Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Some will find this even funnier than SNL

This morning, Z surprised me and Josh both when she walked away from the Berenstain Bears broadcast and announced, "I'm going to get dressed for for work upstairs." Even though I'd barely had a sip of coffee, I told her I'd come with her to help and I grabbed the jeans and long-sleeved tee I'd brought downstairs just minutes prior.

At the top of the stairs, she made a hard left into my bedroom and said, "I'm going to get ready for work in Mommy's room. I take off my jammies by my self...Now, I need a bra." With a little help from me (I could barely contain my giggles), Z wriggled into a lovely beige cotton number that no longer accommodates my knocked-up knockers. It hung down to her waist like two very saggy old-lady boobs. One shrug and the whole contraption slid down to the floor, where she stepped out of it.

But she wasn't done. She grabbed a shirt from one of my drawers, slung it over her shoulder and said, "I'm going to work in Mommy shirt!" I grabbed the white shirt before it could swiffer up all of the cat hair on the floor, and Z demanded a boost up onto my dresser. There, she tried on all of my necklaces. Then it was onto makeup. I let her go to town with my eyeshadow brush and a still-sealed loose powder. She made painting strokes all over her face and neck while singing, "I'm making myself pretty like a Mommy!"

As the mini glamorpuss hour stretched on, I realized we needed to get the girl dressed for daycare. So I tossed her onto "the big bed" (aka our bed) where she abandoned all pretensions of grown-upness and proceeded to jump up and down, clap her hands, stick out her tongue, shriek like a banshee and evade my attempts to dress her.

And once I finally got her dressed? She peed in her pants. But I was strong. I got her a fresh pair of cotton training underpants and told her she'd have better luck at Adriana's house.

Your daily funny

Fellow fans of "The Office" will find this hysterical. Everyone else will be very confused.

Tell me again why this cause is just

I watched Bob Woodruff's special report To Iraq and Back last night on ABC. It was the most powerful piece of TV journalism I've seen on commercial news in a really long time. In addition to following Woodruff's long, painful--and apparently quite miraculous--recovery from a devastating brain injury (the left side of his head was blown right off), the show introduces us to a number of the soldiers and families Woodruff befriended while in the hospital.

Returning to normal life after a TBI (traumatic brain injury) is a slow, frustrating process, and many of the soldiers will never be the same again. Many will recover speech and re-learn the use of their limbs, but others will remain drooling, diapered men, too disturbing for their former comrades to see.

By revealing this heretofore unpublicized consequence of the wars with Iraq and Afghanistan, Woodruff compels us to question our governments intentions with both of these conflicts. Are these really worthy wars? Because unless we believe that these young guys and their families are suffering for a just cause, their pain and anguish is for nothing. It is an empty sacrifice--and all the more sad.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

It's not delivery...

It's da restaurant! DiGiorno Pizza is celebrating its new Ultimate line of "superpremium" pizzas with a pop-up pizza parlor on Michigan Avenue. I think pop-up retail is one of the most exciting areas of marketing, and I'm excited to see such a typically stodgy company (yes, one I've worked on) embrace a big idea.

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Ask me how's my day, Mommy"

Clowning around
I've made a point of asking Z about her day pretty much since she started talking. It used to consist of lots of leading questions that I was confident she could accurately answer with a "yes." I didn't learn much, but I enjoyed building the foundations of her conversational skills.

Oh how things have changed in a year. Now Z volunteers lots of specific details of her day to me. Today I asked her if she had fun with Daddy.

"Yes," she replied.
"What did you do together," I asked.
"Gymnastics! I bounced on the teddy bear balance beam. I got a stamp. I'm not going to wash it off!" (Apparently this makes sense in context. Josh does take her to gymnastics on Monday mornings and she did excel on the balance beam and trampoline today. She washed the hand stamp off in the bath since I'd cooed over it sufficiently.)

"Did you and Daddy also go to Sam's Club?"
"Yes. I lost my brown hat. We couldn't find it. We asked a man for my hat, but he didn't know where it is!" (Also true. Josh said she must have dropped it somewhere in the store, but retracing his steps and asking about it at the customer service counter proved futile.)

