Should I use money to make my life easier? Well, maybe not my life, but my chores. There is part of me that says doing these things around the yard without the benefit of power equipment is simply another way to get some exercise. And then I’m out there in 95 degree heat and 90% humidity and I think, perhaps I’ve made the wrong choice. Or, like last weekend, we get a bunch of wet, heavy snow and I’m out there trying to make my back as sore as possible while not having a heart attack and dying in my driveway. Same thought, I’ve made the wrong choice. Yesterday, I made a different choice.

I have been pondering this decision for a while. Last summer I thought I was ready to make a big purchase and get a lawn tractor, but then I convinced myself that I did not need such an extravagance. I have a suburban lot which, according to the local municipality, is 0.232 acres. It’s not really an all day job to mow less than a quarter acre. But it is a miserable chore that I do not like doing. In much the same way, my driveway is not huge, at least six cars, but not much more than that. And half of that is filled with two vans most of the time. I like shoveling snow more than mowing the lawn, but it’s still not a favorite.

I made up my mind about the snow blower last weekend. Getting one. Just a matter of which one. Enough of this shit.

The mower was a different story. I could not pull the trigger on what I wanted, because it’s a damn big purchase for something I don’t like doing. Kinda how I feel about replacing my roof. I was looking at self propelled mowers, but I had one of those and I didn’t use it. Sold it to the neighbor actually. It was actually Lady Ronn who said to do this. Apparently, she’s not so worried about me dying in the driveway, more that she doesn’t want me to collapse in the front yard where the neighbors will see. That would be embarrassing. So I did it. Pulled the trigger. Hopefully I won’t regret either of these purchases.

something for the snow

You have no idea how many videos I watched on this machine. Possibly all of them. I was pondering one or two stage snow blowers in our last go round. Not only is this a single stage unit, it’s also electric. Probably the big decision maker was that a couple of those videos were filmed here in Michigan, under conditions that I both recognize and have experience with. This should be perfect for most snowfalls, and the reviews say it’s bad ass enough to handle the big stuff as well. I hope that’s true. I could have gone to the store and grabbed this one off the shelf, but why bother, they’ll bring it right to my house. Home Depot will have it here in a week. Hopefully the snow will hold off until it gets here.

something for the grass

I looked at this Ryobi last year. Wanted it. Didn’t buy it. This year I compared it to a couple others, the Cub Cadet in particular, and I still like it best. It has a very go kart look to it, which I think is cool. It was on sale at the Home Depot and comes with extra blades and the hard shell grass bags, plus I had a coupon for 24-months free financing. Still not a cheap purchase. The 75AH is more than big enough for my lawn. It’s good for two hours or two acres and the 38″ blade width should make short work of my yard. I’m curious about how it’ll handle the digout for my culvert and the hill in my front yard. I guess we’ll find out in a few months. Home Depot is delivering it for free, should be here in two weeks.

I’ve had my first negative experience with an Amazon purchase experience. This is an actual Amazon issue, not a problem with one of their vendors. Which is impressive, given how often I shop on Amazon and how many years I’ve been using them. The issue was resolved, but it was still a thing. Here’s what happened.

I’ve been on Lady Ronn to upgrade her camera for a while now. The Canon Rebel she’s been using is nice enough, but it’s not professional quality and if she’s really going to go for this photography thing she needs something else. Her instructors agree. So, after much brow-beating, badgering, and bullying, I finally got a decision out of her. Which is all I was really waiting for; an excuse to spend gobs of money.

I loaded my Amazon cart up with camera equipment and made my purchases. Which went pretty much as I would expect. Flawless. Except that an hour later I received an email letting me know that there was a problem with my order, the purchase had been rejected, and I needed to change my payment information. Okay. That was my bad. I used the Amazon Store Card and the limit on that card wasn’t enough to cover the cost. I should have used my credit card, but I hadn’t thought about it. I don’t spend sums of money like this very often. And here’s where the problem starts.

There is a handy button on my order to change the payment source. And I have three sources to choose from, but it doesn’t matter which one I choose. Everytime I make a change it won’t take. The screen loads and indicates that the payment source has been changed to the Store Card… which is not what is supposed to be happening. I fought with that for 10-minutes before deciding that it didn’t matter how many times I repeated the process it wasn’t going to change. Because it didn’t!

