Maybe this will help with your timer question (from Arduino Playground):http://arduino.cc/playground/Code/DelaySeconds
I used this to create a "Meal Time" device for our dog because she has a way of convincing you that she's hungry even though someone else in the house just fed her 10 minutes ago, (or everyone assumes that someone else gave her breakfast, and her meal might get skipped). It's a box with a red LED for "hungry" and a green LED for "happy" and a de-bounced button to push when you feed her. I set the delay for 8 hours. When you feed the dog you push the button and it lights up green "Happy" until the timer runs out, then it lights red "Hungry". Now everyone knows if she needs feeding or not. We've been using it for months.