Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sad Blender Saga

The History of the Saga: Some of you may remember our blender saga from fall 2004. A piece broke while we were pureeing pumpkin for real pumpkin pies, but it was still under warranty, so we started the process of sending it back. I won't bore you with all the details, but it was a long, drawn-out, frustrating process to get a new blender. Finally, our new Black & Decker Crush Master Blender arrived. Black & Decker Light-Show Finale: Lately, we've been into smoothies since it's a great way to get all your fruit for the day. Well, while waiting for it to suck in and blend the last few frozen strawberries, the base suddenly started popping with flashes of blue light. Ah! Turn it off! It smelled funny after that, so we set it outside, and it was hauled off with Monday morning's garbage. Bummer. I guess these days it's pretty good that it lasted 3 years? (I seem to remember my mom's green blender lasting 20.) But I don't like the process of blending stuff when you have to blend, shake it, stop and scrape the sides, blend again, stop and stir... Why can't it just pull everything in and blend? High Hopes for Oster: After shopping around for anything but a Black & Decker, we settled on the Oster Fusion. This one looks really good (6 points on the reversible blade) and is pricier so it should be better and last longer, right? We immediately got it out to make smoothies. We threw in all our ingredients, pushed the pre-programmed "frozen drinks" button (oooo - fancy!), and watched. It started off great with the reversing blade to help reposition the ingredients, then it kicked into high gear, and... nothing. Everything was sitting there on top like it wasn't even in a blender. Unbelievable. We still had to get out a spatula and try to help get the food to the blades.... not once or twice, but at least 6 times before we had a smoothie. We tried it again last night just to be sure we didn't put in too much stuff at once. It had to have help just to blend a banana! Help Us Shop: Maybe our expectations are too high, but we want to a blender that can make a smoothie without a spatula's repeated intervention and that will last awhile... ok, and that's not $400 like Blendtec. Any suggestions?

Friday, October 19, 2007

There and Back Again... A Studer's Tale

We've been planning this family vacation for about a year and a half. My Dad says the family hasn't taken a real vacation since 1986, so this is one for the record books. Dad hadn't been to Disneyland since 1964, and Mom and Jeremy had never been. Davin and I wanted to share this wonderful place with them, and simply have time to get away, forget about the stresses and hard parts of life, and just play! Plus we're always looking for a good reason to go back to Disneyland. We rented a 2007 Toyota Sienna which made all the difference in the world for traveling 1,000 miles down and 1,000 back. This van was perfect for accommodating 5 passengers and all our stuff. It was very comfortable and versatile with lots of different seat configurations. Can I just say, I love cruise control? I know that's not a new thing, but our car doesn't have it. I also got a kick out of the automatic sliding door that could open and shut itself. But who needs 15 cup holders? If you can't afford to fly your group there and back again... rent a Sienna.

Disneyland - Day 4

Monday, October 15th was our last day in the park to pick up things we missed or wanted to do again. Here's a great shot the camera took of us on California Screaming. I love that roller coaster! This trip was Jeremy's first time experiencing roller coasters and he liked them, too, although you may not know it from this picture. We got a good laugh out of this one. Late that afternoon we took one last look in Adventureland to see if Indiana Jones was open, and it was! People said it had been shut down for at least a week, and I was bummed we wouldn't get to go on it. We hopped in line, and now the trip was perfect. I got to go on my favorite ride! I like this goofy picture of Jeremy in his new Indiana Jones hat while we waited in line. A closing shot of California decked out in candy corn. It was a great time! I'm sure this first family vacation to Disneyland won't be the last. We were happy although rubbing sore feet and longing for a long nap. It will take a few days to recuperate, but I look forward to sharing photos and watching the video to relive the memories.

Disneyland - Day 3

Sunday, October 14th started out back in Disneyland. We caught some of the rides we missed the first time around like Space Mountain which Mom actually really liked. I didn't know if she'd enjoy a roller coaster in the dark or not. We also caught Finding Nemo which is the newly re-done submarine ride. This was our longest wait (over an hour) before boarding "Scout" and looking for Nemo. Here's a great shot of the castle from a different vantage point than the traditional straight on view. We also caught the Parade of Dreams down Main Street. It was the same one from the 50th celebration, but it was still good. Davin and I split off for the afternoon and early evening to have some time to ourselves. We enjoyed shopping, rides, and dining at the Blue Bayou which is our special spot in Disneyland. The evening closed with nabbing front row seats for our second viewing of Fantasmic.

