Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Black Swallowtail Infestation

Guard your parsley! The black swallowtail butterfly is looking for it. We went outside the other day and found almost all of it eaten. One caterpillar can eat a lot but we found 28. One of Marcie's ex-co-workers has a butterfly house so we gave them to her. We went out again today and found three more that we missed. One we saved on purpose so we could see how big it would get. I'll try to get a picture of that today if it's still there.

Five Cheese Baked Ziti

Marcie was feeling like pasta last night. The recipe called for 1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese but alas, we only had about a half a cup. We did have about a half a cup of goat cheese left and a quarter block of cheddar so we ended up using that to make our cup and a half. Marcie just got the zucchini and carrots on sale so we cut those up and added them along with our onion and garlic staple. For meat, all we had thawed was peperoni so we cut that up and mixed it in. The Basil was getting a little overgrown outside so we added some of that also. Our sauce we had to open a new jar but since that wasn't enough, we were lucky to find another half used jar in the fridge that needed to be used up. For the top, I added Parmesan cheese and our leftover queso from Moe's (they were giving away cups of free queso the other day). Marcie jokes that anytime I help her cook it becomes a "kitchen sink" meal and laughed that this one was no different. I however liked it a lot and although we could never repeat this exact taste it, the five cheeses and random veggies worked out really well.

We'll be able to eat off of this for a few days and cost wise, it was very humble. I think the pasta was around $1 if not free (triple coupon at HT), the veggies were under $1, and the goat cheese we got for free. The sauce itself was the most expensive part at around $4 for 2.5 jars worth but all in all, I'd estimate the dish at $6-$7. Since it will feed us for at least 3 meals, we're looking at around $1 per a good size serving.

Why I'm not impressed with 3D movies

I read an article by Fortune magazine and it reminded me of the reasons I have not been impressed with 3D films. I remember as a kid going to Orlando and seeing 3D movies with the paper glasses. I would jump as things were thrown out at you and marveled at the technology that made it all possible. Now, as an adult, perhaps I'm just more of a cynic. You see all these previews of movies that look larger then life. The promise amazing adventure, action, and most of all that they will bring you along as the character develops. In reality, what you get is a movie with lots of explosions, characters that despite being in 3D are very flat, and a predictable story. There are a few exceptions but not many. The things I loved about 3D as a kid do not happen here. You never see things come out of the screen and fly past you but rather "real 3D" just adds a little depth to the picture. That little bit of depth comes at a cost though. Because you have a separate image for each eye, each eye only gets half of the light. That means the screen is dark and often less sharp due to our brains attempt to put the two images together. If I have to choose between a dingy slightly more depth or a clear HD quality picture, I think I'll choose HD quality. Nolan in his recent film inception agrees. He refused to jump on the 3D bandwagon saying the quality of the technology just isn't there yet. With that in mind, a same price ticket for both, I might still choose 2D so what about the $4 surcharge 3D tacks on? For me the choice is clear.

Marcie and I are attempting to be more frugal with our money. My Mustang was recently paid off and we hope to have the Torrent paid off by the end of the year. We also want to build up our savings account so paying $26 dollars for two 3D tickets isn't high on our priority list. Blue Ridge's $1.50 tickets and Red Box are about to get a lot more business from us. Two movies we're waiting to see are Inception and Despicable Me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Avatar


No, I'm not talking about skinny naked blue people. I'm talking about the original Avatar, the last air bender. Nickelodeon created a three season series based on a world where the fire nation is attempting to take over the world. It is up to the Avatar to learn all four bending techniques and stop them. Being from the air nomads temple he already knows air so starts with water and works his way through each of the elements.

I don't think I'll be giving away too much when I say he wins but I won't give away any more spoilers. Now, seventy years later (season 4), a southern water tribe girl is the new avatar and is she is looking to learn the last of the bending techniques. The series picks up with her search for Ang's son, one of the few if only air benders. I'm sure they'll travel together in her attempt to master all the elements. Read more about it HERE.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chicken Breasts With Peach and Honey

New recipe tonight. We didn't have drumsticks so we used chicken breasts. Drumsticks tend to be a little more fatty so it's flavor is different then what the author experienced. We're fan of both honey and peaches so this was kind of a goldmine. HERE is the link for the food.

Monday, July 12, 2010

More Flower Garden Pics



Marcie shows her talent at arranging flowers from our yard.

