Saturday, July 30, 2011

Jesus Smiles

In case you haven't seen it yet, and I'm not sure how that would have happened, here's a great prayer just before a Nascar race.  Styled after a prayer in the movie Talledega Nights.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Game Review

Today we are going to review a game that's been around for a while.  Maybe you've played it, it's called Elefun.

After you put all of your fabric butterflies in the belly of the beast, the participants must get their nets ready.  The elephant has a long trunk that aims toward the ceiling and as the butterflies make their escape, it's your job to capture them in your net.  To get the action started, one person needs to reach around and flip the switch at the base of the tail.

Initially you will get a burst of butterflies.  After that, it will be a few at a time until they have all come shooting out of the trunk.  Each round lasts about two minutes.

I knew that the kids would love it, especially Brenna, and I was right.  What surprised me was how into the game the adult got.  I was taking photos of them playing, and you can see how desperately the adult wanted to win.  I've documented three types of play that I describe as fouls.  

Elefun is a fun game as the name suggests.  While it may look like a child's game, even the adults enjoy this one.  One thing that the rule book doesn't describe is how to handle players who constantly foul.  I wish the makers of the game would have addressed this common problem, but it is easy enough to create house rules to fix this problem.

Or you could just make her sit in the corner like I did.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Photo Shoot

I asked the youngest if I could take some photos of her after church and to my surprise she said yes!  I jumped on the opportunity and we went out to the porch.

She started out paying attention and doing overall pretty good.  Within about ten minutes she started getting sillier and sillier until it devolved into a drooling, hand licking, shoe kissing affair.

Here's a few of my favorites from that morning.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Stereotypes come in handy sometimes.  Like if you are driving down the highway you will try to avoid the women drivers.  Especially if they are blonde. Right? Because you know how they are.

A few times a week I drive past this bakery.
The driveway leads to a house up on a hill and it has always had me curious about what was up there.  I had it in my head what it would look like inside.  Maybe just a kitchen with an extra counter to serve the random passerby.

This past Friday, I decided to stop in and see what was going on.  I was hoping to buy something but I wasn't sure what kind of variety of goods would be there.  I turned at the familiar light house marker and drove up the driveway, past a cow, and around the back side of the house.  There were parking spaces for half a dozen cars and a sign on the door letting me know that they were open.

The room was kinda small.  There was a rack of baked goods in the center and shelves lined two walls with more treats.  The third wall had a cooler with pies.  Across from me was a glass counter with cakes and cookies.  Behind the counter stood two Mennonite women.

A stereotype popped in my head and I realized that all of this food will be delicious.  I've eaten at a Mennonite restaurant before and I still brag about how incredible it was.  I looked around for a few minutes and talked to another customer that was trying to decide what to get.  She told me I couldn't go wrong with anything in the shop.

I finally decided to get one of each of the three flavors of turnovers.  Blackberry, cherry, and apple.  Everyone was really friendly at the Swartzentruber's Bakery and everything in there smelled tempting.

But the really important thing to know is if the bakery lives up to the stereotype I put on it.  After dinner, I presented my surprise dessert and it was a great success!  Cari is already planning on giving me a shopping list for the next time I drive past there.

What have you learned today?  If you ever see a Mennonite / Amish restaurant or bakery you need to stop in.  Stereotypes are true sometimes or they wouldn't be stereotypes.  Did you know all bloggers own cats?

I have two.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Garden (beta)

I got interested in trying my hand at having a garden about a month ago.  It's a bit late to start, but I decided to get some seeds and see what would happen.

This summer is phase one of my garden (beta).  Phase one is plant some seeds in large pots and see if anything green will turn up.   Sure enough some small green bean and corn plants shot out of the dirt within a week!  Success!  Now to see if I can generate anything from the plants this year.

The corn will have to be transplanted into the soil soon, but I may attempt to leave the beans in the pot unless they become too large.

Phase two is next spring.  Now that I know I can get the plants started, I'm going to start a small garden next year with a variety of vegetables.   I won't even start them in the pots next year.  Straight to the ground.

Phase three is . . . hey!  Let's get through phase two before I start revealing all of my plans.

