Friday, November 26, 2004

While Everyone's Going Home, A Homegoing

I had an amazing Thanksgiving, but for the most unexpected of reasons. The holiday weekend really started Wednesday night. Angel, the boys and I went to see The Incredibles -- which is an awesome movie I would highly recommend to anyone! We went to the 9:30 pm showing and got out just before midnight, so that was a COOL way to end Wednesday...

Yesterday, we met with both sides of our family, which was nice. We enjoyed each other's company, had food together and got caught up on each other's lives. I'm really glad we were able to do that.

We ended up over at one of our First Light bandmate's house on Thansgiving evening. Most of the rest of First Light members were there, too, and we ended up singing a few First Light songs for some relatives of one of our bandmates...which, again, was fun.

Then there was a phone call that changed the whole evening.

One of our sisters in Christ, whom we all knew and loved, had passed away this Thanksgiving. She was not old. She had not died in a car accident. She and her husband (they're an interracial married couple) had recently gotten back from missionary work in Belize, Central America, where our church has a sister church. Upon their return, the husband had gotten sick but eventually recovered but the illness had persisted in his wife. They were visiting some friends from church when she decided to get some rest because she wasn't feeling well. She went to sleep and never woke up.

When we got the news, we were shocked but we were also immediately happy for her because, as one brother put it, "the scriptures are fulfilled" that she fell asleep in Christ. Hers was by no means a terrible death; our sadness was for her husband and ourselves, who will miss her on the Earth. Our whole church will be giving support and love to her husband to help him in this time of need.

But after learning this news and speaking about it for a few minutes, First Light began to sing songs to the Lord, in honor of our sister in Christ and the glorious encouragement she gave to us all by completing a life that was free from willful sin. Only the leader of the band had his guitar, so most of us just sang -- but we sang with all we had! There were tears and some "cracked notes" from emotion but the emotions were pure and they were beautiful. I will admit I cried as we sang "I Exalt Thee." Everyone was choked up, some cried freely, but they were tears of joy, not sadness...and the Lord deserved (and deserves) all the honor and praise and so much more. We sang hymns and original First Light numbers -- but in a way we had never sang them before. Obviously, this was not in front of an audience -- just ourselves, those in the house and, most importantly, the Lord.

It definitely goes down as my most memorable Thanksgiving...and I'm thankful for it.

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Things I'm Thankful For This Year

  1. Salvation (I give thanks to God for His Son, Jesus Christ, who changed my life, forgave my past and came to live in my heart. His Holy Spirit has helped me live free from willful sin for nearly nine years)

  2. My wife and children

  3. My health and strength (such as it is, it could always be worse)

  4. My sister, mother and in-laws

  5. My church family

  6. Having a job

  7. The duplex we rent

  8. Our vehicle (paid for!)

  9. The freedoms we're afforded in the U.S.A.

  10. The sacrifices made to achieve the freedoms we're afforded in the U.S.A.

  11. Being alive

  12. All the friends I've made on the internet, including you!

Most likely, I will not be blogging tomorrow, as I will be with family all day enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday. So, I wanted to go ahead and share what I'm thankful for today. I hope you have a wonderful holiday and stay safe!

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

I Think I Spoke Too Soon...

Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Here comes round three of storms before the cold front blows through later tonight. There is a severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Central Texas, I'm sure that will become a warning when the storms arrive.

The nice thing is, if the lights go out, we use candles in the house. It looks rather nice at night. And if tornadoes break out, well, we can pray.

Best Wishes,

So Glad That's Over With-!

Well, we appear to have survived. Now Houston and East Texas are dealing with the storm system. I'm praying for them, they seem to be having more tornadic weather than we did in Central Texas. We only had a couple of funnel clouds and maybe one or two touchdowns with no significant damage. And although lightning did strike a house in South Austin, still there was, no significant damage, thankfully.

There is a lot to be thankful about this week!

Best Wishes,

Did I Really say "Bring On The Rain?"

Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Well, we got rain! We also have a tornado watch till 3:00 p.m. and already had one tornado warning this morning (whether one touched down, I don't know). Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, flood watches and warnings.

As the saying goes: be very careful what you ask for: you may get it!

Thanksgiving is in two days. Lord willing we survive the next 48 hours, we'll be having Thanksgiving with both sides of our family...and I am thankful they all live in the Central Texas area!

More later...

