Sunday, December 28, 2014

Alone at Night - Suspense Story

Note: I was going though some of my old papers from grade school and found a suspense essay I had written about being home alone for the first time. It is a good story so I thought I would share it here. This is the original essay with minor updates and edits:

"See you later!" I said to my parents and waved to them as they pulled out of the garage. I was feeling great! I didn't really like going out for dinner with them and this was the first time I convinced them to let me stay home alone. I was ten years old and I had the whole house to myself! I started walking around. It felt a little awkward with no one else around. I yelled out because normally I was not supposed to yell in the house. I jumped onto the couch and put my feet up with my shoes still on.

I was relaxing peacefully when I heard a few sounds outside in the back yard. It sounded like someone walking around a couple yards away from the house. I also heard some kind of metal jingling together. It startled me so I sat up and listened carefully. It was completely silent when I tried to listen. I walked over to the window that was covered with drapes and put my ear up next to it. I listened closely but could not make out the sound. I thought about peering out but it was dark outside and light inside so I was afraid whoever was out there would see me looking out.

I sat back down on the couch and started thinking. What if there was someone bad outside? What if they were going to break into my house and try to steal something or even kill me? My heart began to race. I got up and started walking to the kitchen when I heard the sound outside again. Someone was definitely out there.

Feeling unsafe downstairs, I dashed up the stairs to my parents bedroom. I shut the door and leaped onto the bed. I wanted to get in touch with my parents, but they were out to dinner and this was before the days of cell phones. I thought about calling 911 but I was afraid if they came over and saw me home alone, they would take me to the police station.

I decided to try to calm down and went to my room. A few minutes had passed and I was starting to feel better when I heard the sound outside again. I figured I had less of a chance of being seen from the upstairs window so I turned off the light and peeked outside. It was dark but I could see a shadowy figure walking around the side of my house.

I watched it until it was out of sight. My heart was pounding again. I sat back down and looked at the clock. I wasn't sure when my parents would be home. I thought about calling one of my friends. I was about to pick up the phone when the doorbell rang! I ran to the top of the stairs. I looked down and listened fearfully. The outside door opened and someone started knocking on the door! I was so scared and didn't know what to do. I wished my parents would come home. Finally, the outside door closed and it was quiet again.

I was a bit relieved but still very nervous. I went back to my parents room. Still looking at the clock. They had to be coming home soon. Then I heard the garage door opening. I ran to the window and looked out to see my parents car pulling in. I dashed down the stairs and opened the door to meet them. I had never been so happy to see them in my life! My dad walked in and I hugged him. I saw my mom and started to cry. I told them about what had happened and about what I had heard and saw.

We went to the living room and sat down to talk about it. Then I heard the jingling noise outside the window again. "That's it!" I yelled. "They are in the back yard!" My dad walked over to the window, opened the drapes and turned on the back light. We saw our next door neighbor outside walking his dog. My dad opened the patio door and said, "Hi, how are you doing tonight?"

"Not so good." he replied. "When I went out to walk the dog, I accidentally got locked out of my house. I walked around your house a few times to see if anyone was home. I wasn't sure so I rang the bell and knocked on the door but no one answered. Do you still have my spare key?"

"Sure!" My dad said and went to get him the extra key. The neighbor was very thankful and wished us a good night. I was relieved that is was just the neighbor but still a bit shaken up. Staying home alone did not turn out to be as great as I thought it would be. I thought to myself, maybe next time when my parents go out for dinner I will go with them.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Best Songs of 2014

It is time once again for the annual Best Songs of the Year!  This year, was different because I did not closely follow music as I have done in previous years, in fact I tried to avoid music for the most part.  Despite this, I still managed to find some good songs to share throughout the year.  Enjoy!

1. Bad Lip Reading - Carl Poppa
Bad Lip Reading is a Youtube channel known for voice dubbing over popular music videos, tv shows, movies, and sports. They are also incredibly talented at making original music as heard in this video where they make an original song to some clips from the show Walking Dead.  BLR knows how to make a catchy hit song that could easily top the pop charts.  They have many other great songs as well including this other song released for the Hunger Games movie.


2. Violent Soho - Saramona Said
Here is a band out of Australia that has sort of that 90's alternative rock sound.  They had a few big hits this year with the songs Covered in Chrome and this one here Saramona Said. It also has a great video featuring the "one continuous shot" style.  If you like bands like Weezer, Nirvana, or Pixies, definitely check this one out!


3. Duck Sauce - NRG
A high energy electronic pop song comes in at number 3 this year with NRG by Duck Sauce.  It has kind of a timeless pop likeability similar to Junior Senior's Move Your Feet.  The original song is great and there is also a good remix of the song here in collaboration with Skrillex, Kill the Noise, and Milo & Otis.  This video features Phil Villeneuve as he dances through the streets listening to the song.


 4. 311 - Five of Everything
311 has been around for a long time and was one of my original favorite bands.  This year they came out with a new album "Stereolithic" which has been positively received my many of the the long time fans.  This single off the album captures the classic 311 sound many have been missing for so long.


5. Gregory and the Hawk - Heart Attack
Meredith from Gregory and the Hawk is a singer/songwriter/musician who has been making beautiful songs for many years.  This year she released and album "A Selection of Demos".  They might be demos, but this song "Heart Attack" was good enough to make it onto the best songs of the year list!


6. Meghan Tonjes - Don't Call Me Love
Meghan Tonjes is a Youtuber who is also a great singer/songwriter.  Here is an original acoustic song called Don't Call Me Love.  She has a lot of other great original songs as well as cover songs here on here Youtube channel.


7. Dave and Ethan - Youtube Comment Song
Here is a song from the funny Youtube duo of Dave and Ethan.  It is a song they made inspired by the comments they received on their videos. The topic and lyrics are silly but the song is actually very catchy and they are pretty good at singing too!


