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Inflatable Swimming Pools & Barbecue Grills: Summer Specials

swimming pool

The kids are finally home for summer vacation! After the first week, every parent dreads the familiar refrain, “I’m bored!” For those of us who work at home like myself, keeping children safely entertained is crucial or we won’t make a living! No matter what your circumstances, outdoor summer recreation is fun and can save you a bundle off day trips. Here are a few suggestions:

Pop Up Inflatable Swimming Pools

You can have fun without having to install an in ground pool. Whether you have a balcony, tiny yard or vast estate, a pop up summer pool is a first-rate suggestion and a better alternative if you’re looking for something flexible, simple and low maintenance. In just minutes, your children (and you!) will be cooling off in a comfy new swimming pool. Some states have fencing laws even for small pools so make sure you check them out before you get started.

We love the one with a blow up ring at the top. You use a simple pump to inflate the singular chamber then fill the pool with water. A small filter attaches through the hoses provided with the pool. You add your own chlorine tablets to keep the water clean. It is a low maintenance way to splash around on a hot day without fees or driving to get to a beach or public pool.

A few of the best Inflatable Swimming Pools available from Amazon include:

  • Banzai Crazy Crab Spray Pool
  • Aqua Leisure 48 inch Popup Pool
  • Bellows Foot Pump for Inflatables
  • Intex 18′ by 42″ Quick Set Pool Package

Barbecue Grills

Who can resist the distinctive flavor of barbecued burgers, steaks and chicken after a long day? Whether you barbecue for yourself, family or friends, summer isn’t the same without a grill. If you are an apartment dweller, verify the rules for using a grill on your balcony or outdoor space to avoid interruption of your dinner. Just use caution: if you accidentally use your grill to close to an open door or window that leads into your home, you may wind up getting so much smoke inside that you’ll need to invest in an air purifier to purge the odors from the space.

We prefer the old-fashioned round charcoal grill with a big lid. We purchased one for under $50 and love it! A cheap barbecue grill can work out pretty well, can be as effective as more expensive models.

Our friends use a gas grill and enjoy the convenience of instant cooking power. We still don’t mind waiting for the coals to heat up because they give the meat that summery flavor. When I was single, I used a folding tabletop grill to cook up a quick burger or hot dog for myself after a hectic day at work. I also used to bring it to the beach to avoid paying $5+ for a burger from the concession stand.

And a few more tips: besides meat, add potatoes and fresh summer veggies from the local market for a well-balanced meal right off the grill. Cut up the meat and veggies, put them on skewers and create your own kabobs!

A Slice of New York – Di Fara Pizza

di fara

Last weekend my brother was in town with his car, so of course I wanted to show him some of New York’s finest pizza’s, but I also wanted to catch a ride to a pizzeria that is otherwise a pain to get to by subway. We chose Di Fara Pizza at 1424 Avenue J here in Brooklyn, which has topped a good number of pizza rankings in the last several years, as anyone who’s seen their walls of collected magazine and paper articles can attest.

The critical thing to remember about this place is that it’s a little pizzeria that suddenly got big press coverage starting sometime in the last ten years or so, despite having been around for closer to forty. This had significant impact on our pizza eating experience, as I’ll explain below.

The Pizza: 8

If I’m not mistaken, this is one of the few top pizzerias in the city that doesn’t use a brick oven to make its pies. Trust me when I say that this is in no way a bad thing. The pizza was delicious and perhaps the best part is that you can see the chef, who’s been making pies here for decades, ply his craft. Every ingredient and topping is sliced fresh right in front of you, and added with care before the pie gets put in the oven. The result is a pie with a delicious thin layer of mozzarella baked evenly over hand-made sauce with a slight drizzling of olive oil and topped with a flavorful and aesthetically pleasing portion of basil. The one thing that detracted from this pizza slightly is actually the exact same problem that Lombardi’s pizza had: the crust was soggy in the middle despite being thin and expertly charred everywhere else. As before, I’m forced to dock a point from an otherwise incredible pie.

The Toppings: 7

The toppings were tasty and we could see that they were fresh, as they were added literally right in front of us, but they weren’t as ubiquitous as many that I’ve had recently, and just aren’t particularly transcendent enough to get past simply being “very good” in my book. Really nothing special if you’ve had some of the city’s top pies before.

Other: 2

I regret this, but the truth is that Di Fara Pizza is another instance of an excellent pizza marred by a frustrating eating experience. As I said earlier, the chef makes each pie fresh, right in front of you, which is great. The downside is, he makes everyone else’s pies fresh right in front of you too, and the novelty wears off quickly when you’ve got a dozen orders ahead of yours. The fact that the pizza oven itself can only hold 2 pies at a time doesn’t help move things along either. We went at lunch time, about 1pm, and all told, we waited about a half hour in the congested line that was jutting out the door when we got there, with a backpack on, and perhaps another half hour after that to get our pie.

I’d been warned by several pizza critics that it might take a while to get the food at Di Fara, and that they don’t necessarily serve the pies in the order you arrived, but even knowing this, the reality is frustrating and tedious. The place is small and cramped, your standard hole-in-the-wall with seating for maybe 15 people at a stretch, which ordinarily would be okay for a pizzeria if you didn’t have to spend an hour there waiting before you even get your food. This singular annoyance detracted considerably from the experience.

The Bottom Line

Don’t go out of your way. The pizza is good, yes, but the location is remote to most NYC commuters unless you have a car, and even if you can get there easily, you may be having second thoughts after the long wait for your food. I think that if you arrive on a really off-time, like 11:30 in the morning or something, you might not have to wait, but even a few orders ahead of you can back up the entire line by maybe 10 minutes a piece, so budget your time accordingly.

