Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday Deals: Too Good To Be True?

We thought about venturing out to do some Black Friday shopping today. Specifically, we had considered taking advantage of some of the sales and finally purchasing a flat-screen TV to replace our ancient clunky low-resolution one. Target seemed to have a very good deal on a 40" 1080p LCD TV, as shown in the following ad:

But when we actually started researching the brand and model number, it became apparent that the deal may not have been as good as it looked. The specs for this particular model were a little poorer than that of similar models, and based on various reviews we found, Westinghouse didn't seem to be the best brand for LCD TV's in the first place.

To top it off, I stumbled upon a discussion expressing concerns that the door-buster deals on big-ticket items for Black Friday may sacrifice on quality -- either intentionally by using cheaper components, or unintentionally due to rushed production, mishandling, or related factors. Perhaps this is just a load of baseless rumors and paranoia-mongering... But when we're talking about hundreds of dollars and hours spent freezing in line, it would be a shame to end up with buyer's remorse after all of it.

Anyway, in the end we decided that we would save our money, take our time, and eventually purchase a good-quality TV that we could shop around for instead of rushing to make the purchase in such a high-pressure and time-sensitive environment.

But I'd be curious to hear about the Black Friday adventures of anyone that may be reading this, especially experiences involving electronics in general and TV's in particular. Do the Black Friday sales tend to offer discounted products that sacrifice on quality? Or are they mostly good opportunities that shouldn't be passed up?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Things I'm Thankful For

Since it's Thanksgiving, I figured I would write up a quick list of all the things I'm thankful for, and then post it here publicly on my blog -- which I suppose is a little bit like the modern equivalent of shouting it from the rooftops. So, in no particular order:

I'm thankful for my amazingly wonderful husband, my loving extended family, and many loyal friends both in Chicago and scattered across the country. I'm thankful that most of my loved ones are in good health, and that the few who have been ill are now steadily recovering.

I'm thankful that my husband and I have managed to remain employed throughout the financial meltdown, and I'm thankful that, while we're not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, we're not struggling financially as badly as many Americans are.

I'm thankful to have a roof over my head, even if I do complain about the lack of natural light from time to time. I'm thankful to have a warm bed to sleep in and plenty of food to eat.

I'm thankful to have been born in an industrialized nation at a time when technology enables me to have electricity, hot running water, modern medicine, the internet, and a million other conveniences. I'm pretty sure the greatest kings of the greatest empires in history didn't lead lives half as luxurious as we do.

I could probably keep adding things to this list, but I need to go gather with my family and feast on a giant turkey pretty soon, so I guess I'll wrap it up here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Basement Window Blues

So we've lived in a basement apartment for almost two years now. As a young couple's first home, it has some pretty great things about it -- like ample parking, an easy walk to the El, a dishwasher, and a laundry room right outside our back door.

But then there's the windows. Since it's a basement unit, the few windows we have are small and deeply sunken, with thick frosted glass that's pretty much impossible to see through. Even on the sunniest days, it's never bright enough down here to avoid having to turn on the lights.

In addition to the lack of natural light, I really miss being able to look outside -- just the simple homey pleasures of looking out at snowfall while curled up in a blanket, or watching the rain and lightning during a thunderstorm.

So in searching for our next apartment -- which we're currently working on right now, and which should hopefully be completed within the next few months -- I've been overcompensating with daydreams of ridiculously oversized floor-to-ceiling windows. The compromise will probably involve sane normal-sized windows for practicality and affordability purposes, but it'll be interesting to see what we can find.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Face Pie: A Jack-O-Lantern Recipe

Even though the title of my blog is pie related, I sadly have little experience with that most delicious of desserts. Up until a few weeks ago, I had never even attempted to bake one on my own. But after carving my jack-o-lantern on Halloween (which I blogged about here), I attempted to remedy that in a very ambitious way: I decided that I would bake a pie, entirely from scratch, out of the jack-o-lantern's face.

As the photo above shows, the design I carved into my pumpkin involved cutting out quite a few fairly large pieces to make up the eyes and the grinning mouth. I saved these and refrigerated them in anticipation of my attempted baking.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Girl with a Pearl Earring

For several years now, I've been hearing about this book. The comments came from multiple directions -- some from strangers on the internet, others from people in "real life" -- but all had one thing in common: Girl with a Pear Earring is an exceptionally well-written novel. So one day at the book store, my curiosity adequately piqued, I finally decided to check it out for myself.

The premise of the book is interesting. The author, Tracy Chevalier, takes a real-life painting by the real-life 17th-century Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer, and weaves a remarkably rich (though thoroughly fictional) story around it. The painting -- also known as Girl with a Pearl Earring -- is shown on the book cover above, but I thought it would be nice to include a larger version here as well: