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December Catch-up

9 min read

So much was going on in December I wasn't able to blog at all. Now that the new year is here, Happy New Year by the way, I figure I should catch everyone up on what kept us so busy. Technically this story is going to start in late November but hopefully you won't hold that addendum against me.

Emily turned 5 on Nov 26 amidst great fanfare and even greater parties. I'm not sure how many she had but trust me, there were a bunch. Lisa's parents drove down when all the hoopla had pretty much died down and we had one last gasp (well not really the last but I'll get to that later). While they were here we decorated the yule time tree and stood in a circle singing carols. Ok, so we didn't actually stand in a circle or sing carols but it was a nice rockwellian image wasn't it? (unless you have heard me sing then perhaps it was a scary image).

I had to work for the first couple of days of December (making sure to call my mother on the 2nd for her hundredth birthday or some huge number like that; it was also my friend Mike's birthday). On around the 5th we loaded up the family cruiser for a trip to Disney World. Fortunately we only had to drive the cruiser about 1 hour to the airport where we then flew to Orlando by way of Atlanta. We stay at the cheapest hotel at Disney, the All-Star Sports/Music/Movies. Our room was at the All Star Music. If you paid attention 2 years ago you might remember that we stay in a family suite which is really just two hotel rooms merged into one with a small kitchenette. It's perfect for the four of us because it basically has two bedrooms but we don't have to pay for two full hotel rooms.

The last time we were at Disney Emily was sick with some kind of flu. This time she was healthy the whole time and, I think, old enough to really get into everything. Earlier I mentioned the last bash for Emily well it came at Disney this year. We had pre-ordered a cake with dumbo on it saying Happy Birthday Emily and some balloons (free with the cake, sweet!). I had to pick the cake up from the hotel restaurant our first night there. However, I had to wait a while so I sent the girls ahead to the park to get some early rides in. Finally I got the cake and brought it back to the room with five balloons. Then I hustled back to the hotels bus stop so I could get to the magic kingdom and find the rest of mi familia.

Sadly, the cake wasn't really seen that night because, by the time we got back to the hotel, Emily had fallen asleep. It was understandable considering the drive, the flight, the bus ride to the hotel, the ride to the magic kingdom, the rides, the fireworks, and then the bus ride back to the hotel; she is only five afterall.

I'm reluctant to describe our entire week at Disney so I'll spare you most of the details and I'll just stick with the highlights for the girls; the biggest of which was their trip to the Bibby Bobbidi Boutique which is kind of like a beauty parlor for kids. The girls both had their hair done in a Cinderella hairstyle, they had makeup applied, and "pixie dust" liberally coating them. They both seemed to really dig the whole experience and they both looked cool when it was all done. It was weird seeing Emily with makeup on. Shannon has had to have heavy makeup applied before for dance recitals but Emily hasn't; it was really really strange to see her all dolled up. You can see a bunch of photos from Disney if you'd like

Overall, the weather while were there was cold but dry except for the Thursday of our week when it rained hard. We had gone to the Animal Kingdom and we were soaked and cold by the time we got back to the hotel so we spent Thursday afternoon at downtown Disney checking out the shops. We did that all backwards because Thursday afternoon turned out to be really nice. The best thing about the rain in the morning was that the Animals were all out on the safari ride and all of the characters were in one building (which was mostly devoid of guests) so the girls were able to meet 7 or 8 characters without having to wait in line at all. We also got to see a monkey going through dental surgery which was kind of cool. They had just brought in a local dental surgeon come in to do it since the procedure was pretty much the same for the monkey as for a human.

After we got back from Disney I had to work for one week before starting my 2 weeks of holiday vacation. It was the first time since 2009 (our honeymoon) that I had taken 2 weeks off in a row. With weekends that equated to 16 days off! Sweet. For the first four days I called it "Billcation" and I mostly just sat around and read some books. At the end of the four days Lisa was then off work and we celebrated our own little Festivus on Dec 24 where I gave Lisa her big gift, a trip to the Grand Canyon this summer. I went to the canyon while I was in the Army and it was amazing. Lisa hasn't seen it so I think she will really dig it. We will actually be staying in Vegas and my brother and his wife will be joining us which will make it extra cool.

After our little celebration we loaded up the car for a trip to Cleveland where we spent about 7 days with Lisa's family. It is always nice to see them. My nephews are all basically young men now which is a little strange but cool. One night my three nephews and I went to a local university to play some pickup basketball. It turns out I still suck but now I am in such bad cardio shape that I couldn't even make up for my lack of skill with effort. Danny and Chris both tried hard and Pete was doing really well from three point land. We played 3 games of 2-on-2 with Pete and I winning the series. Then we switched to a four on four game where Chris (the youngest and shortest) played much better. He had to guard a really big guy (wide, but not really tall) who was pushing Chris all over the place. Chris didn't back down and even swatted a few of the other guys shots. It was great. Danny ended up getting some seriously nasty looking blisters so he and I sat out after the first game of 4-on-4 so that the teams would be even still.

Danny, Chris, and I along with the girls went bowling one day where I dominated with an avg of 146. We all went again another day with Lisa, her sister Jane, and her dad as well and, while I had the best average (146 again) Lisa had the high score of the week with a 178. She had been using a 10 pound ball and was struggling, she moved up to a 12 pound ball and never looked back. It was really cool to see her do so well. I think she and I need to go bowling more often. We both enjoy it and it isn't too expensive (though for the 17 games our group played plus shoe rental it was over $100!)

The only truly negative part of out time in Cleveland, for me, was that I am now officially burnt out on Hand and Foot. We were playing with 7 people in each hand and that is just too many. We really should have broken out into 2 groups because each game just took way too long.

Once we returned from Cleveland my Dad, Patty, and my brother Chris, swung by and we had a nice dinner and they gave me a really nice Scarf for Christmas. I already had a Liverpool Football Club scarf but it isn't very long and its very red so doesn't go that well with my work clothes. It has been fairly cold and windy here lately so a nice scarf fit the bill pretty well. This one is green and gray striped and is very long so I can tie it on like I saw everyone in London doing so now I'm not only warm but fashionable!

Ted sent us a digital picture frame with about 500 photos of his part of the family on it. That was cool because we tend to harass him about getting some photos. My mom sent me three books I've been wanting to read and I've already finished 2 of them. In fact, over the past month I've knocked out 11 books. I have some serious reviewing to get to over on my book blog. Lisa's parents gave me some new rubber for my mountain bike tires that should help improve my grip. I haven't been out riding in a while but I am hoping to hit the hills this weekend with Ed and Mike (and maybe Gilbert).

Finally, we had a small party for my dad's 63rd birthday the night before his actual birthday. We had paella and apple pie. It was great. Plus my dad had put together a prototype for a secret project we are working on and the prototype was perfect. We agreed to work on the final version sometime in the next couple of weeks and I'm really excited about it coming to fruition. I suppose I'll probably let the cat out of the bag when it is done just because I will be so excited about it and want to show it to everyone! Stay tuned.

The Big Cut

1 min read

Last night was the night of the big cut; Shannon had about 5 or 6 inches of hair removed. It looks a lot different (and not much like the picture of Julia Styles to me) but it still looks good on her. She is really happy about it which makes it much better. Hopefully it will make her hair brushing life a little easier.

Emily also had her hair cut. Her's wasn't really long before hand but it was a bit butchered since she had cut it herself a few weeks ago (though I didn't think the hatchet job was very noticeable). Now she has a cute little bowl cut that I think fits her pretty well.

Here are some photos of the girls with before and after shots (though I couldn't find a good shot of Shannon from the front that showed her hair and was recent).

Change is in the Air

3 min read

Autumn brings changes in all aspects of our life. School starts, the clocks shift backwards, the leaves change color and fall to earth, and Lisa decides to rearrange our home's furnishings (and room designations). It has actually been a few years since she last decided to shift the layout of the house so it should come as no surprise that she made this shift more substantial than those before it.

