Watching the thrill on grown men’s faces as they hand a ball over to a major league player for an autograph is likely worth the price of admission at a game. Of course being 6 rows up from the As dugout doesn’t hurt either.
Apparently we shelled out enough greenbacks – while displaying our gold and green to get chair service and a seat as close to the 3rd base as possible. I only hope the dirt doesn’t sting my eyes.
I’ve prepared myself for a $20 hot dog (mustard is free) and a full water bottle.
Don’t tell everyone, but I’m splurging on shishka-berries… Play on!
Recently I heard a news story on NPR (I have been contemplating a membership for about 6 months… I think it’s time to commit a double chai) about a restaurant in NYC which offers a “livable wage” and benefits to their waitstaff, and offers no opportunity to tip.
(It’s how they do it in Japan. Right. I was there in 1996 and there seem to be be plenty of hands out… But whatever, I am too cheap for a fact-checker escapade.)
So the bigger question is – what is a livable wage in NYC? And how damn expensive is that sushi so that the owner can pay these people survival money?
I would LOVE to know what you all think is a livable wage. A new friend at my new job asked me what was the right amount for a family of 4 to spend each month. I said, as long as the threshold was below what they make – take home and accounted for some savings… They were good to go.
Translated for those of you who need the short form… Live within what you make.
My worry is if the schnook serving my the unagi is living in a Pinto on West 23rd. The flip side is that the rainbow ends in a pot of gold for the owner – built on $30 rolls. Either way, as long as you are picking up the tab… Get me a side of wasabi. I like it spicy.
It’s simply taken me all of this time to be able to recover from the Bat Mitzvah. Parting with as much money as I did has never been easy for me. I feel the need to provide a personal eulogy to each dollar as it passes from this world, into the next. I will try to let them know, how much each and every red-cent meant to me and how I know, that though it doesn’t seem right for us to be apart, there is a higher power, known as parental responsibility that steered our dividing path.
My Bank Account Epitaph
In order to pay the great homage required to such a sum of foundational, monetary bliss I need to first explain how long the money and I were together. The act of savings for me has always been one of safety first, smarts second and focus third. After the first two requirements of “Nicole’s Hierarchy of Needs” are satisfied all subsequent pots of money needs to have an end goal or purpose. They need to have a label. I’m a labeler.
So this pot (which by the way to all those who wish to hunt for the pot within my house, it does not exist. It is safely (and I use the term loosely because I am an American who loves her country) backed by Uncle Sam (at least up to $100,000, and I do not usually save that much in any one pot), was labeled – Maude’s Bat Mitzvah. Please, again, do not try to find it. It has been extinguished. Thus this epitaph.
The money began to co-mingle in the “keep for a monumentous day” vessel about 20 months ago. We knew that the day was coming in 1999, when we found out we were going to have a baby. But we did not begin the gathering of coins for it until we had paid for the new roof on the house. We are not made of money… one major endeavor at a time.
Over the months the increments of “sock away” continued and we shoved all we could into the rabbit hole. If it was a mattress it would have grown lumpier by the week.
And as I gathered all of these greenback children together – I grew to love them. I knew one day, like Charlotte, that my Wilbur’s were meant for something other than my security blanket, they were meant to shower my daughter with celebration.
And so the story went, we saved, we planned, we spent. And then we were literally spent.
I can tell you that there is no greater gift one can give one’s self other than piece of mind and self-satisfaction of a job well done. We got one extra to boot,”Mommy, this was all I ever wanted.”
Brave currency soldiers you gave your lives for something greater than yourselves or even the sum of your parts. You gave our daughter the Bat Mitzvah of a lifetime. Mazel Tov.
I’m in Pittsburgh. I flew in yesterday and boy, are my arms tired.
No seriously, I am here on business. It was a quick trip in to meet the Pittsburgh team. Successful. But what does a saver like me do to unwind?
Unwinding means, of course that there is something that wound me up to begin with – right? Travel is never easy on the body. You want to sleep, you can’t. Last night I spent 2 hours looking for Bat Mitzvah dresses for the big day. For me you ask? No, mine came off of the 65% off rack at Macy’s. Maude, on the other hand, is not so easy.
