Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 Was A Good Year

In a few hours 2014 will be here and 2013 will live only in our memories, good or bad, and in history books with little emphasis given to what actually made up all the events of the year.  Some events will be singled out and discussed at length while others, often with more profound results will hide between the lines of everyday life.

Among other things, Judy and I celebrated our 41st year of marriage in 2013.  That alone made it a good year for us, but there were some medical issues, unusual expenses to deal with, a new car to get used to, places to visit and things to do that kept us on the go.  I can't think of a single complaint with any of them. 

And we're both ending the year with modest success in our diets.  But today we decided to treat ourselves to some Chinese food.  Aaaaaaaaa... yes, it was good, and we even had leftovers for tonight. 

By 9:00 pm we will feel the weight of heavy eyelids a lot more than the desire to watch the ball drop. 

And tomorrow morning we will start all over again.  Perhaps 2014 is the year that all the people on Earth will stop fighting.  I know it won't happen, but if it's not to be, there's always 2015 when we can try again.

Happy New Year everyone...

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Christmas 2013

Once again we drove to New Orleans (actually Metairie) to celebrate Christmas with Judy's sister, Joyce, husband Allen, Sons David and Chase, and Chase's girlfriend, Cheryl. 

Allen was still laid up from surgery on his ankle and shoulder, so we helped Joyce with the cooking duties.

As usual, we all had a great time opening gifts Christmas Eve.  So Christmas Day was a little more laid back and relaxing.  But we did stay busy.

I took almost 300 photos and edited them down to enough to make a movie that will pretty much show how much fun we had.  Here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3T7ZADJBb0

The drive over was peaceful but the drive home was a tad crowded.  But we made it home safe and sound and are ready to ring in the New Year.  Well, maybe let someone else actually 'ring' it in because by 9:00 pm the bed is looking really good.  Plus, we already know the New Year is going to be a good one.  It always is...

Happy New Year

Sunday, December 22, 2013

My Magic Toboggan

by Leroy McMillin

 
'twas the night before Christmas,
and all through the Coop,
not a pot needed stirring,
not even for some soup...

I was 'a nap'n all snug in my chair,
and Judy was up and about but I'm not sure where.
Suddenly, visions of Christmassy stuff flooded my noggin',
And Vixen was needing a ride on my toboggan...

She had been with Rudolph out on a date
and had returned home much too late.
But Santa had a tight schedule to keep,
and he flew off with a frown and a (bleep)...

It was too late for the Elves to start a search,
Santa would just have to be in a lurch.
Could Santa's seven other reindeer keep up the pace,
could they make it in time to every last place???

I could just hear Santa grumble about the schedule to keep,
"On Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and (Bleep),
On Comet, and Cupid, and Donner, and Blitzen"
With a lot of luck his schedule he might keep...

"WAKE UP LEROY... Here in your chair you can't be staying."
The strange little voice in my head was saying.
"We have to hurry fast or this could be Christmas last!"  
Christmas Last, Christmas Last!!! I've got to wake up fast...

I awoke with a startle to say the least.
And suddenly thought why am I talking to a beast?
Then Vixen explained what we had to do,
And I said, "Not until I've been to the loo..."

I jumped in my pants and pulled on a sweater,
Then I thought I should write Judy a letter.
But what could I say that made any sense?
So I just wrote "I'm off to catch Santa whence..."

Then off to the garage to get my toboggan,
with Vixen's words still in my noggin'.
Then it dawned on me that toboggans can't fly right,
to which Vixen said, "This one will tonight..."

And with a twitch of her tail and in a blink of her eye,
we were way, way up into the night sky.
We immediately headed north toward the Pole,
Hoping to catch Santa while he was still in the cold...

LOOK!  LOOK!  There off to the right!
It was Santa ready to stop at the house with the light.
We landed on the roof right next to his sleigh.
And we all knew at once that we had saved the day... 

With Vixen now in her harness and Santa all aglow
I knew it was now time for me to go.
And on my way home on my Magic Toboggan,
I thought of what a glorious night and my eyes started fogg'n...

I made it home just in the nick of time.
My Judy was just waking and everything was just fine.
I waited a bit before I told her my story.
And she listened and let me bask in my glory...

Then she said, "But you have no toboggan."
All of this was just a dream in your noggin'."
I suddenly realized that she must be right.
No matter though, It was a wonderful night...

 

 

 

Friday, December 20, 2013

New Furniture for the Back Porch

Well, not really 'New' but it's new to us, and it was free. 

It all started when Judy saw it listed on FreeCycle.  It's a site where you can offer pretty much anything of value for free to someone who might can use it.  Of course it works both ways so those who receive items are expected to donate things too.  It's a good way to keep one person's "trash" out of the landfill by making it someone else's "treasure."

In this instance, a woman advertised that she had a "Solid Oak Sideboard" she was offering to the first person who wanted it and could come get it.  She did not post a photo so our first thought was that it was in such bad shape that we might be able to get some good oak lumber out of it.

Boy were we wrong...  This thing was built "at least 70 years ago" according to the owner.  It has hardware that dates it to about the 1930's or 40's.  Yes, it was a bit beat up but all the parts were in place and were solid.

I briefly worked on it to fix one of the drawer-pulls but that was it.

Take a look at our really nice (free) treasure.


 


Looks like it was made for our porch.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Danger Averted Due To An Electrical Problem

Yes, the Chicken Ranch was in serious danger of going up in smoke due to an unknown/unseen electrical problem.

I finally called an electrician after my low-level troubleshooting efforts did not determine why there was a power failure in one line of wall plugs in our detached garage/workshop. It should have been a routine fix for me but nothing made sense about it.

