Friday, November 19, 2010

Does Black Friday Shopping Mean Savings?

I like to shop. I'm thrifty and frugal. Therefore, I like decent prices.

You'd think Black Friday would be a great time to get great deals. But maybe that's not the case when we take a closer look.


Yesterday I was at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando. Sophie and I were there in early October as well when we went to Disney to celebrate her birthday and visit Mickey's Not-So-Scary!


We bought Sophie a Donna Karen New York black wool peacoat on sale and half off! The full price was $375. We felt $187.50 for a classic coat that she should get years of wear out of was reasonable.


Yesterday, I revisited DKNY because Miss Sophie had somehow lost the belt to the coat and I was trying to see if it was possible to replace it before her spring trip to NYC.


Low and behold! The very same coat was no longer on sale. Instead, it was back to the original price of $375.00. My guess is come Black Friday the prices will be marked back down (hopefully) to were they were when we bought the jacket over a month ago.


It seems Black Friday is more of a sales gimmick to deceive buyers into making purchases that were actually just as low or lower just months earlier.

Thank goodness we shop in October for Christmas. It seems like retailers are playing Scrooge to customers.


My guess is that mid-December will be a cheaper time to shop than Black Friday.


I understand the retailers point of view (but as a consumer, I care about my point of view and my wallet only!) It's supply and demand. Why make things super cheap on the busiest sales day of the year? No one shops in October. Lower prices then. Everyone shops the day after Thanksgiving. Pretend to lower prices then.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cruising for Christmas

Although Sophie and I had already booked a 18-night stay in Vegas for the Christmas holiday, last night we changed our plans. (Thank goodness hotel reservations can be canceled!)

Instead, we decided to take a Caribbean cruise. Don't get me wrong. We LOVE Vegas! It's kitschy Americana is just our style and the idea of shopping at the Premium Outlet Mall in Vegas right after Christmas gives me goosebumps (both good and bad since I love sales and hate crowds).

Nonetheless, we've got gowns! Sophie and I have found a new favorite store. BCGB Max Azria has an outlet store at the Premium Outlet Mall in Orlando. We've found some fabulous gowns at incredible prices. Who wears gowns these days, anyway? We do!!!

Side note: One nice thing about not having men in the house is that no one complains about dressing up. It's more a matter of finding appropriate places to dress up!

Ever since our first cruise (we've only taken two), we've fallen in love with dressing up for dinner and eating in the formal dining room.

Our first cruise was with Norwegian Cruise Lines where dressing up was optional. We were treating ourselves to a special time and wanted to respect and appreciate each aspect of our experience. Also, we had just found this incredible shop in Barcelona where we bought a boatload of cool clothes which we found ourselves wearing to our dinners. The cruise was 12-nights which mean that it was us and the geriatric crowd. Turns out most people can't take the time away from work or afford long trip (buy them when their cheap! I think we paid $499 per person) unless they are retired. Well, as you might assume, older folks appreciate our desire to dress up for dinner. And we did!

Our second cruise, a 14-night transatlantic jaunt from Barcelona to Miami, was another sensational reason for premium attire at dinner. Especially since Royal Caribbean mandates formal dinner wear. My only complaint with this cruise is that they refused to allow us our own table (two person tables are commonplace on this ship) and forced us to sit with single men. After a few days of this - and one of the men trying very hard to convince my (at the time) 18-year-old daughter that the parties were better down with the crew - I demanded our own table and, by golly, got it! I also got nasty stares from the man and his father for the rest of the trip. lol Deal!

As it turned out there finding people under the age of 65-year-old was slim pickins which was just fine with us. We tend to like to spend our time with a much older crowd as they are more sedate and Sophie always seems to enjoy the conversation... and the games. Everyday there is some game or another that everyone gathers to play. Sophie is right in there with them.

