Monday, September 29, 2008

100 Pushups - Week 6 Day 1 (take two!)

Last week's version of week 6 was...not great. It was rather depressing, actually. Day 1 was rough, and instead of maxing at 55, I maxed at 45. Granted, that was after doing 100 push ups in only two sets, with one minute between sets, then doing 65 more in two more sets. But I can be disheartened because I didn't live up to some imaginary standard set by someone I don't know, which wasn't really meant for me but for some superhuman idealized person, can't I? After all, this is America.

This week is starting just as poorly. After today's set, I felt like I'd been dragged Indiana Jones-style behind a car for a few miles of gravel road. Day 2 might be a bit better though; even though it has more sets, the reps are fewer. We'll see.

And congrats to Scott, who got off his butt today at lunch and joined me at the gym. Good on ya, mate!

100 Pushups - Week 6

I must admit, week 6 intimidated me just a wee bit.

> 55

> 60

> 60

You're kidding, right?

Well I did day 1 on Tuesday and got all of the sets with a max of 45. I did day 2 on Thursday and got all the sets with a max of 45. On Saturday, I took the boys to a Lowe's Build and Grow (we made fire trucks), worked for 3 hours at the church directing parking for a football game next to the church as a fundraiser for the youth, cooked dinner, then helped clean the house. By the time I got any time, I was way too tired to even do one set of 26, let alone 9 sets. Sunday came and I was on the move from 6am to 9:45pm--isn't Sunday supposed to be a day of rest? Between choir, church, a baptism after church, and a Scout planning meeting, I was bushed and never did get in day 3's sets.

This week, I'm doing week 6 again. Next week I'll do week 5, then the Wednesday (or so) of the following week I'm going to try the hundred, ready or not.

Purple Vestments

After talking with my family and my Bishop, and lots of prayer and thought, we decided to allow J to attend the Episcopalian boys' choir--at least until the end of the year when church schedules get all skeewompus. And yesterday was the first time he sang at a Service.

At rehearsal on Friday, the choir came down to into the cathedral and practiced what they'd be doing during the service. It was pretty overwhelming for me to watch, and I'd even done it before! I couldn't imagine how dizzy he must have been from all the things to keep in mind! Erich, the choirmaster, did give him and the other probationers (new boys) a break though. He said that during the procession that they should focus on walking, not singing. After a few times in a procession, he'd have them add in singing.

After rehearsal on Friday, J got new purple vestments (choir robes) and a ruff (a frilly thing worn around the neck) to wear during the service, and a blue blazer and grey slacks to wear to and from church. Erich showed J that some of the other boys wear a white...I'm not sure what it's called, but it's a waist-length shirt-thing worn over the vestment, and some boys wear medals so indicate their progress in the choir curriculum. I took that as my chance to put things in perspective.

I told him that since new choristers wear purple vestments without the white, that everyone in the congregation would know that he is new, so they wouldn't expect him to do things perfectly. If he messed up a little, it woul be okay, since he's still learning and everyone else would know that too. That took a lot of the pressure off him, and I'm glad.

Saturday night, I didn't get much sleep and neither did he.

Bright and early on Sunday morning we dressed, him in his uniform, me in a suit, and headed off to choir. The worst part of choir for me is navigating the unfamiliar one-way streets of downtown Lexington, but I managed to find the designated parking lot without too much difficulty. He practiced for about 40 minutes, then I went down to sit in the congregation while he put on his vestments and prepped.

The service was...different...from an L.D.S. service. I knew it would be different, and I already had some experience in how different it was, but I was still reeling a bit, trying to follow along. How did I ever do it as a boy?? And apart from the confession and absolution, and the recitation of the Nicene Creed--both admirable things, but not a part of our faith in the manner in which they are performed in the Episcopal church--the service was good, and uplifting. We also discussed beforehand that he receives the Sacrament at our church, and would not be taking the Communion at choir.

So afterwards, while driving to 3 more hours of church, at our church, I asked him what he thought of his first Service. He said he thought it was "neat" and "good" and that it went well. He admitted that he was a bit nervous, but repeated my own words back to me that it was okay if he messed up a little since everyone couls see by his purple robes that he was still learning. :) It's nice to know that they do listen sometimes.

One funny thing happened in the exit procession: J was walking along while looking around, and right when he got next to me he sneezed a great big sneeze. I had to chuckle.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Camp Cooking Success!

At the campout with the Boy Scouts this last weekend, I knew I'd have trouble getting some of the older Scouts there, since it was targeted at advancements that they'd already passed off; but I wanted them to a) review their knowledge and b) get the opportunity to serve other Scouts by teaching what they know. So I bribed them.

