wander wisely all right (or, how travel reviews are so important in where to stay)

We’re taking a trip to the East Coast next month. I’ve already booked our flights and lodging, but now I’m going back and making doubly sure I want to stay in the places I’ve chosen. So I’m reading up on recent travel reviews.

roaming gnome
where will your travels take you?

One of the most magnificent things about the Internet is how easily information is disseminated. I love that people’s opinions are out there, ready for the rest of us to peruse and help make decisions. I double-booked one night of our trip and having tapped into May reviews on TripAdvisor, I know just which booking I want to cancel.

There are plenty of places to find reviews online, including booking sites like Expedia as well as hotel websites. Of the two biggest review sites, I prefer TripAdvisor over Yelp. I find the demographic to be closer to my own, whereas Yelp seems to sway toward younger folks, and the reviews on TripAdvisor typically are more substantive. I don’t care how late the hotel bar is open and that there is a hot waiter serving table 12 who’ll slip you an extra crudites if you flirt hard enough. I want to know if the rooms are clean, if the desk staff is helpful, if you get a good night’s sleep on a comfortable bed, if the immediate neighborhood is safe, if there are rooms with views and free WiFi, and if the parking is free and breakfast is served.

I’ve no time for reading about someone’s personal lamentation of how they arrived at the hotel at 1 a.m. after their flight got delayed twice (is that the hotel’s doing?) and they couldn’t get staff to carry their bags up to their room. In other words, I find little value in reviews that are so specific to one person’s narrative that they are not helpful to the majority of readers. If I were to arrive past midnight, I’d expect the hotel to be short staffed and I’d also expect to carry my own bags to my room.

However, if you are in a room in which blaring music from the restaurant next door keeps you up at night, please let the rest of us know so we can ask for a spot on the opposite side of the hotel–or pack earplugs.  Also let us know if the music is a nightly occurrence or due to a special occasion, like a wedding. Fill us in on whether you asked for a room change but were ignored (was the hotel fully booked, precluding a move?) and whether anything was done to rectify your disappointing experience.

Once, when staying at a high-rise in downtown Portland, Oregon, I came back to my room with my dinner to find a screaming baby in the room next door. The conjoining rooms were separated by a closed door, so quite a bit of noise traveled between the two. The crying continued throughout my meal, with the parents doing nothing, it appeared, to soothe the child. I had a feeling this would be a pattern and called down to the desk to request another room.

By the time I got off the elevator with my suitcase, I was presented with a key to an even nicer room. It happened to be movie night at Pioneer Courthouse Square, but I expected and even enjoyed the sounds coming from the venue below. Now, that’s a hotel review worth reading. I got an immediate positive response from the hotel desk and the noise I experienced in my second room was warranted–and completely muffled, I might add, by closing my window.

On this upcoming trip, after leaving Boston and tooling around Connecticut, I’m conflicted between staying in Newport, Rhode Island, overnight or driving up to Providence. I’ve booked hotels in both cities for the same day. The one in Newport is more expensive (by about $150 a night!), but it is in a lovely seaside resort. The Providence hotel, on the other hand, is in a historic building with many restaurants and sights within walking distance. Two different experiences that are equally nice.

After reading people’s opinions, I’ve settled on the Providence hotel, whose reviews average 4.5 out of 5, while there are plenty of examples of disappointed travelers who stayed at the inn in Newport. I’m getting a smoke-and-mirrors vibe from that place. It looks much nicer than it sounds, and the pluses seem to be for things we won’t be taking advantage of on our one night there, like the spa and the rooftop restaurant.

So thanks once again, TripAdvisor, for providing me with some feedback and sending my confused mind in the right direction.

why so much? figuring out why certain everyday items cost a small fortune

I was in a charity thrift store today picking up a small table lamp, when I had, shall we say, a light bulb moment: Being that there were none at the thrift store, I realized I would have to buy a shade for the lamp elsewhere that would probably cost me three times as much as the lamp itself.

Why is that? Why are lampshades so expensive? They are made of paper or cloth and are attached by aluminum spokes. What’s the big deal there?

The cheapest shade I can find at Target for my small iron lamp is $9.99–or $4 more than I paid for the lamp. And the least expensive at Pottery Barn runs $28–more than four times the cost of the lamp!

I am at times befuddled by the price of certain items. It defies logic, for instance, that a hand towel would cost just a little less than a bath towel that is many times larger. And sometimes (see my example from Kohl’s below) hand towels cost even more than bath towels:

bath towl

hand towel

 

Even with the buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, two 16- by 28-inch hand towels would be $12, while two 30- by 54-inch bath towels of the same brand would be $10. Say what?

