here. I think both Mike and Jay nearly fell over that this nutty city girl, obviously nervous, scared and worried about germs, actually did quite well. 

  Jay was ecstatic to a point where even annihilating his virtual rat wasn't quite as exciting as seeing his wife take seriously the thing he enjoys the most--except for motorcycles.
  I was a bit proud of the old gal myself.
  Mike seemed somewhat tamed after that, and after realizing we shared the same eye problem--only seeing out of one eye at a time--he told me that on another occasion he would show me how to compensate so I would move slightly to the right and cluster right in that target area. I think that was a compliment. And did I detect an open invitation in that "next time" comment?
  I read the Goggle reviews for Mike and his gun shop and most people found him rude, not customer-oriented, and not even in favor of the second amendment (which I doubt). My guess is that he just doesn’t prefer to converse with the public. Not sure why he is in business, but the bottom line for me is that his teaching style was perfect for my learning style, and I learned what I had come to learn. And I did well--especially in the eyes of the one for whom I was there picking up my first .22.

Friday, September 27, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Opposites attract, but...

I think it is a testimony to God having a sense of humor that, to a person, we seem to choose someone as a mate who is our direct opposite in many important areas:

I like cool crisp September weather and hate hot humid. My honey likes hot, humid summer weather, and the minute he sees 40 degrees F. on any gauge, he instantly goes into what I refer to as his annual winter depression.

“But, it’s not even freezing, I say. “But, it’s gonna be,” he replies. I think he relives his South Dakota ordeal of feeding the critters in sub-zero weather.

He says, “We should move to Florida,” and I say, “How about Maine. He says, “How about New Orleans;” I say, “Alaska!” We have for some reason agreed that someday it will the desert--so hot and not humid. We’ll try it. I love Montreal.

On the same note, my sweetie piles up about six blankets (only three in summer) and I am kicking off my half’s three and swinging my leg out on top of the sheet to get cool--we’re still talking winter. They turn the heat on in our manufacturing building loft--central boiler room furnace--so we don’t even need to turn the heat on ourselves. He comes home and 20 seconds upon entering the apartment, he makes a bee-line for the thermostat to turn it up. I think the shivers runs in his family--maternal side.  

Then there’s noise. He likes it. I like calm. He likes motorcycles. I like to go slow. He likes motors. I like quiet. He likes rock music (he is 90 percent deaf, so I think the drumbeat is all he can perceive). I like Chopin and Jewel’s

He likes the smell of gasoline. I don’t think I even need to say, I don’t.

When we eat in a restaurant, I call him a fat magnet. He will peruse a menu filled with healthful choices, and opt for anything with sausage in it. And, even though he has agreed to our going more plant-based, he tries my quinoa casserole with roasted veggies and mozzarella cheese or goat cheese, and he says, “It’s really good. Needs sausage.”

This is by no means an exhaustive list. For instance, I can’t tell you the joy it brought hubby dear when I signed us up for a Groupon shooting lesson. He is a sharpshooter, and I never held a gun in my life--being a city girl. He grew up on a cattle ranch in South Dakota. Guns are just part of ranch life. 
But I will never forget the light in his eyes when he watched me hit the target--with pretty good success for a first-timer. Maybe I’ll give you the whole story in another post. 

Suffice to say, we actually have very little in common. But after almost 32 years, we are more in love than on the first date. He says, “We live in amazement.”

So I ask you, Isn’t this proof of God’s sense of humor. This opposites thing forces us to compromise, which I suspect is the heartbeat of love and the path to unity. Left to ourselves, we would be, well, selfish.

So in the end, it’s a good thing we are paired with one who brings out our complete other, and who forces us to consider that the preferences of another are valid and valuable too.

I just wish we could move to Montreal. I would be okay with the six blankets.   

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

LOFT LIFE: We're Sears people

I was adopted. For some reason, my mother had a hard time not reminding me of that in oh so many ways. She seemed upset that I like the finer things, and was bent on letting me know that was not OK with her.

When I was 16, I was out shopping in one of our Philadelphia suburban strip malls, and came upon the Bonwit Teller’s, a very fashionable department store in that decade. I went in and drooled over a $35 blouse, which, of course, I knew I could not afford. This was the ‘60s, and a $10 blouse was pushing it.

I made the mistake of telling my mom I had seen a beautiful blouse at the little shop and she literally spent about fifteen minutes telling me in no uncertain terms I was not to even imagine such a purchase from such a shop.