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre – A First-Hand Analysis and Review


Last Tuesday, on somewhat of a whim, a friend and I decided to check out the Upright Citizens Brigade, making this my second trip to the famed New York Improv venue. As you may recall, I saw two partially scripted performances during my last visit, which played to a relatively empty theatre (probably owing to the weather). Well this time was a little different.


This time around, we came to see long form improv in a format known as The Harold. These are 30 minute continuous improv performances in which the eight or nine members of an improv troop alternate jumping into or redefining a scene. Once a handful of scenes or themes have been created, they shift somewhat randomly from scene to scene, elaborating on each one until the end of the show. In at least some cases, the scenes overlap or simply collide into each other with comical results.

Another major point that set this review apart from my first visit was the crowd. When we arrived a little before 8pm, the theatre was completely packed, even to the point where there was actually standing room only for parts of the show. The crowd was pretty much what you might expect it to be, which is young and energetic, and of course, ready to laugh.

The Improv

We saw three groups perform, though I only recall for certain that two of them were Bastian and Tantrum. The improv they put on was fairly entertaining, but as I’ve discussed previously, improv isn’t an exact science and it can sometimes end up in a place that isn’t all that funny. For example, imaginary giant foam hotdog hats were very funny. Explaining that the greatest prank ever pulled was to build a second statue humping the main one in the schoolyard was very funny. Rape counseling wasn’t that funny.

This is the second time that I’ve encountered seriously taboo topics in a UCBT improv show, and both times I was less than amused. While I’m inclined to say that taboo subjects don’t have to be unfunny simply because they’re taboo, I do think that if you’re gonna go after them, you have to have a really great (and probably well thought out) angle. Unfortunately this is a fundamental weakness of improv, because it’s supposed to be spur of the moment, and at least in this case, the brilliant angle never really materialized. Sorry improv-ers, it’s just not working! Stick to the funny hats!

The Bottom Line

Despite some scenes that were of questionable comedic value, it’s still a hell of a show for just 5 bucks, and it goes on for over 2 hours, though you are by no means obligated to stay that long or even arrive on time for that matter. Just stake out your seats early and enjoy the energy and innovation of the improv Troops. The Harold shows happen every Tuesday night from now till forever as far as I can tell, so if you like long form improv you’re pretty much out of excuses to visit UCBT at least once.

Add Value To Your Coupons: Make Your Coupons Count For More


Is there a way to make coupons worth even more than their face value? The short answer? Yes! It’s easy to squeeze extra savings out of a coupon to spend even less on your favorite products and services. By doubling or tripling up on discounts, you can make the most of all the coupons and deals you find. In fact, just being a loyal customer and patronizing a particular retailer can get you started on the road to big savings right away. Take for instance, the case of Bed, Bath, and Beyond coupons (BB & B is one of my favorite retailers) — I’m able to store and collect loads of these coupons which I can use in one fell swoop at any time. These coupons don’t expire so I enjoy savings for my home and garden, each time I visit the store.

Double or Triple Coupon Savings

The easiest way to make your coupons worth more than their face value is to shop at stores offering double or triple coupon savings. Certain supermarkets and retailers offer double or triple coupons. Sometimes the coupon must be under $1 to qualify for double or triple savings. The face value of the coupon is automatically doubled or tripled at checkout and you automatically save big bucks without doing anything extra.

Online Incentive Programs

Sometimes you can use online coupon codes while shopping through online incentive programs. In other instances, online incentive programs may offer their own money-saving coupon codes when you shop through the store’s website. Either way, when you use coupons and earn points for your purchase, you are making the most of your money. The points add up to qualify you to earn gift cards and other bonuses without spending another dime.

Some cash back rewards sites that are of this flavor include MainStreetShares and Ebates. You can read up on MainStreetShares through this MainStreetShares review, and you can become a member by visiting this link. You can also read more about Ebates here and sign up to Ebates through this link. Cash back shopping sites are great because you receive cash when you go through these sites and shop with their merchant affiliates.

Money-Saving Supermarket Cards

Many supermarkets such as Pathmark and Shop and Shop offer money-saving supermarket cards. You sign up for a savings card at their website or customer service department within the store. The account is completely free and a card is issued immediately. When you present the card at checkout, watch the savings add up! Special discounts for cardholders only are applied right away. Use coupons with specialized customer savings to get the most money off your purchases.

Another benefit of being a local customer who carries retailer cards is the opportunity to receive special coupons sent by mail and printed at checkout. These exclusive coupons for cardholders can help you save even more. Use them with manufacturers’ coupons for the greatest savings.

Combine Deals and Coupons

Take the time to combine deals with coupons. Peruse the local shopping periodicals and look for weekend coupons to see where the deals are. Review your coupons to match up deals to coupons. By doing this, you are taking advantage of the deepest discounts from both manufacturers and retailers.

I love to double my savings by taking advantage of deals and coupons. Often, retailers time deals to coincide with coupons appearing in your Sunday newspaper. Last week, I saved big bucks off high end L’Oréal hair products. I purchased L’Oréal VIVE shampoo at CVS at the discount price of $2.99. With the $1 coupon from the newspaper, I only spent $1.99 on a shampoo bottle worth almost $5.

I also saved a few bucks off L’Oréal Excellence hair color by combining a CVS weekly deal with a $2 manufacturer coupon. The double discount meant that I only spent about half price for an item I use regularly!

Try Coupon Trading

Another way to make the most of your coupons is to participate in coupon trading opportunities. Get coupons you want while you get rid of ones you don’t need. Coupon trading allows you to squeeze value out of every coupon you cut!