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Friday, July 3, 2015

Product Review: Shoes from Payless Shoe Source

I don't often purchase shoes from Payless...mostly because I typically think they are poor quality for the price, and usually uncomfortable.  But dang...sometimes they tempt me with some style!

The prices at Payless have, like everything else, been creeping up and I only buy during sales.  Remember when BOGO actually meant BOGO?   It didn't mean "buy one and get the second at half price"...I mean, wouldn't that be BOAGTSAHP?  BOGO should be BOGO...just sayin'.

I actually may have purchased this pair of elastic cross-over wedges last year.  They have some similar styles this year.  Would you believe that while I love them, I have yet to actually go anywhere WEARING them?  Crazy, huh?  I put them on and I think "these are too high, I will break my neck" and I take them off and put them away.  I'm afraid I can't walk in them.  I have really persnickety knees.  I want to wear them...I just may have to work my way up to it.

One thing I will say that I was miffed about...those are not cork heels (I bought them online).  It is cork-looking contact paper and it is cheap looking and it makes the inside of the shoe sort of slippery.  Tricksters!

This is a pair of Champion brand running shoes.  I have been, on occasion, forcing myself to go on long walks and my expensive Sketchers Shape-Ups were causing pain in the outer portion of my foot and my toes were going numb.  That's not right!

The reviews on these running shoes, which were under $20 were all positive, including those who had had foot problems or foot surgery.  So for the price, if they sucked, they could become kicking around shoes.  I can't say I've FULLY put them to the test, but so far, I would say they are more comfortable for long walks than those Shape-Ups.  They seem to be true to size and width and lightweight.  So far, so good.

Well, I just thought these were stinking cute and they were on sale for $10.  I really should know better about the comfort level of canvas shoes...really I should.  The material is rough, they don't breathe, there is no foot support or cushion in them.  Your feet get hot and sweaty in them and well, they are just not that comfy.  Big surprise, huh?

Also, I think going up a half size would have made them too big, but at my regular size, there is a tendency for the foot not to go fully all the way into the toe of the shoe, so you end up walking on that back edge, not only smashing it down, but making the bottom of your heel sore. 

The tongue is attached so the lacing effect is faux.  I like them well enough for short periods of wear, but I wouldn't make it all day in them.  As you can tell, they go with nearly any solid color...or if you're feeling brave...wear some patterns with those stripes!

I love why am I always barefoot?  I like to own them and look at them but never actually WEAR them?  Good thing I don't buy expensive shoes, right?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Book Review: Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult

Plain Truth (2000) by Jodi Picoult is a murder mystery novel set on an Amish dairy farm near Lancaster, PA.

A newborn's body is found in the barn and the story begins to slowly unravel about how the infant died, who gave birth to it, and what the "plain truth" might be as to if the child was murdered, and if so, who done it and why.

I hate spoilers, so that's about all I'm going to tell you.  That's enough really.  Jodi Picoult did her Amish research and weaves together the Amish culture with the legal scene in very John Grishom-esque fashion.  I was on board from page one and stayed for the short ride (since I burned through it quickly).

Thoroughly engrossing.  Not action-packed or dangerous...the book just had a lot of depth to both the characters, the cultures of the Amish and the culture of the legal system, and the story itself.  I give it a thumbs up.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Restaurant Review: Hong's Mongolian in Kennewick, WA

While visiting Kennewick, Washington recently, my mom and I ate lunch at Hong's Mongolian restaurant.  It is on Columbia Center Blvd, very close to the mall.

This is my second visit to this style of restaurant.  My first was uneventful because I only ate soup.

This time, we were greeted and seated and we told them we were new and didn't know what to do.  They instructed us that we would choose a size of bowl (priced by size) and then go through the buffet-like area placing items in our bowl that we would like to have stir-fried on the giant grill.

It only took a very few minutes on the giant, super hot, grill to stir-fry our items and place them back in our bowls.

It was an interesting experience, and maybe I would try another place in the future but not this one.  It just wasn't very good.

The meat was sliced razor thin and was frozen and unrecognizable.  The beef, the pork and the chicken all looked the same and it looked bad.  It looked like giant bins of scabs.  When cooked it was tougher than boot leather.  All other items seemed fresh but even piling on the sauces, ours was still very bland.  The egg-drop soup was super bland as well.

Overall, the restaurant is not clean and does not have an inviting decor.  It also seemed a bit odd and out of place to have Christian rock music blaring (way too loud for comfortable conversation).

I will say that each and every employee was friendly to a fault, prompt, helpful and impressive.  But that's sadly where my being impressed ended.  For what we got, I didn't find the prices terribly reasonable.  Had the product been better, it would just about have been on price-point.

I'm sad to say we won't be coming back here.  Sad because the employees are truly top-notch.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Restaurant Review: Thirsty Lion Gastro Pub in Tigard, Oregon

While visiting family in the Portland Oregon area, we ate dinner at the Thirsty Lion Gastro Pub in Tigard.

Thirsty Lion is an upscale pub & grill.  And it was hoppin' busy.

Most in our party ordered burgers (which were in the $12 range), one ordered pizza and I ordered fish and chips.

Everyone seemed to enjoy their food, although I would not order the fish and chips again.  Not much fish, a lot of breading, and a whole lot of grease.  Made me a bit queasy.  Next time I would try a burger.

For our budget, and what we are used to in a small, rural town, this place is a bit pricy for ordinary food.  The food is good, and reasonably plentiful, but it would have been at a fast food place too.  The staff was attentive and friendly so the service was good.  I can't say that the service was fast, but they were pretty much full to the rafters.

The din in their is indescribably.  You have to yell across your table to have a conversation.  Really, really poor design in terms of acoustics.  It's sort of industrial in design with very high ceilings.