I guess I didn’t learn this lesson, because when my girlfriend Grace bought a beautiful cardigan from Strawbridge & Clothier for $12, I saw how good it continued to look for as many times as it was laundered. My cardigans cost around $5 and I got three for Grace’s finer Garland one.  


When I told my mom I would be happy to have the better one, that didn’t “pill” after one machine wash, and that I didn’t need three that did “pill” after only one wash, she was very indignant at her recalcitrant daughter.

“We’re Sears people,” she pontificated, with the hidden, but not really well-hidden, message that if I were to be “one of them” I would stop my “highfalutin’” ways, sooner, rather than later.

My internal response was, “WELL, YOU may be a Sears person, but I am not.”

I now realize I should have agreed. “Yes, you are.” And. left it at that.

When I had a discussion with my girlfriends recently about the wisdom of paying $100 for a Coach purse, one of them responded much like I did, that her cheaper purses wore out and showed wear after a few months, where her Coach purse, which she now buys one of annually, looks great after the year.

So, now I realize, there are Sears people, and there are Strawbridge & Clothier, Bonwit Teller, Coach people.

Now I am not trying to be snobbish. I still maintain it is a matter of enjoying quality vs. quanity. Someone who buys a $15 Walmart purse three times a year, and has to throw them away after use, isn’t really saving much over the person who waits for the Coach outlet savings, and purchases a beautifully made purse for $65 that will still be in style and look good the next year. But, there really are people who pride themselves on preferring the cheaper product, and they would rather have quantity than quality.

This seems to be true in so many ways. I marvel that some people open a restaurant or a gift shop or a yogurt shop or any kind of business, and know how to make it look really “classy.” Other people seem to go out of their way to keep things as mundane and non-descript and undistinctive as possible.

When I owned and managed a Christian bookstore, I found beautiful Christmas cards from Abbey Press. They were very sophisticated, and had a clean design. I still purchased some “regular” greeting cards from American Greetings, which looked so much less attractive. Guess which ones were more popular? Right!

Is it that some people really prefer that? Or are they afraid to “look” richer? Or is it just what they are used to? Or is it a lack of a sense of value?” I really don’t know. Maybe I am a snob.

Suffice to say, I AM STILL NOT a Sears person. I almost hyperventilate just walking into Sears, reliving the humiliation of my Bonwit Teller lecture experience. I realize I am over-reacting a tad. And, I know it takes all kinds of people to make the world go ‘round. But, I ask you, wouldn’t you prefer a better, higher quality item if you could have it? And, should a girl get a lecture and feel punished for “just looking” at that better quality?

These and other things my inquiring mind wants to know.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Self Talk

  I have to say right out that I am a natural entrepreneur, so I may be a tad impatient with those who may be more insecure about starting a business.  But, let’s think about this.   We are in a bad economy, and people are jobless. That hurts us all, but especially those who somehow believe it is up to the government to make sure they have a job. Really, it isn’t!  

Okay, now I am going to get mail. But anyway....  It is NOT the job of government, or even corporations to make sure you feed your family. In my 33 of doing resumes for people, teaching career workshops, training people for interviews, I can tell you, most people feel very dependent, rather than independent, or even interdependent.

Do you all know that we existed for centuries before "employment" was even a standard? People traded, created, trained, and learned how to offer others something of value in exchange for what they needed. This isn't a new idea.

