Monday, October 31, 2011

Did You Know They Sell This Candy All Year?

This afternoon when I leave work I'll rush to grab a pizza for supper, run by the grocery store for candy (and milk), and hurry home to prepare for an evening of trick-or-treating and candy eating.  We'll do our tricking and our treating and will eventually end up at my grandparents house.  This is where everyone in my family gathers to pass out the candy they've purchased and eat the candy everyone else brought.

GG has decided she is a little old to dress up and go trick-or-treating this year, so she will just grab from the big bowl of treats and sit and talk with the adults.  NG still wants to do the whole thing.  So she'll pull a costume from the plastic tub marked "Halloween Costumes" and we'll hit up the neighbors for the same kind of candy that I've already purchased. 

It's not that I mind taking my children trick-or-treating, but the truth is after 15 years of doing so, and 11 of those years being X's 2, I'm tired.  I would happily buy the Girls the candy of their choice for the chance to sit at my grandparents house all evening talking, laughing, eating candy that although you can buy it all year it seems to taste better tonight, and pitying the poor parents still making the rounds with a child that can't yet be bribed with candy bought from the store to give up candy being given away at a strangers house.

Oh well, maybe I'll have better bribing luck next year.  Happy Halloween! (and everyone be safe out there)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Morning Glory Syndrome: 1200 Miles Later

After our first appointment with Dr. Bradford in February, you can read about that here, we started regular visits to his office every 4 weeks. 

We developed a pretty steady routine: leave work, go home, grab our clothes and NG, drop GG off somewhere, and get on the road.  Approximately 3 hours later we would pull into LE and D's driveway where we would spend the night.  The next morning it was up and on into Little Rock for NG's appointment and then straight home to unpack, meet GG at the bus stop, and get ready to go back to work the next day.

I'm going to stop here for a moment and give a completely inadequate but absolutely heartfelt thank you to the wonderful people that have been so generous with their endless support and help.  L's sister LE and her husband D opened their home to us on a monthly basis, and later when NG actually had surgery they allowed us to stay with them indefinitely so we could be closer to her doctor.  My mother, grandparents, aunts and uncles took care of GG and although I couldn't honestly tell you exactly who she was with all of the time I did know she was always in good hands.  T, a friend of L's from the SO, came and stayed at our house and took care of our animals. When he wasn't available my friend C was always happy to help with animal sitting.  Our church members, friends, family and coworkers have always been, and still remain, close offering encouragement, prayers, concern, and any tidbit of helpful information they might come into contact with. 

But some of our greatest support has come from our oldest daughter, GG.  Not once in all the time that we have dedicated to NG and this Morning Glory Syndrome has GG ever implied, either by word or action, that we should do anything less.  She has never pouted or sulked about the time and attention given to NG, she has always taken everything in stride and with a maturity beyond her years.  I asked her about her feelings toward the situation this summer.  And her response to me?  "Momma, I wish it wasn't necessary but not that you wouldn't do it."  Yep, she made me cry!  Now back to the story...

In March we returned for the second appointment and Dr. Bradford thought it looked like there was less fluid behind the retina and in the center point of her vision.  Now the chances of this reversing itself were slim to none but not entirely impossible.  So it was decided that we would wait and see where we were in a month.

In April we returned for the third appointment and the examination showed the fluid level was back up.  At that point Dr. Bradford decided to try some laser surgery.  It's painless and could be performed right there in the office before we left.  The idea was to use a laser to seal the edge of the retina on one side and hopefully it would push the fluid out the other side and lay back down.  So we did the laser surgery and returned home to wait and see where we were in a month.

In May we returned for the fourth appointment and our second round of laser surgery.  Dr. Bradford couldn't really see much change and decided to attempt sealing the edge from another angle.  So again we did the laser surgery and then returned home to wait and see where we were in a month. 

Can I just say this is one the most difficult things to do as a parent?  I've mentioned this time to wait before, but it's hard!  As a parent your instinct is to be proactive, unfortunately when your child has a medical condition sometimes the only action available to you is being reactive.  It stinks!!

On June 4, 2008 we returned for our fifth appointment and the examination showed no significant improvement. It was time to move on to the next course of action, a complete vitrectomy.  A vitrectomy is basically this: remove the jellylike substance from the eye, inject a gas bubble into the eye, and place the patient face down for 10-14 days.  The concept is to allow the gas bubble to push the fluid out from behind the retina, sort of like pushing air out from behind wallpaper, and then it will apply pressure while allowing the retina to re adhere to the eye.  Simple, right??  Did you happen to catch that part about being face down for two weeks? 

