Sunday, September 22, 2013

Oven Fire!!!

Last night my oven caught on fire.  I'm not talking about a little red glow here, I'm talking flames shooting up and causing my entire kitchen to glow with the eerie reddish-yellow glow of a house on fire.  From what I have learned since last night, a quick 10-15 second inspection prior to using the oven could have prevented this fire. 

Wall Oven, element bubble, oven

Here's the story of what transpired.  We decided to make homemade pizzas last night.  I turned the oven on to preheat while my son and I worked together to make a specialty pizza for each member of our family.  It's always lots of fun but last night's will definitely be the most memorable.

In the past couple of days, I have noticed a little black bubble form on my oven's bottom heating element.  It looked exactly like what happens when a casserole spills over and burns onto the element.  Despite my best efforts, spills happen every now and again so I didn't think much of it.  The only thing that was "odd" about it this time was there was no spill in the bottom of the oven from a casserole overflowing, just a black bubble on the element.

I put the pizzas in the oven to cook and walked out of the kitchen to another part of the house.  Remembering I'd left my drink in the kitchen, I returned to retrieve it and noticed an odd reddish-yellow glow coming from the direction of my oven which was lighting up my entire kitchen.  Thinking my son had turned on the oven light when I wasn't looking, I pushed the button to turn the oven light off.  It didn't work, so I pushed it again and again.

Completely perplexed, I opened the oven door (big mistake) and got a face full of searing heat and a flame of fire which flashed up due to the oxygen that came in and fed it.  I jumped back and inadvertently slammed the door shut.  I checked my face with my hands and yep, I had both eyebrows and eyelashes..... and skin.  I must have screamed because my husband and son came at a full run.

I immediately turned off the oven while my husband ran out to the breaker box and shut off the power to it.  My son grabbed the phone and was ready to dial 9-1-1 (he's used to this drill given his father's penchant for inadvertantly setting things ablaze).  Because we shut off the power to the oven, the fuel for the fire (electricity) was cut off and the fire died almost immediately.

Last night as I was googling to see if the oven was able to be repaired or a total loss, I discovered exploding heating elements are a very common problem.  If I had not gone back into the kitchen and noticed the glow from the oven and stopped the fire right when it happened, our entire house could have caught on fire.  Since we were in other parts of the house, this could have become a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.

So, in an effort to prevent others from experiencing this very scary and very dangerous problem, I'm going to ask you to go check your oven's heating elements (top and bottom) right now, before your heating element ever has the chance to explode like mine did.  The heating element will almost always get a place on it which looks (to me) like something had dripped just on the element and created a kind of black blob or bubble.  I thought that spot was just chicken grease, or maybe a casserole that overflowed just right and hit the element but not the bottom of the oven.  Nope, that black bubble was the element going bad. 

If your element has one of these bubbles, DO NOT USE THE OVEN.  Either call a service repair person or, if you're handy (thankfully my husband is), you can replace it rather quickly and easily yourself (it's only 2 monkey wrenchs out of 5 on the DIY scale of difficulty) after turning off the breaker and watching one of the How-To videos on YouTube.

If you should experience one of these explosions, KEEP THE OVEN DOOR CLOSED, TURN OFF THE OVEN IMMEDIATELY AND SHUT OFF THE BREAKER TO THE OVEN.  Do not mess with throwing flour on the fire.  Because the electricity is the fuel for the fire, it's imperative to get the power shut off.  As the power current shuts off, the fire will go out on its own. 

Because this could have burned our house down (with us in it), I now realize the danger this little inocuous looking bubble poses, and would like to suggest that you check your oven's heating elements every single time you go to turn your oven on.  It takes maybe 5-10 seconds.  Please pass this information along to your friends and family (or a link to this blog posting), so they too can be proactive in checking their ovens.  Keeping friends, family, and loved ones safe is worth the few extra seconds it takes to check the oven element on a regular basis.

by:  Christie Bielss

Thursday, September 19, 2013

What the *#@*?!!!

It was a quiet Sunday morning nearly 2 weeks ago when I sat down to turn on my computer for a quick peek at my emails.  The kids were eating breakfast and my husband was watching one of his favorite shows on restoring classic cars, which I found to be about as intriguing as watching a documentary on the mating habits of centipedes.  While my family was occupied, I quietly slipped away for a few minutes of quiet time and pushed the little button to power up my computer when it happened........

desktop computer, laptop,

30 or so years ago my Dad brought home our family's first "computer".  We were so excited!  Who wouldn't be excited over getting the latest and greatest electronic device.  A device that we were told was going to revolutionize the world as we knew it.  My Dad plugged it in and turned it on.  With baited breath we waited to see the miracles this new device was going to bestow upon us.

