Wednesday, October 31, 2007

How Een

We've survived. Hooray! Happy Halloween, everyone. Or as Alyssa would say, "How Een."

This is the first year in a long, long time that I haven't carved a pumpkin. I got a couple for the kids, but both girls wanted to paint them. This fit my schedule nicely, as painting is much faster than carving, and requires much less supervision.

We were supposed to paint our pumpkins last night, but due to circumstances beyond our control, that project got postponed until today. I blocked out 40 minutes between school and Anna's acting class, and the girls got the job done.

After Anna's class, we came home and had pizza. I was going to do the rest of the Shepherd's Brain Pie for dinner, but it all got eaten at lunch time.

My plan for tonight was to not go Trick-or-Treating, but I caved in just a little and let the girls go to two houses. This was more out of pity for our poor neighbors as anything else. You see, we sat around watching old Halloween videos for two whole hours and only saw one group of about five kids.

It's a quiet neighborhood anyway, much more rural than urban. Most of the kids that are in the neighborhood all get together and go on a hay ride around the town. For some reason, they didn't stop at our house this year.

So we have a bowl full of pretzels and Play-Doh and pencils. Anna asked "What are we going to do with all of this stuff?"

"Well," I said, "you will most likely be getting little bags of pretzels in your lunch boxes for the next little while." I then added "Who knows - maybe I'll send some Play-Doh in your lunches, too."

"Ewwww," said Alyssa.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Spooky Dinner

There are those who claim to hate Halloween, and to be honest I can understand why they might feel that way. There are parts of the holiday I'm not terribly fond of myself.

But we've worked to make Halloween fun at our house. Perhaps it helps that we have two little girls who dress up as puppies and kitties instead of some kind of undead creature. About the only thing that really causes problems around here is the candy - the girls don't hold their sugar well, and artificial colors have a Jekyll and Hyde effect on them.

One thing we have done through the years is to have a Spooky Dinner for Halloween. This year Kara will be in Dallas on the 31st, so we had our Spooky Dinner tonight.

We had Vampire Apples and Shepherd's Brain Pie. By pumpkinlight, of course.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Playing Hookie at BroncoFest VI

I did something for myself today. I didn't tell anyone, I just did it. This kind of personal time is important, because it not only recharges the batteries, but being selfish for a few hours fills me with motivational guilt, and I'm extra productive afterwards.

Today's trip was to Ft. Worth Meacham Airport, home of the OV-10 Bronco Association, for the Bi-Annual BroncoFest. I've been a fan of the OV-10 for more than twenty years now, and this was something I simply couldn't pass up.

So, what's so special about the Bronco? Well, just look at it. My feelings for the bird were summed up very eloquently by a Vietnam Vet who was there with his wife. "I fell in love with this plane the first time I saw it. It's just the strangest looking thing." Then he added an opinion I hope to one day share through first-hand knowledge - "It flies like a dream." (sigh)

The Bronco was used between Vietnam and Desert Storm as an observation platform for Forward Air Controllers who sought out enemy targets and worked to ensure the fighters didn't accidentally hit the good guys. But this all started just a few months after my birth, so I didn't learn about the OV-10 until much later.

In the mid-80's, a bunch of Broncos were stationed at Wheeler Air Force Base on Oahu, and they regularly flew missions up around our side of the island. I spent many an hour of marching band practice distracted by the unique, graceful airplanes flying overhead. They became an instant favorite.

I now live just thirty minutes from the world headquarters of an organization dedicated to preserving the history of this plane. They threw a party, and I felt I had to attend. I'm always looking for an excuse to go to the airport, anyway.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Too Big for the Big Stage (for now...)

I took the girls to see Charlotte's Web over at Aledo High School last night. I'm impressed at the quality of the productions that the school puts on. The girls both really enjoyed it. It was quite a bit shorter than Peter Pan, which was nice as it was a school night.

Anna loves staying around after the show and getting autographs from the actors, and they in turn love signing.

The two plays we've attended this year have had younger children playing roles that a high schooler would probably be too big for. One of the little "baby spiders" was a girl who sits next to Alyssa in her mainstream 3rd grade class. I have found it is nearly impossible to take Alyssa out in public without someone she knows - a teacher or classmate or therapist or aide - seeing us and saying "Hi." Alyssa, of course, always hides.

