Archive for January, 2009

The Sacred Cow

It’s hard to believe that the most basic of all staples has come under health scrutiny. Peanut Butter. Seriously how could something like this happen? It turns out we should have learned about this a long time ago. OK, I get it. We were probably better off without knowing that little piece of info.

Only the most allergic ever grew up without peanut butter. It has always been an option, a possible sandwich solution, and most importantly, a relatively affordable, easy-to-stock item. With food prices skyrocketing, peanut butter sales were quite impressive: 6 lbs of peanuts and peanut butter a person is an impressive figure! Now according to the FDA, we have a problem. We can even sign up for alerts and notices so we can track what has become our problem!  

Basically no one seems to know the extent of the ever-escalating recall, but recognize the salmonella outbreak is pervasive. That’s the worst. Remember last summer when the enemy was tomatoes–tomatoes in the summertime. True sacrilege. Now the all-season, all-purpose peanut butter could be causing severe illness. Whether a chunky or a smooth lover, this cuts to the heart of our sandwich culture, and our ice cream, our power bars, our candy bars and the endless possible fears associated with Girl Scout cookies. It’s almost un-American!

Maybe cartoonist Mike Luckovich said it best:

mike luckovich

mike luckovich

Let’s look out for the real toxins and get our lives back on a steady keel. We need our peanut butter samwiches, our cookies, candy, ice cream, and… 

What’s next?

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What's Wrong With This Picture

Sometimes you read about something and then have to keep re-reading it. It just doesn’t make sense. Try this one on: Starbucks has decided to stop the continuous brewing of decaf coffee after 12 Noon.

What’s wrong with this picture? Don’t decaf drinkers get more focused on decaf later in the day? Is afternoon not a perilous time for those who have a caffeine-sleep problem?

Now Starbucks in its desire to save money has made a major policy shift and plans to have the decaf version available only by request. That’s lovely. You’ll make a fresh cup for me? How old-fashioned!

This is just one more example of a major business looking at the way people are cutting back and trying to stay afloat. Last week the news was about consumer cutbacks at Starbucks. Maybe Mom ‘n Pop can still sell coffee!

It’s just that I’m shocked that the decaf drinkers disappear at 12 o’clock. I figured that’s when they started pumping the decaf barista for more cups of caffeine-less beverages.

I like the idea that the coffee is not sitting around for even 30 minutes. I’m just shocked that this strategy is financially viable. Does this mean that Starbucks does not attract a decaf crowd? What do they know that the heavy caffeinated loyalists are missing? Maybe we should just research that one!

What happens when the regular coffee drinkers say 30 minutes is too old for their pot? What then, Starbucks? A fresh pot in every cup? Maybe it will be all espresso all the time.

Water, anyone?

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A Little Update–Wii Sport Redux

OK, I thought it was addictive. That was so yesterday. “Addiction” may be a bit of an understatement. It’s too timid of a word. Every part of my body demonstrates my participation. I’m not in pain. I just can’t wait to go back to my playing field!

Yippee. it’s a snow day, and I am stuck inside! Not a problem.  I played tennis, actually much better today. I won a match. How ’bout that! I think I even managed to spin and lob the ball and do much better with my corners. Ha. It’s funny to hear yourself say all the usual tennis camaraderie language:  good shot, wow, beauty, you made it; nice set. It’s a video game. Yeah, just like a robot is a person. There’s something terrific about the interactivity.

Did I mention I’m winded? Think I’ll be able to do the Wii commercials for the Sport, make that sports! My scores are nothing to brag about, but the intensity of play is surprising. Was too tired after two tennis matches (best of 5), and two games of bowling (couple strikes and spares) to practice hitting balls out of the park (OK, did hit one homer).  Very little spring training baseball today. Amazing. What a great treat.

The problem with the game is that its popularity has made it hard to find. It’s in very short supply so when a store advertises that it’s in stock. Go. No, run there. As for price comparison. There’s little opportunity as it’s basically a child of standard price fixing. Hard to find it for less than $249. I’ve already had the equivalent of three private lessons so with my logic, I am well on the way to having paid for my personal trainer in just a few short days. That makes it a great purchase. Maybe it should be renamed: My In-House, Use Whenever I Want Personal Trainer. Yep, it’s a winner.

Trust me on this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqaPFAZS1K8

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Wheeeeeeeeeeee Addiction

Yes, it’s true, you can be a gamer. It only takes some money and a remote control and bingo, you’re hooked. Trust me, it took less than 20 minutes to acknowledge how much fun this could be.

Tennis is my sport, but some of those Nintendo Wii calls are just off-base. I know that was a winning shot! I bent my knees, turned my body, and moved into the ball. What do they want from me? A real match?