So we’ve been shopping for the big day. Pre-req’s:
- Never before seen in the Portland-metro area
- Stand out / Notice me
- (Did I mention short?)
Dresses have been coming in – par avion – in throngs of 3-4 poofs, sequins and chevrons (the in pattern of the season don’t you know) at a time.
First to arrive was Macy’s. I should be so lucky…not.
Next to materialize from Mr. McFeely (I am in Pittsburgh, don’t you know…) was Saks. Some would say it was full of potatoes the way Maude responded… that package contained the dress that will go down in infamy as “the swan dress”. Feathers on the boobs and a rhinestone-belted area. Thank G-d that one did not make it past Gate 1.
Bloomies came in a mean 3rd and went out as fast as it arrived. Too short, too long, too drab. “I need pizzazz.” (even though as a 13 yr. old, she doesn’t know how to spell it without shouting from the other room…)
What are a girl and her mother to do? Press on McDuff. I scoured the worldwide interweb and find about 12 more options online. Little missy sounds like she likes a few. We’ll see… let the boxes arrive and the expletives fly.
So what about celebrating in Pittsburgh? Well Mitch made a grand observation that the recently shut down Blockbuster has morphed into a dental office, a hairdresser and a nail shop. These represent three industry leading service areas that cannot be affected by the desire to shop online. You can’t get your nails painted, your tooth drilled or your hair quaffed without using your feet (and maybe your car).
I went into an IRON CITY nail shop, here in Pittsburgh, to splurge on a pedi. Until I heard the price. $40. I told the man I clearly did not have enough cash, turned on my rough heel and departed. Sometimes I tell you how I “SPENT” anyway and I deserve what ever it is. Today I tell you, honestly and proudly… my feet match my Volvo. Old, rough, and unattractive, but paid for.
I am always looking for a trend line. Ask Mary. (Which one? Take your pick… I’ve got two them at my office. BTW – for the record, I also have two Michaels and two Susans… Talk about a trend line.)
Usually I am searching for a pattern in the chaos. Now, I would not say that I am not the one creating the chaos at times… (For that you will definitely need to ask anyone I have ever worked with… anywhere). I would say that the marketing gal in me (thanks Bosco at the Mt. Park New Seasons Market for that nickname) is constantly looking for a string of actions or happenings that make up a trend. I usually hit them right on the nose. I am the “unpopped” version of Faith Popcorn (of the Popcorn Report).
Don’t believe in my powers of “trendspotting”? Well, if it pleases the court, I submit Exhibit A:
The time I said paella was in … Mitch did not believe me (as he helped me unpack the pan I shipped from Spain and the set of wooden eating spoons for authenticity)… and then Williams-Sonoma had it on their Christmas cover.
The Defense rests.
So lately, I have been turning a keen eye onto the way people socialize. Am I an anthropologist like Ross? No.
I am simply a social person. And I am a saver. Which simply means I am forcing myself to enjoy reality TV without the television. I am watching you. And at times hypothesizing about you actions and why.
One observation I made recently concerns dining with friends and the social norms of today’s economic environment. Before we can study the animals in their natural habitat however, we need to travel in the way back machine to a time called yesteryear when it all seemed will, simpler.
Dining with friends when you are young and poor: Eat what my Mom made us before she went home.
Dining with friends when you just had a baby: Pot luck. At 4:45-5:07 when the baby (ies) cry (ies).
Dining with friends when you have kids, a job and it’s 2002: Couvron (for those not in Portland at the time, this was an incredible French restaurant which moved to NYC (what?) and then back to Portland and is now Noisette on Vaughn and 23rd Place. I am fishing or a free meal with this shameless plug.
Dining post economic apocalyptic years 2008-present: Dining out with a coupon.
The trend I am finding falls into the social graces side of things: People are now bringing a coupon to share.
If this is a foreign concept your friends suck. I should lend you some of mine.
How it works:
Agree to a date night.
Agree to a restaurant.
Agree on a time.
Offer to share your coupon.
