Saturday, August 30, 2008

My panties are in a bunch again--over new panties

I was cleaning up and sorting through my various files and piles of papers and came across a coupon from the BlogHer conference. offered each blogger a free pair of panties so we could start blogging in our underwear. Um, doesn't everyone already to that? I mean, except the people who blog in public places.

Anyhoo. I was all fine and dandy until I hit the checkout line and then it refused to process my order. After several attempts I called their toll-free number, but they are closed on the weekends. (Closed on the weekends? Are they a brick and mortar store?)

So I'm tossing the coupon code and the free panties that would have gone with it. We have about 50 coupons sitting around for 15% off at Kohl's so maybe I'll make a trip there and buy in bulk with my own hard-earned cash instead.

On a brighter note, earlier this summer I started making a photobook of our summer road trip to Washington, DC trip over at Photoworks. Only, it got put on hold because, as you might recall, our house was burglarized, then I went to BlogHer, then Pikachu had surgery, then Smartypants had surgery, then I had surgery and somewhere in all of this tumult, I lost not only the coupon code Photoworks sent me to try out their product, but all contact info from their PR rep.

A frantic email later to a one of the company's generic mailboxes and they found all the info for me. Hooray!

Now off to clean and finish up my photobook!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Dude, where's my bus?

Yesterday at Momformation.

Today's school excitement was getting Smartypants off to school around 7:00 so we could pick up a friend and make it to the first band rehearsal of the year. I didn't even know it was starting already, but got tipped off yesterday and the band teacher was extremely cool and flexible about adding him in when I called her late yesterday afternoon.

So far so good at the new public school. (Fingers crossed. Toes crossed, too, in the name of good luck). Well, except for the bus incident.

Last night I went to pack Smartypants a school snack in his NEW lunch bag (Arctic Zone from Target) I noticed a hole.


Ironically, I've been organizing an upcoming Land's End lunch bag giveaway, but hadn't asked for a sample myself, because, duh, I already had a new lunch bag for Smartypants. Well, I sent my rep a pleading email late last night and she's going to oblige. One for me, one for you. Give me a week or so to get it ready.

Thanks for your post-op good wishes! I'm doing quite well, but still not back 100%. It's 9:30 and I'm ready for a nap. I even crashed last night before Obama's historic speech.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My new computer: An Air

After I complained to Guy Kawasaki that the cool new Alltop stickers don't match my snazzy pinnk laptop (albeit with a typo), he told me he'd by me a new one! Isn't he awesome?

I took a screen shot, but I'm too spazzy to get it republished here, so I just copied the Tweets, below.
moldymom @guykawasaki Alas, none of the Alltop stickets match my pink laptop. from web in reply to guykawasaki

I can't wait for my new computer! I covet those sleek Macs.
I wonder if it will arrive before my new Putumayo Kids/Sesame Street CD....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sex after surgery

I had spine surgery less than a week ago. A microdiskectomy to relieve a herniated disc. I dare say that if you ever have to have spine surgery, this is probably the best one to get. The pain caused by the herniated disk is gone, gone, gone. Sweet relief.

But there's no escaping the fact that I had back surgery, though. I've got an ugly scar and no small amount of incision pain. However, I'm on my feet and (almost) feeling ready to venture out.

I finally took a good look at my hospital discharge papers. Here are the highlights:

*Your surgeon has removed a portion of your disc.

*You may shower in 24 hours.

*You may return to office work in 7 -10 days.

*Do not bend down, lift or stoop for two weeks.

* You may participate in gentle sex (intercourse) upon discharge from hospital.

WTF? I mean, I did have surgery the day of my wedding anniversary, but I was barely coherent and in so much pain when I came home the hospital, about two hours after they cut me open. I had freakin' spine surgery, not an ingrown toenail removal.

All things considered, though, I suppose it would be worse to say I could return to work right away but had to wait 7-10 days to resume my "wifely duties."

Stop by and show some love to WhyMommy, she just had surgery, too.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mommybloggers and marketing: Did you see this?

Just read Jill's great post over at Silicon Valley Moms Blog about the hot market for mombloggers. Companies are hiring paying $50 or more a post? I want some of that.

Sigh, I was actually feeling on top of my game the other day after Goon Squad Sarah sent out a Tweet that the average mom blogger makes only $10 a month. That boosted me into the blogging elite, or so I thought until I read Jill's piece.