Hope you enjoyed the best songs of 2014!  Feel free to leave a comment below if you found a good song here or if you had another favorite song from 2014.

Also check out the Best Songs of 2013 and the Best Songs of 2015

Friday, December 12, 2014

Peapod Review - Online Grocery Delivery and Pick Up

Peapod is a service that lets you pick out groceries online and then have them delivered to your door. They also have an option where they do the shopping for you and you just have to pick up your order to save time. Peapod has been around for some time now and is available in many states. I don't mind going to the store but one of my family members recommended them and gave me a promo code to use so I thought I would try it out. Here is a recap of my experience using Peapod:

Website:
You start by going to the website and entering in your location to make sure the service is available in your area. From their you can start shopping right away. You don't even need to log in to try it out. You can search by item, brand, or category which makes finding things very easy. They have most of the name brands and even a Peapod store brand. You can click on an item to see it up close and get more information about it such as the nutrition facts. You can even sort by unit price which is very helpful when comparing prices. When you find an item you want, you can add it to the cart on the right where it keeps track of your order. Overall I found the website very easy to navigate.

Prices:
As you might expect, you will pay a bit more per item vs if you were to buy the same item in the store. The convenience of having someone else take the time to gather all the items and deliver them does come at a price. There are some items on sale each week which tend to bring them down to about store price. Also they do have many store brand items which are a good deal. I like to save money so I went with a lot of the store brand items. You have to have a minimum order of $60 to place the order. Also there is a charge for delivery and a smaller charge if you opt for pick up. They do run promotions so you may be able to get these fees waived if you have a promo code.

Checkout:
In checkout, you can select delivery or pickup. I went with the pickup because it was less and there was a pickup place close by. I was able to schedule pickup for the next morning which was nice so you do not have to give them a lot of advanced warning. One thing I noticed is they do not let you enter in a promo code until the last screen, even after you have entered in all your billing information. It would have been nice to be able to apply the code early on to see those savings at the beginning.

Pick Up:
For pick up, you just have to drive up to one of the Peapod locations and tell them your name. Then they load up your car with the order and give you the receipt. Overall the service was quick and friendly.

Groceries:
The groceries came in many bags. They probably could have been consolidated better. Also I found the frozen items could have been colder. They keep them in coolers with ice and actually use dry ice cubes to keep them cold. When I was unloading the groceries, there was one of the dry ice blocks in one of the bags. I'm not sure if this was supposed to come with but it was kind of strange because it had lots of warning on the bag like "Do Not Touch Without Gloves". Other than that I was pleased with the groceries themselves.

Recommendation:
I would recommend Peapod for someone who is busy or does not like to go grocery shopping. It is good for someone who does not mind paying a bit more for the convenience of having groceries delivered. It is also great for older people who may have a hard time getting around or carrying heavy groceries. Personally I do not mind going to the store and I would prefer to get the cheapest prices for the same items, so I probably would not use the service on a regular basis unless there were some good promo codes that evened out the prices.

If it sounds like a service you would like to try, here is a promotion you can use to save on your first order: $15 Off Your First Order 

Update 5-14-15: While most items I ordered were great, I got around to using some store brand Automatic Dishwasher detergent and found it was not cleaning the dishes well at all. In fact, dishes looked cleaner going in compared to after they had been washed using the new detergent.  It was a pretty big bottle and I was not going to use it any more because it did not clean the dishes so I decided to give Peapod a call to see if there was anything that could be done. Thankfully they were able to give me a refund for the detergent.  Although the detergent was a disappointment, they get points for good customer service! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Best TV Shows of 2014

Here is the annual 10 best TV shows of the year featuring the best major network shows as chosen by Connected Isolation.  This year there were many returning favorites, a few new shows, and for the first time, a morning show is featured in the mix along with all the other prime time shows.  Here are the best shows of 2014:

1. I Wanna Marry Harry
You might think it is a joke that his show is number 1 this year, but it is in fact the best show this year.  Many critics did not like this show and many probably wrote it off as a bad show based on the title or premise alone.  This show did not even get to air the whole season on Fox as it was canceled in the middle and the rest of the episodes were shown online, but this really was a good show this year.  The casting was excellent and overall it was edited and constructed into an ideal reality show with lots of drama, emotion, and a great ending!


2. The Quest
Another new show debuted this year and comes in at number 2.  The Quest was a fantasy/reality competition show putting contestants into a magical medieval setting and having them compete in various tasks and tests of skill in order to be come the one true hero to save the day.  This show was great because it was different by combining two different genres into one.  The casting was good both in terms of staff as well as the contestants. The setting was realistic and the storyline was a lot of fun to follow.  Hope this one comes back for a new season!


3 Live With Kelly and Michael
For the first time a daytime show has been featured here on the best shows of the year.  While "Live" has been around for quite some time, and even Kelly and Michael have been hosting for a while, this show is just wonderful and a great way to start off your morning.  Kelly an Michael are both a pleasure to watch and it is nice to see the contests and different guests they have on the show each day.


4. Master Chef / Master Chef Jr
A couple of returning shows to the 10 best list again this year are Gordon Ramsey's Master Chef and Jr edition.  With many cooking shows out there, this one stands out as having great judges, a good format, exciting competitions, and eclectic home cook contestants.  The main show is great to see the high level of cooking and drama while the Junior version is just as entertaining with the kids as they are so animated and you never know what they are going to say.


5. Big Brother
It's no surprise Big Brother is on the list again this year.  One of the long running reality competition shows out there, this one is always a summer staple.  They tried to mix it up with some new twists this year. Some worked better than others.  It was not a perfect season, but still good enough to make it one of the best this year.