And, for those who believe having a “job” offers more security than having a business, well, take a look at the last five years. Or ask anyone who got axed after their 24th year at a company, just before they would be able to collect their retirement package, or even the ones who got laid off because they used their health care, or had a workers’ comp claim.  I challenge you to give this some serious thought if you are in the job market. I believe almost everyone is capable of producing some product or service that has some value to others. When my husband was out of work for 27 months, we went door-to-door in our neighborhood with a flyer telling everyone that he could repair any motor.      Well, I want to tell you, I can interview anyone who is willing and find in them some talent or idea that can produce income. So I am not saying everyone knows how to start a business and will succeed. What I am saying is, with some help and guidance, most people can do this.  For instance, I was doing a resume for a gal who wanted an accounting job. After spending two hours interviewing her (my process is very intense and not about typing up job history), I said: “You don’t want to work for someone else, you want to do accounting in your own business.” She replied: “You know, you’re right.”  So I did a brochure for her instead of a resume, and she went out and discovered that many businesses can’t afford a full time employee but needed her services. She landed a job with an owner of five stores, and worked out of her home on his books. She was happy as a...okay, I know...clam. (Why are clams so happy? Is it because they know they have the potential to create a pearl?)  We all have potential to create, because the Creator made us in His image. We all have the potential to produce something of value, because we are here for a purpose.  Please stop whining, moaning, crying, and, for some of you, just getting into the rut of doing not much, and get to work on who you are, why you are here, and what you have to give. Your self talk makes a difference. What you believe is what you tell yourself, and if you believe and tell yourself you are stuck with nothing, or need someone else to “give” you a job, just change your attitude, and give my theory a try. What if I am right?  I am not saying employment is a bad thing. I am saying it isn't your only option: Walk dogs, cook meals, drive old people to appointments, visit the poor, the widows, and the orphans, bake cookies, write resumes, sew children’s clothes, sell things on eBay, write a manual for something you know how to do, teach, dance, sing, help animals, or do whatever it is you love. You can make a living doing any of these things, and many, many people do.  
         I say these words to encourage you, as our priest would say. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Weekend Capers

I remember reading a Mary Higgins Clark mystery which took place in Cape Cod, and thinking, oh what an elaborate, charming vacation spot that would be. Then, of course, I grew up with the Kennedy’s retreating to their Hyannis Port compound, and admiring the jet set who could join them. It seemed so out of reach in my middle class, suburban Philadelphia life.     

We’ve now been to Cape Cod four times. We live two hours away, so it is an easy weekend destination. I have found out a lot about my fantasies of the area, and also learned things I would never have imagined.

Each time we visit we get more acclimated to the area. We are learning things about the islands. 

Not to get too technical, but I thought I might share just a few tidbits, from the viewpoint of a newbie, an outsider, to arm you for your own visit to The Cape,  and these might make it more enjoyable.

         First, Cape Cod is only referred to as an island because of the Cape Cod Canal, cutting through the peninsula to allow all but the stickler geographers to call it an island. This is why you must enter The Cape by auto over either the Bourne or the Sagamore Bridges.

But, beyond its geography, its dunes, its sandy beaches, its lighthouses, and its national landmarks, we have found it’s important to learn the language of this Boston escape.

For one thing, no one except the tourist and uninitiated would ever refer to the area as Cape Cod. It is The Cape. Like many Massachusetts names, it is abbreviated, i.e., Northampton is Hamp, avenues are aves, and even the state is called Mass by its natives. The Massachusetts Turnpike becomes the Mass Pike, and Massachusetts Avenue is Mass Ave. If you don’t normally talk this way, they know you’re a stranger, a visitor, a tourist, or at least from someplace else.

The insider track to The Cape is way more complicated. Upper and Lower Cape for instance, are not intuitive. Upper Cape would be, for the logical, the northern part of the island, but it is not. Perhaps that is because The Cape lays mostly east to west, with Provincetown (P-Town to those who know) stretching north. Still the far eastern and northern towns are in Lower Cape, and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket lie to the south across the Nantucket Sound. But, since we have not ventured to those yet, let’s stick to The Cape for now.    

We’re finding a kind of elitism when we talk to our friends in Mass about The Cape. When we tell them we are going for the weekend, they don’t say, “Oh we love The Cape.” They say, “Oh, where?” So the first time, when we were going to Falmouth in the Upper Cape, they simply smiled and said, “Oh that’s a nice town.”  When we confessed to Mid-Cape Dennis as our second destination, they indicated that maybe we would want to venture further next time. 

So when a Living Social deal came up, and our time shares in Falmouth and Dennis were not available (really the only reason we selected those towns), we thought, “Hmm, maybe Eastham will impress them more. Okay, I guess we might care just a tad that we have moved from, “Oh we are going to Cape Cod,” to “Oh, we’re going to Eastham on The Cape this weekend.” So rather than a few raised eyebrows, there were some definite nods of approval.

After our first Eastham visit, where we discovered the Atlantic Spice Co. in North Truro, some great coffee places in P-Town, and the PB Boulangerie Bistro in Wellfleet, up the road from Eastham, we were beginning to see why the snobbery about town choices. The people of Falmouth were lovely to us, and Dennis was fine. But, we are getting attached to Eastham, Wellfleet, and North Truro for their beaches, their shops, and their community spirit.   

