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Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Benefits of Disconnecting Cable Become Appearant

She told the baker what to write on
her birthday cake.
Daughter #4 just recently had her sixth birthday. Nearly a month prior to her big day, Wifey and I began asking her what items she would like as gifts.

The usual answer became "I'm not sure" and after a while, Wifey and I decided just to get her what WE thought she needed (imagine that!).  Among her gifts were a new school backpack, a new dress and shoes for church, a modest mp3 player ($14 from Amazon, no rediculously overpriced iPods here) and a new line of Legos made just for girls.

It wasn't until Wifey relayed a recent conversation to me that she had with one of her friends that I saw the big picture.  My daughter didn't know what to ask for because she wasn't being bombarded with carefully crafted commercials hawking the latest, greatest must-have toy of the week.

You see, we opted to disconnect our cable tv over three years ago. We don't even have the bunny ears required to get three local channels. We simply don't need it AND don't miss it one bit. The constant barrage of junk television shows with misguided teen plots and negation of family values will not be polluting my kids.

In fact, almost a year after we turned it off, I took a few of my older girls with me to work one night.  I had been called in to a hospital to perform an emergency ultrasound which typically takes less than one hour.  My girls tagged along with plans to watch the tv at work and enjoy the free soda pop in our cafeteria.
Upon returning from my examination, my eldest daughter informed me that not only were the same sitcoms on the Disney Channel on year later...but the EXACT SAME EPISODES were playing.  In other words, one year after we tuned out commercialized television, the networks were still re-running the same old junk.
My girls were amazed and laughed at the fact that, in their minds, they had missed NOTHING by having to live without cable television. 

So I had my thoughts reconfirmed this month as to the validity of turning off the cable networks many years ago.  My children don't ask for the latest widget and are happy with gifts from the heart.
Wifey even teased #4 that she was only getting one birthday present. Unbeknownst to her, all her gifts had been wrapped up inside one large box, giving the appearance of one gift. Do you know what she said when she was told she only got one gift?

Not one...single...word. No whining, no crying about multiple gifts at past birthdays or birthdays of siblings. She was content with the notion of one single gift. Can I attribute that to a lack of tv? Probably not, but it sure helps keep her little mind from being distracted by worthless drivel.

I am so proud of her and little girl she is becoming.  I love her so much. She makes Fatherhood such a joy.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Renaissance Festival Family Fun & Don Lewis Tankards!


Arrival at the Faire.
Finally! This past weekend was our chance to go to the annual Renaissance Festival that comes through our neck of the woods every year. Royal Faires puts on a dandy of a festival for a solid two months every year near Apache Junction, Arizona.

This is the first year we've been lucky enough to scrape together funds and buy costumes. Wifey, my oldest three daughters and I all bought outfits from Amazon.  Here is a LIST of all the costmes we bought and used.  Wifey made costumes for the three little ones herself and saved us a few bucks.

I like to think that Ren Festivals give us a little insight as to the way things were back in that time period.  I enjoy going not only to see the clothing of that time period but to see people actually using skills from that period as well.  There's always a glass blower, soap maker, coin striker and dozens of other fantastic showcases on hand.

The official Renaissance era spans from the 14th - 17th centuries (according to Wikipedia). It was a time of blooming artesian expression from the likes of D'Vinci and Michelangelo.

Here is the Coin Striker (QuickSilver Mint) that comes to our festival EVERY year. There are only a few jobs I'd like to do at the Ren Festival...and this is one of them.




Here's a hand yarn spinner explaining that in her opinion, an average family from this time period would not have been able to afford a yarn spinning wheel. They would have had to opt for this handheld spinner due to cost and availability.



Here a young lady explains to my wife how the hand loom works:



This is just a glimpse at how large the festival "town" actually is:



I talked to a worker at one shop and she said her mom had owned the same store for 27 years. Folks actually BUY these buildings just like REAL property. If a shop is not available for purchase, you can purchase the lot and build a shop yourself (once approved). According to the Royal Faires website, it looks to me like the MINIMUM price just to rent a "cart" was $1000 for the two months that the festival is open each year. If you need electricity, that's an additional $275.

I just can't imagine making THAT much money at the festival. I mean, if you're doing it just to go and be a part of the era, I get it. Break even maybe. But if you're trying to make a living doing this? I don't see how.