One of the younger Scouts needed to cook in order to pass off requirements, but I told them that I'd make a good dessert. I made The Best Dump Cake Ever, with cherry pie filling, chocolate cake mix, Dr. Pepper, butter, and chopped walnuts. It was pretty tight, as those boys say it.

I also made 40 refrigerator biscuits in a 10" dutch oven. To be honest, the biscuits were just as popular as the cake. Admittedly, it's hard to go wrong with the biscuits, but I thought the cake was much better.

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 3

Adios week 5! Hola week 6!

Due to hectic schedules that included choir practice, a campout, Scout meetings, and general exhaustion, (this whole weekend was an exhaustion test!) I wasn't able to do my day 3 sets on Friday or Saturday. So Sunday night at 9:30, I got back from my last meeting and knew I had do try.

20, 20, 24, 24, 22, 22, 20, > 50

You want me to max at over 50 push ups after doing... I tally numbers in my head...twice...and come up with different numbers each time...and get a calculator...152 push ups? Surely you can't be serious! (I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.)

But I did. I got every rep of every set, then maxed at 51. So long, week 5! (At last!)

I don't know whether it was because I waited until Sunday, or that I took the week off before this, or whether Steve Speirs' modifications to the program really did the trick. Whatever it was, I'm glad and proud.

This entry was written on my new Palm Keyboard

Thursday, September 18, 2008

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 2

Somewhere between Monday and Wednesday, Steven Speirs switched things up on me--and I think that's a good thing. I'm not sure why, but he took a look at how the sets and reps were distributed and with some advice from push up experts (I had no idea there were such people...) he revised the plan a bit. From what I've seen so far, it's a change for the good.

Yesterday's sets totalled 185 push ups in 6 sets, and I got through every single one. Since I only wrote down the reps in each set and not the rest time in between each, I guessed that it would be about 30-45 seconds, but I took a full minute of rest. I think I've gotten to the point where I know how my body will react to a given set of sets, so I'm giving myself a bit of slack on rest times. It worked pretty well for me yesterday, since I was just barely able to get to the max reps (45) on the last set.

I can do this!

Monday, September 15, 2008

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 1 (lost count)

Okay, this may be my third time through week 5--or is it my fourth?--and I think things went rather well. Admittedly, I took roughly double the suggested time in between sets, but that's allowed since it says that you can take more if you want it. But I figured that I'd need to do that if I was going to get even close to the number of reps in each set.

So the sets were 40, 32, 30, 25, and max > 40. And I got each one,even the max set! I didn't go over 40, since I figured I'd need to be conservative if I wanted to get my full sets on Wednesday.

I know I've said it before on week 5 and failed, but I can do this!

New Keyboard

I just got a new gadgety thing in today's post: a wireless keyboard for my Palm TX! It's not quite what I expected--I mean, who really considers IR to be "wireless networking" nowadays anyway? IR is so 5 years ago.

Anyhow, I think it's working swell for what it is, and including shipping, it only cost me $20, so that's pretty nice. Plus, it seems to be a whole lot faster than the newest Grafiti handwriting recognition system that comes on Palms nowadays. They've "dumbed down" the original Grafiti since the days of the Palm III. I really liked the Grafiti on my Palm V. This just seems like a step backward. Plus, even though the processor speed is faster than on my older Palms, the Grafiti seems to lag much more than they ever did.

Well, mayhap this new pocket-sized keyboard will be good. I'm, once again, cautiously optimistic.

Halloween Costumes

For the most part, there are clear divisions of responsibility in my household. Spencer cleans out the silverware from the dishwasher, J cleans out the plate and cup racks. I support the family, Kara pays the bills. I take the boys to Scouts and make sure they're progressing, Kara goes to Parent/Teacher conferences and makes them do their homework. I put up the holiday decorations, and I take down the holiday decorations. And I do the costumes for halloween too, or the boys would be math students for Halloween or something cheesy like that.

I asked the two talking boys what they wanted to be for Halloween. (Mike doesn't have a choice; he's going to be a pumpkin again.) J wants to be a chicken. Spence wants to be an "Army Guy." I assume that means a soldier of some sort. It would be fun to make him a Captain, allowing him to be another "Captain Cook."

I've already got ideas mulling around in my cranium for J. Spence might be a bit more difficult, but I think I'll be able to work it out okay.

Anyone know where I can get 5 lbs of yellow feathers?

