So Close…

December 17, 2008

My new blog provider (Alentus) has my WordPress installation complete, and they’re in the process of upgrading me to the latest and greatest version. Once that’s done and I’ve found the theme I’d like to start with I’m going to start posting over there – I’ll announce the new URL (and probably cross-post my Christmas stuff) within the next few days. How exciting!


What’s Up With AT&T and Yahoo?

December 16, 2008

I received a notice a couple of weeks ago that after the first of the year my “complimentary” AT&T Yahoo! Flickr Pro account is going to be turned off, and I’m going to have to pay for service from Flickr going forward.

What?! Flickr is just about the only thing I really use from this AT&T/Yahoo! partnership. I dropped My Yahoo! and Yahoo Mail quite some time ago in favor of their Google competitors, but Flickr is actually pretty cool. I like the community aspect of it, and it’s (relatively) easy to upload pictures from my Mac. I wish there was better integration with iPhoto – there are some 3rd party things that are OK, but not as nice as the “official” Flickr uploader tool.

So I guess I like Flickr enough that I’ll pay for the service, but at this point I’m really getting squat in terms of “services” along with my AT&T DSL. So I guess that means that the next time Time-Warner or someone else comes knocking I’ll have something to think about.


Christmas Candy Countdown – Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

December 15, 2008

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Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls

  • 1 Cup Peanut Butter, crunchy
  • 1/4 Cup Butter (or margarine, if you’re a sadist), softened
  • 2 Cups Crisp Rice cereal (the kind that snaps, pops and even crackles)
  • 1 Cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 Package Chocolate Candy Coating (sometimes referred to as “Almond Bark”)

I recommend using a good stand mixer for this recipe. It makes this very, very easy.

  1. Combine the peanut butter and softened butter thoroughly.
  2. Add the cereal and powdered sugar to the peanut butter mixture, mixing until well combined. This is going to be very thick when done, which is why I recommend the mixer.
  3. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour. This will make the scooping/forming step next much simpler.
  4. Scoop rounded teaspoons of the mixture onto a paper-lined cookie sheet (use either wax or parchment paper), then form the spoonfuls into balls using your hands. Be quick about this, the balls will start to get soft as they sit on the pan.
  5. Refigerate the panful of balls for an hour or so.
  6. Microwave the chocolate candy coating according to the package’s instructions. It generally takes me 90 seconds, then stirring, then 30 seconds, then stirring, then 30 seconds, then stirring to get smoothly melted coating.
  7. Remove the balls from the refrigerator. Using a pair of wire tongs or a large fork, drop each ball in the melted chocolate and stir to coat the ball. Tap the tongs or fork on the side of the coating bowl to drain some excess chocolate, then drop the coated ball on the paper-lined sheet.

Should make around 2 dozen balls. I recommend keeping these in the fridge until an hour or so before service – don’t just leave them out, since there’s butter in them. I also recommend doubling the recipe, these go fast. They’re a family favorite around here.

Note the complete lack of ball jokes in this post. 

[Updated 12/17 with a much better picture]

Source: Treasury of Christmas Recipes, out of print


Christmas Candy Countdown

December 15, 2008

One of my favorite things to do throughout the month of December is make candy. I don’t do this any other time of the year, but for a lot of reasons I have fond memories of home-made candy during the Holidays. So this year, I thought I’d try to be a little more methodical about my candy-making.