"Daddy said you also went to Jewel and you ran into some friends there. Who did you see at the grocery store?"
"Leo was there. And Sharon and Oliver. Leo was in the cart and Sharon was pushing him."
"Were you a good girl at the store or did you cry?"
"I cried for a new sippy cup." (Z and Daddy had a disagreement over which sippy cups were appropriate for her and ended up leaving empty handed.)

"What else did you and Daddy do today?"
"We made chicken and cookies!"

Josh and I had the chicken for dinner. And while it was delicious, Z opted for her typical evening meal of cold cereal. The cookies? Apricot hamentaschen. Happy Purim, everyone!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Baking with and for toddlers

Z and I have made mini muffins together nearly every weekend for quite some time. It's a great project to do with a 2-year-old since there are lots of opportunities for her to "help" and the results come quickly (and deliciously). By making mini muffins instead of the standard size, we not only cut down on the baking time, we end up with a perfectly sized snack for small hands and tiny appetites.

Typically, we make blueberry, banana or bran-apricot muffins (made with Fiber One), but I was in the mood for something a little different this morning. So I decided to make apple muffins and improvised this recipe around the Basic Muffins recipe in How To Cook Everything, which has recently joined the Joy of Cooking and America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook as a go-to reference in our kitchen.

Marketing Mommy's Apple Mini Muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch cake spice (optional)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 egg
1 1/4 cup lowfat plain yogurt
2 small apples, peeled and chopped

Mix together the dry ingredients in one bowl. Beat together the egg, milk and oil in another bowl. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold to combine. Fold in chopped apples. If the batter is too thick, add a splash of milk. Spoon batter into mini muffin pan and bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Standard muffins will take 20-25 minutes.

Friday, February 23, 2007

And now for a different angle

Behind the Counter may be my new favorite blog. From what I can tell, it is written by a British expat working at a Wal-Mart Customer Service counter, probably in Miami. Droll and funny as hell.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bookshelf: Sweet and Low

Looking for a good book, but can't settle on a genre? Consider picking up Rich Cohen's Sweet and Low: A Family Story, which manages to marry a dysfunctional family memoir with the history of Brooklyn, the history of sugar and sugar substitutes, a business history of Cumberland Packing and an overview of New York City Jewish life. But that's not all. It's also a story about the mob, crooked businessmen, smooth-talking politians and a pre-Enron corporate corruption scandal of magnificent proportions.

You see, Cohen is the disinherited grandson of Ben Eisenstadt, founder of Cumberland Packing and the inventor of both the sugar packet and Sweet & Low sweetener. Cut off from the business and the fortune that went with it, Cohen has a major bone to pick with rest of the family.

His bitterness comes through like saccharin's aftertaste, but the cast of characters (nearly all of whom are Cohen's relatives) is so colorful, the storyline so unbelievable, I couldn't stop turning the pages.

It's a...

20 week ultrasound
Today's 20-week ultrasound points to another girl (my intuition was on target again)! Z is going to have a baby sister and we're thrilled.

20 week belly

20 weeks pregnant

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

There's a story here

I saw this just outside the Wells and Lake entrance to the Blue Line today. Was someone evicted from the upscale apartment building upstairs? Did an angry girlfriend or boyfriend junk a significant other's property in the midst of a lovers' spat? I wonder if this sidewalk display had any effect on business at the leasing office just through the windows on the left (barely visible in my photo)...

Cheers for World Market

Seth Godin and Consumerist have been writing a lot about customer service. Seth Godin takes the perspective that today's underpaid, untrained staffers are ill prepared to deal with I've-been-taken-advantage-of-so-fix-it-now consumers. The kind of consumers who have educated themselves online using websites like Consumerist. Consumerist has built a loyal following by outing corporations' sleazy policies and publishing the direct phone lines and email addresses of company presidents.

So I'd like to counter all of the online negativity with a positive customer service story about World Market. As I've mentioned on this blog, Josh and I have been searching for ways to contain our toddler's clutter while not letting our living space turn into a plastic play land.
We've stashed smaller toys in these brown leather storage ottomans from, but we needed a place to hide Z's larger playthings: a basket of books, a barn, a vintage Little People house, etc.

And we found it in this lovely cabinet from World Market. We stopped into the store on Sunday, but couldn't fit the furniture into our car with Z still in the back seat. So we asked a store employee to put it on hold for us until Tuesday. Josh returned to the store, CR-V cargo space at the ready, paid for the furniture, and drove it home.

