Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oh Brother

Our Brother printer took a dive recently and while it's not a vital part of our lives, it sure does come in handy on a regular basis. With that in mind, we decided to replace it rather than go without. Naturally my OCD kicked in and I did some reasonably thorough research on new printers. What I learned is that you can get a decent printer for a reasonable price, and interestingly enough, they often come with free shipping.

Our old printer was pretty old, though in this crazy tech world that we live in, things get old within a year. It's completely ridiculous, if you ask me, but nobody's asking me. Either way, our printer was well over 15 years old, and it was on the nicer end when we first got it. It had a fax and a phone and a few other things. I have to say that it served us well, which is a testament to Brother products, and we probably could have fixed it if we had any clue as to what we were doing, but we don't, so we didn't.

Shopping around you begin to realize that printers have definitely progressed, at least in terms of size and cost. We ended up getting a decent printer, another Brother, and we got free shipping from Best Buy. The printer itself was pretty basic with little in the way of bells and whistles, though I would not have minded a copier/scanner. We have a scanner and accomplish the same goal with an extra step, so we went bare bones. The printer cost less than $50, and it came with the drum and toner, which will set you back another $50. Plus, it's compact and works very nicely.

All in all we're once again happy with our tech purchase because we got a great deal, free shipping, and a reliable product. Don't you just love when that happens?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to nos_inventory for the pic.

Fruit Salad OCD

My latest exercise in OCD happens to have a healthy edge to it - fruit salad. If you can believe this one, I've been making fruit salad (not unlike this one in the pic) for everyone and have been really into it. It takes a bit of effort and thought and it requires some legwork to get all the fruit, but the end result is a tasty, healthy, and fun way to start the day. Plus, I get to indulge my OCD about getting the fruit, which isn't always easy to find.

This all started several months back when I wanted to make sure the kids start their day with some fruit. Truth be told, they eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially when we do vegetarian days. Even when we don't, we eat a pretty healthy serving of veggies every day, more than your average person, and definitely more than you'll get at any restaurant. They also eat fruit with their lunch, usually an apple or pear, or some grapes.

I started giving the fruit in the morning, usually some cantaloupe or some strawberries, and it worked out fine. We started getting some really crappy melons, however, and I started to ponder how to liven things up. Now I like melons but am for the most part fairly ambivalent about them. The problem is, when you get fruit salad in any restaurant or breakfast bar, it's practically all melon, either cantaloupe or honeydew. Consequently, I avoid it.

I decided to make fruit salad with stuff I like, which basically meant no melons. I started with pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and clementines, but over time it has morphed into its current incarnation of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, clementines, and mango... and sometimes kiwi. When I can find them cheap I'll add raspberries, but they're expensive. I've removed pineapple from the equation, though I still like it.

What's crazy is that I'm totally into it. Except for peeling the mango it's pretty easy and boils down to washing the fruit, but by the time I've finished making it, I'm stoked with the end result. It looks beautiful with all the colors, especially the dark berries contrasting with the yellows (mango and clementine) and reds (strawberry). And, everyone loves eating it. No problems on this end getting the kids to start their day off with a big bowl of fruit. Plus, I get to placate the Martha Stewart side of me, so everyone is happy.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Brent Hofacker for the pic.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Good Shopping Vibes at Dick's

I'm a fan of online shopping because in addition to the fact that you don't have to drive to the store and deal with crowds or people in general, you also tend to get better prices and you can't beat the selection. In fact, in most stores around us, the selection is fairly paltry compared to what's on any given website. You can't even compare. That doesn't mean that the online shopping experience is perfect. The one huge disadvantage with shopping online is that you can't try things on or examine them closely. This isn't a problem if you know exactly what you want, especially for me when I buy jeans or a book, or something along those lines.

However, it can be a significant problem when buying stuff for the kids. I've run into this problem trying to get them a wetsuit, and just recently N needed a new pair of cleats for LAX. I'm still trying to sort out the wetsuit dilemma (more on this later), but LAX is happening now, so something had to be done. In the past we've gone to Stateline and while they're super helpful and I love to shop there, most of the cleats they carry don't fit N that well. He benefits from a slightly wider shoe, which is not always easy to find, at least when you're trying not to drop a big load of cash.

Then I went to Dick's Sporting Goods online store, and there were so many cleats, I didn't know where to start. I benefited from starting on the early side, but even still, they have more cleats (and shoes, for that matter) than I could even fathom. The prices were good because they were having a sale, and I broadened my search to include football cleats, which widened my options and brought prices down. Anyone who is involved with LAX will know that LAX equipment is way over-priced. What made the shopping experience truly worthwhile, however, is that Dick's offers free shipping, and free return shipping if need be.

I definitely "needed be" because my first order was too small, so I ordered up. The cleats arrived and most importantly he likes them. So he's happy with a cool pair of new cleats, and I'm happy because I got a good deal and free shipping. I love when that happens.

I always figured that the high cost of sports equipment would abate once hockey ended, but that's clearly not the case. Then there's the issue of outfitting everyone for surfing, but let's not go there.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mike Mozart for the pic.

Wetsuit Search

I've been looking at wetsuits for the kids and I found some pretty good deals on new wetsuits. My original plan was to go used, but most used suits are not that cheap, especially when you factor in shipping. Plus, when you buy a used suit, you can never be too sure how it was cared for, and there's the issue of other people's urine. Like they say, there are two types of surfers - those that pee in their wetsuits and those that lie about it. Having worn wetsuits for years I'm not so squeamish about it, but the kids might think differently.