I know I should be spending every minute watching and learning from the Australian Open, but this is wayyyyy more fun. I have already played doubles and a few sets of singles. Who thought I could find an indoor exercise program that worked up a sweat and didn’t leave me complaining about how BORING the activity was.

This is definitely not boring. It’s fun. It’s interactive, and that is from someone who has only owned this for a few hours and has yet to win a match. You’re hooked within seconds. I’ll get it. I’ll win. It’s all in the remote. nintendo-remoteWatch out Federer. I don’t need a new coach, just my Wii.

Then I’ll tackle golf, bowling, and boxing. They’re waiting for me.

First, it’s match point.

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I Heard It Again

What a treat. Every time I hear the two words together, I think I am imagining things. That it’s a dream. A sweet one, but a dream.

Yes, it is true, the words “President Obama” have a sweet ring. It is not fantasy nor A Dream Deferred. This life had been deferred, but now it is fulfilled. It is reality, and a very good one at that. Instead of waiting for the first 100 days, the talking heads are focusing on the first 100 hours, and what a whirlwind it has been. Instead of slowly acclimating to the new position, this President and his Administration have hit the ground running, at record speed. So much has been done already. So many issues in play.

We do not even need to talk specifics. Rather our focus should be on the President’s quick action and fulfillment of his many campaign conversations. No one is sitting around and talking about what they are going to do in the upcoming weeks. They have put programs into place already; immediately. This is truly impressive.

Now all they have to do is modernize The White House and its technology capability. It needs to function at the level that the campaign used so effectively; rather than the more primitive, basic conditions that staffers found. This Administration has a lot to communicate and needs the most effective means possible to match the speed of change.

If we were hopeful before, we now understand what our excitement was all about.

Yes, President Obama. A sweet sound.white-housewhite-house1whitehousewelcomepg

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The Patient Will Be Rewarded

smithwollenskyNo hospital talk here, just dining news. Yes, it’s true, we are eating out less and spending even less. We are looking for VALUE. Yet, all those wonderful home-cooked, budget cutting meals deserve a little sideways performance every once in a while. The money you save from packing your lunch and not eating out as frequently deserves a little reward strategy.

Hard to know who started the upsurge in prix-fixe dining, but this week we credit Smith & Wollensky for bringing a smile to our faces. As I continue to search daily for good dining deals, they may have demonstrated some real panache this week. Watch for imitators, that’s OK. The more the merrier who join the “let’s eat more economically bandwagon”.

The Smith deal, available in most of its cities but not New York, works like this: $45 a person entitles you to an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. Yes, it is a lot of money, but it is an expensive steak restaurant that could easily cost you almost twice that much. The offer is available daily from 5-7 PM and does not include tax and gratuity.

So what if you eat a little earlier. So what if the filet mignon is a little smaller, you get to enjoy the dessert as compensation! Actually there are three appetizers to choose from including the famous steak accompaniment, a tomato & mozzarella salad, three additional entrees for the non-filet lovers (that is a little difficult to fathom from a restaurant that once tried to promote itself with a big steak knife taunting vegetarians–oh, times have changed!), and three desserts. It’s still expensive; I’m not denying that. I am admitting we need to still dine out. Now it is up to you to have restraint and not order a bottle of wine. Drinks drive the bill. This is a finely priced dinner reward for all those mac ‘n cheese nites.

Another way to treat yourself is to take advantage of one of the many Restaurant Week promotions. Baltimore is having one this week, New York City has exteneded theirs from one week to two, and Washington, DC  has an upcoming one in February. Check out the online reservation service Open Table for restaurants throughout the country that have a specially priced menu for a one -week period. Many restaurants continue the special restaurant week menu for a longer period of time. Betcha that happens a lot this year!

Some restaurants just participate for lunch with a 3-course $20 menu; some offer both lunch and dinner menus; dinner for three courses is frequently $35. Prices vary by location and many neighborhoods have their own interpretation of Restaurant Week.

Keep those programs coming. people will eat out when they think there is a deal worth having. It’s a good balance: eat at home some of the time, and then reward yourself while helping the restaurants stay afloat.

Bon Appetit.

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The Sandwich Wars–No Bread Lines

I think it’s time to get back to business. We had a wonderful weekend filled with way more television watching and star-gazing than we normally follow. The Obama family did not disappoint. Now it’s time for us to live up to our promise and focus.

An amazing story today that one size does not fit all. I’m not talking clothing, but food. Potbelly, the popular sandwich chain, has upended itself. I always wondered how they did those reasonable one-price sandwiches. I guess they wondered, too. Now the prices will go up a bit for some, and for the lighter fare with less bread, the price will come down. A little confusing, but all in the hopes of continuing to be a sandwich maker. The competition is pretty stiff out there with Subway packing ‘em in in some locations with the limited time $5 promotion that seems to be without an end.

