Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

It was a very disaapointing week for the Change Pot. Barring a last minute find by Lori, late this evening, the change pot would have ended with a big goose egg for the week. That's right, yours truly did not find a single cent this week.

Lori's find was a dime at the Hollywood Theaters at University Town Center in Morgantown, WV. James was staying with Grandma and Grandpa, so Lori and I took the opportunity to go to the movies. We saw The Proposal with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. As I purchased our tickets, Lori found the dime near the entrance to the lobby.

Weekly Total: $0.10
YTD Total: $6.17

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

This week was not as good as previous weeks, but it did better than a goose egg. Two separate finds of three pennies each.

Saturday - $0.03. Three pennies at the Sheetz on Route 7 in Sabraton (Morgantown, WV) while picking up ice for our picnic in Pittsburgh. One of the peenies was in an area that I didn't have time to retrieve, so I will donate a penny to the change pot.

Monday - $0.03. Another three-fer, but this time at the Kroger on Route 7 in Sabraton. I stopped at the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for Little James (ear infection) and found three pennies lying on the floor in the pharmacy waiting area.

Weekly Total: $0.06
YTD Total: $6.07

Friday, July 17, 2009

Diary of a Wedding Guest: Part 15 - The Return

Well, our story has finally come to an end with this post. On Sunday, we returned home from the wedding in Detroit. While there was not really anything abnormal about our return trip, there were a couple of highlights that were worth mentioning.

We began the day by having breakfast with one of Lori's friends and former college roomates, Aileen. Aileen lives in Ann Arbor which is a short drive from where we were staying. We had breakfast with her family at a Big Boy Restaurant and really enjoyed meeting their two adopted boys. On our way to breakfast, however, had a slight delay because we DID NOT follow the GPS. As you know from previous posts, we could only make a right turn out of the hotel. The GPS then instructed us to make a U-turn so that we could get on the interstate. Instead of making a U-turn, I chose to make a left at the next stoplight and see if I could find a better route to where we needed to be. Unfortunately, we had no luck in doing so and my left turn turned into a seven-mile U-turn, forcing us to go much further past the interstate and make a second U-turn to get back where we needed to be. We arrived a couple of mintues late, but I don't think anyone really cared. The Big Boy Restaurant had a Sunday breakfast buffet which was very good. We spent a hour or so catching up (it was the first time Lori had seen Aileen since college).

After breakfast, Lori and decided to see at least one lighthouse before heading home. There were a couple of other lighthouses on the Detroit River that seemed to be close to each other, so we headed that direction and hoped to have success at one of them. We actually had success at finding three lighthouses.

The first one was the furthest out. It was at the mouth of the Detroit River and is known as Windmill Point. I do not know the history of the lighthouse's name as there was no plaque telling anything about the lighthouse. It sits on a small fishing pier on the west side of the river in a little park. It is not one that the average person would know about or even how to find (although it was fairly simple to find). We had to pass through some very poor neighborhoods that we might not have driven through at night, but it was actually a nice drive and the people at the park seemed friendly enough. (A lot of lighthouses are in poor areas because they were guide for shipping and industry. Industry naturally seems to bring down the areas immediate surrounding them.)

(Photo coming soon.)

After a quick visit to the Windmill Point Lighthouse, we drove back the way we came and head to Besse Isle. Besse Isle is a city park and home to the William Livingstone Memorial Lighthouse. Traffic on the island travels one direction in a counterclockwise motion. The lighthouse is on the north end of Besse Isle. The William Livingstone Memorial lighthouse has an interesting architecture to it. It is a square stone tower that bears a striking resemblance to gothic architecture. Unusual for a lighthouse. Like Windmill Point, the lighthouse had no information describing the history of it or its naming. It sits back from the parking area giving us a bit of a walk. All told, we probably walked about 3/4 total.

(Photo coming soon)

The last lighthouse we "discovered" was one that Lori had seen from the street as we were driving to the first lighthouse. We decided to stop and see it before we left town. It was not a lighthouse listed in any of the lighthouse websites I had looked at the night before. I would, in fact, later discover that it was not an actual lighthouse, but rather a replica of a lighthouse that sits at Tawas Point. I do not know if the lighthouse was operational as an aid to navigation or not. It is located in the Tri-Centenial marina on the west side of the Detroit River.

After seeing the three lighthouses, we headed for home. It was just after 1:00 pm and we had to have the car back by 6:00 pm. Luckily, Detroit is only about 4 1/2 hours from Pittsburgh, so we had plenty of time. Or so we thought...

