Saturday, September 25, 2021

Playing Games

I’ve never been one to use my phone to play games. We have an XBox One S, a Wii U, and a Wii, but I never play games there, either.  What I do enjoy, though, are word games.  Now normally, I would have a handful of puzzle books laying around, and from time to time, particularly in the winter months, I find myself sitting on occasion with one of those.  However, recently, my sister-in-law invited me to play Scrabble Go with her in a text message. 

Scrabble® GO - New Word Game - Apps on Google Play

Now as I said, I do love word games, so I reluctantly installed it on my phone.  Wow!  I’m hooked.  Now I have multiple games going with various friends at any given time, and I have been sucked in by the special limited time games variations they have, too, like Word Search, Word Path, and Scrabble Adventure.  And it seems after practically every play, you are forced to sit through an advertisement for yet another game!  I have to admit that they’ve gotten me a couple of times.  The other day, I ended up installing Daily Themed Crossword and then spent all day on my day off playing the puzzle of the day as well as some of the archived puzzles.  And that was after I’d played all my various games on Scrabble Go for the day! 

Daily Themed Crossword - A Fun Crossword Game - Apps on Google Play

And after seeing an ad last night, I ended up installing Cross Logic, too!  I do love logic puzzles.  It’s one of the pencil puzzles I do in puzzle magazines.  I found these almost too easy, though.  I eventually moved on to the hardest category they offered just to get a challenge. 

Cross Logic: Smart Puzzle Game - Apps on Google Play

Then after I bought a new laptop, I discovered I could install a program called BlueStacks that emulates an Android environment so that you can install games from Google Play on your computer.  It locks up sometimes so that I have to close it and restart it, but I was able to get the above games on my computer that way, too.  With my old eyes, sometimes it’s easier to play them on my big screen rather than on my phone.

BlueStacks - Crunchbase Company Profile & Funding

But man, have I been sucked in!  Now I find myself watching less tv in my leisure time, which is often when I’m doing other chores, and instead, I’m idly wasting away in a chair somewhere playing word games on my phone or computer!  Ugh!  I’m afraid I’m turning into my kids!  The hours just whittle by.  It makes me feel bad, but boy, do I love word games!

It’s brain stimulation, right?!?

My all-time favorite pencil puzzle is Crypto-Families.  Now if I could get Crypto-Families Round for Android, I’d be all over it.  But it appears it’s only available for Apple.  Ugh!

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Home Delivery Meal Kits: Dinnerly

See the source image

I have had the opportunity to try Dinnerly kits on a couple of different occasions.  As I mentioned last week, I have not ordered from them directly, so I can’t speak to the ordering process or the actual delivery process. 

My first experience was rather disappointing.  I’d tried other kits first, and the Dinnerly meals just didn’t compare. 

Pros:

  • one of the least expensive meal kits out there per serving
  • pretty basic, good for kids and people who like simple foods
  • fewer preparation steps

Cons:

  • not as much variety in meal choices
  • ingredients come loose in the box and not packaged by meal
  • no printed recipe cards included
  • nothing in the box at all to indicate what meals you’ll be making
  • less fresh produce and fewer ingredients in general…more entree-heavy and side-light
  • no specialty meal plans, i.e. low-carb, low-calorie, keto, vegan, etc.

My son tells me that Dinnerly has you order your kits, and then you view the recipes you chose digitally (like in an app).  Since I didn’t place the order, I didn’t know what the meals were supposed to be, so I had to pull up the recipe assortment for the week and try to match the ingredients that were in my boxes to the right recipes and print them out.  I sorted the ingredients into ziploc bags with labels so I could easily grab what I needed as I was ready to prepare something later.

As for the recipes, there weren’t any photos to illustrate the steps as I had found in other kits.  Sometimes, those can be really helpful.  The instructions were not always entirely clear to me, either. 

My most recent experience, though, was somewhat better.  I think I just got a better assortment of meal choices.  While the meals are still pretty simple and don’t involve a lot of ingredients, they were actually pretty good!  The first set of meals I had were more not really what I would call complete meals.  They were mainly entrees without sides.  This last set I had were much better.  We really liked the meals this time, but there isn’t nearly as much fresh produce involved with Dinnerly from what we’ve seen as in other meal kits. 

