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NY Pet Fashion Show

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to help out backstage at the New York Pet Fashion show . If you have never heard of this event, you should check it out. It sounds a bit crazy, but it is all good fun and this year its proceeds went to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals which is a NY-based charity that helps out over 150 non-profit shelters and rescue groups around the city.

Backstage at the Pennsylvania hotel was a show in itself. My main tasks were to help dress the dogs and keep their handlers in line – literally in a line 🙂  The dog were very well-behaved; the people, eh, not so much. The clothes were amazing – long flowing gowns, tiaras and crowns and LED lights galore! The detailed work that went into these pieces of art was truly amazing. I was in awe of these creations – heck, I can’t even sew Eli’s tuxedo so it will fit him properly!

I was so busy that I didn’t get to take many pictures, but here are a few. If amazing gowns on dogs are your thing, please Google the show. There are so many great pictures and articles out there about it that I can’t possibly link to them all! Also, please consider donating to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals to help save the lives of many animals across the city and afar.

 

Even the flowers were dogs!

Even the flowers were dogs!

Press was everywhere!

Press was everywhere!

Bling bling!

Bling bling!

So sweet!

So sweet!

Hand painted dress by Ada Nieves

Hand painted dress by Ada Nieves

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How Verizon scammed me yet again

Now perhaps I don’t pay as much attention to my cell phone bill as I should, but I feel taken advantage of and you might too. However, maybe this isn’t so much about getting scammed by Verizon but NY State and its high taxes.

Several years ago I moved from NY to NJ and transferred my Verizon family cell phone plan to my new NJ address. What I didn’t realize was that I was supposed to transfer each line on my plan to that address as well in order to pay the appropriate taxes (not that I realized that I was paying state specific taxes to begin with!). Because I didn’t make that change until I read this siteNY has gotten way more of my money than it should have.

Now a few dollars a month doesn’t seem like it should be that big of a deal, but when you add it up over time, those dollars morph into an amount that could have been spent on a nice vacation or to even make a mortgage payment! I guess this isn’t a scam as much as a “It would have been nice if Verizon would have suggested making the address change for all lines.” or “I feel Verizon isn’t doing its customers any favors.” or “Verizon dropped the ball yet again.” OR “I wish I had the time and patience to scrutinize every little thing that I do or pay, etc. and I hate when it bites me in the ass!” 🙂

So, everyone, do your homework. Make sure you are paying the correct amount on your bills. Read the fine print and tell your friends who don’t. Heck, they may even treat you to a free meal once they realize how much money you’ve saved them!

smiley face

 

Quick rant about my dentist

So earlier this week I had the issue with Cablevision calling me after I repeatedly asked them to stop. Yesterday I had the same issue with my dentist. I have only seen this dentist one time but I really liked him. I intended to continue using him for teeth services; however, I have received at least one call a month from them reminding me to schedule my next cleaning.

I have asked them to remove me from their call list at least twice. At first I didn’t have insurance, so I was unable to bother with my teeth (fortunately, I have pretty good teeth!). I told them that fact and said I would call when I got insurance. But nooooo, that wasn’t good enough for them. The at least once monthly calls started. At first I was polite and said I would call when I was ready, but now they called me again and after my Cablevision issue, that poor boy on the phone got an earful.

I feel slightly bad, but I’m really tempted to not use them as my dentist anymore. GRRRR!

Note to businesses: Don’t piss off your clients if you want to keep them.

BTW all the calls were in addition to the emails I got from them as well. Very frustrating!

Quick rant regarding Cablevision / Optimum Online

Today, I ended up going off on an undeserving customer service rep, but after 3 calls in one day, I had enough.

I recently purchased internet from Optimum – perhaps two months ago. In that 2 months, they have called me repeatedly for no reason. Mostly to ask me how my service is…..if my service wasn’t working, I would call them. Also, they like to tell me that if I plan to move they can offer me great services because of my great credit. Um, if I was moving, I would call them!

I have repeatedly asked them to not call me, to remove my number from all lists (it doesn’t show on their website under my profile). I have tweeted them, reported them to the do not call list, and yet they keep calling.

If you choose to sign up with this harassers, you may want to give them a throw away Google voice number that you can disconnect after initial install.

Volunteering…….Do it!