Either way, it really boils down to cost, and if I can get a new suit for near the price of a used one, I would definitely go that route. I may have found just that, but am still not sure how to proceed. I've found plenty of used suits on Ebay but some are outrageously expensive, and I wonder who the heck would buy them. There are cheap ones around $20, but some are complete junk, and a more realistic price point for a used suit is around $45-50. This is a good price if a suit retails at around $200, but nobody in their right mind would buy a beginning surfer a suit for that much. Plus, once you factor in shipping at around $10-15, you're looking at about $60-70, which is still a good price for a wetsuit, albeit a used one.

However, if I could find a new suit for around the price, wouldn't that be a better way to go? Sure, I'm not going to find a top of the line O'Neill or Rip Curl, but for the first go around, maybe an entry level suit would be a good way to go. I'm sort of leaning toward this, though it may not win me points on the home front, but what else is new?

We'll see where this one goes, but for now, at least the goal is in sight. As of now we still need one more board and two wetsuits. If time and finances permit, I'll get them both some booties, as well, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to jonny baker for the pic.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Game Night

We headed over to homeschool game night the other night and despite our (my?) reservations, we had a great time. One of the reasons that I'm reluctant for the kids to go to some of these evening get-togethers is that they require that parents attend, as well. They discourage drop-offs and make you feel guilty if you do. Now I sort of understand where they are coming from because they work hard and do a good job organizing these events, but I don't think it's necessary to make the parents stay for the night. Mind you, I like all these parents, I just don't want to spend an entire evening sitting there while the kids play. Plus, the kids are at the age where they probably don't want the parents hovering, anyway. I would be more than happy to help set up and then come back at the end of the evening and help clean up. I have no problem with that, but I'm not sure that's allowed.

Well, another event was coming up and I told A I would take her but I wasn't going to stay. She would have to work out the logistics. It just so happened that on this evening N was sleeping over at a buddies house, so mom said she would stay and maybe it would be more fun if the two of us were there. I agreed, so the three of us went. A has a blast at these things because she's a social kid and it's a bunch of her buddies hanging out and being kids. It happened to be game night, so I guess they play games, though I can't say for sure.

We were sitting around the living room chatting, which really boiled down to listening to one guy talk the whole time, when someone suggested we play a game. I wasn't sure if they were being serious but figured I'd go along with it, so we sat around the table and played a game the name of which I've forgotten. Basically you choose a phrase from a book, draw a picture of what you think the phrase looks like, and then the person next to you has to try to identify your drawing. It goes on and on around the table and the result were amazingly entertaining.

Yes, I confess, it was a lot of fun, and we ended up having a blast. So much so that we had no clue what the kids were up to, though I'm sure that's just the way they like it. I'm not sure if I'll be jumping for joy for the next event, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had at game night.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Farouq Taj for the pic.

Unwelcome Passenger

I was beginning to suspect that there was an unwelcome passenger in my car, and the reason for my suspicion was because I noticed pieces of snack mix on the floor or in cup holders. I even found a hole in one of the bags. My kids were skeptical and thought I'd probably accidentally poked a hole and it spilled out, but I had my doubts. I eventually found a hole in the garbage bag we keep in the car, and sure enough, snack mix was on the floor.

I couldn't really figure out how a critter might have gotten in, and there was no smell or traces of its presence, i.e., critter poop. For the record, I'm happy about this. I finally decided to get to the bottom of this situation and try and catch the thing, so I broke out the Have a Heart trap. I set it up in the evening and the next morning lo and behold, a mouse. I was not surprised, though mom and the kids were a little shocked. I jokingly said I was going to catch the mouse and feed it to our cats - they were not amused. I released the critter down the road and am hoping that's the end of it, but you never know. I'm thinking I should set another trap and see what happens. Hopefully he wasn't in the car too long and didn't establish a cozy home, or even worse, a family. I'm guessing we'll find out soon enough as the weather warms up.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mark Tizard Getty Artist for the pic.

Friday, April 7, 2017

LAX Preparation

Now that hockey is over, it's time to start thinking about spring sports, and that of course means lacrosse (LAX). There is significant crossover between hockey and LAX, so we'll be seeing a lot of the same families well into summer. In light of this, I tried to convince N to play for another program, maybe one with closer ties to where he might go to school one day, or at the very least not so closely linked to the bad hockey vibes, but he said he wanted to play for the same team. Who am I to argue? They are a good team, no question, but my feelings are that it's time to move on. Clearly I'm alone in this thinking.

Either way, we had to dust off the LAX gear and check the sizes on various pieces of equipment. As would be expected, several things need an upgrade, so that's our current mission. Nothing major, so that means it's not so painful in terms of cost. Fortunately the big items, like helmet and pads, still fit. New shoes are in order, but there are numerous options when you look outside the LAX box, i.e., many sports use cleats, and buying specialized LAX cleats bumps up the price significantly while also severely limiting the availability. It's all marketing in the end because cleats are pretty standard across the different sports, so a soccer or football cleat will do just fine. Baseball maybe not so much.

So with this in mind, we did some online shopping and found a nice pair of brand name cleats for a great price. I got the wrong size at first, which would have been a serious bummer if not for Dick's Sporting Goods, which offers free shipping as well as free return shipping. How cool is that? I returned the small shoes and got a bigger size, though it was still a bit of a crap shoot because without trying them on you just don't know. As luck would have it, however, they fit great (I took a chance and got a size bigger - whew!), though if they hadn't, we could have returned them again, for free.

Now he's set. I have to say, as much as I love hockey, it's nice to get a break from the rink and all the drama. Looking forward to warmer weather and the activities that go with it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Fred Backhaus for the pic.