Monday, December 31, 2007

Last Moron of 2007 (I hope)

As my husband drove through an intersection with a green light, the moron driving the car seen here pulled out into the intersection to make a right turn right in front of us. It was snowing & Hubby hit the brakes & the horn - hard. This woman was holding her cell phone in her left hand & waved to us with her right hand while smiling & talking on the phone - while halfway through the turn & about a foot from our bumper. Um - how was she steering? The whole thing didn't even phase her. Are people really this self-centered and brain dead? (Please tell me there aren't too many more like her!)

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Sunday, December 30, 2007

My Dog Needs a Frequent Flyer Card

In the four years that we have had our dog, Sam, she has been on at least 40 airline flights. (I'm inclined to estimate that she's been on closer to 50 flights, but as a former auditor, I defer to the more conservative estimate.) That probably sounds like a lot of flights for a dog, but given our situation, it's understandable. For every flight on which Sam has accompanied me, we have had to pay $80 (sometimes as much as $100, depending on the airline) for her ticket. So, a round-trip ticket for Sam usually costs us $160. There have been times when my own plane ticket has cost less than the fee to bring Sam onboard with me. I'm not complaining about the cost to transport our dog - I understand that and think it is a good and easy source of revenue for the airlines. There are just a couple of things that the airlines could do to make the process easier and potentially more rewarding for both the travelers with pets and for themselves.

We usually fly American Airlines, but have flown with Sam on other airlines as well. In all cases, the fact that I am traveling with a pet in the cabin has completely hampered my ability to check in electronically both at the airport and from home. I just can't do it. I have to stand in the long check-in line with all of the people checking in luggage (though I never have any to check) and changing their flights. I understand that the agent needs to take a quick look at my dog to make sure that she isn't sick and that she meets the size requirements for a cabin pet. I also understand that I have to pay the fee to have my pet in the cabin with me. What I do not understand is why either of these things should impact my ability to check in electronically. I should be able to pay the pet travel fee when I buy my ticket and not have to wait until I check in at the airport. Also, given that boarding passes must already be in-hand before passengers get through security these days, the inspection of the pet could be performed by the airline agents at the gate, as they're really nowhere as busy as they were in the pre-9/11 world.

During our last flight with Sam, we had to physically check in at American Airlines at O'Hare International Airport and encountered a ridiculously long line. The scary thing was that we were standing in the First Class line and it took more than a good half hour just to get to the front of it. The Coach line was significantly longer. The delay was so long that the ticket agent had to escort us to the front of the security line after we received our boarding passes as we were in danger of missing our flight. If we could have checked in electronically, we could have gone straight through to the security line upon arriving at the airport and wouldn't have had to stand in the check-in line at all. Allowing electronic check-in for pet owners seems like a cost-effective option that the airlines should really explore. Seems like a no-brainer when you think about it.

The other item that I hope the major U.S. airlines implement is some sort of frequent flyer option for pets. There are certain airlines that do offer frequent flyer perks for pets: Virgin Atlantic, Midwest Airlines, EL AL and Japan Airlines have pet perks ranging from free promo pet products to additional miles for the pet owner to free pet airfare. United Airlines offered additional miles to passengers with pets for a few months in 2005 but the program ended. As I mentioned previously, Sam's tickets have sometimes cost us more than my own tickets have (especially on the BOS-ORD route). A free one-way trip for her once in a while wouldn't be such a bad thing. It's not like there are any real additional costs to the airline incurred as a result of transporting her and the fee we pay is basically all margin for them. (In fact, as she takes the place of my carry-on baggage allowed, they end up transporting less weight as I just don't pack as much.) So why not reward your loyal and frequent flying pets? It's in the airline's interest to have pet owners that want to fly with their pets. It's easy revenue with no real additional cost.

As I write this, I am contemplating booking yet another round-trip plane ticket for Sam and me for January. I doubt highly that either of my pet travel wishes will be granted before our next flight but there's always hope.

Friday, December 28, 2007

No Delays Today - Hooray!

Today was a travel day for us. We had to leave our family in Chicago to return to our home in Massachusetts. In hindsight, I have to say that it went much better than it could have. It went much better than it would have if we had left our flights as they were originally scheduled.

