Thursday, July 31, 2008

Our last morning at the cabin

Sunday, July 27, 2008

On the Road

And we're off!

Waiting to go

As the time approaches for us to climb into the car, Trixie picks up on the increased activity and has taken up her position near the door.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

First Picture

Meet our first grandbaby. The features aren't clear, but I love this picture!
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Start packing!

Visual Vacation - Update

Woo-Hoo, Vacation time is finally here. We have a cabin in the mountains on a creek so our son can fish from the back deck.

There is no Internet and limited cell phone service, so I am going to be mostly "tech less" and wonder if I'll have withdrawal or if perhaps it will be a nice change.

I'm taking my new and old cameras and plan to take tons of pictures. There are lots of places I want to go to share with my family.

So while I'll not be able blog for a few days, I will have a lot to say when we return. So this next week will be Visual Vacation Week. I will sent random pictures of places of interest ...assuming I have a signal on my phone.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Deck

I have stated how much I love to sit on our deck in the morning with a hot cup of coffee and listen to the world come to life. Now when I sit there I can also enjoy the lovely wicker furniture set my mom gave me. I feel like I'm a true southern lady now.

I may even start wearing hats. Ha!



Are you ever so tired when you get home that you just don't have the energy to cook dinner or even make sandwiches? Then you understand how I feel tonight.

That is why I am so thankful I purchased several frozen dinners when they were on sale at Kroger earlier this week when I was shopping. Normally I try to stick to my prepared list to stay within my grocery budget. However, this week I have been disorganized and have struggled to accomplish anything.

So tonight instead of standing in the pantry and deciding what to cook, I'm standing in front of the freezer trying to decide what to heat up.

How was your day?


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Going Green & Saving Money

I have been looking around for ways to save money, gas and time and just found out our son is riding a bike to work. He doesn't live very far from church where he is Student Pastor and in an effort to save money on his fuel expenses, he has parked his Pontiac Grand Am, borrowed a bicycle and is riding into work this week. He said the ride into work isn't too bad but the ride home is very hot and sweaty. This is a two fold benefit as it saves him money on fuel cost, and at the same time it's good exercise.

Riding a bike to work, isn't practical for me, but I'm taking my lunch so I don't have to drive to get my midday meal. I've set a goal of at least two - three days a week. The extra benefit of this for me is that it give me the opportunity to use the gym on site. I'm trying to take advantage of it too as part of a healthier life style.

At home we have replaced some of our light bulbs with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs. I have noticed they need time for their light to build up and provide the full amount of light. Once they "warm up" there is plenty of light but I can see a little difference in color from standard bulbs. But that isn't a concern for me.

We also use ceiling fans to move the air around and allow us to turn the thermostat a degree or two higher. I enjoy the gentle hum of the one in our bedroom and it lulls me off to sleep at night.

Stay tuned for more ways to save and reduce energy use. Most of the things I've mentioned are simple and anyone can do them. Of course not everyone can ride their bike to work, but look around and see where you can make changes in your daily life.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Minolta SRT 202

This is my first SLR camera. I purchased it in the 70s and it has served me very well over the years. It is, of course, a 35mm film camera and I am notorious for taking tons of pictures and never getting them developed. I do not expect to have the same problem with a digital camera that I can just download the pictures and order prints on-line if I want.

I also have a Fufifilm FinePix E510 digital camera that was my entry into the digital realm. So we currently have three working cameras in the house. I hate to think of how many other cameras may be laying around that are broken but we just haven't thrown away yet.

What cameras have you used over the years?
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New Camera - Part 3

In this photo I took a series of pictures of one flower and then using Picasa2 I made a collage then set it to multi-exposure. I used some of the tuning features to highlight the enter of the flower.

I am playing around but really like this for some reason.
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New Camera - Part 2

I took a series of pictures of a Rose of Sharon in our back yard, trying several different settings. The results are in the collage below. I'm learning about how the camera focuses. I have to pay close attention to what area is the point of focus. I'm sure if I'd take time to read the manual it would help, but hey who has time to read.... I will though ....eventually.
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New camera - Part 1

My new camera is a Canon Rebel XTi. I own a Minolta SRT 202 for with several lenses that are used depending on the type of photos I wanted to shoot. I bought the Minolta camera back in the 70s so everything is manual. I love this camera but have been spoiled by ability to see photos are they are taken in digital format. That is the reason I decided to get a new camera.