Usually I tend to wait until close to the last minute and then have 1-2 days of frenzied candy making. Not this year! I’ve already begun, and for the next week I’ll be focusing on 1-3 recipes per day (depending on the complexity of the recipe). Here’s what I’ll be making:

  • Microwave Peanut Brittle. I literally called a person a liar when they told me back in 1999 that they made peanut brittle in the microwave. Now I wouldn’t make it any other way.
  • Fudge. Classic, beaten fudge – chocolate, sugar, cream and butter. Not the stuff with marshmallows. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Divinity. This year is the first time I’ll be making divinity, but it’ll have some chocolate and butterscotch thrown in for good measure.
  • Peanut Butter Balls. Not the Shwetty Balls from SNL!
  • Coconut Bon-Bons. Like little Mounds bars.
  • Chocolate Mint Striped Candy. Tastes like Andes mints, and very pretty on a candy tray.
  • Chocolate-Dipped Stuff. Pretzels, nuts and marshmallows. Even peanut-butter filled pretzels. YUM.
  • Grandma Gleason’s Peanut Butter Crunch Candy. An old favorite of mine I haven’t made in years.
  • Rice Crispy Treats with Peanut Butter and Fudge. Saw this recipe last week on a blog post, can’t wait to try it.
  • White Trash. Nothing says Christmas in Kansas City like a whole mess of white trash.

I will be posting pictures and recipes (or links to recipes) throughout the next week as I do all this. Whee!

And yes, I recognize the irony in posting this right after posting about having a major bariatric surgery. Suffice to say that I’ll be trying to enjoy this Christmas season’s candy as much as I can, because I won’t be able to even eat this type of stuff after the surgery…


Bariatric Surgery Approved

December 15, 2008

For some reason my wordpress order at my new web hosting company hasn’t worked right, so until that happens I guess I’ll post some new things here.

So, the big news: my bariatric surgery – an open Roux-En-Y gastric bypass – has finally been approved by Coventry. I won’t have a date until after the first of the year – the surgeon is working on his 2009 calendar for trauma, conferences, etc. right now, but his secretary said last Friday that it should be no later than the end of February, 2009. 2 months!

My surgery will be three-fold, actually. They’ll be removing my gallbladder, which has been giving me more and more problems lately. They’ll be doing the full gastric bypass, which involves the stomach “stapling” and the bypass of the first part of the small bowel, and then they’ll try to repair some of the fascia (soft tissue) around my umbilical hernia and remove the failed mesh from the repair site.

I should be in the hospital – KU Medical Center – for 4 days or so, and then another week and a half at home before I can drive and work again, if everything goes smoothly. The most common problems, I’m told, include infection of the incision (which I had to deal with during my hernia surgery some years ago) and a possible “growing over” of the new opening from my stomach “pouch” to the bypassed small bowel. The latter is somewhat common but is an inpatient fix much like an EGD, where they sedate you and use a probe to break up the scar tissue that may form in the stomach.

As soon as I know the date I’ll be posting more either here or on my new blog, but I am VERY excited about this. It’s been a long road to get this far – I first started looking into this in September 2006, when Brian Shepard of the Poobahs told me about the lap-band procedure. I went to a Shawnee Mission Medical Center seminar in January 2007, then went back to Weight Watchers throughout 2007 because SMMC had a maximum BMI value that I was well over. I found out about the folks at the Minimally Invasive Surgical Center in January 2008, and had been working with them all year. They aren’t in-network for me, and finally Coventry suggested in August that I contact KUMC. I had an appointment with Dr. Udobi there, got them all my paperwork (and a new blood and thyroid lab), and they sent all the insurance stuff around the first of November.


Thanksgiving and The Upcoming Move

November 29, 2008

First off: I will be moving my blog and essentially “re-launching” it sometime over the next month. I’m trying to get WordPress set up on my new domain space, as soon as I do I’ll be doing more with the blog. Not that anyone other than family and friends care, but hey… 🙂

Had a great Thanksgiving this year. It was actually a 2-day affair: Thanksgiving and Leftover Day. For Thanksgiving I made a roast turkey (in the new convection oven), a smoked turkey breast, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, pan gravy (from the roast turkey drippings) and a pumpkin pecan streusel pie. We had around 20 people here for Thanksgiving – really, the only people missing were my brother and his family, they were at his in-laws for Thanksgiving.

