Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Do You Know How Visiting Nurse Service Works?

I do now, but it took having surgery to find out.

While in the hospital, a representative from Visiting Nurse Service came to see me.  We spoke briefly and she said someone will get in touch with me once I was back home.

I was released on a Sunday and sure enough, Monday I received a call from a nurse who would come to see me for an initial evaluation.

What an exciting Monday - the nurse ordered supplies for me, noted the type of assistance I needed, took my vitals, checked my wounds and left.  Needless to say, he was mesmerized by the frame and rods running through my foot.  He had never seen it before.

The next day I received a call from the coordinator at VNS.  I was offered a home aide a few times a week for 4 hours each visit. As far as my insurance was concerned, I had unlimited (approved) visits as long as I pay the co-pay.

This was so helpful to me.  I now had someone to help me shower, get upstairs, heat up some food for me and even do my personal laundry.

There also had to be a visit from a nurse each week to establish my need for continued home care.

And there lies the rub!

Apparently it didn't matter that I could not manage to take a shower alone, cook for myself, or do much at all without help.  What only mattered was the fact that the nurse had to justify my having help based on a medical need only.  So if I had a skin infection where the pins and rods went into my leg and foot, that would justify having a home aide.

And for each week I had a home aide, I had to have a visit from a nurse, who was actually my case manager.  If she could not find a medical condition then I could not qualify for the home aide.

I could not understand this because a home aide is not allowed to do anything "medical" for me anyway.  They cannot help with wound care, for example.  I was on my own for that.  Where I needed assistance was of no concern to how this system works.

Had I not had the skin infections, which were the result from having all these foreign object inserted into my foot and leg, I would not have qualified for the home aide.  I cannot imagine how I would have managed alone for that first month at home.

More than likely, I would have had to privately hire my own home aide.

And now a word about the organization which partners with VNS, supplying the home aides:  what a mess!  At first I was told that I live in an area where there is no public transportation so it would be difficult for them to get me an aide. Not everyone has a car. Try finding that information in any of their brochures.

The first aide they sent to me was not someone I wanted around.  I never even saw her wash her hands! Then different aides kept coming.  All of a sudden, there were aides with cars.

There was no consistency of who came and when they arrived.  I had such little energy and was in pain, but I had to spend my time showing each new aide what I wanted, where things were, how to help me get upstairs, etc.  It was just complicating things.  One day an aide showed up but no one had even called me to tell me anyone was coming.

This is not a fault of the aides.  They came to do their job.  It was the coordination which needed much improvement.  After many frustrating calls to the aide coordinator, I instead worked things out with the VNS representative who called me with updates each day to let me know who was coming and when. This person deserves high praise for all her help.

I did eventually get "discharged" by the nurse because I no longer had a medical necessity to justify an aide.  Thank goodness I am now able to manage many things myself, using my ingenuity and determination.

My advice is to be prepared when you are in a situation where you may need a home aide after surgery.  Look into hiring someone on your own so you will have someone to call upon if you don't qualify for the medical necessity clause!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What A Pain This Foot Has Become

One week has passed since surgery and I am finding things to be a little more difficult than I thought.

All went according to plan and then some.  When I was wheeled into the operating room, all I saw were tables filled with nuts, bolts, pins, rods and frames.  Not your typical surgical supplies.

The nurses and I joked because I had requested a black color frame.  It goes with everything, they all agreed.  The surgeon told me afterwards that he was going to give me a pink frame, thinking who in their right mind wanted black.  At least the nurses knew what I wanted since I was under sedation and couldn't speak for myself.

Surgery lasted 3-1/2 hours.  The surgeon had to go into one joint and do major scraping since the arthritis was so bad, so now I also have a huge cut on my foot along with stitches.  

During my stay at the Hospital For Special Surgery, I was so pleased by the professionalism and attentiveness the nurses and aides exhibited.  I had great care and knew it even though I had to be on a good amount of pain meds, which I took willingly.

It was two days before they removed the wrap on my foot for me to see my new companion for the next 12 weeks.

Sunday was my discharge day.  So happy to be going home, or so I thought.  You don't realize how much you are taken care of while in the hospital.  Your meals and meds are brought to  you.  The aides help bathe you.  Your vitals are taken all the time and most importantly, I was able to get coffee anytime I wanted!

