Saturday, December 31, 2011

Reflecting on 2011

I write this on December 31, 2011 with about 8 hours left to go in 2011. Its been an amazing year and I was thinking about trying to recap this great year.

The year started with a flurry as our family bought a new house in the beginning of February and moved at the end of February. This is the third house Heather and I have lived in and second the kids have lived in. Our new home was a foreclosure, 2 miles and 1 stop sign away from our old house within Bedford at Falls River. We got a contract on our old house in April and it sold at the beginning of June.

We also became members at our new church, Harvest Bible Chapel North Raleigh, in February. Heather and I spent over 8 years at our previous church before being called to Harvest, a small church plant in our area. We have been active members and have enjoyed serving and having fellowship in the church ever since. If you are in Raleigh, come check us out at Fox Road Elementary School at 10 AM.

In April we went outside Jacksonville Florida with Heather's extended family. The girls had a blast and it was warm enough to spend most of the time on the beach. We also celebrated Maddie's 3rd birthday that month. Maddie's 3rd birthday was a ladybug party at our house.

In May, my mother (aka Oma) visited over mother's day weekend and that was very exciting. Then towards the end of May we watched our friends 4 yr old twin girls and Heather and I got to experience being outnumbered 2:1. They were great and luckily we were smart enough to expect if we had another two for it to be that easy. :-) Their stay lasted two weeks and afterward we celebrated a belated 8 year anniversary date.

We had a couple fun trips this summer including going to Figure Eight Island near Wilmington NC and going to Maine. Here are some great pictures of our trip to Figure Eight. We enjoyed that trip with Heather's family at the end of June. In early August, we flew up to Maine to visit with my family. This trip was Maddie's first flight and the girls did great. We enjoyed picking blueberries, riding on the lake, and having a sea adventure with Diver Ed.

In September, Anna started preschool for the first time going three days a week. She really loved it and has is looking forward to winter break being over. We also started finishing our attic in September. As part of that work, we cut the cord and got rid of cable. We are enjoying a cable-less household now. We capped off October by having a very small Alice in Wonderland girls only 5th birthday party for Anna.

2011 sadly didn't pass without some significant losses as well. We mourned the passing of Heather's best friend's father, Jeff, and a last grandparent, Maw-maw. These two family members will be missed and we have been praying for our whole extended family who have felt the effects throughout the holidays.

This fall/winter we also had great visits from my dad (Opa) as well as Oma, my sister, brother in law, and niece. This combined with seeing lots of Heather's family for Thanksgiving at our house and Christmas at their houses made for a great end of the year.

We are preparing for a fun new year in Raleigh, have enrolled Anna in school for the fall and Maddie in preschool for the fall, and are embarking on new adventures all over the place. For our extended friends and family, we hope that our 2012 adventures will include you.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Yee-haw - we are free of cable...

We had Windstream here on Friday to have internet and a *gasp* landline phone installed. Today I drove down to Time Warners place, stood in line behind about 20 people canceling cable (many took Black Friday specials from DirecTV and Dish), and then cancelled our cable completely. Just like that, we saved over $60/month off our cable bill (which was a "promotion" rate.)

What will we miss? I will miss ESPN, although Windstream gives me ESPN3 access. Anna and Maddie will miss the Disney channel. Heather will miss HGTV. We all will miss the DVR. I will miss the speed of Time Warner's internet connection. Windstream, while faster than the AT&T DSL I had one year ago, is still significantly slower than Time Warner (see image below).

What I won't miss? Shelling out an extra $60/mo for the above services. We won't miss the abysmal customer service. I won't miss the crappy VoIP service Time Warner provided. I won't miss the worse excuse for HD I have ever seen. I won't miss having to call every year or 6 months to get a promotion rate because their normal rates are so high.

Windstream commits to not change their prices by saying if they start offering higher bandwidth, you can choose to pay more ot get it. But it won't keep increasing on you. There is no promotion rate I have to fight for yearly. Amazing!