100 Pushups - Week ?? Exhaustion Test

Sometimes good intentions fall short of proper implementation. Last week, I had intended to stick to week 2's sets. I didn't. I did day 1 on Tuesday and either forgot or blew off days 2 and 3. In fact, it was after 10 pm yesterday when I remembered that I was going to do an exhaustion test at the end of my "week off."


I maxed last night at 65 push ups! I guess a week of rest really did me some good! So I'll start up again in earnest today on week 5 again--I figured it would be a good idea to run week 5 again since I never really finished it well either time I did it. I am, as I'm so fond of saying, "cautiously optimistic" about actually being able to achieve my goal! I don't think it'll come by the end of next week, but I'd say that by Thanksgiving I should be able to get my 100.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Another Day on the Lake

I had a long week at work this week...a lot of tasks got pushed my way that I wasn't particularly thrilled to see. I'm probably the best one to do them, but that's small consolation. So when I got home on Friday, I just wanted to do something fun. I asked Spence if he wanted to come with me to the lake and maybe try out the collapsible kayak with me. Unfortunately, that sent J into a tizzy because he wanted to come too, but I knew that there wouldn't be enough room for me and J together in that kayak.

Then it hit me: we have an inflatable raft! I'd blown it up once, but never used it on an actual lake before. I supposed that if ever there were a time to use it, then Or however that goes.

We got to the lake, and started paddling out. I used the single oar that came with the kayak, hoping that less water would get into the kayak, which was how it actually worked; however, it was a bit more difficult to steer since I had to switch sides often or use the J-stroke, which saps some of the power of the stroke in order to keep the craft moving straight forward.

Here are a few pics of the kayak assembled:

...and a few pics of happy boaters:
J did an excellent job for his first time rowing!


And Spence had a lot of fun, too.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

100 Pushups - Week Off / Week 2

This week, I'm taking it easy. I'm doing the week 2 push ups sets:

12, 12, 9, 7, > 10
16, 13, 11, 11, >15
15, 15, 12, 12, >15

I'm not going to max at more than 25--Monday, I took an easy max at 20. I'm hoping to just give myself a break and recoup. Heaven knows that I'm doing enough in Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, work, and home this week to more than make up for a lax week at the gym!

I figure I'll do a max set this weekend and post that. Aside from that, I think it's safe to assume that I'm going to hit all the sets just fine this week.

Cofeecake so good that it makes the girls swoon!

One of the fellas at work brought in a whole grocery bag full of granny smith apples on Monday; apparently, his mother has an apple tree and she "asked" him to pick them and bring them in to his friends. (We know how moms "tell" by "asking," don't we?) He jokingly asked us who was going to take them home and make a pie. Well, I didn't know that I was up to making a pie, but I figured I could make something so I took the whole lot.

I decided on an apple coffeecake. Simple. Delicious. Elegant.

I had plenty of apples to work with, so I doubled the recipe and made two 8x8s and one 9x13--I kept one of the 8x8s at home for the fam.

When I got to work, I unobtrusively left the coffeecakes in the break room with a note stating "Apple Coffeecake," so people would know what they were. I told a few of the folks in my room that they were there, and that was about it with the pomp. Somehow, though, people found out that there was coffeecake and that I made it...and that it rocked their world. I had no fewer than 10 people go out of their way to come tell me it was great. Several of them must have asked around to find out who made it. One woman came to my desk all flustered and asked, "Did I hear that you made that coffeecake?"


"That was so good! Probably the best I've ever had! Will you marry me?"

"Uh...I'm already married, you know..."

"That's okay, maybe you can just cook for me then."

Laura, you made my week.

So here's the recipe:

Any-Fruit Coffeecake

I used granny smith apples this time, cored and cut into 8ths or 12ths depending on their size. But I've also used frozen mixed berries, peaches, raspberries, and pretty much any other fruit I could get my hands on. The filling is also great on pancakes and waffles.

Alter or omit the spices (cinnamon, mace, and nutmeg are the ones I usually play with) depending on what will work with the fruit you are using.

4 cups chopped apples, apricots, peaches, pineapple, or whole blueberries
1 cup water
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cornstarch

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground mace
1 cup butter or margarine
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a saucepan combine the fruit and water. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or till fruit is tender. (If you start with frozen fruit, plan on it taking longer.) Stir in lemon juice. Mix the 1 1/4 cups sugar and cornstarch; stri into fruit mixture. Cook and stir till thick and bubbly. Cool.

In a mixing bowl stir together the 3 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and mace. Cut in the 1 cup butter or margarine till mixture resembles fine crumbs. Combine eggs, milk, and vanilla. Add to flour mixture, mixing till blended. Spread half of the batter in one greased 13x9x2-inch or two 8x8x2-inch baking pans.

