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Meatloaf

Discovered a pretty yummy meat loaf recipe.

Recipe for Sage Meat Loaf
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup milk
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 cup crushed saltines
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/4 tsp pepper
1-1/2 lbs ground beef
1/4 cup ketchup
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground mustard
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

In a large bowl, combine the first 8 ingredients. Crumble beef over the mixture and mix well. Pat meat mixture into an ungreased 9x5x3 loaf pan. Bake, uncovered at 350 for 50 minutes.
Combine ketchup, brown sugar, mustard and nutmeg; spread over the top. Bake 15-20 minutes longer or until meat is no longer pink and 160 temp. Let meatloaf stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Instead of crushed saltines and sage, I used herb seasoned bread crumbs. Joseph's only complaint was that the sauce top was too sweet. Mine was that there wasn't enough sauce (I like sauce).

The boys LOVED the meatloaf! We will have to make it again.

Dogwoods

I do love spring, despite the high pollen around these parts. But the most exciting part about spring this year is my pink dogwood is blooming! It has only bloomed once since we owned this house, two years ago when Sue Sue was a newborn. But it looks like between Joseph and myself we figured it out. Previous owners put down plastic all around the tree, and then let things become overgrown back there. So as I was digging out a dead azalea I discovered the plastic. Next we were pulling climbing thorny vines and plastic. Several times last year I added compost to the soil and dug around the tree. And Joseph just added fresh leaf mulch from mowing this weekend. After the flowers go, I'm planning on pruning. I hate to cut of summer growth but also want to encourage more. This is very exciting, especially since I lost one of my white dogwoods and a purple azalea. But there is always this year to try again.

Everyone has days like this

That is what I'm telling myself. Everyone has days they have to constantly remind themselves that they love their children. Everyone has days they have to mumble it to themselves all day long. Everyone has days they can't wait till the kids bedtime. But why does it feel like I have more of those days with Teagan than I should? As I buckled Teagan into his car seat, yes he refuses to do that, and I told him for the millionth time to keep his feet off the seats I actually wished I had rope to tie his feet to the seat leg to ensure he would obey. Today when I told him to use his inside voice, I was half tempted to get the duct tape to help him stay quiet. And it was tempting to tie him up and gag him during naptime, just for the joy of having a quiet house.

Most of these visions of half temptation come after the fact and only lasted a split second, and I truly hope they go away. VERY SOON. I'm sure they will due to the fact life will change in two weeks. Energy will come back! I'll be able to move again without pain or feeling like I'm going to pass out! And I won't have to pee every two hours, if not more! I'll actually want to go outside and enjoy the beautiful spring weather and playing in the dirt gardening and taking picture of all my dogwoods in bloom (the pink one is blooming more this year than any other year we have lived here!) as well as all the other plants. Though I can't decided if my daffodils are done. They didn't bloom very much, but then again we went from 30 degree weather to 70+ in a week and summer looks like it might come sooner too.

Toast a glass of water with me to two weeks going by very fast (as long as the quilt gets done).

Stubborn

Stubborn is a great word to describe Alex, though mule headed would be even better. Alex point blank refused to learn how to ride a two wheel bike for a good long time now. So, I told him that if he wanted another birthday he better learn how to ride it. Still he resisted. But Saturday we had a break through. A few hours of successful bike riding! No big falls! And he did it mostly by himself! Today was round two! He worked on self starting and did it a few times. Though it was quite difficult trying to help him and keep Abby Sue out of the road, thank goodness we live on a very quite road and the driver was paying attention. Though Abby Sue is a very cute little sister cheerleader, crazy curls and all.

Red hots! Get Your Red Hots!

When I was in high school, I sold drinks and hot dogs for the University of Utah home football games to earn a little extra money*. I walked around the stadium with a big tray of sodas or an insulated box of hot dogs. I'd call out "Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite" or "Red hots! Get your red hots!". Ten years later, I find out that Red Hots are a real product, and they are awesome. Red Hots are stubby, thick hot dogs, colored red, with a bit of spiciness. I sat down to have a couple for lunch today with 'kraut and brown mustard and reminisced about cold Utah Saturday mornings at (then) Rice Stadium walking up and down the aisles and circling the stadium. If only the hot dogs I sold as "red hots" 16 years ago had been real Red Hots, I would have been able to sell twice as many.

