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Archive for "Hobbies"

Niupipo Pickleball

Posted on January 18, 2021 by under Hobbies, Reviews.    

A few months ago the Niupipo people contacted me about posting a video review of their paddle on Instagram. I had never heard of this company before so I didn’t respond right away. In December, Frank Anthony Davis (FAD) announced his new partnership with the company so then I remembered that they had contacted me. I reached out to see if they still wanted me to post a video review. I think Brian has rubbed off on me in that I am always really careful when dealing with companies I’m not familiar with. It’s funny how an endorsement from a friend can make all the difference. Shortly after I sent them my home address, they sent me a pickleball set that included two pickleball paddles and four balls.

Here are some pictures of the pickleball set they sent me:




The popularity of pickleball has exploded exponentially the last couple of years. It’s crazy how many new paddle companies are now out there and new ones continue to pop up. I remember when I was looking for a starter set a couple of years ago, there were only a handful of options on Amazon. I ended up buying an Amazing Aces pickleball set because it seemed like a good value and, honestly, there weren’t many options available. I really wish I had known about Niupipo at the time. Then again, they might not have been around yet.

Niupipo sent me their MX-19 set. I really wish that I would have seen this option back then because I might not have outgrown my paddle so soon. I got my Amazing Aces set for $70 and, for $10 less, I could have gotten this better set from Niupipo.

The set came with two high quality fiberglass and honeycomb paddles, four balls, and a carry case. The paddles felt lighter than my old Amazing Aces one and felt better in my hands overall. Though the grips felt too thick for me in both but the paddle grips are pretty standard and the issue of thickness can be easily remedied by removing the factory grip cover and replacing it with thinner grip tape.

Believe it or not, what I liked best about this set is that the two paddles came in different colors so it’s easier for me to tell which is Brian’s and which is mine. Our two Amazing Aces paddles were exactly identical. For someone who is just starting out with pickleball, who isn’t ready to invest in a $100-$200 paddle, this is a really great set to have. I highly recommend it.

These paddles would have been really great for me to have when I first started playing a couple of years ago. At this point, I’m really enjoying playing with my Electrum. After having played with a few different paddles (Selkirk S1C, Prokennex Pro Speed, and Encore Engage MX 6.0), I really like my Electrum Pro the best. However, I’m paying it forward and spreading the pickleball love by donating this paddle set to a lady who is helping some beginners at her church get into pickleball. Many beginners don’t have their own equipment so this will be a good set for them to have as loaners for those folks.

Until next time. GNG.

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Christmas Break

Posted on January 6, 2021 by under Hobbies, Things to Do.    

I took time off work after Christmas and didn’t resume working again until the Monday after New Year’s Day. I was still checking emails and working on stuff, of course, but at least I wasn’t tethered to my desk like on a normal workday. Christmas break was a nice respite from my normal routine and I took advantage of the time off to play daytime pickleball, a luxury I don’t usually have.


The day after Christmas, I played mixed doubles with Steve Vetter, Jon Maugans and Karen Fox. I had originally asked Tom Pham and Jimmy Cho but Tom was quarantining due to being exposed to COVID and Jimmy didn’t want to accept my invitation because he was holding out for the guys’ normal Saturday morning play at Chicken N Pickle. I should have told him not to get his hopes up because the girls couldn’t get courts and that’s actually why I arranged for a mixed game. That, and I prefer to play mixed anyway, so no having any courts available at CNP actually worked in my favor.

Jimmy eventually found out there was no King of Courts that weekend and I got a text from him late on Christmas Day asking if I’d found players. Shortly after he declined my original invite, I started working on locking in Steve and Jon and so at that point we already had our group set. I’m glad Steve and Jon were available to play that day. They are so fun and I had a great time.

Karen, Brian and I had lunch at Carrabba’s after and while at lunch I had the foresight to check Playtime Scheduler. I actually got in to the Brunch & Bingo open play at Chicken N Pickle for once. All the spots usually fill up less than five minutes after the play time is posted. It is very hard to get in because you have to time it just right. I think I experienced a Christmas miracle.

After open play on Sunday morning, a bunch of us hung around for Brunch & Bingo. I never really win but it’s a fun way to pass the time.


