Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am thankful for:
  • my good health and the good health of my husband and family.
  • my wonderful children who still want to spend Thanksgiving Day with me inspite of my reluctance to leave the kitchen, sit down and actually visit with them.
  • my wonderful grandchildren who, hopefully, will force me out of the kitchen for a walk down to the park to play.
  • my country.  Inspite of our problems, I would not want to live anywhere else.  We have the freedom to change or not to change.
  • my home.  I have a roof over my head, a warm bed to sleep in, a refrigerator full of food.  Most of the world lacks one or more of these simple things.
  • my parents.  Although they are long gone, they gave me the foundation on which to build a happy, successful life.  They made me responsible, they educated me, they taught me right from wrong, and most importantly, they taught me the power of love.
  • my marriage.  How many are still in love after 40+ years?  I am one lucky gal.
  • my friends.  What can I say?  You are my joy when things go right, my salvation when things go wrong.
  • learning and exploring.  Reading, travelling, trying new things out, being challenged -- this is what makes life so rich.
May you have a wonderful holiday with friends and family.  Turn the computer off, stay away from the tv for a bit, get out of the kitchen, and just enjoy being with the people who are important in your life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Back to the kitchen (where I belong?)

Another Thanksgiving, another marathon cooking session.  Thanksgiving is "my" family holiday by default.  Most of our family members live in Ventura County, California, a little over two hours' driving time from our residence.  However, my FIL, who is 90, lives just an hour from us.  Thanksgiving is the only time during the year that he gets to see our children and grandchildren (his grandchildren and great-grandchildren) so I persist in being the go-to cook on Thanksgiving.

I do love to cook, but this is beyond a normal cooking session.  Being a firstborn, and seriously anal, I have several plans committed to the computer.  I have a recipe plan, then I have a weekly plan, then I have a daily plan, followed by an hourly plan for "THE DAY."  YIKES!  Why do I do this to myself?  Answer:  because I know no other way of doing things.

Following the day-to-day plan, yesterday I made the turkey spice rub, shredded the Swiss cheese for the corn bake that my son-in-law loves, and checked the silverware, china, and crystal for spots and other indelicacies.  Today, I made the sweet potato casserole (no one will know that it is 2 days old by the time they are eating it), chopped up all those veggies that will eventually go into the dressing, corn casserole, and brined turkey.  Then DH and I cleaned the rented tables, set them up in the dining room, ironed the rented tablecloths, and placed the carefully inspected china, crystal, and silverware on the table.  Thanks be to the heavens above, my placecards that were made last week (according to plan) look fabulous with the candles that were bought several weeks ago on a whim.

Bright and early tomorrow morning, I will make the dressing (thank you, friend Merle), simmer the turkey stock, cook and mash the potatoes -- and hope that all this is done before FIL shows up!  Once he is here, I will feel obliged to converse, discuss financial deals that don't really interest me at all, and play hostess all the while stressing internally about what is and is not ready for the big day.  Please, oh pretty please, let him be late in arrival ....

Oops -- also on the agenda for tomorrow:  get the serving dishes down from the incredibly high shelves in the kitchen, remind DH to sharpen the knives and watch videos on YouTube about carving turkeys, remove turkey from the plastic wrapper and find all that stuff that they hide inside the various cavities so I can use it to make stock, wash the turkey roaster -- oops - find the turkey roaster, then wash it, review cooking instructions from Butterball, set timer for Thursday so turkey goes in the oven in time for a 3 p.m. dinner so that DD and family can eat and be on the road to get back to Ventura County in time to put the kidlets to bed before their nervous systems are completely destroyed.

Best part of today?  Telephone conversation with 3-year-old grandson who requested crackers and chips for Thanksgiving dinner!!

Reminder to self:  Relax and have fun!

Hmmmmm ....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Be still my heart ...

The title of this post might refer to Harrison Ford and his new movie, "Morning Glory."  It might also refer to my DH of 40+ years.  But what it actually refers to is ...

Raiders vs Steelers tomorrow at 10 a.m. PST!!!

I have high hopes, which if history repeats itself, will be dimmed by the end of the 2nd quarter.  A girl can dream, can't she?

While others might dream tonight of winning the lottery, Brad Pitt suddenly appearing in their bedrooms, or the real estate market taking a sudden precipitous climb upwards, I will be dreaming of completed first downs, Hail Mary passes, limited penalties (please, please, please), and a return to the glory years.

Prediction:  Raiders 24, Steelers 17.

Please, please, please .....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

"Oma" and the terrible horrible no good very bad day

Those of you of a certain age will understand the reference to the fabulous book by Judith Viorst.  You probably should read it to your kids -- or your grandkids.  Well, I had a day that could rival any of Alexander's.  If you are among those who think that health care in this country is just hunkie-dorry, read no further.  You will not like what I have to say.

Yesterday, I visited my new doctor for a blood pressure check.  My health history is not important here.  I am a pretty healthy 65-year-old who has a family history of high blood pressure.  My high BP has been treated for about 20 years.  My new doc decided he wanted to try a different med since my pressure (in his office) registered 167/84.  Not good.

