When my Mother’s Days began

Then, 34 years ago, we didn’t know yet if the


Three generations of Mother’s Day.

unborn baby was boy or girl. I still wouldn’t want to know. I think God intended it to be a surprise – a fun surprise. Or, maybe I’m just old-fashioned. Whether you know or not, what a thing it is to make a life, to deliver a baby from my body.

I’ll always remember the feeling of carrying a baby within my being. I missed it for a long while after she was born. In those first few weeks, when she still fit in the same spot, only on the outside of me, it was joy to hold her like that, to cuddle and rock her.

It gave us quiet time. I don’t remember that she ever cried or fussed in those moments. And Lord knows, she was a fussy baby!

It didn’t matter of course – moms just want their babies to be content, healthy and safe. Their crying, oh especially that newborn cry, is heartbreaking, and makes it nearly impossible when they’re so little to just let them cry.

I have a dear friend, closer to my daughter’s age than mine, who had her first baby, a sweet baby girl, earlier this month. She is reveling in the awe of love and emotions that overwhelm you and instantly change your entire life as soon as you hold that tiny miracle.

My own baby girl and her husband are trying these days. I pray they, too, get to experience this love. Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Babies got nothing on teenagers and young adult children when it comes to testing parents.

In most cases though we all come through it, together, stronger and better on the other side. My Sarah and I are there now and I’m ready and happy to become a Grandma. In part because I know she’s ready and her life is ready. She and her hubby will bless their baby (babies?) with boundless love and strong parenting.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms (new and seasoned), moms-to-be and moms-in-waiting.

Published in: on May 13, 2017 at 7:04 pm  Leave a Comment  

Travel with the furry kids

Here’s the deal. We are pet owners and we are ‘those’ pet owners. We take our two dogs with us most of the time when we travel if at all possible.pooches

Thankfully more and more hotels are pet-friendly. Most have fees that run from a single $25 fee to $50 per night per pet.

Two things to watch out for if, like us, you want to travel with your furry babies.

  1. Ask if ‘pet-friendly’ means you cannot leave your pet unattended in the hotel room for more than 30 minutes. Believe it or not, we have seen more than one hotel that considers that pet-friendly. Yes, I travel to your city so I can sit in my hotel room with the dogs. Seriously?
  2. Don’t overpay on pet fees. Someone with a 80-pound dog will pay the same pet fee as the next person’s three 20-pound dogs that still don’t weigh 80 pounds. Talk with the hotel to ask for an exception and consider joining the brand’s rewards program. It can help.

Hotels, please reconsider your pet fees. Charge one fee for pet or pets that weigh 50 pounds or less, and a higher fee for those over 50 pounds. Just a thought …

Published in: on September 21, 2016 at 11:55 pm  Comments (1)  
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Exceed my expectations, retailers!

Probably as a teen, I started clipping coupons. As a hard-working young person, I relished the concept of ‘free’ money, and something about the act of cutting out coupons, comforted me.

Still today, I clip coupons from each Sunday paper. Fewer than I used to because I shop less, and shop differently than I used to, which means I don’t see many coupons for the items I routinely buy.

Some retailers have taken on a practice that quickly became my latest pet peeve. They could so easily make it a way to exceed my (and your) expectations, with a simple change. The goodwill it would create in their shoppers, I expect, would far outweigh any cost to them.

The two stores where I experience this annoyance are #CVS and #Target. Stores I regularly shop in because they have the items I need and overall, I like the stores. But this little tactic of theirs makes me grit my teeth each time I check out.

If you shop there, I bet you already know what I’m going to say. After I pay for my purchases, as part of my receipt, they give me coupons … for the items I just bought.

Usually these coupons have a short window before they expire. Seriously? I just bought three bottles of moisturizing lotion or eight boxes of tissues. What makes you think that within 10 days I’ll need more?

Come on! How about surprise me – exceed my expectations. Apply that coupon to the purchase I just made. Don’t you think that would further endear me to your brand and make sure I shop again with you?

Your current tactic annoys me and makes me never want to return. You’re in luck because I detest a certain competitor big-box retailer so much more that you’ll keep getting my money. But please, consider reversing this ridiculous approach so I can brag to all my friends about my wonderful experience that exceeded my expectations.

Published in: on July 10, 2016 at 6:39 pm  Leave a Comment  
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No ice

Just returned from a pleasure trip to Boston. Great visit although miserable weather. We stayed at #BatteryWharfHotelBOS, which overall was a lovely property. It was, however, the first time I’ve stayed in a hotel without ice machines.

Yes, any time we needed ice we called the front desk to request it. Hotel staff was always prompt and unobtrusive when bringing it. On the last night we had one weird experience.

The staff member said he needed to come into the room rather than just handing the ice to us as every other staff member had done. Then he asked if he could go into our bathroom to, we believed, empty the ice bucket. He spent a good minute in there, in our full line of sight, and threw the ice into the trash can – not the sink – one ice cube at a time. Odd.

