Wowza.. hospital bills

Rarely on the patient side, I never really thought too much about my hospital bills. I was in my 20s, young, healthy, and rarely saw the doctor. I was one of those bad at taking antibiotics for infections. I couldn’t make time to go get my routine pap smear.

Now that I’m pregnant, I think about how blessed I am to have good health insurance.

My first visit, I was waiting in the doctor’s office for 1-2 hours, our “visit” lasted maybe 5 minutes. I had a <10 minute ultrasound in order to assess my pregnancy.

And now that I’m writing this blog, I’m looking back on my insurance bills and also thinking, what is this “X-ray” that I was being billed. Why are there multiple bills for the same visit day for Quest Diagnostics and it just “Routine lab services.” How am I supposed to make sense of all of this.

Total amount billed by Quest Diagnostics: $2,441.92. Total amount paid by insurance $1,051.35 (why there is such a huge difference, that’s a whole other can of worms). Then there is another bill by Quest for the same day? Then service charge by MD $599 but insurance only paid $200.34, with a $30 copay for me. So many questions. Why is my lab really that much more expensive? It’s kind of absurd.

And an anatomy scan, which took about an hour, with a tech who actually was there the entire time and looking at everything was billed $745 (insurance paid $475.02). I thought this was the most intense, and if I had to rank it, probably would have ranked this way above bloodwork. I didn’t realize how absurd this entire industry is.

My head hurts and I can’t think about this anymore. And luckily, I have the insurance to stop thinking about it. But I’m guilty of not being more proactive in saying this has to change because it is so ridiculous. :\

Reasons why I have not embraced Texas life

I’m not a noob, I’ve lived in Texas most of my childhood (age 3 til 18) and now I’ve moved back (brain fart?) and want to make sure anyone contemplating the move think LONG and HARD about whether this is worth it. I moved back for family and thought I missed this state. I don’t think I miss it as much as I thought.

    1. Texas is a mosquito infested hotbed.
      I get hives from these motherfuckers and growing up in the suburbs I oft remember the drone of trucks spraying tons of pesticide to kill these suckers. The article also says Texas has the most cases of West Nile Virus, and that’s because we’re just barely scratching the surface of Zika. UGH. I left the northeast beauty of chilling in the evening grass and seeing little kids catch lightning bugs to never leaving my apartment and still being bitten by mosquitos.
    2. Giant ass cockroaches. This is what made me write this post. I can’t even post an image up here I’m so grossed out. I wake up after my evening nap (don’t judge) to brush my teeth and get ready for bed and there’s literally a 2-3 inch cockroach scuttling to a darker corner of my bathroom since I turned the light on. I can’t even. They move fast. They are huge. And they fucking fly. It is the stuff of nightmares that they can fly so close to your face.
    3. The heat and humidity is the stuff of nightmares. Remember, when you are looking at your friend’s FB and instagram of a cold beer on the river or hanging out at a beach, you forget that it oftentimes hits triple digits, you are in a concrete wasteland in Houston and your car is burning up after your short 5 minute trip to Target. And in my short walk across the parking lot where my skin is singing from the heat, I start questioning myself over and over again why I signed up for this torture.
    4. Cheap cost of living is not entirely true. Oh, you want to live in the city (instead of taking an hour commute each way to work, with terrible traffic and daily pile-ups on the interstate), then West University prices are close to $1 mil for a house with no backyard, your property taxes will be at least $10k, and don’t you forget that it FLOODS in this part of town. Or you can live in the suburbs and find alligators walking down your street (or shopping mall)..  I guess little Billy can’t really play in the driveway unless he wants to get West Nile, or heat stroke, or get eaten by an alligator.
    5. I am so embarrassed by so many of our representatives.
      Ted Cruz, crazy tea party who has done so many things to embarrass himself? And he thinks reading Dr. Seuss to his kids was a good use of tax-payer money and time in the debate on the ACA? (article states technically not a filibuster, but either way, wtf).
      Gov. Greg Abbott – stop wasting our time too. A special session to ram down our throats your unliked transgender bathroom bill despite it already being killed once? Oh, and guess what.. since lawmakers have been fighting over less important things, this special session is also needed or else Texas may not have licensed doctors after September because they haven’t reauthorized the Texas Medical Board. Good job.
      And John Cornyn thinks he’s invincible being so old and entrenched, but you can’t forever live in your voodoo world where you think getting big business oil money means you are looking out for your other fellow Houstonians when you vote against climate change (refer to above reasons, apocalyptic signs), when you don’t want to expand background checks for gun buyers, when you don’t want healthcare to help people who are not elite.
      Don’t get me started on our other issues that drive me crazy, off the top of my head.. Lt Gov Dan Patrick, TX recently passed an even tougher abortion law that has been banned in other states, ugh. can’t even think about this.
      This is why we are very keen to exercise our right to vote here.

