Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hoo-Wee! That Was a Blast!

Today Kara and I defrosted the freezer, and we had a great time.

Well, ok - that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it really was kind of fun. Kara melted the frost with the steamer, and I sucked it up with the shop vac. We were finished in record time.

I dumped over five gallons out of the vacuum when we were done - evidence that the task was long overdue.

As an added bonus, I found some bags of guava puree buried under all that ice. Tomorrow I'm going to start a batch of Guavalicious apple butter.

Maybe I'll even have a contest and give some away - provided there's enough interest (hint, hint).

Thursday, May 29, 2008

What A Slacker

Man, what a total blog slacker I've become. I used to shoot for every day or two, but now it seems like I'm just hitting every three or four. No promises to improve, but I'll try.

Wow, that really sounds like slackerese, doesn't it?

In true slacker spirit, I'm going to link to somebody else's blog for the rest of my post. My friend from long ago Liz has a blog, and after I posted a couple of comments she decided to bring up the old days. You can read it here.

Thanks for the shout out, Liz.

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Memorial Day Express


Alyssa asked me if she could play trains today. I asked Anna if she would help Alyssa. This is the layout they came up with.

In addition to playing trains, we worked and ran errands and set out the flag and took a dip in a friend's pool

Pizza and ice cream for dinner are especially appropriate on a holiday.

I hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable Memorial Day.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday Report

Today was a good day. Together we got a lot of things done. Here are a few of the highlights.



We planted our garden. Since we only have a one acre lot, and most of that is dedicated to a Limestone and Prairie Grass Preserve, we opted for a container garden in large metal baskets.



Anna and I made little pictures to label the many metal storage bins we have picked up at Ikea over the last few years. The photos really help. Now when it's time to get a pair of sterile rubber gloves, we don't need to search through the Barbies and wooden train sets to get find them.

I mowed the front lawn. There is no photographic evidence.


Kara organized her large metal storage bin. This one came from the Home Depot. Please resist the temptation to fill it with empty banana peels.



I took care of my bi-weekly grooming. No more combs, brushes, gels, or mousse - just a No. 2 clipper guard and a steady hand.

Before







After







Kara was busy in the kitchen: cooking, deboning, and pureeing three game hens. I'm glad she's up for it, because I H.A.T.E. deboning poultry. The smaller the bird, the bigger the problem.






I was busy in the kitchen, too. These are gluten-free buckwheat blueberry waffles. The batter was interesting, but the waffles are tasty.




We closed out the day with a trip to the playground at Alyssa's school

Friday, May 23, 2008

Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine

I've decided to name the main characters in my novel Triiodothyronine and Thyroxine. What do you think?

No, just kidding.

These are thyroid hormones known as T3 and T4, and the blood work I had done on Monday showed that I was pretty much running on empty where these guys are concerned. This goes a long way towards explaining the increasing fatigue I've felt since February. It's been a while since I've had any blood work done, so I don't really know how long they've been low.

The doctor has me on a hypothyroid medication, and it seems to be helping. Yesterday was the first day in a long time that I haven't been propped up with some kind of caffeine. I felt mentally alert, but physically drained - probably due to the antibiotics I'm on.

Also, Kara started me on green smoothies, which are about half fruit half leafy veggies. I've been drinking them for breakfast. They taste pretty good, as long as I drink with my eyes closed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What the hail?

Just a few bullet points to keep you caught up:
  • As a result of last months hail storm, the insurance adjuster is coming to look at our roof tomorrow. It looks fine to me, but then again my neighbors' roofs all look fine to me and they have all been totaled by the insurance companies.
  • I am scheduled to host four more blog tour book stops this summer. Watch this space!
  • We went to the Lyme doctor yesterday. He was quite impressed with Kara's new look. I started antibiotics today. Kara needs to wait and discuss this with her GI doc.
  • Yesterday I grabbed a jar of spaghetti sauce in the fridge. The jar was lightly stuck to the shelf, and rather than come unstuck, it broke in half. Later a tub of sour cream jumped to the floor. It was apparently food suicide day, and the result was lots of wiping.
  • School is almost over. The girls are excited. I am, too - mostly because 5:30 revile really sucks. Hopefully we can keep some semblance of routine going.
That's all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Great Horny Toads!