We scheduled surgery for the next week, left the doctors office, and drove back to LE and D's house to discuss particulars before going home.  We had seven days to make arrangements for GG, the pets, the house, work, and of course NG's recovery. 

Since surgery was scheduled on a Thursday we drove down on Wednesday night and L stayed until Sunday afternoon.  Then he returned home and to work, but NG and I remained in Central Arkansas with LE and D for some (face)down time.  Yea, I know it's not a very good play on words but it's all I had.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Time To Wait

This morning my friend S sits in a waiting room at Arkansas Children's Hospital and waits. That's what you do in hospital waiting rooms.  You wait for surgery to begin, for surgery to end, for the doctor to come speak with you, for the nurse to come get wait and pray.

As friends and family we will all do the same.  We will sit at our kitchen tables, in our cars, at our desk, or wherever we may happen to be and we will wait...and we will pray.  Sometimes the only course of action available to us is to simply be still....and to remain ever trusting in an unfailing God.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

January 24, 2008: I Remember You Unfondly

Many of you already know this story but I have decided to write about it anyway.  When NG was originally diagnosed I scoured the Internet trying to make contact with anyone who might have any experience with this condition.  There was nothing!  So I'm going to document our experiences just in case someone else might be searching for information.  Maybe this can give someone else hope that we suffered through several long scary weeks without.

In December 2007 I took NG to have a routine eye exam.  I had noticed her holding books extremely close to her face when she would read, and in church she wasn't able to read the words fast enough to actually sing along.  She had not complained about not being able to see clearly, and based on her grades didn't appear to be having any trouble in school.  Little did I know this would be the beginning of an adventure we all could have happily lived the rest of our lives without experiencing. 

I made an appointment with Dr. Jeff Myers in Springdale.  L and I see him for our eye exams, several of my coworkers see him, and I felt (and still feel) completely comfortable taking NG to him. 

Let me just say that I am extremely particular about the health care professionals my family and I see, and I make no apologies for that.  To my way of thinking I pay them, I pay for the insurance that pays them, and it is my family's and my health at stake so therefore that makes me the boss.  In my opinion doctors don't necessarily have to be sympathetic, but they should be empathetic.  They should be both proud and humble of their success.  They are human not God, we need to remember this as patients and they need to remember this as doctors.  It is not necessary for a doctor to talk to me like I'm stupid, however it is necessary to talk to me in words I will understand.  I already know doctors are smart (after all they are doctors) so there is no need to spend valuable appointment time trying to prove it, and doctors already know my family or myself are in need of medical attention (after all that's why we see doctors) and therefore it isn't necessary to spend valuable appointment time trying to "outsick" the patient in the next room.  Those of you that really know me are aware of just how forceful (yea, that's the word I'm going with) I can be.  I never question my trust and faith in God, but if I question the trust or faith I have in a doctor then God and I are going in search of a new one.  I have fired more than one doctor, and the truth is it's probably going to happen again at some point in time or another.  With that having been said, back to the story.....

They performed a complete eye exam: took pictures of her eyes, checked her peripheral vision, checked her eye pressure, dilated her eyes to check for abnormalities, gave her an eye test, and Dr. Myers spoke with her at length concerning her vision.  At the end of all of this he determined her vision overall was bad, her right eye was significantly worse, she would definitely need glasses, and the pictures gave him some cause for concern.

Even though the non-contact tonometry or "puff of air" test did not indicate problems, because of the pictures, he recommended she be tested for glaucoma.  He went on to say that it was most likely a simple coloboma and these were most generally harmless, but we should rule out glaucoma just to be safe.  He referred us to Dr. Steven Vold, a glaucoma specialist.

We originally had an appointment scheduled for January 3, but due to an insurance issue we had to reschedule for January 24.  I can't remember the exact time but it was an afternoon appointment.  Dr. Myers had already forwarded NG's information and films so Dr. Vold already knew why we were there and what he was looking for.  What he found was completely unexpected, even by him.

It's never a good sign when the the doctor asks if he can finish with his last few patients and then come back to explain everything since it's going to "take some time".  It's an even worse sign when he asks permission for his colleagues to come in and examine your daughters eyes because "this condition is very rare, most of us have only seen it in medical books".