Travel Public Transportation

I am the one who likes to read tons of blogs and reviews about the best way to use public transportation. For the most part, I felt the public transportation was much easier than I anticipated. So I also wanted to share the insights of our summer travel 2016. For costs and more details, I highly suggest reading the transportation section and other forums on trip advisor. I just wanted to show you that even though I worried so much (I am a huge worrywart), it ended out okay, and will be for you too! (for the below Scale 1-10 is easiest to hardest)

London
Heathrow into City

  • Scale 1: There is only 1 line – Piccadilly? And there is someone at the tube who can help you buy your oyster card if you are confused. I initially was looking for the 2 for 1 deal and how to get a national rail paper ticket instead of oyster card but that was way too confusing for me to try to find their office, so just pay 5 pounds for the oyster card (which you get back) and top off (add money). So easy

Tube

  • Scale 2: Once you get the hang of things, the tube/subway is actually very fast, comes frequently and pretty connected. One point off because our first day we were dumb people and didn’t realize the exits were at the end of the lines you get off (we initially thought you get off the train, go to a central point and then somehow get above ground), so were walking in circles and I was wondering if people ever got stuck and could never get out (because that’s what it felt like to us — we kept following the exit/out signs and somehow kept messing up for awhile).

Bus

  • Scale 2: Also easy, but remember you need to Wave It Down! Our first bus came and went, because we didn’t realize it doesn’t just see people and stop (which makes sense since the bus stop is for multiple busses, but we rarely use the bus in the States so had no clue). The busses are clean and there is an electronic board stating the next stop so you won’t get too lost if you already mapped your stops beforehand.
  • Can also use oyster card. I think the bus is just a one time subtraction (not depending on distance, unlike the tube which you have to swipe in and out so it’s more for the farther you travel).

Thalys: London to Paris, Paris to Amsterdam

  • Scale 1: Our first train! Super clean and nice station in London. We also keep forgetting that there are places open in the morning (I get hangry, so am always afraid of this issue). Not too long to walk through passport control. The Paris side is a bit .. grittier. There are people to help if you have questions though.
  • You can also buy a carnet of tickets to use for the metro in Paris either at information center (credit card only) or on the train (can use cash) — (more info, check out trip advisor, which is amazing for all of this information actually).
  • The Amsterdam station really is like the star at the top of a Christmas tree. Also has tourist information sites (closes at times, so come during some regular hours).

Paris

Navigo Découverte Pass

  • Scale 1: We bought a one week pass since our AirBnB was a bit outside of the main center and we’d have to train in/out daily. Also Paris is HUGE and when it’s hot, who wants to walk that much. So for us, it was way worth it. Once again I’ll refer you to trip advisor. It only works either Sun -> Sat or Mon -> Sun (I forget). Per online readings, you can start buying it at the end of the week (Thurs or Fri?). At most metro stations, there is someone to help. We had two people help us, as the first gentleman was so energetic and helpful and came out from behind his glass window to help us buy the tickets but then asked us to come back to help us validate it (I think we bought it 2 days early and he said we could only validate it the day before it starts… which is not what I read). Either way, we went the next day up to a random glass booth and the gentleman easily did that. Supposedly you add a 1x1cm (again, look this up) picture and you write your name on it. If you don’t have these mini passport photos, there are photo booths at a lot of the metro stations too (but it was kind of expensive at 5 euros if I remember). Nobody checked our cards, so I’m not sure if you absolutely have to add your photo to it.