Jill offers some great food for thought, but I want piggyback on some of it.

She mentions that companies that pay for post will want to leverage your audience and site to help drive traffic back to their site. I think this goes also applies to product reviews and any other guest posting gigs one has. Every blogger needs to think carefully about what this means for her.

For example, I went to a Staples event several months ago. After feeding us a decent lunch and pimping a few products, the PR folks encouraged us to put Staples coupon codes on our blogs and even announced some type of competition to get our friends to order using those codes. I was very turned off by this. It's well-known that I love me some Staples, but I'm not about to start an affiliate store for them on my blog. Especially if they don't pay me.

When I do reviews I am wary about putting up coupon codes, though I do sometimes include them. Again, same issue. Where is that line between informing readers of a new or useful product or even a great deal and becoming an salesperson for that product? Every blogger answers this for herself.

Even outside blogging or vlogging gigs should be considered carefully. When you accept an assignment, you need to understand to what degree the sponsor expects you to publicize your own work and, in turn, their site or product.

Will you be blogging, Tweeting and otherwise screaming out to help drive traffic to the sponsor's site? I'm not saying this is a bad thing, it's just important to understand that you may be hired as much for your online presence as for your fabulous writing, maybe even more so.

And all this free or low-paid work done in the name of "exposure." Who benefits most in these cases? I have more questions about this than answers and am curious to hear your thoughts.

I also have some thoughts about "influencers" that I want to develop into a full post, but IMO, anybody can be an influencer in the Web 2.0 world. Sure, a blogger that routinely gets 50+ comments per post or has a 1,000+ Twitter followers (not me on either account) clearly has a far reach, but that #1 spot on Google can belong to anybody, even proverbial little old lady who only blogs on Sundays.

What do you think?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Finally claiming my blog at Technorati

What exactly does this mean? It means that Technorati can "find" me. I think I should have done this long ago. Technorati Profile

Camp Baby Roundup + looking to add to my list of blog feeds

Here's the latest from my Camp Baby buds:

Jodi at Mom's Favorite Stuff reviews a product that can help make eating out with kids neater. She always finds such interesting items to review.

The Longest Drive Leeanthro recounts the long drive to get her child to a hospital just after she'd been diagnosed with Type I diabetes. Also, check out Leeanthro's Blog to Fight Diabetes.

Christine is please to announce she's been named one of Wal-Mart's Money Saving Moms. Yes, she's one of the Wal-Mart 11, except she's number 12. Perhaps if they could count better, they'd find some money to pay these fabulous women! Anyway, you know my views on the matter, , but please congratulate Christine.

I'm reorganizing my feeds, so if you're a reader, de-lurk now and let me know if you have a blog. I'll add you to my Yahoo! Reader feeds.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I got an award!

Thanks to Jen at SpritesKeeper for this great blog bling!

I think I'm supposed to pass it on to five other bloggers. But that will have to wait until my post-surgical haze fades a bit.

I'll be back!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Do I need a good night's sleep before surgery?

DH is one of those early to bed, early to rise types. Me, not so much. At least not until I had babies and toddlers who woke before the sun would rise. (Sons rise before sun rises, LOL.)

Anyhoo, DH was urging me to come to bed because we need to leave at the crack of ass to get me to the hospital on time tomorrow for my "procedure" (nobody uses the term surgery anymore, apparently). But before I can power down the PC I have to check my tweets/blog stats/comments one more time. And since that whole cycle took a while, I need to do one more obsessive check before hitting the sack. Oh wait, three new email messages, etc. It's as though I have OCD, but only when I'm online.

My real point here is, I certainly hope the surgeon gets a good night's sleep, but they're going to knock me out. Do I have to be rested up to go under anesthesia? And I figure I'll spend the rest of the day in a drug-induced haze. Heck I may spend the entire weekend in a drug-induced haze. Do I really need a good night's sleep?

If you don't know the surgery of which I speak, take a look at the post below this one.

Outgrowing food allergies

Bye-bye Benadryl! So long Epi-pen! Smartypants has outgrown his sesame allergy!

It's exciting news, especially coming at the start of a school year. I don't have to fill out extra medical forms or prepare allergy alerts for all of his teachers. Best of all, I no longer have to worry about what he eats and whether a bite of the wrong food could land him in the ER (or worse).