One of my intentions of going this year was to take inventory of what all was being sold and see if there was a niche I could fill with my family. If you work in a "store", you get free tickets to anyone that works with you for the entire time the festival is open. Obviously ALL my girls would be employees so the savings there would be several hundred dollars if they went to the festival several times.  But what could I sell? 

I immediately thought of the wonderful wooden handmade tankards made by Don Lewis over at Rural Revolution. I figured, if ANYTHING would sell like hot cakes at a Ren Festival...it would be these awesome wooden tankards. I started wondering to myself if I could get Don to let me sell them for him at our festival and how would I get them to Arizona.

Then guess what I ran into about ten booths deep in the festival...

SOMEBODY SELLING DON'S TANKARDS!!!  DOH!



Guess it wasn't such a bad idea after all. Goodly Woods was a store owned by Joseph Victor and he not only made his own tankards but sold Don's too. I saw several of the "locals" walking around carrying Don's tankards. They appeared to be a staple item, as common as the cinched up boustier...and both tended to overflow (wink wink).

All-in-all, we had a blast and can't wait to go again next year. I even made a few friends...
What a cutie!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Remedies for Headaches & Migraines

Image via Google but by no means illustrates all headaches.
Mine are usually in the back of the skull near the base.
I've had recurring headaches for years decades. My favorite remedy has always been ibuprophen. It has done the job 99% of the time and being OTC (over-the-counter) is always easy to obtain.

Until recently...

Now, it seems that my old friend Ibuprophen is only about 50% effective.  I haven't asked my physician friends if there is a level at which a person can develop a tolerance to it but perhaps I've reached it. Otherwise, either my headaches are getting worse or their root cause is changing.  I've taken 800-1000mg dosages up to three times in one 24 hour period and had it not take the pain away.  It used to work after one dose.

Hence the reason for this post.  I'll be experimenting with new methods of migraine control and posting it here as well as on my Medicine tab. I've begun asked my Emergency Room nurses for their opinions on Imitrex and similar drugs. As soon as I get some, I'll post the effects.

What do YOU use for headaches/migraines?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Practice Your Barter and Trade Skills

I used to think that the only way I was going to be financially happy was to own several automated car washes and laundromats.  The constant "passive" cash-only income would support me (this was my dream before I had a family) and MAYBE I would report the cash income to the IRS for tax purposes...maybe.

Unreported cash income seemed to be best way to go if I wanted to live my own life and not report to The Office five days a week.  Of course, the profit margin on these businesses aren't what they used to be and as I've grown up (stop snickering!) I've slowly come to accept that I may just have to "work" for the rest of my life (I have a large family now, social security obviously WON'T be there when I hit retirement age in 30 years, etc etc.)

So one of the things I have begun to implement is bartering. This week turned out to be a good week for my family.  One of my trained "professional" skills is Sonography or performing ultrasound exams.  Since there is no radiation involved ( I am also trained in Xrays and CT Scans = radiation), I can perform ultrasounds on people without the need for a Doctor's prescription and not worry about losing my license.

This week, after completing the third or fourth ultrasound on a family's pregnant mommy, I requested the use of their giant bounce house or jumper as some people refer to them.  This family happens to have five of them and were more than happy to help me load it into my trailer and take it home for TWO WEEKS!



Just the sight of my childrens' faces as they walked out into the backyard as saw what Dad brought home was priceless.  My 4th daughter just turned six yesterday and I told her this was her last of her birthday presents this year.  All six of my girls played on it for hours AND the house was peaceful AND everyone went to bed on time and exhausted = win-win-win!

So my point is: look around you. What can you barter? Just like working can make you money, saving money can also "make" you money or at least help you keep what you have in your pocket a little longer.  So, too does bartering. It cost me nothing to do the ultrasounds other than my time and between me, you and the fence post...I LOVE doing ultrasounds on babies.  It is so fascinating to see God's little creation kicking around in mommy's tummy and to watch the parents faces glow with happiness while watching.

Spend an afternoon writing down some things you can do for barter.  This will help keep the ideas in your mind when opportunities arise.  I recently loaned out my trailer to a co-worker who needed to move things up to his bugout location three hours to the north of us.  In exchange, he was more than happy to load me up with bags and bags of oranges.  We have enough fresh squeezed orange juice to last a month and it didn't cost me a penny to loan out my trailer. I've also traded for bullet proof vests and leg holsters.