Trying to make a cup of coffee at home and then carrying the cup while using crutches just doesn't work.  I came to the realization that I could barely do anything by myself.

So here I am, learning that I can't be the independent person I have always been for at least the next 11 weeks. 

The most wonderful thing about all this is seeing how terrific my friends and family are and how caring and helpful they have been. All way beyond anything I could have imagined!

For Surgery:  www.hss.edu/limblengthening.asp 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello Surgery, Goodbye Arthritis!

The day is finally coming.  I go in for surgery on Wednesday.  Thanks to Dr. S. Robert Rozbruch and his staff at the Institute for Limb Lengthening and Reconstruction at The Hospital For Special Surgery, I will emerge from surgery looking as if I am part robot.

My saga began when I broke my ankle in 1990.  I was fine, although as the years passed I was having trouble running on the tennis court.  After many MRIs,  I found that arthritis was the culprit for all my pain.  There is no cartilage left between my joints in my ankle and foot. 

Getting steroid injections helped temporarily but at the risk of destroying any good bone I had, it was necessary to limit these to when I was absolutely desperate.

Limping became a way of walking for me.  The pain was increasing. I was limited to a few shoes which did not make my foot feel worse.  Some days I could barely put my foot into a shoe.

Time passed.  Out of desperation I contacted many orthopedists.  After each visit, I was told the same thing:  I needed a foot fusion.  I even had a well known orthopedist in LA look at my MRI and had the same conclusion.  Then there was the orthopedist who had taken care of some famous ballerinas.  He said the same thing.

I was lost, out of options.  Then one day I was at the physical therapist at Access Physical Therapy and Wellness in Armonk, NY discussing my pain.  He mentioned Dr. Rozbruch and suggested that I had nothing to lose by calling him.  I emailed the doctor and in five minutes he responded and told me to come see him.

Months later and I am about to enter into a fairly new surgical procedure where I wear a frame with pins, rods and screws for 12 weeks waiting for magic to happen. This is how the surgery is described: A right ankle distraction arthroplasty; application of an SBI RAD frame, Right illac crest bone marrow aspirate and distraction of the hindfoot. 

The joints are opened, holes drilled in the bone to bleed and form scar tissue, then my stem cells are injected into the joints and we hope that cartilage will grow.  Apparently when the joint is forced open that action may prompt the body to start growing cartilage.  I am hoping that all goes according to plan but nothing is guaranteed.

The frame then gets removed after the 12 weeks and then I spend the next 3-6 months doing physical therapy.

And I can't drive those first 12 weeks.  I will be at the mercy of those who call to offer an escape plan.

I will be writing updates for anyone else considering this surgery.

Wish me luck!

Where to see more info:  www.LimbLengthening.com

Where to go for Physical Therapy:  www.AccessPTW.com

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To Run Barefoot Or Not: That Is The Question!

The newest way to run seems to be without our shoes.  There are articles published touting the fact that all sneaker companies are redesigning their shoes to give the runner an experience closer to running barefoot.

You use your foot differently when you run without shoes and that alone takes an adjustment.  

Many months ago on TV we saw Luke Russet walking in those shoes which look like gloves for the feet.  Now you can find those "shoes" on people in place of their regular footwear.

From the Vibram FiveFingers website, www.vibramfivefingers.com:

Our revolutionary design makes feet healthier by allowing them to move more naturally and freely.
The typical human foot is an anatomical marvel of evolution with 26 bones, 33 joints, 20 muscles and hundreds of sensory receptors, tendons and ligaments. Like the rest of the body, to keep our feet healthy, they need to be stimulated and exercised.

I came across this article by Dr. Andrew Weil which offers insight to the debate as well as a link to a website from Harvard University, discussing this subject.

Thought it made good reading: 


I do think that we need to be selective on what is on or not on our feet.  I cannot imagine walking barefoot in NYC, yet the beach would work although you could cut your foot on a cracked shell.

I myself have yet not tried these shoes, but when I do, I will be happy to review them.
No matter what we are wearing on our feet, the most important thing is that we are moving!

Friday, September 2, 2011

For Coffee Drinkers, It's Dean's Beans or No Beans

While shopping at Cronig's Healthy Additions Store in Martha's Vineyard, www.cronigsmarket.com, I ventured to the coffee area looking for something interesting.