Dr. Vold diagnosed NG with bilateral Morning Glory Disc Anomaly Coloboma aka: Morning Glory Syndrome.  That's basically a really long name for a birth defect where the optic nerve forms incorrectly, and although it was even more rare to have the condition in both eyes NG had just that.  And then came worse news.

Morning Glory Syndrome causes moderate to severe blindness, but with this condition the malformation can allow fluid to seep behind the retina causing it to detach.  This to can cause blindness.  That was exactly what had happened with NG's right eye.  Fluid had seeped behind her retina and detached it at her center vision.  She was legally blind in her right eye and if it wasn't stopped soon she could lose vision in that eye completely.  Full disclosure required Dr. Vold to point out that although this had not happened in her left eye yet, that did not mean it wouldn't.  And then came the worst news.

Did I happen to mention this condition is extremely rare?  And somewhat controversial?  We needed help that Dr. Vold could not provide.  Unfortunately, since the condition is so rare he wasn't sure where to refer us to get help, but we all knew without help NG would lose all sight in her right eye and her left one could be next.  We were desperate to find a doctor who could and would treat her because time was a luxury we didn't have.

Dr. Vold decided to contact the Dean McGee Eye Institute in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  They agreed to see her and gave us an appointment for the next week.  The following Tuesday night L, NG, L's sister T, and I made the overnight trip to Oklahoma City for an appointment with the retina specialist.  We were not impressed!  Remember those requirements I have for doctors?  It quickly became apparent we had not found the help we were so desperate for in Oklahoma City.  We returned home with no answers, no encouragement, and no real idea of where to go next.  I can't possible describe what an awful feeling that is.

That Sunday a member of our church recommended we call Dr. James David Bradford, a retina specialist for Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock, Arkansas. 

On Tuesday afternoon I was able to speak to a technician in his office.  After listening to me explain the situation she offered me a 10:00 appointment for the next day.  I took it, called L and told him to start packing, made arrangements for GG, and let work know what was going on.  The irony of the situation?  Remember the retina specialist in Oklahoma City that didn't meet any of the requirements for inspiring trust and faith?  Well it turns out he has a brother in Little Rock who's also a retina specialist.  Huh?!?!

L's sister LE, and her husband D, had graciously offered to let us stay with them if we found ourselves headed to Central Arkansas.  Just before we left the house I called her to see if the offer was still available, and even though I gave her less than 4 hours notice and we would be arriving shortly before midnight, it was.

It turns out that they probably wouldn't have gotten to bed much earlier that night anyway since that was the night of the 2008 Super Tuesday tornado outbreak.  We were about 10 miles outside of Fort Smith, Arkansas when we received a call from L's cousin A warning us that we were driving toward the storm path.  I might have uttered a somewhat unacceptable (for mixed, young, and polite company) four letter word, but I kept driving and praying.  We had a 10:00 a.m. appointment and we were keeping it come hail, high water, or tornadoes.  We arrived safely, thank you God, and tried to get some sleep before facing whatever tomorrow would hold.

This appointment was the complete opposite of our experience from the previous week.  After examining NG he explained exactly what had happened to cause her sight loss, what our options were at that point, and what to expect in the upcoming future.  It was decided that we would return in four weeks for another exam to give Dr. Bradford a point of reference.  We made an appointment to return the next month and headed home.

We had hope for the first time in almost three weeks, but we also knew this was the calm before the storm.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Dawn Is About To Break...

...well half of it anyway.

Yesterday I stopped by the Malco and picked up our movie tickets for Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn.  That's right!  This family is a bunch of twi-hards.  Twilight Saga events have become a full family affair in our house, even L gets in on the action.

In December 2008 GG asked me to take her to see Twilight. She had already read all of the books and was very excited to see how the movie compared, so we went.  After watching the movie and not really understanding it I decided to read the books too, and loved them. 

In March 2009, I took GG to a Twilight DVD midnight release party and a really early breakfast.  I didn't know at the time that this would set a precedence for future events.  We got home at 2:30 a.m. and she immediately wanted to watch the (122 minutes long) movie.  Sure, why not?!  We had a wedding the next that day but what's two more hours, right?