Summer Food



Grab the Cup!

He almost made it!

Screeners

New movies up on the N&O zone! If you're a subscriber, sign up for passes to Inception and the Expendables. Salt will also be available eventually. There's some other movies on there but nothing else that really looks good.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A Feminist Man?

I just read THIS article and it made me sad. It was an interpretation of "To Kill a Mocking Bird" and the motivation of the author. It claimed "a willingness to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences" was a radical feminist idea that is not normal for men. While I agree that in today's age most men go with the flow but it was not always that way. Feminist told men that they should not stand up and be leaders. They have for decades been telling us to step back and give leadership to women. We have become a pacifist sex concerned only with entertainment. When the going gets tough, the men turn on their tv, flirt with other women, or cheat to get ahead. The result is the loss of the "Leave it to Beaver" dad and the creation of the "Family Guy." For those not familiar with the Family Guy, you could enter "The Simpsons" or pretty much any modern show. The woman in these shows portrays reason and intelligence and the man is a klutz and just wants to have fun. He's Peter Pan in a grown up body or if you're into the classics, James' dad from "A rebel without a cause."

Let me be clear. Feminism is different then woman's rights. I strongly believe women should have the right to vote, own land, work in the market place, and all the things women in the US enjoy that other nations do not. I am only referring to a woman's struggle for dominance over man and a guys growing apathy towards life. I believe if a guys were taught to be leaders in the home (a radical but old conservative idea), they would be less likely to do the things that give guys a bad name. Then you would be more likely to see a man stand up for what is right. After all, what you practice in private creates character and character defines what you do when times are tough.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Paying Cash for you House

This would be awesome! I'm very impressed by this family. They strongly believes debt is not a good thing so they saved and saved till they could pay cash for their house. I don't know how old they are and the Husband is a lawyer so I'm sure they make decent money. A previous post says they've been married seven years so they're probably at least thirty and maybe slightly older. Still to be able to save up enough money to buy a house outright is pretty amazing. Read her inspiring story HERE.

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Andy, Mark, Daniel and I went to see the Sorcerer's Apprentice last night. Its another one of those screener tickets that I'm lucky enough to come across every once in a while. Here's what I thought about the movie. Spoiler alert ahead. Quit reading now if you plan on seeing it later.

The Plot

The story was a rehash but was still entertaining. You've got Merlin who has three apprentices. The two guys both fall in love with the one girl. The girl chooses one of them and the other goes bad and joins forces with Morgana, King Arthur and Merlin's bane. The girl somehow pulls Morgana into her body and then Cage, the good sorcerer imprisons her in a nesting doll. Over the years, Cage puts more evil sorcerers in that doll. There is a legend of a boy who will inherit Merlin's power and defeat all that is evil.

Cut to current day. You've got a ten year old kid who stumbles into Cage's shop. He tries on a ring that signals that he's "the one." Both cage and evil guy get locked up for 10 years. They get out and boy is now 20. He has to learn magic so he can defeat all that is evil. As he learns, he defeats some other bad guys on the Morgana team. At the end, they fight and win. Morgana and the evil sorcerer is defeated. Cage gets back with his girl. The new apprentice gets the girl and realizes his true power.

The Good

I did like the story. Its same old same old but still entertaining. The special effects were also pretty cool. The Fantasia scene was funny and entertaining. The "celebrity magician" was also pretty funny and was one of the highlights of the film for me.

The Bad

Nicholas Cage is a terrible actor. I know he's the Disney goto guy but I never cared for him. The Apprentice was surprising more annoying then Cage in this movie. I don't know if its his voice or just his nerdy frame but he kind of ruined all believability of the romance in the movie. You could also say the movie was generic so I've put that in the good and the bad.

Summary

Overall, I'd put this movie with the majority of movies Hollywood makes. Entertaining but not worth paying nine dollars and some change to see (double if I go with Marcie). A great $1.50 buy and a good rental is where I'd put it.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Octo-Paul picks Spain over Germany

The German octopus has become quite famous for correctly picking the outcome of the world cup. Paul, as he is called has picked correctly the last 5 of 5 games including the surprise German win over Argentina.

In this next game, he hovers over his home country Germany for a while but ultimately decides Spain will go on to the final game. Paul has spoken so place your bets.

