Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Maine Cottage

One of the biggest purchases you will make for your home is furniture. Practically ever time I turn on the TV I see a commercial for bargain bottom priced furniture sets from odd looking pitchmen. Some use cartoons, some us flashes graphics, but they all have the same theme, cheap is good. Low prices are all they talk about. Not quality, not durability, not even stylish looks, cheap cheap, cheap. 

About 10 years ago I fell for that trap, I bought a cheap bedroom set from some big box store. It looked nice enough and I thought I got a deal. Three years in and it started to fall apart. Now ten years out and I need a new set. If I had bought quality the first time I probably wouldn’t be in this situation. 

In my quest for new furnishings I have been searching all over the web. I found a few places I like, but one of the stand outs is the “Maine Cottage”.  Their products really island-bedare impressive, from their bright and exciting color options, to their simple shaker design. They offer handcrafted pieces that will last you a lifetime, perhaps even more then a life time. 

They start with solid white maple wood and a skilled craftsman takes that wood and turns it into something truly beautiful. They offer you an impressive selection of colors and materials that will allow you to select a unique and personalized piece that will fit perfectly into your home decor. In a world of cheap particle board and mass production, Main Cottage stands apart. 

Personally I like their“Island Bed”. Its simple design and clean lines really draws me in. I can picture it in my bedroom and I know it is a sturdy solid item. It sells for $2290, which I realize is pricey, but if you want quality you have to pay for quality. I don’t have that type of cash on hand, but if and when I do I will certainly look at Maine Cottage, I might even take a drive down to their showroom. 

If you are in the market for some furniture, ditch the particle board and the flimsy design for some hand craft American made quality. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Uncle Goose Wooden ABC Blocks

Wooden ABC blocks are a truly timeless toy. You probably played with them, it’s likely that your parents did as well, and its possible that your children will do the same. Simple classic toys like theses are education and fun. They promote coordination in really young ones and an introduction to the alphabet as they learn and grow. 

So many things are made of blockscheap plastic that wooden blocks almost seem luxurious. “Uncle Goose” hand crafts their blocks in their Grand Rapids, Michigan factory. The craft and detail is quite impressive and the bright colors and patterns will surely catch your child’s eye. The blocks are carved from basswood and are adorned with safe, non-toxic ink. 

A set with a storage and carry bag seeks online for $36.95, a bargain price for a quality “American made” toy that will entertain and educate your child for many years. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Zenith Shower Caddy

I want to begin by apologizing  for my recently absence. Between my plumbing adventures and a recent bout of food poisoning I have not had the time required to write. All is better so here I go. 

My shower is from the 1960’s and I can only guess that back in the day people didn’t have as much complexity in their daily bathing routines. No luffas, no facial scrub, no conditioner, or moisturizers. I believe this because my bathtub has one small self, for a single bar of soap. That’t it, everything else has to sit on the edges of the tub where they randomly get knocked in or out of the tub. 

After nearly three months of this I said enough. I need a shower caddy and I set about finding one. I started my search where I always do, Amazon. To my surprise the #1 rated bathtub/shower organizer was “Made in America” by a company called Zenith. Now, don’t get me wrong, it makes sense that the best product was made here as I have often found that to be the case. shower caddyWhat struck me was that an American company still made such an organizer. I had honestly thought that the never ending flood of cheap Chinese products had pushed out domestic manufacturers long ago. I am pleased to see that I was wrong. 

The surprises continued to come when I saw the Price of the Zenith Shower Caddy, $13.39. I was sold. I ordered it and two days later it arrived. I will warn you, the assembly is a little tricky and the instructions are not very helpful. Here is another tip, the caddy is designed for a shower stall. If you have a tub you need to leave out the bottom section. That last part stumped me for a bit. 

Now that its in I really like my Zenith shower caddy. All of our stuff fits nicely on it sand I no longer have to worry about my soap turning to mush in our soap dish. Another great American made products in my home, certainly worth the 13 bucks I paid for it. 

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Red Bull Gives You Cash!

As I have mentioned previously I am a new cameraman. People in this profession are no stranger to the double shift, the 14 hour day, and the short turn around. The news is unpredictable and when things are at their worst long hours often follow. It can be a grind and it will slow you down. red bullYou need a boost, some turn to coffee. I don’t care for it. In the past I had turned to “Red Bull” for my pick me up because as they say, “Red Bull gives you wings”.

