Costco Commercial Fold-in-Half Table: Product Review

I usually write reviews of products I eat from Costco; I guess those are generally more appealing to me, but my circumstances have changed in the last few weeks, and I found myself in need of a temporary desk. I thought, why not try the commercial Fold-in-half table from Costco?

I’ve seen those tables everywhere, but I’ve never had the occasion to use one. Here’s my chance!

Costco Fold-in-half Table, 6 ft

First things first: the fold-in-half table costs $57.99, plus taxes, in Canadian dollars, and is unfortunately made in China, but what isn’t these days. The dimensions are 72 inches long, 30 inches wide and 29.25 inches high. In my case, the table is long enough for my computer, a desktop, my two monitors, and my mouse and keyboard. For reference, the Costco (Canada) item number is 277974.

For those that need to carry this around, for exhibitions, booths, presentations or whatever, the folding mechanism is easy to use and convenient, and the legs fold easily where they are supposed to. The legs come with a ring to secure them when they are deployed so that the table cannot collapse unannounced.

When it comes to actual load, I would not want to hazard a guess as to how much this folding table will hold, but loaded as it is, with a computer, monitor, et cetera, it’s not even breaking a sweat. I know that I could put much heavier things on it, no problem.

One thing that is a bit annoying is the weight; the table, folded, weighs in at 33 pounds. That is not crazy heavy, but it’s certainly not light. Despite the fact that is has a convenient carrying handle, I would not want to have to lug this around all day, it’s quite bulky and heavy.

Costco Fold-in-half Table, 6 ft, deployed
My living room is going to feel crowded.

All in all, I have to say that the table feels solid and well built, and for about $65, everything included, that is hard to beat. Buying the wood and metal legs separately would have cost at least this much, I would have needed to assemble it and the result would not have been half as nice.

Costco Fold-in-half Table, 6 ft used as temporary desk

As you can see, the commercial fold-in-half table from Costco will work just fine as a temporary desk. I look forward to moving to my office in the basement and using this table as a packing table, which will ultimately be its destiny. For reference, the exact same table is sold at Home Depot (Canada) for $149, plus taxes. If you decide that you need this table, it’s totally worth it to become a Costco member just for that; it’s cheaper than buying it elsewhere!

Extreme Decluttering Technique: Flooding

I’ve written quite a bit about techniques to declutter, or to stop accumulating so much stuff. Recently though, I was introduced to a new method to get rid of lots of stuff: flooding.

My little town suffered the breach of a dyke about 3 weeks ago, which I wrote about here. Writing at the time was pretty traumatic, and the whole thing still feels surreal.

I want to make it clear that all that was lost, in our case, were material possessions. My children are safe, and so are my wife and I. Thanks to herculean efforts and the help of a few dear friends, our house is almost ready to be moved back in, which is a lot more than many people can say.

There’s a lot of decluttering happening on this street.

This brings me to the decluttering angle of things. I find one of the more difficult aspects of decluttering is letting go of items that remind me of things, that elicit memories or feelings. Because so many of my precious books and belongings were damaged by the flood, and the disgusting sewer waters, I had no choice but to get rid of them. In many cases I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

I catch myself a hundred times a day thinking, yeah, I have something like that … oh wait. No I don’t. Not anymore. My wife was asking me how many bookshelves we had – for insurance purposes. My first thought was, that’s easy, let me go check … oh wait.

As horrible and traumatic as this experience has been – let’s call it that – the fallout has something that for me, is somewhat cathartic. I don’t have to go through thousands upon thousands of items, deciding at every step what makes the cut and what doesn’t. God has already made the choice for me, and He chose whatever was on the lower shelves, hung in the water or fell in the water, as well as the actual floor, walls and ceilings of my basement. And the washroom. And the freezer. And my grandmother’s rocking chair. And all the kid’s toys.

God has made the choice, and I had to carry everything out to the curb.

This is – hopefully – a once-in-a-lifetime decluttering experience.

In the picture above you can see a small excavator picking up 40 years of treasured possessions and dumping them unceremoniously in a truck. We initially took so much stuff out that it took that machine 2 hours and three – THREE – full trucks to haul away our stuff. We put more out afterwards, at least another truck full.

The result has been spectacular in terms of decluttering – silver lining here folks. I never thought that I would get the chance to remodel the basement to my taste, but here we are.

The result, after a week of back-breaking work.

Having lost so much possessions already, I find it easier to select what I’ll be keeping from what has survived. I thought that since so much was lost, I would be keen on keeping every shred of what was not, however I find that this is not the case.