The new Canon has a setting for close up pictures. I love the tile around the top of our pool. since it is empty I was able to sit on the step and take some pictures.

In this first picture I took a straight on shot, angled just enough to eliminate the glare.

In this one I angled the camera to look down the wall.

In this one I angled more and raised the position of the camera.

So far I am very pleased.
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Friday, July 18, 2008

Camera and Memory Card have arrived

My new camera arrived on Wednesday. In a separate shipment the memory card and accessory kit arrived yesterday. Batteries are charged and starting tonight I plan to take all kinds of pictures all weekend. I have 2 GB of memory to fill up and will post about the experience Sunday night.

I can't wait to try all the features and figure out what all the buttons and wheels do. :-D

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Amish Friendship Bread

Several months ago my daughter-in-law gave me a starter bag for Amish Friendship Bread. My husband and I really liked it, but while baking bread every 10 days doesn't sound like a burden, in truth it was. Every time you get to the point of of baking bread, you also have 4 bags of starter mix. You either have to bake lots of bread in ten days or you have to find someone to take the starter or you toss it. So after a couple of rounds I finally just let it go. It's been a while and I had started thinking about how good the bread was.

Then about three weeks ago I was offered a starter again. It had been a while since the last one so I've started over again. However, this time I'm trying freezing some of the starters so I won't have to hunt someone with a spare starter mix.

This one was almost identical to the earlier recipe but this one calls for two additional ingredients. On baking day the final step calls for sour cream and baking soda to be mixed together and allowed to rise. It did seem to be a bit more moist and Hubs liked it a lot.

So if you see one of your friends walking around carrying gallon size Ziplock bags of starter
and a desperate look on their face, be kind and take a bag and join in the fun. You've got to love a recipe with instructions to "Mush the bag."

All the recipes for this bread has said "only the Amish know how to make the starter," however, after doing some searching I found several recipes for the bread as well as the starter. However, many of these recipes don't say to "Mush the bag." They instruct to stir with a wooden spoon.

Amish Friendship Bread
INGREDIENTS: Eggs, Oil, Whole Milk, Sugar, Flour, cinnamon, Baking Powder, Salt, Vanilla/Chocolate Instant Pudding, Sour Cream & Baking Soda

The instructions that follow are for that 1 cup (236ml) of starter that you have obtained from a friend.

Do NOT refrigerate the starter.
Do NOT use metal bowls or utensils
Let air out of bag as needed
It is normal for batter to bubble, ferment, and thicken

Day One - Do nothing. This is the day you received the batter.
Day Two - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Three - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Four - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Five - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Six - Add 1 cup (236ml) flour, 1 cup (236ml) sugar, 1 cup (236ml) milk. Seal bag, letting out as much air as possible. Mush thoroughly.
Day Seven - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Eight - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Nine - Mush bag two times during the day.
Day Ten -
  1. Squeeze the contents of the bag into a large bowl. Add to the bowl:
  2. 1 cup (236ml) flour,
  3. 1 cup (236ml) sugar,
  4. 1 cup (236ml) milk. Stir and
  5. measure out 4 - (1 cup/236ml) starters into one gallon Ziploc bags to give away, along with a copy of this recipe and instructions. Put the date and Day 1 on the bag. Don't forget to keep one bag of starter for yourself.

To bake: To the small amount left in the bowl, add 1 cup (236ml) oil, 1/2 c. (118ml) milk, 3 eggs, 1 tsp. (5ml) vanilla. Mix well and set aside. In another bowl, mix together 2 cups (473ml) flour, 1 cup (236ml) sugar, 1/2tsp. (3ml) baking powder, 2 tsp. (10ml) cinnamon, 1/2 tsp. (3ml) salt, 1/2tsp. (3ml) baking soda, 1 - 6 ounce (170g) box instant vanilla pudding mix, 1cup (236ml) chopped nuts (optional). In a small bowl, add 1/4 cup sour cream + 1/2 tsp baking soda. Allow the mixture to rise, then add it to the batter and mix well.