We still had power everywhere else, just not that particular line of wall plugs.

So the young man came and patiently listened to my troubleshooting story, then started looking for himself.  But it took a few minutes to figure out where the problem was. And it wasn't in the garage. It was in the main electrical panel where all those 'flipper' things are located. Not only that but it was the Big-Daddy Flipper, the Main Breaker. Here's a photo of what was happening:



Smoke marks...

And here's the breaker.



Melt marks...

And here's the young man installing a whole new box with more horsepower than the old one.



Dollar marks...

$1,700 and change. But we'll sleep better for it.

Just saying, if you live in an older house that was built for 1980's or before technology, you may want to get a licensed electrician to inspect your house, especially if you tend to be a do-it-yourselfer electrician.

Scary stuff, electricity.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

40th Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 40th wedding anniversary.  Yep, December 1, 1973, Metairie, Louisiana.

I like to think that we have been married all our lives but it wasn't until 40 years ago that we found each other.  And things just got better and better after that.

Today we started off our day with two new rings with the endless Celtic knot, a fitting example of our endless love and devotion to each other.


Instead of a spectacular cruise to celebrate our 40th year, we opted to buy a new car earlier in the year.  Hopefully, both of us and the car will still be running when we celebrate our 50th.  If so, we will plan one hum-dinger of an anniversary treat for ourselves.

Thanks for all the congratulations and best wishes.  They mean a lot to us.

Oh, even though we're celebrating our 'wedding' date, I will probably keep telling everyone I won Judy in a poker game in New Orleans.  Some of those I've told that story to actually asked if I won or lost. 

Just so everyone will know, I WON!!!



Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Diet Time Again

Judy and I both decided today that we don't care for what we see in the mirror - US...  There's way too much of us...

Not only do we not like what we see in the mirror, but our clothes don't fit, we can't sleep well, we have no energy, our muscles ache and we generally feel miserable.  Even my shoes don't fit, making daily life even more miserable.  And that's not the worst of it - our health is probably taking the brunt of all that is wrong with our current lifestyle.

So back to the drawing board.  This picture has got to change.

Where do we start?  Well, we re-read the first (and most important) part of The South Beach Diet.  It's the only diet book/plan that ever made sense/worked for us.

 
 
We both did this diet a few years ago and found it to be purposely easy, not difficult or stressful to follow as with many other diets, and it produced noticeable results in a short period of time.
 
And wouldn't you know it, we picked that worst possible time to make the decision to go on a diet - Thanksgiving is only ten days away.  And we're having family over for the holiday and that means two days of food and more food.  And four weeks later we will be in New Orleans for Christmas and another round of 'food.'
 
But we're determined to make this work and get us back down to a reasonable size, so we'll be going light on all the things that make Thanksgiving what it's known for - food. 
 
If things go well over the next ten days we will be smaller by a few ounces, if not pounds, and we will feel a lot better both literally and about ourselves.
 
I'm keeping a record of my weight and blood pressure starting this morning.  I want to be able to see my progress on a chart that I can share with my cardiologist and my regular doctor, both of whom are encouraging me to lose weight. 
 
If we keep to it like before, we will both notice physical changes in our bodies within a couple of days, followed quickly by weight loss.  But we know this fast weight loss is not to be confused with real weight loss.  It's mostly water.  But we also know that as our body adjusts to the daily lack of carbs and becomes more accustomed to matabolizing food that is healthy without the heavy penalty of carbs, we will begin to see noticeable changes.
 
By two weeks we will be able to re-introduce carbs back into our diet.  Only we won't be craving them as we do now.  This is the key to the lifestyle change South Beach promises and lives up to.  And it works just as they say it will. 
 
Last time, after the initial two week weaning off carbs period, I was consistently losing two pounds a day and felt good about it.  I didn't miss my bread or potatoes or grits or any of the 'white' foods I was so used to eating, more out of habit than anything else.  I was not hungry either.  And I could have skipped the mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks entirely but I was determined to stick with the plan.  I'm glad I did.  My blood pressure settled down, I had more energy and stamina, my brain functioned better, my muscles didn't ache and I slept better.  And more important, I was losing weight instead of adding it.
 
So now I'm off to weigh and take my blood pressure after having my scrambled egg, orange juice and coffee breakfast.
 
I'll keep you posted...
 
Update: 11-21-13
 
Here's what the diet results are as of this morning:
 

   Date           Blood Pressure         Pulse       Weight

11-19-13            118/52                     68           311.8

11-20-13            123/59                     71           309.2

11-21-13            124/62                     76           304.6

11-22-13            120/57                     72           303.0

11-23-13            114/52                     76           301.0

11-24-13            125/64                     73           299.4
 
Uh Oh!  Looks like Thanksgiving got in the way of my diet.
 
11-30-13          127/66                    72          301.2
 
Back on track
 
12-05-13            116/61                     69           295.2


12-06-13            120/58                     78           296.2

12-07-13            119/60                     68           295.8

12-08-13            124/54                     72           294.2
 


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bank Fraud Attempt on Me with Follow-ups

With all the unabated crime in the world we consider ourselves lucky to have avoided becoming a victim to it.

But today we apparently became a victim of some form of identity theft when someone requested to open an account with Capital Bank using our name and personal information.

As we understand it, when anyone tries to open an account, a routine check is made with the credit bureaus to make sure there are no problems. Apparently, someone with our personal information applied for an account and a Red Flag prompted the bank to call us to confirm whether or not we had tried to open an account. We had not, so that made it a fraud matter, and the account was promptly stopped before any charges occurred.

