penny wise pound foolish

One of the things that really drives me batty during these visits is their illogical logic. A big part of it centers around how they look at the cost of things, and it always seems to end with B trying to argue that I just want his parents to spend more money, which is not my argument at all. I am just tired of hearing how cheap everything is, when it really isn’t.

Take for example, that on their first trip to Costco this visit, they came home with a box of 15 Häagen Dazs ice cream bars. I think the cost worked out to less than one dollar each, but the only flavor they carry is vanilla with milk chocolate almond topping. Now I don’t know about you, but if I am going to splurge on those calories, I want to make them count, so we only buy the chocolate ice cream with the dark chocolate coating, because those are our favorite.

It turned out that B and I had been “cleaning” out the freezer before they arrived. B noticed that somehow a box of ice cream bars that we had bought a few months back had somehow been jammed into the back. We ate those before they got here, although they were a different brand, and not chocolate-chocolate. What B had missed was a single Häagen Dazs bar, not in a box, just “hidden” under some frozen spinach. I wonder who did that?

So before they dug into the new box of “Popsicles”, I went and pulled out the hidden treasure. As I said, there was no way of knowing what flavor it was from the packaging, but I knew we only ever buy the chocolate-chocolate, because it is what we prefer to eat. The PM went and got a knife and cut the ice cream bar in half. Sure enough, it was that lovely deep brown inside. Why would you buy anything else? Who cares how much it costs?

Meanwhile, as I mentioned, they were on the hunt for an umbrella to use to block the sun over their pool. What they really wanted was an umbrella on a cantilever, so they could change the position of the umbrella over the pool as sun shifts. A well-made one is at least $800 with the base. They, of course, did not want to spend that much.

They also went back and forth over whether they would buy an umbrella at all because it was so expensive to ship. In the end, they bought a cheap umbrella, made to use with a table, which I am guessing might last them one summer. It wasn’t what they wanted, and it didn’t make the cost of the shipping less expensive (as it is based on the size of the box and not the weight).

My argument is that if you are going to pay the exorbitant shipping costs, why not get an umbrella that might last you a few years? This way you don’t have to pay to ship another umbrella next year when you have to replace it. Oh wait, that would be logical.

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just another day at the home depot

Honestly, I have no idea how they haven’t been kidnapped, chopped into pieces, and left in the desert somewhere. They have this tendency to go up to strange people and try and make friends with them. They are just very lucky is all I can say.

When they aren’t at Costco (using someone else’s membership card), you can usually find them at the Home Depot. They also seemed to have discovered Lowe’s this trip, and after going back and forth and returning several items, believe Lowe’s may have better prices, but that is neither here nor there.

We warned them that there has been some weird incidents at the local Home Depot stores. In fact, there was recently a man who walked into one and tried to saw off both his arms. That right there takes a special kind of talent, but I guess the good lord felt he needed more time to share it, as he was miraculously saved by an off-duty paramedic who usually shops at another location. Keep this is the back of your head as I continue.

They tell us that they met a rather strange man while they were out shopping. They really wanted an outdoor umbrella, although they realized it was going to be very expensive to ship back to Manila. At any rate, they helped this Chinese guy who was from Taiwan but spends more time in Hong Kong, decide on one of these outdoor umbrellas for his home here. He didn’t speak much English and he was carrying wads of cash in his pockets.

They went and found someone to help them, and the PM joked with the guy who worked at the Home Depot that he just made him a sale (and I guess he felt should get a commission). The guy at the Home Depot told them that the guy with the wads of cash in his pants was making him very nervous. But they didn’t seem to take the hint.

In fact, the strange man thought that they were also going to buy one of these umbrellas and offered to take it back to the house for them in his truck. This is what really scares me. That they will one day bring one of these weirdos to the house. They declined the offer, explaining that they still undecided about the umbrella.

Later while shopping, they overheard on the load speaker a request for the couple who spoke Chinese to come to the front. The announcement was made a few times. They didn’t think they meant them, but I guess they were getting ready to leave, and noticed the strange man again at the check out. Now he was buying a swing set.

The problem seemed to be that the swing set was not in stock, and they didn’t know when it would be delivered. Again they noticed the wads of cash in this guy’s pants. The Beast tried to get one of the employees to call the number they gave the strange guy to find out when the swing set would arrive, instead of just giving the phone number to a man who cannot speak much English. But Home Depot is not know for its high level of customer service. At least she didn’t offer to call for him.

