Those of you who regularly read my columns know that my brain is very special. The craziest thoughts get stuck in my blonde head and the longer that thought is running around in my brain, the more likely it is to go haywire in a variety of directions before I am done with it. These thoughts eventually turn into words and get sent to you to read over the weekend with morning coffee. This weekend will be no different, my dear readers, because I totally got hung up on practice of tipping and what it all means and how it got started.


The practice of tipping the waitstaff in an eating establishment started in England and made its way to Colonial America. The term "tip" is thought to have originally been an acronym meaning "To Insure Promptness". Tipping servers in restaurants has long been customary in the United States, but how much to tip seems to confound some people. I recently went away for a few days with a group of friends. We ate in restaurants at every meal and it was very relaxing and quite fun to spend that time dining together. When the check came, we divided up the total by the number of people at the table. That's the easy part. My friends would never start taking inventory of who ate what because they simply are not like that. They also know that my head would explode. They wouldn't be my fiends if they were worried about who had what. The check was divided by six and that was it. Then came the discussion about the TIP and what the percentage should be, what kind of job the server did, and so on. Do we add on 15%, 20% or more because we were a party of 6? Was the fact that we had to ask for more butter twice a reason to subtract percentage points from what we leave our waiter? I listened carefully to what everyone was saying and kept quiet. I can't expect the rest of the world to embrace my philosophy on tipping in restaurants, so I just join in with what everyone else decides and if I don't think it's enough I add to it when nobody notices or slip extra to my server on the way out. I am a big tipper because I am so damn grateful that I never had to be a waitress and I appreciate what they do. I even tip well when they suck because I figure that they may not have a job for long. It's kind of my own little personal charity.

So, now I was curious about tipping in general. There's been a lot written about it so I looked it up. We tip in the U.S., but there are lots of places in the world where they don't. If you are not a fan of tipping, then a move a move to Austrialia, Croatia or Greece might be an option. They don't expect it in those places. Countries like France and Italy add it to your bill before you get it. There are also countries that find a gratuity to be an insult.

The fact that we tip our waiters and waitresses in America is a necessary custom. Did you know that waitstaff in this country depend heavily on gratuities to survive? The Wall Street Journal reported that 15% of waitstaff in this country live below the poverty level as compared to other hourly workers where only 7% fall into that category. When reading up on this subject I also learned that waitresses who are pretty earn more tips and strangely enough studies show that female servers who wear a barrette or flower in their hair make better tips. I was delighted to learn that a 20% tip is closer to the standard in restaurants these days, so people are paying up to be served. I read that tipping cab drivers 20% is considered the going rate, but here's where I get tough. If they don't willingly handle my luggage, or if they smoke in the car or talk on the cell phone instead of paying attention to the road, their tip dwindles with every infraction. I can deal with a disgruntled cab driver, but the people who handle my food and my dining experience are well taken care of.

Tip of the Iceberg

The words "tip" and "tipping" just wouldn't leave my head. Maybe because they are both pretty cut words. Whatever it is, my brain skipped around and landed on "tip of the iceberg". This refers to a small, noticeable part of a problem, the total size of which is really much greater.

How about tipping your hat? Where did that come from? When men wore hats as part of everyday dress, lifting the brim of the hat from the head for a moment was considered a polite, non-verbal way to show recognition, gratitude, or a simple greeting to another person. How adorable is that? My brain was still going and I thought about something being on the tip of my tongue or how mischievous it felt to be tip-toeing for some reason. Yep, I got hung up on tip/tipping and I dragged you along with me! I know I have to stop this madness, but not just yet. Stick with me through just one more!

Cow Tipping

Is it a real thing or just legend? Before I get off my journey on The Tipping Express, I have to know.

ow tipping is purportedly the activity of sneaking up on an unsuspecting upright sleeping cow and pushing it over for entertainment. I was relieved to find out that it's just an urban legend and does not really exist. Good to know. I like cows.

Well, I'm done for now and my mind is now empty for the time being. Whew! That was exhausting...