As we got back on the interstate, we came across a closure because of construction. (Yes, the closed the whole interstate for construction. Closing a couple of lanes apparently was not sufficient. The detour took us several miles out of the way, taking us almost back to the area of our hotel. About halfway through the detour, I decided that it was taking us too far out of the way and chose to find my own route. Bad move? Not when you have a Garmin GPS!

Actually, the Garmin re-routed us very proficiently and we ended up only losing about a half and hour. That would put us arriving back in Pittsburgh at 6:00 pm, just as the car was to be returned. The problem was that we would have to stop for gas at least once and we still had to unload the car before returning it. The race was on! I hit the gas with lead in my foot.

There were not really any other stumbling blocks and the trip was essentially uneventful. We arrived back at Lori's parents house at 5:40 pm. The rental car return was at least 20 minutes away. I quickly unloaded the car, made a potty break and was on my way. Now the only obstacle was that I had to top off the gas tank before returning the car. I hit the gas with even more lead in my foot!

As I am driving to the airport, I remembered something Lori had told me when we picked up the car on Friday. Our main route to the airport, as in the shortest and fastest route, was closed because of construction. The detour took me at least 10 minutes out of the way. I hit the gas with still more lead in my foot!

You see, Dollar Rent-A-Car, does not have a leeway policy on their returns. If you are a minute late, you are charged for the next hour. In our case, that extra hour exceeded the current 24 hour period and threw us into the next 24 hour period. Same taxes on rental cars are figured on the number of days the car is rented meaning we would be slapped with taxes equally as much as the rate for the additional hour.

I arrived at 6:06 pm.

As I got out of the car, the return attendant walked up and scanned the car for return. I think I said something like "Please, tell me I'm not late." The girl asked when the car was due and then looked at her watch. She told me not to worry, she would take care of it. She said that Dollar used to have a leeway on returns, but had recently changed it's policy in attempt to boost revenue without actually raising the price of the rental. Dollar claims to be less expensive and on the surface they are, but when you factor in the additional charges for extra drivers and no leeway on the time of return, Dollar simply isn't any cheaper than any other rental company. I thanked the girl for taking care of the extra hour and because of her actions, I will consider renting from Dollar again.

And that is the end of our not so short story. Congratulations to our friend Ashley and her new husband E.J.! May your marriage be the most wonderful blessing you have.

Diary of a Wedding Guest: Part 14 - The $4 Non-Existent View: The GPS Strikes Again

After leaving the the reception, Lori and decided to check out a couple of lighthouses on the Detroit River. We thought it would be nice to see one lit up at night because we usually don't get to witness lighthouses at nightime. So, we pulled out our "trusty" Garmin and using the lighthouse Point of Interest (POI) file I had downloaded last fall, we set out for the Grosse Ile lighthouse. The directions were perfect. They took us through Detroit to an island in the Detroit River. Island visitors had to pay a $2.00 toll to cross a small drawbridge. Once across the bridge, the Garmin directed us to Lighthouse Lane. Unfortunately, as our luck would have it, Lighthouse lane is not a street. It is a private driveway! Yes, the GPS strikes again! The lighthouse sits in someone's yard and is not accessible to the public but once a year. Since it was dark, Lori and did not feel it was appropriate to ask permission to see the lighthouse. The lighthouse sits in a very well-to-do neighborhood and we didn't want anyone to think we were trying to rob them. After driving around the island trying to find even a miniscule view of the lighthouse, we drove back across the drawbridge and paid another $2.00 toll, making the our lighthouse site seeing a $4.00 non-existent view. Considering the island is completely residential with no grocery store, doctor, gas station, etc., it costs residents $1,500 a year in tolls just to live on the island. That's assuming that residents leave the island once a day and everyday each year.

In all fairness to the Garmin, the problem isn't with the GPS. It never really has been. The problem has been with the Lighthouse POI file I downloaded from the internet. This is the third inaccesible lighthouse we have tried to see using the POI file. If the file was meant to be a driving tour of lighthouses, it shouldn't include those that are in the middle of the water or those that are inaccesible from the street. In most other cases, the problems with the Garmin have been operator error, not fully understanding how the Garmin determines things such as distance and arrival times. So, I guess we will keep the Garmin, but maybe sans the lighthouse POI file.

We returned to the hotel disappointed once again. But at least we were able to spend some time together -- just the two of us.