The week following Christmas, I had the opportunity to play pickleball with lots of people. Karen set up several play times for us to practice women’s doubles. On Monday we played with Chandi Bongers and Lori Belew. On Thursday, we played with Chandi and Kristen Conrad. On Friday, we played with Brooke Ayala and Krista Crawford. We were trying to set up games with Chandi and Kristen because they were originally going to play in our division in the Arizona tournament in February. However, now that the tournament has been extended, Chandi is playing with Krista in the 50+ division instead.

We also had some mixed games. On Tuesday, I arranged for us to play with Tony Swantek and Logan Schrag. That was another Christmas miracle. I’d only ever played four games in total with Tony – ever. I fully expected him say no and I was ready to on move down the list but he accepted. Getting two hours of play with Tony was definitely one of the highlights of the week. On Wednesday, Karen set up a game for her friend Lucas who was in town from Utah. I’m never one to turn down games so, even though I was already playing later that day with Debbie and Dave Fanning and Tom, I couldn’t decline. So on Wednesday, I played with Karen, Lucas and Andy Bloyer from about 11 in the morning to shortly after 1 in the afternoon, and then with Deb, Dave, and Tom from 2-4 pm. And then since our court was still open Tom talked me into a partial game of full court singles. And, despite my feet killing me from playing all day, I couldn’t say no.

Besides the games that Karen set up, I also had other games set up. On Tuesday evening, I played with Janelle Lindeman’s group. And on Thursday morning (New Year’s Eve), I played with Brooke and Monty Ayala and Kim Knotts first thing in the morning before my play time with Karen, Chandi, and Kristen.


Coincidentally, we all had our Chicken N Pickle skyline shirts that day. Naturally, we had to get a group pic.


Here’s our group pic from New Year’s Day. (From left: Karen, Krista, Ching and Brooke.) I couldn’t believe how many people were CNP that morning despite the weather. The roads were so bad that I was amazed I made it to CNP without getting stuck. When I arrived, I expected the four of us to be the only ones there but no – all the courts were actually full.


After pickleball, Brooke, Karen and I stayed for the special New Year’s Day bingo event. Brooke and Karen both won stuff but I did not, which is probably how this entire year is going to go. I went home briefly after bingo and then came back to CNP again later that afternoon for my 5-7 pm game with Debbie’s group. We relocated our normal Friday night mixed to CNP because Nahola was closed for the holiday, and in doing so we also moved the time up a couple of hours.

No pickleball for me on Saturday morning because I committed to helping with the VASA group exercise sampler event at the Harry location. Did that, and then went to lunch and run errands with Brian and completely forgot about the Saturday afternoon play with Janelle’s group that I had agreed to over holiday break. Had she not texted me, I would have missed it altogether.

On Sunday, I started my Aqua Zumba class at VASA (Harry), played pickleball at the open play at Nahola, and had a pickleball lesson with Chris Heck. In the evening, I attended the pickleball farewell party for Jimmy at CNP (more on this later). And then it was back to work on Monday.

I got to do lots of pickleball and also some Zumba (my normal classes and the New Year event – more on this later too) during my time off work. It was wonderful! The only thing that would have made it even better is if I didn’t have to work at all.

I guess that’s all for now. Until next time. GNG.

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COVID Ruins Everything

Posted on December 24, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

This last league session was the most challenging ever. My normal mixed league partner Tom decided to take a break and so I talked my friend Steve into playing with me. I so wanted to play in league with Steve that I even agreed to his demands – no matching outfits and only one league picture posted on social media.

Besides having a new mixed league partner, I also had a new women’s league partner. Having new partners is nothing new for me because I switch partners all the time. But this is the first league session ever that I actually missed league nights, which really tore me apart because I do not ever like missing pickleball if I can help it. The worst part is this was a short league session (only five weeks instead of seven) so I really only got play half of the league.

My mixed league was on Sunday nights so I couldn’t play on December 6 because my COVID symptoms started on Thursday, December 3, and, not only was I feeling very sick that weekend but we were also waiting for our COVID test results so we had to be in quarantine. Luckily, my friend Kim (Knotts) was available to take my place and it was a good league night because she and Steve won both matches that night. Since the two of them played really well together, we planned to have Kim play in my place again the following weekend for our league tournament. Michael approved it and everything. December 13 would have been the 10 day since my symptoms started and, while I technically would have been free to be out of quarantine, I didn’t think I would feel up to playing in a pickleball tournament (even if it is just a silly league one).

