Monday, December 29, 2008

X-MAS 2009 CON'T



I thought I'd talk a little about our Christmas family dinner. Growing up our tradition was always a large breakfast and then a more simple dinner later that day. Our breakfast always consisted of pancakes (which dad only made on Christmas), eggs, sausage, bacon and sometimes homemade biscuits. However, I've noticed that our family traditions are changing somewhat and it may be just because I'm older now, but I think I like it even better. For the last several years breakfast is still a big to do but now we all pitch in for the afternoon dinner instead of it just being my parents preparing the food. Some of my favorite
Christmas memories over the last couple years have
been talking to my sisters about what everyone is going to make and being in the kitchen with my family. I think that this years dinner was particularly good, I'll try to remember each dish.

Breakfast:
French toast with french bread from Sugar Magnolia Bakery, sausage links and patties, bacon and fruit salad.

Dinner:
For starters we had a basic salad with Parmesan cheese and candied pecans, then for the main coarse corned beef(which was amazing!), acorn squash with pear stuffing and an orange juice sauce, asparagus with jalapeno hollandaise sauce, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, stewed apples and wild rice and mushroom soup. And to wash it down a glass of Pinot Noir.

Dessert:
My sister Stephanie made a custard but I'm not sure what kind and my niece Hannah and I made a Carrot Cake with a
cream cheese frosting. Hannah is allergic to dairy and most kinds of nuts so we made a special cake for her excluding the walnuts and cream cheese frosting. (see the little rectangular cake in the picture?) I must say that experience is often the best teacher because the first time I made this cake I did not let the cakes cool long enough or the frosting setup long enough so even though it tasted okay it looked like someone stood on the other side of the room and threw it onto the plate! This time it was much better but still not quite as nice as I would like and I think next time I'll add a little extra cinnamon.

















Nap time!!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

X-MAS 2009


So I was able to score a whole week off of work for Christmas this year! My week was filled with a lot of laying around and running around so all in all it was very good. My dad told me over Thanksgiving that he wanted to burn the pile of trash in our yard sometime over Christmas. Monday happened to be the coldest day that week (30's that night I think; highs in the 70's the rest of the week). I must admit that the fire didn't last too long after it was lit and I had been expecting to be up late making sure it was out. We had several people come out to enjoy the fire and I was particularly excited about all the kids that were running around and the very little ones that were being carried by all at some point throughout the night.

Mike and Royal



















My sister Stephanie with my youngest niece Ava.














Me and Steph


















Everyone














Haydn (click on this one, he's pointing to how high the embers are going)













Molly, Brandy and Francys


















Oooo... fire...














One of my many nearly world famous mixed drinks...really!

















Okay, Okay that last statement wasn't completely true... they're no where near world famous.

















Hanging out inside because it was actually cold outside!!













Candace and Molly














I'm not sure what I can say about this... let's just leave it open to interpretation.
















Thank you to everyone who was able to come out. I don't get to see any of you very often and this was a lot of fun for me and a good time to catch up with you all.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

PME Christmas Party


Last night was my work's annual Christmas party. For the past couple of years we've gone out on Lake Norman aboard a chartered boat. As usual it was a lot of fun! Most everyone and their dates bring a gift to anonymously exchange. Once it's your turn to pick a gift off the table you can either choose one that is on the table or take one from someone that has already opened one and then they get to open another. Each gift can only change hands three times. The gifts ranged from dvds and knives to whoopee cushions and monkey butt. (Google that, I'm not explaining) My name was drawn early on and I unwrapped a set of three flashlights... they were promptly taken from me. Then I received the new AC/DC album... that too was taken quickly. Finally I got something that no one took... a little metal Christmas tree that you can hang pictures or cards on. This was a great gift for any of the women there that night but what am I going to do with that? So on the way back to the car at the end of the night I gave it to our secretary and it is now being proudly displayed on her desk at work!




