Friday, July 30, 2010

a foodie recommendation for you foodies in and around Charleston

Last night Jimmy and I went out to eat with one of our very oldest friends in the world, Jeremy; his brother Matthew (who happens to be my brother-in-law because that's how we do things in Moncks Corner); their sister Lindsay (a musical artist that you should take note of and go hear should you be in the area); and Jeremy's friend who we'd met when Mac was a baby in Baltimore.

Jeremy and Lindsay chose Lucca based on a great experience they'd had some months ago. Let me tell you that this restaurant does not disappoint. It is Italian food like you can maybe only get in Italy. The menu changes just about everyday according to our waitress so I hesitate to even tell you about my main course because I don't want you to be disappointed when you can't order it.

But because I want to relive it, I'll tell you anyway. I had agnolotti (fancy word for ravioli stuffed with the most divine ricotta known to the modern world), topped with oyster mushrooms, the most delectable veal and the most luscious browned butter sauce you can imagine. Totally Decadent with a capital D.

So if you're in the Charleston area, you should run, not walk, to Lucca. And take me with you when you go. Even if I'm in Bogota, Colombia. It's that good.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dear 7 loyal readers and the rest of you lurkers who don't want to tell me who you are,

I just wanted to touch base to say hi and to tell you I've missed you. Life has been a whirlwind and there's so much I want to share with you.

1. Jimmy got home safe and sound and his year in Afghanistan is officially O-V-E-R! Hurray for prayers answered.

2. Mac, my mom, and I had a great trip to Las Vegas with the extra-special and extraordinary BB(razilian)FFs, which we then followed up with a side jaunt to the Grand Canyon. I have some photos I want to share but they're on my laptop and now that we're at my mom's and she doesn't have wireless, it's just too time-consuming to move them to her desktop. So that will have to wait.

3. We picked up Jimmy in Washington, DC last Monday and had a few days there as a family doing some State Department housekeeping as well as sightseeing. Other than it being about 112 degrees and that one pesky parking ticket (that I am fighting because the machine was broken and I left a note in the car window explaining this), it was a great trip. We got to visit with newer friends from Afghanistan, old State Department friends, even older Georgetown grad school friends and practically antique USC friends. (Obviously new and old are used in terms of length of friendship and not actual age.)

4. We've spent the last week here in Moncks Corner, visiting with friends, eating lots of good food, running errands, etc.

5. The newer Mexican restaurant in Moncks Corner, Cinco de Mayo, is very good. Just in case you happen to be in Moncks Corner sometime and you've got a hankering for Mexican food. The carnitas are almost as good as the ones Jimmy used to buy at a roadside stand between Guadalajara and the town of Tequila. Just fyi.

6. Our family beach week starts Friday and I hope for a nice ocean breeze to combat this horrible heat. I either am unable to take the heat and humidity in my dotage or I'm suffering from hot (or sweat) flashes. The 60-degree temperatures of Bogota are never going to be as inviting as they will be when we land there.

7. Speaking of Bogota, we fly out on August 8.

8. Speaking of Bogota, we found out some details on our apartment and good news! It's big enough for any of you to come visit. Maybe just not all at once. And it's in the neighborhood I wanted - walking distance to restaurants, movies, grocery store, etc. Hurray for more prayers answered.

9. Speaking of Bogota and because some of you have asked, Mac will have testing at the American School on August 10 and at the British School on August 12. Jimmy and I will also have our "testing" with the school psychologist at the British School on the same day. I hope we have the right answers.

I feel like there should be a #10 but I really can't think of anything, so I'll close for now. More to come!

Friday, July 16, 2010

all's well that ends well

1. Packout 2010 is over. In what was record time, the movers were out of the house at 2:30 this afternoon. I had pared down what we brought to SC because I wanted to live as minimally as possible so there wasn't a lot of "clutter stuff" to pack up, which sped things along enormously.

2. I called Time Warner Cable at 7:45am today, only to be told that the people who handle cancellations (called the Retention Department) don't come in until 8am. So I called back at 8:15am and talked with a woman who was full of attitude and low on expertise.

Her first suggestion was that I just pack up the converter and modem and mail them from wherever I was moving. I told her I was moving to Bogota, Colombia, which happens to be in South America. She said I could mail it back from there. I asked her if she was kidding me to which she quickly said "excuse me?". I asked her if she had any idea what it would cost to mail that heavy box back and no, that wasn't an option.

Her second suggestion was that since I said I would be at the house until 4:30 today, I could drop off the stuff at the local TWC office because they didn't close until 6:30pm. I was operating on principle at this point and absolutely refused to deliver this stuff anywhere since the guy was supposed to pick it up yesterday. So I might have stretched the truth and told her I was leaving for Bogota tomorrow and that I most certainly would not spend my last night here away from my family in order to deliver cable equipment. After all, I'd already lost my "next-to-last" night with family waiting for the guy who never came.

