Mar 302010

It’s been I don’t know how long since I wrote here and a few of you have contacted me to ask where I’ve been.  The short answer:  a good portion of my time has been spent seeking dinner ideas.

Most of my adult life I’ve eaten roughly 75% of my meals at restaurants (fast food or sit-down).  Another 20% has been pre-packaged, prepared food (deli sandwiches, chips, etc).  Well, back in September my job changed dramatically, forcing me to actually stay in my home 24/7.  Obviously this made it difficult to access my traditional food sources.  In February my job changed dramatically once again.  At that point I needed to find another place to live 3 days a week while still spending 4 days at my former apartment 24/7.  Since the only place I could afford has no kitchen, either, this continued to limit my food choices.

As a result, I now eat in my traditional manner while at “home”, but have been forced to learn to grocery shop and cook actual meals while at the work apartment.  Which, of course, led me to the internet in search of better dinner ideas.  Luckily, there are numerous websites dedicated to food, cooking and recipes.  I’ve found myself returning to the ‘Food’ section of iVillage more and more of late.

My diet has definitely become more varied over these last few months, and that’s been exciting.  However, much like the caveman of lore, I’ve dedicated a disproportionate amount of my time, energy and budget to such seemingly simple concepts as feeding myself and Zaira.  Luckily for all of my dedicated fan out there (‘s’ intentionally left off, BTW) I now have a nice little repertoire of dinner ideas and both Z and I are still quite a bit away from starving to death.  Thus, y’all can expect to see more words from me in the near future.

At least as long as the groceries hold out 😉

Sep 262009

Library Book Sales Rock!

Library Book Sales (which I still refer to as book fairs for some reason) are like the floating craps games of the literary world – except everyone’s a winner.  Despite my arguments against coercive funding of public libraries in general and my problems with my local President of the Morgan Hill Friends of the Library I’ve been haunting library book sales since I was old enough to leave the house on my own.  And I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of a single one without new reading material under my arm.

This afternoon I stopped by the Friends of the Milpitas Library Fall Book Sale and walked out with my wallet $25 lighter, but my bookshelf 13.2 pounds heavier (and those were all paperbacks!)  At a price of $1.50/inch I managed to find 25 new books for my personal library.  Everything from the 1977 In Search of Myths and Monsters by Alan Landsburg (with a foreward by Leonard Nimoy!), to The Analects of Confucius as translated and annoted by Arthur Waley, and from Look and Learn French by Anna Balakian  to help Zaira withe her French lessons which are entirely online) to What’s the Number for 911? America’s Wackiest 911 Calls by Leland H. Gregory III (because Z’s mom used to be a 911 dispatcher).  Not to mention more than a dozen “classics” including To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee which is required reading for Z’s English class this year, but we’ve been unable to find in a half dozen rips to vaious used book stores.

Speaking of used bookstores… I still have that fetish as well, and since I’m home schooling Zaira now we’ve been making more trips then ever.  But the last time we visited Book Buyers in Mountian View we picked up 10 books for  $65.  We regularly have the same experience at my favorite local used book store: Recycle Books in downtown San Jose. As much as I love them, they just can’t even come close to the bargains available at library book sales.

I just today discovered a great new resource for book sale lovers such as myself.  It’s called, simply enough, Book Sale Finder.  They list literally thousands of library and private book sales around the country all organized by location and date.  Best of all is their Sale Mail feature which will send you an email whenever a book sale is coming up in your area (defined by the number of miles from your zip code you’re willing to travel).  I just discovered the site today so can’t provide any feedback on how well Sale Mail works, but the site’s been around for more than 15 years now and was written up in Woman’s Day magazine a few years back so I’m guessing it works pretty well.

Sep 232009

Great Jump Sports - Milpitas

The biggest challenges thus far in home schooling Zaira have been P.E. and meeting other CAVA students.  In hopes of achieving both in one step we headed up to Milpitas yesterday for a few hours of dodgeball at Great Jump Sports, billed as “the ultimate trampoline party experience”.

Essentially, the entire building is occupied with two very large sections of trampoline (enough trampoline space for more than 100 simultaneous jumpers!) with one dedicated to “general jumping” and the other set aside for dodgeball games.  At this CAVA event about 20 kids and adults competed in about a dozen matches over a two hour period.

Zaira (who hates anything resembling physical activity, much less actual exercise) had more fun then she’s had in ages and worked up a huge sweat in the process as well.  So it seems we knocked the “physical education” half of our challenge out, but unfortunately, the other half remain s daunting.

There was a 14 year old from Santa Cruz there, but she wasn’t playing dodgeball and was there seeking other high school students.  There was also a 13 year old boy and a 12 year old girl, but with the intensely competitive dodgeball games Z didn’t get a chance to grab any numbers or email addresses.