They somehow figured out that this strange man lived in LaVerne, although they didn’t know where that was. They also knew that he bought his giant house for $800,000. The strange man felt this was a bargain. I don’t know about you, but how much I paid for my house is not usually something I share with random people I meet at the home improvement store.

They also learned that he was some sort of fertility specialist. It sounds like he helps women get pregnant in Hong Kong or Taiwan and then they give birth here. He gets paid lots of money to provide these services, but he is new in town and so doesn’t have a credit card.  They were having trouble putting all the pieces together, so I explained that he most likely he runs one of these birthing centers where women from Asia come to have their babies so that the child is granted American citizenship, and will have an easier time going to college in the US. I explained that the locals usually try to shut down these places because they don’t like the idea of them, although technically what they are doing isn’t illegal (just immoral and medically risky). They seemed to sort of understand.

I still don’t know why they were talking to this man, or how they learned so much about him. I am not sure if they were thinking about hiring him. They over-shared that they tried to get B’s sister to see a fertility specialist, although she has refused. They did get his card. I can just imagine the conversation:  “We met this great doctor at the Home Depot….”

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the birthday bash

When the PM called back in March to say that they were coming to LA to celebrate B’s birthday, I was literally speechless. I honestly didn’t know what to say after last year’s fiasco. I felt sad for B that his parents wanted to come and ruin his day once more.

I do try to learn from my mistakes, so it was decided after last year’s awful dinner that when ever we went out with them, we would need to pick a place where the average entree was $12 or less. Of course, Chinese restaurants are probably our best bets, but even they get tired or Chinese food.

It took me a while to figure out where we could go, especially as another criteria is that it cannot be too far from the house. In the end we decided on The Yard House as we had taken them there last year, and they seemed to like it. Of course, what they like one time, has no reflection on how they might feel about it the next time.

B’s birthday fell on a Saturday, and the one drawback to The Yard House is that they don’t take reservations. When picking a restaurant, we also need to be aware that they do not like to wait, as they seem to feel it is beneath them or something. Thankfully the wait was only about 15 minutes.

We were lucky to find a place to sit, but then B’s parents took turns going to the restroom. I almost knew that as soon as the Beast was gone, that our pager would go off. And sure enough, it did.

B and I were seated, while the PM went to find the Beast and then eventually our table. We lucked out and got a booth. Still, the place can be a bit noisy, so it was hard to make conversation.

The first thing the PM shared though is that the next time I decide to make blueberry pancakes for breakfast (as I did that morning for B’s birthday – with bacon), I should tell them. The thing is that for the first time since they have been here, the decided to come downstairs before us for breakfast. The rest of the time they have made an appearance in the kitchen right as I would put the last dish in the dishwasher. How did I know that after 10 days this pattern would change?

Instead of my delicious blueberry pancakes and bacon (did I mention the bacon?), they had 9-day old Costco cinnamon-raisin bagels (despite that they were told by the baker they really are only good for a week). The PM made a joke that the early bird doesn’t always get the worm. I wanted to say, no, it’s more like you reap what you sow.

There was a bit of a problem as they ordered a beer after we had placed our dinner order. One thing that may have made it worse is that almost every time we have been to The Yard House, it seems like the server we get goes on break, so we get another server who fills in. On this visit, the stand-in was put in place before the outlaws actually got to the table. At least the waiter apologized and there wasn’t a need to call the manager over. And yes, they once again shared a beer.

We also forgot that the menu at The Yard House is really a book. Honestly I forgot because the last several times we have been I have just ordered a bowl of their tortilla soup. In the end, both B and his mother ordered appetizers for dinner and the PM got the lobster noodles, which for some odd reason had cheese. Still, he cleaned his plate.

Actually, he had about a tablespoon full of noodles left on his plate when when of the servers came by to clear the table. The PM gave the server the look of a dog when someone tries to take his bone. The server left the plate.

The Beast was still working on her dinner, which for some reason was rather late to the table, despite it being an appetizer. The service wasn’t great, but the place was pretty busy.

The bill came and B and the PM “fought” for it. In the end, B paid. And we left.

I had made cherry pie for dessert, so we went back to the house and had that. It was pretty good despite that the cherries I used were frozen from last year. I bought some of the last cherries of the season, pitted them, and froze them so I could make pie when cherries were not in season. The result is that the pie is a bit mushier than if the cherries are fresh, but it is still good.

Overall, I would say that things went okay, although we have very low expectations going in. It was certainly better than last year, but that really isn’t saying much.