Diet Soda worse then regular

I've been saying this for a while but you see it written up every few months. If you're one who drinks diet drinks and uses artificial sugar, you may want to read the exert taken from THIS article.

In recent years, food manufacturers have increasingly focused on developing low-calorie foods and drinks to help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity. Unfortunately, the science behind these products is so flawed, most of these products can actually lead to increased weight gain!

For example, researchers have discovered that drinking diet soda increases your risk of metabolic syndrome, and may double your risk of obesity -- the complete opposite of the stated intention behind these "zero calorie" drinks.

The sad truth is that diet foods and drinks ruin your body's ability to count calories, and in fact stimulate your appetite, thus boosting your inclination to overindulge.

Unfortunately, most public health agencies and nutritionists in the United States recommend these toxic artificial sweeteners as an acceptable alternative to sugar, which is at best confusing and at worst harming the health of those who take their misguided advice.

Wake County Fundraiser

So I'll soon be sending in my contribution to the Wake County fund raiser (also known as a speed trap). Although I believe the cop was padding the number, he said I was going 48 in a 35. Its crazy that they charge $166.30 "Court Costs" just to stamp a page. I read an article about how many tickets NC gives compared to other states. Evidently NC has lower speed limits then other states encouraging speeding so they can get the money a ticket provides. I was just outside my neighborhood and I couldn't help think about the kid who was shot and all the vandals and theft going on in the neighborhood. You'd think they would have better things to do then to radar a road with no houses or anything at all there.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fire and Fan

So our fan kept getting slower and our light dimmer. I was getting pretty worried about the thing so I finally decided to take a look at it. As it turns out, there was a nick in the plastic which had burnt through to the other wire. Lets not even talk about the fire hazard that was but the amount of electricity that was wasted I can't even imagine. I ended up removing the remote controlled light/fan switch that I installed in case that was the issue but I have a feeling that wasn't necessary. Maybe later I'll put it back on.

Speaking of working correctly, the light now is so bright! When they were dim, 4 60 watt bulbs didn't do much but now, they'll wake you up in the morning.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Buy used!

Read a great article HERE about things you should never buy new. I've made the mistake of buying many of them new and paid way too much. Often you don't have to wait long to get the discounted price. Here is the list they gave:

1. DVDs and CDs: Used DVDs and CDs will play like new if they were well taken care of. Even if you wind up with a scratched disc and you don't want to bother with a return, there are ways to remove the scratches and make the DVD or CD playable again.

2. Books: You can buy used books at significant discounts from online sellers and brick-and-mortar used book stores. The condition of the books may vary, but they usually range from good to like-new. And of course, check out your local library for free reading material.

3. Video Games: Kids get tired of video games rather quickly. You can easily find used video games from online sellers at sites like Amazon and eBay a few months after the release date. Most video game store outlets will feature a used game shelf, as well. And if you're not the patient type, you can rent or borrow from a friend first to see if it's worth the purchase.

4. Special Occasion and Holiday Clothing: Sometimes you'll need to buy formal clothing for special occasions, such as weddings or prom. Most people will take good care of formal clothing but will only wear it once or twice. Their closet castouts are your savings: Thrift stores, yard sales, online sellers and even some dress shops offer fantastic buys on used formalwear.

5. Jewelry: Depreciation hits hard when you try to sell used jewelry, but as a buyer you can take advantage of the markdown to save a bundle. This is especially true for diamonds, which has ridiculously low resale value. Check out estate sales and reputable pawn shops to find great deals on unique pieces. Even if you decide to resell the jewelry later, the depreciation won't hurt as much.

6. Ikea Furniture: Why bother assembling your own when you can pick it up for free (or nearly free) on Craigslist and Freecycle? Summer is the best time to hunt for Ikea furniture--that's when college students are changing apartments and tossing out their goodies.

7. Games and Toys: How long do games and toys remain your child's favorite before they're left forgotten under the bed or in the closet? You can find used children's toys in great condition at moving sales or on Craigslist, or you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family to trade used toys. Just make sure to give them a good wash before letting junior play.

8. Maternity and Baby Clothes: Compared to everyday outfits that you can wear any time, maternity clothes don't get much wear outside the few months of pregnancy when they fit. The same goes for baby clothes that are quickly outgrown. You'll save a small fortune by purchasing gently used maternity clothes and baby clothes at yard sales and thrift stores. Like children's games and toys, friends and family may have baby or maternity clothing that they'll be happy to let you take off their hands.