Every little bit helps. Do you barter?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Full Rain Barrels Thanks to an Easy Setup

I love to see it rain here in the Arizona desert.  We are always in such dire need of it.  The other day it rained and I went out in the backyard to see how the gardens were doing.  While looking around, I noticed my rain barrel system was still working flawlessly.

I bought a dozen or so rain barrels (rinsed out 55 gallon used Coke barrels) and placed them on the side of my house.  The back of my roof is pitched and has two gutter drains dumping right outside the back wall of my house.  I placed a barrel directly under each drain and to my joy, had them filled in no time.

Here's a little video:

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Deal Alert: Wonderwash Hand Crank Alternative to Washing Machine $42.95

Perfect for when you don't have an electric
washer OR if you have limited access to one.

If your power goes out for whatever reason (snow, heat wave, TEOTWAKI), you're gonna have to figure out how to wash your clothes without your handy electric washing machine.

That's where the Wonderwash comes in. Highly recommended on Amazon for ease of use or portability. It has been on my wish list for about two years.

I received a deal alert just now. It is on sale for $42.95 + shipping which puts it around $50. If you buy two, like I did, shipping is free and the total for two is $85. Compare that to Amazon selling them for $59.

Research at Camel shows the historical low for this item was $38 but that was back in 2009. It also has a high price of $66. This deal at $42.95 is the best we'll see for a while. Get it while you can.

Live in an apartment with limited access to washing machines? Wonderwash.
Live in the hinterboonies with no electricity? Wonderwash.

My Trailer was Bartered for Oranges!

My Snowbear trailer
I have a handy little 4x8' Snowbear trailer in my backyard for whenever I need to haul something.  I've been a little amazed at how often it gets loaned out. Everyone should own a pickup truck, if possible, but not everyone does.  Like me, I sold my Toyota pickup a few years back after burning through three motors.

So I bought a trailer. Now any time I need to haul something, I can hookup to my trailer with both my Jeep or my Suburban.  I haven't used it very much but it is reassuring to know it is ready and waiting.

6 qts of OJ, fresh squeezed
I've used it so little, in fact, that I think my friends and neighbors have used it more than I have!  A neighbor borrowed it about a year ago when he needed to move out of his house a few doors down.  He had it for a full week.  When it was all said and done, he brought it back...with several plastic bags full of tangelo oranges from his backyard.

I had no intentions on charging him anything so the free fruit was a welcomed surprise.  We broke out the juicer and went to town that day.  There's nothing better than fresh squeezed juice!

So when my friend from work asked to borrow my trailer a few weeks ago, I quickly agreed.  It just sits in my backyard...begging to be useful.  When he asked me what he could pay me for it, I jokingly said payments are accepted in oranges.  Turns out he has 52 orange trees at his place!

Gasp!  So far he's had the trailer for two weeks and I've already netted several bags of oranges.  I think I may just have to start pimping out my trailer for goods.  I mean, this is just too easy!

It's interesting to me how many orange trees there are here in Arizona.  It has been my experience that most people that have them are somewhat bothered by them.  I've been told you have to pick the fruit off every year for the health of the tree.  Another man told me he has to trim out any dead branches or it affects the tree.  At this point, I've heard "please, help yourself to the oranges" so much that if I ever did lose my job I'm pretty sure I could keep the family stocked in free orange juice until I found another job.

My 14 year old daughter came home from a sleep-over last weekend with a huge dog food bag full.  Her friend's family has numerous orange trees on their property.  They build their house in the middle of an old orange orchard. That particular Dad told me they had to clear 40 trees to make room to build his house. So he has an overabundance of oranges on his property, as do all his neighbors in that area.

We have friends in our daughters' Job's Daughters group that have orange trees on rental property.  They told me that if we didn't go pick the fruit, he'd have to pay pickers to go clear them off the trees. PAY to get rid of oranges? Wow. We took home oodles of oranges last time we were over there.

Now if we could only find someone with a cattle abundance problem...we'd be set!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dog is Man's BEST Security

Couldn't resist sharing this one. Found it at Proudhillbilly.


video

Lodge Logic Dutch Oven Homestyle Ribs Recipe

Ribs covered in bbq & mollasses.
I experimented with some new flavors the other night and thought I'd share.  The ribs were SO good, once they were all gone we bottled up the bbq sauce that was in the dutch ovens and put it back into the fridge for another go-round.

