Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why are concerts so expensive?

My kids have been to exactly one concert. I splurged for Maroon 5 tickets when my son, who was five, was obsessed with them. And when I say "splurged" I mean I paid $35 each for them.

So, when Hannah Montana came to town, and tickets were going for over $400 if you could even get them, I had to say (HELL) no to my precious girls. Because, for one thing, I have three girls.

And now these concerts come along and my kids beg and plead to go, but at an average of $100 per ticket, it's just not feasible. Not to mention, the tickets sell out in nanoseconds.

I don't get it. I cannot understand what kind of money-driven frenzy garners both the price and the demand. The most expensive concert ticket I've purchased was $85 each for Green Day, two years ago, for my husband's birthday. Before that, MANY years before, I shelled out $80 a ticket to see the Eagles, but I figured after seeing them live and in concert, I could die happy.

My first concert was Shaun Cassidy. I was ten. I vividly remember my mom sitting a few rows back from my sister and I (and our friends), and seeing Shaun himself come bursting through a ring of white paper as the concert started. After that stupendous performance, how could I not be hooked? So, at age 13 I saw Styx. In between I went to one or two Willie Nelson concerts with my parents in various fairground locations, hazy with weed smoke.

My concert-going days were limited until after high school. I was in college when I heard Madonna was coming to Seattle. I was overjoyed. No one else wanted to go. I went anyway (I can't even remember who went with me) and I loved it. My first big date with my ex-husband was to the Doobie Brothers. I'll admit I thought "what's with this nerd taking me to the Doobie Brothers?" but it turns out I knew almost every song. Take me by the hand, pretty mama........

And my concert-loving days had begun. I saw Eddie Murphy's "Raw" (I'm pretty sure every girl there left mad at her date), Boston, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Los Lobos, Steve Miller Band, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Reba McEntire, Bruce Springsteen, Train and more.

I wish concerts weren't so pricey. I'd love for my kids to experience music live from their favorite artists. I'd love to take them to concerts and watch them experience it. But who has a couple hundred lying around for such ventures?

I guess I really need an entertainment fund. One that covers concerts, plays, and other live performances. Guess I'll just take out a second mortgage.........

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


I got to thinking the other day about friends. We all have them. Some more than others. And I wondered about quantity versus quality of friends.

I read my Facebook posts and see some of my female friends posting about big-bash birthday parties, and trips to Cabo with girlfriends and I sometimes wish to be a part of one of those "big group" friend circles, where gathering everyone up takes a banquet room. Where celebrations are over-the-top and families go on vacation together.

And while I have many, many acquaintances, my "friend" group is much smaller. So, what makes a true friend? In my opinion, it's a person who reaches out to you as much as you reach out to her. Someone who is truly interested and concerned about your life, love, family and career, who will be there for you when the chips are down, who makes an effort to include you in special events.

Granted, in our "always busy" day and age, few of us have time to cultivate real friendships. Gone are the days where women spent the majority of their time in the company of other women raising children and taking care of families. Now we have the family part, along with careers, multiple obligations, and the everyday pressures to be successful in multiple areas.

Still. That does not exclude the seemingly simple things like meeting for coffee or celebrating a birthday lunch. I am grateful for the friends I do have who don't forget those things. And I have friends who I don't see but a few times a year, who are still true friends in my book, because we connect in other ways - Facebook, email, text conversations. I love a friend that is a constant -someone who, even after long stretches of absence in your life, can fall back in and reconnect as if no time had passed at all.

I also love new friends. I had a pen pal for years whom I've never met, but who, if I ever got the chance, would be a great new friend, I'm certain. Sometimes, a Facebook comment leads to an invitation to coffee, and a new friend is made. We women have a quick way of connecting and my husband has often marveled at how someone I've never met can suddenly fall into a seamless conversation and comfortable presence after only a few minutes. I always tell him "a woman can meet someone in the ladies room and come out best friends." It's just the way we are - we connect.

Then, there are some friends, who with the prevalence of social networking, can become friends we connect with daily and never meet. And while those people may not fit our traditional definition of friendship, they serve a purpose and meaningful relationships can be forged. I'm still a die-hard fan of face time, but it's nice to know there's another woman up at 3 a.m. to "talk" to when you can't sleep.

I think most of us get so wrapped up in our lives that we forget to connect with our friends in more traditional ways. We send e-cards instead of meeting for lunch to celebrate birthdays, or we limit our "time" together to chatting on the sidelines of a soccer game, or a brief text now and then. I admire the girlfriend groups who have a yearly girl's only trip, or meet monthly for cocktails and conversation.