Once he'd unwrapped it, he discovered a long crack down the back, hidden part of the cabinet and called me for advice. He didn't really want to wrap it up and drive it back for an exchange, and he stressed that it was hard to see the crack unless the doors were open and the toys were out. So I suggested he call the store and ask for an additional 20% "damaged goods" discount. If they weren't willing to accommodate, we'd bring the cabinet it to exchange it. Sensing a difficult call with a front line cashier, I also stressed that he should ask for a manager right away.

Well, low and behold, the manager trusted us and gave us the requested credit!

As you can see, Z's toys fit perfectly. And the cabinet fits our decor perfectly! Go World Market!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Convenient Truths

Treehugger and Seventh Generation are co-sponsoring a video contest that invites regular folks to come up with "convenient truths" for living a more eco-friendly lifestyle. I was particularly inspired by the videos pushing cloth diapers ("An Inconvenient Poop")and composting with worms ("The Other Black Gold").

My sister is going to do the cloth diaper thing with her baby, due in May. If it works for her, I may just give it a shot with number two.

Parenting from the dark side

If there's one thing I've learned about being a Mom, it is that most of the high-minded notions I had before actually getting into the trenches and raising a kid have floated right away.

No TV before age 2? Thanks, I'd like to take a shower and empty the dishwasher once in a while. And I kind of like Curious George, anyway.

Only organic dairy products for my precious one? Er, I still look for rBGH-free jugs, but I'm not about to demand my daycare provider go organic.

Only lovely wooden playthings--and no toys that makes noise? What am I, Cinderella's evil stepmother? We keep the toy clutter to a minimum and we try to buy stuff from yard sales (plastic is easily decontaminated), but there are only so many wooden puzzles and train sets a kid needs. We do draw the line at toys that talk, though. Because while those heavy talking dolls can play back plenty of inane phrases, a $9 regular baby doll can say anything Z wants it to. And it can likely take a dip in the bathtub or stand for a run through the washing machine.

Anyway, I finally broke yet another self-imposed taboo: the ban on themes and licensed characters in our daughter's room. Z is now the very proud owner of a Disney Princess bedding set.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bookshelf: Fake cakes and entertaining the elderly

I'm going to keep this book review short and sweet, because unlike Amy Sedaris and her more famous brother, I'm not particularly funny--at least not intentionally.

Gosh, I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence is one weird book. Weirdly compelling... but do I trust a yummy-sounding recipe if it comes from a humor book's tongue-in-cheek chapter on cooking for a funeral? Do I dare make her chicken dishes, all of which seem to require at least a full stick of butter?

And it isn't just recipes. Amy offers up pointers for paranoid hosts ("A good trick is to fill your medicine cabinet with marbles. Nothing announces a nosy guest better than an avalanche of marbles hitting a porcelain sink"), bizarro craft ideas (including her famous fake cake) and tips for dealing with the grieving, pot-heads, drunks and children.

With page after page (over 300!) of collage-like eye-candy (retro-style pinup shots of Amy, stained recipe cards and unappetizing food photography straight out of 1968), I Like You offers days--even weeks--of browsing pleasure. But is it an entertaining guide? A cookbook? Is it just for laughs? I'm not entirely sure.

Meaningful marketing

For every friend or family member who has ever accused my industry of just "telling me to keep buying crap," I present this summary of what people find meaningful and how successful brands have tapped those insights to create meaningful marketing and meaningful brands. It is from Idea Sandbox's review of Making Meaning: How Successful Businesses Deliver Meaningful Customer Experiences, and it's great inspiration for me as my agency heads into planning for 2008 for so many of our brands.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Pop goes my heart!

I expected a diverting bit of romanic comedy fluff when I went to see Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore in Music and Lyrics Saturday night. But I loved it. Really, I did. And I'm only a little embarrassed to admit I want the soundtrack.

One way of looking at it

I was nibbling on some cheese as we headed out to run some errands and, coming across a tiny bit of crusty rind, I decided to crack my window and toss it out (yeah, not setting the world's greatest example, but hey). Anyway, nothing gets past Z, who promptly piped up with, "What you just do out the window, Mommy?"
"I opened the window a little bit and threw a yucky bit of cheese out," I replied.
"The window was hungry, Mommy? I wanna feed the window, too!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

Think you know what's safe to eat? Go fish!

