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Sunday, April 1, 2012

RSS-Subscribers: It's Redirect Time!


I'm writing this one last post in the Blogger version for those who RSS-feed or e-mail subscribe to this blog.  You will need to adjust your feed to my new URL:

I'm not sure how many of my readers link to this site elsewhere, but you can save a few seconds if you change your link to the above URL.  If you choose not to adjust your links, that's okay, I got the Blogspot page to automatically redirect, but it'll take 5-8 seconds or so.

If you have an e-mail subscription, you will have to stay tuned while I troubleshoot my Feedburner status.  I'm trying to migrate it smoothly, but it isn't working out so well.

Thanks for your patience!


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Searching for that Perfect Cup...Without So Much Garbage

I "won" this Keurig Elite from the HSC Charity Auction last fall

Like millions of other Americans, we have become Keurig customers.  It's like a revolution in coffee...Keurigs give you a "perfect" cup of coffee with very little work.  The American dream, right?

We got our first Keurig, a "Mini", just before we moved from Nebraska to Florida in fall 2010.  After the movers took our regular coffee pot, it was a nice way to keep having our coffee in the morning.  It's small and we didn't have to keep coffee grounds on hand, just a box (or two) of K-Cups and some disposable coffee cups. That one ended up in Dave's office.  We like how it turns itself off after the cup of coffee brews.  We get a bit paranoid about coffee pots being left on.

This past fall we got one for the home.  It's been great.  When you register your machine with Keurig, you get coupons for free K-Cups.  BOGO for 2 boxes of 48 K-Cups.  This was a great deal after Christmas when the Starbucks K-Cups became available online.

K-Cup-brewed coffee is delicious and perfect every time.  No doubt there.

My conundrum: K-Cups are very wasteful and are expensive.  After all, traditional coffee pots brew through compostable coffee filters and then you can go on to compost the spent coffee grounds.

You can compost coffee grounds -- and as a bonus, they also offset the odors in your compost pail.
But with K-Cups, you're dealing with a plastic cup that has a paper filter glued to the inside...all topped with a foil lid.  The very ambitious can peel off the foil lid and compost the meager amount of grounds inside.

Not only do K-Cups generate a lot of waste, but they're also expensive.  
Let's talk about the cost.  Your typical box of 12 K-Cups will run $6-10.  Starbucks will cost more (because they can, people are buying them anyway).  The prices vary considerably, based on the brand of coffee and the number of K-Cups in the box.  It goes without saying that the large multi-packs will sell for less-per-cup.

I often seek out the big deals for the cups: Keurig's own website has good deals, military commissaries have the best non-sale prices around, and you can use the Bed, Bath and Beyond and Kohl's coupons for some good deals also.

My goal is to keep the costs under 50 cents per cup.  I'm usually pretty good about that, even with the Starbucks cups, which tend to run closer to 80 cents per cup.

So I decided to try the "My K-Cup" contraption, which is found where Keurig machines are sold.  You remove the K-Cup holder from your machine and replace it with this grey cone, inside which you put a fine mesh filter with 1-2 Tbsp. of coffee grounds.

My first attempt at using this was a gi-nor-mous FAIL.  My first cup of coffee was super-weak, but when I added more grounds, the system overflowed and I got a countertop covered in hot water and loose coffee grounds.  I attempted to adjust the size of the grounds to make the coffee stronger...unfortunately, if the water flows too slowly through the filter, the machine will stop flowing water...and you end up with a smaller-than-planned cup of coffee.

I asked friends on Facebook for advice -- and received all sorts of ideas, which I've tried.  My Mom clued me into some replacement filter baskets that are bigger than Keurig's.

The BB&B filter is on the right.
This helped somewhat.  But the coffee was still weak.

One of my Facebook friends told me about Keurig addressing the waste problem by launching a brand-spanking new coffee brewing system: The Vue Brewer.  Sounds promising...but....

...what about the millions of us who have already invested in a coffee maker that only uses K-Cups?  I'm hoping for some backwards-compatibility here...Amazon has so many options out there to make your Keurig machine more efficient...let's see what we have, shall we?

