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Monday
Aug252014

How Much Fresh Wave Do You Need For Two Dogs, Two Kids, Two Cars and Two Home Cooks?

We started using Fresh Wave air freshener years ago. You know, the pricey stuff you only buy when you have a 20% coupon for Bed, Bath & Beyond. Luckily if you're like us you have a stack of these coupons stuffed in your car's door pocket at all times. I seriously think the only reason we go to that store is to stock up on Fresh Wave.

Over the years, my wife has even won a gift pack from the company and we were introduced to Fresh Wave's dog shampoo. I used it on Roxy for the first time earlier this year and am converted. Dog shampoo is expensive to begin with so there's no negative there and Roxy has never smelled so good or her fur so soft. Roxy got a bath with it recently too when the puppy started to stink.

We've also purchased their carpet freshener and the vacuum beads. So we're familiar with the fact that there are lots of Fresh Wave products out there, not just the standard gel.

But the folks at Fresh Wave have more! Yes, they sent me a bunch of stuff to test including their latest "Fresh Pod" product. It's a simple stick-on plastic case that can go on any door or surface and uses their Pearl Packs as refills.

I put the test pod in the only place I could think of, underneath the kitchen sink where we keep the trash. At first I didn't think it was really working that great but after a few days I went to throw something into what was a pretty full can and got a nice burst of that Fresh Wave fragrance. There was still some lingering onion odor in there, but it was barely noticeable. And I probably wouldn't have noticed it at all if I hadn’t stuck my head almost all the way under for a nose check.

I take these tests seriously.

A few car products came too, including a spray and a car air freshener version of the original Fresh Wave. That one was sized to fit in a cup holder but if most people are like me, a cup holder is too valuable a chunk of real estate to set aside for an air freshener.

I used the spray in my wife's 2010 Subaru Outback on all the seats, floors and car seats and I didn't notice much "freshener" smell afterward, and neither did my kids. Then my wife actually pointed out it is an odor "neutralizer." Ah. So I had to go back and try again with this thought in my head. I sprayed considerably more this go round and did notice a little Fresh Wave scent but maybe I just don't like something that doesn't smell one way or the other. I want that "clean" scent even if it is artificially produced.

A few days later, sitting on the couch in the family room with the kids asleep upstairs my wife commented on how she always thinks the house smells because we've moved to having two dogs. But she also pointed out the Fresh Waves in the room were empty.

Fresh Wave provided some of the products mentioned in the post above.

Friday
Aug222014

Jif Cereal is Basically Peanut Butter Cap'N Crunch and I Don't Care

Coupons.

You've got to love them. How else would saving $1.00 on a box of cereal get you to try a type you've never even heard of? But that's what happened on a recent trip to the store when I was handed a batch of coupons and instructions to pick up some cereal.

Now, my son loves peanut butter and even peanut butter cereal so going for something with the Jif name was not a hard sell, coupon or no.

A week or so later, after I "made" Carter finish the open box of Lucky Charms in our cupboard, I opened the box of Jif and poured the dry cereal into a bowl while I prepped the rest of breakfast.

Here's something I have to admit; while I prep breakfast sometimes I eat some of my kids' cereal. A puff here, a marshmallow there. I don't usually indulge in a full bowl so why can't I have a little taste of sugary goodness in the morning too?

Right away I could tell the Jif tasted familiar.

I couldn't quite place it at first. So of course I had to eat more off the top of my son's bowl. Then I placed it. This stuff is Cap'n Crunch Peanut Butter Crunch, as it is formally called.

Soon Carter sat down and started devouring the cereal – there really wasn't a doubt he wouldn't like it – and when I asked him for his thoughts he said, "MrphfGOODmrph," mouth still kind of full, while raising his left hand in the air with a thumb up. That's about as articulate as he gets when asked for feedback. And I won't get into me kind of forcing him to talk with his mouth full for my blog post.

A day or so later I was trying to figure out what to eat for breakfast quickly before leaving for work and decided to treat myself to said Jif. I did used to love Cap'N Crunch as a kid myself after all.

