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‘Advice & Reviews’ Category

  1. Challenge Yourself

    August 3, 2016 by admin

    “You look back over the miles and miles you’ve run and think: ‘I did that!  My little body!’  You never feel the same about yourself again.”

    •  Kathy Switzer, Marathoner


    Find your challenge and work at it!

  2. It’s A New Day

    May 3, 2016 by admin


    On getting past conflict, wisdom from the youngest Rambler:

  3. Uninsurable Ball Of Fluff?

    August 24, 2015 by admin

    This TR Family had been with Progressive Insurance for about a decade.  When we recently purchased our new home, it was a no-brainer to stick with Progressive for our homeowner’s insurance.  We had never had an issue with their service.  In fact, when we had an unfortunate car collision about a year ago, Progressive’s handling of our accident was stellar.

    We paid the annual fee for our homeowner’s insurance and were quite content for two months, when we got an odd email from Progressive indicating that our policy would be canceled.  Thinking this was some sort of miscommunication, we immediately phoned Progressive.

    We were told that we hadn’t provided any proof of our dog’s breed and our policy was going to be canceled.  Since we received NO request for dog information from Progressive – other than when we applied for our policy, we had NO idea they needed further information from us.  We immediately supplied what was requested: a picture of our dog and a statement from our Vet as to the breed.

    Here is the picture we provided:IMG_1039

    Along with our Vet’s disclosure.

    We are very proud owners of our rescued pup, Molly.  The organization that we used to adopt Molly referred to her as a “Spanador” as they thought she was half lab and half spaniel.  Since she is a rescue, no one could say with 100% accuracy her definite lineage or breed.  But she is a slightly overweight ball of love that has never had anger issues and has never bitten anyone.

    According to Progressive Insurance’s management, not being able to pinpoint Molly’s breed beyond a shadow of a doubt meant that we were no longer insurable.  Our policy was canceled effective immediately and there was no recourse.

    Here are the undisputable facts:

    • Progressive Insurance does not care how long you’ve been a loyal customer
    • Progressive Insurance discriminates against certain dog breeds
    • Progressive Insurance has an impossible set of criteria for any adoptive dog/rescued dog family to fulfill
    • Progressive Insurance will cancel your insurance on the spot regardless of your loyal history and regardless of initially accepting your payment and contract. Remember- their agent that opened our homeowner’s policy did NOT ask for any further information about our pup!

    We are very glad that we found out we were giving our business to a company that isn’t dog friendly.  We would not want to patronize Progressive Insurance had we known these facts.  And we are thrilled to now have our insurance relationship with State Farm.

    Rescue families and friends of rescues and strays be warned!  Do your research and ask pointed questions about dog ownership when searching for home insurance.  And have a back-up plan just in case you find yourself suddenly invited out of your Insurance company.

    We urger you to spread the word!  If you love stray and rescued animals and support those who take them in- make sure all your friends know that Progressive Insurance will cancel policies based on the unknown parentage of those pets.  We’ve had great luck with State Farm taking care of us and our harmless dog.  What other companies can you help us identify as pro-rescue pet?  Help spread the word and support companies that support rescued pets!

  4. Mocha Test

    August 11, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1498As you know, TRMom eased up dramatically on the vegan diet and now resides happily once again in a vegetarian space.  While vegan, TRMom couldn’t have the milk substitutes at most eateries due to a bad reaction with carrageenan.  This resulted in a gourmet coffee dry spell of over 6 months.  But now, TRMom is back in the espresso froo-froo drink saddle and living large!

    And her favorite drink is a hot Mocha, no whip.

    Tip1: It is not frugal to purchase coffee drinks rather than making them at home. There is really no way to argue out of this fact. But everyone needs a treat every now and then.  You can also save costs with coupons, membership clubs, etc.

    Here are our local determinations thus far:

    • Java Cat is the winner by far in the art of creating a Mocha. Whether serving up a hot or cold drink, they outdo their competition. You can actually savor the foam and there is no Mocha-sludge. It takes a bit of time to create this drink but the wait is worth it. Well done!
    • Moka is the runner up. They are about .50cents cheaper than Java Cat, but Moka struggles to deliver the same quality. Where they win over the competition is the incredibly friendly staff, the stickers on the lids, and the little candy treats.
    • Crema Cafe comes in third.  Honestly at times they seem just too busy to deliver a fantastic espresso drink.  It isn’t that their Mocha is terrible.  It just has no thought behind it.  It tastes fine, but more like a hot chocolate than a Mocha.  It isn’t memorable.
    • Starbucks trails well behind the pack.  The Mocha they deliver is sludgey and a little too sweet.  You don’t save on cost and there is no delightful staff interaction.  It is definitely a last choice destination.  Honestly, a Mocha from McDonalds is just as satisfying as the one you get at Starbucks but far cheaper.


    Tip2:  If frugality is key and you have access to a pod machine, you can find Mocha pods at any grocery.  The end product is quite satisfying and certainly cheaper than any coffee shop.  Of course, there is an environmental impact to pod usage.

