A Small Italian Life

a-small-italian-life
A Small Italian Life

I normally don’t do much in the way of book reviews, but I will make an exception with this one. This particular story had such a powerful and positive impact on me that I felt compelled to talk about it and persuade you to buy the book and read it for yourself.  A Small Italian Life is not only an  inspiring and touching biography, but a powerfully, captivating success story.

There is a lesson in this book for everyone, regardless of your age, background and family.  Author, Jimmy Corso, overcame great adversity and disadvantages as a child to become a very successful teacher and role model for society. His book reminds us that true success isn’t measured in terms of money or how famous we become.  His book teaches us what it takes to succeed in life at any level. What he calls a “A Small Italian Life” in reality, is a bigger-than-life-lesson for all of us. Jimmy Corso’s story teaches us that it’s not what life gives us that counts, but what we are willing to give of ourselves in life to succeed. Reading this book, I was amazed  by how a boy with seemingly so little good fortune maintained such a fierce desire and commitment to succeed. His father was an alcoholic and his mother mentally ill. He and his parents were told by the school teachers that with an IQ of just 70, he would never be able to join the rest of his classmates. He was relegated to special education programs, then put back a couple of grades in later school years. As you read about his struggles with his family and school education, you will wonder how he could ever have a chance to succeed. But, the more you read, the more you will see his incredible commitment to persevere. One of the things which truly impressed me was how despite all of his family problems and negative influences, Jimmy Corso remained such a decent human being. His good character, integrity and work-ethic shines through in his book, from childhood to adulthood. While the book is indeed an inspiration and lesson in life, I don’t want to sell it short, by limiting it to just that. The story is a fascinating and colorful account of Jimmy Corso’s life and it is filled with rich details, characters, plots and history of the times.  Once I turned the first page, I didn’t want to put the book down. There is never a dull moment which explains why I finished reading the entire book the weekend I started it.

Though, A Small Italian Life, is not really a book about sports, it provides much of the same joys you might get from a sports story like Rudy, Cinderella Man or the recent, blockbuster hit,  Blind Side.  Like Jimmy Corso, the heros in these sports stories fought through adversity and overcame tremendous odds to win the battle in the end. When you think of the profound, positive influence on the thousands of children taught by the author of this touching story, you will agree with me that Jimmy Corso is a true, American hero. The book is a story that will continue to teach generations to come.

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Eljer Toilets

Eljer Toilets
Eljer One Piece Toilet

Can we talk about toilets? There is simply not enough talk about toilets these days. What is it about toilets? We all use them; we all need them, we all rely on them, but nobody wants to talk about them. Seriously, there is a reason I am about to discuss Eljer Toilets and it has nothing to with my father owning the company. For one thing, my Dad is retired and has never had anything to do with the company. In fact, I am not sure he has ever even used  Eljer toilets, let alone sold one. Secondly, if he did work for Eljer, I’d probably be busy making and selling toilets instead of writing about them. Actually, my real motivation is the same as it is with all of the review articles.  It begins with my own needs and personal interest in the topic. Recently, I wanted to look up some reviews on toilets and regrettably found the online web of information to be woefully lacking.  I ended up at a place called, Eljer. Well, it’s time I either –$$ or get off the pot, so let me explain how I got the news about them.

Most Popular Selling Toilets

I moved into an 18-year old house about 3 years ago. In the four bathrooms of this house, there are four toilets. No surprise there, but allow me to elaborate: Two of them are very old fashioned toilets which flush loudly as the water swirls around in the bowl, sometimes failing to get everything flushed on the first try. No big deal, this is standard fare for the vast majority of toilets most of us probably use in our homes. On the other hand, the other two toilets in my home are a thing of beauty; not so much for their looks but for their performance.  There is no question which is the Best Toilet in our household. Made by Toto, these are very nicely shaped pieces of bathroom furniture with the flush handles on the sides. They flush quietly, quickly and efficiently in just one try. These first-class toilets are a brand called, Toto. Obviously, these are upgraded home fixtures that did not originally come with my home when it was built 18 years before I bought it. Unfortunately, I became a bit spoiled when I realized how badly they put my other two toilets to shame. Once you’ve flushed a Toto Toilet, you never want to use anything else …- (unless you have to go really bad.) Well, okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but wouldn’t it be nice to have toilets like these in all of our home’s bathrooms? I assumed a Toto Toilet would cost me a small fortune, but  surprisingly they’re not that bad. The question is, can we do better? What else is out there?