I love volunteering. If you’ve never done it, I recommend you try it at least once. I usually volunteer with New York Cares and Jersey Cares. Here are some details about various opportunities in the NY/NJ area.

 Jersey Cares

Paterson marketplace – You show up at this shady looking warehouse in a not-so-great neighborhood and meet some really nice people. Next you get a tour and are put to work on an assembly line putting groceries in bags for people who will be able to pick up the bags at another location later in the week. It’s an easy way to feel like you accomplished a lot because you can see all your labor pile up right in front of you.

 Pet Therapy in Morristown – This home has a lot of residents – mostly long-term. They vary from completely cognizant to unable to communicate. The times that I have been here, several dogs and their parents have also been volunteering. It is very rewarding to see someone’s face light up when they see you with your dog. My chihuahua is a good fit for a lot of the people because they can hold and cuddle with her. Big dogs are also great for people who sit in wheelchairs and can easily pet the dogs while they sit next to them. It’s harder for them to pet my 5lb-er that way. The staff here is really nice and welcoming which is also a reason to want to keep coming back.

 Pet Therapy in Hanover – This home doesn’t have that many residents. The first time I went, I visited with a few short-term rehab patients. The last time I went, the home seemed to have more long-term residents with larger problems. It was a little discouraging to not know what I was walking into when I met a patient – however, they do have a staff member that will travel with you if you would like. Sometimes the patients and I were unable to communicate and I couldn’t tell if they wanted to see my dog or not. However, knowing that I tried and possibly brightened their day was reason for me to keep going. There were also residents of all ages that were completely cognizant and were able to have meaningful conversations with me. Knowing that I will always be able to make at least one person happy makes the visit worthwhile. On my last visit I also brought my youngest cat with me. The patients really got a kick out of seeing how Mimi and Milo love each other.

 Jersey Cares Day – My sister and I volunteered for the Martin Luther King day of service 2013. We felt like we didn’t accomplish much; we each painted just one pole in the auditorium. The day is only for a few hours in the morning. Nothing much can get done in such a short amount of time. I feel the day could be used better. People are willing to volunteer; they just need direction.

 

New York Cares

New York Cares Day Fall – I really like to attend these events…..but I also see how they can be managed better. For example, during the Fall 2012 event, I met some really nice people; however, the day was very wasteful. Most of the projects were  painting murals on walls of elementary school, which is great; however, the leaders put way too many people on one mural. This leads to people knocking into each other, waiting for other people to move out of the way, etc. If people were spread out more, the tasks would get completed in a more timely manner and more tasks would get completed in general. There seems to be a lack of organization. This isn’t to say that the days are not great and useful, but it is disappointing to know that day could be so much better.

New York Cares Day Spring – This year I was Site Captain for the day and I saw a lot of the background preparation for it. Unfortunately, that’s where most of the problems lie. My location was Cunningham Park in Queens, which is one of the largest (if not the largest) volunteer sites they have. At one point, I had 215 volunteers signed up for just that one day. Again, I ran into the issue of NY Cares’ lack of organization. When running a group this large, organization and preparation is key. In the week coming up to the event, I kept trying to plan and keep my team leaders informed but was unable to do so because NY Cares kept throwing curveballs at me – extra teams, not enough supplies, etc. Fortunately, my Park Supervisor was very experienced and knew what to expect. He and his team really saved the day. We all had to improvise and come up with quick solutions to keep all the volunteers happy and active. Being uninformed reflected badly on me when it was the lack of organization and follow-through on their part that made the day not flow as well as it should have. Overall, it was a good and productive day but NY Cares really needs to get their act together if they ever want me to even think about running a day like this again (or to recommend the job to someone else).

 Gala Gear: Prom Dresses for Underprivileged GirlsGala Gear is a company that was started by a couple of regular people and has quickly expanded over the past few years into a great organization. I highly recommend them to either donate your gently used or new dresses or your time/money. The session I volunteered at was very organized with sections for dresses/accessories/shoes/makeup and check out like a real store. Volunteers’ tasks were to help the girls find dresses, be excited, straighten up and keep the girls moving to the different areas. Almost all the girls in my session found a dress and seemed really appreciative of the gifts they were given. Last year I donated bridesmaid dresses to Princess Chambers in Brooklyn which is a similar prom dress donation organization so if Gala Gear is not in a convenient location for you, please search for another organization to donate your dresses and accessories.