So, after our most recent excursion the our new favorite store where Sophie bought something like 10 new dresses (all at incredibly discounted prices. Think: $39 for a runway Max Azria!) I suggested we might consider a cruise for the holiday as we really don't have anywhere else to wear them (okay, the periodic steakhouse or to the Nutcracker in NYC.) She thought it was a great idea. I looked into it and presto! We've got an all inclusive place to wear our fabulous gowns and little chance of running into places to spend money! (Always a nice side benefit.) When we travel we like to walk around the cities we visit. We aren't so keen on shopping, although we like to buy stickers for our suitcase.

Retirement Plans for Teens

Since Sophie is self-employed and just turned 19-years-old we've started to look into retirement plans for her. Since she lives at home, she can put money away that she would otherwise need for bills.

Her goals are to:
1. Never retire as she plans on acting forever but to be able to retire at 70-years-old.
2. Have a million dollars saved by the time she's 70-years-old.
3. She's planning for a life-expectancy of 95 years.

So the questions are:
1. Which retirement plan is best suited for her needs and goals?
2. How does she want to invest? Stocks? Funds? Aggressively? Conservatively?
3. Does a 401K or IRA plan better suit her goals?
4. Does she want to pay her taxes now or when she withdraws the funds?

Retirement Plans for Teens
It seems like everyday we find a different plan that seems to best suit her needs.

Today, I was sure the Self-Employment 401K (also known as the Solo 401K or the Individual 401K) seemed perfect. She could sock away $16,500 annually and up to a total of $49,000 annually (as of 2010)... if she could. Taxes are deferred. This is probably the most lucrative tax shelter plan on the market and only available to self-employed individuals with no employees.

We discussed it. She felt it was a good fit.

Next was the task of finding the right company or brokerage firm.
1. Vanguard charges maintenance fees unless there is at least $50K in at least one of the owners accounts. She doesn't qualify.
2. Sharebuilders only allows you to purchase funds (no stock purchases allowed) and charges a set up fee of something like $165.00.
3. Fidelity allows for the purchase of funds or stocks with no set up fee, annual fee or monthly fees. The cost to the client is the cost of each transaction which is $8 per buy.

We decided to go with Fidelity. I drove over to Tampa, picked up the booklet and began to fill out the forms.

Planning for an early retirement
Apparently, you must agree upfront to deposit a specific amount into the account each year. We do not know at this time how much she wants to invest. Now we're stumped. Maybe we should buy stocks through Sharebuilders and move it mid December. At that point we could determine the total contribution amount which doesn't need to be deposited in full until April 15, 2011 unless she gets an extension. Don't know. It's food for thought at the moment.

One of the nice things about a Self-Employment 401K is the leeway one has when it comes to purchases. She could buy a house within the plan. That being said, if she were to do that she would lose the annual tax write-offs. Nonetheless, the flexibility is nice.

The bottom line is to save for her future. Her goals are extremely reasonable. She'll have a hard time not reaching them if she diligently saves, especially this early in the game.

Sophie has agreed to put 15% of her earnings into long term savings. This will allow her to save for other things as well and not make her feel like her savings goals are strangling her lifestyle.

These goals will also allow her to flail about as an actress without having to worry about her future - if need be. Hopefully, this won't be a concern but if it is it will be reassuring that her future is taken care of.

Too Cute Willow Smith

As parents and society as a whole, we need to be supportive of creative expression and originality with our youngsters. Out of the box thinkers make great business people.

Kudos go to Mr. & Mrs. Will Smith! Thanks for setting such a wild and fun standard for today's youth.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Considering an America Without Oil Drilling

BP_Oil_Rig_On_FireI posted the below on my Facebook.

"If our government were really serious about stopping BP's oil leak which is destroy the Gulf, the environment and neighboring economies Obama would end ALL BP DRILLING in the US until the leak was 100% sealed and all harm created by the leak healed, fixed and cleaned up. Our country can not afford to have ineffective government. It is simply not working for the people."
BP_Oil_Spill_on_Gulf_Beach
I was aware of the possibility that someone would write a differing point of view.

Inga Howe-Geniesse wrote, "this is a pretty narrow view. do you know, who put the DEREGULATIONS INTO PLACE, so things like this desaster could happen??????2003....Are you really educated enough about this issue to make these statements? Sad- that people are so blinded by the media and do not get to the bottom of it. This is so ignorant."