Don't eat fish. Definitely not sushi. Chunk light tuna's okay. Chunk light tuna's higher in mercury than we thought. Don't eat swordfish. Do eat shrimp and salmon. What about smoked salmon?

Figuring out which fish is safe to eat during pregnancy is so difficult, many moms-to-be avoid seafood altogether. But apparently cutting back on fish can be bad for baby, too. BBC News quotes Professor of Nutrition Robert Grimble as saying, "The idea of fish being toxic has been around for a long time but this study seems to be saying that is a minor problem compared with the benefits you get from fish."

Apparently, low fish and seafood intake during pregnancy is associated with increased risk of poor behavior, motor, communication and social development scores.

Me, I'm a member of the everything-in-moderation camp, but I don't think I was hitting anywhere near the recommended 12 ounces of fish per week. Perhaps I'll indulge in a tuna melt this weekend. I've been wanting one for weeks.

Toddler bed update

Z's spent four nights in her new "big girl" bed, and we haven't had any drama. No climbing out of bed. No tantrums. No tears after night one.

But. She still asks for her crib. Every night, as we're finishing up the toothbrushing and story telling, Z looks at me and says, "I don't want to sleep in my big girl bed, Mommy. I don't like it." Yesterday she even pretended to cut the mattress with imaginary scissors and said, "I'm cutting my bed. Let's put it away."

It breaks my heart a little bit, but I've tried to stay gentle and consistent, asking her to lie down on her bed, and soothing her reluctance with a back rub or a tummy tickle. And last night, as I said goodnight and left her room, she said, "Okay. I can tickle my tummy by myself."

It's interesting to see which parts of babyhood children are anxious to shed and which they long to cling to. I think my daughter would have happily slept in a crib for another year or two. And if a baby sister or brother wasn't coming this summer, I surely wouldn't have forced the issue.

Which brings us to toilet training. Still no interest on Z's part. She wants to wear diapers. So I'm not going to push the potty -- at least for a few more months. There's no hurry, and from what I've heard, most girls will tell you when they're ready.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Talk about a fast read. I started Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck on the train this morning and finished it on the way home. It's a breezy collection of humorous, largely autobiographical essays, one of which (The Apartment) I'm pretty sure I read in the New Yorker in the last year.

If toddlers went to work

Working Moms Against Guilt as a pretty funny post about what life might be like if we pulled our toddlers' stunts in the workplace. If I was to behave like Z at work, my coworkers would likely be irritated by my rapping randomly on my keyboard while repeating "I'm just checking my email," over and over again.

And some would find it obnoxious if I copied their every move and announced "I'm working just like Walter. I can put on my coat by self, just like Walter. I am going lunch. Just like Walter.

But they would be outright horrified listening to me utter such ladylike gems as, "Do you hear me farting?" or "I'm not done pooping" (said after I'd spent 5 minutes glowering red-faced in the corner).

Winter in Chicago, dusk

The partially frozen Chicago River looked even more beautiful at day's end.
Chicago River from Wells Street Bridge
Chicago River ice
Chicago River at dusk

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Winter in Chicago

We received a foot of snow yesterday, but the city that works worked hard to get the streets clean in time for today's morning commute. Oak Park did a pretty great job, too. Here are some pictures from my commute and one from my office (cubicle) window.
Oak Park and Eisenhower Expressway
Oak Park Avenue CTA
Chicago River From Brown Line train
View from my office window 3


I just finished Birth: The Surprising History of How We are Born, and I can't recommend it highly enough. Author Tina Cassidy takes the balanced approach of a journalist--a rare thing in the highly-charged world of birthing--to describe the cultural history of how we bring babies into this world. She offers some terrifying, eye-opening anecdotes about birth practices in the 1800 and early-to-mid 1900's, an era when science and medicine in general was making great strides. It was a time when birth moved from bedside to hospitals, but modesty and misinformation among the male doctors (midwives were going out of fashion) led to some truly barbaric practices.

