Monday, July 31, 2006

All You Can BOWL(not eat)

Busy day here in St. Louis today. Mowed for 2 hours early. My daughter and I met a friend and his daughter at the theatre and we watched Ant Bully. After that I met Minhaul for All You Can Bowl for 2 hours for $ included. I paid for my daughter and she bowled for the first time in over 2 years. Her first game was a 79 with bumpers.

I bowled my best game ever...258. 10 strikes and 2 spares. I think my 5 game series went: 190, 137, 200, 258, 155. I even bowled one lefted handed game and scored 157. Minhaul bowled his first ever left handed game and broke 100. I needed a day like this because my brother and Minhaul dominated the last 2 bowling outings. I think between my daughter and Minhaul we bowled 15+ games. We probably saved at least $20 with this special.

Finished the night with a little swimming action at my friend Andy's house. Tomorrow I hope to get tickets to the Cardinals game before heading back to Texas on Wednesday.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Up Hill BOTH Ways

Remember the stories your parents or grandparents would tell you about walking to school, two miles, up hill, BOTH WAYS? ANd thru 2 feet of snow! Well I helped BillyV move yesterday and loading the truck we worked UP HILL and unloading the truck we worked UP HILL.

We started Saturday morning about 9:30 and it took about 2 1/2 hours. We had to move boxes and furniture from the basement of a local pastor who was generous to let them store their items for free. The logistics had us walking out a basement door, across a flat area, and then turning left to negotiated a huge tree and then up a steep gravel hill that was at least 20 steps long. From there you made your way to the driveway and another 20 uphill steps to the truck. If you had the energy, you walked the last 10 steps UP the ramp. This was a tough trek walking without anything let alone pulling a dolly stacked with 3 boxes across the gravel. Of about 15 trips with the dolly that I took I only had 2 spills.

It only took about 1 1/2 hours to unload. Most of the stuff went into the ground level garage, but some went up about 20 steps to the front door which led into the living area. A few items even went up one more level to the bedrooms.

I was impressed with the generals(dad and dad-n-law) who were near 60 in age. Then you had BillyV and myself at 40 and then a couple who came and helped who are mid to low 30 ish. AND she is expecting. I am so thankful that this couple made the trek too.

I ended up with one tick bite, a slight sun burn on my neck and shoulders, probably a little dehydrated(100 degree index) and this morning my calves are BURNING. Ibuprofen will be my friend today.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Red Lobster

Last night my family dined at Red Lobster for $16. That was $38 for 2 entrees and a kids meal, minus $25 for a gift card, minus $4 coupon, add $6 tip. Not bad for plenty of food with left overs to bring home.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Philly Connection: $11.30

Our Wednesday night dinner plans usually include dining at the Philly Connection. It is "Kids Eat Free" with the purchase of a large combo. Our dinner total came to $11.30.

The following was our order:

Large Original Philly Cheesesteak, no onions as a combo: fries and drink included. Basically the kids split this one,$7.39
Kids Philly Cheesesteak meal, with onions: fries and drink included. This was my meal,$FREE.
Wednesday special sandwich: chicken chunks with cheese, no onions: $2.99. The wife ate this one.

This is plenty of food for us and we even had french fries left over. We visit enough that the lady was able to punch in our order last night without help. I did recommend this place to a friend and I was SHOCKED that he didn't like it. He thought it was bland. Oh well, taste is a preference.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eat Cheap

I am going to start posting cheap dining experiences since this is a specialty of mine. I may be able to pass on some tips to those of you with families to feed on a tight budge.

Sunday after church my family had lunch at Taco Cabana. The following is the order and food description.

1. Personal Fajita Skillet-$4.99. This meal comes with fajita chicken served on a hot iron skillet accompanied with rice, beans, lettuce, pico, sour cream and 2 tortillas.
2. 3 Taco Combo-$4.99. This meal comes with 3 tacos of choice(beef or chicken), crispy or soft tortillas, a bowl of tortilla chips, a decent side of queso and a 20 oz. drink.
3. 3 extra tortillas.