I'll post another blog at the end of the summer and let you know how garden (beta) turns out.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

My family and I went to see Harry Potter on Sunday.  We don't see very many movies in the theater.  Maybe three a year.  The biggest, and probably only, reason you won't find us at the movies very often is because of expense.

For Harry Potter, the non-3D edition, we spent nearly $40 on tickets.  When we went in, we were determined to not go crazy at concessions.  My wife and kids got sucked into this shiny machine with a huge touchscreen and LED lights that dispenses candy.  There went another $7 before we even made it to the counter.

At the counter we got one large popcorn and one medium drink for all of us to share.  That was more than $10.  I'm nearly to $60 to see the movie.  No wonder we only go if it's something that more than two of us REALLY want to see.

Harry Potter was a great movie.  Overall I don't feel bad about spending so much on a great movie.  I realize it's expensive to make movies, but I was thinking that I would like to see more movies.  I'd like to see more movies, but I don't want to re-mortgage my house to do it.

So I'm asking for a deal.  We have a few options here.  Let's get my total price closer to $40 per family trip to the movies and I'll probably go one or two extra times per year.  If I see two more movies per year the movie industry is up twenty bucks.  With a slightly smaller hit on my bank account per movie, I could honestly see myself going an extra time or two per year.  If this comes true for a lot of other people then it seems like a win for everyone.

The other option is some kind of rewards card.  For every ticket I buy, you stamp my card until I get a free movie.  Knowing that the concessions is where the theater is making their money, they can encourage me to get a few extra things by stamping my card another time for every two popcorn buckets I buy.  Imagine standing at the counter with a bunch of begging kids and telling them they are going to share one popcorn.  Then the cashier reminds you that you'll be one stamp closer to a free movie if you just get one more popcorn.  Hmm...  The downside to this plan is by the time I've seen my third movie that year, my card will have been washed twice and crumpled into the back of my wallet wet, torn, and faded.  I'd probably lose it before cashing it in.

Tell you what movie people, let's go with option A.  I'll keep taking my family to your movies and you adjust the price to keep me from having to get a bank loan to do it.

What's the next movie we'll see?  Hard to say.  At the earliest it'll be Christmas and I'm not sure what movie will be out.  Likely the next movie I see is still being filmed for release next year.  It'll take me that long to save up for that second popcorn.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

German Chocolate

Have you ever been upset about foreign exchange students being in our country?  Maybe not you personally, but in general.  Do you hear a lot of griping about it?  Me neither.

How about Hispanics?  Do you ever hear griping and complaining about hispanics being in America?  I do.  It's in the news all the time.

What made me think about this was that our neighbor had a foreign exchange student staying with them a few years ago.  That young lady is visiting this summer and she brought me CHOCOLATE.  Swiss / German / Austrian / whatever  chocolate.  Oh! It's so good.  Why we don't sell it here in America still amazes me.  So I started thinking.  How could anyone be upset about a foreign visitor that brings you such delicious treats?  Don't get me wrong, she's a nice girl.  I wouldn't complain about her anyway, but now that she brought me chocolate. . . maybe she just wants to move here.  I wouldn't complain.

You see where I'm going with this?  What if Mexicans started bringing really delicious treats?  I wonder how many people would complain about them being in America with a mouth full of goodies?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hike to Rainbow Falls - NC

It's been a while since we've had a good family hike, so we packed up Saturday morning and headed to Gorges state park in North Carolina.  Rainbow falls is roughly a three mile hike round trip and is rated as strenuous (for a good reason).

The five of us and the dog all headed down the trail and Cari quickly pointed out that the first section of the trail was steadily going down hill.  This was a bad sign for the tiring hike back out, but we'd worry about that later.

There were a lot of people on the trail but their destination wasn't Rainbow falls.  They were looking for adventure just beyond that.  More on that in a minute.  The trail has a few warnings that leaving the trail could cause you harm. . . or worse.  In fact several people died last year trying to wade in water above the falls and slipped, sending them over the edge.  We planned on staying on the trail.