What first got my attention was this dark green bag with a colorful label.  Picked it up and started reading about the coffee.

The coffee comes from Dean's Beans Organic Coffee Company, www.deansbeans.com and they are out of Orange, MA.  All their coffee is certified USDA Organic by Quality Assurance International.

"No hype or spin, just great coffee and fair dealings all around."

"We only buy beans from democratic cooperatives and small farms, and we know the farmers personally.  In partnership with the growers, we also design and fund People-Centered Development projects to contribute to the well-being of the coffee lands."

Now a word about the coffee:  I have not had a better tasting cup of coffee since I was on a coffee plantation in Costa Rica.  And I have made the coffee using various methods:  drip, press and with an espresso maker, all producing a great cup of coffee.

One of my favorite coffees is called "Ring of Fire" which is a "dark, smokin' blend of high mountain beans from the active volcanic soils of Indonesia, Timor and Papua-New Guinea. Eye-opening!"  As of this writing, it is not showing up on the website but will be available after 9/06/11.

There is also an interesting selection of decaf beans, which I have not yet tried but will be ordering as soon as I can add "Ring of Fire" to my shopping cart.

Check out their website, www.deansbeans.com for other products such as organic sugar and cocoa.

On their site you will find a link to see where you can buy their coffee.  I did some research and even though I can get it,  it's possible that some merchants may not carry all the varieties.  You can shop locally and try one of the varieties the store does carry to see how you like it.

Dean's Beans ships UPS and will deliver next day in the Northeast, excluding Saturdays and major holidays. Although it may be a bit costly, the coffee is fairly priced and you will have your beans right away instead of having them sit on a truck.  You can choose to have it shipped USPS Priority Mail or for orders less than 5 pounds, USPS Flat Rate Box.

The aroma of my freshly brewed coffee is in the air, so off I go to enjoy it.  Have a good day.

Where to shop:  www.deansbeans.com

Friday, August 19, 2011

US Airways: Last Choice in the US!

You had to be there to believe it.  On second thought, better to have missed the experience!

Imagine this:  you arrive at the airport with time to spare for an 8pm flight on US Airways.  You are informed that the aircraft is there, but they don't have a flight attendant.  So the flight is delayed 20 minutes.  Then the delay stretches to an hour, then 2 hours, then 3 hours and you are wondering where this flight attendant is coming from.  Maybe she is traveling on US Airways.

You now have been at the airport 3-1/2 hours and can't wait any longer with the bad headache you have and it is also very late.  At the Special Services desk, you change your flight to an US Airways flight leaving the following afternoon.  You go home and try to sleep.  (In the end, you find out that they cancelled that 8pm flight.)

By this time you have taken a taxi to and from the airport, in traffic and you have not gone anywhere.

The next morning you get into another taxi and arrive at the airport to check in to your 12:05 US Airways flight, only to be informed that you do not have a seat on the flight.  All you are told is that it is "overbooked" and the agent suggests you go to the gate and ask anyone if they are willing to give up their seat.  It is Friday and everyone on that particular flight is off for vacation.  No one is giving up their seat.

It takes 5 phone calls to find out what happened to the seat you had the night before.  Apparently the agent who changed the flight to the next day neglected to cancel the original flight, so it cancelled out the new reservation.  Was it their first day on the job?  Don't they know that you can't have 2 reservations in the same name going to the same place without it causing a problem?

Apparently not.

Now you are on an even later flight and you hope that it leaves and doesn't get cancelled like the one the night before.

Here is the part which would make you feel you reached the end of your rope:  After asking the reservations supervisor for the Corporate Office's phone number, he stressed the fact that they will just route your call back to reservations no matter what.  You give it a try.  You tell the operator not to transfer the call back to reservations so she asked why you are calling.  After you give her a short synopsis of the issue, she tells you to hold and next thing you know, you are speaking with, you guessed it, reservations.

All you are left with, as frustrated as you are, is the option to send an email to Customer Relations.  The auto reply you receive back says that you will get a response  in 4-6 business days.  That is what Customer Service has been reduced to.  No person to actually call anymore.  You could email, write a letter or fax, but never get someone on the phone while you need to deal with a situation.  And try tweeting...you are always directed to email Customer Relations.

Would you fly this airline?