With milk the Jif dissolves almost exactly like Cap'N Crunch too. The biggest difference and positive for Jif is that the puffs aren't shaped like little footballs like Cap’N Crunch so the top of your mouth doesn't get the scraping that I remember with an odd fondness from my own childhood.

Wednesday
Aug062014

Saying Goodbye to Summer, 6:20 a.m. Alarms, One-Hour Commutes and Polos

Even though I've been a parent for 6.5 years now, this is probably the first time Summer has felt different than the rest of the year. Now that my son is going into first grade and my daughter is going into kindergarten, I know things around the house will change come the first day of school.

First, I'm going to have to wake-up earlier. The commute to work in summer has me leaving a little after 7 a.m. and getting into work right around 8 a.m. or 8:15. Basically, it's an hour door to door. My alarm – if the dogs don’t wake me up first – is set at 6:20 which gives me enough time to shave, walk the dogs and either get the kids' breakfast ready or at least get it started and feed said dogs.

Come the week after Labor Day traffic times on my 23 mile commute will shoot up. Generally, I leave during the rest of the year shortly before 7 a.m. and park at the office around 8:30…if the weather is nice. Add rain or snow and it’s another 30 minutes or more. Granted, I'm almost always driving a brand new test car on this route but the slog is still a slog even if you have a massaging and heated driver's seat.

The kids will have to get up earlier too. So will the wife. And with my luck the dogs will be earlier than all of us.

Then at the office casual attire shifts from a polo shirt with jeans to either a long-sleeve button up shirt and jeans or a sweater with the colder weather. Both add to the dry-cleaning bill.

The ride home has been about 45 minutes and will go up as well but it generally never hurts as much as the ride in.

I know the kids look forward to school at this age but me, I'd rather it be endless summer.

Friday
Jul252014

Reliving 18: Front Row at Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails

It seemed like a concert I would stalk out tickets for months in advance but I let the joint Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails concert sneak up on me. A day or two before there were great tickets for cheap on Craigslist. Then a buddy from the Ten Club pointed me to a guy looking to unload a front row seat. Gee, OK.

The show itself was surreal in a few ways.

Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails were obviously in the thick of the rotation on my Aiwa "stereo" in my teenage bedroom where countless ripped out magazine pages of hair metal gods had been replaced by a giant poster of Eddie Vedder leaning against Jeff Ament.

On March 8, 1994 as I breezed through senior year in high school, Soundgarden released Superunknown and Nine Inch Nails released Downward Spiral. On the same day. Can you imagine? So this tour really felt like it was meant to be…even if it was 20 years later.

From the front row, Soundgarden's sludge was overwhelmingly loud and I was thankful for earplugs. Towards the end though I had to ditch them. They played "Burden In My Hand" which is a favorite and that was good timing to adjust to the distortion as "Rusty Cage" followed. It was a bummer that Matt Cameron was replaced with Matt Chamberlain, but hey, I believe Pearl Jam comes first too. The drumming was not as crisp or as precise but Chamberlain gets the rhythmic stuff right.

Both sets were precisely timed. 80 minutes for Soundgarden, 90 minutes for NIN with 30 minutes for a stage change. In my youth I would have decried both acts for playing the "hits" and using the same stage sets, video montages and lighting they likely reuse every night, but damn if it wasn't entertaining and hit all the right spots of nostalgia for me.

I mean Trent Reznor came onto a bare stage in a SKIRT before leaning over his little digital doohickey to get their set going. Unlike Cornell who looks nicely "weathered" as he gets older, Trent seems to be trying a bit too hard to relive the past. Still, he had the chops of old and its still quite remarkable at how a band with so much digital leaning on record can rock out like they do live. And the stage set-up was mesmerizing at times too.

As I escaped the parking lot quickly, right after the 11 p.m. curfew-induced last note, I wasn't as giddy as 18-year old me would have been seeing two of the biggest bands of the day. Still, I was home in bed a little after midnight and could get some sleep before work in the morning all after seeing two near flawless sets by bands that have grown old quite well.

Friday
Jun202014

Garmin Vivofit: Dad Tested

If you haven't seen people wearing what look to be thin sports watches recently I don't know where you live and work because the ubiquitous Fitbits and Jawbones of the world seem everywhere to me.