Disneyland - Day 2

Saturday, October 13th was all about California Adventure! We hit most of the big sites that day. The biggest surprise for Mom and Dad was the Tower of Terror. On that ride they try to mess with your mind a bit, so it makes it even scarier. We got front row seats and Mom, Dad and Jeremy were in the middle of the row for a perfect view. Mom let out one scream and then was silent the rest of the ride. Uh, oh. That's when you know it's too much, and she's not having fun. Still, now they can say they've done the Tower of Terror even if they never do it again.
After that we calmed down by taking in the fabulous Aladdin musical. What a good show! I also enjoyed stopping in the Beauty and the Beast room. I love watching it magically transform. We really had a fun day. Oh, and the watermelon picture is the only group picture we got with everyone, so there you go. We closed the day back in Disneyland and got to watch Fantasmic which Dad thought was the best music, light, and performer show he's ever seen.

Disneyland - Day 1

Friday, October 12 was our first day in the park. It was all decked out in yellow and orange with Disney pumpkins everywhere. Our first ride was Pirates of the Caribbean and from there I don't actually remember, but we did a lot of the Disneyland rides on the first day. Splash Mountain was a big hit and ended up being Jeremy's favorite ride. He liked sitting in the back seat. Davin was telling Mom and Dad that we've never gotten really wet (which is true) and don't understand the "dry is not an option" phrase they use for the ride. We've always walked away dry. He took the front seat and on the first little dip... splash! He got soaked... again and again, and finally the big plunge. He was dripping wet, and we all got a pretty good laugh. Mom and I got wet too. Figures, as soon as you say it's not that bad you're proven wrong. We stayed at Desert Inn and Suites right across the street from the east entrance to the park. What a difference it makes to stay within short walking distance! We had adjoining rooms which gave us plenty of space, and the place was clean and service was good. I'd like to stay here again.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Day 1,176

Melissa and I have a tradition. It started one night when we decided to go to Sweet Tomatoes for dinner. Sometimes, we really want to go out to eat, but we don't have a good reason, so we'll make up one ... like "We're celebrating Tuesday." Anyway, that particular night at Sweet Tomatoes we were trying to decide what we were celebrating. We decided that we were celebrating day 400 something of being married. Well, that started our tradition. Everytime we go to Sweet Tomatoes we have to figure out how many days we have been married. Fortunately, we haven't had to deal with leap year yet ... next year though. Ack!! Well, today is day 1,176, and each day has been worth it. Oh yeah, it was a good meal too!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Alternative to Oil Heat

So Davin and I decided that we needed to look into other options for heat this winter. We moved into this house mid-winter last year and in 4 months we used 338 gallons of oil costing us $920. Ouch! I guess it wouldn't have been too bad if we were nice and toasty the whole time, but we basically only ran the furnace in the evenings between 5-10pm. I froze most of the time! So Dr. Kutz introduced us to the EdenPure heater that he uses. He got one we could borrow so we've been trying it out, and it heats our big living room pretty well. The best part is that it only uses 1.263 kilowatts per hour so we figured out if we had it on 14 hours a day, it would cost us about $0.70/day. Based on what we paid for our oil I estimate it costs almost $1.50/hour to run that thing! Let's see... one hour of heat vs. two days of heat. Even though the unit is kind of expensive, it would pay for itself in 2 months. I think we may need to get one of these things.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Agape Ropes Course

The Central Bible youth staff retreat was last weekend. We went to the Agape Ropes Course on Saturday and had fun playing around on the high and low ropes. Our favorite activity was the Catwalk where we tried to cross a wet, slippery, narrow log 20 feet up in the air. I was surprised at how freaked out I was once I actually got up there. If the log had been on the ground, my legs wouldn't have been shaking like that. I got to belay Davin who did great and even walked backwards with his eyes closed! Another fun activity was the flying carpet. It was a very wobbly platform where three teams pulled ropes to get you really high up in the air... I'd say maybe 50 feet up. I assumed what people were calling a Ninja stance to keep my balance, and the teams did awesome lifting me up and back down again without dumping me off. We didn't do as well keeping Davin on the platform, but I like this shot of him high up in the trees. I enjoyed getting to know the staff a bit better. I'm not around for every youth activity but they welcome me in when I can come. Davin's got a great team to work with.