I guess the lesson to be learned is to check everything an agent does to make sure your ticket actually gets you on the flight.  If you are now doing an agent's job, at least get a discounted fare.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

There Is A Major Disconnect When You Request A "Seasonal Disconnect" For Your TV/Internet Service

Have you ever gone on vacation or had to be away from home and thought that you may want to suspend your TV/Internet service?

Anything is possible, but for a price.

Let's take three major companies: www.directv.com, www.timewarnercable.com and www.verizon.com.  I have been a customer of all three. (Choice of programming is not the issue here as that is a more individual decision.)

Directv is the best company when it comes to putting your account "on vacation."  Directv allows you to suspend services for no less than a minimum of 30 days and up to a maximum of 6 months within one calendar year.  You don't have to do it consecutively either.  There are no charges associated with doing this.  Your account has to be up to date in payments and for the months it is suspended, you will see a "$0" balance.

Time Warner Cable permits a "seasonal disconnect" for no less than a minimum of 30 days and also for no longer than 6 months in a calendar year.  They do charge you $10 for the modem and $10 per cable box each month of the "seasonal disconnect," even if you are not there to use it.  Your account must be paid in full before asking for a "seasonal disconnect."

This leaves Verizon as the last and the least cooperative. I was informed that if I temporarily suspend the account I would lose whatever promotion I was locked into and would have to take whatever the price is once I reinstate my account. Granted, there may be a better deal later on, but the fact is that you feel as if they are punishing you for putting your account on suspension. And who is to say that they would actually offer you a better deal when you call to reinstate your account?

We never know what may take us away from home, but considering how much it costs us each month for our TV and Internet, it would be nice to deal with a company who worked with you in those circumstances.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Less Mail, Less Credit Card Offers

How many pieces of mail do you receive that you rip up immediately?

I know that I have more than enough credit cards and do not need any more.  And if I wanted one, it would be of my choosing because I wanted it.

Recently I received a pre-approved credit card offer.  I didn't want it.  At the bottom of the letter is a phone number to call so that you can stop receiving "prescreened" offers of credit and insurance offers from the company sending you the offer along with other companies.

This "opt-out" is good for 5 years.

Call:  1-888-567-8688.

I did it once for my husband and then they ask if you want to do it for a spouse or family member, so I went through it again for myself.

Call:  1-888-567-8688.

If you are wondering if this is legitimate, I called my bank and asked them to verify the number and they did.

Maybe we can all save some paper too.

Monday, June 13, 2011

All-Clad Stainless at Bargain Prices

If you have any desire to own All-Clad basic stainless steel pans, look for the ones on sale if there are any left.

I noticed that many sites and stores were having sales on the stainless collection.  I thought that they were discontinuing the line and wanted to know why.  I had a decent amount of these pans and was wondering if they had improved on what I always thought was a great pan.

I got on the phone with All-Clad and was so glad I had called. The only change they are making is in the handle. They are using the same type of handle as is on the "d-5 line" which looks a bit sleeker, but other than that, it all works the same.  The new line of the stainless was coming out in June so they wanted to get all the product with the "old" handles off the shelves.

So I started shopping and bought myself a few pieces at unbelievable prices.  I love the All-Clad stainless and use the pieces all the time.  They clean up so easily.

It may be too late to find any of the remaining pieces, but if you do, grab them!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Lot of Wine Offered at Lot 18

It seems that the more interesting sites I learn about, the more money I spend.  Of course that is the goal of these sites - to be good enough to encourage you to shop. And I do shop, although I don't spend indiscriminately and those who know me, know this to be true.

My new discovery is www.lot18.com.  What you get are unusual and interesting wines offered almost daily at prices that can't be beat.  You may also get free shipping by purchasing a minimum amount of a particular wine, which at the moment is 4 bottles.  It's  easy enough to do because the offerings are so good.

This is not to say that you will never find this wine elsewhere. I usually do a search for a wine which www.lot18.com is selling and I may find it, but at a higher price point.  Add to that the possibility of free shipping, and you have yourself one good deal.  (Remember, wine cannot be shipped to every state, so check the list on the wine offering page.)

Each wine offering comes with a detailed description of the wine and some reviews are posted.  You may also read the winemaker's notes and information about the winery.

