This week in learning: Grass & New Shoes!

Standard

More hope of sunshine & warmth for my snow bound readers. Torrey Pines beach on my way in to work this morning.

First, for my fellow crazy cat lovers, a recommendation:

Sweet Prince works for Petco corporate and brought me this self contained packet for grass seeds for the cats. Let me tell you, they LOVE it! And? it was remarkably easy to grow.

I planted the seeds in the bag just before new years. Within a week the grass had grown to the height shown and I was able to start “mowing” it to feed it to the cats. Four weeks later it is still going strong and I will probably have it for maybe another few weeks. Retail price on the Petco website is $3.47 – a BARGAIN if you ask me! Chip is a grass eater. Hell, Chip chews on ANYTHING! Plastic bags are his latest obsession. he chews on the edges of the kitchen trash bag that hangs over the edge. He’s also the one who barfs more prolifically (shocking eh?). However, since I’ve had this grass to put in his food bowl every night – which he RUNS to get – he has not barfed at ALL. Amazing.

OK, next thing. Not really something I learned I supposed yet. Still kind of another product review! All unsolicited, I assure you. Exactly one week ago I put on my favorite Nine West brown shoes to wear to work. Part way through the day I noticed that the left shoe felt odd. Turns out it had split open on one side! I have the same pair of shoes in black and brown because they were so comfortable and I wear them almost exclusively 5 days a week. Still, after only a year I was mighty disappointed that the shoe ripped like that. Upon examining the black ones when I got home, I saw potential weakness in the same spot though they are still intact for now. Bummer! They were only $45 each when I bought them, but still! Anyhow, given that I am watching my money carefully I made sure to go through every possible discount site and use every coupon/cash back opportunity I could as I looked online for a replacement pair of brown shoes. Happily, for a grand total with shipping and tax of $52 I ended up with TWO new pairs of shoes which already arrived and they fit perfectly AND are super comfy – thank you Naturalizer shoes!

And some quick hits in learning:

  • If you are at all interested in what is going on in the middle east – download a program called Livestation and, I kid you not, watch or listen to the Al Jazeera English station. Because as we all know, our own cable news channels are much more interested in Charlie Sheen’s latest arrest vs what might possibly be going on overseas!
  • Cat sneezes are kind of adorable. Cat sneezes at 4:30am when said cat is sleeping RIGHT NEXT TO YOU are not quite so adorable.
  • If you are a night owl, and you get a little hungry at 2am for a snack – please keep in mind that other people sleeping in the house WILL be woken up when you POP MICROWAVE POPCORN!!
  • Can you tell that sleeping 8 hours straight uninterrupted in my house is a HUGE challenge? Who knew that would be the case with the youngest occupant being 14 and not, say, 4 months old?

Best birthday cake EVER

Standard

It was tradition as I grew up that my mom would make the
same cake for me every year for my birthday. A truly rich &
dark chocolate chocolate chip bundt cake. Ingredients include
chocolate pudding mix, cake mix, eggs, chocolate chips and sour
cream. No frosting. It was pure chocolate bliss. On my 18th
birthday I returned to my dorm room at Bishops for the last half of
my senior year with a cake in hand. It was one of those years (like
this one), when winter break ended on my birthday. I did share with
my dorm mates, but I also pretty much ate half that cake in one
night. I then promptly had probably the worst headache of my LIFE!!
Seriously, I can STILL feel the pounding in my head 28 years later.
Over the years I made the cake here & there but after
awhile since I am the only one in the house who eats chocolate, it
drifted into the past. Then two years ago, something wonderful
happened. A store opened right up the road called Nothing Bundt
Cakes.
Coworkers stumbled on it and brought those little bundles of
heaven in for birthdays. Their signature flavor? Chocolate
chocolate chip of course! With this melt in your mouth cake
& butter cream cheese frosting. Oh. My. And they come in
these utterly perfectly sized single servings. I keep meaning to go
there and then forgetting. It never occurred to me to get one for
my birthday. But my sweet co worker Tracy went there yesterday at
lunch and brought one back for me. For the first time in years the
old tradition was relived! Only I did learn my lesson & I
did not overindulge. Since my trainer is going to make us all do 46
“birthday burpees” tonight, I thought I’d save half the cake as a
reward for that torture!

Wouldn’t you?

 

Swirlicious!