Corner Eljer Toilet
Corner Eljer Toilet

Some quick research on Toto Toilets reveals that they can range in price from $300 to $3,000. The ones in my home appear to be in the $500-$600 range. They are elongated and rated at 1.6GPF / 6.0LPF which seems to be the standard in premium toilet brands.  Mine are two-piece fixtures, where-as some of the other models are all in one piece as is the Eljer model pictured to the left. Eljer is the one other highly rated brand, but unlike Toto I have no experience with them.  Eljer seems to be priced about the same. I’ve seen two-piece, elongated 1.6GPF/6.0LPF elongated toilets which appear to be identical to my Toto, for about $350 – $400 and they come in 4 different colors: White, Bone, Biscuit and Onyx. I was also impressed with the creative, elegant designs of the Eljer. See to the left a diagonal shaped fixture which is perfect for the corner of a bathroom, saving you lots of valuable space. Ahhh, such a tough decision. I already know that the Toto is an excellent product, so why gamble on the Eljer unless I can be sure it is every bit as good for a lesser price?  The summaries and reviews I’ve read between Toto give no clear winner, nor any clear price advantage.  I should also mention that both Toto and Eljer seem to have a good selection of accessories to match. If you need a new toilet seat, they have them! I will have to tell you the story someday about a friend who lost his American Standard Toilet Seat, but that story is for another day or perhaps a dedicated review on American Standard Toilet Seats. What I can tell you that I’ve learned about toilets is that the elongated bowls give you a more comfortable seat and a larger water surface area which results in a more powerful flushing system. The one-piece designs are easier to clean, and offer lower, easier access for those with disabilities. They come in an elongated shape too. If looks, comfort and cleanliness are attractive benefits, the one piece design is the way to go if it’s in your price range. The corner shaped Eljer Toilets are awesome. Their main benefit, obviously, is for saving space, provided that your bathroom and plumbing will accommodate one.  Eljer is the brand to look at, if you’re interested in a corner toilet. The one thing I haven’t decided upon is the difference in quality between the Toto and Eljer Toilets.  That’s where you experienced toilet users can help.

I plan on investing in two new toilets by the end of this summer. I am looking for comments from experienced Toto and Eljer users. I’m leaning towards eljer toilets. Eljer Toilets are a great looking home appliance.  Please leave us your comments and feedback below. Meanwhile, I will provide updated details and facts on these two brands as I gain more information from trusted resources; mainly those who have used them. Your comments and experience with Eljer would be greatly appreciated.


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Scotts Lawn Mower

Is Scotts Still Making Lawn Mowers?

Review

scotts lawn mower

I was looking for lawn mowers online a while ago when I read some confusing and somewhat conflicting information about Scotts Lawn Mowers. I knew that the Scotts Lawn Mower at one time was made by Murray. I also knew that the Scotts Gas Powered Mowers used the popular Briggs & Stratton engine. What I didn’t know was that the John Deere Tractor Company purchased Scotts and began designing the mowers themselves. This would seem like a natural fit, especially for the Ride on Lawn Mowers which share much of the looks and characteristics of tractors and have given many homeowners of large lawns some of the enjoyment of being a farmer. John Deere is one of the few American companies left known for making high quality machinery. Not having a large enough lawn to need a Ride on Lawn Mower, I thought I would look into the regular push-behind Gas Powered Scotts Lawn Mower. I got tired of replacing broken parts on the last couple of lawn mowers I owned. My previous Briggs & Stratton needed a new carburetor. So, I wanted to find something well made. I found plenty of the non-powered, push-reel lawn mowers by Scotts, but there were few, if any Gas Powered Scotts Mowers to be found! I stumbled upon a website that explained that John Deere decided to stop making the gas powered lawn mowers.  So, I thought, ‘hmmm..why not buy the real thing? A John Deere Lawn Mower would be an excellent quality mower, right? Not so fast, John Deere only makes a Ride on Lawn Mower!

Scotts Lawn Mower: Reel Push

In my search for a Scotts mower, I heard such raving reviews about their push behind reel mowers, that if  not for my mulching requirement, I would buy one of these to replace my gas powered mower. However, I am still considering a Scotts push-behind reel mower for my small back yard. Users say that the blades are incredibly well made; sharp, durable, strong and do a great job of making an evenly manicured lawn.

John Deere Ride-On Lawn Mower

Before, I explain what I eventually bought for my larger front yard, I have to tell you about my shopping diversion. I became so impressed reading about the life-lasting quality of John Deer Ride On Mowers that I wished I had a large enough yard to justify buying one.