To get more information about this site and learn how they do what they do, please go to this link:


Where to shop:  www.lot18.com

Cheers to all wine drinkers everywhere!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reviews of Current Cell Phones and Hints of the Future

The time has come to "upgrade" my cell phone.  Trouble is, with the choices available right now, not one is exactly what I want.

How much more time can I spend in the Verizon store?  I visit once every few weeks hoping to find out some secretive information.  Finally I am told that they really don't know exactly what is coming out or when.

The manager of one of the Verizon stores gave me two sites to go to for reviews of the current phones and to see what they have to say about future releases. Granted, nothing is written in stone, but it is interesting to research.  I have been on many other review sites, but I had never heard of these two before.

If you have not been on the sites, I recommend taking a look. And if what they say is correct, I may have a new phone in the next month!

Where to research:  www.phonescoop.com and www.phonearena.com.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Same Designer Bag, 2 Different Prices, and EBAGS to the Rescue!

As you know by now, I price shop once I know what I want. Almost two weeks ago I saw a great bag online at Bloomingdales.com and then continued to look for it elsewhere out there on the WWW.

I found it for less at www.ebags.com and shipping was free as it would have been for Bloomingdales.com

The bag arrived in only a few days and I love it!  Shortly afterwards,  Bloomingdales had another sale and this time the bag cost less than I had bought it for on www.ebags.com.

I went online to www.ebags.com and did a "Live Chat" with a representative.  I was told to fill out the "Price Match" form from their site and they will get back to me.

A few hours later I received an email from them asking for more information.  I sent it to them the next morning and then called to make sure they received my email.  The sale at Bloomingdales was going to end on Sunday and today was Friday so time was of the essence.

It wasn't until after I was speaking to the representative from www.ebags.com, that I realized  I had not furnished them with the very specific link to the exact page showing the sale price. 

So while on the phone, I got to the page and the bag was gone, sold out I guess.  Now the proof was gone!

The representative was great.  He said that because I had started the Price Match while the bag was up on the site, he would honor it.  He also knew that I had gone to the trouble of doing a "live chat," sending emails etc. and he appreciated the work I had done on my part.

Am I a big fan of www.ebags.com?  You bet!     

A price match is easier than having to return something and then having to purchase it somewhere else.  One important part of their Price Match program is that you have to request the Price Match within 14 days of your purchase.

Where to shop:  www.ebags.com

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pay A Little, Save A Lot On Your Next Meal

With all the "coupon" deals out there, how do you decide which ones to subscribe to?  

You may not need most of the other sites again, at least for restaurants.

Recently I came across www.villagevines.com. While restaurants are usually busy during peak hours, many have empty tables during "off-peak" hours.  Village Vines helps fill those empty seats by offering you a discount.

It is simple, you pick a restaurant on the site, pay a $10 booking fee for the reservation, and then receive 30% off your total bill.  
It would make sense to figure out how much you may be spending to make sure the discount is worth it. There are some variations and restrictions, and they are clearly stated so no surprises when you see your check.

Some restaurants may restrict the size of your party.  Most will not offer the discount on a prix-fixe meal.  Then with other restaurants, you may be able to reserve a table at any time. Lastly, there are but a very few where the percentage off would be a little less.

The discount is also good on your beverages, whatever they might be, and at a discount, that bottle of wine will seem more enjoyable.  Your savings are uncapped, so the more you eat and drink, the more you save.

What makes using this venue more up-scale than having to present a coupon to the waitstaff, is that the discount is applied to your bill automatically.  If you are taking people out to eat, they don't need to know that you received a discount.  When you arrive at the restaurant you confirm that they have your reservation booked through www.villagevines.com.

As of this writing, Village Vines is active in NYC, DC, Chicago, Los Angeles and SF.  They are planning to have restaurants in other cities by the end of the year.  Look for Village Vines in Boston, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Denver for starters.

Think about trying one of the restaurants on the list.  It is a win-win situation for everyone.

Where to sign up to reserve:  www.villagevines.com

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Verizon Wireless: Customer Service As Good As Its Coverage!

It takes a great company to recognize a great customer and do the right thing.

Let me state from the beginning that the problem I had was my fault.  I always have my blackberry set to go on and off each day at a certain time.

Off on vacation I go, out of the country, with my blackberry in my suitcase.  I was not going to use it while away because I didn't sign up for a global plan and didn't want one.   I was on vacation!  I only needed my blackberry once we were back in the USA.