Dead_Sea_Life_BP_Oil_Spill_GulfNote: She's better at slamming others than she is backing up her position with facts.

My public Facebook response was, "Yes, Inga. I'm really educated enough to make these statements. I believe Chaney made many of these lovely changes that have messed up so much of our world. This isn't a partisan issue. This is an environmental and economic issue. How is having an opinion about this being blinded by the media? I have not heard the media once say that 'All BP drilling' should be stopped in the US until the leak is sealed and the land is healed. In fact, I haven't heard anyone say it. If we allow the company at fault to take the hit other companies will become more weary of their actions. I believe they should be held responsible as should the citizens of the US.BP_Oil_Spill_Gulf_Of_Mexico If we aren't responsible enough to drill then we shouldn't do it. We've got alternatives in place that don't destroy the world. We should be forced to use them. This is not ignorance but common sense."

The reality is that it would be very difficult for a country so heavily reliant upon oil to stop using it. Nonetheless, if oil was all of a sudden no longer available we would immediately start using the natural energy resources at hand mixed with consuming less as we would be forced and encouraged to do. Hopefully, we would not choose to become too heavily reliant upon nuclear energy but rather use it sparingly during the transition to safer alternatives.

This is an important conversation to begin. If all of BP's drilling in the US stopped completely until the leak was fixed then the leak would be fixed. BP is not looking to stop the leak as much as they are seeking ways of funneling the oil into tankers so the product is not lost. In the Oil_Drenched_Bird_Gulf_2010meantime the Gulf of Mexico is receiving damage that we may not be able to heal. The oceans are being filled with chemicals that are making the cleanup crews too sick to work. Dead sea life is washing up to shore both as a result of the chemicals and oil. Our beaches are becoming oil stained while our fisherman and coastal workers are losing their jobs. All of this because of a leak BP created and has refused to seal for nearly 50 days.

It is time to change our course of long term action. It is time to start having different conversations that don't include continuing down a path of destruction for our environment and economy but rather to look at healthy solutions that can work positively for both people and the environment for the long term. We've been having this conversation for a long time. People are willing. The government and big business haven't been willing to let go of their greed to allow for environmental progress which has been desperately needed.

As a people, we must demand change and progress. We must demand the environment and economy is protected both for our existing generations and those to follow. This is not ignorance but common sense.

People, businesses and government who say we can't move Oil_Spill_On_Beach_2010_Gulfaway from oil are wrong. The rhetoric is nonsense, must be seen for what it is, and the people must demand change for their own survival. Does that seem to strong of a statement? Does that seem unrealistic? Ask coastal workers in Louisiana what they think. Ask the restaurants that don't have customers if they can survive on oil or if they are ready for change.

Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves and Sandra BullockHint for a happy moment:

If you ever need a little pick me up go to Youtube.com. Search "Sandra and Keanu" and watch some of their junkets and interviews. The two of them are independently quite adorable and together so sweet it'll put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart.

Love stories and friendship are necessary for all of us whether our personal strong suits or not. Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock bring both love and friendship to the forefront of our Sandra and Keanusouls.

We are very fortunate to have actors in the world that make us smile and who in their own rights are truly wonderful additions to our world.

Love.

Happiness.

Romantic comedies.

Does life get any better?

Enjoy the day!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

W.I.F.E. T-Shirt

Strong Single MomSophie and I saw this t-shirt on a guy while vacationing in Barcelona. It was the first time I had seen it. Wow!

That being said, I had no problem at all finding it again on the internet for this photo. The full photo consists of a cute young woman (who appears completely senseless with this top on) with a huge grin on her face.

Sooo, is she a W.I.F.E. ??? Is she just happy someone wants to take her single mom by choicepicture so she feels further validated in her beauty and desire to call herself a model? Who would want to promote such nonsense... man or woman?

Today in Sophie's Ethics class she asked two people what the definition of 'wife' was. The female said that a wife was the person who took care of the children, cooked, did the laundry, etc. The male said the wife was a life partner, companion, someone to share with and to talk to. (Is it noteworthy that the male is gay? Don't know.)