Paris to Giverny

  • Scale 1: I believe we took SNCF. We went to their ticket office (because we didn’t feel smart enough to buy ourselves). The lady spoke enough English to tell us we should buy an open return (basically no specific time) and gave us a ticket. Didn’t seem to be too costly, so A+

Giverny train station to Monet House

  • Scale 3: There is a little tram, there are busses, you can rent bikes, and for us, we walked which was beautiful. This is where Google Maps kind of lead us astray (don’t follow it as it somehow wants you to walk on the main road which my guess would be kind of scary — I don’t think there’s a real sidewalk once you cross the Seine) and just follow the signs in Giverny. We came out of the train station (there’s two tracks, it’s a small station) and followed the curve of where the busses were parked, and then walked right up that street. You have to cross the Seine River. Somewhere on that walk, there is definitely a sign that kind of tells you where the walkway is and it says after you cross the river, you still need to walk straight a bit and turn off at a roundabout. We didn’t follow that, because I had always trusted Google Maps at that point. We turned 90 degrees right, right after the bridge. There was kind of a dirt trail so I thought I was on the right track. About 10 feet off of it, it seemed like the bike pathway veered left, so I thought we were still going about the right way. Then there’s kind of a sign that says trail. We ended up walking right along the Seine, and for awhile, you are behind a football field, and there’s not a real path and just some picnic tables and then you kind of just see shrubbery and to the right is this area of dirt and more trampled grass which is kind of worrisome if this is a real legit trail. Although this is not THE trail, it does lead you back onto THE trail so instead of what we did (I worried, made Clam walk a bit more other ways to check out if there were other trails – which is no, all dead ends), just take the shady looking trail. It’s kind of muddy at times, and on Google Maps you are just following the curve of the Seine River. We saw some early hikers who made me feel much better as they said this was the road to Giverny. And it’s actually quite pretty and peaceful, despite what may have been an error. As you curve out of the Seine and onto the main road, your little trail seems to end and you think the rest of the way you are to walk on the side of the road with the cars. That looks scary and do Not do this. Cross the main road, and go up the concrete path. Once you reach this cute house on your left where it looks like it could sell coffee but I’m not sure if it does (maybe 50 ft?), just turn right and you’ll see a concrete trail. Yay! I think this was the real trail we were supposed to walk the entire time! So then we did this for awhile (10-15 minutes?) On this trail, it was pretty and quiet and tree lined. But then it dumps you back to an intersection with the main road. On the left is some art gallery or store? There was a lot of yarn on the fence. Just turn left and take that road that seems to walk up a small hill and wind with it. There’s no sidewalk, but it’s a pretty walk past a lot of bed and breakfast’s and you’ll reach the entrance to the Monet House or at least more understandable directions at the end. Yay!

Amsterdam

  • Scale 1: After reaching the train station and information, step out of the gates (some people are swiping, but they are forever open and we didn’t have tickets to swipe) and go across the street/ tram tracks to the set of houses on your left which houses both a bigger tourist information and the public transport office. We got a 4 day pass since we were camping and needed to take the tram in/out every day. Otherwise, central Amsterdam is relatively walkable and others suggest no need to do this.
  • You need to tap your card when you enter/ get off transport. The electronic signs will show the next stop, so all very easy.

…. this is what I had posted when we were in Europe.

We also went on multiple trains in Italy (Milan – Cinque Terre – Florence – Rome – Pompeii) and Spain which were not bad at all. Would advise get the faster trains without local stops, our daytrip from Rome to Pompeii took forever to get home because we took the cheapest train. I almost cried with all the delays.

Good luck and have fun!

Homemade pasta

We miss Italy and our 3 month vacation. We had some delicious fresh trofie pasta in Cinque Terre, tried to recreate the flavor in Florence with endless days of pesto pasta, and ended with the best cacio e pepe in Rome.

So after my bread and pizza making expeditions, of course I also ventured into pasta (perhaps the easiest of the three). Which is essentially flour, egg and some good ol’ resting time. So simple!!

Hubs rolling out the dough. Thicker arms, thinner dough. 🙂

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Looking  more noodle-y. Lack of pasta machine equals different widths.

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Yum! Awaiting the pot.

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Cacio e Pepe

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Voila! Our simple yet tasty dinner.

And there you have it! Pasta making seems to be more forgiving … ie it appears you can leave the dough to rest any amount of time and it will still be okay, which means this may be in our weekly repertoire. And next time, with my beautiful basil plant (didn’t kill it this time around!), which has already yielded pesto and so much mozzarella-tomato-basil meals!

Ciao!

Christmas in Houston

Clam’s family is very into the Spirit of Christmas, including live trees, wreaths, stockings, and gifts. So each year, we do a little bit more. It started with a tree. Then stockings. And this year I even made a pretty darn’ good looking wreath with our leftover branches. I may end up like *those* people. With reindeer lights and giant snow-men in the front yard. But for now, here’s what we got..

photogrid_1481490540476Our tree for the last three years has always been topped by the puffin that’s been with us since Iceland. Good memories. He’s been a trooper through all of this.