It’s like the Band-Aid has been pulled; I am now able to throw away things that I have been keeping for years, on the odd chance that I would need them again, or because someone I cared about loved them. My dear, departed mother loved books by Larry McMurtry; I don’t. I don’t need to keep stuff someone else loved because I loved them. It doesn’t make me love my mother any more or miss her any less because I am holding on to these things – and countless others.

We are now in the process of boxing up what we have left so that we can finally move back into our house. The water is drained, everything in the basement is demolished and taken out, the decontamination is done. All we have left to do is clean up and move back in, and remember the lesson that was taught to us, at great emotional, physical and financial expense: stuff is just stuff.

Flooding in Sainte-Marthe-sur-le-lac, QC

Hey everyone.

The reason that I haven’t been writing so much the last few days is that on Saturday night, 27th of April, my town was flooded. I’m not talking about humidity in the basement kind of flooding, I mean cars pushed away, cops and firefighters going door to door and giving people as little as one minute to leave.

Possessions and pets were abandoned in the melee that ensued. Over 6,000 people, a third of my town, were evacuated and over 2,000 houses flooded. A dike, which some claim was ill-maintained, broke, and all hell broke loose.

At 8 PM, we had just finished watching The Secret Life of Pets (which was hilarious by the way), we put the kids to bed, and … the power cut.

I counted to 10, as I always do, hoping the it would come back on. Instead we were treated to a spectacular chorus of sirens from the fire department and seemingly every cop car in the province. I stepped outside to see what was happening, and a neighbor told me the dike had broken and some streets were being evacuated. It was pitch black and terrifying.

This picture is taken with Google’s awesome Night Sight. I was WAY darker than that.

I went back in the house. My son was already up, panicking slightly. I gave him the task of holding the flashlight while I awkwardly carried valuables (to me) from the basement to the main floor. About 15 minutes later we were ready to go.

We went out with our two cars so as not to leave them to get flooded. We decided on a rendez-vous point, which we reached quickly. It was decided that my wife would go to her parents, while I would go back and try to help as I could. As it turns out the bridge to go to her parent’s house was closed, for, the same reason, so we ended up going to my sister’s.

As I returned I was greeted by the sight of two yellow school buses full of police officers on my street, on their way to evacuate a old people’s home right on the water. The water was already halfway up the street to my house from the lake, and the street parallel to mine was already flooded.

I went back inside the house, but stupidly didn’t use the time I had to move more things upstairs. I wasn’t thinking right. I’m still not.

I left to go join my wife and kids. It was really eerie. The police and military presence was overwhelming, in a good way. At least we felt that we weren’t left to fend for ourselves

As I walked back to my car I was greeted by the sight of a military armored amphibious vehicle, along with more soldiers and police officers.

After driving for what seemed like an eternity we made it to my dad’s apartment, which was unused as he was in Florida. I broke down in tears in the street as I realized I left all our family’s pictures on the floor in the basement.

Now 5 days have passed. We are staying at my dad’s place, which is not ideally located for us, but is warm and dry and safe. My kids have gone back to school and daycare, and I’ve gone to work one day this week so far. I go to our house every day to see if the water has receded but so far, it hasn’t.

Today we tried pumping out the water with two powerful pumps, but the groundwater is still too high, it drops by about 10 inches and then no amount of pumping does anything. A friend helped me clear out some soaked belongings to the yard. 40 years of treasured possessions lie in a broken, soggy heap outside. It’s both tougher and easier than I thought, mentally speaking. One heck of a way to declutter.

This is the same view as the picture above, 5 days later. They are furiously pumping water back into the lake, but it’s going to take some doing. The lake is 1,500 feet away and the area affected, immense.

Thankfully, I was able so save many books, and some photo albums survived. I even think that I’ll be able to rescue most of the photos which are now floating all around the basement.

When we compare ourselves with others who were flooded, we got it easy. It’s not easy, bear in mind, but still. My street is flooded, sure, but my land is dry. All the water came up through the sump pit. My rear neighbor has electricity so I can plug a pump in. When all’s said and done we’ll have had about 25 inches of water in the basement. People I know have their entire basement completely flooded, and other neighbors can kayak through their house. Other house, mainly mobile homes have simply been knocked off their foundation.

Some folks have lost everything, barely go out with their lives. If this had happened in the middle of the night instead of at dinner time, there would have been dozens of casualties.

For my family, the bad news is that even though we’ve been luckier than some (most?), we’re still evacuated, and we can’t go back home for a while, as we can’t pump the water out and we have no power, so no heat, light, refrigerator, nothing.