Anyway, fast forward to the following weekend and then Steve now has some COVID symptoms and is waiting on test results so he has to isolate. So then if neither of us can play our mixed team has to forfeit. I hated the idea of forfeiting. I actually thought about playing long and hard. I even asked my friend Chris (Wilson) to play with me but he couldn’t because it was on a Sunday evening. It’s a good thing he couldn’t play because I really shouldn’t have been playing anyway. Even though it was day ten and my quarantine was technically over I was not in any shape to play. When the doctor told us we would be free from COVID jail in ten days, I really hoped with all of my heart that all of my symptoms would be gone by day ten because what would be the point of being free if you’re not well enough to be upright? On Sunday I still had some body aches so, even though I told myself that our team would forfeit “over my dead body,” we really had to forfeit because if I insisted on playing it would have been literally over my dead body.

I heard that we weren’t the only team to forfeit on league tournament night. Only five out of the nine teams actually played on tournament night so three other teams besides us forfeited. So that’s pretty much how this last session of mixed ended.

The women’s doubles league was even worse. My partner and I only got to play together twice. And almost not even that. On the very first night of league, less than a couple of hours before our league match, my partner Anna texted me and told me that she tested positive for COVID. Thankfully, she was asymptomatic but she still had to quarantine. That meant she had to miss the first two Wednesdays. I managed to get great subs for those two weeks but I was so excited for this league session (as I am for every session, I suppose) that I even got special league uniforms for me and my partner which I couldn’t even wear for the first two weeks because she was sidelined. We finally got to play together on the third week of league, December 2, which is the day before my symptoms started.


But, hey! At least we got to take these fun pics.


Aren’t our uniforms cool? Even though we did only get to wear them twice.


Dawn filled in for me the following week because I was sick with COVID. We planned to have a sub lined up for me the following week because we weren’t sure how I would feel but thankfully by Wednesday, December 16, I felt up to playing. It was the thirteenth day since the onset of my symptoms so I was officially done with my quarantine and, unlike on Sunday when I didn’t feel well enough, I was actually feeling pretty strong on Wednesday.

On Monday (day eleven) I was feeling pretty good but I knew not to get too excited because I felt pretty good the first Sunday after my symptoms began (on December 6) and then the symptoms were back with a vengeance the very next day. I pretty much rode this crazy roller coaster where I was sick, felt better, and then felt sick again over the course of two weeks. I was very cautious on Monday because I wasn’t sure if my body aches (which were the worst of my symptoms) would return. My friend Ramona subbed my Zumba class that night and then I also had Sydney sub my 5:30 AM class on Wednesday. On Tuesday, I woke up and still felt fine. I felt better than Monday and so I thought, hey, I can probably play in the tournament on Wednesday night and so I did.

Pickleball with Anna

We didn’t win but it was great be reunited with my partner and we took a few more fun pics. Anna even took one for the team and wore the matching shorts I got for us which she didn’t like because she said it made her feel like she had a wedgie. The shorts don’t feel like that to me but, after looking at this pic, it does kind of look like I have a wedgie. I must just be numb to it. LOL.

Pickleball with Anna

My favorite part of our league uniforms is that it has our names on the back.

Pickleball with Anna

It was really fun playing with Anna. I wish we could have played together more than twice. Oh, well. That’s what happens when COVID ruins everything.

Pickleball with Anna

It was pretty much the same story on tournament night. Only seven out of the thirteen women’s doubles teams played. The rest of the teams had to forfeit for one reason or another. It was the same with the men’s doubles league too. It was so weird. Chicken N Pickle is usually abuzz with all of the pickleball players milling about and that night it was almost like tomb. There was hardly anyone there.

I promised Brian I wouldn’t overdo it but with hardly anyone there I actually got to play a little bit extra. Anna and I even played singles against each other while we were waiting for our first match. That was my first day back to playing pickleball and, with the exception of Monday when I taught my Zumba class, I’ve played everyday since.