L and NG had listened to GG and I discuss the books and movie so much they decided to read the books, and they were hooked.  They had already seen the movie.   After all if I'm going to stand in line 3 hours to buy a movie then everyone in the house is going to watch it at least once. 

So now, with the entire family involved, the only thing to do was wait for the next movie to be released.  In November 2009 Twilight Saga: New Moon hit theaters.  L and I took a vacation day and treated the Girls to the 12:01 a.m. showing and a really early breakfast.  Our plans hit a little bump when we discovered Village Inn is only open 24 hours on the weekends.  So in the interest of completing our outing as we had originally planned, and to calm the brewing storm of mutiny in the backseat, L and I decided to drive to the opposite end of town and eat at IHOP.  What's twenty more minutes at 2:30 in the morning, right?  We got home just before 5 a.m..

Four months later I took them to a Twilight Saga: New Moon DVD midnight release party and a really early breakfast.  L's niece J joined us that night and we had so much fun we immediately began making plans for her to join us when the next movie was released. 

At the end of June 2010 Twilight Saga: Eclipse came to theaters.  Since this movie was released during the summer, in lieu of individual birthday parties, the Girls had a "twilight marathon" party.  I spent that day fixing hair, applying make-up, and giving manicures to 3 tweens and 2 teens.  They spent the day watching the previous movies and giggling.  That evening I sprinkled them all with the "vampire glitter" the Girls had won at the last DVD release party and we were off to meet J for the 12:01 a.m. show and a really early breakfast.  Once again we got home shortly before 5 a.m., but the girls were kind enough to let me sleep four whole hours before asking me to get up and feed them breakfast, again.

L wasn't able to go with us for the first show, so after taking the party guest home and dropping the Girls at their grandparents for the evening, I met him back at the theatre.  I tried to keep my snoring to a minimum so as not to disturb the other movie goers.

Six months later I took the Girls to the Twilight Saga: Eclipse DVD midnight release party and a really early breakfast.  This time my cousin's wife K came to the party with us, J and her friend A.Z. met up with us a little later and then joined us for breakfast. 

Our group continues to expand.  What started with GG and I catching an afternoon matinee has now grown to include L, NG, J, K, and J's friend A.D..  So now, with the tickets burning a hole in my wallet, we impatiently await half of the Breaking Dawn.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake: Having My Cake And Cookie Too!

This year Boss's Day fell on a Sunday, so it was decided at work that we would celebrate on Friday.  Our idea of celebrating always involves a fairly large amount of food.  The celebrating was scheduled to start at 12:30 that afternoon and therefore would require a certain amount of lunch like food items, but we would still need desserts.  So I began searching for a new and different recipe and came up with this. 

I found the original recipe on the food network website.  It was a Paula Deen creation, and although I love her stuff, after reading through the recipe and the reviews I decided to make a few adjustments.  Here is a link to the original recipe, and the recipe including the changes I made is below.

I followed the recipe exactly for the crust and the chocolate layer. 

I omitted the caramel layer.  After reading through all the other ingredients listed the caramel just didn't really appeal to me.  Next came the cookie dough layer.  I let the dough come to room temperature while I was working on the crust and chocolate layer.  I found it was easier to just crumble the dough onto the chocolate layer and then press it out rather than cut it into slices and then spread it out.  Then I popped the pan back in the oven for an additional 15 minutes to bake the cookie dough a little before adding the cheesecake layer.

I followed the recipe for the cheesecake layer, and beat the batter approximately 1 minute between each egg addition. 

This was the moment the Girls had been waiting for, the availability of an egg beater.  They are their mother's daughters when it comes to licking the beaters.  Hard to reach spots?  No problem, we have the tongue skills of a horse after a sugar cube in a pocket.  Raw eggs?  Still no problem, if it doesn't look like raw egg and it doesn't taste like raw egg then it obviously isn't raw egg.  And on those occasions when I've had more children present than egg beaters to pass out I've been known to dip a beater spoon into the batter strictly for licking purposes. 

I read a review that mentioned pouring the cheesecake batter from the outside in so as not to mash the center down.  This made sense so that was the way I poured the batter.

Several reviews recommended increasing the temperature of the oven, so I increased the temperature to 350 degrees but I left the cook time at 1 hour.  This worked very well.  When the hour was up I removed the cake from the oven and allowed it to begin cooling.  After about 30 minutes of cooling on the counter I popped it in the refrigerator to speed the process. 