Add these ingredients to the first mixture. Mix well. Grease two 4 x 8 inch loaf pans. Sprinkle pans with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for one hour or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Tomorrow starts Day One on your starter.

Note: If you use self-rising flour, omit the salt and baking powder.

This is a very moist bread and there are lots of variations possible.

If you don't have a starter here is the recipe:

Things You’ll Need:

* 1 package of active dry yeast
* 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
* 3 cups white sugar, divided
* 3 cups milk

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.
Let stand 10 minutes. In a 2 quart container glass,
plastic or ceramic container, combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar.
Mix thoroughly or flour will lump when milk is added.
Slowly stir in 1 cup milk and dissolved yeast mixture.
Cover loosely and let stand until bubbly.
Consider this day 1 of the 10 day cycle.

I have not tried the starter recipe and can not vouch for its validity.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008


At the end of May I reported our son and daughter-in-law are expecting their first child and our first grandchild. This past Sunday I noticed she has the beginnings of a "bump." At approximately 15 weeks she is just beginning to show.

In anticipation of the baby's birth in January, I have ordered a Canon Rebel XTi camera. I figure everyone will sick of me practicing to use this camera by the time the baby arrives.

When it arrives I will write a review, but having talked with a couple of friends that have this camera already I fully expect to be extremely pleased.

I am very excited to get the camera and see what it can do. Then I plan to practice, practice, practice so I can take great shots of our grand baby. (Be prepared to be inundated with baby pictures around the first of the year.)


Homemade Window Cleaner using Vinegar

I try to save money everywhere I can. I also like to be "green" if possible. Recently I've begun researching recipes for cleaning products that I can make at home.

I decided to start with Window Cleaner. I found a recipe that works well but contains ammonia and I'd rather not use it because of the strong smell. I found several recipes that contain vinegar. I know vinegar can be used as a disinfectant so this seemed like the place to start.

Window Cleaner #1:
6 teaspoons of vinegar
1/2 teaspoons liquid dish soap
2 to 3 cups of water
A spray bottle
Combine the ingredients and pour into the spray bottle.

Window Cleaner #2:
Make a great all-purpose window cleaner by combining:
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon liquid soap or detergent
2 cups of water in a spray bottle.
Combine in a spray bottle. Shake to blend

Window Cleaner #3:
1 cup rubbing alcohol
1 cup water
1 tablespoon vinegar

Using isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar together makes a quickly evaporating spray glass and mirror cleaner that competes with national brands. This can also be used to give a nice shine to hard tiles, chrome, and other surfaces.

Spray on your windows and wipe. (the same as you would a regular brand)

I recommend white vinegar for all recipes.

If you try one of these recipes, I'd be interested to know what you think and which one you like best. My personal preference is recipe #3. It doesn't foam and I think is easier to remove from the glass surface.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Life Well Lived

This week a wonderful man passed from this life into the next. He left behind a wife and two children. But he also left behind hundreds of friends and more memories than can be counted. There aren't words to express the amazing happenings from his room at hospice this past week, but they will be memories I will always carry with me.

It didn't take long after meeting Jared, for me to know that he loved his family wholeheartedly and that singing was a huge part of his life. His love for God was apparent in all that he did. From our first meeting I liked him and was glad to call him my friend. He and his wife, Amy, are members of our church choir and frequently sang in the ensemble. He was a fireman and had loved firetrucks even as a child. It seems he was born to be a fireman. His children said he was great at being a dad. What a wonderful legacy to leave.

He loved deeply and was deeply loved. His fellow firemen collected money and sent the family on a trip to Hawaii earlier this year. They were able to make memories that will have to last his family a lifetime. He was able to attend the father - daughter dance in February. So many memories to carry with them.

Today was the funeral and it was an amazing service. Because Jared knew his disease was terminal, he had the opportunity to plan his own memorial service. The songs, scripture and who he wanted to speak. But the most amazing thing was he recorded a video message to those in attendance. It was totally Jared. He always liked to joke and laugh. He even found a bit of humor in this final recording. He was able to speak directly to his wife and children, one last time to tell them how much he loves them. He thanked co-workers and friends. But most importantly he was able to express his faith and belief in God. He encouraged us to search our hearts and make sure we each have a personal relationship with Jesus. He assured his family he will see them in heaven, where he has been healed, is without pain and disease free. His final concern was to share Jesus with all those he loves and the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus.
(John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.) He spoke of life being a vapor with no promise of tomorrow. (James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.) He was concerned about others right up to the end.