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you think he did what

On one of their many trips to Costco, the outlaws picked up some solar powered outdoor lamps. They were on sale. They got 8.

They wanted to make sure they worked, so they put them out in the yard to test. Fair enough. It turned out that one seemed to be broken, but really someone had just put the battery in incorrectly. Go figure.

For whatever reason once they had gotten past all of that, they decided to leave them outside. It did seem odd, especially given that they were in the midst of packing by this point, but who knows why they do the things they do?

The lights were outside when we came back from B’s birthday dinner, but when we came downstairs to breakfast the next morning, two of them were knocked over. Upon realizing this, the Beast blurts out that B must have done it. Really? To be fair, the squirrels were also on her list of suspects, but B was first.

I know she has no filter, but did she really think her grown son came downstairs between 10:30pm and 10:00am and went outside and knocked over two of their solar garden lamps? What could his motive possibly be? What was he trying to prove?

Not for anything, but LA was under a high wind warning. There was a brush fire less than 2 miles from the house earlier in the week. It couldn’t possibly have been the winds that knocked them over, especially if they weren’t properly installed in the first place? That would be too logical. Right?

While we were at dim sum, I shared this story. B wasn’t there when he was accused, and was actually amused by the accusation. He told his friends that it couldn’t have been him because that is not his style. He would have either knocked down just one of the lamps, or all four. Two was just wrong.

B then said something silly (I cannot recall what right now) and someone asked what I was going to do to him. Without skipping a beat, I said that I was going to tell his mother that he did indeed knock over the lamps. I would tell her how he broke down in the car crying because he didn’t want the squirrels to get in trouble. Then she could take care of him. Of course, I was just kidding.

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adventures with uncle p

We like to joke that if Uncle P had a business card, it would have to include all of his other jobs. These would include pet boarder, sommelier, and chauffeur, in addition to his actual profession – radiologist.

When Uncle P arrived at the house from LAX with B’s parents and all of their luggage, he told B that he wanted to have lunch that Saturday at a new buffet place he found. Within a few hours though, we got notice that he needed to move it to Sunday. Originally he didn’t give a reason, so I joked that there must be a Laker’s game. We were later told that it was because someone that he invited could not make it on Saturday.

Sunday arrived and we called Uncle P that morning to find out where we were supposed to meet him at 2pm. He told us to meet at a Chinese place where we had actually had lunch with him before. It was about 30 minutes away if traffic wasn’t bad.

B’s parents decided that since they weren’t ready, we should go on ahead, which we did. We were of course, the first ones to arrive. I found a parking spot right out in front of the restaurant, which should have been a dead give away that something was up. Then we saw the sign.

In English and Chinese there was a sign informing us that the restaurant was closed for renovations. In fact, there were workers busy moving tables into a truck parked next to us. It was pretty hot outside, and there was no sign of Uncle P, B’s parents, or the other people we thought were coming.

B called his uncle, who it turned out was just leaving his house. We couldn’t reach B’s parents. We did at least learn that we didn’t need to be on the look out for anyone else. Did I mention it was really hot?

About 10 minutes later Uncle P showed up. Then the Benz pulled into the lot a few minutes later (B’s parents had gotten lost). Now we had to figure out was where to go at 2:30 on a Sunday afternoon for lunch. The buffet place was a bit out of the way from where we were, so we decided on another Chinese place that B liked. At one point though, Uncle P actually had a Chinese yellow pages in his hands. Really.

The funny thing is that this is not the first time that this has happened when we have met Uncle P for lunch. It was a few years ago, but he invited us out to dim sum near the house, only to arrive to find the door literally chained. I guess they went out of business (rather suddenly actually). There was also the time we arrived at a restaurant to find them setting up for a wedding, but it turned out he knew about that and we had a private room. None of this was really anyone’s fault. It is just interesting to note.

Lunch was okay, although we mostly talked about blood pressure. At least both Uncle P and his wife are doctors, so they can keep the Beast’s “medical advice” in check. Still, when you are passing seaweed fried fish (better than it sounds) and green onion pancakes around the table, who wants to be reminded of such things.

Here I should probably point out that although we had agreed to not tell them about B’s high blood pressure, and how he was diagnosed, B decided to let the cat out of the bag. He didn’t tell them everything, but this is why we were talking about blood pressure. It turns out the PM has low blood pressure, although he only seems to get it checked out at the club where he plays golf. Meanwhile the Beast has perfect blood pressure (120/80), although for whatever reason feels it is high and doesn’t like testing herself at places like Walgreen’s.