After it had completely cooled I went ahead and removed it from the spring form pan and placed it on a serving plate.  I then began the chocolate ganache layer.  Once again, based on the recommendations of various reviews, I adjusted the recipe and added an additional 3 tbs of heavy whipping cream to the original 4 tbs listed in the recipe.

I placed the chocolate ganache topping on the cheesecake and popped it back in the refrigerator to set overnight. 

I removed the cheesecake from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before I was ready to cut it to allow the chocolate topping to warm a bit and lessen the cracking.  I recommend cutting smaller slices since this cheesecake is very rich. 

This was a big hit with everyone and has already been requested for our next occasion.  After consulting the calendar it appears that Halloween is the next approaching holiday.  Cheesecake is an acceptable trick-or-treat goody, right? 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted

Chocolate Layer
6 (1 oz.) squares semisweet chocolate
6 tbs butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 tbs all-purpose flour

Cheesecake Layer
1 roll refrigerated chocolate chip cookie dough, room temperature
2 pkg cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Chocolate Ganache
6 (1 oz) squares semisweet chocolate
4 tbs heavy whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine crust ingredients in bowl and mix well.  Press crust into the bottom of spring form pan.  Bake for 6 minutes: let cool.  Melt chocolate and butter in double broiler; whisk in sugar, eggs, and flour until combined.  Pour onto cooled crust and bake 15 minutes; let cool.  Crumble cookie dough over chocolate layer and gently press out creating an even layer.  Place in oven and bake 15 minutes.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy.  Beat in eggs one at a time, beating approximately one minute after each addition.  Add vanilla and flour and beat until just combined.  Stir in sour cream.  Pour mixture over cookie dough and bake for 1 hour.  Remove from oven and gently run a knife around the edges to loosen cake from the pan.  Cool completely.  In a large sauce pan combine chocolate squares and cream; stir until melted and smooth.  Spread over cooled cheesecake.  Refrigerate for at least 8 hours before serving.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Fine Wine...Festival That Is

Last weekend L and I took the Girls and attended the Wiederkehr Wine Festival in Altus, AR.  The Girls and I had been once several years earlier, but had arrived late in the afternoon and missed most of the events.  L had never been before, but claimed to be up for the adventure.

So bright and early Saturday morning we packed a quick lunch, grabbed the camera, and headed down south to enjoy the festivities.  While heading down the driveway L and I discussed (argued) about the best route to take going there.  We intended to come back through Alma and stop at a store called A-Z so the route back was set, but the route down was still open for discussion and disagreement.  We quickly called upon "Big Momma" our trusty GPS for an unbiased weigh in on the subject and were soon on our way down the pig trail.

Let me just take a moment to say the pig trail, officially known as the Pig Trail Scenic Byway, is approximately 20 miles of the most twisted and curvy road you could ever imagine.  Through the years I have made that trip in cars, trucks, trucks with RV's attached, trucks with cattle trailers attached, vans, and school buses and I can't honestly say I have ever enjoyed that trip.  But there are times when it is quite simply the quickest way to get from point A to point B and therefore down the pig trail we'll go.

We arrived shortly after 9 a.m. and the party was just getting started.  The first item of business was to convert our money.  Rather than paying for activities and food with cash, you purchase tickets and then pay with them.  I suppose this makes the process easier for those running the concession stands and rides, but it proved to be somewhat complicated for us.  Part of the confusion stemmed from the fact that the moment we saw bratwurst on a bun with kraut we all knew there would be no we'lljustbringsomethingfromhome lunch for us.  No sirree!! 

"We'll take forty tickets please! and Thank you!!"
Then we were off to join in the fun.  L and I offered the Girls the opportunity to participate in the grape stomping contest, they declined.  So we took a tour of the vineyards instead.  The vineyards are very impressive and the view was amazing.  There was even a small metal tower used as a lookout point.

We looked around the arts and craft booths and enjoyed the live music.  There were camel rides available and although we had no desire to ride the camel L did pet it and it seemed to be very taken with him.  When I reached up to do the same it actually lifted it's head out of my reach and sneered at me.  I took the hint and backed off because it looked like it might also spit. (I later googled it and found they don't actually spit, it's more of a projectile vomit.  Even more reason to be moving along!)