Best Wishes,

Monday, November 22, 2004

Rain Rain Part Deux

Special thanks to Weatherbug for the radar image!

Well, it's been another wet weekend. It got particularly stormy last night, with constant thunder and lightning and a delightful 2 inches of rain overnight. Once I got back to sleep (hard to get to sleep with the frequent, white bright lightning flashes but exhaustion did it's part and I managed), the rain made for good, deep sleep. I was surprised when I checked the local news this morning and learned that a major road in downtown Austin (Cesar Chavez @ Lamar, for you Austinites) near Town Lake was flooded and even part of nearby 5th Street coming off of one of the highways (Mopac).

The rain is supposed to move out tomorrow evening, we'll just have to tread water and avoid tornadoes until then. Thanksgiving weekend is supposed to be clear and have lows in the 30s!

We had an interesting weekend, despite the rain. First Light participated in a cultural dinner for our church on Saturday. Our church (which is nondenominational) celebrates all nations and one way to celebrate is to have a dinner with food prepared in the way other nations do. The deacons and their wives prepared dishes such as African stewed chicken; German saurkraut with authentic German sausage; lamb with squash and unleavened bread in the style of Israel; beef and broccoli with fried rice and eggroll - plus a choice of soy or sweet and sour sauces; enchiladas, lasagne and American meatloaf and mashed potatoes.

I sampled quite a few dishes (didn't have room for the meatloaf or potatoes or any of the cheese-heavy dishes), including the Israeli, African and Asian dishes. I tried to get a little of everything. Both of my sons tried all "foreign" dishes (I was very proud of them). Angel had eaten before we left home, so she didn't sample as much. Anyway, it was a wonderful event and our pastor had some encouraging words for all of us.

I could tell you the story about how our van broke down right before the event, but the Lord blessed us to make it there anyway -- and our van is already fixed (and it only took one part and 99 cents!) So I really have nothing to complain about and plenty to be happy about.

Bring on the rain!!!

Best Wishes,

Thursday, November 18, 2004

It Just Keeps Getting Better... I'm part of an OSCAR-nominated film! I IM'd this tidbit to my wife and then called Gia and let her know. We all agree that, no matter what we think of this film that none of us has seen yet, it probably has a good shot at winning. The subject is timely, the film is distinct in style, plus critics and fans alike have really enjoyed it.

More as this develops...

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rain, Rain, Go Away?

It's been raining in Austin since Saturday. No, really -- since Saturday! Traffic accidents have abounded and there's been at least a couple of deaths as a result of people trying to go through low water crossings. I had to drive (extremely slowly) through one just to take my son to school this morning -- and it was on the only street going to the school! Okay, so maybe they should have considered delaying opening the charter school this morning or using a "bad weather" day. I mean, when they're talking about your city's weather on national talk radio shows, you have some serious weather going on! Two tornadoes and several deaths in San Antonio, Texas.

Believe it or not, I'm not complaining. I'm amazed.

If this is what happens in five days of mild to moderate rain, I can't imagine 40 days of this when it had never rained before, in Noah's day. The rain must have been severely intense, too -- probably hurricane force. It would have been unimaginably terrible. So, this, by comparison, is not that bad.

The sun should come back out tomorrow. I can tread water till then...

If you're in Texas, stay dry!

Best Wishes,

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Of All The Things To Claim Fame To...

I keep getting people telling me that they saw me in the deleted scenes of Supersize Me...does this mean I'm semi-famous now? It's kind of funny, too, because (my ISAA Rapport co-host) Gia and I weren't sure where the film was gonna go after Morgan finished filming our sequence. We weren't even sure if the film would get to the theaters, much less get best director award from Sundance and rave reviews from film critics.

What's funnier, though, is that although I have seen Gia's and my scene in the deleted scenes, I have not been able to force myself to watch the film itself.

Is that odd?

Best Wishes,

Saturday, November 13, 2004

When You've Given Up On Being Published...Blog

I have mixed feelings on this topic. I've run across at least two blogs that are just someone's book, chapter by chapter, for the world's perusing. I just saw one that was in good format, nice and compelling web design, except I read about six lines and got bored, so I went on to another blog. BUT -- if it were a compelling read that grabs you from the first word, it would be great!

Of course, if it were that good, writers wouldn't be rejected enough times to force them to blog their books.

Then again, you've got people who start as bloggers and they land book deals because they prove through their blogging that they can write!

So, um, is this the embodiment of a paradox or what?