I admire him, am honored to have known him. Jared I miss you my friend, rest in God and I will see you again one day.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Product Review - SimpleTech 500 GB External Hard Drive

UPDATE: 05/26/2009 I CAN NOT RECOMMEND THIS PRODUCT! My new computer thinks the Simple Tech 500 GB External Hard drive is corrupt too. DO NOT Purchase this product. The company has NO CUSTOMER SERVICE and I fear I have lost many pictures that can not be replaced. #Fail

UPDATE 11/07/2008 - My computer is dead, but I have some good news. I have a friend that was able to slave the hard drive and we pulled all my documents and most importantly all my pictures were recovered. And we were able to use the SimpleTech drive. There weren't any problems encountered when we hooked it up. That leads me to believe the USB ports on my laptop were having issues before the other problems were obvious. So while I'm not impressed with SimpleTech's Customer Service, the product is still performing well.

UPDATE 09/30/2008 - I'm having serious problems with my computer and I will have to get that fixed before I pursue the problem with the external hard drive. Hope to update this post soon after I get my computer repaired.

UPDATE 09/07/2008 - SimpleTech doesn't have a Customer Support phone number listed on their web site, so I have submitted a request for Technical Assistance. The form is called an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) I will update what comes of that as soon as possible.

UPDATE 09/03/2008 - I have begun to have problems accessing the external drive. Neither computer is recognizing it. I am trying to determine if it is a problem with the drive or my aging computers.... I will update again after speaking with Customer Service.

We have two computers that are aging and hard drives that are filling up. We needed a solution to backup our files and protect from data loss should the hard drive crash. We've had several scares when our desktop didn't want to boot. Now I work in IT and know we should have made arrangements for a backup solution long ago but, I just always put it off. The final straw was my husband's concern that all his documents and spreadsheets might be lost during the last boot failure about a month ago. I googled and asked friends and co-workers and former co-workers for advise. It came down to what was going to meet our needs. Once I determined what was out there I shopped on since I had $60 in gift cards.

Our computers are older, Windows XP Pro and XP Home, and since I wanted to provide a backup for two computers an internal drive was eliminated as an option right off the bat. Secondly, neither have Hi-Speed USB ports. I was concerned that the models that did not have an external power source might not do the job. An External Device with a Power Source was important to us.

We have two computers so the ability to use the device on more than one computer was very important. Hard drive size range from 120 GB to 500 GB and prices from $80 to $175. We looked at several brands, Seagate, Western Digital and SimpleTech, and decided on the SimpleTech model.

The model purchased is considered a desktop drive and the overall size a bit larger than the portable model. It was cheaper and since it won't be traveling more than one room to another, this wasn't a problem for us.

Important factors: ability to use the drive on multiple computers & External Power Source.

I was impress with the ease of setting up and how quickly I was able to get the first backup running. On my laptop I installed the software from the CD so I could schedule a backup job. Once that was done there were several options for what I wanted to to do. One was to search the entire hard drive for file types that I wanted backed up making the process very automated. It searched for documents, spreadsheets, presentations and media files. Then it backed up up the selected files to the hard drive. Future backups can be faster by selecting to backup files that have been changed since the last backup. A one touch backup can be setup too.

Our desktop computer is older than my laptop and it wouldn't read the CD so I decided I'd just have to manually select the files and copy them to the drive. However, that is when I discovered the software was also on the hard drive and I was able to install it from there and once again have it search the hard drive for "user files" This computer has two participation and it scanned both the C: and D: drives in the same process making the entire process very simple.

We've now had this device for about a month and I'm completely satisfied with our purchase.

7200 RPM HDD
Compact Design: 5.0" (H) x 8.25" (D) x 1.50" (W)
USB 2.0 and 1.1 compliant (data transfer rate up to 480 Mb/sec)

Prices range from $99 to $150 depending on the vendor.

