Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving and new life

Happy Thanksgiving! This morning I got up with the girls at 6:30 and let Heather sleep a little bit longer. I am thankful for the fun time we had in the last hour before I wrote this. I found myself with a lot to be thankful for this year, a beautiful caring sweet smart loving wife, a couple great healthy active very fun kids, my personal relationship with Jesus Christ, an interesting job I like most days, a warm and inviting home, and so many close friends and people I can talk to. Yesterday, I hung out with Derick, one of my closest friends, something I am very thankful for having been able to do.

But, as I thought of the many things I was thankful for, I thought of all the new life we have experienced around us this past year. I perused my facebook list of friends and found that at least 8 (Heather, Suzanne, Katie, Jill, Nicole, Kate, Regina, Ann) of them had babies since last Thanksgiving and 3 (Stephanie, Jessica, Jessica) of them that we know of are pregnant including my sister in law. Among Heather's friends there are about 6 more babies that were or will be born in the Sept-Dec timeframe. Some of my friends at work have just had babies like Aditya and others like Millie are just about to have one. I am thankful for all that new life that God has put in and around us. I lost my count at about 15 babies born in 2008 and 6 waiting to be born in 2008/2009. What a glorious time and I am excited for the potential more to come in 2009. But as I looked at my own little miracles this morning, I was thankful for them and the joy they bring to my life.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Micro-USB and the LG Lotus

So, I missed this minor technological revolution, where Micro-USB, just standardized last year, started to replace mini-USB in devices. So many of us tech guys knew that mini-USB was too thick and would need replaces one day. I for one didn't realize the day was already here. Welcome micro-USB...may I not have to buy a bunch of new cables now.

How did I find out about micro-USB being the new chosen form factor? We went phone shopping...

Yesterday, I got Heather a LG Lotus from Radio Shack. I started to feel bad at the lack of connectivity my wife had. She is a gadget person at heart and we just never spent the money to get her really connected with a sweet phone..or even text messaging. That changed yesterday when we got her the LG Lotus and changed to Sprint's family data plan, $130 for 2 phones, 1500 anytime minutes, free nights after 7 PM and weekends, unlimited text, unlimited data, and a handfull of other features which are standard on all the cell providers. Its a real cool device, beautiful screen, nice camcorder ability, and a 2 MP camera. But, the one issue is that I was used to the Blackberry which has infinite application support. Not the cool games that are on the iPhone, but Google Talk, GMail, Twitterberry, etc. So, Heather's phone surprised me not having as man applications for it. However, the mail as integrated with the phone was cool. Google Maps, YouTube, and others things have native support. Maybe its just a matter of time, the phone has only been out for a month. But, its a cool device which Heather will gladly show off to you.

As for those who knew I considered a move to AT&T. I have been with Sprint for almost 10 years and I thought about changing. In the end, AT&T's plans would have cost me $25 more for the same thing. I have corporate discounts both places, so that may not be for everyone. But, Heather loves the new phone and if finally connected to the modern era of communications...and thats really what matters. :-)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Started using twitter

I decided to start using Twitter. I held off for a long time since its yet another trendy tool. However, I found that I wanted something to push status updates to do what they call micro-blogging. What is micro-blogging? Its where you are basically posting whats going here and now in your life. Wikipedia suggests a micro-blog is 140 characters or less. The idea is simply that you update what is going on in your life at a more granular level. So, over on the right of this blog I put a widget that streams my twitters there. If you are my friend on facebook, its the twitters that will update my facebook status. We'll see how it all works.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Homemade cinnamon rolls

My wife has a love for cinnamon rolls as her favorite speciality breakfast food. Unfortunately, the best we had been able to do before was the Pillsbury out of the can cinnamon rolls. Recently, we have been starting to make breads and doughs of all types in our Zoji bread machine. Well, I woke up this morning at 6:30 AM and starting making cinnamon rolls for the family. I started with this recipe and modified it.