Standard

I went today after SB’s baseball game to try out Swirlicious – a self serve frozen yogurt store just opened Memorial Day weekend in Carlsbad. YUM YUM YUM. The slide show about covers it all:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The yogurts are .38 per ounce and most of the folks I saw go through while I was there were paying between $3-$6 for their containers. Mostly it hung around $4. They give out tasters and in addition to my sorbet combo I tried every flavor except peanut butter & espresso since I just don’t like those in general. They were all really really good. That Dreamy Dark Chocolate is WELL named. I really loved the Pink Lemonade Sorbet but you have to keep in mind I like my frozen ice cream or yogurt to be more on the tart side and simple. I’m actually not much of a topping person. I definitely could see myself getting the Cookies & Cream with crumbled oreo toppings & dark chocolate syrup (not that I’ve already planned my next serving or anything!). The California Tart is a GREAT base yogurt – any topping would go well on it and it is a great blend of sweet & tart.

Anyhoo – despite it being a sort of  ‘in the family’ business to me, I was still quite pleasantly surprised at how good it is! While I was there – on a Sunday early evening – there was a nice steady stream of walk in traffic & everyone was complimenting them on the place. And that was without any advertising at ALL other than signs at the location. There were some initial challenges in getting the right equipment with the electrical system/codes there, then it took some time to decorate (I think it looks fantastic!) so when everything was signed off they just said DO IT and opened the doors. It was so spur of moment that I don’t think the website is up just yet, but here it is anyway:

www.swirliciousyogurt.com

If you are in town – GO – I promise you it’s worth the trip :-)

Monday musings

Standard

Amber shows us how Lazy Sundays are supposed to be

Amber shows us how Lazy Sundays are supposed to be

I love when she rolls over like that :-) So I am showing off the camera a bit. That photo was taken from about 6 feet away as I sat on the sofa. Here’s another from the same distance but with zoom:

"Mommy, WHY are you taking pictures of me?"

"Mommy, WHY are you taking pictures of me?"

Now here is one from the other night. Low light, me sitting at the dining room table and SP standing at entrance to the kitchen, partial zoom – I’m about 20 feet away?

Grinnin' fool :-)

Grinnin' fool :-)

Then this one at the game on Saturday – oh hey, they won again 24-0 and I got gypped out of ice cream AGAIN! Anyway, I was pretty far away with this shot. In the stands on the opposite side of the field from where they were practicing – full zoom:

Holding for the kicker during warm ups

Holding for the kicker during warm ups

When you look at the full sized version you can see SB’s face pretty well and you can read the numbers quite clearly.

For a camera on sale for $150 I am quite pleased at the results so far after taking zero time to read up on how to use it!! :-))

***************************************************************

For those who actually read here regularly, the roof leak from last year’s rainy season is due to be repaired this month. Coordinated with the neighbor who shares the building with me (she has almost the same leak) and we are getting both sides repaired for under $1600. Whew! We were both kinda freaked about possible 5 figure costs and total replacement! Five year guarantee on the repairs too.

****************************************************************

Something I’ve noticed on twitter is how many folks complain about their particular cell phone providers. Specifically those who have iPhones salivating over the potential opportunity to ditch AT&T once that exclusive contract runs out sometime in 2010. Here’s the problem – be careful what you wish for! The complaints I hear about AT&T are in regards to the network coverage and signal strength. Fair enough as I’ve had some issues depending on where I am in the county. Though, quite honestly, no connection issues in quite a while. However, the issues I hear about Verizon, T-Mobile etc are related to billing errors and customer service. IOW, the stuff that hits your wallet. And for me anyway, that is where AT&T *shines*. I’ve NEVER been hassled if I call with a question about what I feel is an erroneous charge on my bill. They have reversed everything I’ve ever questioned. And when you have 5 lines and 2 are your kids’ well you know how easily they can sign up for stuff without knowing! But they *always* reverse it! It makes me very happy to know that whenever I call, it is EASY to get to a live person, they seem to be here in the US (no accents that you cannot decipher), and they always go out of their way to take care of the problem. So, you know what? I’ll put up with some spotty signal strength now and then in order to keep that stellar customer service!

Meanwhile I still adore my iPhone. Sat on that sofa all day yesterday but still felt connected thanks to the little computer in my lap. Between that and the new camera with two large capacity memory cards, I am going to go to DC laptop free! It will be so odd not to drag that laptop bag around the airport, but oh so wonderful.

Focus

Standard

focus

Last year I posted a theory that we are all pretty much immersed in the ADD way of living thanks in large part to the internet (and having too many bazillion channels on TV). Given the recent explosion in Facebook and Twitter activity/friends, it’s really only become worse since that post.