That's why I wasn't surprised when Garmin reached out to me to test their version, called the Vivofit.

To be honest I didn't even know they made one, but I had looked into getting my wife a Garmin fitness watch a while back when she was looking for something to replace her Nike Fuelband.

The tester arrived a few days later in standard retail packaging like any buyer would get. But when I opened the box I was amazed to see - or not see - something that has been a bane to my existence since I can remember opening toys requiring batteries under the Christmas tree.

I've learned this zero-instruction trend includes Fitbit too as my in-laws just purchased similar devices.

You can get started with a computer or smartphone. I just went the iPhone route for ease of use and if I was a buyer of this type of device I'd want it working with my iPhone 5 not my fancy home computer that is only used to store music and photos these days.

The set-up was rather simple after downloading the app itself. You hold down the only button on the device until the readout says "Sync" and get started.

I strapped on the flexible yet strong rubber wristband and got walking.

At first the step count definitely seemed off, over counting steps. I'd count out 20 steps and it would display twice that. I had to do a Google search to find help, not from the non-existent troubleshooting guide that might've been included in the box.

Taking advice from the forums I found I changed my height from my actual height of 5ft 10in to 6 ft 0 in. That seemed to do the trick.

My wife still couldn't believe how many steps I was recording because she knows how hard it is to hit the 10,000 step mark which I topped easily the first day.

You see, I don't exercise much. I hit the gym once a week, twice if I'm lucky. Otherwise I work in a cubicle 8:30-4:30 with over two hours of commute time in a car on top of that.

But I also have two young kids and the weather has gotten nice. If it's a Saturday or Sunday I'm routinely smashing 10,000 steps as the kids learn to ride bikes for the first time, with me jogging beside them.

We also have a new puppy so there are a few more dog walks every day.

I tested the Vivofit for accuracy at the gym on the treadmill and using the mile display instead of steps it was .05 miles off what the treadmill was recording. I considered that an acceptable difference, especially since it was shortchanging me, not creating phantom steps.

In terms of technical performance I think the Vivofit does the job that most people are looking for.

The device fits well, is easy to read and lightweight.

The app is easy to use and easy to see how you're doing in terms of daily, weekly and monthly and daily syncs just require pushing that same button on the device and take less than a minute.

Since it's summer there are more trips to the pool and the waterproof capabilities are unclear. I'm pretty sure it is water resistant but not up for swimming so I've been removing it more than I'd like and sometimes forget to put it back on after a shower or swim.

The battery lasts a year it says but I'm unclear what the heck I do when it runs out. There are no charging instructions either of course.

I also haven't bothered with the heart monitor that came with it. You have to strap it to your chest and I don't do heavy enough exercise to really get use out of it.

To me the added benefit for light exercisers or folks looking to lose weight is the psychological impact of wearing the Vivofit.

This would likely be true for any of these devices, but as a non-watch wearer this not-only reminds me of how handy a watch is versus reading the time on your phone, but it doubles as a scarlet letter. A letter that says "I'm here to remind you that you could skip that free donut at the office." Or "It's 8 p.m. and you're at 6,000 steps, why not take the puppy for a nice walk?"

Red — yes, a deep scarlet red — bars appear across the top of the device's display the longer you're sedentary: One long bar after 30 minutes and four more to fill the rest of the hour...or longer.

I told my kids that when they appear it means daddy is being lazy and this amused them of course. Now they keep checking it asking if its red or not. And if they see it red they'll tell me I'm being lazy. Thanks Garmin.

I'm three weeks into wearing the device and don't see why I'd stop wearing it. It's unobtrusive and I like the scarlet letter impact more than I thought I would.

It isn't cheap. At $129 (on Amazon) without the heart monitor (a $169 bundle) that's a decent chunk of change for a dad with new puppy costs. The Fitbit Flex is $99 but doesn't have a display, just lights that illuminate. I think I'd pay the extra $30 just for the clock display since I've already added something to my comfortably nude wrist.

I will promise to update when I stop using it and why as I've done in past reviews.

Editor's Note: Garmin provided a test-unit to facilitate this review. No other compensation was provided.