(For a great homemade cornbread recipe for your Dutch oven, check out this post.)

My usual recipe simply calls for straight Kraft Original BBQ sauce that I'm pretty sure is in just about every grocery store.  I originally bought it because it was only $0.99 per bottle.  It tasted so good that it has become a staple at our house every since (and it is still one of the cheapest bbq sauces in our store.)

I stuff the dutch oven to the rafters with ribs then cover them with about four bottles of Kraft bbq sauce. Since you want your ribs as close to fully emersed as possible to keep them from drying out during cooking, I fill the empty Kraft bottles with water and swish them around to get the leftover sauce out and pour that into the oven.  After rinsing the bottles a few times each, I usually have the ribs covered in liquid.

Someone snuck a bottle of Sweet
and Spicy Chipotle sauce in on me!
This time, however, I happened to open a cabinet and see an old bottle of Brer Rabbit Mollasses that had been sitting in my cupboard for a while.  The light bulb in my head when on and I poured the entire bottle over the ribs.

This sweetened up the ribs terrifically.  The ribs were a huge hit and I look forward to making them again!

Don't forget to turn your Dutch oven every 15 minutes or so while they cook.  If you leave them in the same spot for too long, you may get a hot spot burn. Always rotate your oven 90 degrees clockwise AND turn your lid 90 degrees counter-clockwise.  This will keep the hot spots both on the lid and underneath the oven from sitting in one spot for too long. 

Enjoy!

Friends, Fun, and Eating Donuts without Hands

Fun & Friends around the fire pit.
This past Thursday night we had the neighbors over for dinner and fun.  Our super fun neighbors have eight kids of their own.  Mix that with our six girls and there's plenty of fun to be had.

I started by making my favorite dutch oven ribs cooked over a mesquite coal fire.  I love the smell of a burning chimney starter filled with charcoal.  I filled up our 8 qt Lodge Logic dutch oven with pork ribs and smothered them in my favorite Kraft bbq sauce and molassus.  After cooking for several hours, the meat just fell right off the bone. Mmmm!

Wifey went to work on decorations and games.  She hung donuts from strings and the kids had a game where they had to eat the donuts without using their hands.  It got REALLY difficult when someone turned the ceiling fan on...cause there were donuts hung from the blades! Laughter roared through the house!

Handmade decorations and treats galore!
A friend from work showed up with his wife and baby boy. We faded into the evening watching the girls play a dancing game (Just Dance II) on our Wii system. It was just short of hilarious watching them trying to mimick the dancers on the screen. Butts wiggling and elbows flying...what a sight!

We're blessed to have friends like these who enjoy family time more than anything else.  I had two co-workers that called off the day after St. Patrick's day because they drank themselves into such poor shape that they couldn't come to work the next day.  You can keep your green beer and coming home from a party smelling like an ashtray.  I'll take home gatherings any day of the week...and I don't need alcohol to enjoy it!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Deal Alert: Lodge Logic 4 Qt Dutch Oven - Only $22.91 (Lowest $ Ever!)

Update: Deal is dead. Now priced at $45.55.

Happy Day! Get it Quick! It won't last long!

Only $22.91 + Free Shipping



(This price is cheaper than both INFERIOR knock-off brands: Camp Chef and TexSport!)

I have blogged numerous times about cooking in my dutch ovens. Dutch ovens are part of my Redundancy plan. If SHTF and my electricity or gas goes out, I can always cook in my dutch ovens. I love to cook with them over my mesquite charcoal.  I have also taught my children how to start a fire in a chimney starter and cook with dutch ovens.

Wifey has perfected a homemade cornbread dutch oven recipe. And by "homemade" I mean she grinds up her own flour. This is award winning cornbread that absolutely will NOT disappoint!

So don't wait, they won't last long. CamelCamelCamel is a website I use to price check items. Camel says that this is THE lowest price these dutch ovens have ever been (Camel's history goes back to 2008.)

Let me know what you think.

~OJD

Homemade cornbread, Mmmmm.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Gear Review and Medicine Review

My best friend tonight on my
night shift...Ricola!
I've added some tabs at the top of my blog labeled Gear Review and My Medicine. The Gear Review tab will lead to a page which summarizes and gives quick links to products I have tried. I'll either recommend them or I won't depending on my experience with that particular product.