Yardman Lawn Mowers

I have a couple of friends with large acreage lawns, but rather than the John Deere brand, they were using Yardman Lawn Mowers. Like John Deere, Yardman Lawn Mowers are made in the USA. The Yardman Lawn Mower is also based on the Briggs & Stratton engine, so perhaps it would make a suitable alternative to the extinct Scotts Gas Powered brands? While, they seem to be known more for Ride-On Lawn Mowers, the Yardman does make some high quality push-behind, gas-powered mowers. They range from $275 – $350 for a 19” to 21” model at Sears.  I gave some serious consideration to a Yardman Lawn Mower like the ones below:

Which Lawn Mower did I buy?

I reluctantly took my old lawn mower into my local repair shop in Arvada to see what it would cost to repair it. I was told it would be about $50. That seemed reasonable, but then the sales person told me had several ‘near-new’ mowers he could sell me for that same price of repairing the old one. For $70.00 I got what seemed like a brand new Briggs & Stratton 21” Mulching Mower. The salesman explained to me that technically most of these refurbished mowers have been used one time for home sales, shows, etc. Judging by its appearance, he told me that the mower had never been used. I bought it and love it; it is far superior to my old lawn mower in every way and it starts effortlessly on the first try, without the need to choke. After a long rest in the winter, I got it out this weekend, and it started up after only 3 or 4 easy  pulls. $70 is a bargain. The John Deere or Yardman Lawn Mower can wait until I either get a bigger lawn or buy some cheap land somewhere just so I can satisfy the itch to pretend I’m a farmer.

Husqvarna Lawn Mower

If you want a quality piece of machinery for your front and back yard, the Husqvarna Lawn Mower is one that learned about just after my shopping experience above. Husqvarna Lawn Mowers come equipped with either a high quality Honda or Briggs & Stratton Engine. Husqvarna is a high quality lawn mower; well worth your consideration:


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Old Republic Home Warranty

Old Republic Home Warranty
a Review

Old Republic Home Warranty
Home Warranty

Should I get a Home Warranty?

Are Home Warranty Plans worth the money?  This is much like Extended Car Warranties. There are literally dozens of companies that sell home warranty protection plans to cover the cost of repairs and maintenance of household things that tend to break such as appliances, heaters, air conditioners, washers, dryers, garage door openers, plumbing, pipes, swimming pool equipment and more.  Old Republic is the most often heard name in the business because they have a large network of service.  Product Review Ratings attempts to break the more common ones down. You name it and you can buy a warranty for it, regardless of its age or condition, though the price and cost will vary. There are a number of companies that provide these home warranty plans and though the pricing between them all is pretty much equal, the quality of service is obviously not. When I decided to look into a home warranty protection plan, a co-worker of my recommended his own service plan with Colorado-based Blue Ribbon Home Warranty. It is always nice to have a referral from someone you know, but how would they compare to the nationwide companies like Old Republic Home Warranty or First American Home Warranty? These were the two names that kept coming up in my search results for Home Warranty plans on Google.  Old Republic has been around since 1974 and their name and extensive coverage in the United States is well documented. I quickly learned, that there are numerous other home warranty companies to compare, but a bigger question kept nagging at me:

Is Popular Better?

If so, take a look at Old Republic Home Warranty

Assuming the Old Republic is one of the better warranty companies on the market, would it be worth the investment and fixed monthly or yearly cost to obtain one of their Home Protection plans? How much peace of mind am I buying and how reliable is the service? A little bit of my own recent history is in order:

