The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Outdoor Dinnerware

Rustica_Antique_White_12pc__20049_zoom Summer’s almost over, which means this is a great time to shop for sales on patio and yard items. For example, I’ve been meaning to buy some outdoor dinnerware because I’m sick of using cheap paper plates whenever we decide to barbecue. But usually these sets are so expensive that I just give up and resign myself to another summer of slumming.

Today, however, I came across this pageOutdoor Melamine Dinnerware Sets | Home and Patio D├ęcor Center, which features some excellent deals on very nice looking sets. My favorite so far is the “Rustica Antique” design pictured here. I love its simplicity, and the fact that it will match any kind of patio furniture. That means I don’t have to worry about changing dinnerware if I change my table or chairs in the future.

Anyway, the Rustica Antique design is available in service for four, eight, or 12 people. I’ll probably just go with the four-person service, which includes four dinner plates, four salad plates, and four soup/cereal bowls. That would be perfect for my family.

Then again, it might be smarter to choose the eight-person set. That way I’d have backups in case anything breaks and would also be able to have matching dishes and bowls even when we entertain.

Hmm…something to think about for sure.

Once I make a decision and use the dinnerware a few times, I’ll come back and post an actual review!

Crocs Convert

crocs I don’t remember exactly when Crocs first came on the scene, but I immediately disliked them. I thought they looked cheap and ugly, and I hated the fact that they were everywhere. So I resisted. And resisted. And resisted some more.

Until now.

I finally bought my first pair of Crocs a couple weeks ago — not because I set out to do so, but because I had been looking for a very casual mule/clog/sandal type shoe to slip on when going to the store or running quick errands. The problem was, almost everything (except the super cheap/cheesy crap) cost $30-$40 or more, which I wasn’t willing to spend.

But then The Sports Authority was having a sale on Crocs, and I just decided what the hell. My old mules were absolutely ratty looking, so I had to buy something. At $15, the Crocs were worth a try.

And you know what? They’re not too bad! They really are comfortable, and go with a lot of different outfits. They’re also easy to clean and seem to be holding up to wear and tear remarkably well. If I get two summers out of these, I’ll be happy.

So, while I haven’t quite come around on the look of Crocs, I consider myself a convert in that I like my current pair well enough and wouldn’t hesitate to buy another pair — at the right price!

Under Armour Mid Sports Bra

UA Sports Bra I exercise a lot, but like most women, have a difficult time finding “good” sports bras — which basically means a bra that provides the right blend of support and comfort. For the past few years I have just been wearing a cheap cotton model from Champion. But when I saw UA sports bras on sale recently, I decided to spend a bit more money and give one a try. I’m glad I did!

I went with a mid-support bra to wear while running and playing sports such as tennis and basketball. The one I chose is from the HeatGear line and is supposed to keep me feeling “light and dry” due to the moisture-wicking properties of the fabric — and the bra actually does just that!

There is a HUGE difference between wearing my old cotton sports bras and this UA one. The cotton bras would start to feel heavy and uncomfortable after becoming soaked with sweat, but that doesn’t happen now. The moisture-wicking fabric actually works, and feels SO MUCH BETTER, especially now in the summer.

The support is great, too. I’m a B cup/C cup in most brands, so I admittedly don’t need tons of support. This bra offers just the right amount without feeling too restrictive.

Now that I’ve experienced firsthand the difference a good sports bra can make, I’m not going to settle for the cheap stuff anymore. The extra comfort is definitely worth the extra dollars, so I’ll be buying Under Armour bras from here on out.

Ohnitsuka Tiger Machu Racer

machu racer I was recently in the market for a new pair of flat running shoes to replace my New Balance Minimus shoes that I finally wore out. I originally wanted to stick with NB for my new shoes, but couldn’t find anything I liked. A majority of their shoes seem to have that “Fresh Foam” bottom, which doesn’t suit my purposes.

So after a ton of shopping I settled on a brand I’d never tried before: Ohnitsuka Tiger. I guess they’re well known in Japan and are now made by Asics or something. I just chose them because they were on sale for 50 bucks and were as flat and light as I wanted my running shoes to be.

The particular model I selected is called the Machu Racer, and I’ve trained in this shoe for about a month now. I really like it! It’s roomy and comfortable without being loose to the point of feeling like it’s flopping around on my foot. And it’s extremely lightweight, which allows for quicker turnover/higher cadence and faster speeds.

There’s no kind of cushioning to speak of, and not a lot of support anywhere in the shoe. But again, this was the kind of shoe I was looking for. I do have other shoes that provide greater stability and support, and believe they have their place and time (on longer runs, for instance). I just didn’t need those features here.