We invited anyone who was interested to come back on Friday to eat leftovers and play games, but surprisingly enough there weren’t a lot of leftovers. So Friday morning I got up early and got a couple more fresh turkey breasts and the ingredients for some cornbread stuffing, another pumpkin pie and my grandma’s chocolate peanut butter pie. I also picked up YET ANOTHER freaking copy of Guitar Hero World Tour as well as Rock Band 2 and the Scene-It games for X360.

PLEASE NOTE: When they tell you not to move the XBOX 360 while there’s a disc in it, THEY MEAN IT. While plugging in the microphone we managed to move the console a little too much, and a second or two of horrible screeching noise later we took out the GH:WT disc to discover a massive scratch around it. Needless to say, it wouldn’t read again. DEAD.

So Friday morning I smoked another couple of turkey breasts (rubbed them with Mary’s Cherry Rub, which is one of my wife’s favorite dry rubs in the world), made some cornbread dressing and a couple of pies. It sounds like a lot, but in reality it was pretty easy. I was a little irked that I didn’t have time to brine the turkey breasts (I ALWAYS brine poultry…or at least, I always used to), but by being careful to get the breasts out of the smoker at 152 degrees (f) they were still plenty juicy.

FYI, my brine recipe couldn’t be simpler: 1 cup of salt, 1 cup of sugar (dark brown is my preference), 1 gallon of low-sodium stock (chicken or vegetable), and then a cup of “spice tea” – which I make by microwaving cinnamon, cloves, garlic, allspice, nutmeg and peppercorns in a cup of water. Submerge the turkey breast-side down, then add enough ice and water to cover. Brine for 6-12 hours depending on size (6 hours for a breast up to 12 hours for a 14-15 lb bird – I never do anything bigger than that, I’d rather just do two smaller birds). Smoke the turkey until the breast reads 152 or so with a thermometer, then get it out and let it rest for 15 minutes. 

The roast turkey was done using the Alton Brown roasting approach, whereby you roast at 500f for 1/2 hour to get good browning on the skin, then lower to 350 to finish after putting a foil triangle-tent over the breast. It turned out pretty good, but I prefer smoked turkey. I mainly did this to get really good gravy drippings and a bird with edible skin, which some people in my family like. Not me, I find poultry skin disgusting.

My brother, sister, brother-in-law and I got the band back together and played Guitar Hero World Tour, and it was a BLAST. We each took turns singing (I got to sing “Ramblin’ Man,” but I had to use my sister’s choice of avatar, so my baritone voice was coming out of little Midori the Japanese rocker…it was humorous). I also got to play both lead and bass, I just haven’t tried the drums yet. We didn’t get to try Rock Band 2, but later my sister, my wife and I tried Scene-It and lo and behold, it was quite a bit of fun. I like that the game keeps track of the questions you’ve seen, and it’s very accessible for anyone that’s seen recent movies. The little controllers that they provide are also a lot of fun, it’s kind of like being on a game show.

Tomorrow I’ll be smoking a standing rib roast and a couple of pork butts for next weekend’s Carmichael Christmas at the Lake celebration – I already have the pork butts injected with marinade, and they’ll go in the smoker around 7am. They’re pretty small, but they look amazing. Hen House meat is great quality but very expensive. Their standing rib roast looked great too, I picked up an 8.25 pounder that’ll be smoked tomorrow too. Fun! I love this time of year, I get to cook pretty much non-stop from Thanksgiving through New Year’s.


iPhone Angst Resolved

July 12, 2008

Like most gadgeteers, I was plugged in to the drama that was release day for the iPhone 3G. And yes, I even made three half-hearted attempts to get one. Let me count the ways:

I drove by the Zona Rosa AT&T store at 7am to see what was happening. There were around 50 people already in line, and I’d heard via the interweb rumour mill that it was likely that each AT&T store was only getting a handful of units. So I drove on by and made my way to work.