Size up Your Home Appliances

Before I bought my last house I had never even heard of Old Republic Home Warranty. We bought and moved into a bigger, 17-year old home about 3 years ago. With the home came a few rather pricey, high-tech appliances. At the time we bought this home we were really excited about the fancy Bosch Dishwasher, Jenn-Air Range and extremely unique and expensive Kitchen Aid Refrigerator included in the sale. We thought these nice appliances really added to the value of our purchase. Boy, were we wrong. The home also came with a swimming pool which I was somewhat leery about, but had no genuine idea of what I was really getting into. To make a long story short, in a little less than 3 years, we have spent over $3,500 in maintenance and repair for the home’s appliances – and that doesn’t even include the swimming pool! High tech appliances with digital circuitry break and when they do they are not easy or cheap to fix. I recently had to replace the garage door springs on one of the two doors of my three-car garage; and while I was at it, I had the opener replaced on the larger, out-dated, adjacent larger larger door. In the last three years, the swimming pool required three major repairs: A $700 heat exchanger replacement and a $450 pump replacement. Then, there was the usual things: Hot Water heater required major repairs for a faulty installation and the Air Conditioner required a service call. We also had a pipe burst in our den, which required another $135.00. Our total maintenance and repairs add up to a little less than $5,000 in just three years. So, would a Home Warranty have paid for itself in our case? The answer is a most positive, absolute, ‘YES’.
After discovering the Old Republic Home Warranty and First American Home Warranty, I decided to see what else is available and how they compare.  Old Republic Home Warranty claims to solve all these problems, but there are over a dozen Home Warranty Protection Plans and they are priced very close to each other. Which one? Your basic Home Warranty ranges from about $275.00 to $350.00 a year. In addition to the yearly or monthly premiums, they charge you a $75.00 deposit and $50-$55 deductible for each service call. The basic fee in most cases doesn’t cover your Air Conditioner, Garage Door openers, washer, dryer, gas fireplace and numerous other, less common appliances you may have inside or outside your home. Those can be added at additional costs. Blue Ribbon Warranty, whom covers only the state of  Colorado, charges $150 a year for swimming pools. I can expect to pay about $400-$600 a year to get my home warranted the way I want. (With the Swimming Pool, probably closer to $600)  Even with the $75.00 deposit and $55.00 service call deductibles, I would have saved over $2,000.

Benefits of Home Warranties

Reading over the user reviews online, there is one other huge benefit to a Home Warranty that I did not even consider. You only have one place to call. Whether it’s plumbing, heater, AC or a broken refrigerator or stove, there is only one phone number you need to know. That is indeed a very nice and reassuring benefit, assuming of course, the company is responsive to each and every incident. So, which Home Warranty Company Should I choose? Nationwide Old Republic Home Warranty? First American Home Warranty? Or my local Blue Ribbon Home Warranty of Colorado? When it comes to service, service is everything, so I decided to look at some reviews and user comments of the dozen or so Home Warranty companies that service Colorado and the nation. Here’s what I found:

Best Home Warranty?

Like any Insurance Policy, what good is a Home Warranty if you don’t have 100% confidence that they can deliver the service that you need when you need it? The convenience of having a one-stop shop to call can also be your biggest risk factor. If I have a repair incident and cannot get a quick response from the warranty company, I have no place else to call or go. If I am paying for a service that is not giving me as good or better results than I would get without a warranty company at all then my money is being wasted. I also need to have the confidence and assurance that they are going to fix and pay for my problem. There is really no other way to measure the reliability of a Home Warranty company than to talk to others who have used them. Having done some research and talking to other home owners, there is only one company that would give me this level of confidence. Fortunately, there is a website completely dedicated to reviews and user opinions on Home Warranties: Home Warranty Reviews. Some quick research on reviews and user opinions convinced me that neither Old Republic nor First American Home Warranty would make me confident that my premiums were well spent. Too many buyers complained that the service was either not rendered in a satisfactory amount of time or that they refused to cover a defective appliance or service issue. Out of 170 User Reviews, Old Republic Warranty received an average user rating of just under 3 stars. First American Home Warranty had 152 user reviews and received an average rating of just 2 stars. I realize that user reviews can be negatively biased because people are much more likely to comment when something goes wrong than when something goes right. On the other hand, the high number of negative reviews and comments were simply too much for me to ignore. An insurance plan has to provide 10)% assurance to me that my money in the form of regular premiums is not going to waste.

Blue Ribbon Home Warranty

Fortunately, I was able to find a company with mostly positive reviews and a 4.5 star average rating: Blue Ribbon Home Warranty – the one recommended by my co-worker. I think I will give these guys a call and setup a time for an inspection. There is a $75.00 deposit which is required, but compared to the $5,000 I’ve already spent in the last three years, this seems like a small drop in the bucket. I am inclined to give Blue Ribbon Home Warranty a try this year. If you don’t happen to be fortunate enough to live in Colorado, but are still considering a home warranty plan, I have discovered another one that has very favorable reviews:  Sensible Home Warranty.  Sensible Home Warranty has a four star average rating from over 157 satisfied users. If I bought my home new, I might not even consider it, but for a home that is 10 years or older, a home warranty with the right company is probably worth some strong consideration. So, let’s look at Old Republic Home Warranty and how it compares to the rest:

Before you go with the most popular Home Warranty Protection, make sure you know what people are saying in your neighborhood about Old Republic Home Warranty.

How do you rate Old Republic Home Warranty?

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