The kids are safe, my wife is safe, and so am I.

Bump in the road.

Siwin Asian Chicken Dumplings Potstickers at Costco: Product Review

As readers of this blog know, I’m a big sucker for things that come from Costco. You always get the best value, and that’s what I’m all about. Today I’m going to write about Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings Potstickers, which I purchase at Costco in a suitably enormous bag.

Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings
That’s a lot of dough.

Now, the basics. These Asian potstickers are available at Costco in 1.91 kilogram bags, about 4 pounds. Regular price was $12.99 Canadian dollars, and there was an instant savings of $3 per bag, so of course I got two. It drives my wife nuts, and Costco’s stock price ever higher. For those who are interested, the Costco item number is 5502859 (in Canada, anyways). There are roughly 84 potstickers in each bag, entirely cooked before being frozen. Possible allergens are sesame, soy and wheat. These are NOT gluten free.

Siwin Asian Chicken Dumplings Ingredients

One of the things I appreciate from many of these kind of things (from Costco, anyways) is that the ingredients are more or less wholesome. Nothing weird or unpronounceable, and these potstickers are no exceptions. Here we go, in order of appearance:

Filling:

  • Chicken, Cabbage, Water, Green Onion, Canola Oil, Sugar, Yeast Extract, Salt, Spices, Sesame Oil

Wrapper:

  • Wheat flour, Water, Canola Oil, Salt, Sugar

Sauce:

  • Soy Sauce, Sugar, Water, Vinegar, Sesame Oil
Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings Ingredients

Siwin Asian Chicken Dumplings Nutrition Facts

As you can expect from this type of prepared food, it’s really the sodium that’s a kicker here. One portion of potstickers, with one portion of the supplied sauce, will give you a whopping 39% of your daily sodium, and I can guarantee you that you’ll still be hungry! I usually skip the sauce, the dumplings are tasty as is.

Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings Nutrition Facts
Easy on the salt, there, cowboy.

Siwin Asian Chicken Dumplings Cooking Instructions

Cooking these dumplings is really super easy. A steamer would be nice, but you can make do with a simple non-stick pan and a tablespoon of vegetable oil. Turn the heat up to medium-high, dump a bunch of dumplings in the pan, and add about 1/2 a cup of water.

Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings Cooking
Takes only about 5-6 minutes, total.

Bring the water to a boil, and cover for 3 minutes. Afterwards, simply remove the cover, let the remaining water evaporate and fry them a little, until you get a light crust. Remove from the pan and eat up!

The Siwin Asian Chicken and Vegetable Dumplings Potstickers I purchase at Costco are always a hit with the kids. They only take a few minutes to cook, so they are ideal when you’re running out of time and need to make something RIGHT NOW because the kids are hungry and they will DIE OF HUNGER if they don’t eat RIGHT THIS SECOND. With lots of crying and whining.

Even when purchased at full price, this is a really good product that’s quick and easy to make, and for something that comes frozen in a bag, doesn’t contain horrible ingredients and that is not too bad for you, provided you don’t eat the whole bag in one sitting. Bon appétit!

Decluttering: Donating Old Clothes to Charity

Yesterday my family and I did something that had been haunting us for a long time. I’ve long been a hoarder – trying to reform myself – and doing this kind of thing is difficult, but still. I donated all of my children’s old clothes to charity. This fits nicely within my goal of decluttering our house.

My children are now 4 and 7, and growing like weeds, and we generate a lot of clothes that are barely used and we will never, ever need again, so instead of trying to sell them, we donated them.

Donating Kid's Clothes to Charity
These boxes would NOT fit in my Subaru.

I usually try to sell everything; when you’re trying to pay down a mortgage, every dollar counts. That being said, and as my wife wisely said, it could take years to get rid of that stuff on Kijiji and eBay, and we would not make much money.

Decluttering and Charity are Good for the Soul

Moreover, a lot of these clothes were donated to us, mainly by my sister, who has kids just a bit older than ours, so giving to charity would be paying it forward and good for the soul.

It’s crazy how just getting rid of 6 boxes of old clothes and 2 massive garbage bags would make a difference, but a part of the basement now seems clear after years of clutter. There is still a long ways to go, but we are going in the right direction!

Of course, getting rid of boxes of stuff that’s already been sorted and for which there is a market, so to speak, is easy. The rest of the decluttering is going to take some doing.

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce at Costco: Product Review

Besides saving money and decluttering my home, one of the things I most enjoy doing is writing product reviews for things I purchase. I’ve already spent the money, so everyone might as well share in the knowledge! Today I will be writing a review for the Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce I purchased at Costco a few weeks ago, before the Ice Storm. I just got around to finally using it, and as planned I make Teriyaki chicken.