Certainly we would go there again if a family member wanted to, but doubtful we would ever return on our own.  You can visit their website here, and view their menu here.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Movie Review: Inside Out

Inside Out (2015) is a Disney Pixar animation movie about the complexities and necessities of a full range of emotions.

Much of the action for this film takes place in the mind of 11 year old Riley as she transitions from the stable and happy life she's always known in Minnesota to the uncertainty of San Francisco.

Ordinarily a happy child, Riley begins to change.  Her mind is depicted as a data center where memories and emotions are stored and sorted.  Characters of her emotions are represented by Joy, Disgust, Sadness, Fear and Anger.  Joy is the predominate emotion until Riley and her family move to San Francisco.  Suddenly the emotion center is plunged into chaos and the team must learn to work together to help Riley regain her equilibrium.  There is a perilous journey and the realization by Joy that all emotions are important.  We also see some of the inner workings of her parents' and friends' minds.

The film has some sweet and emotional bits and some comedy.  It's fun and an interesting concept.  I wouldn't say it was super special or memorable, but we enjoyed it enough.  Watch the trailer below or via this link.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review: For Kicks by Dick Francis

For Kicks (1965) by Dick Francis is a crime mystery set to the backdrop of horse racing and race horse training.

Daniel Roke is a successful Australian horse breeder but he's feeling hemmed in by his life.  Forced to become both mother and father for his two siblings, he chose the safe, stable life.  Despite his success, he's twitchy and antsy and dreaming of adventure.

By happenstance, he is introduced to a well-to-do Englishman who is looking for a knowledgeable "spy-for hire" to assist them with a mystery in the UK.  Somehow, race horses are being doped or altered to alter their racing performance. Nothing shows up on drug tests and a reporter met a mysterious end while investigating it.

Daniel argues with himself only half-heartedly before taking on the adventure, danger and challenge of the mission.  He tests his brains and his endurance as he races to the finish line to thwart the saboteurs.  Will he reach the finish line or will his adversaries put an end to him before he has the chance?

I've read a few other books by Dick Francis;  all with a theme of horse racing in England in some form or another.  Dick was an accomplished jump jockey who died in 2010 and whose son has continued to write under Dick's pen name.

I'm not necessarily interested in horse racing...or even horses.  The pull to his books is a well-written mystery/crime novel that entertains and suspends.  Give one of his books a shot.  They really are as relevant now as they were when they were originally written.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hotel Review: Quality Inn, Tigard Oregon

While visiting Portland for PSU graduation, we stayed at the Quality Inn in Tigard, Oregon.  This hotel has been here for a long time (under a different franchise and management).  It has been updated inside and met our needs quite well for the price.

We checked in around 4 p.m. and it was apparent that there was not enough staff or housekeeping.  People were backed up at the front desk and rooms were not ready for them to check into.  Which made me a little concerned that our room might not be fully clean.  But it was.

We stayed in Room 317 which overlooked the back parking lot and an electric sub station.

Our room was a small, corner unit with just enough room to walk around the bed.  That's not a big deal since our bedroom at home is about like that anyway.  The room appeared to have been updated and was clean enough.  If I had to say something negative about noise, it might be a reminder to ALL travelers to keep your voices down.  You're not the only one's there even if you don't see anyone else.  Most motels don't have the thickest walls and this one is no exception.  This room was situated right outside the elevator and right next to the stairway and the vending machines.  Between people hollering at each other in the parking lot, at the pool (just off the parking lot), in the hallways, stairways, elevator and vending was plenty noisy until most everyone was in bed for the night.  Exercise courtesy, and try to remember to speak softly.  So this room is in a noisy spot.

Other than noise, for critique, I would say that we were only given one bar of soap to share between the vanity sink and the shower/tub.  Not earth-shattering, but it would have been nice.

Our room (not sure about others) didn't have a mini fridge.  Again, not a deal breaker, but it is nice to be able to put cold drinks in for later.

The pillows were really small and although poofy, they sort of flatten out and make it hard to prop your head enough to watch tv.  The bed was comfortable enough...a bit hard.  My hip tends to hurt when a bed is too hard...but neither was it a that's a plus!

There was air in the line to the vanity sink that didn't work itself out over there was always
an abrupt and noisy splatter of air when the faucet was turned on.

Like most motels/hotels, the air units are noisy buggars.  So...nearly impossible to sleep with it running, and you will either roast or freeze without it on depending on the season.  I wish someone would come up with a good cure for these units.

While the window opened, there was no screen in it.  Which is weird.  Would have liked some fresh air to offset that noisy air unit but then the room would have been full of bugs...or worse.  And...being on the third floor, this seems a safety hazard if someone was staying in the room with small kids.

We could hear the TV in the room next door, so no-doubt, they could hear ours as well.  Depending on your room and your neighbors...there is a lot of noise transfer from very nearly everywhere.

We found out by accident that there was a complimentary breakfast.  We were not told about it at check-in, and there was nothing in our in-room information booklet about it.  We happened to see the sign for it as we crossed the lobby on our way out to go find breakfast.

The breakfast room is newly probably was once a conference room.  It had the usual fair of cereal, yogurt, rolls/bread and bagels and the tried and true waffle iron.  In addition, and as a big plus, it also had scrambled eggs, biscuits and sausage gravy and hard boiled eggs.  It is such a plus to have a hot protein options besides just a carb load.  The breakfast room was clean and we were pleased with this experience.  I found it odd that there were only a couple of sets of salt/pepper shakers in the entire large room and no little packets of had to go pilfer from other tables.

For the price and the reasonable cleanliness, breakfast options and friendly staff, we would stay here again.