I also tried a friend's idea to simply stuff a standard paper filter into the "My K-Cup" grey cone.  It was on its way to brewing a nice strong cup of coffee but then the water began to overflow around the filter.  Oops...another mess on my hands.

How about a standard paper filter in My K-Cup?  That didn't work so well either.

What am I doing?  I'm back to the standard, expensive, wasteful K-Cups.  For now.  I've been trying to get my coffee right for two weeks with the more resource-friendly options and so far haven't been successful.  On weekends we revert to our classic French press coffee maker, no filters, and the grounds go straight into my compost pail!

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

USS Alabama Battleship "Overnight Adventure" in Mobile

You can get an idea of how BIG the guns are on this ship.

This past weekend the boys had the opportunity to camp out on the USS Alabama battleship at its museum location in Mobile Bay.  This is something the organization does for Scout groups (and other groups) most weekends.  

The USS Alabama trip is truly one of the highlights of the scout year for my boys' pack.  I was the coordinator for the trip this year, even though females aren't allowed to remain on the ship if it's a male-booking.  Everything went surprisingly well; the kids and male chaperones seemed to have a great time!

There were scout groups from Petal, MS, Phenix City, AL, Marietta, GA and Jacksonville, FL also camping.  Over 300 people total!  I think we were the envy of the other groups -- we only had a 90 minute drive to the ship :-)

Enjoy some pictures I took of the gang before I left the ship at 8pm.  I stayed at the hotel that's adjacent to the property.

Most of the people you see here are from our Cub Scout Pack.  Dave and the boys are in the line somewhere.  There were over 80 from the pack on board!
Not a great picture, but you can get an idea of the berthing setup.  It's remarkable that they gave us 95 beds in two rooms...and how little space that took.
Here's a clearer view of the berthing -- I took this picture the following morning after everyone had disembarked and we cleaned up.  We had everyone in this room and the room through the door behind it.

Dave took the boys through the museum area.

A view of the downtown Mobile skyline from the ship.

The ship's snack bar can prepare meals for the group (for an additional fee) -- they prepared a pizza dinner for us.

Sunset over Mobile.

Jacob and I took a walk down to the tanks on display nearby.

Jacob liked that this was called "Amtrac".

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

It's Baseball Season!!!

It's baseball season here -- the boys are both in Navarre Youth baseball this year, and they got their uniforms and had their first games this past weekend.

Enjoy some pictures!!!!

At practice, Timmy is got some time as a catcher.

At practice.  The look on his face is priceless!  I can't remember if he hit this one or not....

Here's Timmy practicing as a 2nd baseman.

Game day!  He was so excited to be on the BRAVES!
Dave snuck in a couple of pictures while they were taking team photos.  These pics were taken SO early in the morning!  I wonder how the shadows will be resolved...
Timmy's team had the kids' names embroidered on the hats.  This will help them when these hats are strewn all over the dugout when the boys are batting.
Dave watched Timmy's first game while I watched Jacob's.  Dave got this picture of Timmy's first at-bat: it was a base hit!  He ended up running it in for a score, too!

Later in the game, he was catcher.

On Jacob's team, it was uniform issue day last Thursday.
I need to call that Jacob's "baseball smile" because it's one of the nicest ones he has.

Can you see the ball?  It's above the 3rd baseman's head.

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Friday, March 23, 2012

The Hunger Games Movie...The Odds are Definitely in its Favor

This was at the Rave theater near Cordova Mall in Pensacola.  Someone had a good time making this out of posters.
Today I did something very anti-social.  I went BY MYSELF to a movie.  I can't remember the last time I did that.  I just didn't feel like coordinating with anyone else.  I knew I could go on Friday while the kids were at school and I didn't want anyone to stop me.

I had been drooling to see The Hunger Games movie for about a year.  Probably because I read the trilogy about a year ago.  For the past 12 months, I discussed with the GeekMoms on our message board every time photos from the film shoot, posters and trailers were publicized.

The excitement was pretty palpable by the time I bought my ticket this morning at a theater in Pensacola.  I had to haul out that far because that was the only place in 50 miles offering showings before noon.