Well, one of the reasons I am posting here a little less often is because I am trying to reign in the ADD. I am trying to FOCUS again. It’s not easy! I takes a very concsious effort to CLOSE the laptop in front of the tv when a show comes on that I really want to watch. A nice side effect of that is that I am more apt to get stepping on the Wii fit while watching instead. No, that is not quite an ADD thing as my attention is still really on the TV show. It’s very repetitive/rhythmic stepping so doesn’t take a ton of brain power. At least, lots less than continuing to surf the ‘net while “watching”! If I decide that I *want* to fiddle around on the computer, then I must turn the TV off. If I have a set task, I must stick to it before I can check any of the social media sites (including other folks blogs – I felt horrible how I was skimming those!) ONE THING AT A TIME! That also means that rather than spilling out 4 lines of crap here because I feel guilty, I will actually set aside TIME to write a post because I WANT to. Like this one. Which was my planed afternoon break from work today :-)

Of course, I would have been a lot easy to wake up with this new found FOCUS goal if a) I had actually slept all night vs waking up at 2:30 and never falling back asleep. and b)

nosignal

if AT&T service had not completely bombed out Sunday night thanks to a cell phone tower crapping out – when you have ONLY cell phones that gets a little creepy. What was worse is that AT&T’s web site is USELESS! One would think that a large cell phone provider like that would KNOW how many folks have ditched their land lines and also KNOW that the internet is going to be their only means of seeing what is up with service. So, like the cable company, one would THINK there would be a place where they would post a notice of a known outtage right? But NOOOO. I have to start emailing other friends who have AT&T to see if THEY were down.  Everyone was having intermitent issues. Then this morning it was still out and there is still no word on their web page and I don’t like that Sportsboy cannot call out so I call tech support when I get to work and finally find out that YES, a major tower was down. Argh. It’s all back up now, but really, c’mon AT&T! Get your website up to speed with something customers actually NEED!

Oh, and thanks to Twitter after I got off the phone with tech support I thought to search there and found running conversations about the outtage though no one (for some odd reason) had bothered to call AT&T directly! So I twittered for about 10-15 minutes sending out the word and replying to some posting questions. Stopped a few people from making the trip to one of the stores at any rate. Which just shows you when Twitter addiction comes in VERY handy!

Deal or No Deal?

Standard

Update 6/28/09: Oh man – just days after the loss of the King of Pop, it seems we’ve lost the King of Pitchmen. I just heard him on our morning radio show a few weeks ago and he was really one of a kind. I’ll be going to the county fair today where there will be a lot of Billy Mays protege’s – wonder if they will have on black armbands to honor their King?

If you watch live TV for any length of time you have seen these commercials. Typically featuring Billy Mays. Oh, you think you don’t know who that is? Oh yes, you do:

billymays

He is the premier As See on Tv! pitch man. You know your product has hit the Big Time when he is shilling it. Being at home so much as I was over winter break and also being rather addicted to cable news shows, well, I started to get tempted by these ads :-) The ones that caught my attention to the point of at least considering a purchase were the Twin Draft Guard, Sham WOW, PedEgg and the seemingly ubiquitos Snuggie.

I got closest to ordering the Snuggie. yeah, I know, it’s a blanket with sleeves for cripes sake!!! Why would I spend money on THAT? Well, I tend to get cold around my mid section and this seemed the perfect way to keep my theromstat turned down in the house saving some money on energy and also being snuggly warm on my sofa while reading or blogging. Then I went on their web site and it turned out that the seemingly cheap $19.95 price was a teaser. Shipping was $15!! Suddenly the $20 Snuggie (buy one, get one free, just pay that shipping rate again!) was $40 with tax and shipping. $55 is I wanted two. Ok, not such a cheap price for what looks pretty ridiculous in reality. Then they swept the nation!! People were mocking it on blogs (but also making their own versions), and the local radio show was giving them away one week just for fun.*For the record as of today the shipping is down to $8 per Snuggie*

Still, I have resisted.

But just what is it with these As Seen On TV products? Did you know there is a website with all of their products?

Why is it that these things are As Seen On TV and generally not in stores? I say ‘generally’ because I’ve seen some of the ones on that website in my local hardware store – bought the dryer balls there – and could be further tempted by these products without paying the shipping. But doesn’t this all seem Too Good to be True?  If the product is so darn great it would have a major distributor, right? Are these really all entreprenuerial inventors who just don’t want to play the retail game with the Big Boys? If so this seems pretty cool to be Sticking it to The Man…but what if these products are just junk that couldn’t get a real supplier? Are you just then falling for the sales pitch? Because I must say that the Draft Guard seems like something I need (maybe with proper insulation I would not be tempted to get the Snuggie, right?)

What say you dear readers? Have you purchased a product from a TV ad? Deal or No Deal? Which was MUST I have (or not)?