While my blackberry sat in my suitcase, turned off, stored away during the trip, it was going on each day at 7am and going off at 10:30pm.  I had totally forgotten to disable this feature before I had put it away.

Before boarding the first flight home, I took my phone out as we went through security.  Was I surprised when I saw it was on? Absolutely.  

I didn't think I had a problem since I never used the phone.  But that is not what happens to a phone with a data plan.  Each day it turned on, it takes in all the emails coming into my accounts. That was all data usage, for which I did not have a global plan, so I was charged accordingly.

After I saw my bill, I cringed at the charges I had accumulated. I called Verizon Wireless Customer Service and explained my dilemna. The representative felt so bad for what had happened that she put me on hold to see if she could do anything.  She returned and apologized for not being able to help me, since Verizon Wireless did not make the mistake.  I thanked her for taking the time to see if she could help.

The next day I searched for the phone number of the Corporate office. It wasn't easy to find but I did locate a number of a Regional office.  The woman to whom I was directed told me that I was not at the right office for my location, but that she would write up my situation and pass it along to the proper person.

Within one hour, I received a call from Corporate and we resolved my problem.  The representative recognized that I was a long time customer could see how this could have happened. I was so appreciative of her understanding.

When I asked if there was a phone number for her office, she told me that there was none, but if you need to contact them, you just go to the "Contact Us" link on the website and send an email.

I always thought that link was for your everyday customer service, the same department you would be connected to when you called 1-800-922-0204.  Apparently it is not.

My advice is that if you have a real, honest to goodness problem which doesn't get resolved after calling the "800" number, try going to www.verizonwireless.com, open the "Contact Us" link on the top and "send an email."

It doesn't get any better than that!

Where to call:  1-800-922-0204

Where to contact:  http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/contact/index.jsp

Monday, March 14, 2011

American Airlines Responds in Record Time

Have you taken a flight and had such a negative experience that you had to complain to someone short of vowing never to fly that airline again?

I did exactly that and was very pleased with a phone call I received a few days later.

Of course no phone call could take back the experience, but at least a company responds in hope that the situation won't be repeated.  

We do everyone a favor by bringing to attention problems during a flight.  If we don't, how can you expect situations to be remedied?  (I am assuming that the airline does actually care and would want to retain your business.)

The real challenge is how to find the right people to complain to.  If your email gets lost in the incorrect mailbox, it does little good. You won't get a response and you will feel even more upset.

While on the flight, I read through the airline's magazine and there was an article written by the person in charge of Customer Relations.  I wrote his name down and put it in my wallet.

I made a few other calls and finally had a list of 3 additional names, all in the Customer Service/Relations  area.

After sending the email, I received an automatic "out of office" reply from one of the recipients.  A few days later the phone call came.

The representative who had called me said that all departments affected by my complaints would be contacted.  Aircraft appearance, food quality and flight attendant attitude were involved.

Interestingly, I had been on 4 flights yet only one segment was a problem. So the one flight seemed even worse since 3 others had been such a positive experience.

At least the airline understood that I had legitimate gripes because I had nothing but praise for the other flights.

So thank you, American Airlines!  If everything isn't perfect, at least you are willing to improve upon what is already a pretty good ride.

Which airline to fly:  www.aa.com

Friday, March 11, 2011

Travel To Costa Rica - Where Are Those Monkeys?

(c) Lee Garfinkel

We just got back from a trip to Costa Rica and still are wondering where all the wildlife was.

Maybe it is unfair to compare a trip to Costa Rica after walking amongst the penguins in Antarctica or the sea lions in the Galapagos.

That said, be advised that spotting the monkeys, birds and sloths in the trees takes a professional guide along with a power scope.

We started out up in the Monteverde Cloud Forest for two days and also had the pleasure of visiting a real coffee plantation where we learned everything you would want to know about coffee. It was called Don Juan Coffee Planation. Even bought 3 pounds of coffee, which we sampled along with food at the end of the tour.  We then drove a few hours to  Puerta Caldera to meet up with our ship, The Windstar, for a 7 day cruise to different parts of Costa Rica as well as Nicaragua.