The look on this camel's face just screams "prelude to spit"!
I decided at 10:30 to participate in the free wine tasting.  I left the Girls with L and bellied up to the bar.  The couple I was standing next to were in costume, which I found to be very entertaining.  There were a total of five wines to taste and for the most part they were good.  There was one, however, that made me think someone was wearing an old pair of gym socks when they stomped those grapes.

By the time I joined L and the Girls it was lunch time.  So we took our ticket currency and headed over to get our much anticipated bratwurst on a bun with kraut.  When we placed our order the girl told us it had been determined that the bratwursts were too long for the buns and therefore our choices were now bratwurst on a stick, or sausage on a bun, and would that be alright?  For several different reasons this was not alright.  First of all we like kraut on our brats and I'm pretty certain you can't eat kraut on a brat on a stick.  Second, we don't like sausage.  And thirdly, that would really mess up our currency to tickets conversion and we couldn't have that.  So after explaining to her that we didn't mind an oversized bratwurst on an undersized bun, she yanked four of them off the stick to accommodate us. 

We took our happiness in a syrofoam box and grabbed a seat in the dining tent where a German sing-along band had just started.  I commented that I had no idea what they were saying but I really liked it.  GG responded with, "I remember a few words from my German class in 4th grade.  I'll let you know if they say hello or goodbye."

After lunch L went over to the funnel cake vendor to get dessert.  I told him to get two large cakes and two extra plates and we would share.  He came back with two large cakes and one extra plate, and then told me they gave him one extra plate and offered to cut it in half.  I think he was a little irritated by this but I personally found it to be somewhat funny.  Still do.

We stopped in Alma to do a little shopping at A-Z before going home.

We made a quick tour through the Gifts store, and then L dropped the Girls and I at the Fashions store before continuing on to the Sporting Goods store. Twenty minutes later we located him in the camo section trying to make his final choice.  That's right, L spent more time clothes shopping than I did!  Make a note!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We Go Which Way?

A few weeks ago the Girls and I picked up a geocoin from a cache we grabbed in our local state park.  You can read that here.  Geocoins are registered through the geocaching website so that they can be tracked as they are moved.  Our geocoin originated from Arizona and had most recently been brought from Dardanelle State Park.  We immediately began looking for it a new home.

With hunting season only a week away L decided to make a trip up to his parents after church to refill his deer feeder and check the images on his game camera.  At the last minute the Girls and I decided to tag along so we could visit for a while, and on the way home we planned to stop at another state park and drop the geocoin.  It started as a good plan.

Now here's the trouble with spontaneity.  I never seem to have enough time to plan for it properly.  I threw everything  I thought we would need for one quick cache grab in a fanny pack.  Yes, that's right, I said fanny pack.  Don't judge!  It's small, convenient, and it isn't like we plan to use that little jewel for anything else.  Inventory included 3 granola bars, a pack of peanut butter crackers, an ink pen, the geocoin, and lip gloss.  L would be playing the role of "directions on how to read a compass", because apparently they teach you skills like that in the Air Force.  (once again we forgot tick repellent)

After church we drove up to L's parents' house where he filled his feeder, retrieved the memory card, and took time to ooh and aah over the wildlife.  On a side note it turns out watching a buck and a raccoon fight over a piece of corn is entertaining even in still shots.  We all got a chance to visit, catch up on the going on's of the family, and in general had a good time.

Originally we had planned to drop the geocoin in the official "Arkansas State Park" cache.  However, we decided we might have time to grab a "private" cache along the way.  When we parked the truck the app showed us as being .5 miles from this particular cache, and thus began the search.

Now there are several things that made this current search different from the previous ones.  A few of those differences were;
  • We were all unfamiliar with this park and therefore out of our comfort zone.
  • L was with us rather than on stand by with a S & R team, just in case.
  • There were now two adults, both under the impression that they were the fearless leader.
  • GG was impressed with my compass yesterday (even if we couldn't use it), L was not impressed with my compass and declared it to be "to small to read, and not much help".
  • It had been a few hours since breakfast, and it would most likely be at least another couple of hours before we ate lunch/ supper. 
L originally took the lead because he could read a compass.  I eventually wrestled the lead (and my iPhone) back from him when he kept taking us cross country rather than sticking to the hiking trail.  The words "poison ivy, snakes, and ticks. Oh My!" kept playing in my head and I just couldn't handle the rugged approach.  Eventually we reached the point where it became necessary to leave the trail and actually begin searching for the cache.