The kids are taking it well. In the last couple of days they were choosing to watch TV on the antenna rather than the recordings off the DVR. They have been excited to watch PBS Kids and Tri-state Christian Television's Family channel.

Still have not yet signed up for Netflix or Hulu Plus..that is still to come.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

What channels do we get?

The common question I get is what channels do you get. My TV says it found 49 channels but only is showing 24. Here is the list of channels, each of which comes through great. Two of these don't come from the south side of my house, where my omnidirectional antenna is installed. Those are ION (47.1) and TCT (30.1). PBS (WUNC) mostly comes from the west rather than east and comes in fine.

4.2 WUNC Kids
5.2 THIS?
11.2 ?
11.3 ?
17.2 ?
17.3 ?
22.1 CW WLFL
22.2 Country music
28.1 WRDC my ROC
28.2 The Cool TV
30.1 Tri-state Christian Television
30.2 different Tri-state Christian Television
30.3 Tri-state Christian Television Family
30.4 Spanish Tri-state Christian Television
47.2 ION Kids
47.3 ION Life
50.1 Fox WRAZ
50.2 Me TV

Channels I am not getting which TV Fool says I may are:
24.1 W24CP
40.1 Univision
44.1 WZGS
64.1 W64CN
68.1 W68BK

Another interesting nuance is when I go to a channel like 25.1 which is another PBS (WUNK-TV), my TV takes me to 4.1 (WUNC-TV). So I don't know if that counts that as I am getting 25.1. If so, this would account for the channels it says I am getting but I am not actually getting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Change of plans for getting rid of cable

To review the steps we have done to get rid of cable as outlined when we were Preparing to cut cable

COMPLETED: Step 1: Run a coax cable line and power outlet in the attic on the southeast corner of my house. I used TV Fool to determine the right place in my house to run this line for an in attic antenna.

COMPLETED: Step 2: Install an in attic amplified antenna to pick up local HD stations. I am currently looking at the Terk FDTVO Antenna.

CHANGED/COMPLETED: Step 3: Instead of buying an $80 HD Roku box - I've decided to purchase one of the Cyber Monday deals on Blu-ray players which also support Netflix and Hulu Plus.

SCHEDULED: Step 4: Switch from Internet, Phone, and TV from my cable provider to Internet and Phone from Windstream.

Step 5: Sign up for Hulu Plus and Netflix.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Antenna based TV is great!

Happy Thanksgiving y'all. As we prepare to cut cable...I installed a Terk FDTVO in the attic this Thanksgiving break. As I said last time, first I did an address check at TV Fool. It gave me an in depth listing of all the TV Channels available from my house through a small antenna, an attic mounted antenna, and a roof mounted antenna. The graph for my house looks like this:

Based on this, I needed to aim the antenna south, either slightly southeast or slightly southwest. I bought the Terk FDTVO because its multi-directional and pointing in one direction, we can get both the channels in the southeast and southwest directions. So, finding the southern most corner of the house, the Terk FDTVO took about 15-20 minutes to install. From the Terk there is a 10 ft coax cable line, then it plugs into the amplifier provided with the Terk, then it runs from the 3rd floor to the crawlspace and back up to the first floor to my cable splitters. I found the 3 cable lines we used in the house and attached those lines into the splitter with the antenna as the input.
(My phone shown for size perspective)

After turning my TV to over the air rather than cable, My TV found 49 local channels. The Terk worked great. I turned on the LSU v Arkansas game and it looked great.

That is a HD picture with quality better than Time Warner Cable for sure.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Preparing to cut the cable...

I am preparing to cut the cable in our house. Here is my plan.

Step 1: Run a coax cable line and power outlet in the attic on the southeast corner of my house. I used TV Fool to determine the right place in my house to run this line for an in attic antenna.


Step 2: Install an in attic amplified antenna to pick up local HD stations. I am currently looking at the Terk FDTVO Antenna.

Step 3: Purchase and install two Roku boxes. Right now I am aiming for the Roku 2

Step 4: Switch from Internet, Phone, and TV from my cable provider to Internet and Phone from Windstream.