It's refreshing to read something that shows us how far we've come--but reminds us that the birthing trends of the present are likely to seem outmoded and quaint by the time our daughters get pregnant. And most of all, I was impressed that this book doesn't seem driven by an agenda. So much of the pregnancy and birth literature out there is driven by a particular camp--be it the home-birthers, epidural-lovers or C-section-By-Choicers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm a top momma

I wasn't a cheerleader or high school prom queen, but I'm a contender in this online popularity contest. Check it out at

It's all about me, me, me

Mere masstige isn't good enough anymore. Now consumers can personalize the most mundane consumer goods. From sneakers to M and Ms, companies have realized it isn't enough to have a premium product. It needs to be unique--ours alone. So parents can shop for personalized pacifiers at and sentimental nose-blowers can design their own Kleenex box. What's next, toilet paper customized with images of things and people we dislike?

Pop up retail courts the anti-Valentine's Day vote

I'd seen an ad for Altoids Anti-Valentine's Day shop, a pop-up retail concept that will be sampling their new dark chocolate covered mints to those cursing Cupid on florists' favorite holiday. The Chicago location is on Armitage, about a block from from Ethel's Chocolate Lounge.

Another milestone

Josh disassembled Z's crib yesterday and I tucked her into her "big girl" bed. The evening wasn't without drama--Z cried pitifully for her crib for about 15-20 minutes. But when she realized it wasn't coming back, she put her head on her pillow and slept soundly through the night.

I don't know if it helped, but an hour or so before bedtime, I took Z upstairs and we spent a few minutes instructing her stuffed animals on "the magic rules" (Z's words, not mine). Each of the animals had the following drilled into his or her furry skull, "Rule number one: stay in bed! Rule number two: go to sleep!"

Now I need to do something about those big, empty walls behind her.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Craving order

Maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but my nesting impulse is on. This time around, instead of wanting to look at cribs and mobiles (been there, done that), I want to organize toys. I fantasize about all of Z's playthings hidden away in colorful cubes, bins or baskets. I've got some of her toys stashed in our living room storage ottomans and another pile in a wicker laundry basket nearby, but having 2-3 big bins of toys means all the Little People, blocks and doll accessories just filter down to the bottom of the container and don't get played with at all.

So I've been surfing around the web looking for the perfect solution. I even took a solo field trip to Target last night, only to find the kid storage aisle completely picked over. I like this unit, which is a online exclusive, but seeing as it might end up in our living room (we don't have a separate play room), I need to decide how I feel about the bright primary colors.

Idi Amin scares the crap out of me

I went to see The Last King of Scotland Friday night, and damn, what a great movie--I think I held my breath for the last 30 minutes.

I'd seen General Idi Amin Dada, the 1974 documentary about the blood-thirsty Ugandan dictator, and Forest Whitaker completely embodies him--much the way Helen Mirren had me convinced she was The Queen.

I'm was a little disappointed to learn that our guide through this account, the magnetic Scottish doctor Nick Garrigan (played by James McAvoy), is a completely fictional character. But they way he is used is genius. His intoxication with exotic Africa, with the benefits that come with being Idi Amin's personal physician and "closest personal adviser," lead us to forgive Amin's excesses for too long. And soon it is too late.

Speaking of dictators, this week's Parade magazine counts down the top 10 living dictators.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The toddler bed transition

We picked up a hand-me-down toddler bed and mattress from a co-worker of mine yesterday morning. Z was over the moon with excitement as she watched her mommy clean it and her daddy assemble it. But come naptime, she just couldn't resist her newfound freedom and spent the full 2 hours hopping in and out and generally making mischief. When I finally called off the nap at 3pm, she was standing on the rocker-glider, changing CDs in her boombox. All of her toys were out of the toy basket and books were piled up willy-nilly.

"Z," I said, "What's the rule for your new big-girl bed?"
"Stay in bed," she replied sheepishly.

Now what's amazing is she didn't act like a kid who missed her nap. In fact, she was a complete angel as we left her with a brand-new 15-year-old babysitter, offering us each a smile and a kiss bye-bye.

And if you're wondering, we didn't leave the toddler bed in her room for the babysitter to have to deal with. She slept in her crib. We're going to take down the crib and replace it with the toddler bed Monday night, before she goes to daycare on Tuesday. That way she can sleep in it in the dark for a few nights straight and hopefully establish some good habits before she's again faced with the temptations of an unchained naptime.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Yes, she's rather articulate

My toddler that is, not Barack Obama. Who's totally not a girl anyway.