For those of you familiar with our homes layout the changes I am about to describe may not seem that substantial; but trust me there was a lot of effort expended getting this all setup. Our house is an old 4-square style home where the base floor consists of four main rooms. Prior to this past weekend the four floors were arranged so that you entered into the living room (1). If you went straight through the living room you would enter the dining room (2). If you took a left out of the living room you entered the "music room" (3) and if you took a left out of the dining room you ended up in the Kitchen (4).

We have actually reverted to the organization we had when we first moved in so you enter into the music room (1) head straight from there into the living room (2) take a right into the kitchen (4) and you can cross the hall from the kitchen back to the dining room (3).

The biggest change was that the living room (2) was carpeted with an old green carpet which we pulled up. Part of that floor was also parquet flooring which we removed to expose the full richness of the wooden floor. We still have some work to do on that floor though. First the bottom right corner of the room's floor (where the parquet was) has some adhesive on it from holding the parquet down. Once that is removed we need to refinish the entire floor.

We situated the furniture much differently than we did in the past even when the floor plan was the same. Thus the living room feels much larger than it did before and the music room is more useful than it was. When we first moved in the music room served as a drop off point for stuff we carried in the house. Now we have a nice sitting area around the fireplace and a good spot for the piano. Overall I think we are both really happy with the changes. You can see some photos of the new layout in our online photo album. There you can see photos of the rooms last Oct as well as how they look now.

London : Day 1

5 min read

I'm in London England for the week with 3 of my co-workers; Jason, my boss Mark, and our head marketing guy Paul. We are here doing some work and trying to expand our relationship with our customer here. While here though we can't be all work and no play. In order to make sure our play time is maximized we took advantage of our yesterday and today to see as much as we could.

We left West Virginia on the Friday evening but didn't arrive at Heathrow until around 10am on Saturday. Our flight from Charleston was delayed getting out so we really had to hustle through Dulles to catch our flight across the pond. Both flights were pretty smooth though on the longer flight I had planned on sleeping but I kept waking up because I was so thirsty. The stewardesses pretty much ignored our section of the plane for most of the flight. Flying coach really sucks.

Once we arrived in Heathrow we bought "oyster" cards for the London Underground (the tube) and hopped a train to the Holborn district. Once leaving the station we had to figure out where our hotel was. We were already on the right road but we didn't know if we had to go right or left. So we looked across the street and saw that the building numbers were going up from 110 as you moved to the left. We needed to get to 232 so we took a left. We walked about a mile or so towing our luggage behind us until we finally came to an area where High Holborn road seemed to no longer exist. I asked for guidance from a local music shop (where the Stones recorded when they were young) and we were sent back toward the tube station we emerged from. Mark was lugging two heavy bags so we caught a cab to go back while Paul decided to keep walking. The cab picked us up and ₤ 10 later we were at the Hotel just as Paul walked up. The hotel was about 100 feet to the right of the tube station. Clearly our American logic was insufficient to understand the London numbering system.

After checking in we headed out to see the town and kept going to the right (east) and saw a bunch of interesting buildings, pubs, and small cafe's. We also ended up finding St. Paul's basilica which was really, really big. There was a couple getting married in the basement of St Pauls and they had an old white Bentley outside to take the couple away in. Later that day we saw another similar wedding car on the street (this one was brown). We didn't go into the main worship hall because it was ₤ 10.

Cheap of us? Probably. However, ₤ 1 = $1.75 and I personally didn't think it was worth $17.50 to see the inside of a church. In general our entire group is pretty frugal which, overall is good, but at times may become annoying if we don't actually spend any money to see anything. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity in general so it seems pointless to being overly cheap.