As it turns out that catch phrase is misleading, so much so that it lead to a class action lawsuit, a winning one at that. As part of the settlement “Red Bull” has agreed to give anyone who purchased one of their products from January 1st 2002 and October 3rd of 2014 either $10 or $15 in Red Bull products. To claim this settlement all you have to do is click on the following link and follow the simple instructions.  It’s limited to one per house hold and you have until March 2015 to enroll. If you bought a Red Bull in the last 12 years, 10 bucks could be yours.

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How Doing It Myself Saved Me $200

On Sunday mornings I like to plan out my week, draw up a “to do” list, check my bank statements and bills,  basically get things ready for the days ahead. Well, as I was brushing my teeth last Sunday all of that changed. I felt the warm rush of water on my feet and noted how good it felt. “Wait a second, why is warm water pouring onto my feet.” I opened the doors to my sink vanity and found that the drain pipe was leaking badly. What to do? I could call a plumber. It was the weekend and many charge off hour or emergency charges. This would be on top of his normal fee, either flat or hourly. 

I could have waited till Monday, but even then I was looking at a huge bill, probably around 200 bucks. I decided to try my hand at it. Since it was a drainage pipe and not and water pipe I knew their was little damage that I could do. If I screwed up I could still call the plumber and endure his mockery of my amateur efforts. With no real foreseeable down side I decided to go for it.

I noticed that the connection between two of the pipes, the “J” pipe and the one that connects tot he main were the spot of the leak. I took a trip to my local homedepot, explained the problem, and it was suggested that I needed a new washer. It set me back 2 bucks and I returned home. 

It all seemed too easy and of course it was. When I went to replace the washer one of the pipes began to crumble in my had. PipeI couldn’t see from the outside, but the entire pipe had been undermined by rust. I would have to replace it, or call a plumber. I decided to keep going. 

That night, after work, I began to remove the damaged pipe with tools I borrowed from my grandfather. I am going to be honest, it was not easy. I could not unscrew the collar that held the pipe to the wall, it wouldn’t budge and laying under the sink didn’t offer the best angle. I decided to disconnect the faucet and slide the vanity away from the wall. 

This allowed me a much better angle on the pipe. Even still the collar wouldn’t budge. I tried and tried and was only successful when I resorted to literally standing on the wrench. Victory? Not so fast, 60 years of being joined together fused the pipe  to the drain pipe. I had to break the pipe in half and pull the remnants out using a pair of needle nose pliers. 

After two hours of trying the pipe was out and the Bride and I were brushing our teeth in the kitchen. The next morning I went back to home depot and purchased a replacement pipe. After another two hours of adjusting and tightening and more tightening (that collar was almost as difficult to put back on as it was to take off). Still after two hard fought hours the sink was back to form.

Well, almost, it was draining that well now. Replacing the pipe kick dup a lot of junk inside there. I grabbed a plunger and went to work. Finally after another 5 minutes of plunging I heard a pop and all of the water went rushing down my newly repaired sink. Victory!

A day later and all is well. I have a sheet of paper towel under the sink and I check it from time to time, no leaks. The total cost of the project set me back about $15. I saved over a hundred bucks by buckling down and tackling the problem on my own and not only does it feel great, but I have earned the respect of the Bride. I got to be the hero of the day and it felt great. 

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My Garden Adventure – SugarBaby Watermelons

My garden is nearly complete, I am following my corn review with one for my watermelons. I planted my “sugar baby” watermelons back in mid June and harvested them in mid September. Here is what I found:

Yield: I grew about 12 melons, but only 5 of them were edible. Garden1The other 7 melons never reached full size. Some of this could be attributed to me planting them late, another factor might be the plants being planted too close to a fence that shaded them for a few hours each day. The main factor I believe was my failure to prune the plants. I should have cut back the amount of melons to allow the remaining ones the energy to grow. I would rather have 7 great big watermelons that I can enjoy rather then 4 that are good, one that was okay, and 5 that I can’t eat.

Taste: The four that I harvested first were delicious. They were so juicy and tasted fantastic.

Problems: This was probably the most problem free of all of my crops. It spread well and grew strong. It never got sick and the bugs seemed to leave it alone. It really was a treat.

Things I Would Change: Although I consider this a fairly successful crop and I think a few changes next time will go a long way. I plan to move it over one bed so it can get direct sunlight for most of the day. I will research pruning techniques to increase the size and yield of the melons. Finally I will try to fertilize the watermelons more with an organic fertilizer.

Conclusion: I give this crop a B+ based solely on yield. I will certainly plant it again next year and as I learn more about gardening techniques I hope to be able to improve on this years results. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday – Sauder Carson Coffee Table

 From time to time when I visit a friend or relatives room home I will often notice that the fireplace is the center of their living room. The entire layout is directing toward the fireplace.  The explanation for this is very simple, seventy or eighty years ago when the house was built it was common for large family to gather near a fire for warmth and socialization. 