Her third suggestion involved actually checking the schedule to see the earliest that somebody could come out. That would be Monday. So I told her that the guy would find the equipment on the front porch in a plastic bag if it hadn't been stolen.

At this point, she told me she couldn't help me anymore, that Monday was the best she could do.

So I asked to speak to her supervisor.

She told me that the supervisors weren't in yet.

I asked when they'd be in. I told her that I realized she'd done everything in her power, but I obviously needed someone with more power.

She put me on hold.

It was a long hold.


If Doretha hasn't won the TWC Employee of the Year every year since she started working at TWC, then somebody isn't recognizing talent when they see it.

For starters, Doretha sounded older on the phone, not like the 19 year-olds with whom I had previously spoken. Doretha apologized genuinely for all my trouble (not like the aforementioned teenager apologies that sounded like they were reading off the script they'd been given in their TWC training class (which obviously isn't long enough). Doretha then called the local dispatch and came back on the phone to tell me that someone would be at my house in 15 minutes.


I wasted more than a quarter of a day yesterday dealing with TWC and in 5 minutes, Doretha has taken care of business?

Put that woman up for Employee of the Millenium!

Doretha also stressed - repeatedly- to write down the serial numbers on a piece of paper and get the pick-up person to sign for receipt and to keep that document with me as proof in case the pick-up person ended up stealing the equipment and I guess re-selling?? Well the pick-up person (who arrived in record time) was dressed like the manager of the local office and not some unhappy worker who wanted to steal from TWC. He brought his own documentation so we signed each other's paper and away he went.

Just like that, the tension eased in my shoulders and I got back to enjoying my coffee, fattening blueberry scone, and delightful conversation with BFF on the front porch of the rental house.

Truly, all's well that ends well.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

packout update #3 plus my venting

The moving men performed herculean tasks today and got the lion's share of the sea shipment done. They'll finish up tomorrow morning and then do the really bulky but quite minimal storage shipment.

So it was really a very stress-free day as far as packouts go.

And then Time Warner Cable reared its big fat incompetent head. I'll save you from all the gory details. I'll just share an email I just sent to them on their help email function a few minutes ago that sums up my trials and tribulations with the company as well as their very TWC-esque (read here unhelpful) response. When you read this, you should keep in mind that when the tech came, he didn't get my attention nor that of the three movers who were in and out of the house. I guess the big moving truck parked right out front of the house and the door left wide open threw him off.

Original Message Follows:
First Name: Susan
Last Name: Story
Email Address:
Street Address: 105 Barberry St
ZIP: 29483
Phone Number: 8437712284
Category: Downgrade/Cancellation
Comment: I was supposed to have my equipment picked up today but through a series of TWC bungles, the service was cut, the equipment wasn't picked up but I continued to wait for nearly the 12-hour "window" because when I called at 4:30pm to try and find out where I was in the queue, the incompetent agent didn't tell me the tech had already been to my house. Only when I called back at 8pm did I find out from Mary, the only knowledgeable and helpful agent I've ever spoken with at TWC, that the tech had already come and gone. She was in the process of preparing an equipment pick-up
request, but we got disconnected because of the cell service in my house (remember my service was already cut so I couldn't use my home phone). I tried to do a chat with Julian tonight but he couldn't help me. He told me to call the TWC number, but I explained that I had been on hold and/or waiting for TWC for over 4.5 hours already today and wouldn't wait more and asked that somebody call me directly. So in typical TWC fashion, my service rep Julian had me called but I've now been
waiting on hold for 52 minutes and 46 seconds. I have the modem and the cable box at my house at 105 Barberry St. in Summerville, SC 29483. I will be there tomorrow from 8am to 4:30pm with two professional moving trucks and 4 movers. After tomorrow, I move to Bogota, Colombia, so you can either send your tech there to pick up the equipment or I will leave it on the front porch. Your choice. Please just let me know what option you've chosen. My cell phone battery is dead and won't
be recharged until tomorrow. Tomorrow morning you can reach me on that cell at 843-670-1487. But please note, I will only be at the house from 8am to 4:30pm. I will not be able to wait any longer and waste more hours for TWC.

Why was I surprised when only a couple minutes later, I got this response:

Dear Valued Customer,

Thank you for allowing us the opportunity to assist you. We are unable to process downgrade and
cancellation requests via email. Please contact us at 1-877-566-4892, at your earliest convenience,
and one of our Specialists will be happy to assist you.

We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may cause you, and we look forward to assisting you in
the future.

Thank you for contacting Time Warner Cable Carolinas Region.

For the record, I've remained on hold for a bit longer. I'm up to 1 hour, 6 minutes and 46 seconds right now. But I'm going to bed now because it's another great packout day tomorrow.

But it promises to be a lot more entertaining for me because BFF is coming to help me and she's coming with treats, like Starbucks coffee and that decadent blueberry scone with about 500 fat grams because she said we could have a splurge day for the packout.

packout update #2

Well, these men ate their Wheaties before they left Columbia this morning.