And actually do.
It’s as simple as that, but it is definitely the new thang in social norms. There was a time when no one wanted anyone to know they used coupons, clipped them or traded them. Housewives would slip secret envelopes under cover of night between cracks in each other’s external woodwork. (Why do you think the Western Wall has a separate Women’s Area? It’s for all of the Charmin 50 cent off trades happening. Please people, think.)
Nowadays though, if you want to be gracious, you share your savings. We had a lovely couple share with us. We appreciated the gesture, so we shared back, a “pay for-less forward” if you will. And another friend then offered to share her Groupon for Cinetopia tomorrow. That third gesture was the trend line sealer. It’s true. It’s great to save, but it’s even greater to share the savings. Everyone spends a little less, has a great time and it feels like someone wrapped a warm $20 around their shoulders.
Got a Groupon. Share it with me. You’ll feel great!
I hate buying parties.
As a thrifty – the thought of combining a festive gathering and needless spending seems as appropriate as Dulcolax-flavored ice cream. If you indulge in DL gelato please heed the warning label – “Money will flow forth from you – like you know what.”
For me – the term conceptual blending – known as the innovative process of mixing disparate ideas to come up with a new creative one, (which I recently learned about in Jonah Lehrer’s latest work “IMAGINE – How Creativity Works”) should be applied to better investments for the American public like “free” and trade”.
I personally enjoy mixing a good metaphor, a nice cocktail and some random nuts found around my pantry for “kitchen sink cookies”; but the thought of bringing people together for the specific point to laugh, drink and shop rubs me and my wallet the wrong way.
As you may know – I am in Marketing and consider myself a capitalist so there is a part of me that admires the Tupperware party of today gone all sparkly, smelly or gadgety. Truthfully, the concept of vertical marketing programs does tickle my revenue-generating fancy. And what’s more, I admire the gumption required to reach into one’s inner circle and sell through a fine balance of tea sandwiches and peer pressure. (Please hold the “that looks great on you” slice of cheese. I’m watching my (bank) figure.) But when push comes to shove, I should never be anyone’s first choice for buying parties. I will be a notorious disappointment.
Since I have NEVER purchased anything at a buying party I can honestly tell you, I am no easy mark. I drive up in my 1990 Volvo, which is pushing 229,990 miles and carefully close my recently fixed sunroof, which has been broken for about 7 years. (BTW – by repairing the sunroof – the vehicle seems to have recouped some of its new car smell. Of course, it could be that some of the old car smell has escaped and therefore it is simply neutral air I am now enjoying. The world may never know). When I enter the home – the hostess who is immediately enchanted by the tinkle of the doorbell which signals a new oinky to the trough – is quickly disappointed when … it’s me. She sighs, and thinks, “Another lost leader. Sandwich consumption-1, purchases – zero.” (Don’t put it out if it’s not for the taking. Capiche?)
This week I was still on a roll, a snack sandwich that is, at a recent Stella & Dot party. I did my best to enjoy the baubles while the well-trained capitalist in arms did her best to adorn me in riches far beyond my comfort zone. But I went because I wanted to show support to my feminine compatriots who are sticking it to the man by either working for themselves (the Stella & Dot rep who eats what she kills) and for the other friend – who is working for a wo-man. Awesome. Girl power.
So what was the best part of the event other than the warm welcome I received from my gal pals and the chance to giggle a bit with a new friend named LOIS who apparently shares her name with the new Lake Oswego water system? The location. The location. The location. Huddle up Buttercup – I don’t want to let everyone in on this secret. It’s too awesome.)
The buying party was being help at a CONSIGNMENT store called Consigning Women, in Lake Oswego, OR. Thank goodness, someone gets me!!
I have to say – this is the best place to have a buying party. Let people shop in an air of retail. Puts me in the right mindset…. At least this place did. The store is a lovely little place, which does a very brisk business. A close friend works there and she introduced me to owner Stephanie Sparkman, a wonderful financial whiz who has an eye for fashion, a brain for saving and a sixth sense for what appeals to all – a bargain. She was singing from my hymnbook all night!
