I filed our taxes about two weeks ago - the first time I've ever used software - which allowed us to file electronically. The turn-around time at this time of year (electronically at least) is fantastic - we had our refund deposited this week. This caused me to be unexpectedly prepared for two surprise "deals" yesterday - two things I thought were a bit beyond our reach.
First a friend of mine e-mailed about a decent high-school-appropriate microscope set available used on Cath Swap (thanks Kathy!) so now we can much more adequately provide for Ria's high school science needs (and share it around at co-op). That should be arriving soon.
Later that same day, John called to say that there were some telescopes on clearance (about 80% off as we later discovered) at Sam's Club (as these deals seem to be fairly consistent from store-to-store, it might be worth a peek - it's the smaller of the two Dobsonian telescopes found here)! I've always wanted a telescope, but I knew we needed a fairly decent one to make it worthwhile. Aside from that I know NOTHING about telescopes. We decided to go ahead and bring it home but did some web research first to try to get a sense of whether this was a good choice (we could always return it before we got too far). The research results were fairly inconclusive except for learning that the suggested retail price was $400! We decided to give it a go and John braved the extreme cold (a few degrees below zero I think) to set it up and we were able to see Saturn through the weakest lens. It looked pretty much like this picture I found on the Internet (click to go to web source) except it was a little smaller and less fuzzy (and we saw the rings from a different angle, I think). I've never seen a planet through a telescope before - it was exciting and amazing!