Saturday, December 05, 2009


It doesn't happen often but it snowed in Houston and we got some of it here. Of course, it didn't last very long but it was pretty for a few minutes. Check it out.

Maybe we can get some more before the winter is over.

Monday, November 23, 2009

iPhone Has Found A New Player

We have been looking at changing our increasingly expensive accumulation of 'electronic necessities' to see if we could take advantage of some of the 'bundle' packages the phone, TV and Internet Service Providers are offering.

We were using AT&T for our home phone, Verizon for our cell phones, Comcast for our ISP, Direct TV for our satellite TV and Comcast for our cable TV. Yea, satellite and cable TV. A little overkill is what we think too.

But get this, we've had 450 minutes of family cell phone minutes and rarely ever used over one or two minutes per month between us. And we don't text messages at all. We concluded it was more horsepower than we needed, especially now that Judy has given notice of her intentions of retiring in June 2010. One good cell phone will be enough, possibly with a pre-paid backup cell phone for emergencies.

Next, we were paying more than a few bucks for cable TV because when we originally signed up for High Speed Internet services the only carrier in our area was Roadrunner. They required that we purchase at least their basic cable TV service in order to qualify for their Internet service. Comcast took over from Roadrunner and does not require the basic cable service. We just never got around to changing it, mostly because we can see cable programs on other TV's throughout the house, including on my computer.

Finally, we were paying a goodly amount for our home (land-line) phone service because we didn't want to worry about long distance bills. Well, we could have talked for a very long time being charged by the minute and probably had money left over.

So we decided to try Vonage. They were one of the first to offer the new computer/internet based VoIP telephone servces. (That was a few years ago.) Their price is certainly right. After taxes and stuff it was only going to be about $34 a month and came with unlimited local and long distance calls. We also liked it because it had some neat features we could turn on or off as we wanted. But then we learned that their service was not compatible with our Brinks alarm system. Plus, it slowed our Comcast Internet download speeds to the point of 'crawl.' By then we had had enough.

Back to the drawing board.

Meanwhile, we wanted an iPhone, with the emphasis on "wanted" rather than "needed." Only place to get one is ATT so by the time we finished talking to a salesman we had agreed to go with their ATT Uverse package that gave us TV, Internet and telephone services. And we could apply a promotional credit toward the iPhone, essentially making it free.

Then things started getting complicated. We heard that ATT's Uverse would not work with our alarm system unless (too technologically complex to understand) and we might have to change our phone number because we still had Vonage.

We suddenly realized that we could lose our phone number and our email addresses we had had for many years if we changed, not to mention possibly losing Internet connection speed and TV viewing in each room unless we paid a fee for a box in each room. By then the costs savings by switching was gone and we ended up with less service.

We went ahead and got the iPhone but tomorrow morning I'm calling to cancel all the other plans for converting the telephone and television to ATT Uverse. Instead, we're probably going to cancel Direct TV (satellite) and increase our cable TV services. Meanwhile, we will disconnect Vonage and ATT will re-install basic land-line phone services here at home, mostly to keep the Brinks alarm system working. Any long distance calls will be charged but we have lots of minutes on our iPhone we can use for that.

If it doesn't work for us in the long run, at least we will have given it our best shot of getting the right services for our money. And we learned a lot in the process.

Live and learn...

Meanwhile, we have our new iPhone and love it. It is absolutely amazing what all it can do with the apps we've downloaded (mostly free and one for $ .99). And it is a pretty decent cell phone (which could be a plus one day).

Monday, November 09, 2009

Coop at Night

Halloween 2009 was one of the best Halloween's ever. The weather was perfect, the moon was huge, the mood was right and the Coop could not have looked better. So I got my camera and started taking pictures...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Eggtoberfest 2009 - Atlanta

Once again we made the trip to Atlanta for Eggtoberfest. And once again we had a great time. The weather was a bit cool and damp but not flooding like the days before.

This year we were part of Team Mexico. Some Egghead friends from Monterrey, Mexico have been sharing some really great south-of-the-border recipes so we tried to stick with that theme by cooking Jalapeno Pie and Pollo ah la Palancha. Here's a photo of us with one of the Jalapeno Pies:

Our neighbors, Pam and Tom, are now Eggheads and decided to join us in Atlanta. They had a great time too.