Then we were turned over to a credit bureau where we were asked questions related to the incident. We knew nothing and gave an affidavit attesting to our lack of knowledge or involvement in the matter.

Now the credit bureau will flag our name so that whenever any new account is opened in our name, we will be immediately contacted to confirm or deny that we are opening the account. This action will be shared with the other credit bureaus and continue for seven years.

Besides scaring the peanut butter out of us thinking it might be someone phishing for our information (which they already had) or trying to confirm it for some other ulterior motive, such as issuing a credit card which we don't need or want, we were reluctant to answer questions without a lot of questions of our own.

We were also encouraged to file a report with our local police department so that they will have the incident on record should fraud activity be detected that is associated with our name.

We promptly received a confirmation via email of the incident report and instructions on how we can protect ourselves.

Within minutes I received a call from American Express's Fraud Division asking if we had recently tried to open an account with them. No... So they killed the account before any approval was given and will call us in the future anytime an account is requested in our name.

I'm sure we will be receiving more calls in the next few days.

I'm still worried that something might get through the crack and put a blemish on our credit history, but I'm also relieved that the system is working to protect me.


12/9/13 4:30 pm

The Police just left after taking our statement and gathering information about the fraud activity.  We had called them after receiving a copy of a denial letter saying the request for credit to purchase a car in Laporte, Texas (Near Houston) was turned down.  The guy said he was calling from Florida to buy a car for his son in Texas.

The girl at the car dealer smelled a rat and rejected the credit request and we received the notice.  It was the only way we knew what was going on.

But Detective Trainee Judy saw the letter as an opportunity to gather more information about the SOB trying to pull this crime off.  So she called the car dealer.  He immediately referred her to their accountant.  Judy explained everything and was successful in getting more information emailed to us, including an AOL email address of the Perp.  I promptly notified AOL that we are not the person claiming to be us and asked them to take appropriate action.  I probably should have waited because the Police may have been able to trace the email address back to a computer, and thus to the Perp. I still haven't heard from AOL as of 5:25 PM today.

While I was doing that, Judy was calling the Police.  The Police lady arrived about five minutes later, apparently thinking there was a crime in progress at our address.  It took a few minutes to explain everything, and wouldn't you know it, we got another call while the Police was still here. This time it was from Capital One Bank wanting to confirm that we had applied for a credit card.  Of course we had not and the application was rejected when I explained what was happening.

So this Perp is trying hard to make it work, but keeps running into rejections.

I wish he would give up and leave us alone.

Now I've got to sign some documents to mail to the credit bureau confirming that I am a victim and an affidavit saying I had no part in the fraud attempt.

I'm sure there are lots of flags up beside our name by now.  Good... Makes me feel better.



Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Celebration of Life for a Friend

While we were in Florida for the Mini-Fest, enjoying food and fun with some of our many Egghead Friends, another friend was dying of a heart attack back in my old home town of Harrisonburg, Louisiana where he and his wife settled.

 
Joe Leonard Green 1936 - 2013
 
We learned of it the following day while in route home to Texas.  It was a shock of course, but as a 77 year old with a number of medical issues, not totally unexpected.

So we made our way home and left a few days later to attend a Celebration of Life for him.  There was no funeral because he donated his body to science, a sort of unselfish final act of generosity so that something good could come of his passing.   That's the kind of man he was.

His wife of 50 years and I grew up together in that small town and have been 'forever friends' as we went our separate ways.  She and Joe retired and moved back into her family home overlooking the Ouachita River just above the Village of Harrisonburg.  It is a beautiful and tranquil place far removed from the fast pace of city life.  And it was well suited to his naturally curious and friendly way with people.

Harrisonburg is also where Joe began his career coaching basketball, all the while continuing to grow his academic career, and eventually moving to college and university campuses in a number of cities.  In each place they landed, they made new friends.  It was their nature to do so.

A lot of those friends also came to Harrisonburg to celebrate his life.  We can easily understand why they came, they too loved the man.

I took the liberty to bring a camera to capture some of the event to show to those who could not be there.

Here is the link to the video I assembled:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BsirC20eu-Y

I hope you enjoy it.

Friday, November 08, 2013

Mini Fest 2013 - Melbourne, Florida

We promised ourselves to one day attend the Mini Fest in Melbourne, Florida.  So this was the year and we had a great time.  Saw some old friends and made some new ones, ate some fabulous food, consumed a lot of adult beverages and just took advantage of the Atlantic Ocean being right outside our window.

 
Naturally, there were Big Green Eggs and Eggheads and food.
 
 
There's more but I'm tired and need a nap.
 
 
 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Birdhouses

As a woodworker, I enjoy making things because some of those 'things' can be beautiful, like these birdhouses.  For the last few days I've been making these:


 
Building them isn't that difficult but does required a certain amount of patience.  I'm not known for having patience so the level of difficulty goes up the moment I start to saw the parts.
 
I'm trying to decide if I want to sell them on the side of the road.  Probably not, but I'm curious as to how much people would pay to own one.  It really doesn't matter because I've already had my joy in building them.
 
 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Judy wanted an elevated bed garden

So I put on my 'thinking cap' and went to work.  Here's a pictorial account of my efforts.















And I didn't do it alone.  Judy helped all the way.

Come harvest time, we will be known as the Thousand Dollar Tomato.  But it will have been worth it to keep my Sweetie happy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

CNN News iReport on Eggheads

In July 2009, we headed to Alaska for that long awaited Alaskan Cruise.  It was fun for sure and I compiled a series of videos of the trip that can be seen on YouTube.  Just click on the "My YouTube Videos" link on the home page if you would like to see them.