[See 20 Things You Should Never Buy Used.]

9. Musical Instruments: Purchasing new musical instruments for a beginner musician is rarely a good idea. (Are you ready to pay $60 an hour for piano lessons?) For your little dear who wants to learn to play an instrument, you should see how long his or her interest lasts by acquiring a rented or used instrument to practice with first. Unless you're a professional musician or your junior prodigy is seriously committed to music, a brand new instrument may not be the best investment.

10. Pets: If you buy a puppy (or kitty) from a professional breeder or a pet store outlet, it can set you back anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. On top of this, you'll need to anticipate additional fees and vet bills, too. Instead, adopt a pre-owned pet from your local animal shelter and get a new family member, fees, and vaccines at a substantially lower cost.

11. Home Accent: Pieces Home decorating pieces and artwork are rarely handled on a day-to-day basis, so they're generally still in good condition even after being resold multiple times. If you like the worn-out look of some decor pieces, you can be sure you didn't pay extra for something that comes naturally with time. And don't forget, for most of us, discovering a true gem at a garage sale is 90% of the fun!

12. Craft Supplies: If you're into crafting, you probably have a variety of different supplies left over from prior projects. If you require some additional supplies for your upcoming project, then you can join a craft swap where you'll find other crafty people to trade supplies with. If you have leftovers, be sure to donate them to your local schools.

13. Houses: You're typically able to get better and more features for your dollar when you purchase an older home rather than building new. Older houses were often constructed on bigger corner lots, and you also get architectural variety in your neighborhood if the houses were built or remodeled in different eras.

14. Office Furniture: Good office furniture is built to withstand heavy use and handling. Really solid pieces will last a lifetime, long after they're resold the first or second time. A great used desk or file cabinet will work as well as (or better than) a new one, but for a fraction of the cost. With the recession shutting down so many businesses, you can easily find lots of great office furniture deals.

15. Cars: You've probably heard this before: Cars depreciate the second you drive them off of the dealership's lot. In buying a used car, you save money on both the initial cost and the insurance. It also helps to know a trusty mechanic who can check it over first. This way, you'll be aware of any potential problems before you make the purchase.

[See 20 Tips for Cleaning on the Cheap.]

16. Hand Tools: Simple tools with few moving parts, like hammers, hoes and wrenches, will keep for decades so long as they are well-made to begin with and are well-maintained. These are fairly easy to find at neighborhood yard or garage sales. If you don't need to use hand tools very often, an even better deal is to rent a set of tools or borrow them from a friend.

17. Sports Equipment: Most people buy sports equipment planning to use it until it drops, but this rarely happens. So when sports equipment ends up on the resale market, they tend to still be in excellent condition. Look into buying used sporting gear through Craigslist and at yard sales or sports equipment stores.

18. Consumer Electronics: I know most folks like shiny new toys, but refurbished electronic goods are a much sweeter deal. Consumer electronics are returned to the manufacturer for different reasons, but generally, they'll be inspected for damaged parts, fixed, tested, then resold at a lower price. Just make sure you get a good warranty along with your purchase.

19. Gardening Supplies: This is an easy way for you to save money, and all you need to do is be observant. Take a look outdoors and you'll likely find such gardening supplies as mulch, wood, and even stones for free or vastly reduced prices. Used garden equipment and tools are also common goods at yard sales.

20. Timeshares: Buying timeshares isn't for everyone, but if you decide that it suits your lifestyle, purchasing the property as a resale would be a better deal than buying it brand new: on average, you'll save 67 percent on the price for a comparable new timeshare. If you're new to timeshare ownership, give it a test run first by renting short term.

21. Recreational Items: It's fairly easy to find high ticket recreational items like campers, boats, and jet skis being resold. Oftentimes, they're barely used at all. As long as they're in safe, working condition, they'll make for a better value when purchased used than new.

BLT

mmm... its summer time which means tomatoes from the vine and BLTs. Marcie has been making them for lunch the last few days and they've been delicious. On top of that, we tried something new the other day. We had a little more money to spend to get the $20 off our bill so we added Portobello mushrooms. Marcie mixed up some ingredients to flavor it and broiled it in the oven. We covered the still hot mushroom with the spiced goat cheese that we got for free and made a mushroom cheeseburgers. Have I said before marriage has been good to me?