After walking around St. Paul's we headed across the River Thames via the Millennium Bridge and ended up at a huge factory looking building that is actually a massive art museum. UBS (our client) is sponsering a huge exhibit which was free to enter so we checked out the art. None of us, it appears, are big fans of "fine art" and none of the art really impressed any of us even though we saw works from Monet (Lily Pads) and Pollack. After going to the museum we wandered along a meandering path back to the hotel, changed and then headed out for drinks and dinner. We stopped at the Cittie of Yorke pub on High Holton and then moved on to the Ship Master pub near the hotel for dinner.

After dinner Paul and Mark went back to the hotel to sleep while Jason and I headed out to experience some of the London Nightlife. It was only around 8pm so the nightlife wasn't really that great yet. We went to a few different bars near Soho (Picadilly Circus) and Leicester and then, sometime around 10 we were lured into a night club called "Club 49" where we chilled out and had some drinks and watched some people dance. It wasn't very crowded when we were there though I imagine it probably gets crazy later on. Eventually we left the club and headed back to the hotel to cap off a very busy day. I wasn't particularly tired but I didn't want to sleep day 2 away as it was going to be our only full day in London.

I've uploaded a bunch of photos from day 1 you can check out.

Money for Nothing

10 min read

This past weekend was the annual fund raiser for the Chester Volunteer Fire Dept of Chester, WV. If you haven't heard of it that's ok - I hadn't heard of it until this year when an old Army buddy of mine, Jason Oswald, invited me to join him and some of his work friends for the weekend. Chester is about 4 hours from Huntington and is fairly close to Pittsburgh PA so we got a room in Pittsburgh near the airport.

I took off early on Friday and headed up there so I could get us checked in (the room was in my name). I hit the hotel at around 2:45 and Jason and one of his friends (Cantz) showed up at around 5. From there three three of us headed down the street about half a block to a Longhorn Steakhouse for dinner and then to a bar just down the street to drink, tell stories, and generally act stupid. We hung out there until about 1 in the morning then walked down the street looking for a Denny's - but, once we got to Denny's Jason and Cantz saw an Eat-and-Park so we went there instead so they could eat the breakfast buffet.

We finally got back to the room at around 2am where Oswald and Cantz promptly passed out. I don't sleep well in a hotel as it is and Cantz is a snoring fool so all hope of my sleeping was dashed. That actually worked out pretty well because two other guys showed up at about 3am. They were out in the parking lot calling Oswalds cell. He didn't wake up so I answered it and went down and let them in. I introduced myself, found them spots to sleep, set the alarm clock for 7AM and tried again to go to sleep. One of the two who arrived at 3, Darren, also snored. He couldn't fall asleep with Cantz snoring but, at about 4am Cantz stopped for about ten minutes - before that ten minutes was up Darren was fast asleep snoring as well. The last time I remember seeing the clock was 6:25am. Then, at 6:45 someones cell phone started to ring and thus I was up for the day with 20 minutes of sleep.

We all shuffled through the bathroom, showered, and then hit the road by 8am to go meet up with Darren's brother Joe. Amazingly we found Joe about 5 minutes after getting on the highway and we started following him. He lead us to his brother Danny's house were we picked up Danny, their brother Dennis, and their dad (whom I called Dad - I still don't know his name). From Danny's house we went to a small country diner for breakfast and then headed into West Virginia for the fund raiser.

The fund raiser is kind of amazing. It is $100 per person to get in and they sell 10,000 tickets thus bringing in 1 million. However, they give out $650,000 in prizes with a prize drawing every five minutes after noon. Plus they have 4 $5,000 early bird drawings between 11am and noon. I hadn't bought my ticket early enough to be eligible for the early drawings. The event is held at this big building called The Harv at the Mountaineer Race Track (which is a state owned hotel, race track, and Casino). As soon as we arrived at the bash we found some seats at a table under one of the many outdoor tents, got our selves comfortable, and then began to drink way too much light beer that flowed from an endless tap of free beer. The event lasts from 12:00 - 5:30pm and you basically just sit there, hang out, listen to the drawings, and drink. Eventually I snagged four hotdogs from the food line but that was about all we did at the bash.