Everyone is looking for a way to save some money or to keep customers. Sandwich shops are competing with family refrigerators as individuals believe they can make it cheaper at home and bring lunch to work. As long as they are disciplined grocery shoppers, that concept will probably work.

Taking it up a notch to a sit-down restaurant, times are just plain tough. Those who remained static and did not make adjustments are now faced with the severity of declining tabs. People want more for less. In some cases, that means a big CLOSED sign across the glass. Some have closed without warning and passerbyers only learn of the change when they see the auctioneer selling off the last set of chairs. This has become a more common image.

Only the well-priced, value places will thrive. There is hope in Washington that with the new Administration and the individual interest in restaurants that many dining establishments will get the coveted visit from the first family. As long as they don’t choose an early favorite, lots of restaurants can take advantage of the buzz. The flip side is that long nights working at the White House often translates into Domino’s.

The hearty will survive.

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We Are Ready

Amazing. It is now 10 PM on the day the world stood still and listened, and I am at my computer for the first time. It is nice to know that I DO have my priorities in place: I started watching television at 7 AM and stayed glued to the proceedings until the new President and First Lady left the parade viewing box. I did not check my Blackberry nor turn on my computer.  Bigger events had overcome the need for any other communication. I did rely on my Tivo as a walkaround was often needed! Yes, it has been an amazing day. More amazing than I could even imagine. I learned a lot today including some horrible pieces of information about us as a nation.

We have heard the call and will move forward. I love the idea that this President understands how we must once again regain our leadership role in the world. Americans are obviously ready to help–2 million people standing outside for hours in less than ideal temperatures says it all. They shouted the President’s name and wore a variety of outfits showing their support. My favorite was a t-shirt with the new President’s face adorning a big S, Superman body–this shirt may have said it all. We are looking for a superhero and have found one, our new rock star who happens to be our new President, Barack Obama.

Just saying the name and the title together brings both a smile and a sense of relief. We are under a new administration and the city and the Nation are abuzz with the prospect that things will change. Hope has arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and the world should sleep better knowing that change has come and America is back. We need time but we can attain all our greatness under this leadership.

Listen, world, hear us roar. We are coming back. I plan to sleep well tonight. We can become that great Nation we all want.

Good night.

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T-Minus 22

The wait is almost over. I know we are all ready. The talking heads are in overdrive and running out of new material. How many times can you run the same clip or reference the same part of the speech?

Now we are in the hyper-excited mode. Will he really call for a new declaration? The word was a significant component of his Baltimore train stop speech on Saturday. There is little doubt he will ask us to help. He has always called this a participatory election. We are ready. It’s been a long time since we, the people, have had a voice, have spoken, and been heard. We are delighted.

Everyone is so upbeat. It’s as if the world is on Zoloft. We are flying high and recognizing that we can contribute. That we are being asked to think for the greater good, of others. We are ready. Why not? This is not a job for one single individual. It is too hard. We must all roll up our sleeves and help save this great nation.

If it’s energy you want, you’ve got it. The soon-to-be President exudes energy and commitment and we can listen and learn. We need to stand with him and help him over the hurdles he has inherited. We can participate. Every aspect of our great nation stands ready to muster the call.

We are ready, soon-to-be President Barack Obama.

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It's Not Redundant

No matter how many times you say it, it’s not redundant when you repeat how excited you are about the upcoming administration. No matter how dismal world news has become, you can’t help but get on The Hope Wagon. It’s contagious, and there’s room for all of us.

You don’t have to be at the Memorial, the Mall, or the Capitol to feel the energy. Of course, if you are there, it’s a naturally electrifying linc_reflect2experience–one giant emotional surge of a powerful wave. The city and the country already feel different ,and the change of power is not official yet.

We are ready. OK, that’s an understatement.We have been ready. Now it’s time to  put all the programs into place. To demonstrate the leadership we all know the Obama administration is capable of. The country, the world, they have been patient, anticipating the good that will come. T he polls tell the story: No one expects an overnight turnaround, but everyone believes the all-important changes that have been mentioned will be implemented. The country needs money into the hands of the people and not the greedy banks that are keeping the bailout money. Today’s New York Times has that frightening expose.

Health care has become a rallying cry as everyone has a provider or insurance nightmare. That is, the people that have health care. Emergency rooms are strained with people who need to see a doctor but do not have a doctor who will see them because they do not have insurance. This is barbaric.

The list goes on. We all have footnotes that can be added. Let us not lose sight of the moment and let us be redundant as we sing out our song of hope. Time to catch the concert. Thank you HBO for letting us watch the stars share their talent. Yes, we are one.

We can believe.