Monday, September 17, 2012

A life of leisure

My parents are newly retired and enjoying it very much.
Me, I think they may have gone a little overboard.
They’re taking vacations to national parks I’ve never been to. They’re driving all over the Bay Area to visit old college friends whenever they feel like it. They’re volunteering at church and planning Air Force classmate reunions. They go for daily walks. Sometimes they’ll even walk — get this — twice a day.
My dad has been known to drive to Dean & DeLuca in St. Helena just to buy fancy mustard.
I know, crazy, right? Fancy mustard? Come on. It’s not like it can make that grilled salmon taste really amazing or anything. Not at all.
What is this new retiree world they’ve entered? And why can’t I come along?
When my mom calls to chit-chat about her day, I feel even more sorry for myself.
I’m not going to Yosemite or Glacier National Park.
I’ll never see my college friends again.
Welcome to my Big Fat Pity Party. If you’re retired, you’re not invited.
My mom, the new retiree, likes to go visit her neighbors, more retired people. I think the last time I went to socialize with a neighbor was sometime back in 2009. These days, I manage a wave as I drive in and out of our court, but I am sadly deficient in my neighborhood networking.
Now that they’re retired, my mom and dad aren’t worrying about hoarding the 18.5 sick hours they have to last until the end of the year. If one of them gets a cold, they just sleep in. And then later they can take a nap. Or two.
If I took a nap at work, I might not have a job to wake up to.
When my parents go on vacation, they call it a “trip.” Apparently, when you’re retired, every day is a vacation day, said Just Jealous Jennifer Huffman.
There’s no retirement in sight for me. Sometimes I think I may not survive 2012, let alone make it to any so-called retirement age.
To top it all off, I’ve also got the government taunting me about retiring. I get a yearly Social Security statement that lists the amount of earnings I’ll be eligible for when I turn 67.
Oh, Social Security, do you have to be such a tease? I don’t need an annual reminder of what I’m eligible for 25 years from now. Leave me be. I’m still working for The Man. And I mean that with affection, Napa Valley Register.
I need to stop this rant right here. The truth is, my mom and dad rock.
Whenever I text one of them about picking up one or more Huffman girls — and it always seems like it’s at the last minute — they hardly ever say no. My mom and dad are always asking if we need help with anything. They even feed us every Thursday night at our weekly family dinner. My dad usually grills something.
Next time, I’ll have to ask him to use that mustard.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Birchbox of beauty

I don’t like surprises. Surprise means I am unprepared — and probably wearing the wrong shoes or without enough cash.
No, I like to know what’s going to happen to me. It gives me that illusion of control, which is particularly essential when you are the mother of three teenage girls.
However, I recently found one surprise I actually like.
It’s called Birchbox.
Birchbox is a makeup sample subscription. To the men reading this column who are tempted to stop reading at the word “makeup,” hold on just a minute. If there is a woman in your life, you need to know about Birchbox.
For $10 a month, the Birchbox subscriber receives a selection of four to six makeup samples. A neat brown box arrives on your doorstep with little packages of goodies like perfume, eye shadow, lip gloss, moisturizer, skin cream or nail polish.
The items aren’t just thrown into the box, either. The Birchbox elves actually wrap the samples in colored tissue paper tied with a ribbon. It’s like opening a present.
Each month has a theme, like “Jet Set,” “Holiday,” or “Glamour.” And what woman doesn’t want a little jet setting, holiday or glamour in her life?
Birchbox customers fill out a profile that helps tailor each delivery to their interests and age, but you never know what you’re going to get each month. And that’s the fun part.
The eye shadow brand you read about in a magazine, that moisturizer you’ve seen at Nordstrom but didn’t want to pay $48 for, sparkly eyeliner, lip gloss that comes with a funky Q-tip applicator, and designer perfume. It’s all in the Birchbox.
Birchbox knows we women love samples. We love smelling and sniffing shampoos, dabbing and dipping designer face creams, swabbing and swiping shadows. It’s like each little sample contains a promise — a promise of a new look, a new you. Life is ordinary enough, but a new eye shadow is enough to perk up any mom’s day.
What’s even better than a box of makeup samples? Swapping your samples with someone else’s samples. My co-workers Michelle and Jillian are also into Birchbox. One day we brought in our boxes and did a little beauty bartering.
I made everyone try the Q-tip dispenser lip gloss. (Verdict: Looks good on, but the applicator is odd.) We insisted that 20-something Jillian take Michelle’s bright blue glitter eyeliner.
Are you still with me, men? Besides a great gift idea, there’s also Birchbox for men. Why not get in touch with your metrosexuality? Your dry skin and the people you shake hands with will thank you.
There was one problem with my Birchbox. A certain Huffman decided to help herself to a few items in my Birchbox without asking. After a scolding, I resorted to hiding my Birchbox treats, which makes it hard to impulsively sample my samples.
So when her birthday rolled around, I made a strategic decision. I got the Birchbox thief her own three-month subscription.
I’m hoping she’ll leave my lip gloss alone now.

To the Fair

A rabbit joined our Dr. Doolittle–wannabe home last year. Named Bonnie the Bunny, she’s a cute little thing with black-and-white fur and those soft velvety ears that bunnies have a patent on.
Bonnie lives in a rabbit shantytown in our backyard and receives daily visits from the youngest Huffman. She leads a leisurely life, noshing on bunny pellets and fresh veggies while taking a break for the occasional bunny bath.
But this past week, that all changed. Bonnie was off to her version of The Show — the Napa Town & Country Fair.
Gone were the cushy days of lounging in her private hutch. Bonnie went from being the only bunny on the block to the equivalent of a bunny cattle call at the fair’s 4-H showmanship competition.
There are rabbits galore at the fair — white bunnies that look like they’ve popped out of a magician’s hat, black bunnies, brown bunnies with long floppy ears, big fat bunnies that are supposed to be super-sized, and bunnies with fur that’s so long and shaggy it looks like they need a haircut.
Before and after the showing, the bunnies at the fair reclined in their temporary two-story bunny condos. Each cage was decorated with a hand-painted sign announcing the home of “Pinkie,” “Socks,” “Fastrada,” “Amber,” and others.
On the designated day and time, the 4-H kids put on their white pants and shirts and got ready for rabbit showmanship.
This isn’t some kindergarten show-and-tell. It’s a complicated process with an inch-thick bunny breed book and specific steps. You have to show off the bunny’s eyes and ears. You have to prove your bunny is bug-free and that your bunny has all of her toes. You have to wiggle the bunny’s tail for her to make sure it’s not broken.
At one point the bunny owner is supposed to flip the bunny over onto his or her back in one motion and expect that the animal will just lie there without complaining.
And just when you think you’ve gotten this bunny thing down pat, the bunny judges may throw in a trick question such as “Who is the president of the American Rabbit Breeders Association?” This stuff is not for wimps, I tell you.
Before the judging, one experienced rabbit raiser practiced her showmanship routine. The younger 4-H rabbit raisers gathered around to watch the master at work.
Using her hands, she formed her bunny’s little body into a fluffy ball shape that judges expect to see.
I’m training him to hold his pose, she said, removing her hands.
The bunny remained frozen in position. Not even a whisker quivered.
She actually tickled his head to see if he would move.
No dice.
She was a real live Bunny Whisperer. The 4-H kids stared at her in awe.
Later that morning, the judges announced the showmanship winners. Our girl had won a shiny belt buckle and two blue ribbons, which she promptly hung outside Bonnie’s cage.
Here was proof. She was no longer just Bonnie the Bunny. She was now somebunny.