How did I modify it? I like lots of swirls, so I rolled out the dough longer than the 9x8 it suggested, but rather around 9x13. Because of the increased surface area, I had to double to amount of filling, using their amount of filling for each amount. Additionally, I took the softened butter and smeared it out on the rolled out dough except for the last inch, which remains dry to . Then, I sprinkled a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon on the butter. I then cut them into smaller rolls than were described, into 9 rolls per half rather than 6, made 2 8x8 pans with 9 each, and baked it for only 20 minutes. How did I decide to make these changes? Mostly it was that I have some experience through the thousands of cinnamon rolls I made at my time working at Loafer's Bread Company in Pittsburgh.

Here are some pictures:

Cutting the cinnamon rolls
Proofing the cinnamon rolls
Baking the cinnamon rolls
Cinnamon Rolls, just out of the over
Out of the oven
Glazed and gone
Glazed and Gone

I probably will continue to adapt this recipe, but it was good for this first round. I'd like to perfect them by Christmas for Heather.

Friday, November 21, 2008

God's reminder

Yesterday night around 11:15 PM I found myself missing Pittsburgh. During that day I found that my favorite way to keep in touch with my home for 20 years was shut down. PittGirl, the anonymous Burgh Blog author, had her identity revealed and decided it was best to shut down her website. It is the only blog I found that was entertaining, fun to read, and kept me in touch with the happenings of Pittsburgh. Then, last night I found myself in a sports bar with a couple of friends watching the Steelers game. Now, had I gone to one of the many Steelers sports bars, I may not have felt the same way, but while Steeler fans greatly outnumbered the Bengals fan, the enthusiasm wasn't there. On top of all of that, it was snowing in Pittsburgh.

I was sad. I missed my hometown. On the 10 minute trip home last night, I thought of how much I missed Pittsburgh. How much I want my girls to love Pittsburgh as well. And how I wanted to return...

This morning, I feel that God sent me a reminder. As I went to the gym, it was snowing. When I got home, I took a picture of the house with a slight snow dusting. Here is that picture:

If you look even closer, you may see this:

Another part of the sweet reminder that I am home, where God has me deployed in His service and to enjoy life here in North Carolina.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Crawling check. Walking...

Maddie has decided to move on. She quickly perfected crawling to the extent she wanted to, so now she is pulling up on things and ready to start standing and walking...

Madelyn standing

She seems way too small for this, just 6.5 months!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

On the homefront..

Big news on the homefront, you can read/watch about it on Heather's blog by following this link.

The Elmo Collective

Anna got a Elmo Live doll for her 2nd birthday and after getting it out of the box, it seemed to be defective. With the factory batteries or new batteries, it wouldn't do what it was supposed to. But, mysteriously, if you but it next to the TMX Elmo we would start to act. It was sort of we caught it on video tape before the Elmo Live was returned.

Friday, November 14, 2008

I want a 3% mortgage

So, if you haven't seen it, the FDIC released a proposal to modify mortgages that people can't pay for to be as low as a 3% mortgage (5 year ARM) with no principal reduction allowing people to reduce their mortgage to 31% of their gross take-home pay and stay in their houses. Here is the FDIC page with the official proposal. While I understand the need to help people in these bad mortgages to stabilize the housing market and therefore the economy, I wish they would make a general program that allowed a 3% 5 year ARM instead of only offering it to those who can't afford it. I gladly would take a 3% 5 year ARM and nearly cut my interest rate in half. Instead, the current proposal is that unless I miss 60 days of mortgage payments, I am not eligible for this rate cut. Sad...

When I say this is an really isn't. It raises 1 percent per year until it hits the prevailing market rate. Better than an ARM.

Cool Mommy Stuff

My cousin Lori is starting her own business sewing handy Mom stuff. Check out her blog to find out more. Here are the diaper totes:

and here are a couple pictures of her wipes case:

I think its great that she is taking something she is passionate about and trying to make it work for her as a side job while having the more important job of raising her adorable little girl Kelsey. If you need a cute little baby shower gift, please think of her ;-)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

More on product recalls

Andy pointed me to this website that allows you to get notifications about recalls related to your automobiles, tires, and child restraints. I added this to my list of subscribed to recalls. As I blogged about before, I also watch the Consumer Product Safety Commissions list.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Heather and homemaking

I am very proud and appreciative of my wife. She has consistently amazed me in our 5.5 years of marriage, but no more than she has as the mother of our kids. From my view of her job as a stay at home mother, her easier days can be worse than my worst days. Yet, she handles Anna and Madelyn with grace, love, and gentleness that amazes me.