My next idea was to raise the limit on the Store Card. So, I go to the website, request the increased limit, it gets processed immediately, badda-boom, badda-bing, and I go back to my order page and try again. It still says it has changed the payment source, but it still isn’t changing anything. It’s also not registering the new limit, so it’s still failing. Another 10-minutes of trying to make that work… didn’t.

At this point I was annoyed. Trying to find a customer service number for Amazon did not improve my attitude. Finally, I found a link to a text window that offered me a callback to resolve my issue. And that call was almost immediate, the lady on the phone was helpful and pleasant, everything seemed to be resolved. She told me that I’d get a message if there were any other problems. So I went to bed thinking things were fixed. Not so much.

I checked the order details when I woke the next morning and saw that the $8 screen protector was now paid for and shipping. The camera and the lens… not so much. Change payment source, please. Head explodes!

After cleaning up the mess and digging a bit more into the payment links, I found a place to “retry” a payment type. In case you fat fingered your numbers or made some sort of error while entering a card. With one click I was able to refresh the payment attempt, recheck the card balance, and complete the purchase. Success.

The camera and lens showed up today, but the process of getting them here was not a particularly positive one. Sorry for the long rambling rant. That’s my story. Later.

I don’t get a lot of visitors, but when I do get them I feel bad about the rather poor sitting options I had for them in the office. I’ve tried multiple solutions; from a dog-slobber stained living room chair to a waiting room chair on wheels, and a few things in between. All were unacceptable.

So I wanted something that would fit in my small office, not hide my shelves in such a way that I can’t enjoy my nic nacs, and still be reasonably comfortable. So, I picked up a small couch-thingy for my office. Is it a bench? A loveseat? Wayfair calls it a tufted bench settee, so I guess that’s what it is.

Jared Tufted Bench Settee by Jennifer Taylor
relax and sit a spell

It’s nice enough. I thought it would sit a bit taller, but I don’t think that’ll be an issue. The fabric is some sort of polyester blend and the color works pretty well for the space. This is the first time I’ve shopped the Wayfair site and I found it to be painless. The shipping was free and took about 5-days, the price seemed highish (but that’s mostly a furniture thing), and the thing arrived undamaged. I call that a win.

If you like it so much that you want to get one of your own, you can find it over at the Wayfair site at this link:

One more purchase from Amazon, with thanks to the Black Friday week sales. New monitors for my desk set up. I picked up two Acer monitors to replace the HP monitors I’ve been using for the last few years.

I was satisfied with my 27-inch, 1920×1080 monitors and didn’t see a need or feel a want for more resolution until I started working on my Warlock’s Cauldron D&D campaign. For that campaign I was using real world geography and using Google Maps to create my world maps. I found the 1080 screen shots I was using for the maps didn’t cover the space I wanted. That was the first flickers of new monitor desire started with that experience. These aren’t 4k, but I don’t really need to pay that kind of money.

These Acer monitors are 32-inch beasts and have a resolution of 2560×1440, which should be good for a few years. They were discounted by $78, which put the price point right at $210. The pair of them makes for a pretty big purchase for me, but that’s not the end of the story.

Surprise. Surprise. My existing video card didn’t have the muscle to run both of these monitors at their native resolution. So I had to go and get a new video card. That was damn near as expensive as buying another monitor. But it’s arrived, installed, and I’m up and running without any jagged pixel bits ruining the experience. These things are big. Damn big.

new 32-inch monitors
old 27-inch monitors

You can see, in the above pictures, that I’ve painted and put the desktop on a couple of the pieces of my homemade desk. Drawers are in progress and the main part of the desk is still a work in progress, but it’s coming along. 

I just got these monitors set-up and running right tonight, so I can’t pass along anything but initial impressions. They’re big, they’re impressive (or rediculus), and I like the smaller bezel. I like them and unless they fail in some way, I can’t imagine that changing much. If it does, I’ll let you know.

One of the items that showed up in ads above my email on Black Friday was an offer for 50 custom cut stickers for $20 from StickerMule. I’m willing to waste a twenty on an experiment. I mean, hell, I did buy a half-dozen baseball caps, and that was way more than 20-bucks. Besides, I wanted to put that rampant lion shield on some stickers. So I did. Here are the results.

fifty rampant lion shield stickers

I think they look pretty good. They’re about 3″ tall, slightly narrower, and the the printing is sharp, clear, and good quality. I like the way the inner border is faint but visible. I’m curious to see how the hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life, the sun, and whatnot. I received a bit of promotional stuff from them along with my order, a few stickers and weirdly, a coaster.

stickers and promotional extras

Anybody wants a sticker, drop me a note and I’ll hook you up. Next time I might change up the design to actually include the URL, but the first time around I just wanted the plain shield. Also, I’ll let you know how they hold up. Later.