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why i went to bed without supper

We were almost at the home stretch. Overall things has been going better than expected. We had survived B’s birthday dinner without too much drama, and they were leaving first thing Wednesday morning (although they were still hoping to change their flight). I could almost hold my breath at this point. But instead, I lost it.

B thinks it was over corn on the cob, but really the corn was just the catalyst for what probably should have happened sooner. I am not really even sure where to begin.

The truth is that I don’t like watching people who just go through the motions. I know that I am far from perfect in that regard, but I do try to live like this is not a dress rehearsal because I understand that it is not. I really do try my best to remember what loss teaches.

Anyway, at some point during their visit, the outlaws asked about B’s friends. And it made me think that it might be nice to have lunch or dinner with them and his parents, especially since a couple of B’s friends he has known since grade school. I thought about having them over to the house to make it easier, but then I realized I would suddenly be cooking for up to 10 people again (so easier for who). Plus B’s friends are now scattered across Los Angeles, so not necessarily easier on his friends either.

Then I thought why not go to dim sum? B’s parents like dim sum and so do B’s friends. Plus dim sum is better with more people because you get to try more dishes and it is reasonably priced (at one point we had a debate over if the custom is Asia is more like in Germany where the person having the birthday picks up the tab). B thought I had a hidden agenda, but really I didn’t. I honestly thought it would be nice for B’s parents to see his friends. And so emails went out and a time and day and place were decided.

To be fair, we tried to keep the location closer to us, as we had some concern that B’s parents might back out if they had to drive too far. But the truth is that the place we picked was just down the block from the place Uncle P picked (more on that incident another time). And if it really came down to distance, I was willing to drive.

So yes, I was more than a bit upset that they were unwilling to join us for brunch the Sunday before they left. The only thing else they had on their schedule was meeting Uncle P at 2pm (we were meeting for dim sum at 11am) and pack (which they did for about 6 days of the 14 days they were here).

Maybe it isn’t a big deal to them, but to me, I know it is a big deal to meet someone’s parents, especially when they don’t live in town. I told B that when we lived in Austin, and I was still working for my friend (when we were still friends), I remember when her mother came to town or one of coworker’s mothers came to town and we would go out to lunch. It meant something to be invited. Of course, it also made me feel bad because it reminded me that this was something that I could not do (even though my mother was still alive then, I couldn’t imagine how she would behave around my friends and coworkers given that she was actively alcoholic and in the final stages of the disease).

B and I had a nice time at dim sum. We also stopped for ice cream and then ended up afterward meeting another of B’s old school chums that B found out was in town the night before. We literally met him at the parking lot of a Costco. I joked that B’s parents might show up as I believe this was the nearest Costco to Uncle P. We only chatted for a few minutes as he needed to go by Preparation H for his mom (that is what he said) and then we drove back to the house.

As we left Costco, B tried texting his parents to see where they were, as it was just about 2pm. He didn’t get a response. We would later learn that Uncle P took them on one of his (in)famous drives. Last year he took them to Palm Springs and Santa Barbara. On each occasion, they did not get out of the car. I don’t get it either.

But this time Uncle P decided to take them down to Dana Point. His wife was off shopping, so she didn’t join them. And it turned out that they did stop this time, but only briefly. The Beast tried to say that there was no parking at the Ritz Carlton, and that is why Uncle P stayed in the car while they went inside to check out the place.

I have actually had the privilege of staying at that Ritz Carlton. It was years ago, but I still remember how lovely it was. Everything is “their pleasure”. They really say that. I also know that they are trained to deal with crazy people as I have seen them in action.

So I did correct her, and she did concede, that the Ritz Carlton does have valet parking (only). [What I didn’t add was that they do this to keep the riffraff out.] The really sad thing is that if they had gone in and gotten a glass of wine and some appetizers or such, more than likely the hotel would have validated their parking (at least in part). They could have watched the sun set and enjoyed the company. But that is not how they roll.

While we were having this conversation, B and I were trying to heat up some leftovers for dinner. I didn’t finish my gigantic portion of fried chicken from the night before and so was just going to reheat it in the microwave. B had also found something leftover that he wanted, and was reheating it on the stove top. They were going to have the leftover fish (head) soup she had made, and also the corn she had bought.