After a few seconds, a bunch of letters and characters started scrolling past our eyes so fast we were afraid to blink for fear we'd miss something.  The speed at which this contraption moved was beyond our comprehension.  And then the scrolling stopped, the computer made a little beeping sound, and up popped a flashing cursor.  We ooh'd and aah'd over the bright white cursor locating itself at the top of the screen, and my oh my, how black the background was against that bright little cursor.

Like a star in a pitch black sky, it kept winking at us.  We stood there transfixed by the beauty before us, and we stared........... and we stared............. and we stared, until I realized this blinking light wasn't doing anything.  Finally I asked "Ummmm........... yeah..... hmmm....... is this all it does?".  My Dad replied excitedly "Why no, you also enter in special codes and you can do all sorts of things including playing games.".

When I saw the amount of coding required to get the computer to do something other than blink, my love affair stopped before the hard drive ever heated up.  My relationship with the computer hasn't changed much over the course of 35 years.  It's still a love-hate relationship. 

In 2000 I purchased a home computer and had to have the hard drive replaced 3 times............ in the first 6 months.  My next computer was a laptop and it crashed instantly when I powered it on for the first time.  My current computer wouldn't even power on when I pulled it straight out of the box.  This kind of thing might give a lesser person a complex, but I think it's just that my powerful and electric personality melted their hard drives.

So on that Sunday morning nearly 2 weeks ago, I powered up my computer and it turned on......... and then it turned itself off, then on, then off, on, off, on, off, on, off, on, off........... thinking it was about to blow up, I unplugged it for about 2-3 minutes and then plugged it back in.  As soon as the plug went in the power strip, it started doing the same on/off glitch.  Once again, my electric personality must have fried another hard drive or caused some kind of electrical storm within the computer's tower.

All I really wanted to do was scream, curse, and beat the ever loving tar out of that mechanical pile of junk with a sledgehammer.  Thinking that probably wouldn't set the best example for my kids, I gave it an ever so gentle foot-wedge.  Within a few minutes, it was up and running.  Thinking I had scored a great victory over this hunk of scrap metal, off I went to church........... without ever having had time to read my emails.

Upon returning home, we awakened the computer (it went to "sleep" while we were at church) so my son could complete his online homework, and again, it starts with the off/on thing.  I gave it the foot-wedge......... and it still clicked on/off, so I gave it a bit harder foot-wedge.  It kind of sputtered and then went back to dancing its own little on/off tango. 

Realizing that the computer is either about to totally crash or has crashed, I restrained the urge to grab the hammer and decided to let the computer blow itself up with the way it was shocking itself.  Heck, I was kind of hoping it would catch on fire......... and we all know how much my husband would love that.  I contemplated the best way to move it to the middle of my kitchen when it did catch on fire, so it would look like an accident and in addition to a new computer, I'd get a new renovated kitchen out of it.  We do have to have our dreams, now don't we??

As I delighted over the scenario and my husband was rubbing his hands in glee over the prospect of man making fire *insert caveman grunt and knuckle dragging here*, that dadgum computer obviously sensed our glee and finally booted up.  My kitchen renovation plans fizzled out, my son's glee over not having to do his homework was squelched, and my husband's devastation over the lack of fire........... well, let's just say, we're going to need a new gas can...................

by: Christie Bielss

Thursday, September 12, 2013

What's so Funny?

When I was growing up in the 70's we had 6 television stations chalk full of family-friendly programming.  With the help of a set top mounted television antenna, which looked like rabbit ears wrapped in aluminum foil, and a family member who had to hold onto one of those rabbit ears while balancing on one leg and holding their other arm pointed toward the ceiling, those stations came in pretty nicely.  Television programming back then was so family-oriented that even our local news anchor started the 10 o'clock news with "It's 10pm, do you know where your children are?".   My how television has changed since then.

funny, entertainment

These days, with the help of Directv, we have 225+ channels, and yet there is rarely anything on tv worth watching.  Back in the 70's, we had great comedy shows like "I Love Lucy", "The Carol Burnett Show", "Dick Van Dyke", and "Leave it to Beaver".  These days my viewing choices are  "Here comes Honey Boo Boo", "My Big Redneck Vacation", "Finding Bigfoot", "The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man", "The Man with the 132 lb Scrotum", and around 150 channels of infomercials.