Talk to you next week. Love you. Mean it.


Bank Deposits

Do you know someone who doesn't ever cook because they don't like to clean up afterwards? I know people who never have parties because they don't want to deal with putting their house back in order when the guests have left. I even have a casual friend who only visits her kids and grand kids at their houses because it's "too much work and mess" to have them at her house.

Nobody really minds packing for a dreamy vacation. You put every item in your suitcase with thoughts of the good times you're going to have. Then you come home, what do you have? A heap of dirty clothes to be sorted, laundered and put away.

You can look at life this way or you can look at it MY way. I never mind for a minute the dirty dishes or pots and pans that come with cooking a great meal for my loved ones. I give parties and have get-togethers at the drop of a hat and quite enjoy cleaning up when it's over. When my grandchildren come and stay it takes me weeks to get back to normal after their visit. I find cheesy Goldfish crackers in between sofa cushions and stepped-on Crayons in rooms where no coloring went on, as far as I know. Finding these treasures brings me back to the days when my own babies were running around the house, and I always smile.

Here's how I differ from how most people operate. Whenever I am undoing "the doings" and cleaning up, I am as content as a pussycat basking in the sun. Why, you ask? Because when the fun was going on, I made a huge deposit to my memory bank. So when I'm scrubbing and sweeping or marching the beer bottles to the recycle bin, I am thinking about all that went on, who I got to be with and the memories that I now own and can revisit forever. It makes the work that goes along with having a full life absolutely painless. Enjoying cleaning up the aftermath only takes a good healthy deposit to your memory bank account when you are in the moment of all the fun. When it comes to getting down to business after the good times are over, you can make a withdrawal from your memory bank and clean up is a joy. I always enjoy putting my world back together as a good part of the whole experience because I get to relive and reflect on every bit of fun I had.

This weekend I am facing the Granddaddy of all clean up jobs when the good times are over. It's time to take down the Christmas decorations. I refuse to let it get me down, because taking all the twinkling lights out of my life for another year could be depressing, if I let it. But each time I take an ornament down from the tree I will think about where it came from or who gave it to me before I wrap it and put it away. Every one of my decorations has a history or a special meaning and I get to channel all those wonderful feelings as I put everything away. Throughout the Christmas season, my deposits to my bank of memories are big ones. I get to enjoy most of the people I love in person, follow our family's traditions and spend wondrous amounts of time taking in the joys of the season. My memories are rich and beautiful and I get to visit them again and again as I pack up my decorations until next year. I honestly don't mind the full day it takes to get it all put away.

Your memories are one of the most important things you own. Keep them safe and pure. Bank them and pull them out when you need them. My memories have gotten me through some rough times and always remind me how lucky I am.

Have a happy and healthy New Year to all my beloved readers.

P.S. Before I put it away, take a look at what Fifi's house looks like at Christmas. I can't wait until I am old enough (and crazy enough) to keep it looking like this all year long.


Hello, My Darlings...

By the time you read this, Christmas Day will be over and the last of the Hanukkah candles will have been lit. I hope your holiday was joyful and that you are enjoying these days leading up to the New Year.

I'm writing on this Christmas Eve Eve and the last of my expected Christmas purchases has arrived at the office. I will wrap it and get it under the tree tonight. I definitely have visions of sugar plums dancing in my head. I am pretty proud of myself for having such a good attitude. Yesterday, I drove my oldest daughter, her husband and my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter to the airport so they can spend Christmas in New York with my son-in-law's family. I was upbeat all the way and only cried when I got back in the car. I came back to work only to learn that Joe Cocker had died. Very sad for one of his biggest fans. When I got home, I got a bill in the mail that threw me for loop. I could have let all this get to me, but I didn't. I reflected on the fact that I will indeed have Christmas with my children and grandchildren when my oldest one returns. We have postponed our Christmas, present opening and all, to the day after New Year's Day. It just won't be on the 25th, but it will be Christmas. I also remembered that I got to see Joe Cocker in concert about 7 years ago. He couldn't have been more amazing. And the bill? I will take a big girl pill and pay it.