Still, the outing was successful overall and I highly recommend Great Jump to anyone looking for a unique and interesting workout method.  Personally, I can’t wait until the promised dodge ball tournaments and/or leagues materialize.

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Aug 092009

It’s been a few years since Zaira and I explored one of Santa Cruz’ funkiest tourist traps: The Mystery Spot, so we decided to head up there yesterday. We’re trying to save money for my big 40th birthday trip at the end of the month and since the Mystery Spot charges only $5 admission and a $5 parking fee it seemed to be the perfect choice for a lovely August afternoon.

Alas, we arrived only to discover that the Mystery Spot was closed to “walk ins” and reservations were required. Reservations? For a tourist trap?!?  I’ve never heard of such a thing!  So, we were turned away and exploring The Mystery will have to wait for a future date.  We did, however, manage to see the Mystery Spot Car (pictured above) which is entirely covered with the (in)famous Mystery Spot stickers.

While discussing the car (and the amount of stickers it takes to cover such a thing) I realized just how much of a bargain the Mystery Spot truly is.  After all, we’ve paid $5 for bumper stickers in the past and they’re included with the $5 tour.  So, in a way it’s “Buy a bumper sticker, get a free tour”.  A very excellent deal, indeed.  Of course, that realization led me to another….

If The Mystery Spot is booked solid by 2pm in the afternoon they clearly aren’t charging enough for a tour.  Have these guys never taken a basic economics course?  Is the law of supply and demand somehow mutated at this locale as well?  In the brief few minutes we were at the foot of the driveway we saw two other cars turned away for want of reservations.  It seems reasonable to me to double the price for the tours (at least on historically busy days).  After all, if they’re turning people away now, they could dramatically increase revenue while possibly cutting expenses at the same time (two employees were required to “guard” the driveway against “walk ins”).  Even if they gave half as many tours due to the increased prices they’d still come out even.

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Dec 242008

I got pretty excited back in August when I first heard that the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit Leonardo: 500 Years Into The Future would be making its only U.S. stop at the Tech Museum in downtown San Jose. Yet, for some reason I just kept not making it up there to see it and time was running short (the exhibit has been extended until January 25, 2009).  But when Zaira told me that there was a carnival set up right next to the exhibit (in conjunction with Christmas In The Park) I knew the time had come.

Unfortunately, I didn’t exactly wake up on the right side of the bed yesterday morning and it was the last chance I was going to have spare time with Zaira before the end of the year.  So off we went.  Before we even got to The Tech (while walking along San Carlos St.) we were suddenly accosted by a couple of giant characters from The Nutcracker Suite!  Zaira made friends with Mouse King, but was frightened of the Nutcracker’s vicious sword.  Not that I blame her, this guy’s definitely an intimidating enforcer of the state’s power.

We made our way across the street, into The Tech, and (with my wallet $40 lighter) into the Leonardo exhibit itself. The gist of the exhibit (as I understood it going in) was that modern craftsmen and artisans had created many of the machines and devices detailed in Leornardo’s notebooks using only methods and materials available in DaVinci’s time. Upon entering the exhibit area we surely did discover a number of highly impressive archaic machines. Unfortunately, documentation was scant and I had difficulty trying to understand (much less explain to Z) what we were seeing or what significance it had. Even the famed flying machine itself (the very cornerstone of the exhibit) had only a few paragraphs discussing what it was.

Should you plan on attending the exhibit I highly recommend going at a time when you can join in on one of the free tours. We didn’t take one, but did manage to catch the tail end and the tour guide seemed both informative and friendly.

Our day was not yet done, however. Heading for the carnival, Zaira was quick to locate one of her personal heroines, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, painted into a window of the Carnival’s fun house. Unlike previous years Butler Amusements brought a full crew to Christmas in the Park this time with roughly a dozen different rides, a handful of carnival games, and even a souvenir photo booth!

We took a quick tour of the carnival (split between Park, Fairmont Plaza, and the Rep’s courtyard), stopped by the ticket booth, and Z headed straight to their Tilt-A-Whirl which was called Hot Wheels (though no miniature cars were in evidence). Our ‘tour’ required us to cut through Christmas In The Park (which Z had visited with her mother and brothers the night before) where we did pause momentarily for me to don some appropriate Christmas attire (pictured left 😉 ). We also stopped by one of the game booths and I managed to “Ring A Duck” and win a new Christmas puppy friend for Z. Her name is Joy and she’s now integrated herself into the horde that lives ‘upstairs’ on Zaira’s bed with a couple dozen other critters from various midways we’ve visited. But while we were waiting for our Sleigh Ride Portraits to be finished she did get a little frisky with the photo booth’s reindeer mascot 🙂

Although I never really shook my lethargy it was surely a satisfying day with many pleasant discoveries, a few educational lessons, and I even got a couple of those wonderful (and rare) laughs that truly warm a father’s heart.