So far, I can say that my Machu Racers are a very good shoe for the money. I obviously don’t have enough time or miles in them to attest to their durability, but if I can get 400-500 miles out of these, I’ll definitely buy another pair!

PanaVise Miniature Vise

PanaVise_Model_201 I occasionally have need of a vise for light filing work, and didn’t want to shell out big bucks for a top quality one that you’d find in woodworking shops or whatever. So after a bit of searching I came across this PanaVise Mini Vise on Amazon. The reviews sounded good and the $30 price tag was acceptable, so I bought it.

It’s been pretty much what I expected/hoped for. The base is made of metal, which gives it some heft. And since I’m not wrenching on whatever is clamped in the jaws, this means I don’t have to secure the vise to the table in any permanent way (though there are three screw holes in the base if that were required). In addition, the vise jaws are mounted on a nicely rotating ball joint, which allows for 360-degree turning and rotating, as well as 350-degree tilting. This is more than adequate for my purposes.

All in all, this little mini vise has been a good buy. For very light, non-impact work, it’s a good buy.

Garmin Premium Heart Rate Monitor

hrm-garmin I have a Garmin Forerunner watch that I use for jogging. One of the features that I heavily rely on for my training purposes is the heart rate monitor. This is an optional accessory that was bundled with my watch at the time of purchase and added approximately $100 to the price (I’m not sure without having to look it up).

I do my marathon training strictly by heart rate zone, so I need the data to be accurate. After about a year of daily use, I started getting extremely erratic readings. I did everything you’re supposed to do in those situations: changed the battery, washed the strap, did a hard reset, etc. Nothing worked.

Since I was just under the warranty period, I was able to send the strap in to Garmin for a free replacement. The thing is, that would take 2 weeks — and I couldn’t afford to lose that much training time.

So I bit the bullet and bought another HRM and chest strap. This time I paid something like $70 on Amazon, and splurged for Next Day shipping so as not to lose any more training opportunities.

The new strap and monitor work flawlessly. I’m now back to getting the data I need to hit my personal best for my next race, and am happy with the product. I just wish I didn’t need to replace the thing so fast in the first place.

I did receive a free replacement from Garmin, as promised, so now I have two chest straps and two monitors. I’m using my old one again (no problems so far) and am keeping the new one as a backup.

Again, I like what the Garmin HRM does (I think it’s one of the most accurate products on the market), but wish it lasted longer. The same thing happened with my old HRM (with the plastic chest strap) from a previous watch model.

With the optical HRMs that are coming out now, I doubt I’ll be using these chest strap-types much longer. But hopefully they’ll last at least one more year each!

Karaoke microphone

My mom and her friends are really into karaoke. One of them regularly hosts theme parties (e.g. disco) where they all dress accordingly and sing relevant songs. It’s kind of dorky, but hey, they’re 65+, so whatever.

Anyway, my mom has her own karaoke machine (naturally), but broke her microphone. So I’m planning to surprise her with a new one for her birthday. I’ve been looking for the best microphone for vocals at a reasonable price, and have a few leads that I’d like to investigate further.

But I have to move quickly on this one, as I know my mom can’t go long without doing her karaoke. I can’t keep stalling forever!

Beginner’s Lock Pick Set

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 10.38.16 AM I’ve been interested in lock picking ever since I was a kid. I grew up on detective novels and police procedurals, and one thing that all the protagonists in these books can do is pick locks. But it’s not something I’ve actively pursued — until now.

I decided to buy a beginner’s lock pick set from an online store. The set included four different kinds of picks, a tension wrench, and a leather case for the tools. It also came with a “how-to” book. The price was $16.95 + shipping, which was pretty much all I wanted to spend to start with.

I also went to the dollar store and bought a couple of padlocks to practice on. I figured if I couldn’t pick these after some practice, I shouldn’t bother moving on.

Anyway, I’m no judge of tool quality, so I can’t really speak to that aspect of my purchase. But what I can tell you is that I successfully “bypassed” the locks I purchased using the tools in this kit!

Let’s make one thing clear: I’m sure there are people out there that could have opened these cheapo locks with nothing more than a couple of paperclips and/or bobby pins. But I have tried doing that a million times over the years and have NEVER been able to open even the crappiest lock that way. So I want to believe the tools helped me at least a little bit.

The “How To” guide wasn’t that good. It only had info that is widely available online, so I didn’t get anything out of it. I guess a total beginner who hadn’t done any research beforehand might find it useful, though.

Overall, I am happy with my purchase. Honestly, I probably could have found better deals/bigger beginner kits if I’d spent more time looking, but I just went with the first store I came across. Still — no regrets here!