Gear Review:
  • Bug Out Bag Contents
  • Survival Gear
  • Cooking Gear
  • Home Preparedness Items
  • Food Preparedness Stuff
  • Medical Kit Items
  • Digital Library / Electronics / Videos
  • Guns / Weapons
  • Sanitation Supplies
The My Medicine tab will lead to a page where I list my trials and tribulations with different medicines. Over the years, I have found cures for most of what plagues me on a regular basis. Obviously, every cure doesn't work on every person and what works for me may not work for you. I am not a medical doctor and you should consult yours regarding what medicine is right for you. But by sharing what works for me, hopefully will spur some friendly talk about what works for other people and we can all learn from each other.

My Medicine:

  • Nasal decongestants
  • Headaches / migraines
  • Sore Throat
  • Sleep Aides
  • Energy / Appetite Suppressant
I'll add to both categories as opportunities arise. Feel free to comment and add your suggestions.

~OJD

Xpal Rechargeable Portable Power Pack (external battery pack) $20

Charging my Xpal at work.
On too many occasions, I've been left with a dead cell phone when away from home.  Yes, I carry a charger in my car.  Yes, I carry a wall charger in my shoulder bag. My phone even stays plugged in on my nights stand right next to me as I sleep.

Still, there are times when I accidentally leave the GPS ON for too long and it drains my battery life very quickly.  Or, I leave a wall charger at work and use my car charger at home, then leave home without it. Whatever the case may be, my awesome little Droid Incredible simply eats a TON of juice.

When it comes to backups, I subscribe to the School of Redundancy. I have backups for my backups. Since my wall and automobile chargers aren't enough, I recently purchased a portable rechargeable power pack for $20:

Xpal 88043 Harry II Compact, Rechargeable portable power pack/external battery pack (2000MAH) for portable devices

This handy little power pack fits easily in my shoulder bag and comes with a nice felt-feeling pouch.  The kit is supplied with several adapters allowing me to use the Xpal to charge just about everything from video cameras, ipods, phones, laptops and more. There are six adapters in all. If you can see the keyboard in my photo, you can tell that the Xpal is pretty compact in size. It is smaller than my Droid.

I've had it for a couple of weeks now and it has held the charge that I put on it the day I got it in the mail.  I started to use it tonight on my Droid after loaning my wall charger to a patient in my Emergency Room.  That is why I am charging it in the picture you see on this post.  I had the grand idea of timing how long it would take to charge up my Droid but I got impatient and plugged my Droid straight into the wall. I'm an instant gratification kinda person. Oh well.

It is right around $20 at Amazon and is a nice edition to backup power.  I'll report back when I find out how long it takes to charge up my phone.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Angry Bird Pig Beanie Handmade Crochet Hat

Angry Bird Pig Beanie
I like to showcase my daughters' goods when they make stuff by hand.  I have blogged before about how my girls learned how to crochet last Christmas when a visiting cousin and his family stayed for the holidays.

Sis, my oldest daughter, was invited to a birthday party/sleepover today.  She knew her friend liked the game Angry Birds and searched YouTube for a video on something she could make with crochet.

She ended up finding a video on how to make an Angry Bird pig beanie and proceeded to learn it.  Four hours later she made her first hat. She showed it to me when I got home first thing this morning. I thought it was so adorable, I took several pictures and decided it was time to create an Etsy store for Sis. You can visit it here.  The only thing listed so far is this pic beanie but I'm hoping it will turn out to be a great outlet for her to showcase her skill and maybe even make a little money from it to help buy more yarn.

What a goof ball.
She made some shamrocks for Grandma Carolyn the other day knowing that we would be celebrating St Patrick's Day with her this weekend. This really drives home the old addage, give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Sis will have this skill for the rest of her life and I couldn't be happier for her.

Shamrock's by Sis.
She took the shamrocks she crocheted and made them into rings, hair clips, and other things.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Touching the Soul

This will be an unusual post for me but I've never had a video touch my soul...in a language I couldn't even speak.   It's obviously a bit hard to sing when a crowd does this...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gear Review - Bear Gryllis Knife by Gerber

 

I'm not big on the shady survival shows. I like the ones where the folks in the show DON'T stay in hotels off camera but pretend to be stranded in the desert. (Cody and Dave rock, Bear...not so much. Oh, and Stroud is awesome too.)

With that said, I still ordered the Bear Gryllis Survival Knife made by Gerber. I have been a big fan of Gerber every since Wifey gave me what has come to be known in our house as the "Daddy Tool." It is a multi-tool much like a swiss army knife and I couldn't imagine a life without it. You can see my favorite Gerby multi-tool at Amazon here.

Being in the market for a good long blade and seeing that this was made by Gerber, I took at peek when my deal alert system notified me that it was on sale.  Originally $80, I pick this up for around $35 with free shipping. Like most things I buy on Amazon, it arrived quickly.

As soon as I showed it to Wifey, she exclaimed that she wanted one as well. Rule #1 around our house: keep Mamma happy. So, she now has one as well.  She has actually been using hers more than I have used mine.

She is super crafty and has been on a kick lately making things out of tree branches. It started with a Harry Potter party the girls were going to a while back.  She was determined that our girls would have their own magic wands to sport at the party.  She ripped down a branch from a tree in front of our house and used her BG knife to begin whittling away the nubs and bark. It filleted through that bark like butta (you know, butter...too much Cake Boss).

I like to buy things with multiple uses and this knife has several. 
  • It comes complete with a whistle tied to the end of a lanyard on the handle. 
  • A built in sharpening stone on the backside of the sheath.
  • Two holes near the handle for creating a make-shift spear (stake not included).
  • A flint rod to start fires
  • A comfortable rubberized handle (no mo.re wrapping the handle in paracord for comfort).
  • Velcro straps to keep the knife securely in the sheath.
  • Knurled striking surface butt cap
  • Saw ground back blade
Not to mention I happen to think it looks pretty cool.  I recommend the knife as part of a survival kit and might possibly pick up the folding blade as well.  The rubberized grip feels terrific and the weight feels even enough that I've tried throwing it.  Emphasize the word: tried.  Anyway, I love the knife and so does Wifey. You should check it out.




Here's an independent review on YouTube:



~OJD

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

HELP! Dog Question. What do I do?

Click on the pic to see the slobber rope!
I posted a while back about how we adopted a Cocker Spaniel from a family that didn't want him anymore. His is eight years old (almost nine now) and cute as a button.

Of course, now that we are taking care of  him, he is starting to have problems. For starters, he has recently began to drool out of the left side of his mouth. It is a very thick mucous that just about eventually reaches the floor and that's about when he does one of those dog shakes that flips his ears back and forth. You know, like after a bath when they want to rid their bodies of excess water.

But when he does it, that long piece of slobber wraps around his head a few times and gets all matted into his hair. He doesn't do it every day. Maybe every two or three days but certainly often.

Anybody know what the heck is going on here? Did we just get the dog right as he was entering his "senior" years?

AND, I just noticed he has just smaller than a baseball sized cystic mass under his left hind leg.  I just trimmed him less than a month ago and there was no mass there. By palpating it, and working in the healthcare field, I'm pretty confident it is purely cystic (fluid filled). It is easily squishy and moveable. He doesn't like me to squish it but he doesn't yelp either. It is right where his left hind leg meets up with his body, kind of on the underbelly, as it were.

Any ideas?

Update: June 2012, I just noticed the other day that Kohl hasn't drooled in a while. Don't know what it was but it has completely stopped. Weird, huh?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Melatonin Experiment: My New Natural Sleep Aid

Optimum Nutrition's brand.
I've been working night shifts for many years now.  There is certainly a learning curve on how to get an appropriate amount of sleep when you have to fight sunlight, noisy kids, doors and cabinets slamming, etc. 
I was prescribed Ambien for a while and it seemed to work pretty well. This stuff comes in REAL handy if you are taking online classes while working a second job too.

I was warned of all the side effects and sometimes (begrudgingly) get cornered into recants of my past "weird" episodes while taking the drug.  Wifey thinks it is REAL funny to tell anyone who will listen about the goofy things I did or said when on Ambien. All the more reason to report that...

Melatonin works just as well and is ALL natural.  The same Emergency Room physician that prescribed me the Ambien had found Melatonin to work for her and she weined herself off of her Ambien addiction.  Now, I wouldn't say I got ADDICTED to Ambien. I know what addiction feels like. I chewed Copenhagen for 15 years. Quiting that was TOUGH. I still think about it from time to time as a matter of fact and I've been off chew for probably ten years or so. With sleep medication, it is more of an addiction to want to fall asleep on demand. Anyway, I digress...