Printer ink is another example. The cost of a Canon all-in-one printer on Amazon currently runs at $69.99.

canon printer

The ink to put in that very printer, however, costs $56.99 for a pack of color ink and one black cartridge.

color ink

If you want to add in another black–because don’t we always run out of black ink before color?—that’ll set you back another $22.

black ink

Any dummy could see it would be less expensive to throw out the printer when the ink runs dry and buy a new one. For the sake of the environment, I don’t advocate such a move, but manufacturers have consumers over a barrel by charging exorbitant prices for the materials that make the technology useful.

There are other items as well that are uber cheap to make and dispense but cost a small fortune for the sake of convenience. Movie theater popcorn and soda and wine at restaurants are some examples. Since most people don’t (shouldn’t?) bring in their own popcorn or Coke to see the latest blockbuster, it kind of makes sense that theaters would sell a bucket of popcorn costing $0.20 to make for $8.50. It’s simply good economic sense when considering the overhead.

But these other items, like printer ink, make very little sense at all. I mean, do people buy that many more bath towels than hand towels and, therefore, making the smaller items is not as cost effective for companies? I doubt it. Or do people really go without lampshades, making them a luxury item? I think not.

If anyone can tell me why some things cost so much–and if you can provide more examples–please comment below. In the meantime, I’ll be busy cutting my 1,620-square-inch bath towels into 448-square-inch hand towels.

 

rose in reel life: booksmart

I veer away from fretting and complaining today to bring you a special feature I’ll call “Rose in Reel Life,” an occasional post on current movies.

Today’s spotlight is on Booksmart.

booksmart

What would you do if you found out the high school classmates you thought were screw-ups ended up achieving as much as you did by working yourself nearly to death? You’d probably join them, right? That’s the premise, anyhow, of the Olivia Wilde-directed film Booksmart, starring Beanie Feldstein (Lady Bird) and Kaitlyn Dever (Last Man Standing).

Throughout high school, Molly (Feldstein) and Amy (Dever) felt justified in working hard and getting top grades and accolades. Molly, class president, finds herself headed to Yale, while Amy prepares for a humanitarian trip to Africa before starting school at Columbia in the fall. They didn’t party one bit, and it shows. But after an unfortunate incident in the co-ed school restroom (is that a thing?), When Molly confronts her classmates, lording it over them what her stellar achievements gained her and what their foolhardy ways got them, she’s shocked to learn that they too are enrolled in prestigious schools or heading straight into interesting careers.

Humiliated and frustrated, Molly and Amy swear to not be outdone by their classmates this time either, and they decide to make up for all the good-girl behavior of the past four years by whooping it up at a blow-out party. Several mishaps along the way (some running too long, distracting from the story, I think) finally lead the pair to the mother of all parties. Mayhem ensues, of course, which leads to a falling out between Molly and Amy. At the fear of sounding like a Scholastic Book Club summary: Could this be the end of their friendship?

Overall, I enjoyed the film’s wit and cynicism, but I like a movie with real-life scenarios to be like real life and not a fantasy, where all the adults are either invisible (we only meet one set of parents) or are daffy and only featured to aid and abet the teens.

There are several inconceivable outcomes to some of the scenarios too, especially when the police show up at the party, leading to one teen’s arrest and its aftermath. There are of course some funny lines, but the dialogue is too sharp and clever for even Columbia- or Yale-bound kids to speak. The language is over the top and pretty raunchy overall, too, as are a few of the scenes, including one involving two teens in a bathroom becoming intimate. (However, it’s somewhat refreshing to realize four-letter words and overt sexuality have become so commonplace as to be almost meaningless.)

I’d give Booksmart a 7.5 out of 10. My score would have been higher had the teens acted more like vulnerable seventeen-year-olds and less like crude adults. After all, some of the self-realization they experience would more likely not have hit them until their thirtieth high school reunion.

Other movies on DVD or streaming to consider:

Lady Bird (R, 2018)—10/10: smart, funny, wise, believable, and just edgy enough.     lady bird

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl (PG-13, 2015)—10/10: One of the most raw and creative films starring teens I’ve ever seen. me and earl

The Way, Way Back (PG-13, 2013)—9/10: Awkward moments of a young man during a summer of growing up. way way


What’s your take?

when an adult child moves in, it’s rough on everyone

My son in his mid-twenties is moving home today. He had been living with three other guys in a house within walking distance to the beach. The lease is up on the house, and the landlord can make more money with other tenants. So, on his way home my son comes. move back home 1

And the move will affect us all.

It’s not the first time we’ve had an adult child return to the nest. Our second born and her roommate had to move out of their home when it was invaded by pests. Since they couldn’t scrape up the dough just yet to move into another apartment, they each went back to their respective parents’ homes.