Doc said let's try the new med for 30 days and then see how it goes.  Sounds good to me.  Normally, my meds are ordered over the Internet for a 90-day supply.  With by BP so high, I wanted to start on the new med as quickly as possible.  So, off I went with a brand new prescription for Lotrel, a pretty common BP med, to a VERY mainstream discount pharmacy.  Dropped off the prescription.  Pharmacy called me two hours later to say that they could not get approval from my insurance company for the prescription.  As best that I can reconstruct the circumstances, here is my take:
  • I was covered by this same insurance company under my retirement benefit until I was eligible for Medicare.
  • I was eligible for Medicare on 9/1/10.
  • I elected to stay with the same provider.
  • I have processed doctor benefits under my new plan.
  • I have received 90-day drug benefits under my new plan through their mail order pharmacy.
  • Through some kind of computer glitch, on-site pharmacy requests are being rejected.
  • My online profile shows that I am under two plans:  my new Medicare plan and my old "retirement" benefit plan (which I am really not eligible for any more) --- THIS IS PROBABLY THE PROBLEM.
I called my "Field Representative" last night and explained the situation to her.  She said she would work on it "tomorrow" (i.e., today) and said that I had the option to pay for the prescription and then put in a claim for reimbursement.

Trusting that my representative would help me out, I did nothing until 11 a.m. today.  At that time, I contacted my "provider" by telephone and went through a 20-minute phone conversation the end result of which was confirmation that I was (1) fully enrolled and (2) entitled to receive pharmacy benefits and (3) this prescription should cost me $7.

I determined that perhaps the pharmacy was at fault.  I drove to the pharmacy and took possession of the doctor's script and drove to another pharmacy that had never seen me before!  Guess what?  Same thing happened.  They could not get the prescription approved through the computer system.  After spending at least 15 minutes on the phone with my "provider", they came to a dead end.  The pharmacy was told that they were inputting the correct information but still my prescription would not go through as approved.  My "provider" suggested that the problem was with the pharmacy's software.  Hmmmm .... two different pharmacies, two different software systems, and still the same problem?  Doubt it...

I paid the $56.07 in order to start on the new medication.

I came home and placed another call to my field representative.  At this point, she has not called me back.

So, I believe I am the victim of some kind of computer glitch.  I know this will work out, but should I have to go through this?  What if my condition were more severe?  What if I were less able to deal with these frustrations?  What if I didn't understand the Internet?  What if I didn't know how to use online systems?  What if I were 90 instead of 65?

I won't name names today --- but I will if this is not resolved.

You think my blood pressure was under control today?  Not likely.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A day in Berninaland

I've been promising a post about our Bernina factory tour, so here it is.  Our prearranged visit was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. and last about 2 hours.  DH and I travelled by train to Steckborn in the morning on a cold and dreary overcast day.  The clouds cleared a bit, so we had an opportunity to see the town.

Florist in Steckborn, Switzerland
Steckborn is just a delightful little place situated on the shores of Lake Constance.  We were hoping to have lunch somewhere in town, but we couldn't find a restaurant.  We shopped at a grocery store and bought a couple of sandwiches to eat at a park adjacent to the lakefront.  We were chilly but enjoyed the view.  While walking through the park, we actually came across a group of teenagers swimming in the lake!

A personal welcome!
We arrived at the Bernina factory early, but everything was closed for lunch.  When we returned about 1 p.m., imagine our surprise when the computer screen in the reception area welcomed us personally!  We had a few minutes to enjoy the sewing machine museum before our English-speaking guide, Dieter, arrived to escort us into the factory.

Let me first say that the Bernina factory is unlike any factory I have ever seen -- clean, clean, clean with very little noise.  The impression that has stayed with me since our tour is how "hands-on" the process is.  Now I understand a bit more why these products are so expensive!  The first employee we met was packing feet individually into those neat little plastic containers that we Bernina lovers all covet.  She placed the plastic containers upside down into a customized holder that held about 8 packages.  Then the red & white cardboard label went in, then the presser foot, then the folded multi-language instruction sheet, then she snapped the package shut and put the adhesive label on the back.  Whew!  That's a lot of time to pack each foot -- no conveyor belt here!

Checking #34 feet individually

Nearby, a lady was working with the #2 foot and attaching the little screw that goes in the back of the foot so you can attach guides, etc.  Each done by hand then placed into a bucket.  Bernina produces 1.3 million feet per year.  Just think about all those feet getting such individual attention!  Next, we met a man testing #34 feet to make sure they ride perfectly on the feed dogs.  Lastly in this area, we watched as BSRs were attached to a special sewing computer/screen/hoop arrangement that allowed the employee to test each foot for accuracy and calibration.  If the foot passes its test, she places it in its special metal box and piles them up higher and higher --- at least 40 boxes of BSRs!  Hmmmm ... what is 40 times $600 anyway????

There is automation in the factory, but it is hard to find.  For instance, in the early stages of building the feet, they are polished in large steel drums with hundreds of small stones rotating in the drums --- and making lots of noise!  Final finishing, however, is done by hand.  Stitch plates are hand polished prior to packaging or installing in a machine.

820s all lined up
The Steckborn factory has 380 employees.  Bernina has an apprenticeship program; apprentices must work 3 years before they are eligible to become fulltime employees.  In addition, Bernina has had a factory in Thailand for many years.  The Activa and Aurora lines are made 80% in Thailand with final assembly and finishing done in Steckborn.  The Artista machines are made completely in Switzerland.

I was curious about how long Bernina makes parts for its machines.  Berninas are workhorses and last a long time.  When Bernina discontinues a model, they continue to make parts for 15 years after the date the last machine is sold.

At the end of the tour and after some light refreshments, we were shown a short video about the company then invited to stay for a demonstration of the new 830.  The demo, unfortunately, was in German!  So DH and I walked over to the Creative Center to browse through the current lineup of machines and see samples of quilts and garments made during the classes held on site.

The tour was a wonderful treat.  Now I appreciate my 640E even more than I did before going to Steckborn --- and I know exactly where it was created with care and attention to detail.  Bravo Bernina!