I've thought it might be good for Anna to audition for a kid's role in one of the school's upcoming productions, but I abandoned that idea last night. That sweet 5th grade actress was as tall as - or taller than - a third of the high schoolers she got autographs from.

Directors love sixteen year olds that can look ten, but have little use for ten year olds who can look sixteen.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stupid Smartphone

My phone is dead. My Palm is dying. The smart choice was to head to ebay and replace them both at the same time.

Behold the Palm Treo 650. Introduced in 2004, this phone is hardly state of the art. But then again, neither is my budget. And although the phone I purchased is old and worn, it is far better than either of the devices it replaces.

Except for the alarm clock.

The built in Palm alarm clock allows for one (1) alarm. This would be fine if all I had to do was one thing in the day. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Ahem. Excuse me.

Anyway, I need at least three alarms every weekday. So I downloaded a spiffy utility to allow more alarms, and it seemed to work great. I set up my alarms, picked from among the limited tones for each (adding diversity is a project to tackle soon) and went to sleep with full confidence.

45 minutes after I was SUPPOSED to wake up, Anna came and pounded on my door.

It seems the on/off checkbox for the alarm doesn't set itself. Stupid thing.

But all's well that ends well. Thank goodness we had laid out clothes last night, and both girls wanted hot lunch today!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Apple Smuncher

Each year, as leaves turn to gold and fresh pumpkins fill the market, boxes of apples appear like magic on our doorstep.This has been happening for more than a decade, and while our family loves to eat apples, two boxes is a lot.

Eventually, the time comes for the apples which are left to be made into applesauce.The process is a family affair, with everyone getting a turn at the Apple Smuncher.

It is properly known as the Nemco Easy Apple Corer N55550-8C. It can turn an ordinary whole apple into eight sections and a core in a matter of seconds.

Coordinated team smunching can power through apples at speeds of over 1000 an hour. It takes mere minutes for an entire box of apples to find its way into a stock pot.

Once the apples are cooked, the whole mess is run through our handy-dandy, fancy-schmancy Back-To-Basics food mill, and turned into applesauce. Not just any applesauce, mind you, but some of the best tasting applesauce around.

The secret, we've found, is to steam the apples with juice, not water, leaving a rich, full-bodied creation that has become a family favorite.

Our efforts yesterday yielded eight half-gallon bottles of the stuff. I've never canned with the 64-oz jars before. They were too big for our water bath canner, so we hauled out the pressure canner. This is the first time I've used that thing so close to sea level, (our last house was at 4500 ft) and it was great! 5 lbs of pressure built and, just as importantly, dissipated very quickly.

Unfortunately, there will be no Great Applesauce Giveaway on this blog as each jar weighs 5lbs 11oz. You'll just have to go find your own Apple Smuncher.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It Could Have Been Worse

The great Bill Cosby has an old routine where he cautions his audience to never say "Things can't get any WORSE," because they can and do. He then follows with several hilarious examples.

So in keeping with this advice, I will start my description of yesterday by saying that it COULD have been worse.

Kara had an appointment with a new doctor yesterday afternoon that she wanted me to attend with her. The appointment was from 2:00-3:00, so I needed someone to meet the girls' buses after school. This part was really no problem, as the girls always beg me to let them spend the afternoon at someone else's house, and our Home Teacher's wife loves to have them over. And they have two little high energy dogs that the girls just love.

So anyway, I expected an hour at the doctor's, where we would get all kinds of new and exciting information that would restore our hope and Kara's health. And then I would take a little bit of time to myself, maybe writing or going to Ikea, which isn't far from the doctor.

What I got, however, was an afternoon with the same enjoyment quotient as a four-hour session in the dentist's chair. Kara was reacting strongly to something, so she was in terrible shape. Also, she was hungry and had left her food at her Dallas-side crash pad. Fortunately there was a Whole Foods in the same complex as the doctor's office, and I went back several times to get her cauliflower - fresh and frozen, while she finished the doctor's paperwork.

We were in the office for nearly four hours, visiting with the doctor for about half of that time. Kara recalled her long, painful story; the doctor ordered enough tests to set us back a Cleveland; we ended the appointment without any renewed sense of hope or encouragement; and I had barely enough time get home and pick up the girls before bed.