Our daughter wasn’t any trouble. She worked full-time and hung out with friends while she saved up for her next place, so she wasn’t around that much. She was home for nine months or so, which although a relatively short period of time, still entailed giving up the freedom she had had in her own place. She’d become accustomed to sharing a two-bedroom, one-bath cottage with just one friend before moving back into a house where four other people, three of whom were adults, already resided. And she was stuck in a small bedroom again.

I had been using her room as my office, the first time in forever that I had a room of my own. So, I had to move my desk, computer, files, and office mess to my bedroom. She slept on the folded-up IKEA pull-out bed already in the room instead of setting up her own bed, which we stored in the garage.

Today, I moved that same pull-out bed back into my office to make room for my son’s full-size bed. Since my daughter had come back home, my mother-in-law had passed away and in the garage are now stored some of her possessions, including furniture. There’s not enough space for my son’s full-size bed.

So by myself, I played musical furniture. I removed two mattresses from the base of the pull-out bed, plus a 2.5-inch memory foam topper. I folded the bed frame back into a seat and inched it into the room next door. I squeezed the foam topper into a vacuum-sealed bag (not as easy as it looks on TV, folks) and did the same for two of the pillows and the down comforter. I also had to move the wicker settee from my office back into our bedroom, which had gone into my office so my husband could put his desk into our bedroom. He had been using my son’s old room as an office. move back home 2

Needless to say, I’m very achy. One of the mattresses belongs on the IKEA piece, but the other does not. I had to do the best I could to roll it up and keep it in a semi-rolled state with Dollar Tree bungee cords. The closet in that bedroom is now packed with all these extra items. And my husband and I had made it so nice when our son left.

These are the easy things to do when an adult kid moves back in, though. What will be hard with the move will be a bruised ego to our son, who is still looking for fulfilling work after graduating college. It’s also an adjustment for his younger brother, who became used to being a fourth-born “only child,” and to my husband and me, who will have to accommodate one more person’s mess, noise, and presence.

Moving is never fun, but it’s especially not so when it involves emotions.

 

and the hits just keep on coming (finding a new job is tough, period)

job wantedWhen I left my last part-time job in December, I believed the part-time life was behind me. I thought I’d go back to just freelancing, not thinking about what I’d be leaving behind. But it became apparent soon after the revelry from my birthday, anniversary, and the winter holidays came and went why I’d taken a part-time job in the first place: to get out of the house and to supplement my oftentimes meager freelance income.

Now I want my job back.

I have applied to several positions in the past twelve weeks, some freelance and some not. I’ve had two interviews, one just yesterday, of which I already found out I did not get the job, and one of three weeks ago that’s still pending. It’s with a city agency and the wheels of city hall do indeed turn slowly. I’m beginning to believe, though, that I didn’t get that job either. It’s a position I’ve applied to for years and years, nearly every time the city accepts applications, which occurs every six months. I did pretty well in the interview, but I’m not a kid anymore. I’ve always looked younger than my age, but there’s no denying I’m a mom of thirty-year-olds, not a thirty-year-old myself. I now have to be aware of age discrimination. It’s a fact of life.

There were 120 people being interviewed that week for who knows how many open positions (no one was saying), though I’m thinking it’s no more than a dozen. Now I’m second-guessing myself that I probably didn’t check off enough boxes on locations I’d desire to work at or I didn’t pick hours that included all seven days of the week. I used a friend and a superior as a reference and he’s supposed to let me know if he gets contacted, but so far crickets.

I get the blues, mostly because I’m longing for a feeling of belonging again, which I had when I was recently working and something that you lose once your kids age out of the house and you no longer fill your days with soccer games and swim meets and cross-country races. There are always other parents to chat up at those events.

There are times I feel guilty for getting so down, though. My son has been looking for a permanent full-time job since graduating college three years ago, and a week ago one of my daughters got word she either needs to relocate with her company or find a job here. She’s looking for work here first. If nothing comes her way in the short span of two months (!) the company gave her to decide, she’ll pack up her belongings and head more than 3/4 of the way across the country.

I don’t have it so bad. I do have some work, though my freelance career has begun to tank royally, and I am married to the main earner in the family. Plus, there’s plenty to do around the house in repairs to make, walls to paint, and more, so I don’t want to feel sorry for myself when the kids are in much more dire straits than I am. Still, it doesn’t diminish how I feel.

My son will be moving back home at the end of the month. (Will my daughter soon follow?) The lease is up on the place he shares with three other guys and the rent is going up. He can’t swing it on his part-time job.