All of a sudden she was acting like she didn’t know how to cook corn. She wasn’t sure if she should take of the husks or not? Then she had put on the big pot with just about an inch of water inside. I told her that if she wanted to boil the corn, she needed a lot of water. She then told me she would do it, but a few moments later asked me if I had added the water. She then said she wanted to steam it, and I told her, she needed the steamer. And that is when I lost my cool.

As I said, it wasn’t about the corn on the cob. It did give me a greater understanding though of why her cook might be bitchy. I hate when someone says they will do something and then gets upset because I didn’t do it, or treats me when I don’t know what I am doing. After being berated with this crazy logic for the past 12 days, I really couldn’t take any more. And as I said, really I was upset that they had backed out of going to dim sum so they could sit around the house and stare at the walls. And so I went off on her.

Really I wanted to leave the house. I got my car keys and my purse, but then realized I had no where to go. And all it would do was make B worry, which wasn’t fair, although they are his parents.

And so I went upstairs to my bed and cried, and didn’t come down until Monday morning. I felt like a teenage loaded with angst. I must say that these two really bring out the best in people. Also, I am ever so thankful they have returned to their side of the Pacific Ocean.

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how we spent our 25th anniversary

A few years ago I somehow figured out the day B and I first met. This year marked 25 years. Part of me wanted to do something big, but given that the outlaws were in town, I knew that would be impossible. We didn’t even tell them. I mean, not for anything, but I have a feeling it isn’t something they would want to celebrate.

It was Monday, and I guess they were tired of the offerings in the fridge and the local Chinese take out. They wanted to go out. The Beast had mentioned wanting to go back to this fish restaurant over in Chino Hills. It is under $12 per person, it’s casual dining, and she liked it before. Of course, that doesn’t mean anything.

I suggested it to B and told him that she had mentioned wanted to go there, so it was agreed. We drove them over in our car, and because it was Monday night, it wasn’t very crowded. We easily found a good parking spot.

This is the kind of place where you order at the counter and then sit down and they bring you your food. As I said, it isn’t fancy, but it isn’t bad. Well, maybe wasn’t, would be more accurate.

It seemed as though they had changed their menu a bit. The only thing I really eat there are the crab cakes. They aren’t the best, but they aren’t $40 either (we still cannot remember where I got those delicious crab cakes). I just get the appetizer portion because I don’t really like their fries. Plus, if it is happy hour – which it was – they are half price. I noticed right away that they had changed the item to “krab” cakes. Not a good sign, but I ordered them anyway. They also had a great scallop appetizer, which was now gone from the menu.

At any rate, the outlaws grabbed a table and sat down to study the menu. Sometimes they act like there will be a test. They told us to go ahead and order, which we did. When we joined them at the table, they still seemed very undecided. I may have said something about ordering soon so that we didn’t end up getting our food at different times. Of course, that would turn out to bite me on the butt before the night was over.

They finally went up to the counter to order, and I guess when they heard it was happy hour and half price appetizers, they went a little overboard. They each ordered a bowl of the clam chowder, plus a krab cake appetizer, a piece of fried fish, a side of rice, a side of hummus, and this fried skinless chicken (I know, who orders chicken at a fish place?).

Meanwhile, my order was dropped off at the table and I dug in. B helped, as I guess he was hungry. I really wasn’t, so didn’t mind.

Not too long there after, their food starts showing up. I was shocked by how much food they had ordered. Meanwhile, there is no sign of B’s food, but to be fair, he did order an actual entree. It finally arrived around the time I was done.

We ended up going over to the bookstore, and they said they would meet us there. Of course, they showed up with a bag of leftovers. That chicken wasn’t a hit, and at one point it ended up hidden in the bottom drawer of the fridge between a bunch of cheese they bought at Costco. I am sure someone eventually tossed it.

We had wanted to take them to the waffle place next door to get dessert, but they weren’t interested. In the end, B and I shared a cup of custard by ourselves. We were going to walk around for a bit, but it was getting late and most of the other places were closed. Also, I had stepped wrong (or maybe onto something) and so my left foot was in a bit of pain. I could still walk (and drive), but didn’t want it to get worse.

So we headed back without buying anything at the bookstore. B went to go find his parents and it seemed that the Beast had spent her time reading some sort of crazy medical article. She shared this valuable information with us as we drove back to the house. She also shared that she didn’t like the fish place any more. One less option.

The best part though was when we got inside the house and she said she felt like she was home, or something to that effect. I never feel that way when I walk inside that door. Ever.

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