We celebrated with lunch Pita Inn. They have delicious and inexpensive sesame-laden food, but I've been avoiding the place for most of the last decade. Smartypants ate hummus and baba ganoush. He enjoyed sesame-studded balls of falafel, or as we now call them Middle Eastern hush puppies.

I'm so glad to have some happy medical news for a change.

Speaking of which, I'm going in for surgery tomorrow. I'm having a microdiskectomy to repair a herniated disk. It's a relatively simple and quick outpatient procedure. And though I will be in pain because, hello! I'm having surgery on my spine, the incision pain should only last for a few days and the horrible pressure on my nerve that's like an annoying uninvited houseguest who's taken up permanent residence should be gone before I leave the hospital. I can't wait. Think healing thoughts for me, would you please?

The upside of all the medical issues we've had this summer- hospital stays and outpatient surgery for all- is that my posts about our summer at Club Med, as in Medicine attracted the attention of the real Club Med PR team. Later this fall DH and I are going to the beautiful Club Med Punta Cana on press junket. Press junket = no cost trip, which is kinda crucial considering all the medical bills we've accrued. And have I mentioned DH is going to be out of a job soon? I'd be jumping for delight over this tropical trip if not for that nasty pinched nerve in my spine.

Back to the food allergy thing, if you have or know a child with food allergies, take a peek at my Scrambled CAKE posts on the topic.

And think those nice healing thoughts for me, would ya?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Don't kill the allergy mom

The Allergy Mom. You know her, the one who goes on about deadly foods (everything your child likes to eat) as she politely hands you a list of “safe” snacks (nothing he’ll go near).

Once she’s out of earshot, the other parents huddle and express outrage. “But all my kid eats is peanut butter!” “What am I supposed to send for lunch?” “What nerve! Can her kid’s allergy be that serious?”

Yes, it can.
Food allergies can kill. And sometimes they do.
Sometimes at school.

Be thankful you’re not an allergy mom.

When Smartypants was a toddler, I mixed up a nutritious batch of hummus for him. He loved my homemade blend of chickpeas, tahini (sesame paste) and garlic. I beamed as he gobbled my creation. Then he got tired, started rubbing his eyes and fussing. I figured he’d had a long day and he was telling me he was ready for bed.

Wrong. He was telling me he was in distress.

When I wiped off the hummus that coated his fingers, arms, hands and face, I saw he was bright red. He had a rash on every inch of skin the hummus touched. Hives erupted before my eyes. Fortunately, my cousin had advised us to keep a bottle of Benadryl in the kitchen, so DH grabbed the nearby bottle while I phoned the pediatrician.We gave our young son the medicine and sat watching him, studying the dynamic 3-D show on his skin, dutifully tracking his breathing, the ever-changing hives and his vital functions. And trying not to show how completely freaked out we were.

So, yes, I’m an Allergy Mom.

Thankfully, we were spared a trip to the ER, but that night we were introduced to a whole new set of parenting worries. Allergy testing indicated a potentially life-threatening reaction (anaphylaxis) to sesame. Although not among the top 8 allergens, it does make the top 20 (see below).

Even though sesame is not as ubiquitous as peanuts, it’s out there. Sesame seeds top bagels, loaves of bread and pretzels. It’s a common ingredient in Japanese, Chinese, Greek and Mediterranean foods (falafel, hummus, etc.). Those potentially deadly seeds lurk quietly in many snacks “party mixes” and containers of bread crumbs.

Allergy Moms ask questions. We read labels. Always.

Now that Smartypants is older, he takes more responsibility for himself (I still give a heads-up to his teachers- I’ll get into more detail about this later in this food allergy series). But when he was in preschool, I was the Allergy Mom who handed out the “safe” snack list. A list compiled after a long night at the grocery store, examining the fine print and ingredients list on almost every product label in the snack/cracker aisle.

Most of the parents took care to stick with the list or call me if they wanted to bring an unapproved item. Some even insisted I read the product label myself before giving the green light. Their concern meant a lot to me. It’s scary enough sending your child out into the Big World. When that child has serious food allergies that maternal fear inches up a notch or five.

So please be patient; hold back your snarky comments and give the Allergy Mom a break. She’s depending on you to help keep her kid safe.