Best Wishes,
More About Non-Dairy Cooking

You'll have to excuse me regarding the recent entries on non-dairy cooking but there is some relevance to this for the readers of IR Haven.

According to the National Dairy Council:

The prevalence of lactose maldigestion (or lactase non-persistence) varies among different ethnic and racial groups in the U.S.:
  • 90% of Asian Americans
  • 80% of African Americans
  • 62-100% of Native Americans
  • 53% of Mexican Americans
  • 15% of Caucasians.

In all, about 25% of the U.S. population – or an estimated 30 to 50 million American adults – have low lactase levels or are lactose maldigesters. A diagnosis of lactose maldigestion doesn't necessarily mean that the individual will experience intolerance symptoms.

Anyway, I have found that while there are some places on the web with some, shall we say, interesting non-dairy recipes, not too many of them were down-to-Earth recipes that meat-eaters like me can enjoy. And I say that with all due respect to vegetarians and vegans.

What I've found is that any recipe that calls for milk and butter can be safely and effectively replaced with Silk soymilk (vanilla flavor is the most like "real" milk) and non-dairy margarine. It's really that simple!

This morning, I made some delicious pancakes using Silk. My non-dairy margarine had, shall we say, expired so (after I tossed the margarine) I fried the pancakes in a small amount of Wesson blended cooking oil. It passed the wife and oldest son test! Big, light, fluffy and (most important) yummy!

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Non-Dairy Cooking: Beef Stroganoff

Okay, so if you didn't know already, I'm lactose-intolerant. Now, I like to cook and bake and I love to eat -- so I wasn't about to let a little thing like being unable to digest anything dairy (milk, cheese, anything with lactic acid) completely deter my food choices. I've been discovering some interesting alternatives, mostly in soy choices, but not always (although I'm a huge fan of Veggie Slices (soy cheese - so why did my local grocer remove them from their selection??? Argh!)

On Sunday, I decided to test a theory that it is possible to make stroganoff without dairy ingredients. A challenge, to be sure -- but I did it and it turned out great (it passed the "kid-approved" test)! Imagination, improvisation and prayer led to the following version of Beef Stroganoff...

  • 1 pound of chuck beef for stew

    Note: You can easily substitute with chicken - just cut up three boneless,
    skinless chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces.

  • 1 package/can of beef stock (preferrably organic)

  • 1 package/can of mushroom stock (preferrably organic)

  • wide egg noodles (12 oz. or larger)

  • Flour

  • 1 large clove garlic

  • 1/2 sweet (or yellow) onion

  • Black Pepper

  • Salt

  • Steak seasonings

  • Nature's Seasoning

  • Blended cooking oil (I used Wesson)

  • Olive Oil

  • Paprika


  1. Rinse beef in water, then season beef liberally with pepper and steak seasonings

  2. Coat beef lightly in flour

  3. Sautee garlic and onion in a skillet in about 2 tablespoons of virgin olive oil until slightly carmelized

  4. Cook beef in onions and garlic till beef is thoroughly tender

  5. Remove skillet from heat and cover

  6. In a large cooking pot, heat about a quarter-cup of flour, mix in a couple of teaspoons of cooking oil in medium heat (DO NOT BURN THE FLOUR)

  7. Add 2 cups of beef broth and stir into flour mixture

  8. Add 1 cup of mushroom broth

  9. Lower heat and stir to thicken gravy

  10. Add 2 tablespoons black pepper, 1 tablespoon Nature's Seasoning, 2 tablespoons paprika and 1 teaspoon salt

  11. Add beef and mushroom broth to taste

  12. Stir in beef, onion and garlic mixture

  13. Remove from heat

  14. Boil water in a large pot (add 2 teaspoons olive oil before boiling)

  15. Add wide egg noodles

  16. Boil till egg noodles are soft and tender

  17. Remove from heat, drain water through a strainer

  18. Return noodles to large pot

  19. Serve noodles, topped with meat gravy

This recipe easily serves a family of four for a couple of days. Enjoy!

Let me know if you have any of your own non-dairy recipes.

Best Wishes,

Saturday, November 06, 2004

First Light & Operation Christmas Gift

Today, First Light (the Christian band my wife and I are in) performed at a toy drive for Operation Christmas Gift in Smithville, Texas this morning/afternoon. We, along with Forerunner (a Christian rock band from our church), were entertainment to encourage people to drop off toys, health and hygeine items, along with monetary donations for this effort. The event was from 9 am till 1 pm. We performed in two 45-minute sets, alternating with Forerunner.