Step 5: Sign up for Hulu Plus and Netflix.

So, step 2 is next. Total, this takes our bill from $126 (discounted rate) to around $90 per month standard rate with an initial cost around $250 for step 1-5. I'll try to keep tabs on this project out here on my blog.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fried Apple Crepes

After eating the best breakfast of my life at The Depot American Diner in Chicago, I was determined to bring home something like their apple pancake recipe. Not wanting to make a full copy of their recipe, I made up my own recipe for similar awesome taste with a slightly different context- we made it for dessert!

Burckart's Fried Apple Crepes
Makes: 7 crepes
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time needed start to finish: 1 hour, 30 mins (lots of down time between)

Fried Apple slices
At least one hour before making the crepes, you must prep the apples.
7 slices of Granny Smith (or your favorite) apple (fatter is better, 1 large apple would be sufficient)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp sugar

1) Slice the apple from side to side with thin but full slices. Cut out the core on each slice.
2) Fill a 2 qt pot halfway with water, bring water to boiling.
3) Put apple slices in the boiling water. Add cinnamon and sugar to water.
4) Boil for 10 minutes on medium-low
5) Lay apples out on plate to cool and dry

Fried Apple Crepes

Crepe batter:
1 c white wheat flour
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1/2 c water
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tbsp honey

1) In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and the eggs.
2) Gradually whisk in the milk and water.
3) Add the salt, butter, and honey
4) Beat until smooth.

Making the fried apple crepes:

1) Heat a griddle over medium heat
2) Place a fried apple slice in the center of the griddle
3) Flip the apple after one minute
4) Pour 1/4 cup of crepe batter in the center of the apple. Batter should cover the center of the slice, the top, and flow to each side.
5) Cook for about 2 minutes til golden brown. Flip, cook the other side for about 2 minutes also.
6) Serve hot.

In pictures:
Step 2:
Fried Apple Crepes
Step 4:
Fried Apple Crepes
Step 5:
It will be time to flip when the crepe doesn't look liquidy around the sides of the apple:
Fried Apple Crepes
Fried Apple Crepes
Step 6:
Fried Apple Crepes
Fried Apple Crepes

We ate our first time spoils with powdered sugar and whipped creme.

To find The Depot, we used the Flavor Town USA site dedicated to the Food network show, Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. Here is the show we used to find The Depot:

Finally, I should note that the great apple we used came from yesterday's delivery to our doorstep from The Produce Box. Great apple, great dessert!

Friday, May 20, 2011

What is this about a Rapture?

If you haven't heard, some people are calling for there to be a day of judgement and Rapture tomorrow with the world ending on October 21st. This is a date predicted by Harold Camping, a man who also predicted the date wrongly in 1994. This is so widely discussed in the news, I thought it might be helpful to shed a light on what the bible REALLY says for those that read my blog.

First, on false prophets: (1)

Deuteronomy 18:20-22 (ESV)
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.' And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?'-- when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

So, if a man claims to have some prophecy and it doesn't come true, ignore that prophet. Camping in fact may not be a false prophet(2) (depending on your definition of a prophet) but I believe he is at least teaching against God's word and therefore it makes him a false teacher and I believe the same should be said of a false teacher of God's word.

Second, on whether we can know the day and time:
Mark 13:32-36 (ESV) - also in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.
"But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake--for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning-- lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
Acts 1:6-8 (ESV)
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

So, Jesus says multiple times that you cannot know when. In fact, He does not know, only God the Father knows. How then do these people who claim to be Jesus's followers ignore His words as recorded?

Third, what about judgement? (3)

God is holy so He has to be just and punish your sin (Isaiah 59:1-2, Romans 3:23-24).
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus

He did punish your sin, He inflicted your penalty on His sinless Son (Isaiah 53:4-5, 1 Peter 3:18).

We can receive this forgiveness of our sin alone by faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23, 10:9, Ephesians 2:8-9).
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast.