For more information on food allergies:Illinois Food Allergy Education Association Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN) Mothers of Children Having Allergies (MOCHA) Also, here’s a great piece, "Food for Thought," by my friend Adrienne Martini. (Okay, we don’t know each other that well, but she let me eat all her frites while she was doing a reading at HopLeaf last winter.) Adrienne is also the author of Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. And you thought your postpartum depression was bad.

Top 8 food allergens:





Tree nuts




Cross-posted from my food blog, Scrambled CAKE, where it was published 2007.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Camp Baby Reunion- All star edition

Here's the latest from my Camp Baby friends. Lot of good stuff this week, so click away.

First up, Classy Mommy, a woman who totally lives up to her blog name. After I sent off my link last week, the one with the rant about Wal-Marts new vlogger program, I remembered that she's one of the "Wal-Mart 11." Oops. Can you say awkward? I sent her a note explaining that I completely understood if she chose not to include my link in the roundup, but she published it. Cuz she's Classy. Also, Wal-Mart is sending her to a conference in Vegas soon. I hope she negotiated a side-trip to one of the fabulous spas and that in her world what happens in Vegas gets blogged. Oh yeah, and her link for the week is: Classy Mommy is giving away 2 pairs of Pedipeds shoes for Fall!

Speaking of corporate-sponsored travel, Jane from Mom Generations (formerly Pinks and Blues) just returned from a trip, too. See Jane kick tires and take a wild test drive at Ford headquarters.

Jodi at Mom's Favorite Stuff reviews her favorite mommy tees.

Mother's Intuition Leeanthro describes why you should always listen to your mother's intuition. Warning: grab a tissue before you click.

This Full House Reviews: The White Trash Mom Handbook She's less than perfect and she's okay! Go read Liz's take on our blog buddy's new book.

And remember to enter my awesome giveaway if you haven't already.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Lands' End backpack giveaway! Now with books, bling and Boca Burgers, too!

Oh yeah, it's back to school time. In my thrifty mind, a new school year is not necessarily an excuse for all new gear. Unfortunately, few products seem durable enough to last more than the nine months of school and, if we're lucky, a few weeks of camp.

Last year around this time I wrote about Lands' End backpacks. I love 'em. Smartypants is headed off to a new school this year with the same old backpack he had last year-- a druable Lands' End Ergo. A few years ago I bought a cheapo Target backpack that broke the first day of school. Then I bought another cheapo one that also fell apart and finally found a winner $40 and a tank of gas later. Lesson learned: spend more on a quality item.

Or spend nothing and win a quality backpack for free. Right here. Right now.

I'm partnering with Lands' End again for another fabulous backpack giveaway. This year's hot item is the new Lands’ End Multitask Backpack, ideal for ages 8-13, along with fabulous filler material.

First the pack: in addition to the typical LE durable construction and padded straps, the Multitask has a stash panel for a jacket, sports gear or bike helmet. Bike helmet? Really? I was skeptical myself until I fit one in there to test it out. Yep. Even a bulky bike helmet fits.
It also has a separate bottom chamber to stow a set of shoes, which will be so handy on snowy winter days when he wears boots to school and needs bring indoor shoes. The Multitask also features side pockets to hold water bottles, a "D-ring" to clip to carry extras like this snazzy LeapFrog water bottle* or a lunch box. And the photo highlights the pack's reflective safety features.

The Multitask retails for $39.50 but is currently on sale for $34.50. In case you don't win it here.
But wait, there's more!

Your kiddo could use a little bling for his new bag, so the winner will also be able to choose five adorable PakNaks go with the Lands' End pack. PakNaks is a mom owned company that produces fun 3D, rubbery, interchangeable self-adhesive, weatherproof designs charms (similar to removable patches). They are great for back packs, lunch packs and any other item you want to dress up. PakNaks is offering a coupon code for 10% off if you just want to order: BTS10

And more!

Candlewick Press is going to fill that backpack with a Megan McDonald library, consisting of Judy Moody, Judy Moody Goes to College *new*, Stink, and the Sisters Club. We love, love, love Judy Moody and her brother Stink. This is a great collection for 1-4th graders.

And finally, a quick after school snack or meal for the whole family courtesy of Boca. I've got three coupons (possibly four if I can exercise a bit of self-control) each good for any Boca Meatless product up to $3.99.