 L found it in a matter of moments.

Doesn't he make a good Vanna?

We logged our find, dropped the geocoin in, and chose our prize. 

This cache didn't have many items to choose from but the moment the Girls saw the $1 bill there was no need to look further.  As far as they were concerned they were now legitimate geocachers and had officially turned a profit.

As I mentioned before we were unfamiliar with this park and therefore did not know this hiking trail.  We decided we would continue forward and finish the hiking trail, until we saw the lake.  We then decided to google it and see just how long the trail actually was.  So in the middle of the Hidden Diversity Multi-Use Trail we stopped to do a google search (isn't technology great?) and found out the length was 24 miles, and the loop we were currently on was 5 miles.  So we turned around and started backtracking, since we were pretty certain (insert hopeful) that would be the shorter end of the loop.  Now going cross country to find a cache is easy, and we had actually cut out large sections of the trail by doing this before L was ousted as leader and I assumed power.  It's not as easy to do when trying to get back to the truck since there is no green balloon to move toward.  This meant we would have to stick to the trail.  At this point L reclaimed the position as leader since I was responsible for landing us somewhere in the middle of a 24 mile long hiking trail.

By the time we reached the truck we were all hungry (those granola bars were long gone), tired, and ready to be home.  On our way home we passed someone very distressed drunk and walking in the road. L stopped to assist, and eventually arrest, her.  While snacking on the remaining peanut butter crackers and waiting on transport to arrive the Girls and I had the following conversation:

GG: Can we just walk to the gas station and get snacks?

Me: No, I don't think so.

NG: Why not?

Me: Because it would be rude to just leave.  It's unsouthern.

GG: Oh, well I think Daddy's already done rude.

Oh yea, that. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Playing Chicken With A... Tractor??

L & I took the Girls and went tripping down to Altus, AR for the Wiederkehr Village Weinfest.  Read more on that here.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hello My Name Is Amanda.... And I Might Be An iPhone Addict.

The truth is I don't even really like my iPhone, never have.  But when I decided to replace my blackberry two years ago, an iPhone owner I became.  Although the phone itself has never grown on me the convenience has, and there in lies the problem.  Like any addiction you don't necessarily like what you're addicted to, but that doesn't stop you from wanting needing it.  I did resist the urge to purchase the new iPhone 4 when it was released last year, after all I just couldn't justify replacing my perfectly good looks like new absolutely nothing wrong with it phone just because it was no longer the latest and the greatest.

Oh, but today...... Apple is scheduled to announce their newest mark in iPhone history.  And should they announce not just the release of new software but also the release of an iPhone 5, I might have to replace mine.  After all, it's now two years old and that's like being twenty years old in cell phone years. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let Em' Eat Cake: Fresh Apple Cake

My grandparents have an apple tree in their yard that produces the best apples.

I picked 5 gallons of these apples last year and canned apple butter. Unfortunately the electricity went out while I was still cooking and I had to finish that project by flashlight. I think it scarred me a little as I haven't had a desire to can anything since.

This time I just picked enough to make a fresh apple cake. I looked up my recipe, the one I copied from my grandmothers' "older than I am" cookbook, and prepared to bake. I started by peeling, coring, and chopping my apples. You might remember from my earlier post that I am peeling challenged? Well just in case you're wondering, a potato peeler works just as good on apples. Don't judge!

I followed the instructions of the recipe and was a little concerned when the batter seemed a bit dry, but after adding the apples it became the perfect batter consistency so all was well. The recipe says to bake in a loaf pan at 300 degrees, but I find it does better in a bundt pan at 325 degrees.

I entertained myself with sitcom reruns and Internet window shopping for the next hour. I suppose I could have been doing something more constructive, like laundry, but I decided to pace myself. No reason to work myself into a frenzy by cooking and cleaning at the same time, after all it was still technically the weekend.

After the cake had cooled, and after I had eaten a piece (strictly for quality control purposes of course), I covered it and went on to bed. The next morning I let the Girls have fresh apple cake and milk for breakfast. I figured that was just as healthy as a pop tart but this way I get points for "world's best mommy".

Fresh Apple Cake
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups fresh apples, chopped
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla

Combine oil and sugar.  Add eggs, sift dry ingredients into mixture.  Add vanilla and apples.  Bake in loaf pan at 300 degrees for 55 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.