While I’m sure there is some four-star reason to not have ice machines on each floor. I can’t say I get it. I’d rather be able to get my own ice when I want it without feeling like I have to tip each time. On that note, after the first time, we quit tipping. Maybe not fair to the staff but I hope the hotel takes care of its employees.

Published in: on April 13, 2015 at 10:46 pm  Leave a Comment  
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To deal, or not to deal

I like bargains as much as anyone, and quickly became a Groupon fan. So last September when the Fox & Friends show offered a deal that included four movie tickets and a $100 Restaurant.com gift card for $50, I bought it!

Of course I did my due diligence before I hit the “purchase” button and saw several participating restaurants in my city so I felt confident we would use it. Once my goodies arrived I got a better understanding of the whole Restaurant.com gimmick.

I did not buy a $100 card that we could use to enjoy a nice dinner or two at local restaurants we hadn’t yet tried. No, I could print one $25 certificate, for example, from my account to go to a restaurant that required a $50 minimum purchase.

Once I understood that, the other local restaurants didn’t seem quite so appealing. However, we had a trip to Orlando planned so I thought we might have better luck there because of a larger pool of participating restaurants. We did, yet none were great and we would not have visited any of them otherwise.

In fact one pizza joint was no longer taking the Restaurant.com certificates. (No, we did not stay and eat there anyway.) Our visit must have reminded the restaurant owner to let Restaurant.com know he no longer wanted to participate, because to Restaurant.com’s credit, they emailed me to let me know they were refunding that credit back to my account.

Good news, bad news really. I thought I was almost done with this whole fiasco and then I had another $10 (to buy $20) on my hands! In the meantime, Restaurant.com added a new Mexican place in my local area so we went there. And thankfully over Memorial Day weekend we made a short trip to a small town about 15 miles away and used the last of our certificates.

While I eventually got all my money’s worth out of it, using Restaurant.com was one of the most painful consumer experiences I have had! I definitely do not recommend it and would never give it as a gift. In fact, my advice is to avoid it … no matter how tempting the deal seems.

Instead, watch the Groupon deals–sign up for them in other cities you plan to visit. You will want to be selective (I’ll share my strategy in an upcoming post), but you will get better value for your dollar from www.Groupon.com than from www.Restaurant.com.

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 12:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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To fly or not to fly

Spoiled Pooches

LWMac’s pups hangin’ out at Shell Point Beach, Florida!

We are contemplating – well, I am contemplating, hubby is planning – a trip home to spend Christmas with the fam this year. Since we are about 2,000 miles apart and have two dogs to board if we fly, I am looking at the cost of rougly three plane tickets. Yes indeed, our spoiled pooches’ boarding ‘resort’ will cost about as much as one of the plane tickets. Because we fly out of a non-destination airport and into another non-destination airport, we get sucker-punched at both ends. In addition, our daughter is about an eight-hour drive from the rest of the family, so we need to plan a multi-city trip. Given all that, the current Delta.com estimate is $2,900! Going round-trip only does not reduce the fare much more.

Luckily I recently found a website called www.befrugal.com with a ‘fly or drive calculator.’ Start by entering your starting travel location and destination, plus your travel dates and the number of travelers. (I said three travelers.)

Next enter your vehicle info (year, make, model), how many hours a day you will drive, and your anticipated hotel rate. We have a 2007 Toyota Highlander and we expect to drive 10 hours a day, with $100 a night hotel stays. If you will be driving toll roads (which we will not), enter the total tolls you anticipate.

Then enter airport information – where you start from and go to, plus how much time you need at check-in and arrival. I used the default: 1.5 hours to check-in and 45 minutes at arrival.

The calculator assesses ground travel if you fly. How will you get to the airport? If parking as we would, what’s the rate? The default is $15; however, I believe the rate at our local airport is $1o. Choose your transportation needs and associated costs when you get to your destination, along with any airport transportation costs (i.e., shuttle).

In addition, you enter your estimated plane ticket price. Do some research through your preferred airline(s) website. I am going with $700 per ticket in my calculation. And the winner is …

For $2,330 we can fly in six hours and 29 minutes. For $1,454.30 we can drive in two days, nine hours and 34 minutes. Based on this projection, I think it is safe to say we will drive and save that $876 for another trip. If I compare the $1,454 to the multi-city air fare of $2,900, we save nearly $1,500.

Obviously there is more to this decision for every  traveler than just the price. You also need to include the price of your time–and I believe my time is worth a lot. Weather is another factor that can impact either flying or driving. We will be driving north; thankfully we grew up there so we know how to drive in winter weather. Do you want the mileage on your vehicle or will you rent a car? If so, include that in your driving costs.