* I say a little, but as a vendor, you started out selling drinks. A hard working vendor could make between $50 and $100 in about 2.5 hours (they stopped refilling trays at the end of the 3rd quarter) and you could watch the end of the game anywhere you wanted to. If you had been there long enough and worked hard enough, you get promoted to hot dogs. A hot dog vendor could make $150 to $200 in the same time frame. As a high schooler in the early 90s, that beat working at Hires.

My Three Favorite Words

I've three favorite words. And I could only wish I hear them more. My heart just jumps for joy every time I hear "I did it." It means less for me to do and independence for my kids. I only wish Teagan would learn to use them more.

Web Site Hosting Advice

Turbogears Occasionally friends, relatives, and clients ask me what they should do about creating and hosting a web site. When this happens, I find myself repeating, well, myself; so I thought I would put my thoughts on virtual paper for future reference. I will post a notice on this entry if my recommendations change at some future date. If you would like to consult with me about your particular setup, please contact me for consulting rates and availability.

Ok, you want a web site, good. First, get an idea of what your website will contain, how big it will be, what kind of content you will serve, and how much traffic it will receive. Will it DO something or SHOW something. If you're just starting out, or have no idea, any of the recommended plans will let you scale size and traffic for additional monthly fees, so don't worry too much about it.

If your goal is an informational, mostly text, but low volume, web site, just get a BlogSpot.com or other blog hosting account. They are free, minimally annoying, and with free image galleries and video hosting sites, can link to or embed video and photo content too. My Ward (a congregation in the LDS church) has a few of these sites for various extra activities, for example the youth group is presenting a "Fancy Dance" and Dessert Auction on Saturday Feb 19, 2011 to raise money for camp and activities this year, and uses BlogSpot to advertise. By the way, everyone is invited to the dance, and babysitting is provided, see the site for more information.

If your goal is to sell something, sell through the Amazon marketplace or Etsy.com if the products are crafty. Piggyback on top of an existing marketplace to jump start sales. If you're too big for that, I don't really have any advice. I don't have any experience in that space. I think that I would look for a host that provided merchant services (credit card processing for example) as part of the package.

If your goal is to host a medium volume dynamic application, use WebFaction. WebFaction is probably the best Shared Hosting service there is. They're one of the very few hosting providers that embraces Python application hosting, and I've run Pylons, TurboGears and CherryPy applications there. The hosting is cheap, fast, and it stays out of your way if you want it to. I host this blog, my personal e-mail and my business website on the base level account. I also host demo sites for clients when needed. The email service isn't spectacular, but it's functional as long as you have client side spam filtering like what is provided by Thunderbird. I like it because there are no set CPU limitations, the memory allotment is generous (email, OS, and even Database memory usage doesn't count against your quota, though the disk usage does), and the base disk space/bandwidth allocation is substantial. It also helps that WebFaction takes care of all data backups and operating system and hardware maintenance for you. WebFaction has one click installers for a large number of applications, so you don't have to know very much about Linux to get started, but if you do know what you're doing, you have SSH access, and everything that comes standard with a Linux shell account.

If you are planning on building a new application, take a look at Google App Engine. It lets you get going and host up to a certain threshold for free. Scaling up can be done fairly reasonably. Applications developed for App Engine can be run independently of Google, so you are not necessarily locked to Google as your hosting vendor.

I do not recommend any kind of Virtual Private Server hosting that isn't bundled as a Cloud offering. I've used three different VPS services, and two have all been slow and had high network latency (the third, Slice Host was bought and extended into Rackspace's cloud services, which I recommend below). Higher volume sites may do OK, but if the CPU, IO or Memory usage is too high for too long, your VPS can be rebooted or shut off. What this translates to is that you would have to hit a very small sweet spot to get good performance out of a VPS without getting shut down. Better hosting options exist.

If you do need system level access to a server of your own for some reason -- if for example you have an email processing system as part of your application -- or if you have requirements that extend beyond a single host, like high availability, then using a Cloud based VPS is desirable. Cloud computing nodes are designed for high performance application hosting. The overhead of virtualization is minimized by the use of advanced virtualization techniques (paravirtualization, CPU instruction sets, etc.) and by dedicating virtual resources to physical hardware. The management tools are typically excellent and, in the case of my two favorite cloud providers, there is an inherent benefit of a content delivery network (CDN) and Storage Attached to Network (SAN) which can serve as a scalable long term application storage or system backups. These two tools are used by very large websites to deliver content faster and more efficiently, and they're available on the Cloud for even the lowest rate plans. The intro level computing node at Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) starts at 3¢/hour. Rackspace however has a node that start as low as $10.95/month (that's about 1.5¢/hour). There aren't as many third party software developers, and no external image providers (as far as I know) for Rackspace, but they have pretty good management tools, and a pretty good selection of base images to get you up and running pretty quickly.