Because that Sham WOW? Well, I think it would be truly cool to say “WOW!” every time I have to clean :-)

LED report 2008 version

Standard

Last year I started the process to replace all my holiday lights outside with LED’s. By the end of the season I had replaced all but the lights on the roof line. This year, I was apble to replace those and the only non-LED lights outside are the 4 red bows at the top of each wall post. I even replaced the lights on the mantle. The tree is still old style. I am happy to report that from the same period in 2006 which was all old style lights, to this year, my electric bill went down $70! W00t!! No grievance there :-)

Why I love AIG

Standard

Yes, I know, I may be the only person other than someone who still works there (and gets to go on spa weekends) to actually LOVE AIG. But you see, it’s because they bought 21st century insurance this year. And I have loved 21st century since they were, well, 20th century! Seriously, ex#2 found 20th century back in the 90s and they had the cheapest damn car insurance so that’s who we used. But, any insurance company is really only as good as it’s coverage right? What happens when you have to file a claim and all that. Well, this is why I love them. They pay. No hassle. Every time. I’ve only used them personally two times. Once to pay someone MusicMan hit, then when he flew my car. I know, I could simply say that he totalled my car, but it was my dream car and he really, truly did fly the damn thing. It was devastating – for the car. He was fine since it was my dream car which happened to have an airbag every 3 inches or so in the frame (or so it seemed since every damn one deployed.) Anyhow, given the devastation and the expense of the vehicle lost, and the overall mental and emotional trauma of the whole event (oh, 3 years ago btw so pre-blog), the bright spot was 21st century. I had the FULL value of my car back in my hands within 10 days. No kidding. Had a replacement vehicle almost immediately thanks to them. And both claims were remarkably easy to process. No haggling over the value of the damage (or the obliterated car). Well, then you can imagine how happy I was when I found out that the driver in this accident also used 21st century. It’s taken a little over a year, but MM finally got his settlement from them. And it was…umm….freaking generous!!! Waaaaaaaaaaaayyy more than he expected. As in, enough to pay me back IN FULL for ALL of the stuff he owes me for. Enough to pay off his court fines from all of those ‘oopsies’ in his past. Enough to…well…really start fresh, debt free. It’s truly amazing.

So yeah, we LOVE AIG. And maybe their propensity for PAYING on claims is why they are bankrupt? Ack, I hope not because I must say it so damn refreshing to do business with an insurance company that actually DOES what it is supposed to do.

Product endoresements

Standard

First, a food source (Hey, I haven’t done TOO badly on the food theme for the month!): Eat Well Guide.

During the audience question and answer session with Al Gore in Austin, FoodGal was lucky enough to ask a question about beef. Specifically whether he was aware that the beef industry is actually the biggest contributor to green house gases thanks to feeding all our cattle corn products which causes them to procude methane in large quantities. In laymans terms – corn makes cows fart. A LOT. It’s not a natural food for their stomachs to process. They are supposed to eat grain. Her point of course, is that it is time to publicize that. Stop selling the idea that corn fed beef is a premium product because it is not. What I love about FoodGal is that she is not a militant vegetarian. She’s made her own choices, but she is also always looking out for ways that everyone else can eat healthier, locally, and supporting sustainable products. Of course, her question got the laugh line answer of the day since Gore answered quite honestly that he was aware of it and that he clearly wasn’t doing much to work on that issue since he eats beef ;-) She then wrote a follow up editorial to him about how her point was not that he should stop eating it, just that he should focus on eating beef that is grain fed and from sustainable farms. She and I discussed this quite a bit on the plane ride home and then I asked her how I could find places that seel grain fed meat. Ta da! She directed me to The Eat Well Website. Put in your zip code and search on all sorts of food sources. Grocery stores, farmers markets, restaurants etc. I found out that Henry’s markets are on there. So is Jimbos which is just around the corner, but I don’t have an employee discount card for them! So my goal this month with SportsBoy back is to track my grocery budget with a combination of the Dream Dinners (not necessarily from organic/sustainable suppliers :-( ) and Henry’s only.

On the subject off environmentally (green) products, here is another one. Nail polish with a consience. I went to Longs and bought some and then donated my other personal polish bottles to the gal who does my nails because I want to stick with this brand only.

Just as a background for those who have only been reading my site in the past year – my roots in environmental issues were set early on. My interest in bird watching sparked my awareness of preserving natural resources and a college paper that I wrote on Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring really cemented that desire to support preservation efforts. As FoodGal and I discussed, environmental issues go hand in hand with the food industry and it is our hope that the “mainstreaming” of organic food products will bring issues like grain fed vs corn fed beef to light. Anytime I run into a debate about Global Warming, rather than stubbornly argue the issue of whether humans are to blame or not, I stress that the point is that finding alternative energy sources, encouraging the reduction of waste or using less products that create waste (grocery bags for instance), buying organic foods, cutting back on electricty and water use are all GOOD things no matter WHY you do them.

Tomorrow! Tomorrow! 6:00pm tomorrow! It’s only a daaaay. Aaaaawaaaaay! (apologies for the earworm, but you knew I had to do it)