Now with the improvements in heating systems and the rise of the television and internet people are less interested in fireplaces. Modern homes are built around technology, living rooms are designed with television viewing in mind. Home builders have caught up to the times, but oddly most furniture builders have not. I am looking for a new computer desk and I am surprised at how many of the desks I find with layouts similar to writing desks. They have no place to put a keyboard and no holes to hide wires. They are well made pieces, but they have not adapted to the changing needs of their users. 

Sauder furniture has not only embraced change, coffe tablebut they are innovators are well. Their Lift-top coffee table is just what a connected and digital living room needs. At first glance it looks like and well made coffee table but it comes with an impressive features. The table top lifts and rises up to the person seated on the couch or chair. This provides and ideal resting place and workspace for a laptop or tablet. As far as I am concerned this is one of the greatest space saving innovations since the murphy bed. 

This coffee table like most  “Sauder furniture”  is made in Archbold Ohio and has been since the 1930’s. To sweeten the pot a little more I found that Amazon is selling it for 55% off. This fine coffee table could be yours for $122.72. A fantastic price for a fantastic product. It is well reviewed and built right here in America. 

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My Experience with Peer to Peer Leading – One Year Out

For the last year now I have been investing in peer to peer lending through my Prosper account. For those of you who may not be familiar with them Prosper pairs investors like myself with people looking for loans. I deposit money into my account, search the available loan listings for one that I find appealing, and select a loan to fund.  Once the loan is fully funded the money is released to the borrower and they make their monthly payments. Prosper pays me back that portion of the principal plus the interests every month for the life of the loan. 

So how did I do? Well in theScreen Shot 2014-09-24 at 9.30.58 PM last year I have deposited $1100 into my account. During that time I have earned $84.75 from my 29 loans, a return of nearly 8%. Now I realize the dollar amount is small, but you won’t find a return like that at any bank that I know of. My local federal credit union is currently paying 1.3% on a 3 year CD, if I had invested my $1100 into that my yearly yield would have been about $15. The only upside to CD’s is the extremely low risk, CD’s don’t default.

Going back to my loans, none of them, knock wood, have defaulted. None of them have even been delinquent. As you can see from the illustration the majority of them are rated “A” or “AA” by Prosper. I have chased the higher yield of riskier borrowers and so far it seems to be working out. My “AA” loans have an interest rate of about 6% while my only “E” pays an interest rate of 28.25% and he’s made all of his 11 payments on time. 

If I were to give this experience a grade thus far it would be an A-. The prosper site is very easy to use and the information they offer is very detailed. Their rating systems is an excellent tool and I will continue to use this site for my investing. Over the next year I would like to build the value of my account to $3000.00. As long as the economy remains stable that will be my plan. 

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Ebay Crumbs Just Got BIGGER

Last month I shared the news with you that Big Crumbs had begun offering cash back on qualified Ebay purchases. ebay logo piggybankbuilderToday I am happy to report that they have doubled that amount from 1/2 a percent to 1 percent. It may not seem like much but when you add Ebay Bucks and a good cash back rewards card you can really build yourself a nice deal. 

If you are an avid E-bayer head over to BigCrumbs for the details. 

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Made in the U.S.A. Monday- Noodle & Boo Body Wash and Baby Products

We live in a time when you really have to read the labels. What is in that food or lotion and is it good for me? Recalls pop up all the time and unfortunately people are harmed by what should be regular household products.  Companies will sometimes cut corners to make profits. You need to protect yourself, you need to seek out products that are made with quality and safety in mind. 

This is monementally important when infants and their mothers are concerned. I’ve researched parabens, sulfates, and BPAs, these are most things you want to expose anyone to particularly an expecting mother and her child. Many of the ingredients found in lotions and shampoos are being investigated and debated about regarding their health effects. 

I don’t mean to scare anyone, I am simply suggesting that we all try to be  vigilant and seek out products like those offered from “Noodle and Boo”. Named after the founder’s children (their nicknames), “Noodle and Boo” creates luxurious safe products for mothers and children.

heavenly_honey_wash2_detailItems like this “Heavenly Honey Wash” that are made with they describe as “natural and gentile ingredients”. Made in California by people who value quality and safety you can rest assured that you are making sound choice.

Best of all, despite the luxuriousness of their products they are very reasonably priced. Many of their items can be had for around $12. This is comparable to many lotions and washes in the segment. At that price and with their crediateials I would certainly recommend trying some of “Noodle and Boo’s” offerings. A safe quality “Made in America” company making top shelf products. 

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