Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Visiting my Alma Mater

Dick and I had breakfast this morning in my old neighborhood (Polk Street/Nob Hill).

After breakfast, we drove around a bit, then decided to visit my old art school, The San Francisco Art Institute.

It's a beautiful day today, which made the views from the rooftop even more amazing.

I was pretty nostalgic today, which had never really hit me before. It's been over 20 since I attended school there. What struck us both is how much of both the school, and the surrounding area hasn't changed at all. That was quite refreshing, given how much change/construction has happened in so many parts of San Francisco.

The Diego Rivera Fresco, painted for the Art Institute in 1931

Info about the mural

heading down towards some of the studios

Dick, on the rooftop deck, in front of the original building and the old tower

I used to joke that our tuition money went towards these views!

another side of the panoramic view - the Bay and Alacatraz

looking down at part of the campus and the Walter MacBean Gallery

just like old times

more views

The digital media center - built in 1995, my first semester, and a large part of the reason why I applied to go to SFAI.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Brunch in Brentwood

We had a really lovely Easter Brunch with our family in Brentwood today. My Mom and Dad's gated community has a beautiful clubhouse with a restaurant and gorgeous grounds.

It was a beautiful day. We enjoyed walking around the grounds after brunch.

Happy Easter!!

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Beautiful morning for a walk

I went on a 7 mile walk this morning with Linda and Judy. It was an off-season walk for us, and just so nice to have a chance to catch up with both of them.

What a beautiful day! I didn't take many photos, but these two are very pretty. :)

Thanks to Judy for taking this photo. :)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Why we left AT&T over a $100 giftcard

You may recall that I wrote a post just over a month ago about my experience of buying a new iPhone 6s from the Apple Store at the Bellevue Mall. I had a great experience there, and mentioned that it was terrific after the terrible experience we had had at the AT&T Store at the same mall just a few days earlier.

I knew that my blog post rant about AT&T was going to be a big one, and we just wrapped up that story today, so I can now write it.

I've been an AT&T customer since 2001. Actually, I was a Cingular customer in 2001, and they were bought out by AT&T at some point. Within the next year or so, Dick dropped his cellular carrier and we got a family plan together on AT&T. He got a slight discount from work, and I had a grandfathered unlimited data plan from when I bought the first iPhone from them in 2007. It was a pretty good deal, and one that we didn't pay much attention to month-after-month. Our combined bill was roughly $130/month after taxes.

Several years ago, while we were with AT&T, we had very bad cellular reception at our house. It was so bad, that I couldn't make or receive cell phone calls from my own house. Eventually, AT&T offered the 3G Microcell Tower for $150, which we bought. Eventually, AT&T installed more towers around our neighborhood, and over time, we no longer needed the Microcell Tower. At some point, I received a post card in the mail from AT&T stating that we had the option of returning the 3G Microcell Tower to any AT&T Store for a $100 Gift Card! I figured it was a great deal, as we were no longer needing/using the Microcell and it would only be recycled eventually. So, I went to the AT&T store in Milpitas, and traded in my Microcell Tower for a $100 gift card.

Now, the AT&T gift card states on the back that it can only be used for merchandise. I knew I couldn't use the gift card towards our monthly bill, so I saved the card for when we would need to purchase a new phone.

Only, you may know by now, that I hold onto my phone for a few years - longer than most people. BUT, I managed to save the $100 AT&T Gift Card, and even remembered that I had it, and didnt' even lose it when we moved to Bellevue.

Imagine how proud I was of myself when I remembered to bring said gift card to the AT&T Store with me when I FINALLY decided to buy a new phone after 3-1/2 years!!

Dick and I went to the AT&T Store in the Bellevue Mall, decided which model of the iPhone 6s I wanted, and even picked out a case for it. I was told by the store employee that the $100 could be used against my purchase of the phone. At the time, I had decided to go with the monthly plan for the phone, rather than paying it all up front, with a two-year contract. I didn't mind signing up for a new contract, since Dick and I had already been with AT&T for so long, and didn't have any plans to leave.

Our helpful salesman brought me my new phone, and transferred my SIM card and account information over to it. I even had it in it's new case, and was playing with is as he was ringing up our transaction. That was when he informed us that he was having problems with our $100 gift card.

I should state here that the salesman at the AT&T store tried his best. He called at least 3 customer service lines trying to get help. What it boiled down to was that the gift card had apparently never been activated. I don't recall ever being told that I needed to activate it, and frankly, if it came with a piece of paper telling me to activate it, I would have. Because it hadn't been activated (by fault of the AT&T store where I got it from, or my own) they said it wasn't usable.