OK, so this isn't really a horny toad - it's a Texas spiny lizard. And this isn't even the actual lizard that has been running around in the office for the past week, and which was finally caught and set free today.

That lizard was too fast for my shutter finger, so I stole this one from Wikipedia. (And a bit smaller, too...)

The office got thoroughly trashed while I was trying to catch the little bugger. (That's my story, even though truth be told the mess just shifted around a bit.)

This is what happens when you live close to TCU, I guess. Oh, wait - those guys are the horned frogs. Never mind.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Texas Barbeque on the Patio

Using the most literal interpretations, I guess this would have to count...

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Conversation Went Like This:

"Why must you be so argumentative?"

"What? 'Argumentative' isn't even a word."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Canoe-Paddling Polynesian Guys

We have finally hung a picture on the wall here in our house. The fact that this is a blog-worthy event eighteen months after moving in is, I admit, rather pathetic. But it is also very exciting. I finally feel like we are really moving in. Slowly but surely we're picking away at the projects that need to be done, and (for now) avoiding the temptation to take on any new ones.

This picture is called Hoe Kama Kani, which means "paddle with the wind." We found this picture at a home show in Honolulu while we were students, and I just fell in love with it. I stood there and stared at the picture for quite some time, but I simply couldn't justify the $140 price.

The salesman told us that they had a smaller print available for much less, but they had sold out at the show. We could look at it if we came by the studio the next week.

Unfortunately, the little 8x10 just didn't have the same effect as the full size print. So as you can see, we bit the bullet, got the big one, and have never felt even the tiniest bit of buyer's remorse.

Welcome home, canoe-paddling Polynesian guys. Welcome home.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day! To celebrate, I took a picture of Kara and the girls today. She is really looking great, don't you think?

Compare that picture to this one, taken in the hospital a couple of months ago. But I didn't post this picture so it could be a point of reference - I wanted to take this chance again to thank both of our mother's for all of the help they have given to us during these challenges. Thank you again, so much!

One reason Kara looks so good is because she is able to eat! With some guidance, the girls and I prepared her breakfast in bed. Rice cakes with coconut butter, puffed rice cereal, hot rice cereal (it's a trend...), butternut, watermelon, and a liquid nutrition shake. Yum!

I forgot the kangaroo, but there wasn't room on the tray for it, anyway. She ate it after she got up for the day.

We are all very happy to have Kara home. Happy Mother's Day, Hon!


Saturday, May 10, 2008

An Interview With Tristi Pinkston


I am honored to have been asked to participate in a blog tour for my internet writing buddy, Tristi Pinkston and her new book Season of Sacrifice. This book is at the top of my summer reading list. It has received very good reviews (See them here: 1 2 3 4), and I am excited to read it myself. Her other books have all been greatly enjoyed by everyone here at the Carey house. Click here to learn more about Tristi's works.

I first "met" Tristi through the October Book In A Month (BIAM) challenge she hosted on her blog last year. This has been followed by two other BIAM challenges in the last few months. Tristi, what prompted you to host these challenges on your blog?

I'm the kind of person that needs accountability in order to really succeed. When I report my progress to others, it helps me stay on track. I started the Book in a Month Challenges for myself, to give me an accountability system. When I feel tempted to slack off, I think, "yeah, but I don't want to have to tell the group that I didn't do anything." So it motivates me to forge ahead, and I believe it's been pretty helpful to the other participants. (Has it, Don?) [Absolutely!] I plan to do four challenges a year on the blog I started just for that, at http://www.tristischallenges.blogspot.com

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When the little voices in my head got very, very loud. I'm only sort of kidding. I've always wanted to be a writer. I don't remember a time in my whole life when I didn't want to write. But it wasn't until I was twenty-three that I realized I might ever actually write something good.