We can walk in newness of life which is based on faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 6:4, Titus 2:11-14, 1 Peter 2:2-5).

So, we will be judged but for those who put their faith in Christ, there is grace through the blood shed by Jesus on the cross and hope in His triumph over death in the resurrection.

Finally, what about the end times in the bible? (3)

The end times will get tougher – its important to make a decision and get strong in your faith now (Mark 13 - also Luke 21 and Matthew 24)

Expect more earthquakes, famines, and wars (Mark 13:7-8).
And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. 8 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains.

Jesus will rescue His own (Mark 13:26-27).
"At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.

There will be an end of this time and until then wars, earthquakes, and famines will increase in frequency. Jesus will rescue those who are His own. Just as the apostles looked forward to the second coming of Jesus so do the followers of Jesus today when the world will exit its birth pains, tribulations will be complete, and we enter into eternity with a Glorious and Holy Lord. Until that day (which we don't know) we hope and pray that all will join us in our belief. We respond with the final words in the book of Revelation, "Come, Lord Jesus."

(1) Adapted from Randy Alcorn, Eternal Perspective Ministries
(2) Harold Camping False prohet? by RC Sproul. Ligonier Ministries
(3) Adapted from Pastor Mike Willis, Harvest Bible Chapel North Raleigh

Monday, February 07, 2011

So your team lost the Super Bowl...

First of all, congratulations to the Green Bay Packers and their fans...especially to my cousins Amy and Hiter who were fans for years before this season. I hope you win many more Super Bowls but not at the expense of the Steelers again. :-) For those that don't know, I am a huge sports fan. I cheer on my Steelers, Pitt Panthers, Penguins, and even Pirates whenever I can. I am most seriously a Steelers fan and love to cheer them on. After they just lost the Super Bowl, the common question is, "Are you disappointed?" That's a good question, so let's analyze it a bit more.

When I was younger when the Steelers lost I would be downtrodden for weeks. My family knew and expected me to be short, moping, easy to anger and lots of other things like I had just lost my best friend. Years ago I gained some perspective, some eternal perspective, and things changed. In fact when I went to the Super Bowl in Tampa to cheer on my Steelers in 2009 and they blew a lead and were losing late in the fourth quarter, I turned to my pal John and said "Even if they lose here this was worth it." What was worth it you might ask? The time spent with a friend, the adventure of traveling to Tampa, and the fun of cheering on my Pittsburgh Steelers. They won so no Steelers fan was disappointed. But this year they lost, so am I disappointed?

I decided to start by looking up the word disappointed. In the dictionary it was defined as "being sad because something failed to fulfill one's hopes." Well, then of course I am not disappointed. Sure, I want my team to win. I even will say that I hope they win. But my hopes aren't really tied up in a football game. There are much more serious matters that my hopes are tied up in. Life or death matters.

In my life I found myself hopeless for a while. I spent time meandering through life doing what I pleased me and what I realized is that each step I took down that path was a step farther away from what is now my eternal hope. Doing what I thought pleased me moved me further from God and the further I moved away from God the more miserable I truly was. The sin that I thought was pleasing me was really just making me more miserable. While I might have instantaneous pleasure in the moment, my lack of love and hope was really making me more miserable even if only seen when looking at my entire day, week, month, or year. What I didn't know is it was far worse than I knew - my life and lifestyle was leading me down a path to eternal separation from God. Thankfully we all have an opportunity to course correct and put our hopes, love, and desire in God through Christ crucified. I did this and my life has changed. I consistently feel God's love and have eternal hopes in Christ.

So, friends, I am not disappointed in the Steelers loss because even if they had won, it wouldn't have changed the things that really matter in my life. I am more concerned about another battle - a battle for the eternal lives of my friends and family. I worry that they will miss the opportunity to put their faith in Christ and live an eternal life with peace and love in their hearts. My hope is in Christ and I pray that my loved ones will also know Him.

Oh, and I think Troy Polamalu would approve this message. ;-)