Not counting the midnight showings, of course...but I couldn't do that last night, Dave was TDY and just got home today.  If he was home I might have gone.

(Warning: contains some slight spoilers)

The movie was phenomenal.  The crew did an amazing job recreating the grey physical and emotional demeanor of District 12 (Appalachia/coal country).  When Effie Trinket (played by Elizabeth Banks, who you might remember from Zack and Miri Make a Porno), the Capitol representative assigned to the District 12 tributes, steps onto the stage to draw the names, she and a flag of Panem above her are the ONLY splashes of color in an otherwise grey and brown world.

The scenes of the mountains, coal mines, the train, the Capitol and the over-the-top appearance of those who live in the Capitol are all very well done.

Being that I knew the story well, I could mentally fill in the blanks with what WASN'T being shown in the movie (they couldn't cover everything, you know).  For example, even though it wasn't shown, I knew Katniss had a hard time finding water in the first several days.  They just skipped that part in the movie, she was contentedly filling her canteen in a pond within minutes of the start of the games.  To be honest, it wasn't a huge part of the story...except to provide some time setting.

The minutes before Katniss stepped into the "tube" that transported her up into the arena were amazing.  Numerous closeups of Kat shaking like a leaf.  Her eyes convey fear unlike anything I've ever seen in film...not even Carol Ann Freeling!  You're scared right along with her.

Rue's death.  Oh my goodness.  It's a VERY emotional part of the book, and the film paid that scene every respect it deserved.  I got slightly teary eyed when I read the book...I bawled during the movie.  Less Rue's death itself, but when Katniss puts three fingers to her lips and then raises her fingers to salute the cameras...and the reaction of District 11 (Rue's home district).  WOW!  Yeah, I'm glad I had plenty of napkins leftover from my concessions.

The film was entirely shot in North Carolina.  Asheville, Concord, Charlotte and part of several National Forests.  The scenery is stunning...

When I posted to Facebook about seeing the movie, I got a couple of inquiries about whether the movie was appropriate for their kids.  It's rated PG-13, and the crew worked VERY hard to keep it that way.

My two boys want to see the movie.  They've seen enough of the trailers on TV, and a couple of Jacob's friends have already read at least the first book.  I said "No" to them.  I MIGHT read the book WITH them later this year.  I haven't decided yet.  I know Jacob can handle it, he seems quite resilient when it comes to delineating what's real and what's not real.

I can't say whether you should take your child to the movie outright, but I will offer my perspective:

  • I read the book before I saw the movie.  The book's descriptions of the violence, the freaky genetically-engineered creatures and the heartlessness that you feel for those in the Capitol are MUCH more vivid than what's shown in the film. 
  • The "bloodbath" in the first two minutes of the actual games is very graphic in the book.  But the cinematography during that scene is done such that you can't actually see much at all.  In an attempt to capture the chaos that Katniss is experiencing, the camera is very shaky and does a lot of quick pans.
  • You WILL see several of the tributes get killed.  Those scenes aren't gory, though...just sad in some cases, brutal in others.
  • The romance/love triangle is really played down.  A couple of kisses, but the dialogue and emotions that Katniss are feeling isn't at the forefront of the story.  The thrill of the hunt is definitely the priority here.

Let me point you to two reviews written by GeekMom colleagues today.  They also offer similar perspectives.

GeekMom review by Amy Kraft.
GeekDad review by Kathy Ceceri.

There's definitely some drama going on between the incredible craze The Hunger Games has caused...alongside the huge flop that is Disney's John Carter.  This article offers some insight to how The Hunger Games' producer Nina Jacobson ironically used to be co-president of Disney Motion Picture Group.  I wouldn't be surprised if The Hunger Games earns more this weekend than John Carter's worldwide totals so far (as of this writing, about $180M).

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Spring Break Road Trip 2012, Part 3: Visiting Old Friends, Meeting New Friends!!!

One of the things I'm guilty of is trying to balance visiting friends with every trip we take back to the Northeast.  You know who you are!  There are many of you I haven't been able to see in YEARS because we're trying to see other friends.