As I get older, it takes more and more to make me distressed. One of the gifts of maturity is knowing how to manage and sort out things that don't feel good. At the same time, I have come to appreciate things that elevate my good nature and make me smile. A sweet friend of mine gave me the best present recently. She had given the same gift, a special handmade pair of earrings, to another one of our friends and I admired the gift greatly. I may have even whined a bit. I absolutely loved these earrings, so before long I had my own pair. They make me so damn happy. There is something about them that makes me forget when I am feeling sad or bad or conflicted. They are magical. I wore them today because I needed to and since they are really Christmas earrings, I am probably going to have to stop wearing them at some point and go cold turkey. I will find some more magic somewhere else. I always do. That's the trick to staying happy.

I will certainly wear my special earrings on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, which will be very different for me this year. Because one child was away, I encouraged the others to spend time with the husbands/boyfriends family. Whatever happens, it is all good. I think I have this grown up thing down pretty well. It gets easier all the time.

Be happy, healthy and full of love.


Holiday Cheer

I love everything about Christmas. I was one of the lucky ones who had parents who made it into a big deal. My dad would do the lights and they were always perfect. My mother made custom strings out of the old fashioned big bulb variety by using only red, green, and yellow, in that order. All other colors were deleted, so the overall effect was that our very symmetric house with a central path to the front door, looked like a gingerbread house. The bay windows in the living room were the perfect stage for our perfect tree. It was glorious.

Now our tree was another matter. This was long before artificial trees started looking so life- like, so of course we had a real one. This was one of my favorite parts of Christmas, the tree hunt. The standard lots never had the quality of tree that my mother demanded, so we went downtown to the train yards where the trees came in from Oregon. There were wholesale lots with bigger trees than most homes can accommodate. If we didn't find one that was perfect from every angle that was already on a stand, my dad would hop into the train car and start picking up trees and twirling them around for my mother's inspection. It was such an adventure. I loved the smells... the pines, the sawdust on the ground, hot chocolate from the food vendors. I think about those days every year when I unpack my pre-lit Scotch Pine and put section A into B and both into C. It's not the same, but it is so much easier and my tree looks great.

On Christmas Eve, my dad would call us outside to see the blinking red lights in the sky and told us that it was Santa. He had a way of making us believe that Santa Claus was circling around our town just waiting for us to go to bed. Little did we kids know that it was just small aircraft viewing the Christmas displays from the air. We left cookies and milk, and carrots for the reindeer, and went to bed earlier than usual. I remember so distinctly hearing him on the roof. Big footsteps and the sound of bells above my head were so thrilling. God bless my daddy for climbing up the ladder and stomping on the roof and ringing those bells. I always pretended to be asleep when my parents came in around midnight and told us that they were pretty sure Santa Claus had been there. I was usually a little nervous on my way down the hall to the living room. Had I been good enough? Did Santa know about a few things that nobody else did? Would there be nothing there for me? I was always relieved and delighted to see lots of packages with my name on them. My family always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve as it turned into Christmas morning. It was the best.

I believed in Santa Claus way longer than most children. In grade school, when I would come home and tell my mom that some kid told me that there was no such thing as Santa, my mom would say that Santa doesn't come to those who don't believe in him. From then on I didn't mention it much in the play yard. I had a good thing going with Old Saint Nick, because I BELIEVED. When I graduated the 6th grade and was going into junior high, my parents thought it best to tell me the truth about Santa. It was one of the worst days of my life. I cried my eyes out. My mother held me close and told me that believing in Santa when you are growing up is the second most wonderful thing that can happen at Christmas. Second most wonderful? What is the first I asked? It was then that she told me that one day when I grow up and have children of my own, I will then make Santa come alive for them. She was right. That is the absolute best.

The traditions that families create at holidays mean so much as you travel through life. But what about the people who didn't have any of what you and I had? There are so many folks who really don't like the holidays at all. It is painful for them. They think it's all a lot of hooey and over-indulgence. I really believe that it is up to those of us who understand and adore the spirit of whatever holiday you celebrate to pass that along and try to impart some joy. Let's get this hooey and over-indulgence party started!