The food was a sort of holiday buffet. We had mashed potatoes, ham, turkey, prim rib, green beans, many other vegetables and pumpkin pie or peach cobbler for dessert. (I tried both desserts as you can see) The food was good but middle of the road at best. It got extra points for being free, however the ham was actually very good. All this accompanied by the open bar made for a very relaxed and fun evening.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Cantata


Last night and tonight was my church's annual Christmas cantata. A festive evening of elegant music and Scripture performed by the Sanctuary Choir, soloists, youth and children's choirs, Christ Covenant brass ensemble and members of the Charlotte Symphony. I was very happy and excited that a friend of mine from work said that he and his family would go with me. We ate at a
nearby 50's style diner then settled down in our seats for the night of music.
The music was absolutely fantastic! Much of it I've sang myself and some of it was composed just for this concert. My friends Matt and Melissa also brought their two year old son Lochland who normally loves this type of thing but with only a 30 minute nap earlier that day he wasn't particularly impressed with everything that was going on.



















He was ready ready for the rest of that nap about half way through but I think he settled for some cookies that were out in the foyer. There were several time when the music was very soft and melancholy and then went straight into a loud strong piece that gives you goose bumps and always seems to bring a smile of awe. (He sat up immediately and listened for a while when that happened)
As expected the turnout was very good and the music was wonderful! It is always so encouraging and joyous to see and hear God's people using their voices and talents to sing of His glory. His grace and love for His people is an incredibly beautiful thing. It makes mouths drop in awe and keeps in perspective who He is and how we are to serve Him to His glory.













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video

Friday, December 12, 2008

Pockets O' Pita

I decided today to make something I've been want to make for some time now but haven't...pita bread! I wanted to try it some time ago but never did for some reason, then I was watching "Good Eats" with Alton Brown and he was explaining how they get the pockets in the middle (I never knew) which made me want to make them more so I finally set aside time today.

I made my dough and rolled it out. I actually had ten of them but I had to put the other ones on another tray.


They have a very short bake time of 8-10min at 500*. I sat on the floor in front of my oven and watched them rise , while one of my roommates laughed at me.

I was very happy to see that the pockets had done just what they were supposed to.

As for the filling I made a tuna fish salad type thing. (I'm not sure what to call it) I put 2 cans of tuna, chopped celery, mayo, shredded cheese, orange juice, salt and pepper. I know all that probably sounds awful but you should try it. Oh yeah, I topped it off with a Flying Dog porter. Porter's are definitely one of my favorite types of beer. I know that there are others that would go better with this meal but that's what I had, and it's way good!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

THE SEASON IS OVER (now the work begins)


I work at Pro Motor Engines in Mooresville, NC. We had a very good season logging 13 wins in two different series'. The #33 truck owned by Kevin Harvick and driven by Ron Hornaday was our big winners this year. The 33 team won 6 times in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series and their sister team won twice with the #2 truck. Pro Motor also had engines in two other winning trucks this year and in three winning ARCA series cars. The championship came down to the last race and even the last laps, with a late race pit stop making the difference. So heartbreaking, but I think I'm starting to get over it. Many people ask me what we do in the off season since we're not building engines and nobody is going to the track to race. To tell the truth we are actually more busy during the winter months especially after Christmas than we are the rest of the year.
At my shop every year for a few weeks we make changes to the shop and renovations where needed. This year was no exception and we changed a lot of stuff around! The picture above is our new cylinder head area (Mike pictured) which I'm really happy with. We also re-waxed all the floors in the shop, repainted all the offices and all the walls in the machine shop. Still some work to be done but I'm not sure if we will get to the rest of it due to the start of the season fast approaching.

We are an independent engine builder, meaning that we don't have a team that operates out of our shop, instead we supply several different teams with engines. Since we own our engines and lease them out we always have scores of them sitting on the floor waiting to be torn down, cleaned , machined, assembled and dynoed during the off season. We currently have over 100 engines in the shop right now, the large majority still have to have a complete rebuild. We also use the off season as a time to spend a little more time and money toward research and development. I am so thankful that I have a job where I love what I do.
Notice how clean the shop is? Most professional shops at this level are like walking into a hospital they are so clean. It puts a little different perspective on the grease monkeys huh?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Simplicity