When my kids were little, and I was swamped with mommy stuff with seemingly "no time" for social outlets, I often joined a monthly group - Bunco, book club, mom's night out - to satisfy that girlfriend connect time. That worked for a long time, but as my kids got older, I found those things fading away as we all became busier in our kids' lives.

But if we're so wrapped up in our kids' lives, what happens to us? How do we rediscover and remember who  WE are? I have friends and relatives who are fully ensconced in club sports. It consumes all of their discretionary time to the exclusion of social interactions (with the exception of the other parents in the club sports), vacations, and pretty much anything else. Other friends are so wrapped up in their kids other activities, that they spend the majority of their time driving them to practices and rehearsals. And the people we spend that time with become our friends. But when the activity ceases, do the friendships? Some last, others fade away as we go through different stages in our lives.

I love it when I meet people who have been friends for years and years. To be in your sixties, and still connect regularly with your best friend you've known since age five - what a beautiful testimonial to true and lasting friendship. My guess is those two friends have drifted in and out of each other's lives for decades, weathering motherhood, marriage, divorce, death....all manner of joy and pain. And, in the end, they are still there for each other, a rock of stability that even other solid relationships such as marriage and parenthood can't crumble.

So, who are your "true" friends? Who are your new friends? What does friendship mean to you?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

On a stick..........

Why is everything suddenly more appealing on a stick? Cake pops, Peeps on a stick (which I humbly admit I used on my Easter table), and now PIE POPS? WTF people. Pie does not belong on a stick. Even cake is pushing the envelope.

Pops refers to something that is akin to a lollipop. Like a.....lollipop. A lollipop is just a piece of candy on a stick. It makes it very easy to eat the candy, and when you're done, you just throw away the stick. The stick is simply a vehicle for the food to enter your mouth. But when you start putting everything on a stick.......I don't know...

There's a funny iCarly episode where a guy puts tacos on a stick. But there has to be a line drawn somewhere, no? I mean, are we going to start serving pasta on a stick? Sliders on a stick? Truth be told, you can put a stick in ANY food and call it a "pop".

The problem is, when you put cake on a stick, it falls off the stick. Like, after the first bite. Then, you put your hand under it to catch the falling pieces and suddenly you are just eating cake out of your hand without the benefit of a paper plate and plastic fork. Lame.

I can only imagine pie on a stick. Ohhh, what fun, catching sticky, gooey, blueberries in your hand as they fall off a stick. Even ice cream, which has been served on a stick for centuries, has always had a bad reputation for bailing off the stick before you're finished eating. Who hasn't caught a chunk of popsicle in their hand? Or experienced the disappointment of the last, perfect bite of an ice cream bar sliding prematurely to the ground.

I always refer to balloons as "disappointment on a string". Balloons either fly away, get popped, or lose all their air and just look all sad and limp. What a racket. Well, "pops" are disappointment on a stick. Even the most gooey food will fall off a stick, and who wants to pay a premium price for a treat (you know, because it's on a STICK and all) only to have it fall apart and end up slurping it out of your hand, or, worse, watching it fall to the ground. Anything on a stick should be a one-bite wonder. If it can't be consumed in one bite, don't put it on a stick! Except for things on a skewer, which are designed to lay horizontally.

Although.....if the appeal of serving something on a stick really gets people excited, why not try brussels sprouts on a stick? Or broccoli trees on a stick?

I'm "sticking" with lollipops. They're safe. They stay on the stick till the very end.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter candy tutorial........

How many of you received a chocolate bunny today? Jelly beans? Peeps? Easter, like all other holidays that have become overly commercialized, offers up a plethora of holiday-themed candies sure to please even the pickiest of palates (mine). Here's the lowdown:

Chocolate bunnies: Some of these are good. Others suck. A chocolate bunny should ALWAYS be solid because those hollow bunnies are false advertising. They look all big and appealing but when you bite into one, it instantly crumbles and you just paid for a chocolate shell and a lot of packaging. Don't ever, EVER buy anything but a solid chocolate bunny. I personally love Palmer chocolate and it's about the cheapest kind you can buy. And I also like Lindt chocolate which is a higher-priced brand. But not much in between. Maybe a Hershey bunny, but anything else is just crap.