You can tell these Bah Humbug people from a mile away. They are the first to mention with disdain when the Christmas decorations go on sale in August. They grouse about the gross capitalization aspect of Christmas. They shy away from Secret Santa exchanges at the office and you'll never catch one of them listening to the 24/7 Christmas music station. They came from a different reality and I think it is our responsibility as people who love the holidays to do something about it. This can't be done overnight, but in little, baby-elf steps.

I am going to propose that each of us do one random act of holiday kindness for a Bah Humbugger. It doesn't matter if it's big or small, just start the healing. They hate the holidays because they didn't grow up like we did. They were left out and did without while the world was aglow with Christmas magic. There are lots of great groups out there collecting toys for underprivileged children. It is easy to buy a toy for a child who might not be getting anything. I do that too and so should you if you can. But it's not so easy to hand out a sweet dose of Christmas Spirit to someone who is a sourpuss because it's December. Find someone who wears being a Bah Humbugger like a badge of honor and wear them down with a kind offering. A small gift, something you baked, a bone for their dog, an invitation to dinner... anything that sends the warmth of holiday cheer.

Ok, I will let you go now. There's a lot to do this week. Get those cookies baked, packages wrapped and enjoy this amazing season. And in all the last minute madness, please find the time show some love to someone with a case of the Bah Humbugs.


Drops Of Wisdom

It has been raining in Los Angeles for a few days and it is wonderful. We needed it so much; we're having a serious drought here in California, if you haven't heard. I am so happy when it's raining. Of course it's best to be at home with not a lot to do except listen the patter of the droplets hitting the roof, but even if I have to navigate the outside world and wear waterproof gear, I still love it.

The rain means so many things to so many people. If you have ever been to the Pacific Northwest, all those people ever want to talk about is the rain. Too much of a good thing, I guess. Folks from Oregon and Washington are fixated on the last day they got sunshine. Yet their air is clean and everything around them is green and beautiful. I think that rain is so soothing and refreshing. I sleep the best when it's raining.

Here in Southern California, there are so many people who moved here to get away from bad weather, they just don't see the romance that sprinkles can bring. These same folks are obsessed with the weather reports and can't wait to tell anyone who will listen that rain is coming like it's some horrible monster that is coming to invade the planet.

Think of all the songs that talk about rain. Precipitation has captured the imagination of songwriters for ages. Whether the song is comparing raindrops to teardrops or talking about rain as a backdrop to a romantic moment, the rain coming down is powerful and emotional.

I think there are two kinds of people. The rain haters who find the whole experience a nuisance. Rain to them is annoying. They avoid getting wet at all costs and have an umbrella at the ready if there is even the slightest whisper about rain in the weather forecast. Then there's the rain lovers like yours truly. The prediction of rain conjures up visions of Gene Kelly dancing and makes me start thinking about making some good soup. Some well-known person who's name escapes me... I think it might be Longfellow or maybe Bob Marley who once said "some people walk in the rain, others just get wet." Amen! That's what I'm talking about...

Rain makes me smile and go to a happy place, but I completely understand feeling the other way. I remember a time when my kids were growing up that our roof was on its last legs. We didn't have the money to replace it. Every threat of rain required my husband and I to get on a ladder and put these bright blue tarps on the "iffy" sections of our roof, most of which were completely visible from the street. We would place bricks at the edges to keep the tarps in place. Aesthetically it was awful, but it was all we could do. Every time we had to put up the blue "roof condoms", as I affectionately called them, I felt sorry for my neighbors. During one particularly brutal rain storm, we were all sitting at the dinner table when suddenly the wind blew hard and the next thing we knew water came gushing out of the ceiling light fixture 10 feet away like an upside-down geyser. The kids thought it was thrilling. The very next day, we went to the bank and borrowed the money for a new roof. But even then, I still loved the rain... just not in my living room.