Many times I think that the simplest things in life are the things that I enjoy the most. Everything from just happening to see a shooting star that you're sure no one else saw to simple dinners. One meal I make often is hard boiled egg sandwiches. I've had my heart set on this since before lunch today so I was pretty happy to get home at a reasonable hour tonight. Tonight's meal was missing a few things but was good none the less. I usually like to just add mayonnaise, mustard, relish or chopped celery, lettuce, salt and pepper. My Dad makes a really good homemade sweet relish but I've already eaten it all! (All I had was mayo, mustard, salt and pepper.) I did have some honey french bread that I made a couple days ago that I toasted.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cold Weather Riding



Well, I finished my motorbike a while ago and have been riding pretty regularly even in the colder weather. I thought I'd give a little information about winter riding since every time I show up somewhere several people seem to ask me, "It's a little cold to be riding a motorcycle isn't it?" The truth is... YES!... but that doesn't deter me from riding anyway. I really do enjoy riding even if it's cold out, and the way I see it is we as a culture rarely experience any discomfort, I know that's true for me. That's not to say that riding in the bitter 20 degree weather is some sort of self empowering pilgrimage, but it has brought to the forefront of my mind that I have an awful lot to be thankful for even if it's something as simple as a car heater! It also got me thinking about how blessed I am when there are so many other people around the world that have so little and would look at any of us as fabulously wealthy! God has been generous and gracious to me in so many ways, ways I'm not even aware.

So, now onto a little about buzzing around on a motorcycle in 20 degree weather or less.
I'll start at the top; My helmet is a Zox brand full face helmet. These aren't the super high dollar helmets but it had really good reviews and was in the price range I was looking for. I also bought a highly reflective band called a "Halo" so hopefully that will help people see me when it's dark out i.e. to and from work. I also have a neoprene face mask to help keep my head warm and the wind from hitting my chin and neck. Chap stick is always a must as well.



I wear a Fieldsheer Corsair jacket that has a wind proof/waterproof inner jacket. I was a little surprised at how warm it is for being as thin as it is. It has ballistic hard padding in the shoulders, elbows/forearms, and down the back. This was a must for me when looking for a jacket because of the added level of safety. It is still necessary to wear a warm base layer underneath but not too much is needed just something long sleeve and a t-shirt usually does me fine.

As for gloves I chose Alpinestars' "Drystar Vega" they are a all season glove and are waterproof. I think I could have actually opted for a warmer pair because my fingers tips after about 30-40min start to get pretty cold. Another selling point of these gloves for me was the carbon fiber knuckle protection. Your hands are an often forgotten part to protect yet they many times can get pretty badly hurt if you were to lay the bike over or get into an accident. Come summer I will buy another pair of gloves just for warm weather.







As for pants I didn't spend allot of money for the real nice cold weather riding pants, instead I went to Burlington Coat Factory and bought a pair of ski pants. They were about $190 cheaper than if I had gone the other route! I have been real pleased and the lower half of my body hasn't even started to get cold since I began wearing these. They are also windproof and waterproof and have an rubbery elastic gator at the bottom of the cuff to keep the pant leg in place instead of riding up due to wind or riding position.
And as always I wear boots that are high on my ankles waterproof and made of leather. All of these things add protection and comforts when you have to shift with your toes.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

SACRED HARP/ SHAPE NOTE SINGING



I've been singing shape note music for a little over three years now and every time I go to one of our monthly sings I'm taken by it all over again. This is a very old style of music that was largely criticized by the academics that taught music in the universities and such. However it was very popular with the people, especially rural families and along the Appalachian mountain range. The purpose of the shapes were to assist the general congregation in singing by associating each shape with a specific note in turn allowing one to follow the line of musical notes throughout the song. One of the things I love most about this type of singing is that you don't have to have a great voice just sing loud and I love the fact that you can hear individual voices with all their imperfections singing to God's glory!
At the beginning of each song everyone sings the song by the notes only, those being Fa, So, La and Mi. Click on the the picture blow and you can see the different shape in place of the traditional musical notes.

FA= triangle
SO=circle
LA=square
MI=diamond



There is so much more to this historical and beautiful form of music than just what I have posted but I hope this might encourage someone to broaden their horizons a bit and look around to see if there is a local group of folks you could sing with. You may even have as much fun as I did my first time and every time since!!

