Feed the Need

To celebrate my blog’s first birthday I hosted a little comment-luv contest and the lovely Angella was the winner.  She chose a coffee shop in her town for her gift certificate and after several of my bone-headed attempts to call them at 5 AM (I kept forgetting the fact that they are in a different time zone – duh!) I finally connected with them.  But they wouldn’t take my money.  I was bummed and kept trying until I talked to the owner who said they wouldn’t take a credit card without me there to sign the receipt. As much as I’d love to make a little trip to the Okanagan Valley, it isn’t in the cards. 

When I told Angella the bummer news and asked about another choice she graciously said “Here you are trying to support local and they won’t let you.  I have a better idea – why don’t you take the $ and treat YOURSELF?”.  I felt bad that I wasn’t able to fulfill her request and that my idea to pay it forward flopped.  So instead of indulging myself I made two contributions: one to the Summerland, BC Food Bank in Angella’s name (sorry, they don’t have a website) and one to the Cleveland Food Bank.  According to those I talked to at both places they can turn $1 into 4 meals; so in the comming days 100 meals in each of our communities will be provided in Angella’s honor .

Gathering My Thoughts

I’m sure you know (since I begged for votes everywhere); I was the finalist in a contest for $5000 over at Gather.com.  The contest was sponsored by Boca Foods and of all the entries, 10 were chosen for a week-long voting session to determine the winner.  First and foremost, I entered this contest on a whim and really didn’t think my essay was very good.  It could only be 250 words and I had to edit and cut a ton out. But I wrote to the audience; I knew Boca wasn’t going to give the money to someone who needed to pay off credit card bills (which we do), or install a new hot water heater (yep, we need that, too) – the whole point was about finding “balance” in your life not using a contest to fix your financial issues; and was selected as a finalist.  I did not win, nor did I ever expect to, but during the week of voting I found myself biting my tongue quite often but now that it’s over I’m going to vent a little. 

First of all – until I heard about this contest from one of my favorite bloggers who sometimes writes articles for Gather I had never, ever heard of the site. After I joined and entered the contest I dug around a little and found that they think themselves the grown-up Facebook – “the premier social network for the over-30 crowd” is how they describe themselves.  Basically, it’s a lot like Facebook (the old version) but it also allows you to have a personal page for posting “articles” much like if you had a blog, and allows any of the other members to read your posts (if you want).  It also, apparently gives you points for your activity which you can redeem for gift cards to stores like Target and Starbucks.  The site is big on “Engagement marketing” which is exactly where this contest, and dozens of other contests they host, fits in. 

So, I’m selected as a finalist along with 9 others.  7 of us were new members of the site who registered for the purpose of entering the contest.  Immediately the bitter and hateful comments begin.  There was a lot of whining about “all these new people who are only here for the contest” and griping about other entries from long-time members not making the cut.  Once one of the finalists started to pull ahead in votes people started attacking her entry and making fun of her ideas.  Some starting crying foul over the voting poll used (I was one because they only allowed one vote from a location, so of my entire office of 90 people only one vote counted, but I got over it pretty quickly).  After about 3 days of this I was pretty much done with Gather.  I had enough of these kinds of clique relationships in middle school.  Once the winner was announced (with a HUGE lead over everyone else – the girl knows how to market herself!) more cries of “the contest was rigged!” echoed through the comments.  Ugh!  So much for being “a social network with substance”!

I have enough to deal with in my real life to get caught up in the childish antics of a closed-off, bitter, judgmental group of people on the internet.  I quit reading ParentDish a long time ago because of this kind of thing.  I’m not naive enough to think that the internet is all rainbows and unicorns, but what happened to common decency and wishing others good luck and congratulating them on their success?  For a group of people who belong to a social network for adults they all need to grow up already.

Playing Tourist

This past weekend my parents came up to watch M while Mark and I played tourists in our own town. We shacked up at the Beachwood Fairfield thanks again to those wondrous Marriott Rewards – the place was clean and nice enough but absolutely overrun with feral kids there to slide down the newly installed waterslide.  I don’t think we will ever use this place for a quick get-away again; it’d be more likely that we opt for one of the Marriott properties downtown.