This review is entirely my personal opinion, so take it for what it is - just my 2 cents worth.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Be Prepared - Update Fuel Savings Too

A while back I signed up for a service to help me save money on groceries. When I realized they were scanning the sale papers for the local grocery stores where I shop, I canceled the service and started doing it myself.

The three grocery stores in my neighborhood are Kroger, Publix and Aldi. (Often you have to determine if the savings is enough to drive from store to store, however, in my neighborhood all three stores are across the street from the other. That makes going to multiple stores more practical for me than it would if the stores were several miles apart.) They all have web sites with their weekly ad and other helpful pages like a menu planner, coupon offers and recipes. Kroger also offers a "Kroger Plus" card with additional savings. They also send coupons based on what I have purchased in the past. I've heard some complaints about having our shopping habits tracked, but I don't mind since it is used to save me money on the items I purchase.

Before I head out to shop I make a grocery list of the items we need. Then I review all the ads. On my list I mark the store and price for each item. Then I sort the list by the store and plan my route starting with the store where I can purchase most of the non-perishable items. Then I move on to the next store and try to purchase most of the perishable or frozen items from the last store.

In the hot summer months I often throw a cooler and some ice in the the car to keep the fresh items from spoiling or thawing.

Now this does take time and planing, but when I follow through with this plan we always save on our grocery bill.

This isn't for everyone, but with gas and food prices soaring ever
y penny saved helps. For me it is worth the time and effort it takes.

There is another feature of the Kroger Plus card that can save you $ on gas. Some Kroger stores also has a fueling station on site. They offer 3 cents off the regular price of fuel which is a nice savings. However, for every $100 spent on groceries you get an additional 7 cents for a total of $.10 per gallon. They also offer a credit card that gives another 5 cents discount. I do not have this card and can't say anything else about it. I do not know what interest rate or terms are offered on the card at this time. I do plan on checking it out and will update again after I do so..

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our Weekend in TN

This past weekend, we went to East Tennessee to my brother and sister-in-law's place in the country. They purchased the land years ago and plan to build a home there soon. Right now they stay in their camper parked under a pole barn. That keeps the midday sun off and allows them to stay much cooler. She has planted flowers, and decorated the trees making it their home even though they don't have a permanent house yet.

The day we were there the temperature was in the eighty's but with the breeze and being under the shed allowed us to feel very comfortable. There is a lovely creek that flows through their property and there is a fishing hole around the bend. The children and some of the adults took time to wade in the creek in the heat of the afternoon.

Coming from metro Atlanta the quiet of the place was very soothing to my spirit. If we weren't about to be grandparents in a few months we might consider moving to the mountains ourselves. It was so very peaceful without the traffic and urban noises we live with every day at home.

But we have our obligations at home. I have a full time job and we love our church so there are many reasons to stay put. ...but when we are in the mountains, my spirit does seem to want to stay. Perhaps some day we will do just that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What If?

As I rush around this morning getting ready for my day, I wonder, if I'm being the best person I can be? Am I taking the time to tell my family and friends I love them? Am I smiling at a stranger as I pass by or am I scowling as I think of what I have to do next?

A story on the news this morning is about a highway
being closed due to a bad car wreck and I found myself wondering, What is my fate for the day? I'm sure the person in the vehicle that flipped didn't plan on that happening today. What if that was me? When I left the house this morning, my husband was still asleep. I tried to dress quietly and not disturb him. But what if, that wreck had been me? Would I have done differently if I knew my future? What if it had been me? What if today is my last?

When it's my time, will I be remembered as a person that cared, that took that moment to smile and show kindness? Frankly I'd rather be remembered as loving, caring, helpful, and friendly rather than always being on time or being efficient. If someone I care about doesn't know I care, I've been a failure. If a stranger that sees me everyday doesn't view me as friendly, happy and approachable,
that doesn't speak well of me as a person.

I'm sure I am having these thoughts because we had the memorial service for John's father over the weekend. When he passed in January the weather was really bad and it was too dangerous to travel to the family cemetery in the mountains of East Tennessee, so we planned it for the last weekend in June. The weekend was bittersweet in that it was wonderful to get together with family and friends again, but it was another final goodbye too.
Even knowing why I'm having these feelings, I still wonder "What If?"

What if this is my last chance to.....?

What about you?