Without further ado, here are pictures of some of the Dinnerly meals I’ve made recently.

Low-Carb Steak and Green Bean “Fries” with garlic aioli dipping sauce (I added my own homemade potato wedges and turned the thin meat sauce into a beef gravy…I had company that wanted more than 2 things for dinner!)  The steak was well-seasoned and delicious, particularly with the gravy on top (I just added some beef bouillon powder and a cornstarch slurry to thicken the sauce). The green bean “fries” were very good and even appealed to my non-veggie-loving kids.  The garlic aioli dipping sauce was very good with the beans, too.


Kung Pao Beef and Broccoli with udon noodles.  This was super easy to make and was pretty good.  I would have liked a bit more sauce, as the leftovers began to dry out the next day, but it was an enjoyable meal with the sliced beef in it.


Lemony Chicken and Potatoes with broccoli.  This was really good!  The chicken breast was breaded and fried in olive oil.  I don’t ever fry foods in oil, but I have to admit that this was really good!  It was different for us.  It had a very lemony sauce for dipping.  My husband doesn’t like lemon in general, so he skipped the sauce.  The broccoli was roasted along with the potatoes.  We enjoyed it.


Baked Tortellini Parm.  This was *really* good.  We have another one of this same kit and look forward to enjoying it again.  It’s a meatless dish, and nobody minded.  It had fresh balls of mozzarella melted on top.  Yum!


Garlic Parmesan Shrimp Packets with couscous.  This was very good!  It had a lemony garlic sauce served on top that added a very nice flavor.


Overall, these kits are more affordable than others.  They are easy to make and require less prep work.  But many of them are one-dish meals as opposed to a larger variety of foods, and they generally include less produce as a whole.  They tend to be a bit carb-heavy, as well, so if you are calorie-conscious, you’ll need to use smaller portions of the carbs and just serve smaller portions of everything in general to keep the calories down.  We generally got a lot more servings out of the meal kits than were intended, because the portion sizes are rather generous.  Depending upon what features you’re looking for, this may or may not be a good choice for your family.  I miss the convenience of having the pre-printed recipe cards.  I ended up making my own by copying the recipe photo, ingredients, and instructions from the website and pasting them into Word so I could print out  my own recipe page to keep, but that was a rather large investment of time.  If you prefer looking at the recipes digitally and not keeping them, though, then this inconvenience might not bother you at all.  In addition, I disliked having to sort the ingredients and make my own meal kit bags with my own labels for storage until they were used.  In the end, it took a considerable amount of my time to get the contents sorted, identify and print up the recipes, and store everything as I unpacked the boxes.  It might be worth it to you, though, to save a few extra dollars per serving over other meal kits.

Stay tuned for another feature post next week about a different meal kit company.  I’ll continue with one new feature post in this series each week until I’ve exhausted all of the companies that we’ve tried so far.

Enjoy your week, and happy cooking!

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Home Delivery Meal Kits

Have you ever felt curious about the many home delivery meal kit services that are available to make meal planning, prepping, and cooking easier at home?

Home Chef Coupons | 50% Off In September 2021 | ForbesMartha Stewart and Marley Spoon Meal Delivery Service Review | PCMag

I’ve had a unique opportunity to try a number of different home delivery meal kits.  My son works for a distribution service, and when pallets of boxes arrive damaged and undeliverable, they are discarded.  Staff can take them home, and sometimes they are donated if there is time and opportunity to do so.  The urgent nature of getting the discarded food to someone who can use it quickly enough can be challenging, because the boxes are only packed on ice and melt fast in the TX heat!  In any case, my family has been blessed with boxes from a variety of home delivery sources, and I’ve had the pleasure of sharing them with some families in need, as well.


Healthy Meal Kit Delivery Service | Green Chef          Dinnerly (dinnerly) - Profile | Pinterest


In the process, I’ve gotten to try meal kits from companies like Home Chef, Green Chef, Martha Stewart’s Marley Spoon, and Dinnerly.  These services have a broad range of prices and definitely have their differences.  Some offer organic produce and sustainably sourced meats, some offer vegetarian meals, and some offer more customizable options like swapping out the protein for a variety of other options.  Some offer add-on foods like desserts, breads, salads, etc.  Some even offer kits to make a whole dessert from scratch!  Some offer 15-minute meal kits, some offer ready-made/heat-and-eat meals, and some offer oven-ready meals with no prep work required. 