The meal total was $10.99. This gave us plenty of food to share with a little bit of the beans and rice left over. Nobody left the table hungry. Sharing the soda does lend itself to a few refills, taking turns and trading germs, but we share the same toilet so what's the big deal. Our only sacrifice on the drink is that my wife would prefer tea or coke and I try to mix a 1/2 Coke and 1/2 diet Coke.

Let me know how you cut corners and save when it comes to eating. I've got a few people I know asking me "Where can we eat cheap today?"

Monday, July 24, 2006


In the movie Tombstone, Morgan Earp(Bill Paxton) says, "I know what they say about live and let live, but there aint no livin' with bugs Wyatt." This weekend we went to a pool party in the neighborhood and if you've read my blog in the past you know my feelings about flies(HATE THEM). When you sit there and watch fly after fly land on the deviled eggs, cheese dip, pasta salad, etc. you kind of lose your desire to eat. Especially when you know that they vomit and poop each time they land. Great diet plan I guess. I only ate the meat that was covered FULLY by the foil. We were at the party for about 2 hours when the host picked up one of the 2 remaining deviled eggs. "NO!" I screamed silently, but it was too late. I almost lost it for her. Tip: If hosting a party keep the food INSIDE!!!!!! Then keep a fly swatter handy.

Pigs posted about how her home was being invaded by crickets so you can go to her site and read about it . I don't have the cricket problems at my house.

Typically when someone in Texas talks about ants they are talking about FIRE ANTS. They are nasty ants that attack when disturbed and have on occasion killed someone who reacted negatively to the bites. But right now I'm talking about the general ant. The one who in human distance travels about 10 miles in hopes of finding a crumb or a puddle of spilled Pepsi. When we came back from Missouri mid July we found ants all over the house. And since this time we have sprayed and sprayed and they still manage to infiltrate our house looking for either water, a cooler habitat, or food. They are on the counters, in the pantry, in the bathroom, scattered across the carpet. You name it. Fortunately they aren't the biting kind so until it rains or cools off we'll just learn to co-habitate with these arthopods.

What's bugging you?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

To Go or Not to Go

My summer break is slowly coming to an end. My first official report date is August 7 making the next 14 days extremely valuable. That said I have one more chance to trek up north to the great picturesque state of Missouri. My best friend BillyV is moving from the Camdenton area to a small town just outside of Springfield called Nixa. There are many people that I do not hesitate to help with no questions asked. BillyV is one of the few that I would go the extra to help out regardless of the circumstances. I've known of "the move" for about a month and told BillyV that I could possible drive the 8 hrs. and help him out. My wife has school commitments and all I would need to do is bring my daughter along.

The following is the lists of PROS and CONS on making the trip

BillyV needs the MAN power(I think he has 2 other people helping-dad and father-in-law)
Friendship-my friendship with BillyV can't be replaced
Memories-I would journey the additional 3 hours to St. Louis and visit family again and use my FREE Six Flags ticket, possibly go to a Cardinals game with my dad, and spend time with my aging parents.
Boredom-I would probably be bored here at home anyway
Delivery-I could take my treadmill to my mom and 3 cookie jars to my aunt

The biggest con is it will cost me at least $150 in gasoline costs. My dad usually fills my gas tank once when I visit(-$35) and gives me a little cash so that would offset my costs a little.

I would probably drive back on Wednesday or Thursday so I would still have 3-4 FREE days before going back to school for trainings. I think in the long run I would regret NOT doing this and I usually don't spend much $$$ in St. Louis since my family usually treats and such. I could maybe even work for my brother one day if I had too.