Three years of sleep...in a bag...
for a mere $26.
Melatonin is sold over-the-counter which means no prescription is necessary.  It is relatively cheap, comes in a tablet (no yucky flavor), and disolves quickly (kinda too quickly).  I plugged the word "Melatonin" into my favorite deal website and waited for an alert email to tell me when it was on sale.

When I was finally alerted, I ordered 12 bottles (1200 tables) of Optimum Nutrition's label for $26 on Amazon. It arrived quickly and I always love that I didn't have to leave the house.

I began experimenting with dosage. Each tablet is 3mg. I took one and waited...and waited.  The first time around I guess I was kinda comparing it to the Ambien. If you've never taken Ambien, you can tell when it starts to kick in with a feeling, at least for me, of maybe feeling a little tipsy (slightly drunk).

One tablet of Melatonin didn't produce that feeling but within 30 to 45 minutes I was noticeably tired.  Then I wondered if I was just tired because it was 45 minutes later into the night.

So the next night I took two 3mg tables.  Right around the 30 minutes mark I noticed a drowsiness kick in as I was watching Season 3 of Lost.  Like that show isn't hard enought to follow (with all the time traveling back and forth) without nodding off thanks to Melatonin. Conclusion, two tables worked well.

Now, being the idiot that I am, a few nights later I tried four tablets. I figured "Hey, this is ALL natural. Not like it's gonna be BAD for me or anything." Sure enough, right around the 30 minute mark, the sledge hammer hit me (and right in the middle of a Lost episode, dangit!) I slept for ten hours straight, through the entire family getting up to go to school AND Wifey's return home with two toddlers (read: noisy).

She finally came in the bedroom to check on me and informed me I had been asleep for ten hours. I think I mumbled something and went back out for another two hours.  I finally drug myself out of bed and certainly felt whammied. Like a hard night out partying.

Conclusion: I'm 270 pounds, 6'3" and two tablets of 3mg Melatonin works just fine for me. If you're smaller than that, just stick with one tablet.  If you're broke and two days from payday, take four and by the time you wake up, you'll have enough money to order a pizza.

What do YOU use for a sleep aid?

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Monday, March 5, 2012

Contest: The Simplicity Primer Giveaway...ArtsCow-athon!

Your Prize
With six daughters, there always seems to be a birthday looming right around the corner.  Add Mother's Day, Christmas and everything else and I'm always on the lookout for cool and unique gifts.

One of my new favorite places to go these days is ArtsCow.  I blogged about some terrific gifts I made for my girls this past Christmas and really enjoy the designing aspect of making custom gifts.  The girls and Wifey loved them too so it was a total WIN-WIN for me...and them ;-)

With the economy being the way it is (read: inflation) and budgets being stretched tight, I need to find a way to continue making/buying gifts on a limited budget. So I had an idea.

ArtsCow awards credits for referrals. If YOU sign up with my referral link, it costs you nothing (except a few minutes of your time) AND you get 1200 free prints credits & three 8"x8" photo books.

I'll get 0.5 credits per person that signs up (no purchase necessary). As the credits add up, I'll be able to purchase gifts with the credits.


My Prize.
To show my appreciation and make your efforts worthwhile, I'm giving away my gently used copy of Patrice Lewis' terrific book The Simplicity Primer.  If you haven't read her book yet, you don't know what you are missing. It is chok full of wonderful advice on simplifying your life. Visit her at her wonderful blog Rural Revolution.

So, if you're interested in helping me out, and I totally understand if you don't want to give your email address out, here's what we'll do:

1) Visit this LINK to be taken to ArtsCow and it will attach my referral link to you.

2) Enter your name and email address to create a free account. (You might need to click on a confirmation email after you sign up?)

3) Post a comment here that you signed up.

I'll wait one week and then hold a random drawing just like I did in my last Great Giveaway Contest. Everyone who posts a comment stating that they signed up will get their name put into a random name generator and I will snail mail the prize to the randomly selected winner.

Let's set the due date for the end of this contest on March 12th at midnight. That's one full week. Of course, you're welcome to sign up at any time in the future :-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Daddy's Girl Made Crochet Fingerless Gloves

I continue to be amazed by my daughters. My oldest sat down and watched one youtube video today and taught herself how to crochet some fingerless gloves. I'm thankful my cousin introduced my girls to crocheting.  They really enjoy it and I'm glad they have a skill they can do with their own hands.