But before we left, we learned that CNN was doing a special on back yard grill masters and we thought we would enter something to show how much we enjoy barbecuing and grilling in our own back yard.  So I signed up as an iReporter and submitted my version of back yard cooking.

Naturally, I spiced the story up a bit telling about the Chicken Ranch and Coop and Big Green Eggs and Eggheads and anything else I could throw in, along with photos and videos.

Well, wouldn't you know it, we received an email back from the Producer, saying they wanted to do a spin off on just Eggheads, and asked me to send more information. 

I didn't have much time to send anything else because we were packing to leave for Alaska, but I threw together some more information and suggested they contact BGE in Atlanta. 

Then we left for 10 days.

When we returned home the answering machine was full, there were lots of emails to read and a friend from Florida said she saw the CNN show.

Well, we couldn't figure out how to see anything other than the hard copy on CNN's site but it was fun to read.  Here's the link: http://www.cnn.com/2009/LIVING/07/09/eggheads.irpt/

Every once in a while I check to see how many people have clicked on my contribution to the article.  As of today, four years later, it has gown to 11,658 hits on mine alone. 

But that's not the end of the story.  Nope, it was such a hit that the Producer wrote later to ask if I could put together any other newsworthy articles about Eggheads for them.  I probably could have but I got wind that the number of hits on the Big Green Egg web site crashed the site, all because of the CNN article.  This was confirmed by a BGE executive earlier this year when the subject came up at an Eggfest.  Her exact words were, "So YOU'RE the guy!!!....."

Needless to say, I'm sure there were a few, if not thousands of Big Green Eggs sold as a direct result of mine and other Egghead's participation and contribution to the CNN piece.  But did we get an 'attaboy' or 'thank you' or maybe even a gift certificate from Big Green Egg?  Nope!  Not a single word of thanks from them.  So there's not a lot of incentive for me to do anything that might further enrich BGE. (although like all Eggheads, we still talk it up a lot).

But I've been thinking on it some, and with the constantly growing popularity of Eggfests, now may be a great time to do another story for CNN. 

We'll see....


Monday, August 26, 2013

Leroy's Stress Test

It all started last week when I visited my cardiologist's office for a routine checkup.  He was out and had made arrangements for his Medical Assistant, Tina, to check me over.  I actually considered it to be a good sign that he really wasn't worried too much about the outcome.  Otherwise, he would have referred me to another cardiologist or postponed the appointment until he returned.

But the visit went very well.  Judy and I liked Tina very much.  She was very professional and very thorough with her questions of me and with her answers to our questions.  She took her time with us, a rarity in the medical field, and even hugged us on the way out.  Yes, we enjoyed the visit.

However, during the course of the exam it became increasingly clear that I should have more than just this brief visit.  After all, it had been over six years since my heart attack in January 2007.  In addition to becoming seven years older, I had grown a lot, about forty pounds to be exact.  And in spite of all my blood-work numbers being good, my blood-pressure readings being in the 125/56 range and my quarterly visits to my doctors being normal, there was enough concern that I should undergo a carotid duplex to measure blood flow in my carotid arteries, and a stress Echocardiogram to view the wall motion of the heart before and after the exercise, along with my ECG and blood pressure being monitored while on the treadmill.

In other words, the first steps toward seeing if more steps were necessary.

Well, I did all the tests today and we won't know the actual results for a few days but so far, so good.  My cardiologist was in the room monitoring my progress during the stress test and he mentioned repeatedly that it looks good, my heart is strong and he sees no problems so far.  We'll know more after he analyzes the data.

However, I ran out of steam on the treadmill at a few heartbeat points below where they would have liked me to have reached.  His conclusion was that it was because I'm out of shape.

I was about to mention that 'round' is a shape and I'm pretty round, but I thought better of it.  He could easily see that. 

So I'm guessing that when we see him again in about three weeks I believe he will tell me my heart is good while strongly encouraging me to lose some weight.

I can live with that...


PS... I had my follow-up visit with my doctor and he confirmed what he said during the tests, that the test results were good and my heart is strong.  I'm just overweight and out of shape.  So it's back to eating bushes, fruit and smaller portions of everything.  I also switched to wine rather than my rum and cokes, but even then it will be less frequent and less volume.  Bread and pizza will have to be reduced too, as will Cheetos and cheese and greasy hamburgers and bacon and ........  KRAP!!!  I'm gonna die...

Monday, August 19, 2013

Magic Mini Moments VI - The Movie

Since most of you know me for my enthusiasm for the Big Green Egg, you are probably aware of the videos I have assembled over the years highlighting the wonderful images of cooks done on the Mini Big Green Egg by Mini owners.

There are now six movies reflecting between 150 and 200 photos each and I must say, I'm always amazed at the creativity my fellow Eggheads have when it comes to cooking on the Mini.

But along with their creativity I think there's some magic involved too... probably from the Mini itself.  Once you watch my latest Magic Mini Moments VI movie, I think you may agree.

http://youtu.be/3-wFZ3MdCxY

Oh, and if you are looking to purchase a really nice Christmas gift for someone special, this is one gift that will keep on giving for the rest of their lives.

Click here to find the Big Green Egg Dealer closest to you:

http://www.biggreenegg.com/locator/

And be sure to tell the lucky person to visit the Big Green Egg chat rooms where we Eggheads will gladly help them get started.