As I stayed up late one night and considered these options, I decided to try "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo", thinking it would be the least offensive on the guide. I made it about 3 minutes into the program when it became obvious that this particular show's theme was flatulence.

I've never heard so many people breaking wind on a tv show in such a short span of time in all my life.  I quickly changed the channel when the family's 8-9 year old little girl wanted to show the world how she'd discovered the ever so genteel artform of throwing a fart.  I really have no idea how she planned on accomplishing this feat, but having seen monkeys flinging poo at the zoo, I decided I was too evolved for this particular show.

My second choice was "The Legend of Shelby the Swamp Man".  I watched what was left of the 30 minute episode and found it quite entertaining.  Shelby, who hasn't ventured much further than the swamp, had me in stitches as he was trying to figure out what an escalator was and how he was supposed to get on it without doing the splits.  When the show ended, I realized my mouth had been hanging wide open through a majority of the program.  I don't think I've ever watched an English-speaking program, filmed in the good old United States of America, where I could not understand 95% of what the main character said due to his thick cajun accent.  The 5% I could understand pertained to his "begonias", which I'm pretty sure was not in reference to the actual flower species.

Just when I thought my only other non-mind-numbingly-stupid or non-horrendously-offensive programming option was either a Shark vacuum cleaner infomercial or The Weather Channel, up pops 3 men with thick southern drawls and beards so full, they could make ZZ Top consider having facial hair implants.  Within seconds, Phil on "Duck Dynasty" had me laughing so hard over he and his wife having family portraits taken with their dogs by a pet photographer, I was sure I would awaken my entire household.

While these 2 shows are not comedies, at least their form of entertainment results from their senses of humor and not on the characters hurling insults or vulgarities at one another.  Who would have thought you could watch 2 shows about people from the swamps of Louisiana and they could be so completely and utterly different, and yet entertaining at the same time. 

All in all my, family watches about 6 channels out of the 225+ offered on our pricey Directv package.  I miss having television programming which was entertaining and original.  It would be nice to have something to watch which was actually worth  the effort of having to hold onto the television antenna's aluminum foil wrapped rabbit ears like one of Michelangelo's sculptures.

by: Christie Bielss

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Where Were You?

From my earliest memories, my parents and grandparents spoke to me and my brothers of the trials, hardships and atrocities of World War II.  We listened intently to their stories and saw the pain, loneliness, and heartache that were written on their souls from their experiences, but we couldn't fully understand.  We had never experienced such life altering circumstances and had nothing to draw from to truly comprehend their sadness.

Within the span of a few short hours one September day, my heart and soul were changed forever and ached with a pain which could never be fully assuaged.  On this day I understood what my parents and grandparents had experienced.  Watching live television coverage of the second plane hit the World Trade Center was forever seared into my memory.  Hearing the accounts of survivors who had made it out of the World Trade Center alive left me in disbelief at the horrors they had witnessed.

As I listened to the family members of Flight 93 recount their cell phone conversations with their loved ones, I could feel their very strength and determination infusing my soul.  I could see a visible change in the faces of the news anchors as they listened.  Yes, there was an angry flame that was lit in the heart of most every American that day, but there was something more.  Something so much more.

The very heart of America was changed and we were sewn together in a bond which was impenetrable by any outside forces.  You felt that bond in the workplace, while pumping gas at the gas station, or when you were buying groceries at the store.  What was meant to drive a wedge into the heart and soul of America instead united this country and created a deep and profound resolve.  America made the choice right then to never surrender .................... and to never forget.

So on this 11th day of September 2013, 12 years later I choose to stand with my grandparents and remember so that we are never doomed to repeat our past.  12 years ago today, I was 5 months pregnant, we had just been transferred across the country for my husband's job, and I was taking my dog for a walk when the first plane hit the World Trade Center.  As I walked in the door to my home, the phone was ringing.  It was my husband telling me to turn on the television.

As I sat there watching the live coverage, the second plane hit the twin tower.  Disbelief, horror, and panic ensued.  My youngest brother had mentioned he was to be in New York at the World Trade Center.  My panic increased when I heard that one of the planes was from Boston.  My middle brother was in Boston on business and was supposed to be flying out.  And then I realized my oldest brother, a commercial pilot, was likely in the air.  All of these thoughts in a split second.

I flew to the phone.  Before I could reach it, it was already ringing.  It was my Mom........ and I could feel the uncertainty and fear in her voice through the phone line.  She told me to turn off the television and she would get in touch with all of my sister-in-laws to find out where my brothers were.