Jelly Beans: These come in all manner of brands and varieties. I encountered some interesting ones this Easter - ones that were all red, or some that came in smoothie flavors. I think the Starburst ones taste best, but I only really like the orange ones anyway. Sure, there's Jelly Bellies, but those can really shock you from time to time. Like when you're expecting a coconut and get toasted marshmallow instead. I like to know what I'm getting. Oh, and black jellybeans? The grossest invention ever! I hate anything that tastes like licorice or IS licorice. Blech!

Peeps: These quintessential marshmallow chicks and rabbits are an Easter favorite. Of a bunch of weirdos. I hate Peeps! They are marshmallows, for one, and there's not much appealing about a marshmallow unless it's perfectly roasted over an open fire and sandwiched between graham crackers and chocolate. For another thing, someone got the brilliant idea to coat Peeps with a superfine, colored sugar. Which is EWW! Because that grainy, sandy texture is in your mouth and it's so unappealing. I do not understand the appeal of Peeps, except as a table decoration, which is how I used them this year. And right after dinner the kids burned them over the fire, which is their rightful resting place.

Everything else: Note to manufacturers - just because you make your candy in appealing pastel colors, the flavor is not altered. Therefore, all the candy I hate, even though it's appealing in those soft pastel shades of Easter, will not taste better. And yet, I still purchase it "for the kids". I'll admit to tasting a few of these this year and I realized how yummy Chewy Sprees are. And how much I hate a hard candy shell around chocolate. Unless it's M&M's or Reese's Pieces. Except when the candy companies decide to get cute and offer the candy in egg shapes, which totally throws off the chocolate to candy shell ratio.

The winner: Hands down, my favorite treat this year was Palmer caramel eggs. The chocolate to caramel ratio was just right, both tasted great and I ate a whole bag over the past few weeks by myself. Yikes. Still, Palmer never disappoints me and offers this delicious caramel/chocolate combo for several other holidays as well (hearts for Valentine's day, bells for Christmas). I also love their chocolate/peanut butter combo and their chocolate/fudge combo. I just love Palmer chocolates. The runner up was Lindt chocolates - the mini truffle eggs were delicious, and the truffles never fail to please me, especially with their beautiful, spring-y packaging and special seasonal varieties.

I'm in big trouble........

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why I don't garden.........

I just adore the signs of spring cropping up all over my soggy Pacific Northwest yard. Besides the puddles and sodden grass, there are some honest-to-goodness signs of spring out there. Pink and purple hyacinth. Yellow daffodils. Slightly paler yellow miniature daffodils. Crocuses, which popped up IN the grass this year. We all thought it was an odd coincidence until we learned that Jeff actually planned it that way (and I'm not gonna lie - it's kinda weird). I'm sure there are other plants and foliage growing which I know nothing about and cannot pronounce the names, because I am not a gardener.

I really believe there are two types of people - those who garden and those who buy their flowers wrapped in cellophane for 9.99 at Safeway. I fall into the latter category and I am unapologetic. I am good at many things but gardening is not one of them. For one thing, there's all that dirt. Who wants to get dirt under their fingernails? Not me. I don't even like getting my hands dirty eating pizza, therefore I use a fork. And my kids make fun of me for it.  But nothing's stuck under my nails. Then, there is the backbreaking work of making little ditches or divots in which to put seeds that often (annoyingly) don't even sprout up! And if they do actually sprout, you have to water and weed them. It's like having a bunch of demanding toddlers. No thanks, I had a few live versions of those and I'm glad I lived to tell about it.

I just cringe when I hear people talking in "garden-speak". You know, "well my peas aren't sprouting as they should yet - do you think it's the cold snap?" or "I was thinking of some annuals along that fence right there - what do you think of cosmos/camellia/chrysanthemum/crocus/chive/crapIcan'tthinkofanymore?" I do not know the difference between an "annual" and a "perennial" and how they relate to gardening. To me, an annual refers to a doctor's visit I'd rather avoid each year. And "perennial" spelled slightly differently, and pronounced with a different emphasis, refers to a part of my anatomy that I'd rather avoid talking about at that doctor's visit I like to avoid. You can see where I'm going here. I know nothing about gardening.

I have been known to pull up "good" plants thinking they were weeds and I may or may not have watered artificial flowers at some point in my life. I don't mow the lawn and have only done so once in my life when I traded chores with my brother (I quickly switched back - who was I kidding? Mowing is messy!). I do enjoy helping with the aeration once in a while, because it's fun to hop on that pogo stick contraption and it's a good workout. I have no idea why one aerates, though. It results in little dog poop looking things all over the lawn which is pretty unsightly.