But I'm sure it could have been worse.

I actually got myself to bed on time for a full eight-hour night, and Alyssa didn't even wake me up. I think I'll be able to make it through the day on only one caffeinated beverage. And a small one at that.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

An Inelegant End

My ancient of days Motorola C650 cell phone has finally reached the end. It is an event that has been coming for quite some time - the phone had a tendency to fall out of the holster and spread across the floor in three different directions.

I won't go into detail on the incident that led to the phone's ultimate demise, but it did involve a fall from the holster, and occurred in a manner straight from a lowbrow Farrelley Brothers comedy.

We have another old phone that kinda sorta works, except for the microphone. Most of my phone calls are 90% listening and only 10% talking, but that 10% is rather important. However, as my phone has also become my alarm clock, I'll make due with this mic-free one as best I can while waiting for the delivery of my pre-owned, ebay purchased replacement.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

R22 - A Smoking Gun?

The results from the Air Quality Assessment we had done several weeks ago are in, and we have identified a likely suspect:

Clorodifluoromethane, also known as Freon R22, has shown up at a whopping 960.2 µg/cu M. It looks like we have an air conditioner leak.

Our "comfort specialist" is on his way to do a check of the equipment. Most likely, the cooling coils in our 12+ year old system have sprung a leak and something will need to be replaced. Maybe just the coils, maybe the whole shootin' match. We'll have to see.

In the meantime, it should be plenty cool this week, so fortunately we can leave the system off.

I see this as a positive thing. Answers are good.

Update: The problem has been confirmed as a leak in the AC. All of the freon has been pulled from the system so it will no longer be able to leak into the house. A new air handler is now on the top of our shopping list. (sigh)

Bright Eyed and Bushy Tailed...

... but the rest of me is shot!

I like to try and go to bed on time, because around here one never knows what's going to happen in the night. Last night I was only an hour late going down, and this morning I got up 45 minutes early, thanks to a coughing fit by Alyssa.

By the time I got her back down, there were so few minutes until the alarm that I simply gave up and got an early start on the day.

However, sitting here in the dark of the office now that the girls are gone, I think I just might be able to get in a few more winks before the day begins in earnest.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Snooze update: I dozed for about 15 minutes before the far-off rumble of a garbage truck reminded me that the men in the yellow vests would soon be stopping by. A quick shot of adrenaline popped me out of bed, and I rolled our garbage can through a cool, thick fog that had formed as if by magic in the hour after the school bus parade.

Alas, I am now up for the day.

Monday, October 15, 2007

I suppose I deserved that...


OK. Now I feel better. Maybe someday I should really learn how to meditate. I'm sure it would help. I'm sure organizing my office would help, too.

I successfully avoided doing taxes on Saturday and Sunday, leaving them until today. I cleared a few things up at work, then took a few hours off so I could concentrate. I was able to find most of the information I needed quickly and easily in the online records of my credit card companies, and I was feeling pretty good about myself.

Then came the great W-2 panic.

In my records, I had a W-2 without any income or tax information on it. None. Zip. Zilch. Nada. This was a problem.

I called our HR person. She wasn't in today. This was a bigger problem.

However, panic doesn't usually help, so I got over it quickly and decided to just use the best information I had from my last pay stub, and pray it would be good enough.

On to the next problem - finding the documentation from selling our house. We have bought and sold several houses over the years, and each time we have gotten a stack of paper so thick that it's impossible to lose, even if you want to.

Not so with the house we sold last year. Instead, we were given all of the documents scanned into electronic format and burned onto a CD. A tiny CD that is easy to misplace, especially when one's filing system is akin to a landfill.

I looked through all of my filing cabinets. I have three two-drawer cabinets here in the office. There is more paper on top or the cabinets then what's filed away inside, but I'm deluded and thought I might have actually put it where it belonged.

I found a folder marked "House Papers" and pulled it out. The CD was not in there.

But another copy of the W-2 was. And this one had numbers!

Encouraged, I dug around through the piles on top of the cabinet and found the CD, stuck it in my computer, and of course the pages I needed to read were scanned in upside down. But at that point I figured I couldn't complain.

OK, so I eventually got everything done with the taxes, and hopefully the IRS will take pity on us and not audit us because of our large medical deductions.

