kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
A bit odd: I had a 4-day weekend since I took last Thursday and Friday off, and yet I still had to work those days, plus the weekend. Just a little time in the morning to crank out some daily reporting the bigwigs wanted, so not too bad. And a bit unusual, really--it's pretty rare that I have to produce anything over the weekend. Anyway.

Thursday I took the older two girls to Disney's Hollywood Studios. They got enough interest in Star Wars to watch the movies (so far we've seen all but Episode III and Rogue One), and they've enjoyed them, so Star Wars is a Thing for us now. As such, they'd never really cared to check out the Star Wars area and Star Tours ride, so we did that and they approved. Disney is about to undertake a project to turn a good chunk of that park into a Star Wars land, so I guess we'll see if they still dig it whenever that finally opens.

Thursday evening, Hermione's band had a little Christmas concert, which was nice. After that we took a stroll in old Winter Garden, which is beautifully decorated and lit this time of year. And it was a cool night for a change, so that was nice.

Friday the girls had the last day of their homeschool enrichment program, and they put on a little show for the parents for the last hour or so of the day. That was fun. We had decided to not return to the program when it starts back up next month, partly because they raised the (already high, imho) price and the classes they expected to have weren't as good (sewing, for example--Hermione doesn't really care about that, and Hallie's already quite good at it since her mother is such a good seamstress herself). But I guess they got feedback about both, so they not only lowered the price (and added a sibling discount!), they ensured us that the class schedule would be flexible, and there would be an alternate option if a student didn't care for what was on the agenda. So now we're wavering, especially because the people who run the program are really nice, and working hard to get it off the ground--this past semester was the first, and it was done very well. So I guess ultimately it will be up to the kids, but I certainly lean towards having them stay in. It gives Heather a much-needed weekly break.

Saturday we didn't do much, really--went out for a walk in the woods and lunch, but mostly stayed close to home after that.

Sunday I went out in the morning to do some shopping and errands. Got myself a little sledgehammer, so I could bust up some concrete to remove our old basketball hoop post, which rusted through and broke a year or two ago. Hermione's shown some interest in learning basketball, for some reason, so the time is right to get a new post and fix that so she can practice. Plus it's fun to go out and shoot some hoops now and then!

Sunday afternoon Heather's band had its usual Christmas concert at the downtown mall, so we dropped her off for that and I took the girls to a park we like before we headed back to catch some of the show. Beautiful day out, so that was nice.

And today I'm back to work, but it's actually been pretty quiet around here today. I have some irons in the fire, but my presumptive-new-boss hasn't really needed much today. Which probably means he'll blow up my phone when I'm trying to head home later. Tomorrow I'm on the road to St. Pete, assuming nothing comes up to derail that trip, and then I'm taking Wednesday off this week for no particular reason aside from burning up some time. I might take Amy to Disney, I guess we'll see how we feel that morning. I need to go shopping sometime, to get a present for our little Christmas lunch and gift exchange here at work, which is Thursday. Hard to believe December is already almost half over!

Speaking of Xmas, I think we're just about set present-wise. Amy's getting the most since she's obviously still at a toy-centric age. Hallie didn't really ask for anything in particular, so we're just getting her some things we know she's kinda-sorta wanted. And I picked up a nice 3/4-scale electric guitar for her, since she showed an interest in learning. But that was a couple months ago, and really she hasn't seemed interested (though Hermione has!). So I guess we'll see if having a guitar of her own rekindles that interest. I'd give it to Hermione instead since she's actually making an effort to learn, but she's tall enough for a full-sized instrument, so.. yeah. If she sticks with it, I'll be happy to find her one, or give her one of mine. I need to make room for that PRS I've been drooling over anyway. :) Hermione didn't ask for much either, though she did mention wanting a little point-and-shoot camera of her own, so I found a great deal on a refurb camera from Canon. She's also shown an interest in making her own jewelry, so we're getting her a bunch of beads and a tool set, and some books on the subject. I think she'll like that.