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce from Costco
Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce from Costco, 970 ml, $6.49

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce: First Impression

First, the basics. This sauce is sold in a 970 ml bottle, so almost a full liter, for $6.49 Canadian dollars, at Costco. The sauce is made in the USA and I purchased it at a Costco in the Montreal, Canada area. At first glance, this is a really good price for a marinade sauce, because you don’t really need that much when you cook. For just a few dollars, I can enjoy Teriyaki Chicken all summer!

But will I, though? Here’s the kicker: I found the sauce to be a bit thick for a marinade. Probably good when you add it at the end of cooking, cooking a bunch of chicken soaked in the stuff made for a challenging experience, even though the result was satisfactory in terms of taste.

Turns out that the sauce thickened A LOT during cooking, and I didn’t want boiled chicken, so I had to drain the sauce several times. I almost certainly would have been better off grilling the chicken first, then adding a BIT of sauce at the end, for flavor. Marinading was not required, I think.

Marine Bay Teriyaki Sauce Ingredients

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce Ingredients

Looking at the ingredients, we can tell that the Marinade Bay people take their products seriously. There is not a single unpronounceable ingredient in there, and while I’m pretty certain that the various vinegars act as conservation agents, there is nothing artificial in here. Moreover, several of the ingredients are organic, which is great. The product itself is not labelled as such, as all the ingredients are not organically sourced, but still, a long way in the right direction, and kudos to them.

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce Nutrition Facts

Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce Nutrition Facts

Considering the ingredients list, I’m pretty surprised at how not unhealthy this sauce actually is. I mean, sugar is the third ingredient and concentrated pineapple juice is the fourth, and these are pretty sweet, so I would have expected much more calories per portion.

Granted, the portion size is a single tablespoon, but still.

An area of concern here would be the salt content, 220 mg or 9% of your daily allowance, but with this type of sauce, it is to be expected, both really sweet and really salty at the same time. The good news here is that there is no fat and no cholesterol, which is awesome.

In Conclusion: Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce at Costco

I look forward to trying out this sauce as a cooking sauce and not a marinade. I was fooled by the name of the company, Marinade Bay, and I was not too pleased at the result. Moreover, I’m used to the teriyaki sauce in restaurants having a different texture, so perhaps I was biased here.

A few things are certain: the price point of the Marinade Bay Teriyaki Sauce from Costco, at a mere $0.66 per 100 ml, is right on target. The natural, and sometimes organic ingredients are a plus, and all in all, the taste was very acceptable.

I will update this review once I have used the sauce again under different circumstances.

Now the question is, will this sauce become a staple of Costco, or is it destined to be one of those sauces they have a pallet of, sell and then is never seen again? Only time (and sales) will tell!

One-Month Clutter Challenge: Ice Storm

This is going to be a short update, because I have to get to work, but I’m not going to skimp out on the details too much. A lot has happened in the last few days, all of it caused by a meteorological phenomenon called an ‘ice storm’.

In a nutshell, this happens when it rains and the outside temperature is just at the freezing point. The rain just freezes on everything. It’s very pretty, but also heavy, which means A LOT of broken trees, which fall on power lines, which cut power to entire regions – not just neighborhoods or streets. On April 8th, at night, over 315,000 households were without power in my neck of the woods. That’s a lot of people.

I have a sump pump in my basement to evacuate water as it rises, but because of the lack of power, it wasn’t working, which required me to purchase a water-pressure based pump, which was a complete waste of money because I was too stressed out to install it correctly. In the end, we only got minor flooding and damage, but the expense and the clutter remains.

I ended up spending $77.76 at the Home Hardware for that stupid pump, and every penny of it was a waste, and additional clutter for me. As discussed with my wife, we will return what we can and throw out the rest, as well as the now defunct garden hose (which will need replacement).

I also spent $27.75 taking the kids out to the restaurant, where the food was warm and plentiful, as opposed to home, where everything was room temperature.

We were out of power for about 30 hours, and surprisingly we did not lose anything in terms of food. We did not open the refrigerator or freezer a single time, and even the chicken and cheese I had bought at Costco the day before were still okay.

This has been an exhausting week so far, but the kids took it well, we didn’t spend too much and managed not to add to the clutter. I look forward to purchasing and installing a gas-powered generator in the near future.

One-Month Clutter Challenge: Update 2

We have now been on our One-Month Clutter Challenge for 8 days, or 26% of the month, and I am happy to report that the only ‘clutter item’ we purchased was a Dragon Pen, meant as a little gift for our son, as he loves to write.