There are rounders of great newish clothes, well priced and all laid out in a way that made me feel I was boutiquing, not slumming in any way. I usually cannot shop in smaller stores anyway; they do not cater to the rubenesque. (Who can carry the whole line of sizes… retailers have to stick to “the middle” and they unfortunately can’t serve the girl who has more on hers…). But in this store, there were a few things that worked for me.
One of those “things” at the store that worked WELL for me – I must say - was Stephanie’s “automatic markdown system” – her retail shout-out to the grandest of all savings experiences – Filene’s Basement in Boston – Park Street Station. I was so drawn to her pricing system; I almost broke down and cried. (But instead I broke into a comedy routine about how I would undress in the aisles in Bean town to avoid the communal dressing rooms and the chance to miss a perfect item. Sometimes you simply must undress in the moment.) Automatic markdown simply drops the price of an item according to how long it has been “literally” hanging around. It’s a modern marvel of mathematics and shopping. Conceptual blending at its best!
Bottom line. I bought at a shopping party. But it wasn’t the baubles that did me in. It was the Linen and cashmere Eileen Fisher sweater for under $25. Is the “no party purchase streak” broken? Who cares? The sweater fits my wallet and me. Touché.
For all of your observant Jews, please look away.
The rest of you – dig in. I am about to share with you a way to satisfy your craving for spending and eating meals our – without breaking the bank.
Surely at this point you feel you have either dreamt that I have started posting again you feel that you have been asleep – awaiting another installment of online me. Either way. Lucky you.
I could blame the hiatus since March on many things – health, travel, a large IP scandal (I am STILL fighting Al Gore about the internet issue).
But honestly, I think I was simply large (and largely) uninspired. And though I am still large – I am no longer uninspired. A friend at my new place of business let me know he stumbled upon my blog … someone told him it was funny (I likely owe that person some money) so he decided to read it. He thought I was funny. This is a person who is not blood related, he does not owe me money and he is humorous himself. ‘nough said. Someone out there wants to read my babbles. I am just the one to document them.
Onward, tally-ho! Meal planning to satisfy the belly, the wallet and the psyche.
On this topic I will refer to exhibit A. The workday. During such time you feel boxed in, you have responsibilities and you cannot do ALL the things you want to do, so you LOOK for ways to feel in control, and to be honest, special. I am sure that if you are at ALL like me – you long for things you think of – and then deny yourself until you buy a pony. (I am kidding, No equestrian stories in this post.) But at least you think to yourself, maybe I could go out to lunch. And $10-20 bucks later… you are sad that your money poured out of your wallet – especially since you BROUGHT today. Oy. What am I gonna do with you?
I practiced a new program today. I will know spill the beans (no I did not have beans).
I got myself out of the office, instead of sitting all day. A HUGE step forward in creating a little ME time.
I had a destination. This provided me with a path rather than an amble to St. Honore’ bakery.
I walked past West Coast Bento. This is a little whole in the wall that I had heard a lot about from Todd and Felicia. They LOVE it. (I speak of them as if you know them, yes? Well if you do, smile and think I know them. If you don’t move on to the next paragraph, Stalker.)
I stepped in, looked around, chatted for a brief moment and then walked ON. I did not stop for lunch. I had a destination (post office) and I already thought to bring lunch. So I did not need any food. I of course wanted it. I wanted to feel special. I wanted to feel like I could splurge. I wanted BENTO. Who doesn’t?
But as I walked to the post office I felt inspired – and I also hatched a plan.
The nice man had given me a to-go menu and let me know he takes phone orders (how nice of him to allow me to get frustrated at work I could easily satisfy my need to splurge right from the comfort of my desk?), so I glanced at it.
Char Su Bao. $1.50
Bento – $6.00
I went buck fifty bun. And you should to.
It was delicious and it complimented my tomato soup and carrots.
I had enough cash, so no VISA.
I felt like a winner.
I have heard this said another way…. But for me I will say “Go small and get home with cash in your pocket.”
Who knew buns could do this for a person? (All the people who post porn – and who produce for the Food Network.)
Until we meet again – good eats to all!