WATCH and LISTEN ---



Wednesday, December 3, 2008

CHRISTOPHER BRAYDEN RENTZ!!




One of my very best friends from childhood was blessed with his first born on November 24th 2008! I've known Chris since the 4th grade and we hit it off as soon as we met. The whole time we knew each other up until I moved an hour and a half away we were basically inseparable. I taught him how to play baseball and in one short year he was surpassing me in skill and at that time I was a little league veteran! Hunting, fishing, respect and love for wildlife and the outdoors are just a few of the things that I'm sure are going to be introduced to Brayden at a very early age. I am so happy for my dear friend Chris and his wife for the life of this little boy, and I pray that the Lord will live in his heart at an early age so that he will live his whole life under the love and admonition of the Lord. I love you dearly brother!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Lots going on!...no computer...



I've had a lot going on in the past month or so but no computer to post with. So, now that I'm back up and running it's time to play catch up.
About a month ago my roommate Luke was laid off and he decided that it would be best for him to move back to Kansas and finish his engineering degree. The racing industry, like most is struggling a bit with the current economy. With less money coming in from sponsors big teams as well as the smaller independent teams and engine builders all have to really pinch their pennies and unfortunately that often means layoffs.

Luke moved out the first of November after living here for about three years and since he was the one that paid the cable and internet bills I've been without for the last several weeks.
My good friends Ben and Stef (who I knew from living in Houston) graciously let me move into their spare bedroom until I find something else. I never seem to realize how much stuff I gather over time until I have to move! Three pickup truck loads later I have thrown away all the stuff that I can honestly ask... why do I still have this?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

All in the Family...



I believe my sister may have made mention of this but hey, we did grow up in the same house.
Some of my most vivid memories as a child while living in the small town of Jesup GA were very hot summers that at the time didn't seem to slow me down, the awful smell of the pulp mill which now brings back fond memories somehow, the attic fan which would pull so much air in through the windows that the curtains would stand out straight and the smell of my mothers home made bread. Now that I'm older it makes me smile to see that my mother and all three of her children enjoy making their own home made bread.
The younger of my two sisters, Stephanie, has worked in several bakeries for several years. She can make some pretty incredible breads all by hand. My oldest sister Melissa makes it for her family at home on a regular basis and for the past several months I too have been trying my hand. The recipe I used today was a simple wheat bread recipe from Melissa with olive oil as my usual substitute for butter and with sesame seeds, oats and wheat germ added in the mix with a little sesame seeds and oats on top as well. I will admit that it took me several loaves before I finally figured out what temperature and how long it needed to stay in my oven. I think I have a little better grasp on what I'm doing now and I've been pleasantly surprised the last couple of times, except when I totally forgot to add the yeast and I ended up with a bread brick! Oops...

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Okay, Okay!! Here we go...


Here I am Mellisa!! Okay, I now have a blog that I am going to try and keep up. I always enjoy looking at other people's blogs but I've always felt that the many hours I devote to wandering though blog after blog after blog might have been better spent doing something a little more constructive. (That's the big reason I've never had a myspace or facebook account) Not that long ago I did decide however to post pictures of what my life is being filled with on my photobucket account --
http://s307.photobucket.com/albums/nn288/nathanhouse82/
This I think might be a better way to share pictures and events because I'm really bad about putting details along with my pictures so maybe this blog will help with that.
The picture above is of my current project that I'm hoping will not be a project much longer because I need it to drive to work. This is how I bought the bike, not in great shape but not too bad either. It's a 1982 Honda CB900F, it's currently being painted and I still have to fix the rear brakes but other than that it ought to be about ready to ride. The idea is to sell my car and rely on this as my main source of transportation. I was hoping to have it running before it gets too cold but with every passing week the air is feeling more and more like winter. The plans are to ride this everyday including in the rain and snow this winter. If the weather is to bad or the roads icy I guess I'll drive my truck. So this is what is now consuming my time along with a newly formed blog (Thanks to my sister). Stay tuned... I might just keep this up.......