Deal of the Week

Last night, I went to Wal-Mart to pick up a few supplies for Lori's upcoming birthday and I came across the "Deal of the Week". Unfortunately, I was not in market for the item that was "ON SALE". After picking up everything I had gone to Wal-Mart for, I decided to run through the clearance aisle just to see if they had anything interesting. I found a single-handle kitchen faucet. The faucet was Peerless' Solutions style and it originally sold (at Wal-Mart) for $72.87. Not a bad deal. But the "better" deal could be found right below the original price. The faucet was on clearance for $74.88! Yes, that's right, you can get the same faucet on clearance for $2.00 more than you'd pay for it normally. Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, I was not in the market for a kitchen faucet, so I put it back on the shelf and carried on my way wondering who might actually fall for Wal-Mart's "Deal of the Week" and if Wal-Mart really truly thought people were that stupid.

Here's your sign! Just don't know if I am suppose to give it to Wal-Mart or the person who actually buys the faucet. Probably the former, since I will never actually meet the latter.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Change Pot Tuesday is a weekly recap of finding money that other people have lost. However, it is more than just picking up pennies and collecting lost change. For those readers and followers who have begun following the Change Pot midway, Change Pot Tuesday is about charity. When the Change Pot reaches $100, it will be donated to charity and the process will be started all over again. Loyal readers and followers will have an opportunity to help me choose which charity will receive the money accumulated in the Change Pot. While, I don't expect to change the world with the Change Pot, I do hope to help a charity in some small way.

Thursday - $0.10. I found a dime on the floor at the checkout counter of Sheetz (a gas station/convenience store) on Route 7 in Sabraton (Morgantown, WV). I had to wait to pick it up because the counter was busy and I didn't want to get my hand stepped on. When I did pick it up, the lady next to me probably thought I was trying to check out her legs. I wasn't though. The checkout area at this particular Sheetz is very small and crowded. The store has tried to cram too much into too small and area, including a hot food rack that is placed right in the middle of the checkout lines!

Saturday - $0.02 total. First, I found a penny in the WVU Mountainlair parking garage while exiting James' swim class. Later after lunch as James' playdate with his friend Morgan was ending, I found a second penny near a charity deposit. Now, you can say that I stole this from the charity because it was obviously meant for that charity, but simply didn't make it into the charity's container, but hey, I am still donating it to charity, just a different charity.

Sunday - $0.03. Three pennies inside the Sheetz in Star City (Morgantown, WV). The first was on the floor near thye checkout, but much less crowded because of the time of day. The other two were stacked neatly on a candy rack next to the checkout.

Weekly Total: $0.15
YTD Total: $6.01

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saturday's Fortunes

On Saturday, Lori, James and I ate at the Mall with James' friend Morgan and her parents. James ate Chicken from Chick-Fil-A, while Mommy and Daddy had Chinese from Wong's Wok. At the end of our meals, we opened our fortune cookies. Lori's cookie had THREE fortunes inside. Not sure exactly what that means. Do they cancel each other out, or is she bound to have all three fortunes come true? Lori didn't keep her fortunes and we can't remember exactly what they said, but here is a recap what our fortunes held:


  • "You will be fortune in the opportunities presented to you"


  • "Now is a good time to make new friends"

  • Not exact - "You will find success in your business venture."

  • Not exact - "You will find happiness in new surroundings"

All of these fortunes lead us to believe that our attempts to move will come to fruition. We just don't know when or how. I don't want to jinx our fortunes, so I will say that we fully believe in this method for predicting what our future holds. I will also say that we are praying every night for answers, because while the cookie may tell the future, it is still very cloudy and vague.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Change Pot Tuesday

Wednesday - $0.02. Two cents found at the Royal Farms convenience store on Providence Road in Towson, Maryland (Baltimore area). The first, at the checkout counter, I did not pick up because it was back in a corner here I would not be able to reach it. I will donate a penny to the change pot for charity. The second was on the sidewalk outside which I did pick up even though it was raining cats and dogs at the time.

Friday - $0.01. A penny near the ice cream freezers at Kroger on Route 7 in Morgantown.

Saturday - $0.01. A penny at the gas pump at Get Go in Sewickley, PA (Pittsburgh, area). I did not pick it up on the way in to buy drinks for the 4th of July parade and when I came out, a car was filling up so I couldn't get it. I will donate a penny to the change pot for charity.

Sunday - $0.05. A nickel when exiting Wal-Mart in Cranberry, PA (Pittsburgh area).

Weekly Total: $0.09
YTD Total: $5.86

Monday, July 6, 2009

Diary of a Wedding Guest: Part 13 - The Wedding and the Reception

Well this short story has gotten pretty long and it has taken much longer to complete than I thought it would. The great news is that we have arrived at the chapters that everyone are most interested in - The Wedding and The Reception!