    TRMom is looking forward to digging into the local coffee scene even deeper.  What’s your favorite coffee spot, either locally or nationwide?

  5. Shop Local

    July 27, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1508We recently had the unfortunate experience of discovering that our dryer wasn’t heating up at all during any selected cycle.  Our clothes were wet and cold when the finish bell sounded.  And since we aren’t interested in purchasing a new dryer at this point, we needed to figure out if it could be fixed.

    *Our home came with a 1 year home warranty which covers all the major appliances.  We will discuss this home warranty soon, but for now we’ll just let you know this repair route hit a dead end.

    Our internet research indicated that our dryer’s symptoms were pretty common and could be repaired. TRDad doesn’t have a lot of experience just yet on fixing appliances.  He and Bluey did some exploratory poking around the machine but came up short.  We were going to have to locate a repairman.

    We knew that the big chains, like Sears, had repair services.  But we were a little wary of price and convenience.  Our trials on getting the dryer repair set up through our home warranty had left us stranded on Saturday and our clothes were piling up.  We turned to Google and crossed our fingers.

    Luck smiled upon us and we located Gary’s Appliance Repair.  We had little to go on as this business had no homepage and only a few simple online reviews.  But one phone call had Gary heading to our home.  He arrived within 30 minutes of our initial contact!

    Gary rolled into our driveway in a very old mini van.  He looked to be on the tail end of sixty, had suspenders attached to his work pants, and was very friendly.  Gary didn’t mind our pets or our inquisitive and talkative Bluey.  He hummed a little tune as he got right to work on our dryer, quickly identifying the issue.IMG_1511

    No more than 30 minutes from Gary’s arrival, our dryer was repaired.  Since Gary was so friendly, TRDad now has a much better understanding of how to go about fixing the dryer in the future.  And Gary’s invoice was incredibly reasonable- no emergency weekend fee involved!

    We highly recommend Gary’s Appliance Repair if you live in our area.

    Do you typically reach out to locally owned and operated services or do you go right to the national chains?

  6. Stok It!

    June 28, 2015 by admin

    IMG_1123We had been discussing the purchase of a grill now that we had our own property and yard. And with careful planning, we had some money stashed away for these types of bonus purchases.

    Our STOK drumgrill is a welcome addition to our new home!

    We stumbled upon this orange beauty on a recent trip to our favorite box store. A quick google search proved their price (with 5% off and Redcard member discount) was not to be beat. We eagerly purchased it.

    We so infrequently grilled out in the past, that we were a little apprehensive about the functionality of the STOK and the ease of preparing our meals. But our new grill outperformed all our worries.

     Assembly – under ½ hour with the need for a screwdriver.

     Initial heating – discovered that we needed a few applications of lighter fluid to really bring our grill up to temp rather than simply lighting paper as the instructions recommended.

     Performance – We had a nice distribution heat on the main surface with no hot spots. But we highly recommend the purchase of a heat glove to handle the various accessories and lid.

     Clean up – It was a breeze. The entire grill was cooled down in less than 3 hours.

    Tip: Briquettes are a fire hazard. Be sure to properly handle their final disposal.

    We enjoyed our STOK grill meal so much that we are already planning future meals and an entire season of enjoyment.

    We did establish safety rules for our kids. Our grill is set up on a small concrete patio and our TRFamily rule is that when we are grilling, you are NOT allowed on the entire concrete area without asking permission of an adult first. Be sure to discuss safety and grilling with your family, too.

    Enjoy the summer!

  7. Hip To Clips

    June 22, 2015 by admin

    1-1232906989AtaJOur cupboards have numerous opened bags of chips, cookies, crackers, and nuts.  It is an epidemic of partially consumed snack foods that typically turn stale before anyone finishes an entire bag.  We favor Ball jars for a lot of snack foods, like nuts, some crackers, and cookies.  But chips just don’t work well in our glass Ball containers.

    We tried rubber bands to keep bags closed.  And it worked for a while.  But the kids tend to struggle with the bands or flat out refuse to use them after getting painfully snapped on occasion.  (Also, loose rubber bands in our house present a health hazard for our cats who will try to eat anything they can get their little claws upon.)

    The big clips labeled for chips in most box stores just don’t last long and they tend to slide off the bag.

    And then we discovered binder clips- regular office grade binder clips.  A box of 12 large binder clips cost around $3.50.  Compare that to a decorative selection of “chip” clips priced around $7 for just 10 clips.  Binder clips are definitely the frugal choice.  And binder clips stay put in place!IMG_3162

    Tip1:  Your unused binder clips can be stored right on the shelf where your chips are housed.  Just clip over the shelf and fold back the arms.  So not only do they work well, but they are always on hand!

    They even come in fancy colors (though that typically raises the price) and an assortment of sizes.

    Tip2: The smaller sized clips are perfect for bags of frozen vegetables stocked in the freezer!

    What are your food storage life hacks?