GreenEggers.com             http://www.greeneggers.com/

EggheadForum.com         http://eggheadforum.com/

These sites are the best place to grow their cooking skills and see fantastic recipes, usually with photos of the entire process from start to finish.  And they can always ask questions without feeling embarrassed.  We Eggheads truly want them to enjoy the Big Green Egg EGGsperience from their very first day as an Egghead...

Thursday, August 15, 2013

50th Wedding Anniversary Celebration and Weekend On The Guadalupe River

Judy's brother, Curtis and his wife, Sandra, from Kerrville, Texas are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this month.  Their son and daughter decided to surprise them with a nice gathering of friends and family at their favorite restaurant, Mamacita's.



Judy decided to add to the festivities by renting a cabin on the Guadalupe River in nearby Center Point, Texas. 



It turned out to be a very nice weekend.

Here are two videos I put together to better explain why it was so much fun.  

The first is at the restaurant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMQ4FWV4pBQ

The second one is at the cabin.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQt-VWg4vLc

Congratulations Sandra and Skipper.

Friday, July 05, 2013

My Truck Got New Shoes



It hasn't been that long ago that we talked seriously about selling my 2002 Chevy Avalanche because we had just bought the 2013 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.   Well, we're glad we decided to keep it. 

Besides it being my favorite vehicle in like 'forever,' it does have its advantages.  The size alone makes it easy and comfortable for me to get in and out, and drive for long distances, not to mention carrying a much larger payload of gear and luggage.  That really comes in handy, especially when we cook at Eggfests.  We need tables and chairs and ice chests and gear boxes and an assortment of other items depending on where we're going and what we're doing before and after the Eggfest.  We may even want to take a Big Green Egg with us.  And sometimes we're delivering something large to someone or bringing something back.  None of this kind of 'stuff' will fit into the Toyota. 

Yes, I love my truck...

So keeping the truck was a good decision.  But it comes at a price.  Like yesterday while at a restaurant for lunch, Judy noticed a side-wall puncture in the right front tire of the truck.  Not good, especially in the Texas summer heat when road surfaces can be extremely hot and capable of blowing out weak tires.

We probably had 8k to 10k more miles left on the tires but decided to change them out now.  We drove across the highway to Sam's Club and got four new tires.  And while we were at it we had them put in a new battery.  Batteries don't last forever either and ours was a little over three years old.

Now we have an 11 year old truck with a new transmission, new fuel pump, new wipers, new battery, new tires and new panel in the driver's seat where it gets the most wear.  And it only has just over 90k miles on it.  And it is still looking as good as the day we bought it, minus a few small 'age spots.'

Even better, I built some new cabinets in the garage that allows me to park the truck in the short side and still have 1" clearance for the garage door to come down.  The Toyota fits nicely in the long side of the garage close to the side door.  That makes it much easier for us to navigate inside the garage without opening the garage door.  In addition, it allows me to easily back out the Toyota so I can set up my Total Gym to do my exercises (yes, I do them and actually enjoy doing them).

So with our most recent investment in the truck I think it's pretty obvious that we will be keeping it for a few more years.  And I feel relieved of all that worrying about losing it. 

Sometimes, you don't recognize the value of something until you lose it.  In this case, I didn't have to lose it to recognize its value. 

Did I mention that I love my truck...

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

2,000 Miles Later, We're Back...

Judy and I left for New Orleans on Friday, May 10th.  It was an intermediate stop before continuing on to Hiawassee, Georgia.  We left New Orleans Monday morning and continued to Montgomery, Alabama, then drove on to Helen, Georgia after stopping at the Big Green Egg corporate offices in Tucker, Georgia.  We could have driven on to Hiawassee 20 miles away, but decided to spend the night in Helen.  It is a quant little German Village right on the Chattahoochee River.  We stayed in an old hotel right on the river.  Very peaceful.

The main purpose of our trip was to attend the Georgia Mountain Eggfest in Hiawassee, Georgia.  Needless to say, we had a lot of fun.  A video of the event can be seen here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLdHXA9haqI

But it was what we did along the way that we enjoyed most.

For example, on Saturday morning in New Orleans (Actually Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans) we visited with Judy's sister to celebrate our two birthdays.  Joyce and I share May 8th, just 10 years apart. 

Then we coaxed Joyce's son, David, to drive me over to the Big Green Egg dealer so I could get something too large for my car.

Of course, this was all arranged ahead of time but we asked to speak to Fred, the store owner, and introduced him to David.  That's when he told David his Egg was ready and is being loaded in his truck.  David was totally surprised. 




He will be in for a lifetime of enjoyment cooking on his Big Green Egg.

We encouraged him to come up with a 'handle' for himself and participate on the GreenEggers.com chat room.  We know he like to play darts and is quite good at it, so why not use "Dart Vegger" which identifies him as a Dart player and as an Egger.  He likes it and immediately registered his new handle on the forum.

We enjoyed our visit but they had to return to work and we had to leave for Hiawassee.

Our drive to Montgomery was uneventful until we got a little hungry.  Well, there's not a lot of roadside restaurants so we decided to go off route and find a small town with a local restaurant where everyone ate.  We found it in Ardmore, Alabama.  Busters Restaurant looked the part and the lot was full.  It had to be some good, down-home food.

Of course, we got the 'stranger's in town' look when we walked in, because I was wearing my bright yellow, "I'm an Egghead" shirt.  We sat down and the waitress came right over and smiled brightly as she announced that she was an Egghead too, and she loved her Egg.  She was much too busy to chat but we thought "small world" the entire time we were there.