We also had a surprise visit from someone we haven't seen since about 1975. Henry and Gay Leland from New Orleans were camping in North Georgia and decided to drive down and surprise us. Boy did they ever... It was great. They arrived after the Eggtoberfest was over but just in time for the After Party. They were so impressed with the food and friendly atmosphere that they immediately ordered a Big Green Egg to be delivered when they return home.

Henry hired me to work at Wells Fargo Armored Service back in 1970. Judy was already working there. He introduced us and the rest is history... a very nice history too.

Here's a picture of Henry:

Now we're headed to Plano on November 6 & 7 for a small 'gathering' of our Egghead friends. Should be fun.

Friday, August 28, 2009

CNN Article On Eggheads

Some time ago CNN announced that they were doing a story about backyard Grill Masters. One of the Eggheads posted something about it on the Big Green Egg Forum so I decided to throw my two cents in.

So I wrote about cooking in The Coop and added a few embellishments to tell the story as I see it. Here's the link to my entry as a CNN iReporter:

Wouldn't you know it, they picked up on the theme of Eggheads and cooking on a Big Green Egg. They decided to do a separate story about us Eggheads.

A few Eggheads had already entered photos of some of their cooks or told how they enjoy 'Egg'n,' but their reports were kind of tame compared to what I entered. And I spread it on thick, with emphasis given to the Chicken Ranch, my "Girls" (my Big Green Eggs), and the red light that burns whenever the girls are working.

Anyway, the story was published while we were in Alaska, so we didn't get to read it until later. Meanwhile, a bunch of our friends read it and thought it described us well. I did too.

Without further ado, here's the link to the story.


aka Spring "Proprietor Of The Chicken Ranch" Chicken
Spring Texas USA

Monday, August 24, 2009

Skipper's 70th Birthday

Judy's brother, Curtis "Skipper" Conrad, celebrated his 70th birthday on August 21, 2009 and we surprised him by showing up at his favorite restaurant ahead of his arrival.

Judy and I met Joyce (the other sister) and Allen at the airport in Houston and drove straight to Kerrville, Texas, checked into our hotel and headed to the restaurant. Got there just in time as he walked in along with his daughter's family. It was great and I got it on video.

We later met up at his home where I cooked his favorite snack on the Big Green Egg which I brought with me.

Anyway, here's his celebration made into a movie.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Our Alaska Trip Photos and Videos

I took 1501 photos and over 200 video segments of our Alaska trip. It is taking some time to edit and compile it so that it is suitable for viewing.

So far I've only done day one, day two, day three, day four, day five, day 6, 7 and now day 8. Day 9 was spent in Vancouver touring the city and generally waiting for a very late flight back to Houston. I also plan to put together some unforgetable moments both on and off the ship.

Here they are for your viewing pleasure:

Day One (Getting there)

Day Two (Denali National Park Adventure)

Day Three (Train Ride From Denali To Anchorage)

Day Four (Ride to Whittier and Glacier Tour Boat)

Day Five (Glacier Bay)

Day Six (Skagway)

Day Seven (Juneau)

Day Eight (Ketchikan)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

North To Alaska

In just over three hours we will be departing Houston and headed for Fairbanks, Alaska for a 11 day vacation. We've been wanting to do this for thirty years and now we're actually doing it.

We will be meeting others in Seattle for the flight on up to Fairbanks. Judy's sister, Joyce, and husband, Allen, along with some of their friends from New Orleans and our tour guide will be in the group.

We will have dinner in Fairbanks and then a bus ride to our lodge near the entrance of Denali National Park.

Early Thursday the adventure really begins as we board a bus that will take us deep into Denali National Park and fairly close to Mt. McKinley, the highest peak in North America. Judy and I will be returning to the lodge by small airplane that will take us up and around Mt. McKinley so that we can see it up close. Opportunity of a lifetime and we didn't want to miss it.

From there, we travel by train to Anchorage and then on to our ship, the Diamond Princess, for the inside passage cruise with lots of stops before arriving in Vancouver. By then we will be ready to head for home.

I have enough camera gear to make a Hollywood type movie so there should be plenty of pictures and videos later on. So stay tuned.

The adventure begins...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Plantar Fasciitis

Ever hear of Plantar Fasciitis? Well I have and it's not a fun subject.