I know some of my readers who aren't mad for rain are thinking that I am crazy. Others of you may be certain of it at this point. You can write to me and tell me all the reasons that rain is awful. I can take it! On this subject it impossible to rain on my parade. Sorry, I couldn't resist. No matter what you say about the rain, I am telling you right up front that you will lose.

Sure, people drive stupid when the streets are wet, but chances are they drive stupid in all weather. Just be extra careful. I admit that it's hard for a girl to keep a decent hairdo going when it's raining. Coiffures go limp, curly hair goes crazy frizzy and when my baby fine blond hair gets rained on, I look like a bald-headed woman. I understand that the ground gets muddy and that it's hard to get to your parked car when the water is up to the curb. And yes, it always seems to rain the day after you get your car washed. So, go back and get a rain check (hence the name). Rain is not always convenient, but life isn't always convenient either. So, after all the reasons I have mentioned, why will you never convince me that rain is anything but wondrous?

Rainbows, my darlings... rainbows.


My Darlings

It's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and I am all mushy and squishy with thoughts of tomorrow. I am not cooking this year, so it will be a relaxing day for me. I am looking so forward to it. I decided to write you a letter instead of an article this week. You all are so busy with stuffing turkeys and eating and shopping, you wouldn't even have time to read it.

It's that most wonderful time of the year when Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the bookends to 4 great days of shopping for crazy good bargains. I used to be out there at O Dark Thirty with all the other crazies, but I am an online girl for the most part these days. I never want these love letters of mine to sound like a commercial for LoveFifi.com, but I will say we have some great stuff at some stupid cheap prices. I guarantee you will have fun when you are not at the mall shopping for bargain undies IN your undies. Good times!

I wish you everything wonderful tomorrow and always. We should always give thanks for our gifts in this life and there is nothing that brings that home more than being with family and friends. It doesn't get better than being with the ones you love. I will get up when I wake up which is a luxury in itself. I will brew a perfect cup of coffee and sit with my doggies and watch the Macy's parade. It's corny, but it's tradition... and I love tradition.

We are going to a fine restaurant. We started doing this about 5 years ago and it has been great. It's not home cooking, but it is really good. There is no getting up at dawn to stuff a bird, no worries about timing all the side dishes perfectly, no dishes and no mess. There are also no leftovers, so I always cook a turkey breast and dressing at home. I don't buy a pumpkin pie for my house because that would not be wise. I would eat it all and never confess. Only my hips and bottom would tell the truth. I will buy the cranberry sauce with the whole cranberries in it. Nobody else in my family likes that one so now I can be a rebel and NOT buy the jellied one. So I will have turkey sandwiches, which is the best part of Thanksgiving food, if you ask me.

Have a beautiful holiday and get your shopping done. I will be decorating this weekend. I like my Christmas wonderland to be up for as long as possible. It takes me forever to put it up and it takes me even longer to take it all down. It really shoots the hell out of February.

Before I say goodbye for now, I think I will tell you a big secret about me. I may have mentioned it before, but it is certainly in keeping with the spirit of this holiday. When I was 6, my first grade teacher asked each one of us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Without hesitation, I answered "a pilgrim". My teacher smiled and never let on that my dream was pretty impossible. She then asked me why. Again, with great conviction, I told her it was because I liked their outfits with the stiff hats and the big buckles on their shoes. Isn't it ironic that I wanted to wear clothes that covered every inch of skin, yet I ended up designing and selling apparel that doesn't cover up much? My sister has always cracked up every time she thinks about me wanting to be a pilgrim. OK, so I wasn't a big thinker at 6 and it never occurred to me that this wasn't a real job. Still, my sister finds my early aspirations hilarious. This from a woman who wanted to be a mermaid.


A Loss Of Words

My panties are in a huge knot right now. Of course they are LoveFifi.com panties and they will be like new again after I have my say.