The best part is that I got my taxes submitted before 5:00, with more than seven hours left in the day. After all, I wouldn't want to wait until the very last minute to do something this important.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Surviving Saturday

First off, an apology to the Caramel Bliss crew - life got in the way yesterday, and although the boxes finally got packed, it was well after the Post Offices had closed for the day. However, Dan eagerly reminded me that the PO is open for half a day Saturday, and your boxes of apple butter are officially on their way. Priority mail was 20 cents more than parcel post, so look for them the first part of next week.

I also got a stack of insurance paper work submitted today. There are some new treatments on these, and they are not trivial. My fingers are crossed that the insurance company will cover them - the treatments do seem to be helping some.

I get to spend a big chunk of today (and probably tomorrow and maybe even Monday) figuring out how much Aetna stiffed us for last year so I can file our taxes. Yes, that's right - October 15th is tax day for those of us who filed an extension.
I'm sure we'll get everything back this year - in addition to the medical expenses, we get to deduct the expenses of moving and remodeling the house for medical purposes.

Oh, I don't even want to know how much we spent on this. I just don't even want to know. But I need the IRS to give me my money back (it's already been spent) and this is the only way.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tagged for Four

Nicole tagged me. Let's see what I can come up with...

Four jobs I've had:
  1. Flower shop delivery boy
  2. Tuba player (in a lavalava, no less)
  3. Pineapple picker
  4. Software Engineer
I have pictures of me doing each of these. I'll see if I can track them down.

Four places I've lived:
  1. Omaha, NE
  2. Laie, HI
  3. Austin, TX
  4. Lehi, UT
Four movies I love:
  1. Labyrinth
  2. Forbidden Planet
  3. The Gods Must Be Crazy
  4. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
Four movies I'd like to see:
  1. Flyboys
  2. War of the Worlds
  3. Get Smart
  4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Four favorite foods:
  1. Pizza
  2. Panipopo
  3. Bryers Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream
  4. Gingerbread cookies
Four weird things about me:
  1. I have the Wiggles on my personal playlist. There's a song from a Barbie movie, too.
  2. I regularly sleep in a room that can only be accessed by climbing through the window.
  3. Aloha shirts make up 80% of my wardrobe, even though I've lived on the mainland for 15 years now
  4. All of my shirts have to be lined up in the closet with the buttons on the left.
Four places I'd rather be:
  1. On a cruise with my sweetie
  2. At Disneyland and/or Sea World with my girls
  3. Back in Hawaii
  4. Back in bed
Four people to tag:
This is a tough one. I'm a good lurker, but I don't have many friends with blogs. Nicole just tagged me, and most of the people I've met doing the BIAM have already done this tag. Let's go with:
  1. Charlene
  2. Shirley
  3. Dan
  4. Karralee
OK, Dan and Karra, I know you don't have blogs yet, but maybe this would be a good time to start one. :-)

Caramel Bliss - Thanks for Playing

This ends the Great Caramel Bliss Giveaway of 2007. Only seven of the ten jars available were claimed, but that's OK - more for me! :-)

A Real Live Update

Ok, it's been forever since I've actually done an update, what with all the writing and dieting and blog rating and apple-butter give awaying giving away. So I'll take a few minutes (fifteen maybe?) and write about what's going on.

We redid Kara's Lyme disease test, and I'm hoping the results should be back soon. I'm also watching for the results of our air quality testing this week. Kara had a couple of other tests done, too. We're just stuck right now, and praying the Lord will let us know (presumably through one of these tests) what we're supposed to be doing.

Anna and Alyssa are doing well. Alyssa bought a toy Buzz Lightyear cellphone (not the Princess one!) and she's been "talking to" just about everyone we know. If your ears have been burning, that's why.

Anna wants a hamster in the worst way. She's been doing all kinds of research, and she was teaching the girl at the pet store a thing or two the other night. But until Kara starts getting better, we just can't add another variable.

And me? I'm just happy to be here. Losing a little weight, writing a little, way behind on paperwork, and housework. I'm keeping up with my job, and apparently making the right people happy. This is good, as they are making quite an exception letting me work from home 1000 miles from the main office.

And the weather is finally starting to hint at fall. We're still in the 80s by day, but getting into the 60s at night. Nice.