As you can see in the chart below, we have spent so far this month $422.16 on groceries, and $45.04 on restaurants.

Monthly Budget Excel Sheet for One-Month Clutter Challenge
This month’s budget is looking good so far!

The groceries can be divided into a single Costco bill of $290.49 and a visit at another grocery store for $131.67. For the Restaurant category, we have $37 going towards a Spaghetti Fundraiser and $8.04 for some chicken wings for lunch.

If we were to keep that level of spending for the entire month, we’d end up with a total monthly spending amount of $1752, which is pretty much on target with our monthly budget.

I’m actually anticipating that our spending will drop for the rest of the month, as I don’t think I’ll make 3 other shopping trips of this magnitude at Costco. Usually I’m good for about $150. Neither my wife nor I have put gas in the cars yet, so we’ll have to see.

If possible, and I may regret those word later, I would like to keep it under $1300 for this month, so as to catch up from last month’s budget disaster.

As you can see, I’m pretty organized; I didn’t make that Excel sheet just for the article, I’ve been using it for years, and it has really help me manage my money more efficiently.

Do you do a monthly budget, and if you do, how do you manage it in the day-to-day, and if not, well, why not? Please let me know in the comments below!

Clutter Removal: One Good Habit To Form

If you feel like clutter has taken over your life, you are not alone. Myself and millions of other people feel that way at every moment of their lives. It can be because you’re a hoarder, even a small-scale one, or simply because you or people you live with are messy.

And that’s okay. It’s okay to be messy, but not to let the clutter and the mess take over your life!

In my case, I would say that I’m a small-scale hoarder. I used to love having lots of stuff, and it’s certainly not because I was deprived in my youth, quite the opposite. I think it’s in my genes, but that’s a story for another day.

This is NOT the Solution!
This is NOT the Solution!

Having a wife and two little kids at home, it’s sometimes difficult to get ahead of the mess, and this can cause trouble. It can lead to minor family strife and friction, all the way to refusing to have people over because everything is all over the place and you’re embarrassed.

There is no quick fix for this; it requires a complete change of behavior on the part of everyone that occupies the place; of course, you can’t force a four-year old to use the vacuum cleaner, but you can start instilling good habits about picking up after yourself, and lead by example. If your child sees you tidying up, he or she will want to do the same!

The One Good Habit to Form if you want to eventually get rid of clutter, is to always have something in your hands. Look around you, right now: something is out of place. Pick it up and put it away, or throw it out. RIGHT NOW.

The Lively Dollar

Now do this all the time.

As you walk around the house doing chore, or anything else, just pick up one little thing and put it where it belongs. You won’t vanquish your clutter in a day, or in a week, but eventually, if you can stick to this little habit, you will.

Once your home is relatively clutter-free, it will be a lot easier to keep it that way. I know from experience that it is difficult to get your head out of the water when it comes to clutter, but consistency in action, and not adding to the clutter with additional stuff, will go a long way!

Tell me your clutter and decluttering stories in the comments below, I’d love to hear what tips and tricks you use, and put them to the test!

One-Month Clutter Challenger: Update 1

Well, that was quick.

My family started the One-Month Clutter Challenge yesterday, on April 1st, and we have already failed! My wife only remembered after making a purchase that we were on that challenge. To be fair to her, we’ve never done anything like that before, not by choice anyways, so it’s a habit that we all need to take.

Moreover, the transgression is small and cute; our son, who is 7 years old, loves writing stories – I guess he takes after his old man! – and to motivate him, my wife bought him a novelty pen shaped like a dragon. It’s actually kind of cool and it doesn’t feel too cheap.

The Infamous Dragon Pen

The Infamous Dragon Pen, cause of our Downfall.

We are still doing really good on the One-Month Challenge Front; besides that pen, we have purchased exactly nothing this month so far; granted, we’re only the 2nd, but we take our victories where we can find them!

While this purchase was only $5.74, the idea behind the One-Month Clutter Challenge is two-fold: on the one hand, we avoid spending money while simultaneously selling items to boost cash flow, and on the other hand, we avoid bringing in more stuff, as we have enough. We all have enough.

On both fronts, this pen is a minor transgression; it’s not really clutter, because our son will be thrilled when he received it, and it’s a tiny expense and will not bust the budget.

We’re doing good, but we have to stay on task and not take our eyes off the prize!

If you’ve missed it, here is the previous post about the One-Month Clutter Challenge:

One-Month Clutter Challenge: Day One