Now, I know, this card is probably over 3 years old, but here's the catch: Gift Cards don't expire. Legally, they don't expire. In addition to that, there's also an expiration date on the back of the card listed as September, 2019! So, even if it could legally expire, I was still over 3 years away from that date.

We spoke to the manager at the Bellevue store, and frankly, he was no help at all. He was polite enough, but kept trying to sell us other services (home security by AT&T) that he would apply the $100 discount to.

Nope. Not having it.

Mind you, all this over $100. I was about to sign another 2-year contract for a $800 phone, for a plan that we pay $130/month for, and they couldn't find a way to credit this $100 gift card from their own company to us?

Over the next few days, I tried calling AT&T customer support, getting as far as their promotions department that deals with gift cards. NO ONE was able to help me at all, but understood my frustration.

Finally, a few days later, Dick called them one last time threatening to close our account with them over a $100 gift card. They offered to credit our account with $25.

That was pretty much the final straw. We started into looking into other options. I was well out of my contract with AT&T. Dick had bought a new phone with them in June, but was willing to buy out his contract in order to unlock his phone so we could go to any other provider. We did look into switching to other providers who offered to buy out our contract, but ultimately, Dick decided to buy out his contract so he could have an unlocked phone so we could be without another contract.

We looked into a bunch of other providers, and decided to try T-Mobile. We realized that even though I had unlimited data with AT&T, I never went over 2GB/month and Dick used even less. We are on WiFi anytime we are home. Because of this, we qualify for T-Mobile's most basic plan which costs $80 for both of our lines getting 2GB data/month. It also includes unlimited texts and calls in the US, Canada and Mexico. IF you go over your data for the month, you'll still get data, but it'll be 3G at no additional charge. If you travel outside the US, Canada or Mexico, you can still use text messaging and data, but it'll be a slower speed. This is pretty amazing for us, as we travel frequently, and either pay around $50 for each trip for data, or we do without completely, relying only on WiFi. With T-Mobile, we get it all (albeit, slower) at no additional cost. There will be tax on our monthly bill, but it will still come in at under $90/month. That's over $40 less than we were paying at AT&T.

Oh, and by the way, remember my post about when I bought my unlocked iPhone 6s directly from the Apple Store, and they gave me $200 off for trading in my iPhone 5? Yeah, AT&T didn't offer that either.

So, breaking it down:

I bought an unlocked iPhone 6s from the Apple Store for $200 less than I would have paid at the AT&T store.

Our bill with T-Mobile will be $40 less per month, and will give us the ability to use our data overseas.

Oh, and when we went to the T-Mobile store in San Francisco today, it couldn't have gone smoother. We decided on our plan, but because we aren't on a contract, we can change the plan (or leave altogether) at any time. They switched out our SIM cards right there on the spot, and put in the order to port our original phone numbers over. By the time we walked home (less than an hour later) our old phone numbers were working again.

So, there you go. I know AT&T probably doesn't care that they lost another customer, but it seems really stupid that they did. We were with them for over 15 years, were ready to pay full price for a new phone, and didn't even think about looking into switching our plan to a cheaper option. Because of their stupidity of not honoring a gift card given at one of their own stores, they lost us. Over $100. Doesn't it seem like someone along the line should have had the authorization to offer $100 off a bill to keep a customer?

It's been well over a month since this saga started, and this blog review is probably a lot less scathing than it would have been had I written it immediately after our first bad experience.

In the end, AT&T lost a long-time customer, and we're paying a lot less money for better service with a different company.
Shame on you, AT&T.

All this over a $100 gift card that you legally should have honored.

Oh, and PS:
Don't piss off WebTrina. She will write a scathing review of your company on her blog, and will share it with the World.

Look at me! I'm a T-Mobile customer now!

Switch without a Hitch? Yes, we did!

T-Mobile store in the Mission, San Francisco

The $100 AT&T Giftcard

The back of the AT&T Gift Card which clearly lists the expiration date as 9/19

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

My Handy Husband!!

Yesterday, Dick and I spent the day in Brentwood, helping my Mom with projects around the new house while my Dad was with the movers in Milpitas.

My Mom was setting up her kitchen and bathrooms. Dick and I helped by putting together her two closet organizers.

And when I say "Dick and I", I mean Dick did all the real work, and I was his assistant. He demoed the existing closet organizer (two bars/shelves that were built into one wall in the Master closet, then put up the first components of the new closet system. This is the same Elfa closet system from Container Store that Dick and our friends had just taken down from our closet in Bellevue that we brought home last week.