Also, I've been tagged. I started working on that, but some of the answers are going to require a little bit of thought. Maybe tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Caramel Bliss - Last Chance

After a slow start, the great Caramel Bliss giveaway has finally picked up steam. Six jars have been claimed; four remain. I'll keep this open for 36 more hours (or so), closing up at 7:30 pm Central Daylight Time. Then on Friday I can hit the post office hard.

Go here for information on how to sign up.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

This Blog Rated G

It's official - we're family friendly!


However, I know I'm still in a lot of trouble if Anna ever starts reading regularly...

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Columbus Day Slumber Party

We survived conference Sunday OK. We never did manage to get a video feed, but audio worked just fine. And I still maintain that the swirling-color visualizer is more interesting than a talking head anyway.

Alyssa wanted everyone to sleep back in Kara's room, so we set the bed roll up for the girls. After a raucous and rousing reverent and Sabbath-appropriate game of Wii bowling, we finished up the dishes and went to bed.

It was much later than we wanted, but we hoped that maybe Alyssa would sleep in a bit.

Fat chance.

I'm not sure what our early bird does with all her worms, but she sure seems intent on getting them.

She did sleep an hour past her usual wake-up time of 6:00, but not enough to offset the late night. So she was grouchy all morning and then went back to sleep just before lunch.

I'm taking half a day off so I can be productive and spend time with the family. And update my blog.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

The Silence Is Deafening

C'mon, people. We're talking about Caramel Bliss here!






Thursday, October 4, 2007

Caramel Bliss

Yesterday we made homemade caramel. Today, I turned that caramel into Caramel Bliss Apple Butter.

Thanks to my handy dandy self-stirring crock pot (and a little help from C. S. Lewis) my most anticipated culinary creation was, after simmering for over 14 hours, ladled piping hot into half-pint jars and sealed to lock in flavor and freshness.

In keeping with the aforementioned weight loss program, I have calculated that Caramel Bliss has a mere 24 calories per tablespoon. That's less than most jams and jellies, and no jam has ever tasted like this!

Alas, Caramel Bliss is not available in stores. Any stores. Anywhere. (Stupid health codes!)

But it is available here, at Fifteen Minutes of Delusion.

I have ten (10) jars of this most amazing and healthy concoction, available to give away for free, to YOU! (Because I can't legally sell you one - stupid health codes...)

All you have to do to get a jar is be one of the first ten (10) people to 1) post a comment to THIS BLOG ENTRY saying that you want one and 2) send an email to dcarey68 (at) prism (dot) net telling me where you want the Caramel Bliss sent and 3) include in your email wording that lets me know you understand this is a gift which was made in my home kitchen without the blessing of the Health Department.

That's it. I'll scramble around to find enough small boxes and ship them out next week.

Don't Eat That!

OK. Let's see if a little bit of public accountability can help with this whole diet thing. My emergency "fat pants" are getting worn out, and I don't want to buy any more when I have several boxes full of "right size" pants up in the attic.

So, over on the side bar there is another tracker. The goal is 180 lbs by May 1. That's a pound a week. I can do this. I've done it before.

I'll post my weight and the calories I've eaten, and then I'll be embarrassed if I mess up. That will give me the incentive I need to make it work.

Are you with me? Yeah!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Rescue

For today's post I'm going to retell an old story that recently came back to mind.

The rains fell and the water rose, and soon rivers raged through the streets. An old man, devout in his beliefs, sat on his porch watching as his neighbors were evacuated in row boats. One of the boats stopped in front of his house, and a would be rescuer called for him to get on board.

"No, thank you. I have faith that the Lord will save me."

Soon the water had filled the first floor of his home, and the man now stood on the porch roof. A much larger boat powered by, and quickly turned around to approach the man. Again he refused help, stating "I will wait here. I know that the Lord will save me."

Eventually the man was forced on to the roof of his home. A large red and white helicopter rumbled toward his house, a ladder swinging beneath. "Grab on," came a voice from the chopper. "Grab on before it's too late."

But the man shook his head and waved the pilot away. God would save him, he had no doubt.

Within an hour, the man had drowned.

Standing before the judgment bar, he knelt before the Lord and asked "Why, oh why, in my hour of need, did you forsake me and leave me to die?"

Came the loving reply - "I sent you two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?"