Your first published novel was "Nothing to Regret." Was that your first story, or do you have manuscripts hidden under the bed that you will never let see the light of day?

I wrote little stories and poems the whole time I was growing up, and then in my teens I went through a stage of depressing poetry and badly written fantasy. I did start one historical fiction set in WWI that I plan to resurrect someday. But that other stuff -- you'll never see it, and trust me, you'll thank me for that.

Both "Nothing to Regret" and your second novel, "Strength to Endure," were set in World War II. How is it that a nice gal like you got started writing wartime historicals?

This question has two answers to it. First, I love reading Ann Rinaldi. She's a national young adult novelist who writes historical fiction, and she brings it to life in such a way that you feel you've stepped into history yourself. She's really the author who got me started down this path. Second, both those novels came to my mind pretty much already formed. I just had to do the research and write it all down. I'm not sure why the muses chose historical fiction for me, but I've enjoyed the process so much.

Your most recent novel, "Season of Sacrifice," is based on the true story of the Hole in the Rock Pioneers. Please tell us about it.

How much blog space have you got?

In a nutshell, my great-great-grandfather was named Benjamin Perkins, and he came to Utah as a young man after being a coal miner in Wales for most of his life. He'd learned how to use blasting powder in the mines, and when President Taylor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to send some missionaries across the state of Utah to colonize the southeast corner, Benjamin and his family were called to go. The land south of Escalante drops down to the Colorado River and Lake Powell in a series of cliffs, and when the pioneers reached that area, they had to choose whether to go back or press forward. They decided to press forward, and Benjamin was called on to help design a way down that cliff. He came up with the idea of drilling holes in the cliff wall and driving staves into the holes, and then the wagons drove down on those staves. It was risky, and it was brilliant.


The novel follows Ben from Wales to Utah and details his marriage to his sweetheart Mary Ann, the subsequent immigration of Mary Ann's family, and the challenges they all face as they strive to be obedient.


While your first two books were released by Granite Publishing, you chose to self publish "Season of Sacrifice." What prompted you to make that decision?

I blame Warren Jeffs for the whole thing. Actually, my serious answer isn't too far off the mark. After reaching the Bluff area and settling, Benjamin was commanded to take a second wife. The last segment of my book deals with his internal struggles as he seeks to obey the Lord, and yet does not want to break his wife's heart. Because of all the bruhaha in the press about Warren Jeffs, the LDS market has become very careful about the subject of polygamy. "Season of Sacrifice" needed to be published, so I decided to publish it myself.

Self-published titles typically lack the editorial oversight found in traditional publishing. What, if anything, did you do differently with this book to ensure it was a quality project worthy of the Tristi Pinkston brand?

The most important thing I did was to enlist the help of a good friend, BJ Rowley. BJ owns his own publishing imprint, called Golden Wings, and he has self-published many of his own novels. He typesets professionally and is a wonderful line editor. He designed the cover and did all the work associated with this publication. We did end up with a few typos and a few minor mistakes, but no more than you'll find in a traditionally published novel.

What should readers expect to see from you in the future, both near and long-term?

You will see more historical fiction--I've got a Vietnam-era book nearly finished, a book about the Depression nearly finished, and ideas for other novels that range in time from the Civil War down through WWI and WWII. Historical fiction will always be my first love. However, I've recently started writing contemporary as well, and I'm enjoying it too. My dream would be to write both.

During the BIAM you hosted this past April, you mentioned that the book you're currently working on "is the most fun I've ever had in my life." What has made this new book so much fun?

This book, which I just finished, incidentally, is a contemporary comedy which features some off-the-wall elderly ladies who get involved in solving a crime. It's just been a delightful experience to sit down at the computer, see where the characters want to take me, and letting them have their way. I've only reined them in a couple of times--the rest of the time, I let them have their way, and they've been a wild bunch. I've made myself laugh out loud repeatedly while writing. It's been a whole new experience for me -- I wrote fully one hundred pages before I had to stop and research anything. In the end, I got it written in six weeks, over the January BIAM and the April BIAM. That's just unheard of for me.