Today, Chicago got hit with a minor snowstorm: 3-7 inches of snow which mostly fell between 10 am and 5 pm. We were originally scheduled for the 12:20 pm American Airlines flight from O'Hare to Logan - which was looking more and more like a bad idea as Thursday was drawing to a close. I called the airline 12 hours before the 7:05 am flight (7:05 pm last night) and requested a Confirmed Flight Change. (Actually, first I asked if they would waive all fees since changing our reservation to an earlier flight would free up seats during the period when seats would be needed as a result of the inevitable flight cancellations. That didn't work.) Instead of paying the $100 per ticket change fee plus the difference between the fare we paid and the last minute fare, I requested a Confirmed Flight Change - which is only available within 12 hours of the flight you wish to take - and was able to change our reservation for $25 each.

Considering that we were traveling with our dog in the cabin with us and that we need to administer drugs to her to get her calm enough to travel with us, $50 was totally worth it. Our flight actually landed 16 minutes ahead of schedule. The rest of the flights from ORD to BOS on American Airlines had days like this by departure time:

8:35 Departed 36 minutes late. Arrived 50 minutes late.
12:20 (Our original flight) Departed 2 hours 13 minutes late. Arrived 2 hours 8 minutes late.
4:00 Departed 28 minutes late. Arrived 31 minutes late.
5:15 Departed 1 hour 55 minutes late. Arrived 1 hour 36 minutes late.

We were traveling on non-refundable Coach tickets and even though the terms specify a $100 change fee plus the change in fare, it is possible to work around those terms if you just call the airlines and ask. As an added bonus, the American Airlines agent that helped me change our reservations last night was able to snag us the last 2 upgrades to First Class available on the flight.

Our Christmas trip to Chicago started with a very easy trip through Logan to O'Hare and ended with a relatively easy trip back. Granted, the lines at O'Hare were unusually long this morning and the ticket agent had to personally escort us to the front of the security lines in order to make sure we would make our flight, but we're all home healthy and in tact. Really, in the end, that's all we really want. Hope you all have been enjoying the holiday season as well.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Just wanted to send you all a short wish for a great holiday season and a wonderful 2008. Hope you and your loved ones are all enjoying yourselves this week as much as this little guy in the hat is.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sam & the Hallmark Snowman

Well, we've shown her the video version of the Hallmark snowman and the snowman up-close and personal. She seems to like neither and she doesn't seem to be confused about the source of the music. I think she just doesn't like this version of "Jingle Bells" and likes the dog accompaniment less.

I think we'll let Sam have the rest of the holiday off (though she may have to wear a plaid collar tomorrow.) Thanks WickedStepmom for coming out to play!

Wishing you all very happy holidays and nothing but happiness in the coming year.

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Sam & the Video Snowman

Sam's drugs have adequately worn off enough from our trip to Chicago yesterday to torment her with the Hallmark Snowman today. Once again, WickedStepmom has been gracious enough to upload a video of her snowman to see how Sam reacts to it.…Mg/utt.php

We have the exact same snowman here in Chicago, so we thought we would see if her reaction differs at all between the snowman via video and the snowman live and in person.

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Sam's Response to WickedStepmom

WickedStepmom was kind enough to post an Utterz of her Hallmark snowmen singing so that I could let our dog, Sam, hear them here in Boston.…MQ/utt.php Thank you WickedStepmom!

Historically, our dog freaks out whenever she sees these snowmen. My mother has them at her house in Chicago and the dog would go nuts and run in circles in frustration that she couldn't reach them to kill them.

When I played the Utterz from WickedStepmom, Sam was A LOT more subdued. It seems her hatred is reserved for *Jingle Bells* and even then, it's nowhere near as severe as what we witnessed in Chicago.

I suspect a good part of her freak-outs over the snowmen have to do with seeing them in motion along with the music. As a result, we're going to record her reaction to the snowmen that she sees live at my mom's house in Chicago over the holiday. Until then, enjoy her more subdued reaction (and please excuse my messy office).

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Frozen Pea Friday

Today, in the land of Twitter, it is "Frozen Pea Friday." It is that because today, our friend, @susanreynolds, will undergo surgery for both a mastectomy and breast reconstruction. She was diagnosed earlier this month with breast cancer. You can read about her experience on her blog, "Boobs on Ice" and I recommend that you visit it to read the very honest experience of a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer.

Several of her friends have set up the Frozen Pea Fund and the proceeds of the donations to that fund will go to Making Strides, the breast cancer campaign of the American Cancer Society.