My wife drove by the Plaza Apple Store at lunchtime to discover that the media-covered line that stretched for close to a city block (probably more) hadn’t appreciably dwindled. So she drove by.

Later Friday afternoon a co-worker let me in on a dirty little secret: there was a NEW Apple Store in town, at 119th and Roe! HOLY CRAP, how did I let this get past me? So I dropped everything and drove by to discover a small line of around 20 people outside. But as soon as I walked up, an Apple Hippie came out and informed us that there were no 16gb iPhones to be had. Since that was the unit I thought I wanted, I bailed. Three strikes, no iPhone.

As it was, it was probably a good thing that I didn’t get any further than that. The webs are alive with the sound of angry early adopters complaining about the activation times, and that just wouldn’t have been any fun at all. So I came home and thought about it overnight, and this morning my wife and I came up with a plan. Not only would I try to get myself a 16gb iPhone, but she wanted an 8gb phone as well. So that meant that both of us and TJ, our 22 month-old all went down to the Plaza Apple Store, which was – according to the Apple web site – stocked with all models of iPhones.

When we arrived at the rain-soaked Plaza at 9:30 – half an hour before what I thought was opening time – we found open doors and around 25 people in a line outside. We got in line, thinking that this might be our best shot. The company was nice, everyone seemed to be in a pretty friendly mood, but then another Apple Hippie came out and let us know that they were about to run out of 16gb models, and they weren’t sure if they’d have enough 8gb models for everyone in line. They even handed out little slips of paper representing 8gb iPhones.

I was conflicted, but I decided that I’d be OK with an 8gb iPhone. My iPod Touch currently has about 7gb of stuff on it, and I could cut down on all the unplayed podcasts and the like. But I wasn’t happy about it. I really wanted a 16gb model so I could download and play with all the cool apps I’d been reading about. Like that light saber. Man, I wanted me one of those.

The line broke off where the slips of paper ended, and the rest of us managed to get inside the store and out of the rain. Around 10:30, two things happened almost simultaneously. First, shoppers started arriving for things that weren’t iPhones, and second, we spotted a UPS guy walking through the store, having just delivered some boxes to the back. COULD IT BE? The concierge was snagged by a fellow enthusiast and said yes, those were likely more iPhones, and yes, there could be 16gb models on there. Or maybe not. Should we take the chance and wait the half hour more or so it would take to get the boxes opened, unloaded and scanned into inventory?

As it turned out it probably didn’t matter, because once the store filled up with general browsers the line ground to a halt. A mixture of people trying to change plans without all the information they needed, or people with incomplete paperwork along with other shoppers wanting notebooks and iMacs stretched the staff pretty thinly. FINALLY we were taken out of the line by an Apple Hippie who was only too glad to grab us an 8gb model for Jen and a 16gb white model for me. I wanted a white so we could immediately tell the two apart.

The actual process of changing our Sprint numbers over, getting the new AT&T account set up and everything else was reasonably quick. It went without a hitch, to be honest, it was just a lot of trying to recite social security and account numbers in the middle of a crowded, noisy store. Finally we were done, and we had two cute litle iPhone 3G bags chock full of gadget goodness. As a side note, TJ did great in line – he fell asleep once we got in and stayed asleep until we started the purchase, over an hour of not having to keep him entertained. Thank goodness for small favors.

I’ve already made and received a couple of calls, and they sounded great. Our numbers were switched over in just a few minutes, and Jen is really excited about getting her phone all set up. I’m in the process of synching my iTunes library now, it’s taken just about as long to do that as it’s taken to write this little retrospective.

The lesson to be learned here is that being a Release Day + 1 shopper was a pretty painless experience, to be honest. We couldn’t walk right in and grab one, but that’s OK. To get one this early and start playing with it was worth a couple of hours in a really decent line, and the folks at the Apple Store were quite gracious and accomodating, even when they were mobbed by what looked like a pretty hefty back to school crowd around 10:30am.