WIFE TshirtSo... is the female in Sophie's class really dreaming so high as to hope to become some one's free maid, cook and childcare provider? Who taught her these were life's goals and achievements? I'm not against household chores as long as they are shared or done by a paid employee. All the chores in the home being done by one person so the rest of the family can rest on their laurels isn't an acceptable solution.

In any case, it got me thinking of other acronyms for Wife.

Why
Inhibit
Future
Experiences

Sophie has added our newly adapted version of 'wife' to her Facebook.

I suppose my job as a mother is now complete.

I'm all for love. I'm not sure I see the point to marriage. I think fighting for a gay's right to marriage is an absurdity when the institution is broken. On the other hand, if it's going to exist at all then it should exist equally for all.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Kid is Cooking: Lasagna

Easy lasagna recipeSophie's been cooking again. It's one of her favorite pass times. This time she made lasagna - one of my all time favorite dishes.

My stepmom used to make a wonderful lasagna dish with cottage cheese rather than ricotta. I've made it a couple times and it has come out quite well. Today, Sophie was initiated into the lasagna club with her rendition.

The lasagna came out great! Sophie got called into work 33 mins before it was done so she'll find out when she gets back. In the meantime, I've dug in and enjoyed her fabulous creation!

Kids in the kitchen. Always a good thing!

Note: Lasagna seems a bit intimidating, but really its rather easy. Just follow the steps on the side of the lasagna box or Google "Easy Lasagna Recipes" and you're set!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Chatty on Airplanes

air travel to BarcelonaWhen Sophie and I were walking out of the airplane ready to switch planes she started laughing and said how chatty I was on airplanes considering how I'm not much for talking to strangers elsewhere.

On our way to Barcelona, we sat next to this very interesting, pretty 20-something lady reading on airplanesfrom Poland who lives in Atlanta with her boyfriend and his two children and is an Economic student, but plans to return to school to become an oral surgeon who specializes in reconstructive dental work for children. She, her mother, brother and most of the people from her home town in Poland suffer from Graves disease as a result of the winds during Chernobyl. She has a great fear of flying so I talked to her during take off and landing reassuring her that the likelihood of problems were weak as well and if anything did happen we would die almost instantly so we'd never really go through any sort of pain or suffering.

Bilbao Guggenheim GehrySophie took my lead as we were walking on a catwalk in Biblao's Guggenheim and began telling me that if I fell we were so high up that I would just splat and be dead instantly. No the ground wasn't shaking as I began to sink with wobbly legs now holding me tenuously not wanting to hold onto the thin cable wiring as it was far too close to the edge and it was evident a person couldJeff Koons Puppy easily fall to their death. Sophie informed me she was just using the same tactic as I used on the lady on the airplane. I explained that it worked for the lady, so the results weren't the same. I did not take the catwalk again. I believe the Polish lady will fly again perhaps with a little reassurance that once she's up in the air the plane willBathroom at Bilbao Guggenheim probably not fail as the most dangerous times to fly are during take off and landing. While, I will probably not ever take the catwalk at Bilbao's Guggenheim again, at least not with Sophie as that seems to be the most dangerous time.

Bathroom at Guggenheim BilbaoOn the return flight, Sophie's TV wasn't working so she found another seat further back in the plane and I spoke to the 30-something man originally from Barcelona who has lived in LA for the past 16-years. He originally arrived in LA via his student visa attending The Pasadena Art and Design Center for Parc Guell Barcelona Gaudifilm as an undergrad, then UCLA for Fine Arts as a grad. He has kind words to say about UCLA's Fine Arts Program at a Graduate level. He still lives in LA, although he spent the past year-and-a-half in Amsterdam, and works as a video artist. He shows around the city, feels there are more artists in LA than in NY, and screens the works of other video artists from around the world in LA galleries. He went home because his work was part of the Loop Festival which took place in Barcelona while we were there. It also Loop Festival Barcelonagave him time to see his family. He parents flew into town from Northern Spain and his sister is pregnant with her second child. It was an LA art gallery that got him in the show in Barcelona which he found ironic seeing as though it is his hometown. It took him about 10 years to get used to LA. Now he likes it very much. He feels that LA dismisses history and is not tied down by it as many old European cities are. He feels these ties can often bind a city keeping it from progressing as it might otherwise. He also said the French are as bad to the Spanish as they are to other foreigners reconfirming my decision not to attend subject myself to the French during this European visit.