We spent the night in Montgomery, went to bed early and slept late.  Nothing happened there but a few hours later we were in Big Green Egg's store at their HQ in Tucker.  Naturally, I bought a lot of stuff.  More importantly, I met the store manager, Terry McMillian.  What a nice surprise, another McMillin, only we spelled our name differently.  There we were, him black and me white, talking about our ancestors.  Funny...  I called him 'cuz.'  Very nice young man.  I wish we could have talked longer.

We left there and drove on up to Helen, Georgia and spent the night in the Helendorf Inn. It's one of the oldest and largest inns in Helen, and is right on the banks of the river. 



We had dinner, went to bed early, slept late and toured the town the next morning before driving the 20 miles to Hiawassee.

Along the way we also stopped to look at a mountain cabin on the water that got my attention in the real estate listings.  It was nice but too small to live in and too far away to weekend in.






A couple of hours later we started hugging friends from all over as they started arriving for the Eggfest.  I'll talk about the Eggfest later in another post because there's a lot to talk about.




Wednesday night we had dinner at John and Joan Hall's house on the mountain.  It was delicious and we were among friends. 

 
And we were looking out over the entire world from their balcony.





The Eggfest itself was really great.  We got to see a lot of old friends and make new ones.  We didn't cook this time and that gave us plenty of time to visit with some of the 1,000 + people who came to see what the Big Green Egg is all about.

We awoke early on Sunday morning and drove straight home.  Yes, it was 927 miles and had it not been for bladders and leaving on a half tank of gas, we could have made it with only one fuel stop.  We arrived home at 9:30 pm Sunday, 5-19-13.  14 hours.  Yes, as a matter of fact I am still very tired.

Yes, we're going again in 2014.  Meanwhile, here's the link again to the video I prepared of the Eggfest.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wLdHXA9haqI

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Happy 72nd Birthday to Me

Well, I made it to 72, not that I didn't expect it.  I come from pretty good blood lines and my Texas driver's license clearly says I don't expire until May 2017.  And yes, I will take advantage of the renewal provision when the time comes. 

Meanwhile, I'm going into 72 in reasonably good health according to all my doctors.  More times than not, they just say "keep doing what I'm doing."

Tonight we're celebrating with some Mexican food, including a couple of margaritas.  There will likely be some pineapple upside down cake involved afterward because my Sweetie made one for me.

All day long I've received happy birthday wishes by phone, email, Facebook and on the Green Eggers Forum.  Everyone sounded sincere with their good wishes.  I even bought a Lottery ticket with my birthday numbers on it.  Yes, just one.  Any more would be throwing money away.

And to top it off, I still look good for 72.  Take a look.  It's okay to agree with me.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Computers - Love 'em / Hate 'em

I love my computer.  Well, most of the time.  But sometimes it has a mind of its own (pun intended) and really ticks me off with some of the things it does for no apparent reason other than to tick me off.

I finally had a bait of it and took it in to the Geek Squad before my extended service plan ran out.  My main complaint was that it would suddenly lose the wireless connection to my router.  I knew it was the computer and not the router because none of the other computers were affected. 

The nice young man first tried to solve the problem on the spot and thought he had but as I pointed out to him, I had also 'solved' the problem that same way at least a hundred times.  So he concluded that it must be more than just a 'settings' issue and it needed to go to the repair center.  Fine, I just wanted it fixed.

A few days later he called to say it was ready.  Wow!  That didn't take long.  So I went back to Best Buy to pick it up.  He said they had to install a new hard drive, and while they were at it they installed a new wireless adapter.  The motherboard was okay.  He said he checked it and it should work fine for me.

I brought it home, plugged it in, turned it on and got a message saying to "boot" something or other.  It was all "Geek" to me, so I called him.  He said, "Oh mannnn!"  He went on to explain that I will need to bring it back to him to see if they can do something or other.  I went, he tried, didn't work.  But by chance did I have the recovery disks?  I said I would go home to check but I thought not.  I did, had them, brought them back to him, didn't work.  So he said he had to return it to the repair center.

I got it back in a few days and brought it home.  It works!  And it works really well, only now I have to re-install everything.  In other words I've got a new computer.

I had everything backed up on my external hard drive so it would just be a matter of hitting the restore button or something that automatically reloaded everything.  Well, not so fast with my assumptions.  Turns out that I can see some files I moved to the external hard drive individually but my computer no longer recognizes the backed up files.  I'll work on it but I'm now thinking I just may take my time and install from my disks.  Then wipe the external hard drive clean and start again.  In doing so I can eliminate the multitude of duplicate photos, videos, music and folders that have somehow cluttered up my computer and my external hard drive.  I'm still thinking on it though.

Yes, I had my address book backed up to the external hard drive so it's somewhere 'out there' right now.  No problem, I can always import the addresses and email info from Judy's computer or the iPad or the iPhone or the laptop.  I'm sure it's here some place. 

But at least I have my computer back.

It's Official - I'm Healthy

I visited with my primary care doctor yesterday and, as expected, I'm good.  Blood pressure was excellent.  My blood work numbers were all excellent with only a slight rise in glucose.  Just cut back on calories, carbs and sugars, exercise and keep doing what I'm doing, but lose a few pounds.

He was pleased to hear that I purchased a Total Gym and that I'm actually using it.  Well, I stopped exercising for that period when I caught that awful cold from Judy that lasted three weeks and really sapped me out.  He said I should be over a cold in a week.  If not, I should have called for an appointment.  It was probably more than a cold.  Next time I will.

So, I'll be going into my 72nd birthday in good health.  What more could I ask for?



Saturday, April 20, 2013

My Ticker Just Keeps On Ticking

Visited my heart doctor yesterday.  Routine visit.  I'm fine.  My heart is healthy and strong, but I could do with a few less calories.  Of course, "a few" probably means 600 to my doctor, while meaning 300 to me.  I'll see what I can do.