Saturday afternoon we finally saw Slumdog Millionaire at the Cedar Lee Theater.  It was good movie but I’m not sure I saw what all the Oscar fuss was about.  We had considered going to the Film Festival, but decided not to since we were only in the game for one movie and 1) couldn’t decide which one to see and 2) didn’t want to pay for parking + the movie.  Next year we need to plan better so we can take in 2-3 films during the CIFF. 

Our plans took us down to Tremont to hit Lolita’s happy hour.  However, even at 5:30 the place was jam-packed and the snotty hostess told us nothing was available for the next 4 hours.  We wandered down the street towards the sign for 806, not knowing what it was.  What a great find!  It’s a darling martini bar that was in the midst of their happy hour – $3 for select cocktails and $2 for wine/beer plus free bar snacks.  We hung out there for over an hour with me drinking waaay too many mojitos.  We chatted with the owner and bartender explored the cute space.  They have a fantastic patio and will start serving food in a few short weeks – each week featuring a different local chef.  We spent mere pennies there and had a great time.  I’m kind of happy that Lolita kicked us to the curb (but I still really, really want to go there)!

Since we didn’t want to spend the kind of money that the menus at Lago, Parallax and Fahrenheit demand, and since we still had a gift card to Bar Cento – we headed down to Ohio City and snagged seats at the bar as the place filled up.  Happy with our frites and sunnyside pizza we headed back to the hotel for dessert (get your mind out of the gutter – we had picked up some cupcakes from A Cookie & A Cupcake while in Tremont).  We slept in until 9 and then lounged around for the rest of the morning, watching CBS Sunday Morning undisturbed.

We came home to a very excited and very worn-out little girl who adored having her grandparents all to herself for 24 hours.  The only downfall of the weekend is that my mom told her about our upcoming trip to the beach and now that’s all she can talk about.  It’s 2 weeks away and she’s asked “we go to the beach now, mama?” 5 times since grandma and grandpa left. 

Two short weeks to vacation, but there is a massive hurdle between now and then: Mark’s 4-day business trip.  I’ve NEVER EVER had to play the part of solo-parent for overnight, let alone 3 nights.  I’m a bit nervous (and very, very spoiled).

In Which I Utter in a Bombastic Declamatory Fashion

I mentioned before that I was pissed at Charter One Bank (part of the RBS banking group). We had been with them for about 6 years with no problems and in the last few months all of a sudden we were getting hit with all kinds of insane charges. For instance, my paycheck gets direct deposited around 2 AM on Friday and I have always had several automatic payments withdrawan out of the account on payday; for 6 years this was never a problem. Apparently they recently changed their rules for deposits  so that now the direct deposit (which is available immediately for a cash withdrawal and shows up in my available funds total) is processed at the end of the business day for to pay automatic withdrawals. So when those payments were automatically withdrawn the deposit technically (by their new insane rules) wasn’t there and my account was technically overdrawn. And here is the new kicker – they charged me TWICE for each overdraw; once when the payment was initiated and AGAIN when the credit card company actually took the money (even though by that time the money was available for payments). So a $100 payment to a credit card cost $80 in fees even when the money was THERE and AVALIABLE for withdrawal (but apparently not avaliable for bill payment)!  This makes all kinds of sense to me made me batshit crazy.

So I call to complain and they tell me I have to go to a branch to get assistance. I go to a branch and the teller is just as confused as I am over all the crazy fees so she calls the “banker” from the back office up to help me. The dude who walks out is no more then 24 years old and I hate to say it but this gets me even angrier. I mean, come on – I’m sure he was well educated and all but I don’t need the Doogie Howser of banking to tell me it’s going to be okay. 

So,I explain the whole thing to him and he pulls up something on his computer that he won’t let me see and I can tell he can’t really figure the fees out either as he keeps trying to search for the same thing over and over and doesn’t get the result he wants.  He gives me a half-hearted and vague explination of the new double fee rule. When I tell him this is total crap and ask for him to waive one fee he tells me he can’t do that and I need to call the 1-800 number from the website (the same people who told me to come to a branch!).  I tell him I plan on closing this account and he tells me “if you think you want to do that I can help you with that, ma’am“.