It's 10:40 now, and they've already packed up the 600 pounds (which was way more weight than what I had stuff pulled out for so I had to keep adding, which is a much better problem to have than the other way around) and have loaded it into the tri-wall cartons on the truck. I hear them taping up the boxes now. According to their scales, we're at 590 pounds. I hope their scales match the scales at the airport!

Now we're on to the sea shipment (after they take a "little" break), which is happening not a moment too soon. Look at the living room now.
I'm having heart palpitations...

packout update #1

A guy from the moving crew just called and said they're about 15 minutes away, which puts them getting here about 8:30. Pretty good for the 8-10am window I was given yesterday.

I think the moving company is out of Columbia, a good 1.25 hour drive from here, depending on what part of Columbia they're in. This means the packers have been up for awhile and they'll have to drive back after they pack today and then back again tomorrow. This begs two questions in my mind:

1. Are they sleep-deprived with greater tendencies to break stuff, drive off the road with my shipment in the back of the truck, not be as energetic as necessary to get this done in two days?

2. Why couldn't the State Department's moving logistics people find a mover in the Charleston area who would accept the bid? There's a great moving company 10 minutes away from here that did our layette shipment to Mozambique when Mac was born. Were they not available or not consulted?

More later.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

the quickest way to make a Type A girl go nuts?

Dump her in the middle of this: and she will surely go crazy in about 4 nanoseconds.

The packout for Bogota starts tomorrow. According to the packing company woman who called today to confirm that they'll be here between 8 and 10am tomorrow morning, they're going to start with our small air shipment of 600 pounds first.

The kitchen table area has been designated by moi as the air shipment area. Does this look like 600 pounds of stuff to you?

Then they'll move on to the sea shipment (which is pretty much everything in the house except the furniture) and at some point on Friday, they'll do the long-term storage shipment (piano, dresser, chairs, kitchen furniture, etc).

I am as organized as I can be at this late date. I knew that my gallivanting over the last month was at the cost of packout organization, but what's a girl to do? I think I'll just take two blood pressure pills in the morning, go for an early cup of coffee at the McD's by my house, and hope that everything ends up where it's supposed to.

P.S. To make matters worse, the dryer in the rental house has decided not to heat up very well. So with the pre-move washing and drying of all the non-normal stuff like bedspreads and comforter covers, nothing is drying fast!! Hence the drying of the bedspread over the tops of the bathroom and laundry rooms doors.
Welcome to my world.

Monday, July 5, 2010

a perfect 4th of July getaway

Before I nearly had an aneurysm courtesy of Delta, I was very relaxed from a delightful getaway Mac and I had with my BFF Caroline and her family at her family's lake house in NC. The weekend was full of the most excellent company; delicious food like eggs Benedict and blueberry pancakes and Baja California-style tacos with fresh tuna and yummy shrimp; swimming, boating, and fishing; and major relaxation. I'm so glad Willie and Caroline are going to be my in-laws by Mac's marriage one day because I do so love them!!HOMEMADE doughnuts. Who knew you could actually make doughnuts at home?? Mac with his betrothed and his future in-laws! early evening boating A little early-AM fishing where Caroline caught the only two fish - no fish and grits for breakfast! festive 4th of July dining Mac and me on the dock

How do I hate Delta? Let me count the ways.

Tomorrow we're going to Las Vegas to meet our dearest Brazilian friends, Gisele and Flavio and their girls. I just received my Delta check-in email and thought I'd get on top of things and get us checked in online.

We have a Delta American Express card, and one of the relatively new benefits of this card is that when you book a Delta ticket and pay for it with the Amex, you and something like up to 8 of your traveling companions get a free checked bag. No small deal when it's $23 per bag to check (for checking in online; it's more at the terminal).

Even though I booked the tickets for Mom, Mac and me on my Delta Amex, the Delta online check-in system wouldn't let me get the checked bags for free.

So I called Delta who said I needed to call Delta Amex.

Guess what?

I'm not the primary cardholder and so the benefit doesn't extend to me as a "secondary" account holder. Even if Jimmy had booked the tickets on his Amex on our behalf, the benefit wouldn't apply because he's not traveling with us. Once again, I am relegated to second-class citizen status and I am furious.

So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to stuff all of Mac's stuff in a legal-size carry-on and I'm going to stuff all my stuff in a legal-size carry-on and we are going to march on that airplane with all our carry-ons and backpacks.

And then I am going to get the primary cardholder on our account to call those ridiculously saccharine people at Delta American Express and cancel the cards.

If you see Mac and me at the Charleston or Atlanta airports tomorrow, you'll recognize us in several ways:
- we'll have lots of trailing carry-on luggage;
- we'll be bulked up because we're each wearing a weeks' worth of underwear, socks and outer clothes under our traveling outfit; and
- we'll be with my very serene mother who has not gotten nearly as indignant as she should be about the way Delta is treating me and who is therefore checking her bag and won't be encumbered like Mac and I will be.

Delta and all its related companies are going to make me have a stroke.