The Town Crier Motel didn’t sound like a solid choice, but it turned out to be lovely, well-run and very homey. It is also next to Arnold’s, which we were to find out is one of the favorite seafood places. We love their beet salad, with arugula, candied walnuts and goat cheese.     

On our second visit to Town Crier, this time in June instead of October, we found Arnold’s much more crowded, so the two seats at the end of a long table, looked attractive. We begged to share the table with two women who gladly welcomed us to bring our beet salads and salmon to join them. Who says New Englanders are cold?    

After a half hour of friendly conversation, worth way more than a Tourist Center stop, we found ourselves nodding when this mother and daughter bragged that they had already been to Arnold’s three times in this summer getaway. The mom was from Eastham, and it was obvious she wished she had never moved away, and was glad to be back as a resident and town official.

Our Living Social included the buffet breakfast, which on Saturday morning was abbreviated from a full cooked breakfast to Continental fare, which we figured out happened because there was an important town meeting at 10:00 a.m. The owner, Judy, and Margaret, her front desk person, had been working hard to get votes for city water. Evidently there had already been lawsuits from contaminated well water problems. The vote failed by a small margin, much to their dismay. Judy even said she would have been willing to pay more than her share if the poorer residents couldn’t handle the levy to improve the water. This passion for their town allowed us to see how much this resort is also a residential community, with year-round living for locals who deeply care about community, safety, health--the things we from less fantastical places care about.

Since we are only weekend Capers, I am sure without this insight from our Arnold’s dinner and our breakfast at Judy’s place (Town Crier) we would have not appreciated this view.

We loved the perks Judy offered her Living Social guests--breakfast, Ben & Jerry’s up the street, bicycle rental, and a covered swimming pool. The rooms are clean and quiet, and the general maintenance is excellent. We lost our key at a visit to Pump House surf shop in Orleans. I had forgotten my bathing suit, and we were happy to find it open till 7 p.m. with a good selection for me to remedy my loss. The sales person, Jami, had delivered our key back to Town Crier by that evening, which told us, again, that this is a close-knit community. They know each other. Judy’s son said, “Well, we would have done the same thing for her.”


We were fortunate that our weekend was sunny--October had been rainy, so we decided to see Coast Guard Beach in Eastham first, and then ventured back to North Truro to see the HIghland Lighthouse.    

All of this makes us feel more attached. We were welcomed warmly, but we know it will take more visits to get to know these people better, and we plan to do just that. The Cape is no longer a fantasy. We are so blessed to make it a regular destination.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Coffee, Starbucks and the marketing game

I drink Starbucks coffee at home because I buy the Kirkland version of their breakfast brew. I drink Starbucks coffee at their stores mostly because I have a loyalty card with dollars on it that, for some reason, I advance them money for. What a great marketing game!   

When we had the whole Year 2000 scare that life as we know it would end when the computers and clocks of the world came to a halt, my son said: “You need to stock up on guns and coffee. Coffee, because many people can’t live normally without it, and guns to protect your coffee."

The marketing gimmick at Starbucks is a curious human behavior psychology though. There is other coffee. There is other coffee I like, and even prefer to Starbucks--Panera Bread’s coffee, for instance. 

Panera Bread doesn’t make me jump through hoops to get a free refill. They offer me as many free refills as I can drink on a visit. I don’t need to advance them money, or get stars, or any of that. And their coffee isn’t bitter. But there aren’t many Panera Bread’s at airports, which gets me back to the fact that the Starbucks loyalty card is really convenient.

I do like Starbucks’ new Refreshers, especially the lime one. These are the ones with green coffee, which I think don’t really have any nutritional benefits, as I understand it, because the green beans are roasted. *sigh*

Recently I read that Starbucks is granting a star for any Starbucks product purchase, whether in their stores, or somewhere else--like Costco--where their products are available, and that all you have to do is follow directions to get the credit.

I bought two pounds of coffee at Costco, and then discovered that I was five days too early for the launch of that program. No stars. Then I purchased a case of refreshers at the Costco near my daughter’s home in California, kept the receipt and tried to put in the receipt code on my Starbucks account. Nope. I need the code from some special STAR on the package--which, of course, I didn’t realize then, so it is back in Los Angeles, probably in some trash heap by now.