My email has been full with pre-deals, sale previews, and early price drops for two weeks. I’m sure yours has too. So money was bound to get spent. i can only stand up to that kind of pressure for so long. My personal BLACK FRIDAY shopping spree started on Tuesday at Home Depot.

All of my shopping has been at either the big box home centers or Amazon. And I did NOT leave the house on Friday. Saturday and Sunday, but not Friday. I let Lady Ronn do that particular brand of madness. 

Ronn smirking
no black friday shopping for me

On Tuesday I picked up a new 6-pc. set of Rigid battery powered tools and took advantage of the pick two freebies, I also grabbed a 3-1/2″ framing nail gun by Porter Cable. The nail gun is something that I’ve been waiting for a price drop on, the Rigid stuff… yeah, that was an impulse buy.

Then on Saturday, I went to Menards and took advantage of their R-15 insulation deal. They were offering a $9 rebate per roll, so that brings the price down to $2.99 for an 18-foot roll. I have a garage to insulate and I couldn’t pass that up. I had to go back for a second load today, and while I was there I picked up a heater for the garage. So now I have two new projects that I don’t have time to do.

So much good stuff
my weekend haul

I don’t want to even talk about the stuff I bought from Amazon, but they’ve been keeping my credit card busy all weekend. And I’ve been told that the Friday outing went well. Which I assume means money was spent. Sounds like we’ve done our part to keep the US economy rolling along.

So what’s on sale Cyber Monday?

I’m very excited to tell you about something. Today my package from arrived. I’ve been waiting weeks for these things to arrive. As an added bonus they sent some of their own swag along with my stuff. I’m now the proud owner of a bag, mouse pad, notepad, and water bottle all emblazoned with the Queensboro name and logo. I’ll probably use that water bottle, it seems kinda cool. swag, free with purchase…. so, not free

I placed this order on February 19th and in truth, this stuff actually arrived early. When I placed my order I gave them a date of 3/21 for delivery and today is only the 16th. But my box of hats has arrived… six brand new hats arrived. So let’s take a look at them, discuss the process, and talk about what I like and what could be improved.
the new hat dance

First, I uploaded my logo’s to the Queensboro site. You’ve seen them before and you’ll see them again, but here’s a bad quality resized version of what they were working with. So they took my designs and sent me an email showing the proposed embroidery.
example output

I expected to lose some detail, so I wasn’t surprised that the white outline on the lettering wasn’t included, but I was really disappointed with the way the lion shield looked. Fortunately, the software on the site let’s you change the thread color for your pattern and so I was able to tweak it a bit.
I changed the lion eye to red, because I’d rather not have it in the design than have it look like that. And I sent them a response asking if the outline could be done in two colors, to which they responded in the negative, and so I changed the outline to white and was happier. Still not perfect, but acceptable.

I was happy enough with the design to give the thumbs up on the order, but now that I have the hats, I think that more detail could have been gained by increasing the size of the shield on the hat. But, alas, that was not an option. Perhaps next time I will try just the rampant lion.
a half-dozen new hats

And here are a couple close-up shots of the embroidery, front and back.


I wanted to keep this experiment under a $100, so I only ordered six hats. Queensboro was having a sale on this particular hat (and it looks like they pretty regularly have something or another on sale), so that was my big deciding factor. These were 50% off and I think six hats may have been the minimum, but I’m not sure about that part. It ended up costing $84 for everything, and that includes $30 for the second embroidery location on the back.
These are the Port & Company Six-Panel Unstructured Twill Cap (Style #8031). It’s a pretty light weight hat, but it does have a Velcro clasp. Both of the other hats my wife had embroidered are higher quality hats than these, but for the price, these are not bad.
I’ve already mentioned that I’d have liked the shield to be larger. It’s just about 2-inches tall, but I think if it were more like 2.5-inches tall, you’d get better detail and a cleaner design. I don’t think enlarging that is an option, but it would be worth asking about or finding a company that could do it. The lettering on the back looks good, but I would drop it down closer to the seam. I feel like aesthetically  it would look better, lower. The solid color, minus the white outline, is okay. I like it. In fact, I think I will play with the whole logo and see if I can’t come up with a mono color logo that works for one color design options; print, embroidery, silk screen, whatever.
Lastly, the color. Personally, I like a black hat, but the black border of the shield kind of disappears on these black hats. There are 16 other colors to choose from and maybe charcoal would have been a better choice. Or white. Or maybe, red with the lettering in black. I’m just saying there are other options.
All-in-all I’m happy with my purchase and feel like I’ve gotten good value for my $84. I have six nice hats, not perfect, but nice. There are things I will change if I do this again, but I will definitely be wearing one of these while I’m out and about. Best part is, Lady Ronn will not yell at me for ruining a hat with paint, drywall dust, or whatever else I happen to be getting covered in, because it’s not a one of a kind item.
I have hats! Woot!