My knee replacement and back surgery is history now.  No problems or restrictions that require caution, medication or therapy, and in a few more months I'll even forget it happened.

Meanwhile, I've re-started my exercise program after being off it for many weeks due to a lingering cold that sapped the strength out of me, not to mention the motivation it took to do the exercises in the first place.

I did the Total Gym yesterday.  Twenty minutes of very specific strength and muscle toning exercises.  It felt good.  And today I'll do twenty minutes on the treadmill.  Then back on the Total Gym tomorrow.  If I can keep this schedule up I should easily burn most of the calories he wants me to get rid of.  I can always increase the time on the Total Gym and treadmill to get rid of more calories, although they claim 20 minutes a day should be enough.  It  should work well with my "Ounce A Day Diet."  http://ounceaday.blogspot.com//

Anyway, it just feels good to get an 'official' stamp on my current medical condition.

Next week I see my Primary Care doctor.  The blood work is already completed and should be within all the numbers.  I'll be surprised if it isn't.

At least I'll be going into my 72nd birthday in pretty good health.  As Martha would say, "That's a good thing."

Sunday, March 31, 2013

House Painting

We had this house built in November of 1988. Since then it has been painted four times, the last being about seven years ago.  It wasn't a very good paint job because he wasn't a professional painter, but he needed work and we thought, "What could go wrong? It's not exactly rocket science."  Well, it turns out that today's paint requires a fairly good understanding of the paint itself, the prep work, and the application technique.  And as with all painting jobs, it requires patience.  I meet none of the requirements to do the job myself so we contracted with a professional, 20-year experienced painter.  He started last Thursday, first by repairing some rotting wood and replacing some porch posts that needed replacing due to warping.

He returned to pressure wash the outside of the house, brick and all, with a mild solution of water and bleach.  We were not particularly satisfied with how the porch roof turned out so we did it again ourselves yesterday using a water/bleach solution fortified with JoMax, a chemical designed to not only kill mold, but greatly delay its return.  That's important here in Houston where mold is a major problem.  Anyway, it turned out great and will be ready for the painter after he finishes up the brushing, caulking, primer coat on new wood and anything else that needs doing before the paint can go on.

This should be the last paint job we have to do as we get closer and closer to the decision sell and move to a condo or something on a beach.  We've already put on a new roof, new energy efficient A/C, new energy saving windows, installed water-saving toilets, installed granite countertops, installed tile back-splash in the kitchen, upgraded the kitchen appliances, remodeled the master bath, built a garden plant stand, built a storage shed, installed a deep sink and counter behind the garage, installed lawn drainage lines, replaced 200' of privacy fencing, installed a hot water circulating system, installed new flooring throughout, installed windows and an A/C unit in our garage, installed a new motor and control panel for our 54 jet therapy spa, built a very large flagstone patio and covered porch area, installed award-winning landscaping, and built an outdoor kitchen that includes refrigerator, lighting and hot/cold water.  There are a few other things we've done that may appeal to a buyer when the time comes.

Maybe after this little, but expensive, adventure is through, we can begin to look for that magical place where we can live out our lives.  And who knows, with all that we've done here, we could already be there...

Friday, March 22, 2013

Salado Eggfest 2013 Was Great

Judy and I spent St. Patrick's Day Weekend in Salado, Texas at the third annual Salado Eggfest.  We were among long-time friends from the moment we arrived on Friday until we left on Sunday.  And we made new ones each day as the Salado Eggfest progressed from the Meet & Greet on Friday evening, through the Eggfest itself on Saturday, and the After Party on Saturday evening.

Yes, Sunday morning we were ready to return home, tired, sunburned and very happy we came.

We cooked some pork tenderloin and my infamous Magnum Loads for the Eggfest.  There were almost 50 other Cooks who turned out a very wide range of delicious food, some of which could have been created by professional chefs in professional kitchens.  But these were all done on the Big Green Egg under back yard conditions. 

Being St. Patrick's Day Weekend and the fact that Salado is one of the top spots in the state to host an annual Scottish Clan Gathering, Irish Green and Scottish Kilts were appropriate clothing for the day. 

I wore mine, along with my 'accessories' consisting of swords and daggers, and items to reflect both my Irish and Scottish ancestry, as well as my Texas connection. 

We had almost 400 attendees and all were smiling because all had a great time.  Here's the proof...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U-PAw9L1esg

Next Eggfest: Athens, Texas in three weeks.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Total Gym

I used to be pretty strong.  But with growing older along with a host of difficult surgeries that made me a couch potato, I've resigned myself to accepting weakness and sore muscles and just general discomfort from being out of shape. 

Even putting on clothing and shoes has become a difficult problem because I'm so weak and stiff that I can hardly bend over without bracing myself.  Sleep is also difficult because my muscles and joints hurt constantly, and even more so when I lie down in bed.  The pain often wakes me up during the night and I end up sleeping in a chair.  Pills helped for a while but took a toll in other ways, so I cut them out.

I'm not one to visit fitness centers or walk the streets, so I dusted off the treadmill and tried it for a few days.  But the belt was worn, probably from sitting idle more so than being used, and finally broke.  I ordered and installed a replacement belt but the period between deciding whether to sell or toss the treadmill altogether took awhile, and when I finally installed the new belt was enough to lose my momentum and will-power.