Roughly half way into our hike it started drizzling rain.  We kept moving along the trail in this light rain and we weren't getting too wet.  After crossing a small creek, the rain picked up until it became a steady hard rain.  We took cover under a large Pine that was surrounded by Mountain Laurel.  We were still getting a little wet, but considering how hard it was raining, I'd say we were pretty dry thanks to the large Laurel leaves.  The rain seemed to last for about fifteen minutes, just long enough to create giant mud puddles and slippery slopes along the trail.

We continued until we reached the clear slope that revealed this massive waterfall.  There was a lot of water pouring over the cliff and it was an impressive site.  Several other visitors hiked down to the base and jumped into the water.  I watched as they swam across the deep pool and climbed onto the rock face adjacent to the waterfall.  The three of them were up a good distance.  They also made a good reference to show the size of the waterfall in my photos.  In this next photo you can see them on the rocks to the left of the water, near the trees.

After taking a break and watching the jumpers and the water for a while we continued along the trail for about ten more minutes.  This took us up river from the falls to another set of falls called Turtleback Falls.  This was a crowded and popular place.  This is where everyone was headed.  I don't have a good photo of Turtleback, but it's a smooth rock waterfall that drops into a pool of water.  Some people were jumping off rocks into the water, but most were climbing on top of the falls and sliding into the pool.
We didn't come prepared to slide into the cold water, but it did look like fun.  At this point the kids were starting to lose interest in this hike so we knew it was time to start trekking back.  When we got back to one of the two creek crossings I noticed that the kids made no attempt in trying to keep their feet dry.  Instead of walking on the large stepping stones, it was easier just to stomp into the water.  Easier and probably more fun.

When we crossed the half way point we started to find that first section of the trail that I mentioned earlier.  The one that was pointing downward on the way to the falls was now, when we were tired, pointing uphill.
It was great to get out again and take a family field trip.  The kids should expect more of this before they start back to school.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


When one of the children referred to God as a "he" the other night at dinner it prompted a short discussion about the gender of God.  "How do you know God is a he and not a she?"

Randy quickly answered that question with the fact that God is often referred to as "Father" in the Bible.  Cari fought back with the argument that the Bible was written by men.  Of course they would say God is a he.

To my wife's argument I simply stated, "Maybe there's a reason God only talked to men."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

TV at 5am

Do you ever get up to watch something at 5am?  No? I bet it's because there isn't anything that great on TV at 5am.  At least not great enough to get out of bed for.

That's why I thought it was weird that as I left the house for work at 5am I noticed the red record light illuminated on my DVR.  That little black box thought there was something great happening at that early hour and it was sure to capture it for me.
All day at work I tried to imagine what special program had been recorded for me.  Was the History channel replaying some special that I had missed?  Maybe it was a great movie on Showtime.  For a second I thought it could have been something great on ABC, but I realized I was getting carried away.

When I got home from work I hurried into the living room so I could see what secrets the DVR found for me.  The living room was full of children at that hour.  They were watching iCarly (not a bad show).  "Give me the remote", I demanded.

A few minutes of negotiations passed before the remote was handed to me.  I squished myself between a few kids and started looking at the list of recorded shows.

Wizards of Waverly Place
Good Luck Charlie
Max & Ruby 
General Hospital
Dora the Explorer
Bubble Guppies
King of the Hill

I handed the remote back to the children and removed myself from the room.  Whatever crazy awesome program was getting recorded at 5am that morning wasn't for me.

There still isn't anything on at 5am worth getting out of bed for.  Unless your under the age of twelve, in that case you just might want to set your DVR to record.

Friday, July 08, 2011

The Required Family Photo

Every year we buy matching shirts for 4th of July and take a family photo.  This year, Randy tried to opt out of the photo shoot.  I informed him that even when he moves out he will have to come back for this ritual.  He said he'd move to Canada.

#1.  Please stop texting for five seconds!  Who are you texting anyway, Canada?
#2. What is the baby looking at?  The boogie man?
#3. We did it!
 #4. Squish together!

The end of my conversation with Randy went something like this. . . "Well until you move to Canada get on the picnic table because you are going to be in this required family photo."  As you can see, he hasn't moved yet.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011


Take Facebook, put it in your Blendtec blender with Twitter and then throw in a whole lot of Google services for flavoring.  Will it blend? Push the mashup button and what you get is Google+.