In this case, both of us are looking forward to the road trip, which we have not done in some time. We have the leave time available from work so we can enjoy a nice four day visit, along with the driving time. It also allows us to spend time with our daughter without airline schedule hassles. Of course, I will keep monitoring all prices over the summer so we can make a firm decision by September.

Published in: on June 4, 2012 at 8:47 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Real Deal

Helpful change for air travelers – starting today, airlines ads must include the actual full price. No more going after those $29 or $59 “teaser” fares only to find that with taxes your price is significantly more than that. I love the low prices and hope the next step for airlines is to work to keep the bargain prices at say $59 with all the taxes! Call me crazy…

In addition, another major rule taking effect allows customers to put a fare and a reservation on hold for 24 hours without paying for it. Gives us all time to change our minds or check with others about our travel planning. Awesome!

Read more here: http://www.ktla.com/news/landing/ktla-new-airfare-rules-taxes,0,6613827.story

Published in: on January 27, 2012 at 11:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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2011: My Year in Travel Photography

2011: My Year in Travel Photography.

via 2011: My Year in Travel Photography.

Published in: on January 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

A+ Hampton Inn

We made a last-minute decision to head to Jacksonville for 2011 New Year’s Eve. Hubby has several points as a Hilton Honors member and it turned out we could cash some in for one free night. I may have mentioned before we often travel with our pets, and turns out the Hampton Inn in Jacksonville’s Tinseltown takes pets – without a pet fee! Great news!

Except that when I made the reservation at around 7 p.m. EST on Dec. 30, Hilton Honors’ system auto-populated the arrival date of Dec. 30, not 31. Really? Who would think?

Of course when we arrived to check in on Dec. 31, the hotel clerk told us the points were gone and we’d have to pay for our entire stay now. So my husband was unhappy with me, and I was unhappy with me for my careless mistake. (Lesson learned: double- and triple-check dates when booking anything online.)

However, I was mostly very unhappy with Hilton. Until that moment I was thrilled with them–great location, highly pet-friendly, and immaculate cleanliness. We did a quick check online and learned the best way to resolve the issue was to call customer support, which my husband did.

He applied the ‘honesty is the best policy’ approach and admitted we goofed when making the reservation. He also pointed out the illogic of making a reservation five hours before the day ends and showing up the next day to check in. Within about five minutes, the Hilton Honors staff restored his points, and while we had budgeted for one night free, at a $79 rate ($89 with taxes), we still had a good deal.

Truly a lovely hotel and one of the cleanest I’ve stayed at in quite some time. I highly recommend it, and Tinseltown is a fun location. Lots of restaurants and a movie theater all within walking distance, 10 minutes in a couple directions to great shopping, and 20 minutes to the beach.

Rewards programs are helpful for people like us who enjoy travel on a budget. Track the points and take advantage of them. Just be extra-careful about data entry when you book online.

AAA.com and Travelocity – Disappointing Service

Let me start by saying I am, er was, a long-time Travelocity customer and booked numerous trips through that website. In recent years the deals didn’t seem as good, and I noticed that AAA.com also offered travel planning. I use the AAA roadside service and gave their travel planning side a try, too.

I’ve used it on and off, haven’t found it to be remarkable but occasionally found some deals. Like this one for Memorial Day weekend when my husband and I decided at the last minute to travel to Nashville for my niece’s high school graduation. It’s about a nine hour drive from where we are in Florida so decided to drive to Atlanta that Friday night and finish the trip Saturday morning.

At www.aaa.com, I used “Free Breakfast” and “Pets Accepted” as hotel search terms. A Hilton returned in the list, in the right location with a great pre-paid rate of $75 for the night. Perfect! Having used pre-paid rates before, selectively of course, I was comfortable with that since we knew our trip was definite.

We arrived late Friday evening and the front desk clerk told me the hotel does not accept pets. While very nice, she was not budging and wouldn’t let us stay there. She said “Travelocity” had not paid them yet and she noted on my reservation cancellation the reason I had to cancel.

You notice I said Travelocity there. Apparently, AAA “partnered” with Travelocity last year and in my opinion, they both did a pretty lousy job of partnering. May 29, two days later, I re-created my search and the same results returned, and I filed an online request for assistance at AAA.com.

The short answer from AAA has been that essentially their search engine returns results based on one term, seemingly the first one on the list. In this case that was “Free Breakfast.” Nowhere on their website do they post a warning telling you that it can only search on one term. Here is the explanation I got from them:

The website will apply multiple search terms and identify exactly which terms from your criteria were matched. If the hotel had allowed pets, it would have identified this as a match along with the free breakfast.

Interestingly, when I search tonight using the same location and same search terms, the Hilton in question does not return. And on some listings (but not all) there is now a “Features Matched” line that I do not recall seeing there before, ever. Is it possible that out of my misfortune came a change in service? Unfortunately too little too late for me.

Published in: on July 6, 2011 at 12:25 am  Comments (1)  
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