I ask Mark to go to the branch by his office the next day to see if he can get compentet assistance.  The “banker” there looks at the account, is surprised by the all the fees and takes time to figure out what they are all for. He then apologies profusely and says HE doesn’t have the authority to waive fees but he would call the regional manger to see what he can do. I’m not sure if this is because Mark was dealing with actual adults or because of a gender-respect think but either way we were angry over all of this. The banker from Mark’s branch called back later that day and said while the manger wouldn’t approve the fee-waiver (!) we could submit a formal request to have the fees refunded and in 6-8 weeks they tell me if they will even consider it. UGHHH!!

Later that week, we opened an account at a local Credit Union and started the process of switching banks. We left $5 in the Charter One account for about 2 weeks after the last automatic payment was made, just in case. We went to close the account for good this past weekend only to discover a new fee had been charged – $35 was charged for low activity (again, I had this account for 6 years and never experienced anything like this). Then, of course, since the money I had remaining in the account was less then $35 they then charged me an overdraft fee on the fee they charged me! Apparently Charter One is not a bank so much as it is a never-ending hellish vortex of fess.

I pitched a fit, but no one would help so I ponied up the cash, closed the account and stormed out. In my view, they owe me $155 and I’m going to keep throwing tantrums until they pay up.


I know I sound like a broken record, but if you haven’t yet please take a few seconds and vote for my entry over at the BOCA Balanced Living Challenge (my entry is 2nd, scroll all the way down to vote for Kate Davis).  The poll used for voting blocks entire location IPs so my office (and my husband’s office, and my mom’s office, etc) can only vote once. This means I need your help more then ever. Thanks!

*Updated to add: looks like you can log a second vote here.  So click over there for me, too!

While you’re at it, go leave a comment over on this post for a chance to win a dining gift certificate in your area.

The countdown is on – 3 weeks from today we will be in Hilton Head for a much needed vacation. 

This past weekend it was sunny and 65 degrees.  If it snows again I reserve the right to cry like a litte girl.  We spent Sunday at the Maple Syrup Festival at Malabar Farm – a place that Mark & I frequented as kids.  It was the perfect day for it and M had a terrific time.  She was so well behaved and didn’t mind standing in lines to see things.  I think she liked the horses  and climbing around the woods the best.




Finally – has anyone seen my baby? Because this big kid sure isn’t a baby anymore!


Blogoversary (& a bitty contest)

A year ago next Monday I started this little blog to document my training and journey to the Breast Cancer 3-Day.  Of course it turned into more then that…a lot of mommy blogging, a few foodie posts, a lot of writing about our new town later I’m not sure what I would call this blog.  Nonetheless it is nearly one year old.  I’ve met some great people along the way and feel like celebrating.

I know I get a ton more visits then I do comments, so in an effort to draw you out of the woodwork I am hosting a little bitty contest.  Since I’m all about the eating out when we can I am giving away a dining gift certificate to one lucky winner (about $15).  Since I’m also about eating local – if you are in the CLE area it will be a certificate to our favorite place – Bar Cento.  If you are not reading from the cold shores of Lake Erie, just let me know your favorite restaurant in your area and I will arrange for a gift certificate there*.

To enter: Leave a comment on THIS POST by noon (EDT) on Monday, March 16 and later that day.  I will use a random number generator to select a winner.  Good Luck!

*must be somewhere I can purchase the GC on-line or via phone and have it sent directly to the winner. Residents of the US and Canada only, please.


And dont’ forget to vote for my entry (2nd one – Kate Davis) over here.

UPDATE:  According to Random.com the winner is Angella!  I will contact you via email for details!

Lucky Strike

I was just notified that I am in the running to win $5000 in the BOCA Balanced Living Challenge!  They asked entrants to write what they would do with $5000 to make their life more balanced.  For me it would mean having a cleaning service to help free up our precious weekends for more family time and less toilet scrubbing and also putting aside some money to fund a regular date night for Mark and I.

Please cast your vote for my entry here (my entry is 2nd, scroll all the way down to vote for Kate Davis). The entry with the most votes by Friday, March 20 wins the money.

And, since I’ve been a bit lucky lately I will be paying it forward – check back soon to enter a little contest of my own!

Updated: I discovered today that the poll used for voting doesn’t just block a computer IP address from re-voting but blocks the entire location IP. So of my office of 30 people (and my husband’s office, and my mom’s office, etc) only one stinkin’ vote counts no matter how many people in the whole location vote. This means I need your help more then ever. Please go vote for me right now – it only takes a second, I swear!

