Sunday, February 28, 2010

Great Nights Out in 2010 - Post #4

Moto-I, Wing Young Huie event, Bin Wine Bar

If I went into details about every moment of why last night was so great, I would take up pages and pages. So some highlights:

- Thanks Christy for cooking up the plan, Raine for excellent care for Beatrix, and Lucy for keeping it all under control
- The lounge area at Moto-I was great, our waiter Nathaniel very sake-knowledgeable, and the food great (especially the off-the-menu croquettes). Finally I've made it to the hipster mecca of the Twin Cities!
- The photo show was incredible, and I can hardly wait to see the installation on University Avenue this summer.
- I can't say enough good things about Bin — the atmosphere, what David has done with the kitchen, the wine list ("Zen of Zin"!) Love it there.

We are so very lucky to have the wonderful friends that we do — Eric and Christy, you are the best!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Bargains

Courtesy of Target:

- 5 individual oatmeal cups for $1.02 each, buy 5 and get a $5 Target giftcard back, so 2¢ each.

- 2 body washes with bonus samples and an 8-pack of soap for $16.50 — got an instant $5 giftcard and they qualify for a $15 rebate. Yes, they are paying me to buy the items!

Now if I only got the Sunday paper I could add coupons to the mix...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Liquor

Yesterday was chock-a-block full of activities and errands, including a stop at Big Top Liquors on University and Snelling. It's a place with all the inner-city charm of a juvenile detention facility (and sometimes with a clientele to match), but they have a good selection in general, and I appreciate their commitment to Saint Paul. I had to pick up some bitters and a box-o-wine, so my usual trip to Solo Vino wouldn't cut it.

Of course, this had to be done yesterday, because Minnesota in all its wisdom has not yet rescinded blue laws, so you can't buy a car or a bottle of zinfandel on a Sunday. If this ever changes, there will be much rejoicing in my world.

Cue active, wiggling toddler, who wanted to get out of my arms and run around. Since I wouldn't let her, she turned her attention to me, unzipping my coat, sticking her hands down my short, and yelling in her loudest voice "BOOBIES!!"

We left the store very quickly and without merchandise...

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Liquor redeemed itself that night when Patrick and I ducked out for a quick date night at the opening of Bin Wine Bar in lowertown St. Paul. With our friend David Jebens in the kitchen, a reasonable wine list (including tastings), and a romantic, glowing atmosphere, it will become a new favorite!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bargain Shopping

Ok, time for something lighter.

I have had a big run of bargain shopping, and I am pretty proud of myself.

- For Beatrix's birthday, we wanted to get something different for the kids who attended than the standard goody bags. I was checking out the books at Borders when I say their "super sale" table, which included some really adorable, cuddly stuffed panda bears — marked down from $19.99 to $1. My savings on the 18 bears purchased for gifts? $341.82.

- We also hit the mall. Cost for 3 tee shirts and a camisole from Old Navy, an embroidered tee from The Limited, and a big cozy sweater from Ann Taylor? $40.

- Today I had some Walgreen's coupons. I got a free photo collage of Beatrix (perfect for one of my many desks), 2 boxes of gourmet chocolates for $9.98 each — but each had a $20 stackable gift certificate for 1-800-FLOWERS so $40 worth of gift certs, and a surprise extra Valentine's gift for Patrick that was free after Register Rewards — plus I had a 15% off your whole order coupon.

Just doing my part in the stimulus recovery action...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Another Insurance Rant

So, if you've paid attendance to my past rants (read: been hit over the head with them), you know that Beatrix was denied individual health insurance due to being born with a small heart issue (even though she had had insurance when she was born, etc., etc., etc.) Thanks to our amazing and hardworking broker, Allison, we got her on the Minnesota guaranteed plan (MCHA, through Medica), which insures people who are denied from regular insurance — for which we have the privilege of paying a $3,000 annual deductible just for Beatrix alone and a monthly premium set at 120% of the standard rate.

Last month my bank account was hacked into and we had to close that and open a new one. At the same time, we opened and HSA to maximize our tax savings, especially since (see above) a full 25% plus of our gross income goes to medical insurance. Beatrix's insurance is on auto-deduction, so I called in yesterday to switch the deduction to the new account.

Which is where I got stalled. You see:

- We are required to have Beatrix's payment on auto-deduct, per the terms of the insurance billing.
- They could not switch the deduction information by phone or online. We needed to fill out a whole new form. Once submitted, the form took 30ish days to process. Until they got that form, they would continue trying to deduct from the old account, hitting us with an NSF fee.
- On the form, we had to write in the bank routing number and account number, pretty standard. However, we also had to attach a voided check. Therein lies the problem; the new account does not have checks. No problem, I process direct deposits and withdrawals all the time, just call and explain we won’t be attaching the check, right?
- Uh, no. They can’t process the form without the check. Because “everyone with a checking account has checks.”
- Checks and direct withdrawal (which needs a check) are the only ways they can handle payment. They won’t accept cash. They can’t process credit or debit cards.

Cue a total of about 90 minute of arguing, with the result being I had to go to the bank, get a letter from them confirming the account and routing numbers, and fax the letter with the form (to a long-distance number, natch — they can’t accept it by email) in to MCHA.

I don’t even know where to start with this — with how inane the whole process is, how insecure their “security measures” actually are, how outdated the technology is, or what a PITA. And I’m lucky; I can take the time to do this. If you are poor — if you don’t have a checking account, or an hour and a half to argue, or access to a fax machine that can do long-distance, you’re SOL and you’ve just lost your health care because they can’t find a way to take your money. Which I suppose is exactly what they want, to get you off their insurance rolls so they can pursue more profit.

After all, it was the Medica rep who testified to the legislature last year that if all Minnesota kids were covered, insurance rates would skyrocket, because they depend on children’s rates to subsidize higher expenses.

For shame.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Seth Godin is Brilliant

And I quote:

My definition of art contains three elements:

- Art is made by a human being.
- Art is created to have an impact, to change someone else.
- Art is a gift. You can sell the souvenir, the canvas, the recording... but the idea itself is free, and the generosity is a critical part of making art.

By my definition, most art has nothing to do with oil paint or marble. Art is what we're doing when we do our best work.