After our morning excursion searching for a Best Buy, we arrived back at our hotel around noon to begin preparing for our friend's wedding. Lori had to iron her dress, do her hair and makeup, and get dressed. I had to decide which shirt and tie to wear, get dressed and gather up the cameras and tripod - all in about 25 minutes. We quickly rushed through the tasks at hand, and made it back out the door around 12:30 pm. The wedding started at one o'clock. We were at least fifteen mintues away and still had to set up so that Lori could video the wedding.

As we left the hotel parking lot, we came up to one of those "Michigan Lefts" which sent us headed in the wrong direction. Actually it was a regular "No Left Turn". I had planned to turn right, make an immediate left into the parking lot of the business across the street, whip around and head in the right direction. As I pulled out squealing my tires, a car behind me pulled out and merged into the left lane blocking me from turning into the parking lot across the street. My only other option was to go to the stoplight and try to turn around at one of the businesses at the intersection. Luckily for me, this intersection did not include a "Michigan Left" and I was able to make the left turn that I needed. (They are SOOOOOOO inconsistent with left turns in Michigan.) I whipped into the parking lot I originally wanted to turn around in and got us headed in the right direction. Lori was not saying anything during this time, but I am sure she was none to pleased with my driving.

The GPS directed us onto the interstate, but I decided to ignore the GPS because we had spent enough time driving around in the morning, that I knew a more direct route. Although it was more direct, it might not have been the quickest. I weaved in and out of lanes like a mad man and probably exceeded the speed limit by at least 15 MPH (anything more and I would have to retract my earlier statement about being a law-abiding citizen). We arrived at 12:50 pm to a mostly empty church parking lot. At first I thought we might have been in the wrong place and then I thought maybe the wedding started at 1:30 pm. Neither turned out to be the case as we simply ended up being one of the first guest to arrive. The parking lot filled pretty quickly after we arrived. We entered the church to find the bridal party sitting for pictures. As we looked around, we realized the layout of the church prevented us from having a good place to set up to video. Lori would have to do it from her seat on the aisle.

The wedding was a very lovely mass and one of the nicest weddings that I have attended. It was a simple elegance that words can not begin to describe. Most importantly, it was not only a celebration of love for the bride and groom, but a reminder to all who attended of the importance of having love in our life. Considering, I had lost my faith and hope with the graduate school process, the wedding was a very refreshing experience. For a brief moment, I found peace.

Ashley, our friend was absolutely beautiful in her bridal gown. She looked so elegant and sophisticated that I didn't even recognize her, except that she was the bride and I knew it was her wedding we were attending. She looked so grown up compared to what we see of her everyday at work. E.J. looked equally handsome, but this is the bride's day, so we will concentrate on that.

The wedding lasted about an hour. The reception would not start until 4:30 pm, giving us about two hours in between. Lori and I decided to find the Best Buy that we had looked for earlier. I now had a much better idea of the area and where it was that I needed to go. We found the Best Buy with little effort (and NO GPS). They had four GPS dash friction mounts left. (They had nine when we tried to find it earlier.) After purchasing the mount, we stopped to buy some Father's Day presents and then headed to the reception.

The funny thing - after purchasing the dash friction mount, we realized we would be unable to use it until we got home, because we had failed to bring the windshield mount with us and both mounts share a common clip that attaches the GPS to the mount.

Like the wedding, the reception was very simple yet, very elegant in its simplicity. Dinner was served family style, which was the first I had seen at a wedding reception. I have been to buffets and plate dinner weddings, but this was definitely a first for me. It was also very nice because it helped one interact with the people at the table. We were seated with two other very nice couples and held conversation as though we had known the couples for years. It was very pleasant. Many times when you attend a wedding and are seated with people you don't know, it can be awkward. The bride and groom did an excellent job with the seating arrangements. Dinner was perfectly prepared.

We were also impressed with the DJ. He was no overly loud, but he was very engaging. He knew his job and, in my opinion, did it superbly. He played music that kept the party going and people on the dance floor. At one point, I requested a song for Lori and I to dance to - Edwin McCain's "I Could Not Ask for More" (the sound you are hearing as you read this blog if your speakers are turned on). The DJ commented that it was an excellent choice and said he would play it. To my surprise, he played it right after the current song ended! Usually when a DJ says they will play a song, it is put in a long list of requests and you are lucky if you hear it within the next hour. He was the best DJ I have seen at a wedding.

As the night wore on, Lori and I decided to leave the reception a little early and spend some time together. We decided to drive down to the Detroit River and find a lighthouse. We haven't visited many lighthouses after dark, but I think one of the most romantic things a couple can do is spend time together at a lighthouse when it is lit up at night.