Recession Weekend

Like most families, we are trying to watch our budget very closely these days while still enjoying some of our favorite activites.  This past weekend we hit the motherload and enjoyed some great activities on the cheap.

Friday night we tried BRAVO! in Eton for dinner care of a gift certificate I won from the MIT Mommy blog in the Plain Dealer.  We usually choose local, independent restaurants over chains so had never tried BRAVO! before. Since we were on someone else’s dime we went all out starting with the calamari which were crisp and light – we even got M to try it – and ending with the yummy dessert trio.  Dinner was very good, my scallops were a touch overdone but overall it was a satisfying meal.  It was a much more posh place then we usually take M but they were very child-friendly with crayons, a patient wait staff and nice kids menu.  I could see us trying it again for a weekend lunch from their pizza oven.  Dinner out (a favorite weekly ritual): about $15 after tax and tip.

Saturday we had planned to attend the Rock-n-Tot/Synergy but the event was cancelled due to low ticket sales – a huge bummer as we had so much fun at the last one.  I can only hope that Naomi tries once more to get these events off the ground as I think they are a great time.  I managed to fill the day by checking out a new(ish) salon and getting a “saucy” new cut.  I love my cut, like the salon and really liked that I had a big fat coupon for it from my employers discount site.  And, I love that it was in my ‘hood – support local! The returned money on the event tickets just about paid for my discounted cut.  Bonus!

She bangs!

Luckily for Saturday night we got a last-minute offer of comped tickets to see the Cavs play the Heat and were off scrambling to find a sitter.  My boss has a teenaged daughter, E, who is trying to get into the babysitting game and since our regular sitters were MIA we took her up on the offer of having M come to their house for the evening (that way if something happened with E, my boss would be there to pick up the slack).  The downside is they live way the hell on the far westside of town.  The upside is that since E is young and didn’t come to our house, she charged a heck of a lot less then what we normally pay.  M had a FANTASTIC time and Mark and I got to snuggle in the seats see the Cavs trounce the Heat for free.  Cost: about $30 in babysitting fees + a few bucks spent on concessions & parking at the game.

Cavs Pregame

All in all it was a terrific weekend, relatively cheap.  Normally we would never have a date night and a fancy dinner night in the same weekend, but due to some luck we were able to enjoy what Cleveland has to offer at a bargain.

Photo Essay

Ever since M spent the weekend with my sister last month she has been OBSESSED with princesses, specifically Ariel from The Little Mermaid.  Whenever we play, I am “Mama Princess Daisy” (apparently from Wii Mario Kart), she is “M Princess Ariel” and Mark is “Prince Eric”.  She is also getting way into dress up and imaginative play, which is a lot of fun.  This weekend she started talking to “bobby” – maybe it’s the start of an imaginary friend?

Princess Maggie Ariel

Princess bathrobe and purse from my Aunt.  Sunglasses from the sister noted above.  Necklace from my collection.

I also mentioned before that the box that our new dishwasher came in has become quite the plaything. We cut a door, windows and a couple of peep-holes in the sides and let M have at it with stickers and crayons.  I sewed up a quick set of curtains for the window and that box has been the most played with toy in the house for the last two weeks.  It’s been a house, a cave and a rocket; turned on it’s side it becomes a robot costume (I don’t get it either but, I go with it) and turned upside-down it’s a pool.

Playdate & M in the box

M & a playdate in the box house

Snacktime in the box

Note the Little Mermaid stickers – a “must purchase” during a trip to JoAnn Fabric to avoid a meltdown over the refusal to buy a $12 humungous sew-on patch of Ariel.  $2 for the stickers seemed like a bargain.

We also were gifted a hand-me-down easel which over the last few days has become the center of attention.  A chalkboard on one side and place for paper and paint on the other, it is a great way to keep her busy for a long stretch of time.  And watching M perfect her two-paintbrush at a time technique has her artist-daddy proud.Painting

Finally, I realized the other day that the awesome Hanna Anderson outfit my mom got M last January is still going strong after a year of heavy use.  This is the third Hanna that has gone through the rotation in this house and has held up for over a year.  Their stuff is pricey but it wears like iron and is made so that it grows with the child.  I’m all over the next semi-annual sale!

Cousin & M Jan 2008

M & her cousin in January 2008

Hanna Feb 2009

The same outfit, February 2009