Whatever you’re looking for, one of these services surely has the option that is right for you.  The question is whether or not you are willing to pay for the convenience of having it all pre-planned, delivered to your door, and ready for you to prepare and enjoy at home.

In the coming weeks, I plan to post a series featuring some of my experiences and thoughts on the kits, the meals themselves, the packaging, the recipes, and the whole experience (minus the ordering and delivery process, since I haven’t experienced those parts of the process).

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

REVIEW: WORLD Watch by WORLD Watch

Disclosure: I received this complimentary product through the Homeschool Review Crew.


My 8th grader was supposed to start presenting oral reports of world news stories in our homeschool this year.  So when I was given the opportunity to review
WORLD Watch 10-minute daily news videos from a Christian perspective, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to check out what WORLD Watch has to offer!


WHAT IS IT?:

WORLD Watch provides a subscription for a daily 10-minute newscast on world news that is presented by Christian reporters every weekday.

Each episode provides a concise report on one primary top story for the day plus a handful of additional stories that provide an interesting variety of information from around the world.  It includes headlines, news briefs, and feature stories.

Each episode ends with the quote, “Whatever the news, the purpose of the Lord will stand” to remind viewers that God’s will in all things will prevail. 

You can purchase a subscription for just $79.99/year or just $9.99/month.  You can also sign up for a FREE 30-day trial to see if it’s right for you and your family.


OUR EXPERIENCE:

My 13-year old son, Holden, has ADHD.  We already use a literature-based curriculum in our homeschool.  With his limited attention span, getting him to do any kind of “extra” reading just doesn’t work for him.  And that means having him watch something long-winded is also a stretch.
  Home Screen

Home Screen Menu

When I saw the opportunity to review these concise, 10-minute news videos by WORLD Watch, I thought this may just be the solution we were looking for so that he could use these as the basis for oral reports given each week on world news topics.

Snippet from Daily Newscast

Intro of Newscast

We began watching them together during school, but I found myself so interested in the reports that I started watching them by myself early in the morning before he was even up!  Then I could set them up for him to watch during school by himself, and then we would discuss the news afterwards. 

Full Episodes

Full Episode Menu

Honestly, I love that the news is presented by Christian reporters.  As a result, the news is never presented in a controversial or offensive manner.  I had all but given up on watching any type of tv news prior to my discovery of this series.  I really dislike the slant that is placed on the news, depending upon which network was providing the news.  It made me not want to watch the news at all, because I just found it too frustrating.  All I want are the facts, not opinions.  I am fully capable of drawing my own conclusions.  With these videos, that’s just what I get…straight news without divisive opinions inserted.  Up until this time, I had resigned myself to simply scanning news headlines online but not clicking the stories for details most of the time in order to avoid the same frustrations. I had stopped watching the negative broadcast news years ago because it was just such a downer to my day!  But now I have real news I can count on to provide me with the top story of the day plus an eclectic variety of other news of interest.

Feature Stories

Feature Stories Menu

To give you an idea of what a typical news day might look like, here is a summary of what the news for Friday, September 3, 2021, looked like.  It was titled by its top story, “Power Outage.”  This 10-minute video included the following stories:

  • power outages in New Orleans due to Hurricane Ida
  • public trust in national news media in America
  • upcoming auction of “Big John” triceratops fossil
  • NIL (name, image, likeness) benefits for college athletes
  • details on the invention of water skis
  • use of transparent pandemic face masks for the deaf in Kenya
  • giant tire graveyard in Kuwait City being dismantled after 17 years

I think most people would agree that this is a unique collection of news stories!  There’s usually a little history of something thrown in, maybe a humanitarian story, and cool tidbits of information you may not otherwise see in the news.  But always, there is that lead story for the day that tops the presentation.

Daily Newscast

Daily Newscast

We have really enjoyed this subscription much more than I even expected.  This is our last year of homeschooling, and yet I find myself considering continuing the subscription just for myself even beyond the school year!