Such a deal!

To enter, leave a comment below and make sure I have a way to contact you. For extra entries, write about this contest on your blog (one extra entry) and/or subscribe to my feeds (another extra).

The fine print: Winner's name will be picked out of a hat or some other old-fashioned and possibly half-assed manner. I will be fair. Also, please let me know if you do not want all of the prizes. I think they are great, but if you don't love them all, I'll choose runners-up for the lovely leftovers. Due to shipping regs. This contest if open to USA residents only. Entries accepted through midnight CST on Tuesday, August 19, 2008. Sponsors will be shipping all prizes other than the Boca coupons.

Check back for a link other great back-to-school giveaways around the web; I'm working on a post for Momformation. Added 8/15 here's the link.

*I'm shameless, I know. But seriously, their water bottles were one of the hottest swaggy giveaways at BlogHer08. The red and blue thing is the bike helmet.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Weighing in on the R-word backlash. And the N-word. And the G-word, too.

But it's over at Momformation, so please click and comment.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Camp Baby Reunion

The latest from my Camp Baby friends:

Classy Mommy Giveaway: Dante Beatrix Monkey Backpack for Back to School Comment here to win this cheeky modern backpack for your little one!

Leeanthro does the unthinkable at Target.

Mom's Favorite Stuff is Giving Away a Ju-Ju-Be Be Light

Kim gets her panties in a bunch about Wal-Mart's new vlogger program Just in case you missed it.

Post-op the butt

Smartypants had his adenoids removed last week. The surgery went quickly and smoothly. When DH and I got to see him post-op, I feared he would be a crying, wilted lump of a child like Pikachu was after his recent radiofrequency ablation procedure. (This is what our summer at Club Med (icine) is all about.) But no, when we saw him right after surgery, he was sitting up eating a Popsicle and watching TV eagerly waiting for us to return with his Nintendo DS so he could get back to whatever Pokemon game he was playing.

And now, a day after his surgery, Smartypants is still doing well. The complaints he's making are not about his sore throat, but about his Nintendo DS, or lack of play time on it.

Even more whining is coming from the boy who had his surgery 2.5 weeks ago. He is no longer in pain physically, but is suffering severe emotional trauma.

"Why does Smartypants get to eat so much ice cream and Jell-O? I didn't get it eat it after my surgery!"

"Your operation was on your leg, dear. Smartypants had surgery in his throat, the ice cream and Jell-O help soothe it."

"Fine, but it's still not fair!"


And then there is much, way too much, arguing about which boy got to play more DS/GameCube during both the pre-op and post-op periods.

Lordy, all those electronic games are going to wind up in the trash one of these days.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers: My panties are in a bunch over Wal-Mart

Yesterday I had the good fortune to be on a panel alongside some very sharp web-savvy women answering questions from a group of brand managers about reaching moms online.

At one point one of the mombloggers mentioned that she's going to be working with Wal-Mart adding content to their new YouTube channel. I'd heard some buzz about this in the momosphere; a couple of my blog friends will be taking part in this. As I understand it, they are being given video cameras and will be vlogging- making and posting personal video segments- on frugal living. They will be not required to plug the sponsor. They will not be required to plug the sponsor's products. They will not be edited. And they will also NOT BE PAID.

I'm sorry, but Wal-Mart you suck! I understand what might motivate a blogger to take such a position- promises of visibility and the bigger, more exciting and better paid projects this gig will, in theory, lead to. But I don't understand why a huge corporation couldn't set aside a measly few thousand dollars to compensate these women for the content they will be producing to enhance the Wal-Mart channel.

Back to the panel. My colleague was explaining the Wal-Mart deal. The last thing I want a group of influential brand managers to think is that mommybloggers can be bought for the price of a video camera and a free trip to Bentonville, Arkansas. My follow-up comment went something like this: Did you see my eyes pop out of my head when she mentioned she was doing this work for free? If bloggers are providing content for you and helping you build your brand you've got to PAY THEM.

I went on to say that I understand that my colleague runs ads on her site and the Wal-Mart gig will supposedly allow for plenty of linking back to her personal blog, which should mean extra ad revenue (that does not come out of Wal-Mart's budget. Oooh, win-win!). And I understand why a blogger might accept such a lame deal, but I still think it's wrong.