Chime in and let me know what your opinion is.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

It's HOT

It is kind of pathetic when the news meteorologists have to create new ways to draw the viewers in by leading them to think it is either going to A) RAIN or B) get cooler. All week they have shown a chance of rain for Saturday along with a cool front blowing thru the area. "Is there rain in the forecast? Stay tuned!" The viewing area that they've included expanded by 200 miles to include a trace of rain near San Antonio and I live near Dallas. Our cold front that blew in today dropped the temps to 99 degrees.

We finally called the solar screen guy and had him come out and give us an estimate of what it would cost to cover our back 23 windows.....$525. We would probably recoup that money in the short run and another positive would be that our bedroom would stay a little darker. Should consider putting one on my daughter's room since she wakes up at 7am regardless of what time she goes to bed.

It was hot across the nation so heat in Texas probably isn't getting anyone's sympathy vote. Although I was a little jealous this morning when my dad say it was in the low 60's just outside of St. Louis this morning. I do wonder during July and August why I moved to Texas. BillyV can you answer me???????

Off to a pool to beat the heat!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Kids and TV

My 2 year old is FINALLY able to sit and watch a TV program. I know this sounds kind of bad, but it is a relief to be able to do something on my own without having to be at his command. It seems like it took him longer to be entertained by the TV than my daughter who is the eldest. My daughter could be babysat by the TV all day if we would let her, but she is just as happy doing other things: puzzles, coloring, playing with stuffed animals, swinging outside, etc. When we do need a break from her we recommend that she watch TV and she obliges. The cool thing with her is that she will watch Animal Planet non-stop. We do notice a little attitude from her when she ends up watching Nickelodeon or Cartoon Network. Generally we prefer that she watch Nick Jr. for younger kids. It is on from 5am-5pm each day locally. And since we have Comcast there are plenty of wholesome "on demand" kids programs that are always available.

I think my choices as a 5 year old were The Lone Ranger, Mr. Rogers, and Sesame Street. I use "choices" loosely because with only 5 channels you watched what was on. Now my daughter could legitimately have over 100 different things to watch and this does not include videos.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

End of a Lease

My wife and I are approaching unchartered vehicle owning territory. We are at the end of the lease on our 2003 Jeep Liberty. We have 3000 miles and 4 months to go. The disappointing thing is that if we decided to keep it we would have to finance $11K PLUS pay them a $400 purchasing fee. If we turn it in we owe them a $295 "disposition" fee. Our other options would be to sell it outright, but then we lose any tax credit we would have($700 net) should we buy another car. If we dispose of it at the dealer and buy something elsewhere we will also lose this credit.

The other pending factor is what do we buy? I think the minivan option is out. Just recently we have thought about buying an older convertible style Jeep Wrangler. We could find a 7-10 year old Jeep Wrangler for about $8000. It would be fun to have, but when it gets less than 20 miles per gallon that doesn't seem like an economical choice given the gas issues the past 2 years. A tiny portion of me says find a car that gets 40 miles to the gallon and avoid allowing the gas crisis be a factor in our monthly spendings.

I've got just a little time to figure this out so I'd appreciate any advice. AND horses don't come with AC so please recommend something with 4 wheels and AC.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Remember When......

I remember when......

The Big Gulp was the largest drink 7-11 sold.
7-11 didn't sell gas.
Gas was under $2....okay I remember in 2000 buying gas for $1.27 at Walmart.
City parks had 2 story metal slides and swings with super long chains.
My 1st car, a 65 Chevy Malibu was 20 years old.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Up $700

Not having to spend money is about as good of news as receiving money. A few weeks ago while I was detailing a car I saw my son standing in the front seat shoving coins in this 2006 Honda Civic's CD player. When I opened the door I saw one penny hanging out and I successfully removed it. I decided to finish cleaning the car before I would check to see if the CD player worked. Well, it didn't work and I wasn't able to see inside the unit to look for other coins. I drove it by the local Honda dealer before returning the car to it's owner and they said there was no way they could tell. When I dropped the car off to the owner I explained what happened and said I would pay for any damage or for a replacement CD.