Many people who had been there before brought cards or dominos - others even brought pitchers for their beer. Next year, if I go, I think I will bring some kind of game for us to play while we drink and bull shit each other. There are actually other ways the fire dept raises money there - they sell little instant win tickets that you pay $1 each for but you can win up to $5000. I'd honestly bet they sell close to $100,000 of these tickets at the event between straight cash purchases and people getting more tickets when they cash in their smaller winners (1,5,10,25, and $50). "Dad" and some other guy they knew both hit for $500 on those - which was very cool.

We seemed to have a dedicated ticket sales girl who looked, facially, a lot like Kendra Wilkinson from the TV show "Girls Next Door" and our waitress (basically just threw away all of our trash) looked like Fairuza Balk (she was in the movie Water Boy as an adult and was Wednesday Adams in the modern Adams Family movie). It was kind of uncanny how much they both looked like their famous counterparts. I probably should have taken photos but I wasn't sure that would be the smoothest option to go on a guys weekend and then return to my wife with a camera full of photos of other women.

Eventually the bash ended and our group headed into the Casino. Somehow we all got separated and Danny and I headed on a shuttle to the poker room. I've never played Texas Hold 'Em at a casino before; just pick up games, so I didn't realize how everything worked but I was anxious to try it out. I didn't have any loose cash on me at all but I did have a $100 bill I keep tucked into my wallet "emergencies" I was buzzing just enough to figure this was a good place to break out the benny. So I went to the cashier, got $80 worth of fives and $20 worth of ones and headed to the table with Danny. The blinds (forced bets) were $1 and $2 so it was definitely my kind of price range.

I tried to be relaxed and, honestly, to pretend like I was far more intoxicated than I was. It seemed to work (or the people at the table, in general, just sucked) and I was quickly winning money. Now, when I go to a casino and play blackjack I always take my winnings and put them in my pocket at a certain point. So that I am only playing with the money that is on the table and I forget what is in my pocket and thus, when I leave, I'm usually way ahead. I did the same thing as I played poker. After each hand I won I immediately put all of the $4 chips I collected into my pocket so that I always had just about $100 on the table to play with. Eventually I had put all but about $50 in my pocket and then I lost that on one hand that I pretty much knew I was going to lose. So I got up and went to cash in all the stuff in my pocket when, out of the blue, the dealer told me I wasn't allowed to put money in my pocket during the course of the night. She said since I was leaving the table it was OK but in the future I needed to keep my chips all on the table.

Since this wasn't a tourny, and was just a pick-up game, I'm not sure I understand that logic so long as I'm not moving money during a hand I'm involved in. But there you go - those are the rules; don't make my same mistake.

I apologized for my ignorance then headed to the cashier to cash in. $302 was in my pocket! So I put my $100 emergency fund back in my wallet and walked out of the casino with nearly $200 after I stopped off and tipped the dealer. Sweet. Danny finished up shortly after I did and we then had to go find the rest of the guys. By this time my little buzz was gone (though I was still feeling great) and we found out everyone had gone to a bar somewhere between the casino and Danny's house. We caught up with them there and it was about 7:30. The bar was just like any other bar I've been too. Well light, pool tables, dart boards, smokey, and manned by, in this case, two female bartenders. But something wasn't normal - something was very unusual. Both of the female bartenders were completely nude (except for their shoes). It turns out that is the bars gimmick - their bartenders serve in the nude until 9pm at which point, by law, they have to put their clothes on. Odd stuff.

We stayed until 9.

We then headed out to Danny's to let people get their cars back. Oswald and I then tried to find the hotel while the rest of the guy went to Joe's house to party for a bit. Eventually our three roommates showed up at the hotel but Darren then left with his sister in law to go back to Joes. So the four of us headed out to the bar of the previous night where we crashed some schools 10th high school reunion. We hung out till around 2am then walked to eat-n-park for a late meal (I didn't eat). We made it back to the hotel by around 3. I had basically been awake for 40 hours non-stop (less the 30 minute nap of the night before). Cantz, thankfully, slept in a different position and didn't snore so I was able to fall asleep. I woke up a few times but nobody was snoring so I fell back asleep without issue. I was wide awake at 8. WTF?