Edelman respects mombloggers and pays them for their efforts. I've heard Bridge Worldwide is doing right by the bloggers they've set up at Similac and Luvs. I don't know what PR "genius" is behind the Wal-Mart's new effort, though. (Edited 8/13 to add: not sure if I heard right about that Luvs thing, after all. Just sayin'.)

This is not about jealously. Honestly, I'm just not that into Wal-Mart, anyway. Wait. That's a lie. I despise Wal-Mart. And not just because of all the things I've read about their Big Bad Corporation. I also dislike them because of the way a woman sporting a "customer service expert" badge snarled and snapped at me when I returned a gift in my skeezy local shop a few years back.

So yeah, my panties are in a bunch about all this, but maybe that's okay because guess what? I bought them at Target.

On a related note, my Tweep Mark Salinas posted a query on Twitter on this morning, "Target or Wal-Mart?" As of 10:30 CST, there were 47 Targets, 1 Wal-Mart, and 1 it depends.

What about you? Target or Wal-Mart? Make 'em buy the cow or give the milk away for free?

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers: Avoid sticky situations

Today I received a press release about a couple of contests from a major peanut butter brand. At the bottom was a serious disclaimer:
Privileged/Confidential Information may be contained in this message. If you are not the addressee indicated in this message (or responsible for delivery of the message to such person), you may not copy or deliver this message to anyone. In such case, you should destroy this message and kindly notify the sender by reply email. Please advise immediately if you or your employer does not consent to email for messages of this kind. Opinions, conclusions and other information in this message that do not relate to the official business of [redacted] shall be understood as neither given nor endorsed by it.

I wrote the hack back asking why she included a disclaimer that might prevent me from forwarding the details to my many blogger friends.

She promptly responded that the disclaimer is a standard thing.

Well then get delete it from your press releases, people! Save it for the personal notes. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

While I'm on the topic, have you ever tried soy nut butter? It's a tasty, allergy-friendly and healthy substitute for peanut butter. I'm partial to the IM Healthy brand creamy with honey blend. Oops, looks like I don't have any time left to blog about the contests. Sorry!

(Edited to ad: PR person just wrote back--she does get points for promptness-- "The disclaimer cannot be eliminated.")

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Nob Hill, the Candy Expo and the Whole Shmear- A guest post by DH

Some foods are designed to be relished slowly in an elegant setting; others gulped thoughtlessly in passing. Though not card-carrying members of the slow food movement, Kim and I appreciate the allure of a meal that is sensuous rather than just plentiful, luxurious rather than convenient. It’s rare that we dine without the boys, but there were two recent occasions on which we did.

One was during an adults-only Vegas trip last spring. The other was on a school day the following month when we dashed and gulped our way through McCormick Place for the last day of the NRA’s Restaurant Show (no, the other NRA; restaurants, not rifles) and the first day of the All Candy Expo (which wasn’t all candy at all. There were plenty of chips, nuts and cookies to boot).

In March, we spent nearly three hours at Nob Hill at the MGM Grand, savoring the privacy of a walled-in booth and the ministrations of an attentive, knowledgeable waiter who humored us with his unpatronizing patience as we commented and inquired about the menus, the food preparation, the serving style and even the cutlery and plates. Top it off with Kim shooting unending photographs of the exquisitely prepared dishes, thinking that without pictures, the kids would never believe how nice it was. (They did believe it. They just didn’t care.)

Nob Hill seemed the sort of place where you wouldn’t take kids. There’s nothing salacious going on; what happened in Vegas can certainly be told elsewhere. Just small portions of expensive food that would have shocked—shocked, I say—our children. Especially Smartypants, who sometimes can’t believe how much grown-ups spend on things.

To be fair, he often orders from the adult menu, daring to venture slightly out of his comfort zone with exotic foods like, well, er, salmon. Pikachu remains comfortably in the kids’ menu realm with grilled cheese being his top choice. For both boys, the critical elements of any meal are, bring it fast, give me plenty and finish with dessert. Oh, and the price be damned! (Except when Smartypants checks out the seafood prices.)

Much to our surprise, the table next to us brought their toddler and his older brother, who seemed to spoil the meal for their parents (and nanny), but provided us a conversation point during our stay (Three hours at a restaurant seems more like a stay than a meal) and nicely contrasted the civility and grown-uppedness of our own cloistered table.