What is Plantar Fasciitis? It's a painful foot problem. Simply stated, on manmade surfaces we often roll inward (pronation) flattening the arch and overstretching the plantar fascia (a thick, powerful layer of ligament-like tissue that fans out over the sole of your foot). Your feet strike the hard, manmade surface an average of 5 to 10 thousand times a day. With pronation, the plantar fascia tissue gets continuously overstretched and inflamed and that's why it hurts!

And it hurts like a SOB sometimes. Enough that I finally went to see a foot doctor after two months of suffering. After exploring the options I ended up getting an anti-inflammatory, cortisone injection directly in the area of the heel where it hurt most. I can't take regular oral anti-inflammatory medication due to my heart problem.

Well it continued hurting the rest of the day but the next day I was 100% free of pain. That allowed me to really get after some of those projects I had been trying to do before we left on vacation July 8th. The most pressing project was to finish up repairing the irrigation system so our plants and lawn wouldn't burn up while we're gone.

Wouldn't you know it, the following day the pain was back and has remained so without letup. Looks like I may be hobbling around like a beat up war vet wherever we go while we're away, which, by the way, includes a lot of walking in Alaska and then a lot of walking on board the ship. Walking is definitely going to be a problem.

Anyway, I learned a lot about "heel pain" in general and a lot more about Plantar Fasciitis. The only way to treat it is time and doing some stretching exercises. You can bet I'm doing those. Even so, it still hurts and as of right now has knocked me out of doing anything but sitting and waiting for the pain to let up some.

Oh yea, if you have a stone bruise that doesn't get well in two or three days, you may well have Plantar Fasciitis. And if you allow it to go untreated for a long time you may create other more serious problems with your feet. See a doctor. Then stay off your feet, except for those stretching exercises, for a while. Hopefully, it will go away in less than a year. Yea, a year... Good luck.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Construction

Yes, more construction. Actually, 'de-construction,' for the time being because we first have to remove the old wooden deck and sidewalk behind the garage. About 300 sq ft in all. It's done.

I put it in myself about 15 or 16 years ago and we've had continuous problems with critters wanting to live under it, rotting boards that needed replacing, drainage problems under the deck because of the critters, and leaking irrigation pipes because roots cracked the pipes.

So we hired our yard-mowing guys to take it down. Bad move. They didn't have a clue as to how to demolish anything, didn't have the proper equipment or truck to haul off the debris, nor the drive to get started early in the morning while it was relatively cool. We'll call in some experienced people to do the concrete work.

Meanwhile, I've been rebuilding the irrigation plumbing which includes completely rebuilding the six-zone valve array. Tomorrow I will connect the six pipes to the individual valves, then wire the valves to the controller, turn on the water and see if it all works. I think it will because I took great pains to make sure every connection was proper.

I also have to make sure the deep sink supply lines and drain pipe are visible, along with the 12v outdoor lighting wiring conduit, so that the pipes and wire will not be accidentally cut. All of it will eventually be under concrete.

Next, I need to connect about 50' of 4" drain pipe to an existing drain pipe that will run under the concret around the end of the garage and down toward the street. That will help solve a serious flooding problem near our back entrance.

In order to even start on this project we had to destroy Judy's plant stand (also old and rotten) and my shed I built about four years ago (starting to show signs of rot). But that's fine, I will build new ones with a better design and better features and this time use Hardy-Plank.

All of this is really doing a number on the lifestyles of hundreds of roaches and at least one nocturnal creature of the night . Perhaps we won't have to worry about them anymore.

Pictures will follow.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Chim-Chimney's Cookout and Big Green Egg Demo

Judy and I thought we would ride down to League City, Texas (near NASA) yesterday for a Big Green Egg promotion they had planned. Our neighbors, Pam and Tom, went along for the ride. We thought we would have a nice seafood lunch while we were down that way.

It was HOT! Very HOT! But we had a great time, met a lot of nice people and had a very delicious lunch in a waterfront restaurant in nearby Kemah.

The day turned out to be very lucky for Tom as he won the big door prize, a medium Big Green Egg.

Anyway, here's the story made into a movie...

And this is a followup story showing our neighbor cooking on his newly won Big Green Egg.

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Few Of Our Early Adventures

Since getting my 'Flip' camcorder I've been learning how to make movies. I've learned that I can also give new life and enjoyment to all those old photos from years gone by simply by making them into a movie. Here are a few I've put together and posted on YouTube. I hope you enjoy watching them as much as I enjoyed giving them new life.