It was a lot of fun! We haven't had an opportunity to play so many songs back-to-back in quite a while -- and all for a great cause!

Best Wishes,

Friday, November 05, 2004

Worth Waking Up For, Someone Told Me...

The buzz of the alarm went off at 5:25 a.m. as it does every weekday morning. A few seconds later, I lumbered out of bed and into the restroom. A moment later, I hear my wife's voice, slightly muffled by the closed door.

"Honey, I'm going out to the driveway for a minute."
(I grunt in acknowledgment, nevermind that it made no sense to my semi-conscious brain.)

A few moments later, she comes back inside.

"C'mon, Allen, you gotta come out and see this. You can see Venus, Jupiter and Mars in the sky!"

Still semi-conscious, I explained that I really didn't want to go outside yet.

"C'mon, Allen, it's a once-in-a-lifetime event!"

I sighed. Her tone told me that she would be very disappointed if I did not go see what she wanted me to see. I do not like disappointing my wife, so I re-emerged into the bedroom, put on the clothes she'd laid out for me and went outside with her.

It was fairly striking, I'll say that. Venus was shining like a very bright star, Jupiter was to its right and Mars was faintly visible to the left of Venus.

I look at it for all of about two minutes before heading back inside. It was impressive but I'm a person of habit and duty. I knew I didn't have the luxury of enjoying this stellar phenomenon long enough to throw off the morning schedule of getting my sons up and driving them to school on time.

So, a little bit later, my wife wakes up the boys for me and proceeds to take them outside to view the planets.

Actually, I'm glad they got to see them, just as they'd seen the lunar eclipse. It's all part of the wonders of God's universe and I do think it's important for them to appreciate it. I'm told it was much fainter in the sky because the sun had begun to rise -- but they still got to see it, which is the important thing.

And I still got the kids breakfast and to school on time.

Best Wishes,

Operation Christmas Gift

I wanted to share something my church is doing that can positively impact children and families of every ethnicity and nationality in the U.S. and around the world. Please read this and decide for yourself if you would like to help. This will not benefit me personally, my family or this website. This is for children everywhere.

Operation Christmas Gift is a unique project of Christian love and evangelism sponsored by the New Covenant Church, delivers gifts to suffering children while also telling them about God greatest gift – His Son, Jesus Christ. You and your family, church, or organization can take part in this exciting worthwhile project simply by following the link below:

Operation Christmas Gift

Click here for a downloadable Adobe Acrobat brochure
(PDF format - English)

Click here for a downloadable Adobe Acrobat brochure
(PDF format - Spanish)

Best Wishes,

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Let The Politics Begone!

Updates to IR Haven: I've removed the link category of "Political Blogs." I also removed several of the political links. I kept several links that are just good blogs that happen to have a political element. I renamed the former "Political Blogs" section "Blogs of Interest." The election's over, the political fervor is dying down, it's time to focus on other things now.

Gosh, that feels good to write!

Best Wishes,

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

A Sigh Of Relief And A Return To Linux

Wow, over in one day -- what a relief!

Yesterday, I added a 10 GB partition to my home PC's hard drive so I could try the new Mandrake Linux Community Edition 10.1! Install was quick and relatively painless (about 10 minutes), easily configured, nice and easy firewall feature. I downloaded and installed Firefox for Linux (I love Firefox!) and downloaded the Realplayer 10 Gold plugin for Mozilla (which works better in Mozilla than Firefox -- but hey, so long as it works). Mandrake recognized all of my hardware except my old scanner (no biggie) and had no problem connecting to the internet through my broadband cable modem.

Are there any other Mandrake users out there? I'd love to hear from you, in comments or in e-mail!

Anyway, I don't want this to be a long post. I'm happy the election is already resolved and I gained more respect for Senator Kerry from his classy and gracious concession speech than throughout the whole, arduous campaign. I'll admit it, I was impressed. Now, on with life...

Best Wishes,

Monday, November 01, 2004

Election 2004: It's Almost Over!

I don't know about you but I have reached full saturation with the political discussions, ramifications, polls and such. I am truly ready for the election, counting (hopefully not recounting) and everything to be over and done with.

We'll see what happens tomorrow then. Have a great day today!

Best Wishes,

You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.