 Library Book Reshelving – Overall good project – especially if you don’t really want to interact with others. You feel really productive getting all the books back in their correct spot and it’s a quiet (obviously!) environment where you can just do your thing and move on.

Basically, just get out and volunteer. If not with one of these organizations, then with another place that needs your help. It really will make you feel good and help others in the process. I swear I get more out of volunteering than what I give. AND your mileage is tax deductible 🙂

We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give – Winston Churchill

FEMA Town Hall after Hurricane Sandy

So there was this weather event that happened late last year. You may have heard about it – Hurricane Sandy……..well, by the time it got to New York, it was reclassified as Superstorm Sandy (SSS) but to-MAY-to / to-MAH-to right! There were many towns in my area of New York and New Jersey that got hit pretty bad due to the water surges. My parents’ house is in the disaster zone, but fortunately, was not hit as hard as many others – meaning their entire first floor was ruined and there are now sinkholes on the property, but they were fortunate enough to not have a basement and are raised slightly above street-level.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) did not handle SSS perfectly, by any means, they certainly did help out a lot of people. What really bugs me is that a lot of people seem to expect FEMA to completely bail them out of this mess. FEMA is there for emergencies, not to cover your ass when you didn’t plan for future emergencies as you should have when you decided to take on the responsibility of being a homeowner. I understand from others that the current Flood Insurance Program (FIP) has not done right by anyone. Homeowners are waiting for payouts and are angry that FEMA handed out money to those who did not previously purchase insurance. However, I see these two things as separate issues. FEMA, the agency that is there for us in emergencies, is one issue and the Flood Insurance Program, the agency that insures homeowners against flood damage, is another issue.

On April 11th, 2013 FEMA held a Town Hall meeting at PS 146 in Howard Beach to discuss the new flood insurance zones and regulations. Unfortunately, the forum became a shitshow five minutes after it started. Between the latecomers banging chairs and climbing over people, phones ringing and then the crowd talking amongst themselves, you couldn’t hear a word FEMA was saying. However, that didn’t stop a select few from trying to rustle up the crowd into a riot. There were several people who kept asking questions without actually hearing the answer. There were also people who asked questions about things that had already been spoken about by FEMA and of course, they instead created their own scenarios in their head. These people are the ones who are loud and insist they are right and because they are louder than others, they are the ones who get attention. After 30 minutes or so, I had to walk out along with lots of other people.

Unluckily for me, I seem to have missed a great show. I was told that a guy named “Connolly” from Broad Channel started calling out about the government conspiracy to force Howard Beach and southern Queens residents to sell their homes to the government so that the state could build condos in their place, thus generating revenue for the city. I found this to be highly unbelievable, but I was intrigued. I turned to one of my closest friends, Google; however, as magnificent as the G-man is, he was unable to show me any information on this conspiracy. What I did find was the Broad Channel Civic Association (BCCA). I thought to myself, “Surely, they must know about this!”.

BCCA has a Facebook page; they have it set up as a person though and not as an organization which I found odd, but I friended them anyway. Right away the chatter about the FEMA Town Hall began. I joined in the chat even though I disagreed with a lot of the beliefs on the page. After several minutes, the moderator blocked me from commenting on the timeline. I guess they are a closed-minded group. As Broad Channel has a reputation for being racist and self-serving, I was disappointed to know that their civic association would not even allow someone to speak on their measly little timeline.This does not help to improve their reputation. You can read the post for yourself here and decide if I should have been blocked.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that we all have to let our anger and resentment go. We need to help each other out – and help ourselves as well. Stop expecting the government or other people to bail us out of situations. Yelling and berating people is not the answer. It only makes you, and us as a group, look like idiots so stop, please! Listen to facts and only facts; then make an informed decision based on what you have learned. Don’t punish spokespeople for doing their jobs. If you want things changed in life, then go about it in the right way. Contact your local politician for starters and see what you can do. Inciting riots is not the answer.
Hopefully, there will never be another disaster but if there is, I hope we all, including the government, have learned from this experience.

Good ways to throw an adult party

Over the years I have been to lots of different types of parties. They have ranged from crazy beer pong keggers to very formal events with caviar-beer pongfilled hors d’oeuvres. Along the way, I feel I’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t (for me anyway).