On Thursday, Michael Harris put together a mixed group and we played for three hours. On Friday, I had a pickleball lesson with Chis (Heck) and then played in the 5:00 PM open play at Nahola before my 7:00 PM mixed play group.


On Saturday, my friend Chris (Wilson) and I played in the ugly sweater pickleball tournament at Chicken N Pickle. There were only five teams in the competitive pool (compared to twelve in the social pool later that day) and we only came in third but I had a lot of fun playing. Anyway, the top two teams were men’s doubles teams so I didn’t feel too bad. Chris actually got COVID right before I did and the day he returned to our Friday night play group was my first night off. We decided to call our team for the Saturday tournament COVID Survivors. LOL.

I finally managed to get into the much coveted Chicken N Pickle brunch and bingo open play so I played from 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM on Sunday, followed by a few rounds of bingo, and then I hightailed it to Nahola for the 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM open play. I didn’t plan to play bingo and was just going to grab a quick bite before going to Nahola but Michael and Jeff talked me into it.

I figured instead of eating elsewhere I could just eat at Chicken N Pickle over bingo. I told Michael I would stay for one game. Michael walks by four rounds later and goes, “So much for only staying for one game. You might as well stay for blackout so you can win that Electrum Pro paddle.”

Part of the reason I stayed so long is I got to hang out with these two kool kats — Bill Schantz and Lonnie Lollar.


I stayed way longer than I should have and was actually 15 minutes late for the Nahola Open play but I’m so glad I went because we had exactly eight players and, not only that, this past Sunday was the very last open play at Nahola. They canceled open play indefinitely because of the rise in COVID cases.

I took a break from pickleball on Monday but I did resume teaching my Monday night Zumba class. On Tuesday, I signed up for “newbie night” which turned into the most awesome open play ever. They extended the “newbie night” deal to everyone so for $5 we got to play pickleball and have a free appetizer.

Yesterday Janelle invited me to play with her and Mel and Melissa at Nahola — except I misread my text message and went to Chicken N Pickle instead. I have never gotten from CNP to Nahola so fast!

And that brings us to today, Christmas Eve. I’m pretty much back to normal. Just in time for Christmas! And, while COVID ruined several plans this month (our poker tournament and my friend Lauren’s visit for starters), I’m really glad that we’ve gotten it out of the way and have immunity for at least 90 days.

Until next time. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!


Saturday Morning Pickleball Group

Posted on November 28, 2020 by under Hobbies.    

KaSanda Gehrke was in town last weekend and was nice enough to play with us. We had three courts for the first time ever.


Normally, we only have eight players on two courts on Saturday mornings. The winners of each court then play against each other, while the losers play against each other with the teams splitting at each rotation. Last weekend we finally got to have a “real” Queen of Courts with twelve players on three courts. Partners still split with each rotation but winners move up and losers move down.

Of course, KaSandra was at top court the entire time and we all just took turns playing with her as we moved up to the winner court. She was super nice and it was a lot of fun. Can’t wait until her next visit.


That same morning, Janelle gave me these awesome pickleball earrings. She told me it was a “belated” birthday present but Brian said it was because she hit his balls during the clinic with Lauren. I told Brian in that case, she needs to hit him again because I want the matching necklace. LOL.

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Pickleball Clinic at Chicken N Pickle

Posted on November 27, 2020 by under Events, Hobbies.    

Brian attended his first pickleball clinic at Chicken N Pickle last week. The clinic was taught by the beautiful and talented Lauren Stratman who plays for Team Electrum with Patrick Smith and others.


Since I am a huge fan, Brian took my dud Electrum paddle that I don’t play with and got it autographed. Now I really cannot play with it because I don’t want to mess up the signature.


I would have attended the clinic myself but I had a meeting until 5:30 PM that night. I also committed to playing with Bruce at Rolling Hills Country Club and I’d been wanting to check out their new pickleball courts. The courts are beautiful but super hard to find. I actually got lost trying to get there. The courts are tucked behind an apartment complex and super hard to find if you’ve never been there and completely impossible to find at night. Thankfully, Bruce came out to the street to get me. Here are some pictures from that night.




The weather was perfect and it was a beautiful night for playing.

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