I'm in the shower, and Z's standing in the bathroom doorway. "Mama," she says, "I've got snot. On my shirt." She's standing frozen, arms slightly raised so as not to touch the globby green slime on the front of her sweatshirt.

I step onto the bathmat, grab a piece of TP and wipe her nose and shirt. I can do this with one foot still in the tub because my bathroom is that small.

"Thank you," says my angel. Then, "I have boogies in my nose."

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Z says

Me: "Hey Z, since Daddy's back, he can give you a bath tonight!"
Z: "No, I want Mommy give me a bath. Only Mommy can put me night-night. I want Daddy stay downstairs and work."
Josh: "Can I come upstairs and help?"
Z: "No! I want Daddy go to the basement to work and stay down 'dere."

Way to give Daddy a warm welcome, kiddo!

When mama's happy, her employer makes money

According to MSNBC, more and more companies are bending over backwards to accommodate (and retain) the best and brightest as they bring babies into the world. And the most encouraging thing about benefits like lactation rooms, breastfeeding support and on-site daycare: these perks end up improving the company's bottom line.

Truthy? Looks to be!

Rumors have been, er, swirling for days, and it looks like there really will be a Stephen Colbert flavor of Ben & Jerry's. (Via BoingBoing and NoFactZone)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Single mamas, this one's for you

The end is in sight. Tomorrow Josh returns from his bachelor-like existence in NYC (rock shows, the Met and endless take-out food).

In the meantime, let me take this opportunity to bow down before all single parents. I don't know how you do it. I don't know how anyone can work full time, parent a toddler and still find the time and energy to prepare meals, clean the house and get the nine million other household tasks accomplished in a mere 24 hours.

I'm pretty proud I managed as much as I did. Because let me tell you: I've been spoiled. This week I learned how much I appreciate Josh. I managed to fill in, cooking (well, sort of), loading and unloading the dishwasher, washing pots and pans, doing laundry, taking out the trash (and lugging it to the curb), feeding and watering the cats, scooping cat poop, and cleaning up (particularly since our cleaning lady called to say she couldn't make it on Wednesday). Plus, I dealt with a few surprises, shoveling and sweeping the walk and fixing the upstairs toilet. Oh, and I lugged around some furniture and reorganized Z's toys since our new storage ottomans arrived today.

Blogging in the fast lane

To say that I am flattered GM reached out to me and invited me to be their guest at the Chicago Auto Show would be an understatement. I first learned of the car company's leadership in the blogosphere (check out GM Blogs) at the first Word of Mouth Marketing Conference (2005), and seeing them reach out to bloggers from the perspective of a relatively new blogger is really quite impressive.

Anyway, I felt a bit like an impostor among all of the full-time bloggers in attendance at today's reveal of the Saturn Astra. Unlike the rest of them, I was playing hooky from my paid gig, and I had to get back in time for a late morning meeting. [Thanks Renee for letting me sneak out!] And since Josh is still in NYC, I'm having to forgo the free schmoozy-poo dinners with GM designers and marketers.

So what was it like? The Auto Show, like always, is completely overwhelming. But this morning I was blown away by just the sheer scale of it--no crowds, no music, no cacophony (the show opens to the public in two days)--but acres and acres of highly-polished chrome.

The Saturn Astra, as you can see here, is a pretty euro-sporty compact car--not exactly a family vehicle, but very appealing in a VW Rabbit/Golf kind of way. It's basically the Opal Astra rebranded for America.

I was more turned on to the redesigned 2008 Saturn Vue, which as been given an extreme makeover. No longer the ugly SUV, the Vue has the sleek, curvy appearance of the new Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. And it will be available as the Vue Green Line hybrid late this year (Franny, are you reading this?)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

How not to reward loyal customers

Yesterday I received an email from Cold Stone Creamery inviting me, a valued customer and member of their mailing list, to take a customer survey. In return for my time, Cold Stone promised me a free Like It (small) ice cream treat. I took the survey, which was a quite a bit longer than I expected, and a few hours later an email arrived titled "Survey Reward for Cold Stone Survey." I clicked on the link to get my certificate, and a web page opened with my confirmation code pre-populated into the appropriate space. Only when I pressed enter, I was told that my code had already been used. No ice cream for me.