What advice would you give to other writers and would-be authors?

First off, you need to read a lot. Pick solid authors and just read, read, read. Even if you're not aware of the techniques they're using, your subconscious will pick up on sentence construction, word choice, and so forth. Second, listen to criticism. Don't be afraid to let others see your work. Trust me, they'll save you from making silly mistakes because we all get blind to our work after a certain point. But learn which criticism to listen to and which to ignore. If you're told to do something with your story that totally doesn't fit, then don't do it. But listen to the criticism that makes sense, and don't be prideful about it.

Thank you, Tristi.

Thanks, Don!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cream Cheese Chicken Enchiladas

Now that Kara is home, she is returning to her old kitchen creativity. What follows is a delicious recipe that she came up with a week or so ago. It's a bit of a cultural hybrid, sort of an Italian style enchilada.

We'll call this feature "Kara Cooks," and share these recipes with you right here on this blog.

Until we can talk her into doing her own blog.

2 whole chicken breasts
olive oil to coat
1/8 tsp garlic granules
1 tsp Italian spices
pepper to taste
1 package cream cheese, softened
1/4-1/3 c sour cream
8 tortillas
1 cup mozzarella cheese

Marinate chicken in oil and spices for at least 30 minutes. Drain excess oil and bake in 425° oven for 20 minutes or until done. Let cool.

Chop or shred chicken into small pieces. Add cream cheese and sour cream. Stir to combine.

Lightly oil bottom of 9x9 pan. Roll chicken mixture in tortillas.

Bake at 350° until heated through. Top with mozzarella cheese. Return to oven until cheese melts.

Enjoy

Monday, May 5, 2008

No Velvet Today

There was no velvet to be found today. There was, however, some really neat dark brown media. The end result was more of a sepia Elvis.

In all, it was a good, productive day. Flying home tomorrow.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Search for the Velvet Elvis

Several years ago, I helped develop a software tool as part of my job that would work with printers that used white ink in addition to the other colors. The tool we created would automatically figure out where to put the white ink so that it was only printed under the color data.

One scenario we imagined, but did not implement, was printing an image on black media, treating white as the inverse of black. Like a painting of Elvis on black velvet.

Today I flew to San Jose, and tomorrow I will be working with a printer manufacturer who wants to do the Velvet Elvis. Not necessarily pictures of Elvis, and not really on velvet, but it's basically the same idea.

I spent the second half of last week making the code changes that should allow this to happen. I am quite excited to try it out tomorrow.

With any luck, I'll be able to create and post an image of my own Velvet Elvis creation.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Fun Songs XVI

A few weeks ago, Annette Lyon did a blog post called Indoctrinating the Younguns, all about her efforts to make sure her children have a good background in cinematic history.

I thought about this post the other day as I was mixing the Fun Songs 16 CD for my kids. This is a tradition I started years ago, burning songs that I like, songs that Kara likes, and songs that the girls like. Now, not everyone likes every song, but having these CDs to play in the car and alarm clocks has been culturally stimulating for everyone.

Below are the songs found on the latest mix, listed for your psychoanalysis. Go ahead - I dare ya.

Soak Up the Sun/Sheryl Crow
Bubbly/Colbie Caillat
Never Gonna Give You Up/Rick Astley
I Write the Songs/Barry Manilow
When I'm Alone/Vaihi
The Dancing Flowers/The Wiggles
If You Love Somebody Set Them Free/Sting
Rock Me Amadeus/Falco
Nothing's Gonna Change My Love for You/Glenn Medeiros
The Lucky One/Laura Branigan
Never Surrender/Corey Hart
America/Neil Diamond
What's Your Name/Vaihi
Colour of Love/Billy Ocean
It's a Miracle/Barry Manilow
Ku'u Pua Kiele/Vaihi
Spanish Eddie/Laura Branigan
Fiji Chant/Pulefano & the Polynesians

In a future post, I'll tell you about my buddies in Vaihi. Remind me if I forget, OK?