I tried to purchase another case of Starbuck’s Refreshers here in Connecticut, ‘cause I like ‘em, but guess what. Connecticut people didn’t buy enough for Costco to carry these here. So,  still no stars. That’s three starless Costco purchases so far. And, the other downside of the Starbucks retail store refreshers is that they don’t come in the two flavors offered at the Starbuck’s stores.

So really, why am I so hep to get more stars, to get from the Green to Gold Starbucks level? Ummm. they give you a free cup of coffee if you are gold. At least I think they do. Not totally sure. 

And, oh, and I had 24 stars toward the 30 I needed to get to gold, and somehow they all disappeared recently and I had to start over. Something about an expiration date.

This seems like a lot of work and complication just to get a free cup of coffee that I don’t even prefer. But, still I keep that card on automatic reload. 

Do you think I should just wait until I see a Panera Bread at the airport and chuck the whole Starbucks prepaid card thing?

Oh the power of marketing.

Monday, May 20, 2013

LOFT LIFE: Connections

I should have known complications were on my itinerary when my son-in-law questioned my wisdom in booking three connections from Windsor Locks, CT to Burbank, CA. 

“I’m trying to fly into a closer airport so you don’t have to drive to LAX,” I defended.

On a previous trip he had requested I do this. But, I think he believed I could do it in no more than two airplane connections. And, that was before he had spent three years getting used to California freeways. You do get used to the freeway crawl, believe it or not.

Anyway, the trip out found me delayed in Newark, which added three hours to an already long ten hour day in flight and in airports. That meant I got to Burbank at 8:30pm, instead of 5:30pm. Oh well.

After a lovely five-day visit with my daughters, including a Culver City lunch patio lunch at Tender Greens, with all three, 

 and some wonderful excursions with my youngest,
which included good old California cuisine, Japanese boba tea (or as the newbies would call it, bubble tea), a cheese shop in Topanga Canyon
where celebrity sightings have been known to happen, a macaroon shop in Beverly Hills,
we made a trip to the gym to celebrate my youngest’s new membership. We skipped the cold pressed smoothie-juice bars. You know while Southern Californians are deciding on which type of smoothie shop to visit, we in New England are trying to find somewhere that actually makes healthful smoothies. The pickings are slim, as they say.

I also had a wonderful Mother's Day Sunday starting at Bel Air Presbyterian Church where the memorable guest preacher was Carlo Campo, President of Regent University in Virginia,
and followed later by a fantastic dinner at Fleming's, of lamb chops and a berries and cream dessert.  

Anyhoo, back to airplanes, it was on my plan for a red eye back home where I began to agree with son-in-law. Maybe it was my daughter’s scolding on the way to leg one of three, at Burbank, “Mom, don’t ever do this again. We will drive to L.A.”

I was early for my 6:00 pm flight from Burbank to San Francisco. Finally, we boarded at 5:30 pm, sat on the tarmac, apparently waiting for something or someone. About fifteen minutes after boarding the pilot came on the P.A. “Not good news,” he said.

So there are two “pins” in the cabin door, and one of them was missing. The pilot called to see if we could fly with one, and, I guess, was told that “the airplane has many parts, and we need all of them to fly.” I pictured the cabin door bursting open mid-flight, kind of like when the Muppets made their fly-through-the-air landing, and figured that being delayed would be a better option.

So we all deplaned from the regional jet, and stood in line to be re-booked, just in case, right!, they couldn’t get the part quickly.  They couldn’t. I ended up on the shuttle to LAX to try to get my second connection,the red eye, to Newark.

Amazingly, even with a 10 pm flight from LAX to Newark, instead of a 6 pm one, from Burbank to San Fran, I DID make the connection. So this only made my 10 hours into fourteen hours. This is the house of cards result of my elaborate three connections.

But had this not happened, I would not have met John Fortune, a jazz-blues musician, originally from Haiti. I went to John’s website, www.john4tune.com and was delighted to listen to previews of his albums. I love Blues Jam from his Hand in Hand album. Check it out. 

I was concerned about not making my Newark connection, but the shuttle driver assured me I would. He told me to relax. I asked his name, and he said it was Chris, but I pushed and got his real name, Hacheek. He was an Armenian Christian, and we had a lovely chat about Armenia and the faith there. He continued to tell me to relax, and I did make it on time, as he said I would, even with the extra stop to drop off John at his home.

All in all, I agree with Hacheek. It is best to just relax and enjoy the journey and all its serendipities, which really can be fun if you look at it that way.