A few weeks had gone by and I guess no news is good news. Today while attending a teacher inservice I ran into Coach C and she informed me that she took it in and kind of played dumb as to why it wasn't working. The Honda dealer ordered a new CD player and had to remove a portion of the dash in the process. They told Coach C that there was 8 cents in the unit and that it was the reason it wasn't working. She kind of said she wondered if someone had put coins in the unit. They told her since it was brand new they would just cover it under warranty. WHEW!

I was thinking it might cost between $300-$500 dollars, but they told her it would have been more than $700.

I'm telling you, my 2 year old has cost us so much more money than my 5 year old: 2 trips to emergency room, he's broke the blinds in his room, he vomitted on an old car seat while traveling thru Oklahoma Sunday so we bought a new carseat, etc.

Luck was on my side this time. I guess I'll give Coach C a few FREE details since she played her cards in my favor.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Top 5 Float Trip

We went canoeing Saturday on a spring fed river in central Missouri and the following is a top 5.

Top 5 Things I Observed About The Float Trip

5. It is mainly a white person activity. 98% whites, 1% black, 1% dogs.
4. At 40 I used lots of sunblock, in my 20's I put my shirt back on when someone finally said, "you're looking red."
3. There's always one person in each group who likes to splash or tip canoes.
2. Compared to many out on the river I'm in pretty good shape........comparitively.
1. If finances and sex are the 2 most stressing factors on a relationship, then being in a canoe with your spouse has to be a close 3rd.

We made it home last night about 9:45pm. We took a 45 minute break 2 hours from home when my son decided to erupt like a volcano all over himself and his carseat. No wonder he got quiet for about 30 minutes right before he erupted.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Chocolate Bar

I'm not talking about a candy bar, but in case you wanted to know my favorite candy bar would be either the Heath toffee bar or it's close cousing the Skor bar. Last Thursday night my wife and I stayed at The Park Avenue Bed n Breakfast in the historic Lafayette Square in downtown St. Louis. Down the street a short stroll was a Chocolate "Bar". My wife and I ventured in to see red velvety decor with dark stained wood. We stood near the bar and checked out the menu. This was a place that specialized in chocolate items: beer, martinis, shakes, truffles, and other desserts. They also had a limited choice in mini-pizzas and breads.

We finally decided that we would order the fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream drizzled with a caramel sauce. It was one of the cheapest items on the menu that had desserts ranging from $5-$11. It was wonderful and was perfect for us to split since we had dinner at one of our favorite dating places, Seamus McDaniels.

If you get a chance while you are in St. Louis go and check out Lafayette Square. It was built in the late 1800's for the rich and was nearly devastated in the 1890's by a massive tornado. It took years to rebuild and then suffered a major slump in the 1920's when it became a boarding house area. A small percentage of the houses have been leveled and the neighborhood has been rejuvenating for the past 20 years. A few new homes have been built, but they have been built to match the era.

You do have to be cautious as you visit this area near Jefferson and Hwy 44 because it is a few blocks away from what I grew up calling, "The Projects", otherwise known as section 8 housing. In the early 80's there were about 4 highrise, low income housing that turned into the slums. That was all leveled and the neighborhood has actually been built back up with townhouses and apartments.

Today is get away day and we will be traveling from St. Louis back to Texas! Pray for our safety.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


On our way down to see fireworks last night my wife asked me to stop somewhere so she could get a pack of gum. I exited the highway in a marginal area of St. Louis. I saw the Walgreens and decided that was the best place considering the options. I was fortunate enough to find a front row spot so I pulled up and let me wife make the purchase. As I sat there many black(African-American) people entered and exited the store. When she got back into the car we discussed the feelings we had of being in a heavily black area. "Lock the doors," was one of my comments. We also noticed that many of the black men would wear blue jean pants or shorts that wouldn't stay up without an occasional crotch grab. All guys I saw at the Walgreens also wore either a white t-shirt or white tank top. This was reinforced today as we drove near the same area.