I've been fortunate to have access to the limited beta of Google+ for about a week and I owe a big thanks to a friendly stranger on Twitter that was handing out invites.

Google+ is another social networking platform, but they've made enough changes that it feels really different. Go ahead and finish your moaning and groaning about another social media platform, but I'm telling you this is different.  There is a lot to tell about this brand new service, but for this blog I'm just going to focus on the pieces that I experienced in my first week.

The basis of setting up your contacts is circles.  All of your contacts are not equally your friends.  Everyone doesn't have the same interests.  Some are coworkers, some are friends, some you hardly know.  So you create these circles and title them as you please. Nobody will ever see these titles, so have fun!  Once you have your circles of contacts set up you can manage who will see what you post.  If you want to post about your party from last night but don't want your mom to see it, then don't include your "parents" circle.  Mom won't see that post but your "party" circle will.  If I'm going to make a lot of posts about the Nascar race and don't want to irritate my Yankee friends then I will post it only to the "racing" circle I created.  Only my friends that I think are into racing will see it.  You can also post to "public" which is what it says, anyone that finds you will see those posts, even your mom.

You have total control of who can see the posts you make and you make that decision with every post.  It's very easy.  Don't worry.  Your Nascar buddy that likes to party can be placed in both circles.

One of the things about contacts that reminds me of Twitter is that you can "follow" anyone.  They don't have to approve and they don't have to add you to their circles.  You will see anything "public" that they post.  Find a celebrity or other interesting person, then you can add them to a circle and their "public" posts will show in your timeline.  There is no approving or need for them to add you.  I love it!

One of the other elements about Google+ that I've really had a chance to try this week has been working with photos.  I have it set up to auto upload any picture I take on my Android phone to a private folder in Google+ (Picasa).  That means my photos and videos are instantly available for posting.  For me, this is a lot more convenient and I have been using my photos a lot more in my posts.  When I am at home in the evening, my photos are already there and ready.  I don't have to go back to my phone for them.

Here's the Google overview page that explains all of the features and elements of Google+.  There are some great videos there that explain what's going on.

Here's my profile, and  you can see the public posts that I have made so far there.

I have to say, my first impression of Google+ is that I really like it.  A lot. That mashup button I mentioned at the top sure did a great job.  It obviously will get better when more people I know are using it and Google is already making a few tweaks to improve things.  Will this be the next big thing that takes Facebook down a few notches?  Will this be the new service that slows down the growth of Twitter?  It could happen.  Do you still use MySpace?

Monday, July 04, 2011

Another Holiday Weekend!

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday weekend.  We decided to spend my paycheck last week at Lowe's and pick up materials for a pile of home improvement projects.

First up.  Attic stairs.  Our old, wooden, stairs had a broken bracket and messed up springs.  The ceiling door wouldn't close properly and our air conditioning was flowing straight out of the house.  Replacing these steps didn't sound like fun and I was right.  We decided to wait until the temperature was up around 150 in the attic before getting started.

How long does this take anyway?  I checked on YouTube, because it's like Google.  YouTube is never wrong.  One video claimed this was a two hour job.  Sweet!  It was late Sunday morning and time to get to work.

Once the old one was chopped into pieces and removed I realized getting back into the attic was a problem with my short ladder.  Here's Cari's taller ladder for me to use.  
Two hours came and went and we were still working.  The new one was out and the new one was being held in place by two support boards.  I was sweating in the attic as we tried to bolt the new one in place.  One thing we didn't anticipate was the new stairs being narrower.  We had nearly 3 inches on each side to fill.  
Finally bolted in place I was allowed to escape the sweat box that some call the attic.  We were making good progress and one of the last things to do was cut some excess off of the aluminum steps.  I thought it would be good to put on some safety goggles for this step.  Cari went and got me some goggles.  These were not what I had in mind. 
I thought I was getting ready to go snow ski or take a ride in a bi-wing plane.  
With dinner time quickly approaching the moldings were back in place.

A two hour job?  Not even close.  If we didn't have to find a way to fill the 6" of extra space, we would have been a lot closer to that estimate,  but does any home improvement project ever go as planned?

Next up is replacing the porch railing.  No more than a four hour project is what YouTube says.

Happy summer everyone.