EC2 was built for running short-lived computing (i.e., processor intensive) tasks, and it's pricing model and instance sizes reflect that. The instances and costs are very competitive to people looking at dedicated hosting. Rackspace's cloud is similarly designed, but has smaller instances, so it is cheap enough to use as a substitute for VPS or even shared hosting.

A former coworker of mine recently signed up for EC2 to host his blog using a promotional deal offered by Amazon's EC2. This deal lets you use the Micro instance for up to 750 hours per month for a whole year. Thereafter he's looking at a starting monthly rate of $21.60 plus storage and bandwidth charges. Of course using a Cloud node to host a blog is seriously overkill (as evidenced by his load average) unles he is doing much more with his site than visible at first glance. If he is uncomfortable with a free or even a paid blog hosting account, either WebFaction or Rackspace Cloud would be sufficient to host his site at about half the cost of EC2.

There is also dedicated hosting, but with the price point and performance of EC2 and Rackspace Cloud, you'd have to be very big indeed, or have special criteria not available for cloud nodes for the benefits to outweigh the costs.

Here's what I use for myself and my clients, and why I don't recommend VPS hosting:

As I mentioned above, I currently host my blog, email and business website on a WebFaction Shared Hosting plan. Shared Hosting starts at less than $10/month, with steep discounts for prepayment. I moved all the services off my VPS at Linode and shut it down since WebFaction was working so well. I found Linode to be sluggish and and network traffic to be high latency, but haven't felt that way about Webfaction.

With InMotionHosting's VPS offerings, performance was similar to or worse than Linode's. I had a client on the fully managed VPS plan costing $90/month. The VPS would bog down during traffic peaks and InMotion's system administrators would reboot the box (without any advance warning, without notice after the fact and without explanation of why). When things were peaceful, trying to log in to SSH could take 30-45 seconds, page loads for the main site or core application could take several seconds in spite of caching and being rather lightweight. InMotion always seemed to want to upsell to dedicated hosting when I mentioned the problems to their customer service representatives.

This site/application just passed through its busiest season on a Rackspace Cloud Server instance, and the it never even hiccuped. Final cost for hosting for the month? $24, and plenty of room to scale up if volume increases. I recommended the Rackspace Cloud Server because the application has an email processing system and the client has clients that could have been squeamish if their customers' names and email addresses were available on a shared host's shared database server (even though the database itself was not shared and was password protected).

Applesauce snob

I've come to the conclusion, I'm an applesauce snob. I know it is very rude of me, but I can't help it. When we were in Florida, I bought a jar of applesauce at the grocery store for the kids to have applesauce and cottage cheese (Teagan's and Abby Sue's favorite). I took one lick and couldn't eat it. It was so flavorless. All this homemade applesauce is ruining me. I jumped for joy this morning when that jar was FINALLY emptied and I could open up on of my jars. And I didn't wait long to either. I guess next time we take a trip I'll have to bring several jars of different foods with me (cause I'm also a jam/jelly snob too).

Moment of Pride

In Primary, Alex's teacher has been giving them silly bands for good behavior. I've no clue what Alex got yesterday, but it did provide entertainment to many adults behind and around us. Abby Sue liked to hold it in her mouth and shake it. Which is funny, but then you add those curls bouncing everywhere and it is even better.

Though Teagan's was the best. At the beginning of a song, the band goes shooting straight up in the air and lands in the aisle beside us. Teagan was beaming and excitedly announced "I shot the band!" We informed him that wasn't the place for shooting rubber band. And then I spent the rest of the song trying to recover from laughing. I don't know who was watching, but I'm sure they also found it amusing.

Blossoming Humor

Alex's humor has began to blossom. Tonight is proof.

Alex: I'm thirsty
Joseph: Well, we will visit the water fountain when we get to Costco.
Alex: No!
Joseph: Why not?
Alex: Water fountains don't talk.
Joseph: Ok, we will get a drink from the water fountain when we get to Costco.
Alex: Ok.

Needless to say this conversation had Joseph and I laughing the rest of the way to Costco. I'm sure it isn't as good as hearing it in the moment, but still amusing.