Yes, I enjoy talking to people on airplanes.

Christine Scott Self Portrait


Friday, May 14, 2010

Bathrooms in Paris: Even More at CDG Airport

Carousel motif in Paris BathroomAnd here's the carousel ride free for all to ride in the Charles de Gaulle Airport.




Charles de Gaulle Airport Bathroom
Unlike the conservative, uptight nature of the French populace, the French bathroom design at CDG Airport is fun and light-hearted, colorful and vivid. Too bad you can't say the same for the people of France...

Circus Bathroom Theme
If you think I'm being harsh on the people of France, you clearly haven't spent enough time there. My judgment comes from living there for more than three-and-a-half years and experiencing their condescending nature on a daily basis. Eventually, you just have to face facts. France can decorate a bathroom much better than they can treat people. An odd fact to say about a country that is terribly reliant upon tourism as a source of income.

Bathroom Design in Paris

Bathrooms in Paris: More CDG Airport

marie antoinette bathroom design While France might scoff at the idea of being kind to tourists, Paris takes toilet time and all things related very seriously. France may not think civility high on its list... but bathroom tranquility... now that is essential for all.

airport bathroom designApparently, in Paris, one must feel at peace with the world before, during and after crap-time. Perhaps it is fair to say the French take potty-time as seriously as they do dinner time. Or, it's just as important coming out as it is going in...

Paris Bathroom Design
The new choice of bathroom design at the Charles de Gaulle Airport is bright, fun and vibrant.

Bathrooms in Paris Airport
The time for austere, bland and boring is going. Now is the time for visuals.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bathrooms in Paris: CDG Airport

Crappers in ParisFine whimsical example of France's fun approach to bathrooms at the CDG Paris Airport.

France has begun to cover its public bathroom walls, floors, doors and entry ways with slick themed murals helping to flush the dull drums in Toiletville right down the sh*tter.

CDG Paris Airport Bathroom



Come-Ons and Machine Guns

Sophie: It's kind of creepy when the guy hitting on you is carrying a machine gun... especially when he's serious.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Non Commercial Mother's Day

Yesterday Sophie asked if we could celebrate Mother's Day a day early because her new job asked if she'd work a double shift on Mother's Day. I willing agreed as I don't care when it is celebrated rather just that it is celebrated.

Sophie made me a new set of dreads and put them in for me. That was my gift.

Today, it occurred to me that Sophie has never bought a card or a gift for me. Instead, each year I have received handmade presents and cards.

There was a year when she really wanted to buy me a card. Her argument was that store bought cards were nicer. I clarified my position by stating that no card could ever be more special than one made with love. Stores and consumerism want people to think store bought is better so they don't go out of business and we 'do our part' to stimulate the economy. I, on the other hand, do not subscribe to that rhetoric and know full well the best card or gift is the one my child makes me. The conversation never came up again. I've steadily received cards for all major holidays and gifts (generally jewelry - bracelets and necklaces) for Christmas and my birthday.

My birthday just passed. I received a pop-up card - stemming from Sophie's design class and the pop-up book she recently designed - and a long beaded necklace. For Mother's Day, I've had the joy of tons of compliments on my new dreads which Sophie made and put in yesterday. Celebrating a day early was a great way to go since I've spent Mother's Day being complimented on my fantastic dreads!

Consumerism is overrated. Love isn't...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blueberries

The man downstairs wants Sophie's blueberries.

Sophie's look said, "He wants to share my 18 blueberries?"

I laughed, "Maybe we can just buy him some, put them in a bowl and say they came from our bush."

...and the world was at peace once more.