Video Clip of Watching a Newscast

The bottom line is that this is just good, clean news, presented in an upbeat way that gets my day started off right.  You can have your children watch this subscription with confidence, knowing they will see newsworthy current events and maybe learn something new along the way, as well, without worrying about concerning content or opinions that don’t align with your family’s values.

Take a look at what other Crew members have to say about WORLD Watch by clicking the banner below.

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Returning to the Symphony after 18 Months!!!

On Sunday, September 5th, I’ll finally get to return to my beloved Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra in person for a performance of Warner Brothers Presents: BUGS BUNNY AT THE SYMPHONY, 30th Anniversary Edition!

This pandemic has changed my entertainment choices so much.  It has been 18 long months since I last attended a concert!  I’ve had a symphony subscription for both POPS and SYMPHONCS performances for most of the years that we’ve lived here.  I always go to the Sunday afternoon performances between church services, which perfectly fit into my schedule.  In the 2019-2020 subscription year, many of the final performances were canceled due to COVID, and I had already renewed in January 2020 for the 2020-2021 subscription year.  When that season rolled around, Bass Performance Hall was still closed due to COVID restrictions and a lack of a vaccine, and when they rescheduled performances to Will Rogers Auditorium where you have to pay for parking and be seated in random places in order to space out, I decided to just get a refund for the whole year. 

So this has been a long time coming!  I was so elated to hear that the 2021-2022 season would be returning to Bass Performance Hall once again!  I have again subscribed to both series, and I look forward to enjoying the performances once again.  I understand that the hall will be requiring masks to be worn throughout the performances for everyone’s safety amid the spread of the Delta variant, and I’m totally on board with that.  I am fully vaccinated, but I’m about 7 months out from my 2nd dose, so I know my protection is waning with the passage of time.  My daughter has asthma and has always been very vulnerable to viruses, so I’m all about prevention methods!

So although life is far from back to normal, I’m happy to have a way to obtain some level of entertainment outside of the house once again.  The symphony has always been a respite for me…a kind of relaxed getaway from a busy and sometimes stressful life in a household full of people going in all directions.

I hope you’re all finding ways to resume some semblance of normalcy, as well, while maintaining some means of safety and protection in this ever-evolving pandemic that seems to be sticking around for the long haul.

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Time to Buy or Renew Your Six Flags Season Passes!!!

This is that special weekend that only comes once a year…the weekend where you can get the cheapest price of the year on your Season Passes to Six Flags!

If you are a new purchaser of a season pass, then your special discounted price through Sunday, August 29th, is $79.99Click here and scroll down to 2022 Season Pass on the right-hand side for Six Flags Over Texas.

However, if you are a current season pass holder, then you can take advantage of an extra special offer through Sunday for just $49.99!  This special offer is to make up for all the difficulties with using the park during the pandemic.  Click here and enter your email address to pull up your current passes and renew at this special rate for Six Flags Over Texas.

pass

We had passes in 2020, and we didn’t go AT ALL due to the pandemic.  First, I had shoulder surgery in 11/2019, and I was in an immobilizer sling for a while.  I couldn’t ride anything then, so I didn’t go.  Then the pandemic hit.  I literally have not visited the park since 2019!  I wasn’t sure I wanted to renew.  They gave us a free renewal for 2021 because the park was closed for the pandemic for a while, and then there were capacity limits and reservations required.  We never went in 2021. 

Now it’s renewal time.  I feel like I wasted all the money for the passes since we never went.  I even had a premium meal pass!  Such a waste.  I had yet another shoulder surgery this year.  And with the pandemic, and Haylee and I being at high risk (me for immunosuppressant meds for my shoulder and her for her newly diagnosed asthma).  Now I’m finally in the clear with my shoulder issues, and I’m not on meds any more!  We’re all vaccinated, and Six Flags is outdoors, so I think maybe we can start going again, at least after I get a COVID booster in October!

I can hardly resist the $50 renewal price.  The downside, though, is that the premium meal pass is now $110!  Ugh.  Had to do it, though.  Too hot in TX to walk around all day without unlimited beverages.