Spread the cooled fruit mixture over the batter. Spoon the remaining batter in small spoonfuls over the fruit mixture, spreading out as much as possible. Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup flour. Cut in the 1/4 cup butter or margarine till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in nuts. Sprinkle nut mixture over batter in pan. Bake at 350F for 45 to 50 minutes for a 9x13 pan or 40 to 45 minutes for two 8x8 pans, or until cake is done. Cool.

Recipe obtained from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boys Choir

Waaaay back when I was but a wee lad--third grade if I recall correctly, or maybe fourth--my best friend's dad was the choirmaster at the First Presbyterian church. Being vocally inclined myself, Billy Evans, my friend, asked me to join him. I sang with them for...oh, about a year until my extracurricular schedule caused a conflict with their choir time.

Mr. Evans, obviously seeing that I had something to offer, recommended that I consider another local choir so I auditioned at St. Luke's, an Episcopal choir for men and boys. I was accepted, and thus began my professional singing career. It's true! I was paid about $8 a month, again if I recall was a long time ago. Richard Webster was (and still is!) the choirmaster there, and did an amazing job conducting and teaching us boy sopranos.

I remember that my L.D.S. church services were in the afternoons when I started at St. Luke's, so I could go to choir on Sunday mornings and sing, and still be able to go to my church in the afternoons. Then, at the end of the calendar year, my family switched wards (congregations) in order to keep meeting in the afternoons so that I could sing in the mornings. As a result, I met my best friend Rob in that afternoon church. :) I also gained an...eye-opening view of other religions. I would come home and ask my parents why St. Luke's used incense and we didn't. Why did they have processions, and genuflections, and about a hundred other things that we didn't? It helped me to grow firmer in my faith by helping me to not take things for granted in my own religion.

The only reason I'm writing about this now is that my son, J, received a special invitation from his school choir teacher stating that he might like to try out for the choir at Christ Church Cathedral, also an Episcopalian boy's choir. I must admit that I'm of two minds about it.

On the one hand, I see what a positive experience it was for me, and how I grew musically, socially, and spiritually. On the other hand, I don't know that I'm ready or willing to alter my L.D.S. church attendance to provide this opportunity for my son. Heck, this all might be a moot point anyway since he doesn't even audition until next Monday. But I must admit that I'm not sure what to do if he is accepted.

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 3 (Fail)

Well, I'm pretty well convinced that I need to take it easy for a week. Today's sets (which I did on Friday) were 18, 18, 16, 16, 14, 14, 12, and max > 40, with 30 seconds between. I got the first 7 without too terribly much difficulty--don't get me wrong, though. They were tough, just not super tough. It was the max set that was...not all there.

Here's a hint to any of you who are either on this hundred push ups program, or thinking about starting it up: Don't do your sets while watching a comedy on TV. I happened to be watching the last episode of season 1 of Arrested Development while working out on Friday night. As it turns out, I was at number 20 on my max set when a particularly obscure and hilarious joke unfolded and I fell to the ground, laughing and aching. I don't think I could have gotten more than about 25 total, but I'm going to blame it on the TV instead of my pudding-like triceps.

So next week, I'm going back to the comparatively easy week 2. I'm hoping that it'll be enough to keep me in the game, so to speak, but not so much that I can't take this next week to recover from hitting the push ups so hard for the last 4 weeks or so. Then I'll do an exhaustion test at the end of the week and see where I'm at and take it from there.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 2 (sort of again?)

Well, I suppose it's not technically the second time through for W5 D2 since I didn't do it right the first time through. The sets were 20, 20, 18, 18, 15, 15, 14, max > 40 with 45 second intervals. I ended up doing 1 minute intervals because it was easier to set my watch to a minute.

Up until the max set, I was doing okay--it was a serious effort to get through the second 18 and the two 15s, but the 14 wasn't bad. But that max set...ohhh. I hit 25 and collapsed.

I wonder if I am experiencing a phenomenon that Kara described as relating to marathons. If you run, say, a 3 hour marathon, chances are it's going to hurt. But if you run an 8 hour marathon, it's probably going to hurt for longer just because of the duration of the pounding your body receives. Well that's not a very scientific explanation or analysis on my part, but I wonder if I'm...overtraining? By repeating several of the weeks, have I been overworking my shoulders, triceps, pecs, and hit a point of diminishing returns?