Sometimes I accompany my husband to the nursery and I pick out plants that are "pretty" with no regard as to whether they will grow in our climate. I know what I like to look at and that's it. Don't ask me what kind of soil or nutrients a plant needs. I did honestly try to learn once and had a very long conversation with a woman who had me buy some type of pearly balls to shake all over my flower beds. I don't know if it made any difference. I do know that those little shakers of wildflowers (which look so handy) do not work - they never grow! It might have something to do with the fact that I forget to water them, but still.

I know my favorite flower is a Gerbera daisy and I know how to cut floral stems under running water at an angle. I can arrange flowers in a vase. And that's where my gardening skills end. I am forever appreciative that my husband knows how to garden and can walk out on the back deck and snip basil or mint or some other delectable thing for our dinner. I'm glad he knows what will grow in a pot and what needs to be put in the ground and that he makes pretty displays in our yard that I enjoy looking at. And I really love it when someone walks by and comments on our landscaping and I talk about how "we" did this and that. Truth be told, there is no "we" about it. It's all him. Because he just KNOWS this stuff and could care less about the dirt under his nails or embedded in the cracks of his hands that will not come out even with repeated washings. He calls it "clean dirt". I call myself lucky. Garden on, my friends!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'm bored!

It's the weekend......and you know what that means? Mom, I'm bored? Bored, you say? I wish I knew how to be bored. Bored is wasted on the young. I remember being bored, but I can't for the life of me figure out how or why I was EVER bored as a child. I had the whole world at my feet! Hours of unsupervised playtime! I could leave home on my bike and return when I felt like it, or when it got dark, whichever came first. But I and my peers also possessed something our new generation of young seem to have lost. Evolution seems to be phasing it out. It's called imagination.

Today two of my kids were actually laying on the floor, complaining about being bored and expecting me to do something about it. Helpfully, I suggested they could do some spring cleaning which was immediately rejected. I offered them the opportunity to go through their picture drawers - deep drawers where I've tossed all their pictures and some school mementos into (what? I love doing that!). No dice. I even suggested they take their cameras and go on a photo safari, taking pictures of "signs of spring" (see how helpful I was offering a theme?). There was a tiny spark of interest but it dimmed as quickly as it had burned. I said it was really THEIR job to learn how to entertain themselves and my child said she didn't know how. Truly, is this now a learned behavior? Is necessity no longer the mother of invention?

When I was "bored" as a child, I would retreat into my room and lay on my bed and draw. Nothing made me happier and the best gift I could ever get was blank white paper which I filled with hundreds of drawings of people. In my head, there was always a story going; instead of writing it down, I drew it. Sure, it made no sense to anyone else. But I didn't draw for anyone else. I drew for me. It was my entertainment. I also loved playing with Fisher Price Little People. Or just sticks of different sizes that could be my pretend "family". As a teen, I would read, make photo albums, write notes to friends, write letters, listen to music, take a walk, hang out with friends doing nothing, bake. I could always come up with something and I didn't ask my parents to entertain me. I KNOW I lamented that I was "bored" many times, but I don't remember getting a suggestion of what to do unless it included the vacuum cleaner or a container of Comet.

I firmly believe that too much screen time has seeped our kids' imagination from their brains. Without a screen, they are lost. At any given time they have a cell phone, a computer, an iPad, a TV. Once they exhaust their options on those, they have no clue where to turn. But inside the house we have books, arts and crafts, music, games. And outside there's a world of possibilities. Still, today they wanted to "go somewhere". When I suggested several parks, they said "and do what?" ( When I suggested a short hike, they said there was "no place good around here". So, we didn't go anywhere. Because we couldn't agree on what to do. Which was just fine with me, because my "to do" list will never be completely done and I was plenty busy.  I clipped coupons and paid bills. What fun! And I still have "homework" from my job to do. It involves coloring (hey, I work in a kindergarten!) and do you think they want to help me with that? Nope. Now, I ask you, who doesn't love to color?

I guess they might as well enjoy being bored while they can. For all too soon, they will be so busy they won't have time to be bored. They will WISH for a day when all the chores are done, and everyone is fed, and everyone has clean clothes and there's food in the pantry, and the floors are clean, and the bills are paid, and the house is spotless, and they find themselves suddenly and utterly struck by paralyzing boredom. And by the time they begin to think about what to do with all that delicious, unexpected time, the baby will cry and the dog will throw up on the rug and a glass will break, and the doorbell will ring, and someone will be hungry and, likely as not, someone will be pulling on their leg saying "I'm bored!"