We put in an additional system as an organizer in their office.

Uncle Danny and Auntie Betty came over a bit later and helped out installing more projects in the kitchen and bathrooms.

Dick and Uncle Danny also put together our old bed frame that Dick and I used to have in our Master bedroom in SF into my parent's new guest bedroom. They needed a bed to sleep in last night, and it looks great!

It was a very productive day, and I'm glad we were able to help. My Mom was able to get a lot done and organized yesterday before the movers deliver all of their things today.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Souvenirs from Seattle Friends

We are almost done unpacking/reorganizing from the move.

We finished the kitchen today, which was a big feat. We had Spencer's stuff stocking the kitchen, so it wasn't as huge a rush as the rest of the house. It sure is nice to have all of our things here again!

I unpacked a couple of really sweet and thoughtful souvenirs from Seattle that some friends had given to us before we left.

Martin and Celeste gave us a pair of Starbucks Seattle mugs. They are really cute! I love the colors and design. It's very fitting, of course, since Starbucks is from Seattle, and really a bit ironic that we've never had mugs from them before (I have several friends who collect these from cities worldwide!).

Our last night in Bellevue, our "gang" (Paula, Reeves, John, Gina, Dan and Nicole) gave us this really beautiful Space Needle Peppermill!! It is an awesome souvenir from Seattle!! I had first spotted it last Summer in the Space Needle Gift Shop, and I remember telling Gina that I would want one once I was moving back to San Francisco. I'm amazed that she remembered! It's a beautiful piece, and very useful, too! I love how it's so symbolic of Seattle, yet subtle at the same time. It's hand carved by a wood artisan who lives in Seattle.

Thank you, friends, for the very thoughtful gifts from Seattle! We'll think of you and our time in the Pacific Northwest whenever we use them.

Rainbow over San Francisco

This may be the largest rainbow I've ever seen over San Francisco.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Hot Chocolate for a rainy evening

I have the best gay boyfriend ever.

He just made Spicey Aztec Hot Chocolate with Mezcal.

Soo decadent and soooo yummy!!

Mom & Dad on the Move!!

Mom and Dad in front of the house

Mom, Dad and the Milpitas House with the moving van in front

loading the truck


family room

game room

my old room


It's a busy month of moving for the Chow Family!! My parents are moving into their new home (in Brentwood) this week!

Their real estate agent has a moving truck that they were able to borrow. Today, we loaded some of their personal items and kitchen stuff into the truck. Tomorrow, they pick up the keys to the new place, and they can start setting up!!

It's a little strange seeing my childhood home in Milpitas (since 1979) filled with moving boxes, but I think my heart has been preparing for this for a long time. My parents are very excited about their new home, and I'm very happy for them.

Dick and I will be meeting my Mom in Brentwood Tuesday to help her unpack, while my Dad is in Milpitas while the movers load all their stuff.

It's going to be a very busy, but exciting time for my Mom and Dad, and I couldn't be happier for them.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Happy Kitty

Noe says that this weekend is much better than last weekend. :)

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Elusive Nikolas!!

I had a nice visit with my parents at their home in Milpitas today. They move to their new home early next week, so it was my last chance to hang out with them in the home they've had since 1979.

Their 8 month old kitten, Nikolas, is very shy around any visitors. He never makes an appearance when people are over. Tonight, after I had been there for a few hours, he decided to make an appearance!! This was a first for me, so I was so happy to see him. Hoping it's the beginning of a new trend for him.

Remembering Marcia

Today, I had the honor of attending a memorial service for our dear friend, Marcia.

Marcia was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer less than a year ago. She was only 46 years old, and was taken from us much too soon.

I met Marcia through our participation of breast cancer walks. She has been walking for twelve years, was one of the three people who formed our non-profit, "In our Lifetime", and was instrumental in forming The Immediate Impact Walk.

It was my absolute pleasure and great honor to have walked with her, and to call her my friend for the past seven years. Hers was a life well-lived.

Marcia, you are beloved, and will be deeply missed.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Back in the Backyard

We reconnected with our backyard again today. It was good to get out for the first mow of the year! Dick mowed the lawn, while I pulled weeds, trimmed some plants, put out the Weed & Feed, and gave the yard a good sweep. Plenty more to do, but it is a good start before it rains again this weekend.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Taking a quick, much needed break from the unpacking/purging to enjoy a gorgeous day.