Costa Rica is very beautiful and you can see why the land needs to be protected.  When you walk through a rain forest you see why we have to do all we can not to destroy this very efficient, self-contained environment.  Every plant, insect, vine, tree, mammal and bird has a purpose.  You cannot upset the balance or the forests won't flourish.

When taking an excursion into the forests, I suggest that you find a guide to take you in a very small group.  Too many people take away from the time you get to look through the guide's power scope and monkeys, sloths and birds aren't waiting for you to watch them.  They tend to move!

Wear good hiking shoes because the narrow walking paths cut through the forest could be full of tree roots or rocks.  Bring insect repellant, but since we were there in the dry season it wasn't too bad.  The sand flies on the beach were the worst. But afterwards you don't itch, you just see red dots on your skin.  I did get bitten by an ant, which the guide called "flaca," meaning skinny.  It was as if a pin was going into my leg and it burned even after I knocked the ant on the ground. I was so mean to this ant.

Bring really good binoculars.  You want to be able to see something not too far away as well as something way up in the trees.  As for your camera equipment, you could use lenses such as a 100-400mm and a 28-135mm.  If you bring just one lens, use a 18-200mm lens. We used 2 different Canon cameras, but now that we took the trip, we would have used the 18-200mm lens on our Nikon camera. Again, remember everything is moving so trying to change the camera and lens takes time, which you may not have.

As for shopping, I wouldn't get too excited.  Each town had crafts, but after a while, they all looked the same.  There are many tourist type shops selling towels, flip flops etc., which you could find anywhere, unless you really needed a towel with Costa Rica printed on it.  Someone advised us that some of the items we saw were made in Guatemala, so not to think all we saw was locally made.

What was more enjoyable was to go into a local restaurant to sample food and drink the local beers, which cost anywhere from $1.50 - $2.40. That was the best bargain! 

To get us from one location to another before our cruise, as well as taking us to the airport after the cruise, we used a company called Ocotea Tours.  We booked it through American Express.  The driver was always on time and had a very clean vehicle. We would highly recommend them. 

And what about the cruise line?  I will write about it in my next posting.

Where to buy coffee:  www.donjuancoffeetour.com

Where to hire transportation:  www.ocoteatours.com

Where to book a trip:  www.americanexpress.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Cons of ProFlowers.com!

Shopping on a website should be easy, otherwise we would just shop the old fashioned way by walking into a store. 

After receiving an email reminder from Proflowers.com about an upcoming birthday, I thought I might actually send some flowers.  I went ahead and started the order process.

Once I made my flower selection I continued onto another screen, where there was an option for a "morning delivery" for $14.99 or "standard" delivery, for which there wasn't any price posted.

By the time I got to the page to enter my credit card information, I still had not seen the cost for shipping.

So I called.  At this point it all went downhill.  The representative told me that I wouldn't see the price until after the credit card info was entered and I hit the "continue" tab.  My question to her was, "Why can't you tell me what the cost will be?"  I already assumed that standard delivery had to be less than the "morning delivery" cost.  Her response was that there were too many factors involved for her to give me a cost without her having to use a calculator.

How did I deal with that response?  I told her that I shop online all the time, and I have never shopped where the shipping cost was not disclosed, whether in a drop down menu, or a link at the top or side of the page, etc. 

I feel that if a company is not upfront about their shipping costs, I don't need to do business with them.  She then got all bent out of shape and told me that she had shopped on www.amazon.com and didn't know what the shipping cost would be until she put in her credit card information.  I said that I never have encountered that on www.amazon.com and always get free shipping by spending $25.00.  And even if you are spending less than $25,  the shipping costs are found by opening a link under the heading "Product Details" after scrolling down the page.  I told her she should learn to be a better shopper.

Again she asked if I wanted to place an order.  Again I said that I needed to know the shipping cost before I gave her my credit card.  At this juncture, I sensed a really bad attitude.  When she asked again about placing an order, I asked for a supervisor.

It took her about 2 minutes of typing before asking for my name, phone number and email address and said that it would be 24-48 hours before anyone calls me.  Needless to say, it will be too late by then to send flowers to arrive on time.

I decide to go back online and pretend to place an order.  After giving credit card info, the next page asked to confirm the order.  Here's the best part:  I kept looking for the pricing and shipping costs and finally found it on a side bar in very light typeface making me believe that it was something they don't really want you to dwell on.  On top of this, they added another fee for handling and then tax. 

