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.

Different Perspectives

We are toying with the possibility of changing hockey associations after all the BS and drama that we experienced with WYH. This, as you might imagine, is not easy because we've spent our entire hockey lives over at WYH, dedicating countless amounts of time and effort to the program. With all that time and dedication you'd think they'd at least throw us a bone but that is wishful thinking when you're dealing with shortsighted egos. Either way, perhaps it's just a sign that it's time to move on.

With that in mind, there are a couple of possibilities, and which one is better is all a question of perspective. I was over at the other rink and saw a WYH compadre who jokingly (or not) commented that I was coming over to the "dark side." Ironically I now see WYH as the dark side, but it should be noted that I am alone in this thinking. My issues with WYH are mine and mine alone. I was also speaking with a parent from said association and he asked me what our situation was. I mentioned that we were looking at other options and his take on it was that we were seeking out "greener pastures."

So it just goes to show you that it's all about perspective, and one man's trash is another man's treasure, or something like that. Yet another adventure, so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ronald Rigdon for the pic.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Smoothing Things Out

I'm in no position to complain about this (so I won't), but I scored some incredible hockey sticks for N, but they weren't exactly what we were looking for. We are stoked on them in almost every respect - they are high end sticks that retail for more than I am willing/able to spend, though we got them for a fraction of that (they are discontinued models); they are super light, and they have the blade curve we were looking for. My friend gets them for his players but when they move on or change teams he has all these overstocks left over. Occasionally they make them available to the public, but timing is everything. We connected just in time. The only caveat is that they have "grip" shafts, which seem to be the sticks that people want today. When I go to Stateline almost every stick they sell has a grip shaft, and when you look online, grips seem to be the most prevalent. I'm not sure what most of N's teammates use, but I'm guessing they have grips, as well.

Grip sticks, as you can imagine, have this thin film of rubber over the finish that gives them... you guessed it, grip. I guess in certain ways this helps with puck handling and even your shot, but I'm not a fan of them. If N liked them, then we'd be all set, but he's lukewarm on them, as well. When I went to meet my friend to get the sticks, he handed them to me and I felt the grip but couldn't say anything. He was doing me a big favor, one which I would never take for granted, so I bought the sticks. As I mentioned, they are awesome in every other way

Anyway, I was talking to the guys at Stateline and one of them mentioned that you could simply put a light layer of clear coat over the grip, and it should work. I wasn't even sure what clear coat was, so I did a little investigating and decided to give it a try. You can get the stuff at any auto parts store, and it's basically clear spray paint. I took N's new stick out the barn, sprayed a couple of coats, and voila, goodbye to the grip. It was pretty cool, and there was absolutely no effect on the weight of the stick.

So N went from having one undersized intermediate stick to having two new sticks in the correct size. Plus, they're nice sticks, and he's stoked on them. I love when that happens.

Now we're ready for hockey season, except that it's all over until October. Oh well, at least we'll be prepared.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Leilani and Jade for the pic.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Senior Citizen's Discount

I guess I kind of figured this would happen at some point, but maybe not this soon. I was at the local small Coop nearby, which refer to affectionately as the "Hippie Coop," and was standing in line at the register when my turn came up. I didn't have a lot of purchases and when the cashier, who was a young woman, rang me up, she asked if I might be eligible for a specific type of discount and pointed a sign by the register. I wasn't sure what she was talking about but my eyes followed her finger and saw the sign she was pointing at: Senior Citizens discount, age 55 and up.

I told her no, not quite yet, but one day. Now I know I'm getting old, but I guess I'm starting to look the part, as well. Maybe if I changed my clothes more often I might look younger... or cut my hair.

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

Burning Like Crazy

As is usually the case, we've burned through all of this year's wood, which is en par for the course except that it happened much earlier than usual. As a result, we've been dipping into next year's wood for some time now, and it pains me to see how that pile is dwindling. To compound my suffering, it's only April and we will probably burn wood for another two months. I could see burning through at least 1/3 of next year's wood, which is crazy when you think about it. How could this happen? This winter wasn't even that severe, and we had some stretches of really warm weather, and when I say warm, I'm talking crazy warm.