I know that the first few weeks/months of a diet that it isn't uncommon to see large losses that, as the weeks and months go on, taper off. So I shouldn't be discouraged that I'm not making the leaps forward in strength over the last two weeks that I saw in the first four or so. But I just don't seem to be fitting into the mold of the program and wonder if it's a fault with me or a fault with the program. I'd like to assume it's the program, but I doubt that it can shoulder the whole blame. Or even half. Maybe a third. Either way, it looks like I've still got a long road ahead of me. *sigh*

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

100 Pushups - Week 5 Day 1 (again)

I did day 1 on Monday at lunch time--I figured I might be too tired at the end of the day if I postponed it. (See I can learn!) The sets were 40, 32, 30, 25, max > 40 with 60 seconds in between sets. And I came pretty darn close, but *ahem* not as close as last week. I mean this week, last time. This second go round with week 5 day 1 went worse than the first go round.

Last time, I was able to get all the sets and maxed at 30. This time, I got all the sets but maxed at 25. *sigh* That seems a bit backward to me. I guess we'll see how day 2 goes.

I might be doing week 5 again. Again.

DIY Folding Kayak

Last year, my Boy Scout Troop built a sailboat--a Puddleduck Racer, in fact. They did a rather magnificent job of it too, if I do say so myself. It even floated!

A few months after we finished the Electric Current (that's the aforementioned boat...), one of my Scout's grandparents mentioned that many years ago, her son built a kayak and had long since abandoned it at their house. If I wanted it, I could have it, she said. Why not?

So I went over and picked up this thing, not quite sure what to expect. Even still, I wasn't expecting a flattened thing with a canvas strip down the middle. Huh? I ended up not using it at all--or even really assembling it--until yesterday.

Since I had the day off, and since it was a nice hot day, and since I was in a cleaning mood, I figured I'd check this thing out and see if it floated still or whether I ought to send it to Davy Jones' Locker. I grabbed J, the kayak, and its homemade paddle and set off for a nearby lake.

Once I got it to the shore, I had a bit of a hard time muscling the supports into the kayak. Two very kind chaps arrived and offered help--really, I just think they were so curious that they wanted to see this thing up close and in action! The three of us figured it out together and got it assembled. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous about trusting this who-knows-how-old do-it-yourself boat to float, but it held just fine just resting in the water by itself.

So then I pushed down on it a bit with the paddle, not sure whether the canvas would and sink the whole thing. It held. So I ever so gingerly sat in it, still right next to the shore. By some miracle, it still held! I pushed off from the shore and paddled around the shallows for a minute or two, and when I saw that it wasn't going to collapse from my weight, I got a bit more brave and took it out into the lake proper. I tooled around on that little kayak for about 20 minutes and found no discernible leaks! There was a bit of water inside the kayak, but I'm willing to wager that 99% of it was from drips off the paddle!

Curious about its construction, I scoured the web and found a few sites with instructions: has decent instructions, but the images are small and won't "blow up." is much more detailed, and I'd recommend a look. is probably the best of the instruction options and is geared towards Boy Scouts making them.

I just might put one of these (or perhaps a small coracle) together for J so that we can tool around on the lake together. After I finish fixing all the kitchen chairs, of course.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Best Dump Cake Ever!

Tonight, I made Apricot Chicken Divine, so I thought I'd do a dutch oven dessert to keep in the theme. I picked up a few ingredients for a dump cake while I was at the store today, and with a few shoot-from-the-hip embellishments, a masterpiece was born!

Cherry Dump Cake Especial
I made this in a 12" dutch oven in my kitchen oven. Make it outdoors if you'll still be great.

2 21 oz. cans cherry pie filling
1 18.25 oz box yellow cake mix
4 Tbsp butter or margarine, cut into 1/2 to 1/3 Tbsp pats
8 Tbsp (4 oz) cream cheese, cut into 1/2 to 1/3 Tbsp pats
About 10 oz. Dr. Pepper (Yes, use Dr. Pepper. It has cherry overtones that really complement the cherry pie filling! Some other soda would be okay...I guess, but wouldn't make this especial.)

Preheat either your oven or your dutch oven to 350 degrees F.

I use foil when I make dump cake. You are free to foil or not, whichever direction your conscience carries you. From there, dump in the 2 cans of pie filling and smooth out with a spoon. Dump on the cake mix and smooth out with a spoon. Sprinkle on the butter and cream cheese evenly over the top. Drizzle the Dr. Pepper evenly over the top and mix the soda into the cake mix gently with a fork.

Bake, covered, for 45 - 60 minutes. (Okay, so I just let it bake then took it out when it smelled done. I told you I was from the hip.)

Next time, I might add the full cube of cream cheese (all 8 oz.), but besides that, I wouldn't change a thing.