As a show of support, her friends on Twitter are all donning avatars that incorporate peas in them. Susan explains the significance of the peas in her blog. I know that today, Susan and her family are very prominent in my thoughts and prayers. I admire Susan very much for her strength through all of this and have admired her as a person for as long as I have had the honor of her acquaintance.

Breast cancer is a horrible disease and we must do what we can to find the causes and a cure. Part of the reason that I took my long break from blogging a year ago was because of a case of breast cancer in someone very, very close to me. Anyone that knows me well knows that I don't really deal well with the suffering of those I know and love. What pains me also is that I never have the words to express how I really feel and can't find the words to comfort those who are not well. As a result, I do things. I won't go into what I did for my aunt, but for Susan, I've made my donation to the Frozen Pea Fund, changed my Twitter avatar to a "Peavatar" and am truly praying that all goes well for her and her family.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Pounding at My House

Well, our contractors are back today to continue working to free our home from the ice dams that have formed on our roof this week. It's day #2 of men pounding on the roof and also day #2 of me being totally under the weather. No worries though - it's all bound to get better!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Ice Dams Are Not My Friends

I woke up sick this morning. Guess I finally succumbed to whatever bug has been plaguing my husband over the last few weeks. My nose is all stuffed up and I have a minor fever and body aches. Oh joy. As my husband has still not completely kicked this bug, he decided to work from home today. But as I lay in bed, tweeting my *good mornings* to the folks on Twitter from my iPhone before passing out again for a long nap at 6:30 am, my husband called me to our office to show me the leak that had sprung up in our window frame. The leak was more like a steady and strong flow of water through the screw holes used to hold up the window treatment. Good morning, sunshine! Kiss your nap goodbye. What we had was an ice dam.

We pulled down the window treatments and made a silly-looking contraption to keep the water from flowing into the house. Of course, it has to go somewhere - we were just hoping *somewhere* was somewhere outside. I left messages with the contractors we use the most though no businesses were open yet. Hubby went up into the attic and found it to be bone dry everywhere. We then went outside to assess the situation from there. Yikes! Definitely an ice dam.

Luckily, our favorite contractors called to say they were sending one of my favorite guys and his crew out to take care of our problem. He's not here yet. He's late. He's actually working on another house with an ice dam problem right now. In the meantime, we're getting water inside of our windows in several places. I don't even want to know what kind of damage will be left here when this is over.

A condo in the city with a nice doorman and maintenance crew is starting to look even more appealing right now. Someone's going to need to remind me why we moved out to a house in the suburbs five years ago. It was something about more space and the commute being good for Hubby (though I thought the short cab rides home were pretty cool). It's fine. I'll just do my best Martin Blank: What's done is done. Just forget about the whole thing.

Note: Ice Dam diagram from the Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Emancipating the Mailbox

Is it really so hard for the plow guys to make sure that my mailbox can be reached by the USPS guys? This happens every time we have any significant snowfall - and we got an extra eight inches yesterday. USPS won't deliver to a mailbox in this condition - so - even though I have already had my workout today, I have another workout right here. (I don't feel too bad about all of that English toffee I ate last night anymore - that's for sure.) :)

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Snow Makes for a Bad Commute

Ridiculous traffic today in and around Boston because of the weather. Highways were parking lots and people were running out of gas. Glad I made it home in time to watch it from there instead of from the driver's seat of my car. My sympathies to you all who have been driving in this storm tonight. Hope you all make it to your destinations safely.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Poor Rachel Ray

Stopped to buy some gift cards and an iced coffee regular and noticed that poor Rachel Ray had been defaced. Who would do such a thing? (tee-hee - it really wasn't me.)

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

We Have a Winner

Today, my husband and I went on our usual weekend run around town. We decided to look at trees after we finished up at all of our usual stops. We had previously decided that if we were going to have a tree at all this year, it would be an artificial tree as we aren't spending the week of Christmas at home. We went to our local garden center because I had seen some decent artificial trees there when I went earlier in the week to buy wreaths.

On the walk from the car to the main building, we had to pass through the area where they keep the fresh evergreen trees. The smell was amazing. I looked at my husband and asked if we could just look at the real trees. He was happy to go and look at them. There were some 4-5 foot trees leaning against the outer fence of the nursery. I suggested that maybe instead of an artificial tree, we bring home a smaller fresh tree. There was one tree in particular that had caught my eye. It was just standing there along with all of the other trees. I walked right to it and my husband admired it as well. The tree just spoke to us - both of us. It was such a sweet little tree.