My how the weeks scoots by… four or five days fly by and no posts get made. Well, let’s remedy that.
I’ve put up the trim, blocked the hole above the electrical panel, and finished the ceiling in the closet for the craftroom project. That was yesterday’s project. We’ve decided to go with mirrored closet doors to keep the room bright, but I’ll pick those up next week, along with a sheet of plywood to redo that back shelf.

addition of 1/4-round on the floor

in the closet as well

Today, I managed to get all my paperwork together and get the taxes done, with a little help from the H&R Block website. I had a minor issue getting logged into the website to get my 1095-A, but eventually it let me log in. So that was a thing. Anyway, I’m happy to report that I’m now impatiently waiting for my refund check to arrive. I don’t know that they do any better job than any of the other tax services, but I’ve used them for years and I’ve never had an issue or had to cut the government a check. So, I guess that’s an endorsement of their product.
Killian is doing well. Oh, who am I kidding, from the moment she got home she was right back to all her kitten nonsense… as if nothing had ever happened. Honestly, if her side and belly wasn’t shaved, I’d never know that she’d had surgery. She is certainly not behaving like an animal in recovery. I don’t think I was quite so frisky after my operation.
I edited up one Truckcast this morning and I have another recorded, so you have that to look forward to. I also have a video ‘hot take’ on the price hike for Amazon Prime. It’s not arohenTV worthy, but I’ll throw it up here next week.
Saturday night, the youngest had a tire blowout on the Spirit. I had to go out and rescue him with the jack and the tire iron. Getting the spare out was a treat, as I don’t think it’d ever been out and the threaded knob was frozen solid with rust. Judicious application of the sledge-hammer took care of it though 🙂 He never would have gotten it out of there, even if he did know how to change a tire… The spare lasted about half a day before it went bust. So I ended up getting a whole set of tires from Discount Tire (I didn’t replace the spare, though. I’m a risk taker like that.). Not an expected expense, but you’ve got to realize, things like this will happen with a 22-year old car. I took Lady Ronn with me, it was almost like a date. There is just nothing quite like changing a tire on the side of a busy freeway. Big Fun.
Lastly, I have one remaining project for my Electrical Controls class to finish up for Monday. Four out of Five’s not bad. So that’s what I’m going to do for at least part of the day.
You’re all caught up now.  Whew!

Our state refund was deposited this morning and the federal refund showed on Wednesday. I used H&R Block again this year and filed electronically. It only took 10-days to get the refund. They had predicted a 21-day wait, but I’m not going to complain about money showing up early.
There is part of me that wants to go on a shopping spree, but I think it’s going to go towards paying off some credit card debt. Because that’s the responsible thing to do. *sigh*
Oh well, easy come, easy go.
a windfall of coin

Lots of good stuff today.
I took my work truck in to get the window fixed (it won’t go down; bad motor), the fan fixed (it’s intermittent, but I spend most of my time with no AC), and to get the 144,000 mile maintenance. I couldn’t get the necessary approvals to get two of those three things done and the fleet company gave me a hard time about showing up 400-miles early for the third. All of which kinda sucked. But the flip side is that they’ve decided to get me a new van. Which is awesome.
Today was also the first day of school for our high school student, which is great because, well, because he’ll be out of the house and back in school. I haven’t talked to him, but I imagine he feels less excited by this than I am. Hurrah for school.
The refinance is done. Our money was transferred. And while it’s mostly gone now, we have a zero balance on all of our revolving credit accounts now. And the plan is to buy a new bed with the rest. Anybody have any bed advice? As near as we can tell, mattress purchasing is akin to navigating a labyrinth. Our plan is to just go lay on some and see what we like.