Either way, no sense in whining about it... yeah, right. I have a theory or two about what happened, and on a bright note, it is fixable. I made a conscious effort this past summer to split the wood thicker. I did this because the bigger pieces burn longer, but it makes my life easier - for any given block of wood, there is less splitting to do. Big pieces take longer to dry, but I figured since it was year two, it had plenty of time to dry. Now my biggest issue with big pieces is that they take up a lot of space, so when you stack it, you get less bang for your buck. I know it's all supposed to be the same in the end, but I do think smaller pieces stack more densely and subsequently, there is more wood to burn for a pile of the same size. At least that's how it feels.

The take home message is that I'm either going to have to split the wood smaller again, or stack the pile higher, or both. This dipping into year two is a drag, but dipping this much into year two is completely unacceptable. I was so stoked this fall because I had two killer piles going and I was ready, but having burned through so much wood I'm beginning to reassess my feelings of pride. I'm not so bitchen, after all, am I?

Plus, with spring's arrival, I get to stress about obtaining another truckload of logs, which is never a simple matter. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to hans.emtenas for the pic.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017


In a break from past behaviors, I have been talking to my mom on an amazingly regular basis. I'm talking 4-5 times a week, which is more than I talked to them when I lived at home. My mom has been having health issues, and she's alone out in LA. This is a complicated situation because she's a very difficult person to be around and she alienates every single person she is close to. She has even pushed her kids to the breaking point, but being her kids, we always come back for more. I went for years without contact, and I don't deny that I was not an ideal son, but it was an intolerable situation and I did what I felt I had to do.

Now, with her health on the fringe, I feel like I have to suck it up and be more of a presence. For all it's worth, my mom had mellowed out and is not as vindictive, though she still enjoys sticking the knife in now and then. I guess I have to just lose a little blood because she's getting up there in the years and as I mentioned, she doesn't really have a lot of help out there. My brother was being pretty helpful and attentive, but even he got fed up with her abuse.

Speaking of my brother, I've re-connected with him, as well. It's been a little awkward but on the whole pleasant, so I just have to go with it. It makes my mom happy that we're talking, and I think that as my mom deals with her health issues, it's better if her two loser sons are there to help out. It's the right thing to do, and I feel better that we are somehow coming together as a family.

So I'm going back out there to help out, and I think my brother is coming down, as well, with his fiance, no less. It's hard for me to make this trip because there is always so much going on, but it's time to be a man, right? We'll see how this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith A D for the pic.

Reflections on Hockey

Well, the season is over and I have to say that it's a bit of relief on a number of levels. I think most parents experience a little burnout by the end of the season because it's such a marathon getting kids to practices, games, and team parties. Then there are the emotional ups and downs of winning, losing, and other assorted disappointments. I didn't talk about this much during the season but I definitely felt a profound sense of betrayal by DW and the WYH program, but I'm also aware that I'm not in a position to whine... not that this will stop me.

I will make this as short and sweet as I can, but this year they brought in a slew of players to bring up the numbers of the program and make a super team that could win it all. For the record, they did win it all. My gripe is that N should have been on that team, but I'm not in charge so it's not my decision. While the case could be made that I'm just a whiny parent who wants their kid on the A team (I am), several parents from the "other" team came up to me and said N should have been on that team. One person in the know even said not a single person he knows isn't scratching their heads as to why he's not on this team. Same person even said before the season started that N was a shoe-in, so I'm not just deluding myself.

Either way, besides being qualified in terms of skill, N has been a loyal WYH person for years, and we as a family have been involved with this program from the get go, doing more than our share of helping out. Even in lieu of all that, N was good enough to make that team, and better than some of those clowns they brought in, who for the record bailed out on WYH for greener pastures. How's that for loyalty?

Clearly DW and various parents had an agenda that meant bringing this outside group in, keeping them together, at the expense of kids who were more deserving. It was really a crappy situation and made me lose all respect for everyone involved, some of whom I didn't respect in the first place. They got what they wanted, but I have zero love for WYH.

On a bright note, N had fun and I really think he grew as a player. Playing on the B team was probably a better introduction to full contact hockey, and I think he really embraced the roll. It was hard at times having players who were total slackers or had crap attitudes, but I'm proud of N in that it didn't stop him from going out and working his hardest. He really grew as a player and got a lot out of it. At times he had to do the work of two players, which may have strengthened his mojo.

Regardless of the positives, however, I feel our time at WYH may be over. This is not solely because I'm bitter, but there are several issues at play. I won't go into them, but suffice it to say that changes may be on the horizon, for better or worse. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mika Kylmaniemi for the pic.