Here goes. I met a man at a friend's dinner party. He is attractive, accomplished, very well spoken and unmarried. We talked the evening away and there was truly a connection. It was nice. He asked for my phone number and email address and I obliged. I was surprised at myself. I have mentioned before that I loathe dating, especially that first one. I find going to my accountant for my yearly tax appointment more enjoyable than most first dates. But since the dinner party kind of got all that out of the way, I threw caution to the wind and gave him my contact information. After all, a handsome man with such impressive credentials, a sense of humor, the ability to speak knowledgeably on so many subjects may be the treasure of a man I had given up trying to find.

The next day I received a text message from Mr. Fabulous that said. "How r u? IMHO last night was GR8! I will call u tonight. xoxo PQ". I stared at this damn text in complete disbelief. How could so few words say so much about a person? "How r u?" Really? He is so busy he doesn't have time to write "are you". If he doesn't have time for four extra letters, could he have time for me? Now IMHO baffled me completely. It looked like some new medical insurance category like a PPO or an HMO, but that didn't make sense. Thank goodness for the Internet. I soon found out that it stood for "in my humble opinion" in texting-speak. I got the "last night was GREAT" part without looking anything else up. And he finished up his message by flattering my existence once again by referring to me as "u".

Did some 14-year-old skate boarder kidnap my my articulate and successful new friend, Peter Quigley, and is now writing to me in his stead as some kind of sick prank? This guy earned an MBA and owns a successful consulting firm. He obviously enjoyed my company because he stuck to me like glue and wrote me the very next morning. But this mish-mash of goofy acronyms and abbreviated words left me disappointed and completely bewildered as to how to write back.

I like the English language. I like communication. I don't want to have to refer to some new age cyber glossary to try to figure out what he is saying. I realize that he thinks it's young and techie cute to speak in shortcuts and acronyms, but it really put me off. There are enough acronyms already in our language and for the most part, they make sense. They were created for efficiency not laziness.

Acronyms like these below were totally necessary. Too scientific to remember the whole thing!

SCUBA Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

RADAR Radio Detection and Ranging

LASER Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation

JPEG Joint Photographic Experts Group

ZIP (Code) Zone Improvement Plan

Acronyms like these are forgivable because they get the point across quickly and are succinct. Very efficient, I would say.

DIY Do It Yourself

ETA Estimated Time of Arrival

AKA Also Known As

TBA To Be Announced

ATM Automated Teller Machine

RIP Rest In Peace

I am not offended when someone asks for my ID, or wants to know if they can use my PC or complains that their car keys are MIA. All are acceptable modern additions to our language. But when some man tries to woo me in a short text by making it even shorter and requires me to decode what he has to say, it makes me crazy. This guy graduated from HARVARD with honors. It so distresses me that people don't realize that taking these shortcuts is not flattering to the person on the receiving end, unless you are a teenager. I am not a teenager and I am going to stick to my infatuation with whole words and complete sentences. And I would also like to mention that many school districts in this country are no longer teach cursive writing. No more handwriting; you heard me.

There is no rhyme or reason to this epidemic of whittling down perfectly easy phrases to type. OK, I can live with LOL. It's cute enough to stay. But if you want to thank me very much, please refrain from typing TYVM. I can guarantee that I put effort into what I did for you and I deserve better. If I made your day better, please don't text me YMMD. It wouldn't feel as good as you spelling it all out.

So what am I going to tell the man who so romantically refers to me as "u"? I wrote to him in a way that is the complete opposite of what he wrote to me. I emailed him for one thing. I started with "Hello Peter". I channeled my Emily Bronte self and wrote lovely, ladylike complete sentences without an acronym to be found. I signed it "Warmest Regards, Fifi"

I've gotten nothing back so far, but my guess is that he either won't "get" it or won't like it. Whichever is fine with me. If he replies to my email and sounds like the man that I met at my friends house, then there may be something there between us. If he sends me another one of those "too cool for school" abbreviations-from-Hell texts, I probably will not ever reply.

Whew... My panties are officially unknotted and I am breathing normally once again.

P.S. If I am ever lost and you are on my search team, if you see this from the air, please disregard everything I just said.