A couple of months ago we were at her ten year high school reunion. Of the people that had come, we seemed to be the only ones with more than one child. The "Heather with all her kids" comments made Heather feel like she was an eccentric person with 20 kids. About the same time, we began feeding Maddie baby foods.

As Heather has written about a couple times here and here, she is making most of Maddie's food for her. Some of her friends gasp at this as if she is again eccentric, but I see a lot more sense in it than they may realize. To make Madelyn bananas as Heather points out in that first link, you take a banana in a bowl and smash it with a fork for 30 seconds. Considering the alternative is about $.50/container and normally has additives, namely absorbic acid as a preservative, this seems like an easy way to save a little bit of money AND help our child to avoid some chemicals. But, does it make sense for everything?

This past week we wanted to give Madelyn some more apples and upon seeing the prices of apples were over $1/lb, we looked around target a bit. In the apple sauce area was a 25 oz jar of Target's Archer Farms brand Organic Apple Sauce for $3.

So, I am really quite proud of Heather. She has been doing a great job of feeding Maddie and making the smart decisions as she does it. Yes, mashing up a banana saves money and is healthier. Yes, buying organic apple sauce saved time and money and is just as healthy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Motivation for working out again?

Since writing last about working out and the success I have enjoyed in the past year, I am struggling again with motivation which is my original topic and issue. I still feel as though I have a ways to go before I am in the shape I desire to be in.... but once that occurs...where do I go? I think it was considerably easier to get the motivation to get into shape or back into shape than it is to maintain that shape.

One of the things I have been realizing is that most of my life when getting in shape it was for a particular reason. The reality of my life and body style is that in order to stay in shape I will/would have to consistently exercise for the rest of my life. Do I like working out that much? No. So, how do you get the motivation or mentality that you can do this the rest of your life?

First, let's review my current motivation:
1) To be able to do active things with my family
2) Self-image, particularly how I view myself for my wife
3) Having that personal time every morning

#1 and #2 are not going to be as strong as I get in better shape. So, I have been working on a list of new things that could help motivate me that I can try to use:

1) A yearly athletic event or trip such as backpacking, triathlons, whatever
2) Regular sports that I would like to be competitive at

So, all I have been able to think of is that I need to have something I shoot for year to year. What else can I use otherwise? I am thinking I may have to find something to focus on year to year otherwise.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saving money

With the economic turmoil we are facing in America, many newspapers and websites are writing vasts amounts of information on how to save money. From what I have read, these range from things like "start clipping coupons" to "use new energy efficient lighting." You get some information that suggests you stop eating out or try to take public transportation more often. On Sunday when I was getting a haircut, a conversation with the person cutting my hair, my wife, spawned this one question from me. What new ways can we save money?

Well, I thought it might be something worth posting a blog about. How do you save money? Where don't you save money?

Trying to come up with some things ourself, here is what I came up with:

1. Heather cuts my hair. Since I like to keep my hair short, thats an annual savings of about $90.
2. Coupon clipping/sale watching.
3. Heather is making Madelyn's baby food. I am not sure how much this saves, but it seems to save some. Heather is doing it more for it being so much more healthy.
4. We use compact florescent lights (CFLs).
5. We eat in most days. We eat out about once a week for lunch and twice a week for dinner at most.
6. We drive the more fuel efficient car whenever possible. That car (Toyota Matrix) averages 30-35 mpg whereas our other car (Honda Pilot) averages 20 mpg.
7. We shop around and shop online often. We utilize Google to find coupons/promotion codes for things online. In the past month, I have saved an additional $50 with coupons found through Google.
8. When traveling for business, I try to buy gum and bring snacks so I don't spend a lot while out.
9. We pack Anna snacks rather than buying prepackaged snacks.

Thats all I could think of off the top of my head. What other ways do you save money? I'd love some more ideas.