 

Being 35 years old, my tastes in parties has changed. The days of drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon and sitting around on a dirty floor are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the grunge, but it’s not an every weekend thing. Those parties can be great as well, but for this post I am going to discuss ways to improve your grown-up party.

 

First, if you are hosting the party, act as though it’s your party. Don’t outright ask people to bring things. I feel as grown-ups, we should know by now that it is rude to show up to a party empty-handed. A good guest will ask if there is something specific that s/he could bring that would add value to your soiree. As a guest, if you don’t want to bring a bottle of wine or something that you’ve already

valentine-flowers

spoken to the host about, flowers in a vase are usually a nice touch (unless the host is allergic!). If you bring flowers without a vase, that’s just more hassle for the host. Sometimes it’s not just the thought; sometimes your thought blows 🙂

 

A lil umbrella never hurt anyone….unless they poked their eye out

While preparing for the party, always make sure that you have enough drinks on hand – beer, wine, soda, punch, water. Hard liquor is optional – you should know your audience. A great thing to have is a specialty drink that either can be easily made with ingredients on hand or that you pre-make and have readily available for guests to enjoy. Also, I think the best thing to do with your drinks is to set up a little bar area that includes your glasses, ice, and all your liquids. If you want to add a bit of class, set up small bowls with cherries, olives and lime or lemon wedges in this area as well.

 

Next, I think appetizers are the best thing for most parties where you want people to mingle. Make sure your menu has a food theme (like Italian, Spanish, etc.) and that the apps are filling enough where people won’t be starving when they leave your home.

Don’t forget the food display matters too!

Try to make your menu flow…..If you are going to have cheese, make sure to have crackers; if you are going to have fancy apps, you might not want to also have pigs in a blanket (even though I love those piggies!).

 

Ideally your food will be able to be eaten as a grab-n-go item. Once you start having to deal with anything more than finger foods that adds another level of complication to the event. If you do choose to have food that needs utensils, pick up a package of those silver throwaway utensils from your local party store. No need to have your good silverware accidentally thrown out! On that note, make sure your paper plates are strong enough to hold the food you are serving. It would not be good if someone walks with a plate and either the juice from your food leaks through or the plate folds and all the food lands on the floor!

 

Assuming that you are throwing this party for people to network and get to know one another, a tip to keep people mingling is to set up the food

table against a wall instead of having it on a table surrounded by chairs. If you randomly set up chairs around the home, this will encourage people to keep on the move and not just to sit in front of the food all night.

 

 

 

Speaking of chairs…being in my 30s, I like to sit down for a bit every now and then. Be kind to your guests – have chairs or stools available for at least 75% of your expected guests – unless, of course, if you want your guests to not stay for very long – having nowhere to rest is a great way to keep the party small. Also, as the host, be sure you help keep the introductions and chatter flowing. As someone enters the party, introduce them to one or two people that they may have something in common with. Add a tidbit about the people you are introducing to each other so they have a way to start a conversation. Also, if you ever see anyone standing alone or if it sounds like a conversation is dying, step in and either introduce a new person to the group, pull someone away and introduce them to someone new or transition into a new topic that may be interesting to everyone involved.

 

Going back to food tips for a moment….it is a good idea to keep extra appetizers ready as back up if you see the food is disappearing fast. If you don’t want to cook or prepare a lot for your event, the warehouse stores or even Walmart or Target have large package appetizers that you can keep in your freezer to serve in a pinch.

 

funny-pictures-cat-is-in-wrapping-paper-bag1Also, it is not something that we always think about but it is a good idea to have trash cans available in at least two spaces in the home for your event. People are more likely to clean up after themselves if they have an easy way to do so.  If this doesn’t appeal to you, make sure to make a sweep of the space every once in a while to collect empty cups, plates, etc. just to keep the place looking neat. This will also save you a lot of clean-up after all the guests leave. It’s a good idea to empty the cans before they are completely full too so people don’t have to smash their garbage down or have things fall out onto the floor.

 

Eventually you will grow tired and want everyone to leave. At this point, you can start putting away most of the drinks and wrap up food for people to take him if you’d like. Giving doggie bags is a great way to hint to people that it’s time to go without looking like you are throwing anyone out. Although, do you ever find that there are guests that just don’t get the hint to leave? At this point, I think it’s time to break out your slippers and start sweeping…..hoping you can sweep them out the door too!


Let me know if you have any other tips in the comments 🙂