So now I've given Cold Stone Creamery 15 minutes of my time and oodles of thoughts on what I think various sizes of ice cream and cake creations should cost. I've done everything asked of me, but their reward system is basically accusing me of certificate theft. I've responded to the survey email address letting them know about the problem. We'll see if I'll get my cake batter (or do I want coffee?) ice cream with Health bar crunchy bits.

UPDATE 2/8/07: Apparently I wasn't the only customer locked out of a reward. CSC sent me a generic apology ("We're sorry if you had difficulty accessing...") and a fresh link to the free ice cream coupon.

UPDATE 2/12/07: Now here's the customer service I was hoping for! A fairly personal letter from CSC arrived in the mail today. In it, they thank me for bringing their website problem to their attention and they attach a certificate for a free Love It (large) ice cream creation.

Monday, February 05, 2007

The Not-So-Secret Society of Parents of Young Children

Membership: Extended to all parents of children aged 2 months to 4 years. Junior Membership is available to expectant parents and parents of newborns. Junior Members receive all of the benefits of membership (namely advice, friendship and second-hand baby gear), but are forbidden from volunteering even well-meaning advice and opinions to more experienced parents. Members with more extreme approaches to parenting (Jesus freaks, attachment parents and future home schoolers) may wish to join a sub-sect of the Not-So-Secret SOPOYC that caters to their particular belief set.

Emergency baby supplies: If you ever find yourself short a diaper or wipes, Baby Tylenol or a Band-Aid, find a Member and request assistance. Members will help in any way they can because karma dictates they do so.

Gear: Both a lender and a borrower be. No one needs a baby bathtub, Exersaucer or swing for more than a year. We’d rather have the space. And that goes double for baby clothes.

Friendship: You haven’t made friends this fast since summer camp. Look around the playground, grocery store, pediatrician’s office. Find a parent with a kid roughly the same age as yours. Fifteen minutes later you’re exchanging phone numbers. One month later you’re wondering how you survived before meeting your Mom friends. Enjoy this time, because once your kid starts making friends on his own, you lose total control of your social life.

Advice: Put away those parenting books and health manuals. Everything you need to know about eating, pooping, sleeping and potty training you can learn from your fellow Members. Those growth charts and developmental scales? Interesting, but you can always compare Johnny to your friends’ kids. And you know you will.

Membership Fee: Priceless, but you won't pay a penny

Salon outs Annie's

Okay, after reading Salon's The bunny vs. the blue box the mommy in me feel a little less wholesome. But the marketer in me is awestruck. Why? Because Annie's products, from the ubiquitous white-not-orange mac and cheese to the cheddar bunnies and salad dressings, are in every one of my friends' cabinets. And mine. Annie's mac and cheese and nitrate-free hot dogs are the fall-back kid food at many of our get-togethers, last night's Super Bowl party included.

Not an auspicious start

8:10am Monday morning. Standing on the El platform. I've managed to shower, get myself and Z ready and eat breakfast without Josh (he's in NYC). Dropped Z off at day care and bundled myself up in a down coat, hat, gloves and 6-foot-long wool scarf.

It's -9 degrees F and the train doesn't come. Apparently when it gets this cold, the CTA train doors start malfunctioning. So I wait. And wait. And at 9:40, when the train finally pulls alongside the very crowded platform, I get on. But even a 30 minute ride downtown isn't long enough to thaw out my frozen feet.

I hate the bitter cold.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Donald Duck has landed

We made it back safely, but Z landed in Chicago without pants. How? About 30 minutes into our flight, she threw up all over herself. A rather unsympathetic American Airlines flight attendant finally came over after I'd rang the call button a few times and gave us a fist full of napkins--not exactly the hazmat equipment necessary to mop up a quart of milk, fast food pizza, fruit snacks and orange juice.

After I'd stripped her down to a diaper and stuffed the offending clothes into vomit bags (graciously provided to us by the grandmother behind us), the flight attendant volunteers to bring us a blanket so that our darling daughter wouldn't have to sit directly back down onto her soggy, disgusting-smelling seat. Gosh, thanks miss, but since the flight was no where near full it might have been even nicer for you to find us a new seat!

Fortunately two-year-olds aren't as squeamish as their pregnant 30-year-old mothers, and Z was happy to watch Cinderella for the 9000th time while clad in just a diaper and perched atop a none-too-fresh-smelling airline blanket.