Totally frustrated, I started to think of what I could do to improve 'me.'  After considerable research I realized that the machine I enjoyed most and seemed to get the most out of at the Knee Replacement Rehab Facility, was the Total Gym.  I always got off it thinking I felt better and really put out some effort that immediately converted into atrength, self-satisfaction, and even confidence.

So I took a look at the Total Gym.  Yes, the one endorsed by Chuck Norris.  This one...

 



I didn't give much thought to 'where' I would actually use it but I knew I needed to use it.  The surprise came when we opened it up and set it up.  It was huge, much too large to put in my office by the treadmill, or anywhere else inside the house for that matter.  The dining room would handle it but we would have to move the dining room furniture around to accommodate it.  So until we figured out where to put it, we put it on the back porch temporarily until we could figure out a solution.

Meanwhile, we used it a few times and liked it a lot.  It immediately began to improve the strength in my legs, the most important part of me I was concerned about.  But I had to be very careful because I am still recovering from back surgery only five weeks ago.  So the setting I used was as low as it would go and I only did eight pushes using my legs.  That would be like squatting about half way down and standing back up without bending my back.  As little as it was, it felt good doing it.

Meanwhile, Judy decided to see if we could put it in the garage.  Well, that's easier said than done because it's a two-car garage and we have a car and a truck in it, along with large woodworking equipment that takes up substantial space, namely a Radial Arm Saw and a Table Saw, both of which I use frequently.

After considerable maneuvering of cars and saws (Judy did all the work) it became clear that the two saws had to go or we had to come up with an acceptable Plan B.  I needed the saws if I planned to continue making sawdust but I needed the exercise if I planned to live longer. 

I finally decided to look more closely at a folding table saw that could do the cuts of both saws.  So off to Home Depot we go.  Sure enough, they have a folding Ryobi that can do the job and fit in a much smaller area. 

But now what to do with the Radial Arm Saw and Table Saw. 

I listed them on Craig's List for $100 each or $150 for both, along with a number of accessories.  That was a good price and I expected to get a few calls on it. 

Meanwhile, Judy called our yard man to see if he knew anyone who wanted the saws.  He was here early the next morning and wanted both in spite of the fact that he knew nothing about how to use them.  He also wants to buy the large pop-up tent in the attic.  He'll be here Saturday to pay for them.  And what he pays me will just about pay for the new folding table saw.

That problem solved, we can now use the Total Gym in the air conditioned garage year round, summer and winter.  It folds up quickly and easily and hardly takes up any room between workouts. 

So another problem solved and in about three weeks I should get the OK to do my workouts without restrictions. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

My Avalanche Had An Expensive Problem

Let me start off by saying I love my 2002 Chevy Avalanche Z66 and have loved it since we drove it off the lot brand new.  Now it's going on twelve years old and even though it only has 90,000 miles on it, there are some little issues popping up.  For example, a $3000 transmission and a $300 upholstery repair last year.  And today, a $1300 fuel pump replacement and fuel filter and injector cleaning and something else I was told it needed.

It was not an expense we counted on after just buying the new Toyota Avalon Hybrid.  We thought the truck could just sit in the comfort of the garage until needed for a man-size job.  So I'll have to work it a bit more to pay for the new fuel pump.  That's okay.  It has and will serve me well for a long time.

It still looks good too.




Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Excellent Annual Visit To My Urologist

According to various reports, prostate cancer will be diagnosed in as many as one out of two American men.  That's not good odds.  And the odds are many times worse if there is a family history of prostate cancer.

It has been nine years since I learned that I had prostate cancer.  And it was far enough along that my treatment options were reduced to only a few.  The better choice was to undergo a radical prostatectomy.  Nip it in the bud (pun intended).  Get rid of the %&#* thing.  And that's what I had done.  It was a good decision but the worry of it returning never really went away.

The first five years I had semi-annual followup visits to the same Urologist, and although there were some annoying side effects, my PSA results were always, "No Detectable Amount."

With results like that my visits were changed to once annually but only because he didn't want to take any chances.  Nor did I. 

Today was my 9th year annual visit and the PSA results were the same, "No Detectable Amount."

I knew that it would be negative but it really feels good to hear it in person.  Even better to hear, "There's no chance that the cancer will come back, but let's not take any chances. Come back in a year."

I can live with that...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

We Bought A New Car

It has been 12 years since we purchased a car.  Actually, 14 if you don't count the 2002 Chevy Avalanche which was supposed to be my last truck.  We still have it and it still looks and runs good.  But we needed something we could use to go on the road and feel comfortable in and get good gas mileage.  So we talked to our Friend Mickey, who just happens to be the GM of the Toyota dealership in Killeen, Texas.  We told him what we were looking to get and a few days later he called to say one just came in.  We said we'll be there tomorrow to buy it.  We did and we absolutely love it.

Here's the story I posted on the GreenEggers Forum and on Facebook.

Judy got a new car...
It's a T-O-Y-O-T-A...
I asked Mickey to help me buy it...
Just so I could really make her day...

But it's not just any T-O-Y-O-T-A...
This one is loaded to the hilt...
It has buttons to make it drive soft or play...
And it can even blow cold air up my kilt...

It smells and shines all clean and nice...
And drives like a charm...
It has plenty of toots and whistles to entice...
And lots of features to keep us from harm...

She drove it home from Salado...
and fell in love with Sirius along the way...
Yes, it cost a lot of hard earned dough...
But at every stop I could feel her say...

I love you Leroy "Spring 'Fill In The Blank' Chicken" McMillin
And that, my friends, is what made my day...

















Now you see why she's so happy...

Spring "You've Gotta Have A Happy Hen In Order To Have a Happy Chicken Ranch" Chicken
Spring Texas USA