For us, the season pass includes both Six Flags Over Texas and Hurricane Harbor, plus free parking at both parks (parking matters a lot…it’s $30 each visit if you don’t have a season pass!).

So now’s the time!  Don’t miss out! 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

My Carvana Ordeal

I’ve previously been a very satisfied customer with Carvana.  I’ve blogged about my purchase of a 2016 Kia Sedona and my son’s purchase of a 2018 Kia Optima back in 2018.  They were delivered at the same time on two flatbed trucks!

20190624_141532

20190624_141515

When I got this van, I passed on my older Sedona to my husband to drive to work.  After getting a lot more daily miles on it, that old 2007 vehicle started having some issues and getting check engine lights for sensors we’d already tried to fix, and it occasionally misfired.  So rather than invest any more money in tracking down the issue, we decided to trade it in and get him a new-to-us used car from Carvana that would be more economical on gas.  I surprised him in December 2020 with a 2018 Kia Forte!  It’s a 6-speed, so it’s great on gas, yet it’s still roomy enough to take passengers in. 

I first received a 90-day temporary tag/registration at that time.  When that expired in March, I let them know, and then I received a 60-day temporary tag to print out at home.  When that one expired in May, I contacted Carvana again and was given a 30-day temporary tag to print at home.  I also let them know that June was rolling around, and at that time, my existing registration on my trade-in (which they were supposed to be transferring to my new car) was expiring, so they agreed to switch their process to getting a brand new registration for the Forte. 

Thereafter, I had to call every single month, wasting 1-2 hours on the phone explaining my situation and getting yet another 30-day temporary tag in June and July.  After having 5 temporary tags, I contacted them in early August about needing another temporary tag, as mine was expiring on Aug. 6th.  I was immediately transferred to a Senior Executive Resolution agent.  He gave me his name and email address and told me that I would only be contacting him directly from now on…that I would not have to use the 800 number any more…and he would be my only point of contact until the issue was resolved.  I thought to myself, “Great!  Now, maybe this will finally get taken care of!” 

I was wrong.  He disappeared for the next few days and then told me he’d been out sick.  He assured me he was checking in every day with the manager of the registration team, and he would keep me posted.  Fast forward…my temporary tag expired 15 days ago!  It turns out that they’ve reached the max number of temporary tags that any DMV will issue, so my car has been parked all this time, and I cannot legally drive it.  And the tags I had received were from either Arizona and Tennessee, not TX.  I always thought that was odd, but they told me those were the only states from with they could obtain temporary tags. 

I’m so frustrated!  In looking around on the internet, I ran across a LOT of stories of people who are in the same boat.  Apparently, Carvana just got their license suspended for 6 months by the state of NC, and they cannot sell in the Raleigh/Charlotte area again until January.  The reason was that they failed to provide titles to the NC DMV in a timely manner.  Hmmm…that sounds familiar!  I was thinking that the holdup must be a problem with the title to the car.  The more I thought about it, the more disgruntled I felt.  I decided to file a formal complaint against Carvana’s practices with the TX DMV.  I saw on Reddit that there is another customer in TX who bought a vehicle in about the same time frame, and the same thing is happening to them.  It’s truly ridiculous to be paying for and insuring a vehicle that I can’t even drive!

Late tonight, I got a message from the Senior Executive Resolution agent, and he admitted that there was some kind of problem with obtaining the original title, so they had overnighted documents to the previous owner to have her sign so they could obtain a duplicate title.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, because Carvana bought the car from a dealership in CA.  So this is the previous owner from some time ago!  But it’s just as I suspected all along…it’s a problem with the title.  Sigh.  So here I am, continuing to endlessly wait.  If I don’t get a permanent registration this week, I think my next step is to file a complaint, along with the other 3,000+ people, with the Better Business Bureau.

So if you are considering a purchase from Carvana, you might think again.  I sang their praises before.  I guess when it works, it works really well.  When it doesn’t, it *really* doesn’t. 

Our only saving grace in this situation is that about a month after we bought the car, my husband was issued a company truck to drive to work, so he didn’t even need this car after all.  Good thing, or we’d be sharing one vehicle, and that wouldn’t work at all with how much I have to run the kids around with school and jobs.  Ugh!