I headed down for breakfast at the hotel while the others got up and showered. When I got back to the room Darren was back but our showers plumbing had gone crazy and was backing up with some very nasty look and horrid smelling water. Eventually everyone decided they were ready to head out and we loaded up or respective cars, I bid Oswald a good bye, and then drove home to Huntington. It took me closer to 6 hours to drive home because I was so tired that I had to stop a few times to walk around and refresh.

Overall it was a fun trip - though i did drink more than I should have - and it was great to see Jason again. The last time we saw each other was at my wedding in 1999! He lives near Allentown PA now so it isn't really convenient for us to hang out at all. I'm really glad I went and hope his friends thought well enough of me that he feels comfortable inviting me again next year. I've put a few photos of the weekend up.

12 Hours Walking

8 min read

This past weekend Lisa and I packed up the girls and drove to Cincinnati. We left on Sunday and met up with my dad and stepmother, Patty, at the Ikea there. As we pulled into the parking lot I though, holy crap that place is huge. Patty, having shopped at the one in Portland before said, "Oh, how cute, look how small it is." I'm not kidding - the biggest store I have ever seen was described as cute and small! I have long heard of Ikea but this was the first time I had actually gone in one and it was quite an experience. Just inside the front door is a child drop-off point for a day care type facility. This place knows it is so big you will be there for so long that you need to get a babysitter once you arrive! We passed on the daycare and headed upstairs to the cafeteria. Yes, we needed sustenance and we hadn't even shopped yet. The Cafe served a variety of Swiss/Norweigen foods and Lisa and I both had Swedish Meatballs. They were OK. The price on the food was right as it cost about $22 for the whole family of four to eat and I even had a nice piece of chocolate cake for dessert. Once we were done eating we headed toward the actually shopping part of the store. Even having seen the outside of the building I didn't fully comprehend what I was getting myself into.

The store is two floors. The first floor (with the Cafe) is broken down into sections based on rooms of your house. We started out looking at living rooms and family rooms. Nested within each section of the store were little showcase's that represented entire apartments. Some were about 200 sq feet others were closer to 600 or 1000. Each showcase was broken down into entire apartments so that there were bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms, and closets. The showcases were pretty neat and really got me thinking about our home and the way we have things laid out. Eventually we made it through all of the different showcases and room sections of the first floor and headed down to the second floor. This floor is half "stuff" where you can find pillows or toilet bowl cleaners or glasses and plates. The pillow section was actually really cool because they were broken out by what type of sleeper you are - there were pillows for "back sleepers" and pillows for "stomach sleepers." I've always been a stomach sleeper so I was tempted to get one of their pillows but I resisted. The second half of the floor was the large product pickup area. For instance if you had seen a desk you really liked in the home office section on the first floor you could have written down a code and then, in the pick up section, you could find it boxed and ready to go. After the pickup area were the cash registers and a little grocery area that sold Norweigen snacks and other specialties. Patty bought some odd little chocolate filled cookies. The cookie part tasted like popcorn. They were pretty good but very sweet - I could only eat two at a time. We managed to finish shopping at Ikea five hours after we entered the store. Five hours? That is rediculous - who shops in one store for five hours? Apparently a lot of people because that joint was packed. Lisa and I made it out with nothing more than a small stuffed hamster for Shannon and a toilet bowl brush for the girls bathroom. I was proud of our restraint because there were a few things there we really liked.