It was just a weird unsafe feeling mixed with stereotyping coming true. Along this area that we drove, Broadway Blvd, there were many 2 or 3 story brick buildings, many boarded up and the others dotted with black families sitting on the front porches. There are many beautiful brick buildings, many close to 100 years old with awesome architecture, just waiting to be torn down or renovated.

Today as we scoped out a bed and breakfast in a nice neighborhood that is surrounded by poverty I got to experience purchasing gas at a station where few white people visit. It was the first time that I bought groceries by pointing and guessing from the outside of a bullet proof window. "Uh, how much are those chips........., no those on the next shelf....." I got a little nervous as the line started to back up behind me. This is an area that I often drove thru as a teen and at that time I was either naive, didn't realize the separation between whites and blacks, or the area wasn't this bad.

This said, I do appreciate the few black people that I work with. I am comfortable enough with 2 of the guys to discuss any questions or feelings that I have about black people. They may not appreciate the questions that I ask, but we do seem to enjoy each other's company.


Fireworks are a big thing this time of year. In our area a person can buy the fireworks, but not shoot them off in our county due to a severe drought and ban on fireworks. As we drove up thru Oklahoma and into Missouri you realize how many dollars are spent on flashing and exploding pyro devices. There are roadside stands everywhere.

This time of year is my brother's favorite. He'll spend as much as $500 on fireworks and usually has a large group of Missouri rednecks come out to his property to camp and watch for FREE!

Monday night we watched a firework display in Smalltown Missouri that was put on by the optimist club. Why are they called "optimists?" The fireworks actually went on for about 30 minutes and is probably the best up close display that anyone could hope to witness.

Now last night my wife and I drove thru the sporadic, drizzling rain, and went downtown St. Louis to a park called Kiener Plaza. From there you could see the old courthouse between the legs of the St. Louis Arch which is the backdrop for the Veiled Prophet fireworks show. Downtown St. Louis was a near madhouse as we drove in about 9pm to find a place to park and watch. We dediced to give up on finding a FREE parking spot and found a parking lot for $5. We walked about 8 blocks and the fireworks show started as we were about 3 blocks away from Keiner Plaza. The show started at 9:30. I thought it was at 9:45. OOPS. Bottom line is it was a top notch fireworks show with the Arch and courthouse as the ultimate back drop to the fireworks.

My wife brought up the fact that my overall enjoyment of the trip can ride on how easily I can "get away" from the crowds. I always try to find an escape route. I found a parking spot that wouldn't trap me in. It was on a busy street that allowed us to get away from ground zero. I also had access to 2 major highways. It did take a little bit of time to get away, but I never felt trapped.

Only downfall of the trip was the occasional smell of urine as we passed the downtown skyscrapers. The little bit of rain and high humidity didn't help that situation at all.

What did you do for the 4th?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Back in St. Louis

Finally made it to St. Louis via Camendton and Jonesburg Missouri. Left right after church on Sunday and drove to BillyV's in-laws on the lake. Got to take a trip out on the boat. July 4th week is one of the lake's busiest weeks. It was pretty calm late in the evening. It is really eye opening to see all the resorts and lake houses along with boats that start in the low $20K's. We saw a few on the strip for up to $200,000. I'm sure there are some that cost more than that.

We visited the wife's family last night and today. Got to visit the small town 4th of July special. Free carriage ride and bounce house. We did have fried fish sandwiches along with home made ice cream. The fireworks display was delayed about 30 minutes due to inclement weather. My kids could care less about the fireworks so I'm not sure that we will go anywhere tonight. If we do, it will be without the kids.

I'll be here in St. Louis taking it easy so if you want to get together just leave a comment. We'll be staying at my mom's place here in Arnold, Missouri, fast food capital of the world.