We decided to go inside the building and look at the artificial trees anyway. None of them did anything for us. We just didn't really like any of the trees we saw. I don't know if that was because we liked the trees outside so much better or because the artificial trees inside just weren't right. I'd like to think it was because the artificial ones weren't so hot. My mom has a nice artificial tree that would put all of the ones at that garden center to shame. But then again, I had fallen pretty hard for that one 5 foot tree outside. Apparently, my husband did as well. Standing in the midst of the artificial trees, we decided to go back outside and buy the fresh tree that we found. We won't be gone for very long this year as opposed to previous years. Why not get a small tree?

So - for the first time in a decade, we have a Christmas tree in our home. YAY! All of our ornaments are somewhere in the attic, so we'll have to go dig those out. Tomorrow we decorate!

Friday, December 07, 2007

A Christmas Tree for Us?

In the last decade, my husband and I have spent every Christmas but one at the home of one set of our parents or the other. Now that my husband's parents have moved back to Chicago, they are spending Christmas with my side of the family - so I guess I know where we'll be expected to be for every Christmas until further notice.

That being said, my husband and I haven't put up a Christmas tree in our own home since I moved to Boston in 1997. We've had other holiday decorations around the house and our homes happily smelled like evergreens and mulling spices at appropriate times. Our homes have been festive but they have never had a tree in them. It's really starting to bother me.

When I had my condo in Chicago, I had 16 foot ceilings (it was a loft) and I made sure to find myself a huge tree for Christmas. My last one was a Douglas Fir and I loved it. I was so happy when I picked it out and dragged it home with my friends through the streets of Chicago. It smelled great. I was traveling for work during the holidays and a very good friend of mine who lived a block away would stop by my condo to keep my tree watered while I was gone.

My husband and I haven't had a Christmas tree because we have been away from home for at least a week every year at Christmastime. We didn't want our tree to dry out and don't know anyone in Massachusetts who could actually water it for us without much difficulty. The first five years that I was here, we lived in an apartment in the Back Bay, so a fake tree was out of the question because we would have nowhere to stow it after the holidays. Now that we have a house in the suburbs, I suppose we could buy an artificial tree, but we haven't done it yet.

My parents had an artificial tree for Christmas at their home when I was growing up but I always wanted a real one instead. The artificial trees were more practical for them and so they went with them. At the very first opportunity for me to have my own tree, I went out and bought myself a real one. It's just a different experience for me to have a real tree in the home. Maybe I just perceived it differently because I spent so many years wanting a real one that when I got one it emanated some strange aura that only I could see or feel. Maybe it's not an issue of real or artificial - maybe I loved the real trees because they were completely mine as opposed to my parents'. I'm not entirely sure. An artificial tree should be fine as well, I just have to figure out where to store it for 11 months out of the year.

So, IF we buy a tree, we will do it this weekend - and it will most likely be artificial. Hope that's not a mistake.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I Don't Hate Meatloaf?

Yesterday, I made meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner for my husband and me. Only problem was that my husband had a work dinner last night and didn't make it home until about 9 pm. There was an understandable miscommunication that occurred between the two of us. When we decided that I would cook dinner on Monday and not Sunday, we forgot that he wasn't going to be home for dinner on Monday. We both knew he had this dinner on his calendar. We both just forgot when we discussed meatloaf.

I never liked meatloaf. I always thought meatloaf was for people who didn't have the time or inclination to do something better with their ground beef. Part of this perception was from seeing so many unsavory-looking specimens in my lifetime. However, my husband really likes it - and as I more than really like my husband, I have been known to make it for him from time to time.

The difficulty here is that I have a hard time cooking something that I don't like. How do you know if it's any good if you don't try it? SO - I have tried little pieces of it and have tweaked my recipe appropriately. I still wouldn't say I “liked” meatloaf, but I can eat it. I was careless last night and burned myself on an oven rack while getting the meatloaf out of the oven. (I was actually freaking out because I had forgotten about it and was worried it would dry up.) So instead of just packaging it up and placing it in the refrigerator for my husband to eat today, I decided to have a small bit of it to see how it turned out. I had hoped I had sustained a burn making a good meatloaf and not some monstrosity that didn't taste good. I'm happy to report that the small piece was so good that I sliced off another piece and made a sandwich for myself with sourdough bread and cheddar cheese. I really, really enjoyed it. I totally surprised myself. That was totally unexpected. I don't hate all meatloaf at all! I just hate most meatloaf ;)