We had actually gone to Cincinnati so we could go to their labor day fireworks show. It is supposed to be huge, maybe the biggest in the country, and we thought the girls would really get a kick out of it. I tried to convince the family that we should head downtown early so we could get to our intended dinner place early because the crowds would be huge but I was overturned by everyone. Unfortunately, the downtown area was packed, the bridges across the river were closed, and we couldn't make it to the Haufbrau house in time for our 8pm reservation. Mysteriously, when we called them at about 7:40 our reservations had disappeared anyway so it didn't matter. Instead we drove all over the place looking for somewhere to eat and then settled on a Longhorn Steakhouse. I like the Longhorn but was a bit disappointed we were eating at a chain we can eat at anywhere. Typically Lisa and I like to go somewhere more local when we travel so we can experience something new and fresh. On the bright side though dinner was really tasty but we didn't get back to the hotel until it was pretty late and the girls were exhausted.

The next day we were going to split into two groups. My dad, Shannon, and I headed to the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base while Lisa, Patty, and Emily went to a 6 acre large grocery store called Jungle Jims. Lisa really wanted to go to the Museum with us but she also wanted to see Jungle Jims plus Patty was definitely not going to the museum and we weren't entirely sure how cool Emily would be with looking at old airplanes all day so she sacrificed her opportunity to hear Dad tell some stories and share his experiences.

The Air Force Museum is much larger than I remember it from 1986. It is three huge hangers full of all sorts of air planes plus a silo that contains some some huge rockets including to ICBMs (which definitely gave me chills to see; they are a scary proposition). The first hanger in the museum contains historical planes and artifacts from early flight through World War 1. My Dad, during his time in the Air Force had actually worked (lead?) a team that restored an old biplane from that period for inclusion in the museum. However, we couldn't find the plane though we did find one that looked similar. I could tell my dad was pretty disappointed to not find the plane that he and his team had spent so much time working on. It would have been really cool had it been there. The second hanger had more modern planes from WW2 to the present. Thus there were old P-51 mustangs along side a brand new F-22 Raptor. This room was really cool. It was much better lit and we were looking at planes my dad had a lot of first hand knowledge. It was great hearing him talk about each plane and explaining how different parts worked or what bits on each were a pain to work on. Plus it was great to see him sharing some of his experiences with Shannon. After we finished up in the modern hanger we were pretty hungry so we headed for the cafe. My dad was kind of bumming about his biplane not being around and wasn't really interested in going into the third hanger, the Cold War. Shannon asked why we couldn't go in that one so Dad relented and after chow we headed into the Cold War. It's a good thing we did too. The Cold War room had bunch of different planes in it including the SR-71 blackbird (my favorite plane) and the B2 stealth bomber. As we wandered around looking at all the modern day artifcats we came across an F-106 from the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of Griffis Air Force Base, Rome NY. The 49th was my Dads last duty station before retiring and he knew this plane very well. He instantly recognized it's tail number and started telling us it's history. He was very very excited to have one of his old planes in there. In fact this plane was retired from the Air Force the same year he retired. It was pretty cool.

After we finished in the Cold War hanger we went into the silo and then we headed onto the actual base to see the Presidential Hanger where retired "Air Force One's" are enshrined. The presidential hanger has a sister hanger on base which is full of experimental planes. One of the planes in that hanger was the only surviving XB-70 Valkyrie supersonic bomber. It is HUGE. It dominated the hanger. All of the experimental planes were really cool - some of them were little more than rockets with small wings; it was hard to believe they could fly. Overall the whole experience at the museum was really great. We got to see a ton of cool planes, hear some neat stories, get a hint of a story my dad doesn't want to tell me, and Shannon seemed to really enjoy it. We were there for seven hours and my back and legs were worn out but it was well worth it. I've uploaded some photos of the museum - the first few are planes my dad had hands on experience with during his career.

The County Fair

1 min read

The girls and I went to the Gallia County Fair with my dad and step-mother last week. I have to be honest - I'm not much of a fan of county fairs but it wasn't too bad. The girls rode a bunch of rides and Shannon won an prize at a dart game. I even managed to win the big animal prize on a game - that one where you roll a ball up a small table and based on which hole it goes in your character races ahead. There were at least ten of us in the race so it was cool to win even though I almost choked after pulling out to a huge lead.