Buying flowers should make you feel good.  This made me feel just plain lousy.

P.S.  I did get a voicemail the next day from a supervisor who said that shipping rates vary depending on time of day, product, where it is being shipped.  I already knew that time of day was more money since that did show up on the order form, but there still should be an easier way to determine what you are spending to ship a product.  In fact, I looked at www.1800flowers.com and under Frequently Asked Questions they have a chart showing all the shipping charges.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Am Morning Woman, Hear Me Roar!

I found a great new breakfast biscuit called Belvita.

This biscuit gives you energy all morning long.

Try it and ROAR!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Damn Those Ice Dams!

Water finds the easiest path of resistance which is why many of us have had water in our homes after the ice formed on our roofs. The Ice Dam is to blame.

Once an Ice Dam is formed you will have a problem.  What is an Ice Dam anyway?  An Ice Dam is a ridge of ice that forms at the edge of a roof and prevents melting snow (water) from draining off the roof.  The water that backs up behind the dam can leak into a home and cause damage to walls, ceilings, insulation and other areas. All this is either because of heavy freezing rain or moderate or heavy snow conditions with an air temperature significantly below freezing.

In some cases, the cause is the attic below the roof, which needs to be cold.  When heat from the house escapes to the attic, the warmer air is now under the roof and will add to the problem, since the ice will start to melt in the exact place you don't want it to be melting.

The first thing that you need to do is remove snow from the roof.  A "roof rake" can be used to remove snow but you need to be careful not to damage the roofing material.  If you can't get all the snow off, at least move it away from where the shingles meet the walls of the house and far enough down the roof so you clear areas where there is a wall under the roof line. The goal is to have as little ice and snow on the roof to minimize the amount of water entering the house if an Ice Dam does form.

Try filling pantyhose with Potassium Chloride Pellets, which are gentle enough to not ruin wood shingles but slow acting as far as melting the snow. (There are many other products available, but make sure you are not using anything which will ruin your roofing material.)  If you were to just throw the pellets onto the roof, they could roll off and not do much good.  The pantyhose is placed on the areas where you need the pellets to stay put.  I found a "snow sock," which looks pretty good and is pictured above, especially if you don't happen to have pantyhose. You could also use something as simple as just a sock.

In the end, when we know that weather conditions make it next to impossible to avoid the formation of an Ice Dam, the least we can do is to try to mitigate the damage.

Where to buy:  www.amazon.com

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hyatt's Customer Service Steps Up When Their Hotels Fall Short

Have you ever been stuck in a hotel's elevator?  This just happened to my friend at a Hyatt Hotel. The doors opened and he was staring at a concrete wall.  Fortunately he stayed calm and pushed the lobby button a few times. Eventually the door closed and the elevator started moving.

When he reached the lobby, he related his experience to the representative at the front desk.  You wouldn't believe the response!  She said, "Oh, that has been happening lately."

Can you imagine a hotel with an elevator they knew was not working properly and letting guests still use it?  What about the response of the person at the front desk?  Must be something in the drinking water.

But it doesn't end there. The filter basket for the coffee maker in the room was missing, so he had to order up room service. The least they could do is make sure the coffee makers have all of their parts and are functional.  This is a Hyatt!

The next night, this same friend stayed in another Hyatt Hotel. The toilet flusher in the room would not work.  Being a handy person and pressed for time, he fixed it and let the front desk know it wasn't working properly.  And what was their response?  "Thank you for telling us," was all they said.  

Perhaps the individual incidents may not seem like a big deal, but the fact that they all occurred at two different Hyatt Hotels within a 24 hour time frame is what peaked my interest.

I volunteered to call Hyatt's customer service.  The good news is the representative was extremely responsive.  

She understood completely that my friend was more confounded by the response of the representatives at the front desk than by what had actually happened.

She apologized and said that the hotels would be notified, put additional reward points into his account and gave me her contact information for the next time he will be staying at a Hyatt.

This was an easy call. The representative didn't have to be prodded into understanding the point of the call and didn't have to be asked for something to make up for what had happened.

There are things that happen at each and every hotel.  We can deal with them if we feel the issues get resolved properly and that the inconveniences we experience are appreciated by the staff.   

Of course he will stay at these hotels again.  He just may ask if the elevator is working before entering.