Immediately upon hanging up, my Mom's phone started ringing.  My middle brother's wife called first to say he was safe and ok.  He was stuck in Boston and the city was shut down, but he was alive and he would have to figure out a way to get home to Texas.

My youngest brother called next.  He had ended up having to cancel his trip and was not at the World Trade Center, however, he had lost friends and colleagues who were there in the World Trade Center that day.  We thanked God for altering my brother's travel plans.

Last up was my oldest brother.  He had been ordered to land in the middle of the United States, as had all air traffic, and was safe as well, albeit stuck in the boonies.  It took much longer to find out about him because he had been put into a landing rotation which required him to circle his assigned airport for quite a while until it was his turn to land.  As soon as he was on the ground, he was on the phone.

We thanked God so many times on that day because for a few short hours, my world did stop turning.  Time literally stood still as I sat and waited for word on my family members in the quiet stillness of my home.  I prayed ceaselessly in the ensuing days for my family and friends, for my Dad's co-workers and friends who were American Airlines pilots and flight attendants, for our leaders, and for all of those who were killed and injured, as well as those who lost loved ones that day.

As my parents and grandparents taught us, we will never forget and we will make sure that our children never forget.  So, where were you when the world stopped turning?

by: Christie Bielss

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Computer Craziness

Have you ever had one of those moments where something in your life all of the sudden reminds you of a creepy horror movie?  I just had one of those moments, and let me say - it was creepy.

Music, computer

I was on the phone taking a business call (I'm a WAHM) when all of the sudden I started hearing music.  Somewhat startled, it took a moment before I realized the music was coming from the direction of my computer.  I had just reached for a pen to jot down some notes and figured I had inadvertently tapped something on the computer causing the music to start playing.  I hit the "mute" key on the computer thinking that would solve the problem until I got off the phone and could figure it out.

Much to my surprise, even after I had pressed the mute key, the music continued.  Obviously this sound was not coming from the computer like I thought.  I then remembered that my son's alarm clock, which has a second alarm setting, sometimes goes off due to my son accidentally hitting a wrong button.  I walked into his room (while I put my call on hold) but there was no music. 

Perplexed, I walked out the front door of our home thinking (and hoping) a neighbor's music was cranked up.  I stepped outside and listened...... no music there.  I walked to my family room to see if I'd left the tv on.  It was also off.  Several horror movie scenes were starting to play out in my mind, causing a rather unsettling feeling to grow inside of me.

I walked back to my computer and heard the faintest sound of music again.  I turned off the speakers to my computer...... and still the music kept playing.  Ok, now this was not funny and was getting downright spooky!

My overactive imagination kicked into gear and I immediately remembered the scene from the movie "Poltergeist" where the little girl sees the tv doing its own thing and says "They're here".  Oh, like heck this is happening in my house!  I have crosses and crucifixes in my house and I will use them if I have to, I thought.

I kept trying to push those unsettling thoughts back down, to no avail.  I knew my computer had been acting weird for months on end, but my redheaded common sense kept telling me it did not just become possessed.  Determined to figure out what was causing this, I pulled out my computer's tower and unplugged the speakers completely from the computer........... and the music played on.

Oh Jesus, Mary, and Joseph - I need you NOW!  At this point I realized I could be wrong and I could have something here which would necessitate calling in a minister to perform some kind of exorcism on my electronic device.  In a last ditch effort to find the source of the music, I started picking through all of the paperwork laying around my desk (a monumental task, to be sure) in hopes of finding a portable radio or something which could be causing this.

I discovered my son's "lost" Nook which has been missing for at least a month.  But the music wasn't coming from the Nook because it's just the low-end version and doesn't have sound. 

I dug through several other piles and found nothing.  Just as I was getting ready to load my car up with our valuables and run for safety, I put my ear down and tried to use that little bit of Native American that is in my ancestral lineage to see if I could track down the location of the sound.  Channeling my inner Pocahontas, I listened with great intensity.

I first listened close to my monitor and speakers, but the music grew fainter.  Like the best Native American tracker, I moved my head around in an effort to pinpoint the area where the music was the loudest.  With great precision, I discovered the sound was coming from my keyboard. 

Now how is that even possible???  There are not any speakers on my keyboard.  I lifted the keyboard up and lo and behold, I found the source: my daughter's iPod.

How exactly my daughter's iPod managed to get put under the computer keyboard should prove to be an interesting conversation after she gets home from school.  For now, I'm just glad my computer has not been possessed by some poltergeist that likes torturing adults by playing #Carly Rae Jepsen, #Victoria Justice, and #One Direction all day long, over and over again.

by: Christie Bielss