Now that I'm a GeekMom, there are a dozen+ ladies I want to meet on my travels.  I can't wait to meet more of you!  I'll be in the D.C. area (again) and Long Island by the end of the year....

On this trip, we got to meet up with old friends from Nebraska, North Carolina, and we got to meet up with new GeekMom/GeekDad friends.

While we were in WV, we drove out to Centreville, VA and met some friends for dinner.

Poor Timmy was sick so he stayed at my parents while the rest of us met the Folzes near Washington,  D.C.  We were neighbors in Nebraska and you might remember these boys from Cub Scout pictures and from our trip to the Ashfall Fossil Beds in summer 2010.  The kids picked up right where they left off -- and we grown-ups had a great time catching up.  Dave had so many questions for Nick about his Pentagon commute.
We met up with Don, Maryann, Joey and Johnny at a BBQ restaurant in Durham.  We are so grateful that they made the drive -- on a school night! -- out to see us!

Maryann looked FANTASTIC!!!  I felt so underdressed next to her :-)

Maryann took this nice picture of all four boys actually sitting still!

The following day, I headed over to Southpoint Mall in Durham to pick up a long-awaited iPhone 4S (whoo hoo!) and we had a chance to meet up with our friends the Warlicks for lunch in the food court.

Strike a pose!

I had taken about 50 pictures of the boys playing at this fountain with my new phone. But then I had some syncing problems when I first plugged it in...I lost those pictures.  But Wendy sent me everything she had on her camera, thanks!

I was so excited to finally get to meet a fellow GeekMom author in person! We had an invitation to visit one of the GeekMom editors, Natania Barron and her husband, GeekDad writer Michael Harrison. For Natania, Michael and me, it was like old friends seeing each other after a long while, since we talk so much via Facebook, Twitter and our GeekMom discussion boards. But for Dave, he was getting to meet them and talk to them for the first time. We had a fun time enjoying Greek food for dinner -- Natania made it all! -- and the kids enjoyed a game of Zombie Dice with Michael.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spring Break Road Trip 2012, Part 2: North Carolina

This picture was taken minutes before we headed to our truck and started our drive home.
After hooking up the lawn mower to our truck in WV, we headed back down I-81 and U.S. 29 towards my sister's house in central North Carolina.  I blew through her place -- stopping overnight in each direction -- driving to and from NY last summer, but this time we get to spend a few days in the area...and this was Dave's first trip back since we moved away in July 2008.

My sister and I always have great times when we get together.  We often stay up late and talk talk talk until we're falling asleep on each other!  We discuss books, movies and music and catch up on gossip.  I didn't take any pictures, we sat at her kitchen table and folded origami cranes while we talked.

The kids take off like a pack of wolves and only need grownups' attention when they're hungry or hurt.  It's actually rather relaxing, believe it or not.

My dear sister made us a cake!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a new park in Hillsborough.  Several of us took runs around the 2/3-mile-long track that circles the park.

The little ones played on the playground.


Running, complete with iPod!

Dave liked this park: check out the view he had of this NC Amtrak train!  He on the small hill on the right side of this picture, also photographing it.

Wouldn't you know it -- we had scooters and helmets in the truck!  The kids took turns riding around.

Time for an iPod break.


My sister's boys have a trampoline on their property. My boys couldn't get enough of it!

My sister kept the boys while Dave and I had a morning to ourselves to browse Trader Joe's and Southern Season in Chapel Hill.  Money was spent.

Southern Season: These are just jams and jellies!

Dave was enjoying the fun wine section.

Cake decorating supplies!!!!  I bought some non-pareil cows.  I don't have immediate plans to make a cow-themed cake, but you never know....
I've taken enough pictures of Trader Joe's -- I feel like a dork when I do it.  But I did photograph this beer that we used to get.  We elected not to attempt taking alcohol across NC/SC/GA/AL/FL.
Before we hit the road on Saturday for a partial drive home, we enjoyed watching my oldest nephew's soccer game in Mebane.

One more post is forthcoming about last week -- all the other friends we had a chance to see on this trip!  Stay tuned!

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