The media have been putting out plenty of stories about how the economy is picking up and there’s a galore of jobs. I just did a Google search and nearly 200,000 new jobs surfaced in March alone. 200,000 jobs? Really? That means one for each able-bodied worker in the country. Sorry, that’s a fabrication. It has to be. I’ve been searching the jobs boards for nearly six months now. I see the same jobs pop up or never leave the boards. So, I doubt these “200,000” are new jobs, but more rehashed old jobs or jobs that employers stick out there to check out the current field of candidates, without the intent of actually hiring anyone.

Yep, it’s hard to believe there are hundreds of thousands of jobs available each month when three out of six of members of my family can’t find a singe one.

i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

what i did today while i wasn’t working (or, how bored can one get?)

bored

It’s going on three and a half months since I left my part-time job to go back to freelancing “full-time.” Anyone who solely freelances will understand my use of quotation marks. For those with a regular workload, allow me to explain. People who freelance either can’t come close to working full-time because there’s not enough work, even when having more than one source of income, or they’re flooded with work from different sources and are putting in hours equivalent to two full-time jobs.

How I Spent My Day

So what am I doing while I’m in a deep rut in freelancing and having no part-time job to scoot off to a few days a week? Let’s explore my day thus far, shall we?

  1. I got up around 7 a.m.
  2. I ate my breakfast and fed the dog, giving him a shot of insulin before cleaning up the breakfast dishes.
  3. I got showered and dressed.
  4. I sat at my desk, looking for work online, both freelance and part-time. This took approximately 1.37 hours.
  5. Took the dog for a walk around the block. Picked up the yard (because said dog rarely considers going when we’re out walking).
  6. I went back to my desk to look for more work. Did a deep dive into reading reviews on job sites for a position I’m contemplating submitting my resume to.
  7. Realized this ad runs nationwide on the company’s website and there are probably 6 bazillion applicants already. Do I throw myself into the pile? Probably will. It’s a so-called full-time work-from-home sitch, which probably means full-time on occasion. I know how it works.
  8. Watched a YouTube video of a husband-and-wife team painting a couple pieces of furniture, because apparently people can make a buttload of money doing this. (For reals?) Thought about how the unphotogenic husband, a doughy Casper of a guy, should maybe consider not being in the videos. The wife too, for that matter.
  9. Took out an unpainted framed chalkboard I picked up at 50 percent off at Michael’s two days ago and decided to paint the frame black and then white before distressing. Because point number 8.
  10. Thought I’d throw out my dog’s old food he no longer eats and fill the ginormous container with the food he currently eats.
  11. Vacuumed the area.
  12. While I was unloading multi-pound bags, I thought I’d pour my twenty-pounder of Jasmine rice into plastic containers . . . and did so.
  13. Ate lunch while re-watching last night’s This Is Us episode. I knew I’d nodded off during it, but when watching again, I realized the nodding off was actually stage three REM sleep throughout forty-eight minutes of the one-hour show.
  14. Sitting on the sofa, I realized I should wash the slipcover, so I threw that in the machine with a few pillow covers and throws.
  15. Vacuumed the area.
  16. Went back to my computer to print out a shipping label for something I need to return to Old Navy. Packaged the item and put the package near the front door to go out with tomorrow’s mail.

Being Bored

It’s now 2 p.m. I’m sitting back at my desk and I’m wondering how is it that people don’t work.

I was at a baby shower on Saturday talking to an old friend who’s only held occasional part-time jobs over the years and hasn’t worked in maybe five years. She has no kids at home. When I told her I was already looking for work after leaving a job in December, she said one word: “Why?”

I told her I’m kind of bored and, I guess, unhappy too. She said she has so much to do, and I get that. There are plenty of productive ways to keep order in a house and a life that don’t involve a paycheck. But I’ve realized over the years that I’m happiest when I’m doing work and making money.  Maybe it comes from that feeling of being behind in income and saving for retirement while I raised four kids over a great span of years. Or maybe it comes from even before that, when I lived at home. Having a job was my one way of getting out of the oftentimes chaotic household I grew up in. For once, I was able to earn a little on my own and have some freedom.

Same Time Last Year

I think back to this time last year when I was painting my kitchen cabinets. I did it over a span of five weeks, taking down a few doors and drawers and painting them and the boxes before moving on to another section. Last fall, I tore out the stinky living room carpet one section at a time and hauled it out to the patio before patching the floor and then laying down planks. I cannot believe I did those things while holding down a part-time job outside the house and working freelance from home while also doing all the cooking, cleaning, shopping, and bill-paying as well. So, yes, I can handle a household project or two, but I’m still bored if there’s little more to do.

Tomorrow, I’ll probably KonMari the heck out of one closet that’s brimming with paperwork and stuff we never use, but right now I’m going online again to find some work. It’s obvious I’m not happy if I’m not feeling productive, and to me being productive is both working around the house and working for money. We all want to be happy after all.