The first is of our attempt to join the sea-faring set while living in Miami.

And this one was when a friend at Continental Airlines offered us the chance to 'fly' a big Boeing 777 Jumbo Jet. No, not the real thing but close. Check it out.

And while we're 'up in the air' check this out. Judy gave me a ride in a hot air balloon ride one year for my birthday. We were living in Jacksonville, Florida at the time. The balloon just happened to go over the apartment where we first lived (beautiful place on the water) and then over our home. We could even hear our dog, Punkin, barking at us. We ended up on the fairway at Baymeadows Golf and Residential Community where Judy's Mom lived. So we woke her up real early and told her about our adventure. It was a fantastic experience...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Texas Eggfest - 2009

The Texas Eggfest 2009 was held over the weekend and it was great. Could not have been much better. At last count there were 320 registered attendees.

The event was held on the decks at The Oasis, a beautiful restaurant high on a cliff overlooking Lake Travis in Austin, Texas.

Friday night a few of us met for an informal Meet and Greet, and watched the sun set in the western horizon. That was fun.

We arrived early Saturday morning and got set up to cook three items: Bourbon Meatballs, Fish Tacos and Bacon-Wrapped Watermelon Rinds. I also had volunteered to teach a class on how to cook one of our favorite breakfasts, EggMcChicken (almost like McDonald's EggMcMuffin) on the Griddle Q accessory for the Big Green Egg. That was fun.

The crowd started to grow and kept growing. And the weather was delightful. It was a good day indeed.

Check out some of the videos I made.

This one was so successful, the host dealer has already started on next year's event and promises that it will be even bigger and better.

Can't wait...

Monday, April 20, 2009

Oklahoma Eggfest 2009

Judy and I flew up to Oklahoma City for the Oklahoma Eggfest and we are glad we went. It was great. We'll be going again next year.

Meanwhile, here are some videos that will give you a pretty good idea of how much fun we had. The first one just shows the first hour during which we were getting set up and firing up our Eggs. The crowd arrive shortly afterward and things really get going.

Take a look at the four videos.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Friday, February 27, 2009

Remembering The Pond

The Koi pond that has been a fixture here for a long, long time, probably ten years, is no more. We gave it away and filled in the hole. As soon as the dirt settles we will cover it with flagstone like the rest of the patio. There was about a ton of large and very large stones around it and we kept those for use in some future project. Meanwhile, here are a few of our favorite photos of the pond from when it was just a small pathway garden until now.

Almost like it never was.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Gathering of Old Eagles

Judy and I drove down to Galveston yesterday to have lunch with an old Navy buddy from back in an earlier life while in the Philippines. We were stationed together at USNAVCOMSTAPHIL (US Naval Communications Station Philippines) near a little coastal village called San Miguel. We were about 30 miles west of the huge Naval base, Subic Bay.

By all standards it was considered a great assignment. Only they screwed up my assignment because once there the Navy would not recognize my Army training and I ended up in sort of a "man overboard" status. It pretty much stayed that way until I got out.

Meanwhile, as with any military unit, a few of us hit it off and hung around each other to the point where we were pretty much family.

Although I got out and became a real person again Hank stayed in, eventually making a career change to the Army and remaining there until he retired. He and a few of his cohorts from then meet up each year for a cruise somewhere. This year they sailed out of Galveston.

It was fun seeing him again after forty-two years. We immediately picked up where we left off and told the same stories we told four decades ago. We were all in the Army Security Agency, the Army's version of the National Security Agency. Very hush-hush group back then. So we had plenty to talk about.

Anyway, it was a fun gathering and I'm sure our lives will cross again somewhere and we will re-tell the same stories. Somebody's got to do it...

Here's some shots of us.


Friday, January 23, 2009

Frank in Houma Visit and Blackened Redfish Demo

Our good friend, Frank Smith, aka Frank in Houma among Eggheads, stopped by on Wednesday. He was on his way to hunt ducks with friends. He brought along some frozen filet of redfish and speckled trout. He also took the time to to demo how he cooks the redfish using Paul Prudhomme's Blackened Redfish seasoning. My neighbor made a video and I took photos of the event. Hopefully, I can link to the video so you can see it here. It's worth watching, especially now that I've done a wee bit of editing...

But here's some photos.