  8. Let The Games Begin

    January 14, 2015 by admin

    Pettsons-Inventions-Walkthrough-20We received a tablet computer as a gift some time ago.  We decided, after much discussion, to allow our youngest to use the tablet within certain time periods and in specific situations.  Bluey loves it and we were quite surprised at the amount of excellent apps available.

    Our top three apps for kids (available for iPhone and Android):

    1. Toca Builders – This game allows your child to build designs within a “toca” universe.  There is an amazing amount of manipulation in size, shape, and color available to your youngster.  It is always interesting to see Bluey’s creativity as he flexes his architectural skill.
    2. Pettson’s Inventions – Help Pettson create inventions and celebrate with the app characters when you succeed!
    3. Sprinkle – Indulge your young fire fighter and watch him/her work through logic problems and learn about water physics as your child attempts to put out fires in this adorable world called “Titan.”screen568x568


    We  like these games because they are:

    • Free or Inexpensive:  When you are not sure if a game will work well, or if it will be enjoyable, having a low price point is very important.
    • Challenging But Solvable:  One of the things we like about the tablet is that it puts Bluey in charge.  He figures out the rules and goals of the games, pretty much on his own.  We are always nearby to assist!  But knowing that he is solving these puzzles and designing these creations makes ‘computer time’ a valuable part of our home life.
    • Teaching Basic Computer Skills:  With each finger swipe and click, and every unfortunate crash of the tablet, our young Bluey is learning more about computer technology and systems.  In our increasingly connected world, our youngest knows about wi-fi, battery power, and rebooting games- all due to his time with his tablet.


    We practice a simple but clear system for finding new app.  When a new game is wanted, TRMom and TRDad do the searching and downloading after Bluey’s bedtime.  Each app is checked for appropriateness and functionality.  Does this game fit in with our family views on violence and rules about harsh language?  Are the goals of the game ones we support?  Does the game work?  Or does it require a wi-fi connection?

    It is our experience that if an adult keeps an eye on what games are being played, a tablet with monitored time can be a fun and educational addition to your child’s world.

    Try out these games and let us know what apps are your faves!

  9. Turning On Apple TV

    October 31, 2014 by admin

    Although we only recently made the switch from cable television to streaming, we had suspected from the start that we’d soon need to change up our method of streaming.

    We had originally been streaming our media through our Wii game console.  This worked very well for our family for a number of reasons, the most important of which was that we already had the Wii.  Since we needed to purchase a wireless router and some adapter cables, we liked the idea of not having to spring for any further hardware while we adjusted to life cable-free.

    But the Wii had several drawbacks that we greatly disliked- the worst of which was slow loading times for shows and videos.  The YouTube connection was especially pokey (more on that in a minute) and we wanted a better connection.apple_tv_roundup

    Our research quickly led us to the AppleTV.  As an Apple family, we were easily convinced that we would understand the set up process and that this product would mesh well with our other Apple devices.

    We weren’t disappointed!  AppleTV is a far better experience for us than using the Wii had ever been.  We found the set up quick and mostly self-explanatory.

    Our biggest trouble came when accessing our YouTube account.  Turns out, our several YouTube/Google+ identities and channels weren’t easily sorted by the AppleTV YouTube app.  This app wasn’t created by YouTube, so they don’t support it.  And with the rapid changes in technologies, and protocols for both AppleTv and YouTube, finding useful and current  help proved a big challenge.  Eventually, we found the Manchester Video Limited blog, and after contacting them directly about our problem, they quickly helped us sort it out.  Kudos to Gavin and the folks at Manchester Video!

    We have been quite pleased with our switch to AppleTV, even with the few hiccups.  Let us know if it works for you!

  10. The Lego Movie

    July 2, 2014 by admin

    The-Lego-MovieWe adore Legos, so naturally we recently watched the new Lego Movie.  Our whole family loved it!  It has great characters, and a fantastic theme about using Legos for creativity while not being held down by the enclosed instructions.

    It’s a theme that sounded a little…um… familiar to us, here at ThriftyRambler.

    We write frequently about the importance of creative thinking and play, and how our family finds that Legos encourages both pursuits.  We use the Lego instructions as starting points to learn new ways to fit the pieces together, and then we pretty quickly set them aside and start building our own buildings, vehicles and people.

    So we loved seeing this film with it’s push for creativity vs. following the instructions.  It’s just that….

    Look.  We’re not saying anyone from the Lego Movie stole the idea for the spirit of the film from us.  No.  We’re not saying that at all.  It’s just quite interesting that our post on Instructions appeared eighteen months before this Lego movie opened.

    Let’s just say, “Great minds think alike!”  And we’ll leave it at that.

    Tip:  To be very clear- we’re kidding!  We don’t believe that anyone from the Lego Movie got their awesome idea from us.

    We love that Lego made a big budget movie for the masses about ignoring instruction sheets and making your own constructs and story to go along with your creations.

    We greatly enjoyed the Lego Movie and we’ve watched it several times in the first week that we’ve owned it.  Each viewing is followed by a rousing call to go build with Legos!