Anyway, here are some photos of the girls at the fair.

My Best Photos

1 min read

AquariumI have been trying to tidy up my online presence some lately and, in that same vein, I've decided to split out some of the photos I have in order to highlight them a little better. Normally I post all of my photos at our picasaweb location. However, in the future that online repository will be just our normal run of the mill photos of the family and our adventures. Some photos from these adventures, on the other hand, just stand out as really cool images and so I wanted to give them their own little home on the web. For that I have decided to repurpose my long idle Flickr account. So now I have a set called "My Best Shots" that is will feature these photos. As of today there are 13 images in that set. Hopefully you will think some of them are cool too.

I use two of them as wall papers on my computer - the giraffe and the aquarium images. In fact, as of this writing I am using the aquarium image.

Girls on the Move

3 min read

About a year ago we told the girls that once Joe moved out they could move to the third floor and share the huge room as their bedroom. This would give them plenty of room to play and their own bathroom. Little did we know that Joe would find a girlfriend he liked so much that he would move out! Well, last Saturday he moved out and so on Sunday we began the week long process of moving the girls up and all of the junk on the third floor out. It was amazing how much crap we had stored up on that floor!

We spent most of Sunday moving stuff out of the room and then painting. The walls are pink, the ceiling is blue, and the walls are further adorned with dark pink (Uniqua Pink) and blue polk-dots. It actually looks pretty good. Truth be told though we still aren't quite done with their room. We have some more polka dots to paint, a small area around one window to finish up, and we have some clothes to store.

We then went to work on Emily's old room and converted it into a guest room. Lisa really wanted it to be the office but there was just too much other work to do without moving all of that furniture as well so for the time being it is the guest room. And, if I do say so myself it looks pretty damn good. I rearranged the furniture some, put a nice quilt on the bed, cleared out all of the books and anything else of Emily's, and hung two paintings by my mother's dad. One of the paintings is in really bad shape but I think it looks kind of neat on the wall. Almost all of the furniture in the room is antique - the bed, dresser, and cedar chest were all Lisa's maternal grandparents. There are also two antique hospital screens on one wall and an old quilt rack holding a few extra blankets. Finally we added one of our nice blue chairs to the room along with an antique library ladder to create a small reading area. I'm really happy with how it all turned out.

The last step was to make sense of all the crap we had carried downstairs and loaded into Shannon's old room so we could create an office/scrapbooking/craft room for Lisa.
We managed to get about 99% of everything organized and in place by the end of yesterday and now her office is ready to go. All of my books from the third floor are dominating the two bookcases in the room. There are also two long utility tables setup in the room to facilitate Lisa's scrapbooking (plus room for a friend) and there is a small table setup for Shannon so she can participate as well. Needless to say I think both Lisa and Shannon are pretty excited about putting that room to use. I know I'll be happy to see them making progress on their crafts.

In these last two postings I'm trying a new method of sharing photos. Please let me know if you like this approach or if you'd prefer to just have a link off to the photos.


2 min read

Last Saturday Joe and I spent the day assembling a new swing set for the girls. It was purchased by the girls babysitter, Patti, and was constructed in her backyard. The swingset is really nice and is made by a company called CedarWorks. Patti purchased a fairly simple system with four swings and a slide but it was still complicated enough where it took the two of us most of the day to assemble it. Part of the problem was I just didn't have all the right tools, such as a 9/16" deep socket. I also didn't have a normal depth 9/16" socket.

At one point Joe and I had to go to Lowes to get some sockets where we bought two 9/16" sockets and a 1/2" socket so that sucked up about an hour of time. Then later, we realized we would need the deep socket so then Lisa had to go to the nearest auto zone for that. We also thought we had lost a bolt so Lisa had to go to Lowes to get a replacement. About 15 minutes after she got back I found the missing bolt - it was in my pocket. Even considering our poor preparation and my deep pockets the process still went pretty smoothly and the set went up without too much difficulty.