As surprised as we were to see kids at Nob Hill, we were even more shocked (shocked, I say) to find so many children—infants through teenagers—strolling around Las Vegas at all. What with the seedy hawkers trying to stuff our hands with brochures offering escorts to your hotel room (if you’re just staying in your room, where do you need to be escorted?) and the bawdy T-shirts and, well, the whole Vegasness of it all. I guess some folks aren’t as lucky to have grandparents to watch their kids for a week.

The Restaurant Show and the Candy Expo are the sorts of places where children ought to be (and are) excluded. It’s tough enough for adults to exert self-control and politely decline the hundreds of samples being purveyed by a few thousand exhibitors. No doubt, our children would take the opportunity to horde the goods. Oh wait, click here for Kim’s confession from last year’s Candy Expo.

Anyway, in the non-junk-food side of the convention center, we found countless variations on barista drinks and fried whatnots (meat, potatoes, breads, snack foods. Anything can be fried nowadays, and there’s a specialty machine for everything). This year offered few truly innovative foods, but a couple of sophisticated gizmos and doodads caught our eyes. One fave was the anti-stove. Instead of heating a griddle to cook foods, this air-conditioned unit chilled the griddle cold enough so liquid chocolate squirted onto sticks quickly solidified into fresh lollipops.

What struck me about both shows was both the abundance of corn-syrup-derived or breaded and fried grub, as well as the ease of obtaining and swallowing it. It’s a classic convention hall move to walk about looking interested in the product, reach out a hand, grab a goodie and BOOM, you’ve got food. Sometimes the vendors want to chat. Usually they let you eat and run. A person lacking self-restraint could easily eat a week’s worth of calories in the space of a few blocks.

Nob Hill, by contrast, is a joint where our waiter, Jaime, wiped the excess sauce from the rim of the plates before carefully setting them in front of us, rotating them just so, to orient them in the most optimal feng shui manner. Each course sat on a different colored or shaped plate and Jaime replaced our silverware between courses—emphasizing the luxury and the uniqueness of each dish. None of the courses, alas, were served on fire, as is my preferred serving style, but the lobster pot pie was cooked en croute steaming itself in its pastry shell before waiter Jaime carved it out of the casserole bowl as if shucking an oyster and gently placing it down on the dish. Hands down, this was the most memorable course in terms of just enjoying the show that is Nob Hill.

By contrast, my favorite corn-based item at the Candy show was caramel corn molded into the shape of an ear of corn, served in a plastic wrapper. For caramel corn fanciers on the go (and what caramel corn fancier would pour the snack onto a ceramic plate and spend three hours consuming it), it’s easy to hold it by the wrapper, give the bottom a smack and send the pointed top bursting through the seam of the package. That way the hands remain unsticky while the carm-corn fan nibbles on the sweet snack and ambles about looking, perhaps, for a plate of hot wings or ribs.

After finding the wings, how does one avoid getting one’s still-clean fingers all messy with sauce? Well, with a trong or two (they’re like chopsticks on steroids) one puts ones pointer and middle fingers into flexible plastic grippers with which greasy, saucy morsels can be lifted without fear of soiling said digits.

“Honestly,” I confronted the vendor, “What man with any sense of manly pride would eat food this way in front of his manly friends?” But he insisted that many passers-by showed interest in the product and that the product is economical enough (and can be customized with the restaurant name) to do well in the marketplace.

What happens, though, if despite the plastic caramel corn wrapper and the wing tongs, one still gets sticky fingers? Imagine a device where both hands (to the wrists) are inserted into holes a box and get the equivalent of a touch-free car wash! Yes, without having to touch a bacteria-laden soap dispenser or a grimy faucet, this device sprays antibacterial soap and water all around both hands as the user holds them in place and enjoys a brief bath. Meritech’s automated hand washing stations take about 30 seconds for a complete cleansing, after which—if you’re lucky—you can move over to one of those high-speed touchless hand driers for a completely hygienic after-meal cleanup.

On that note, if Nob Hill’s service lacked one amenity, perhaps it would be that I had to wash my hands all by myself.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Guess who's guest posting at Momocrats today?

Me! I'm blushing. They picked up my health insurance rant from Momformation (with permisson, of course). Check it out.