I wonder if she can make a shotgun bag? My 12g needs a home...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Deal Alert: 4000w Generator dropped to $229 + Free Ship

Same specs as yesterday's deal, different manufacturer. This one is a Durostar and it is the Deal of the Day on eBay. Will try to link but tough from my Droid.

$229 out the door. Wheel kit (recommended) is extra $40.
ebay deal

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Signs of Inflation HIdden in Plain View

We all know inflation is coming, I mean, there's no way to avoid it now.  As we begin to deal with the consequences, it helps if we spot the slight-of-hand used by marketeers. Kinda makes you wonder if ethics classes were ever even offered as part of the marketing curriculum at some of these business schools.  The price of spaghetti sauce, for example, has remained at one dollar at my local grocery store for many years. We use quite a bit at our house so this makes our budget happy.

Then, as Wifey was making spaghetti for dinner tonight, she notices something (sorry for the blurry cell camera image).



The spaghetti cans we have been buying for years have shrunk...by two ounces. Two ounces may not seem like much but it all adds up. Inch by inch, ounce by ounce, we're either paying the same price (or more) and getting less and less product.

...and the beat (down) goes on...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Pixie Derby (Pinewood Derby for Girls)

Lexi sanding or gluing. She had a
great time building her Derby car.
Hooray! Something fun for Dad and Daughters! In my opinion, there's just not enough activities for Dads and Daughters out there in the world. I am very thankful for our church and the many wonderful activities they offer for me and my six beauties.

This month they held a Pixie Derby Race.  I haven't thought about Pinewood Derby races since I was a Cub Scout some 30 years ago. Sure enough, this was the same thing. Daughter #3 and I were given the standard Derby car block of wood, four nails and four tires. That's it. No rules, regulations or anything. Just the time and date of the race.

So I did what what I do best.  I googled the crap out of "how to make a great derby car", "how to win pinewood derby races" etc etc.  I was floored by the number of youtube videos showing how to grind down the nail axles and polish them to a high shine.  They're putting graphite on them, discussing the optimum location of the added weights for maximum velocity down the race slope and stuff I never even thought of.  There are Office Depot promotional codes on supplies for race cars that could be useful.

Coats of blue paint being sprayed
on while perched atop a blue water
barrel. Oooooh, shiny!
When I was a kid, Dad handed me the block of wood and said "Get to carvin' boy." That was about it. Slather some paint on there and stickers if you were lucky enough to have any. Not today. Uh uh. I headed over to Hobby Lobby and couldn't believe what I found there.

There were custom weights, wheels, full axles, stickers, car bodies, fins, spoilers, you name it.  They even had a derby car stand that you could prop your car up on like a lift at the mechanic shop. The only way I could have had a better advantage is if I had a degree in mechanical engineering!

So, again, I did what any loving father would do. I bought the things needed to make my daughter's car take Best of Show if nothing else. Custom flame stickers and solid axles with custom wheels. I dug out the Dremmel and went to town on the tires, smoothing out the plastic mold nubbies.

I decided to ask a neighbor if they had heard any rules for the race as we had not been given any.  I was told they'd be abiding by the standard BSA Pinewood Derby Rules which meant I had to measure everything from width to length to distance between left and right tires.  Then I found out there was a weight limit. I had already screwed on the weight kit in full. I mean, no rules meant the heavier the car, the faster it should go (within reason.)

When it was all said and done, we had a great time with the entire family watching the races.  We didn't place in the top three but we won Best Design.  I'm looking forward to the next race now that the cobwebs have been dusted off my derby car knowledge.


Deal Alert: Lifetime 80 gal Composter $99 @ Costco

Dang it. Why do these deals seem to show up when I'm broke? Anyway, thought I'd pass it along. Everyone should have a composter or two. I've been after one of these off-the-ground tumbling types for a while now.

Costco.com has the Lifetime 80 gallon Composter listed at $179.99 bit if you call your local store (as I just did) you will most likely get quoted $99.99. Not sure why. Customer service said this was the price they came in at as well so she didn't understand the high price on the website (price mistake?)

I can't post a pic right now as I'm posting this from my Droid and it is being a little temperamental (grr, can't use my spell check on that word either).