Heather and I aren't getting each other much, since we generally tend to get ourselves what we want anyway. :) I sort of impulsively decided I'd like to upgrade our A/V receiver as my Xmas present to myself, even though the old one is really still fine. But it's a few years old and doesn't even have HDMI, and I've wanted to get one that does, and that has room for expansion if I ever decide to get a PS4 or something. So anyway, I found a really good price on the one I want, which made it a little bit of a splurge but not too bad, and pulled the trigger. But it's an independent dealer, and I fear it's a scam. The place says 3 to 5 business days on shipping, which is a bit ridiculous these days but I was willing to wait since the price was so good. But I ordered last Tuesday, and the order status still said 'Processing' today, so I looked a bit closer and saw some bait-and-switch reports from people about the place--like they hold off on shipping so long that the customer reaches out, and then they hit the customer with upsells for shipping charges and extended warranties. Ugh. So anyway, I e-mailed the place today, expecting to get a response of 'Call us to discuss your order' or something, at which point I'd say thanks but no thanks and initiate a chargeback on the credit card. But they actually responded to say the order HAS shipped, and I'll get an e-mail update once it gets scanned into the carrier's system. So I guess I am cautiously optimistic, but still pretty wary. If I haven't got a ship notification and tracking number in hand by tomorrow, I am calling the whole thing off.

Oh yeah, the reason I was able to splurge on the receiver (or try to, anyway) was because we got the pension money last week, a little earlier than expected! So that was nice. It felt good to walk into the bank with a check of that size, even though it's actually a bit of a Bad Thing that they killed the pension in the first place. But anyway, it let us pay off the cars and some other small debts we've been nursing along, so that will still provide a bit more breathing room each month, plus a cushion in savings. I don't want to spend much more of it until we know how our taxes end up looking for the year. But if we come out of taxes with some left, we're thinking of maybe new windows for the house (ours are thermally inefficient, to say the least) and replacing some fencing, which is looking pretty bad in spots.

Jeez, this was a much longer entry than I had in mind, sorry. Good thing it's a quiet day here! Hope you're all well and having a good Monday. :)

Ho Ho Ho.

Dec. 23rd, 2015 09:35 am
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Wow, hard to believe it's already almost Christmas, already almost a new year! Let me say upfront, from this agnostic to you and yours, a very Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate. And if you celebrate nothing, then Happy Wednesday. :)

I've been a poor LJ citizen lately, I fear. I've kept up to date with my flist, but I haven't been commenting much, and posting hardly at all myself. I intend to get better. But I'm contemplating going into the new year by paring my flist down to just those of you with whom I feel I've made a real connection. It's not that I dislike reading anyone on my list, not at all. But if I find myself refraining from commenting because I feel too much like a stranger, maybe it's better to go, you know? Just thinking out loud.

So Christmas.. Like I said, I consider myself agnostic, actually leaning fairly heavily towards atheist, at least in terms of any sort of sentient, anthropomorphic deity watching us all masturbate. But I still dig Christmas. I like the trappings and sights and sounds of the season, I like the warm-hearted spirit it still occasionally brings (in between churlish bouts of the manufactured War On Christmas, anyway), and I've always liked the notion of celebrating the winter solstice--the darkest day of the year, and the beginning of our collective trek back into the light. Plus these days it's fun to play Santa for the kids, of course.

But it feels like a very low-key holiday this year, almost an afterthought. I suspect the weather has much to do with that. It's been unseasonably warm all fall, with the exception of one cool day and two cool nights last week. For Christmas Day we're expecting highs around 85F, feeling more like 91F. It's hard to feel Christmas-y whilst sweating, as I'm sure my my Aussie friends can attest! We seem to be right there with you this year.

Gift-wise this year feels a bit light, too, nothing huge to report. The girls typically ask for just one or two main things, and leave the rest up to us as surprises. Hermione asked for a rock tumbler and a particular LEGO set, Hallie really didn't come up with anything special to request, and Amy makes up for that with a veritable laundry list, though she's never satisfied anyway. :) I got Heather a few smallish things I know she wants or will like, and she bought herself something as her main present. Pretty much the same for me too--she's gotten me a couple things, but my main gift I bought for myself. Not as much fun, but at least we know we're getting things we'll like. :)

I've realized this year that grammatically speaking, my favorite Christmas carol is "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen." Most people leave the comma out, but I think it's important. The gentlemen aren't necessarily merry themselves, but the narrator is wishing them to be rested merry, if that makes sense. And the lyrics have a nice wordsmithy lilt as well. "From God our Heavenly Father a blessed angel came, and unto certain shepherds brought tidings of the same." I just like that wording, for some reason. Yes, I know I'm a bad atheist. :)

Family-wise, we're going over to see my Mom on Boxing Day (not that that's a thing here), and planning to meet up with my Dad for lunch and a walk somewhere the following day. And then I took next Monday off from work, mainly to relax and do nothing before coming back. Though that's usually a very quiet and stress-free week at the office anyway, which I always enjoy.

Speaking of work, I'm waiting to hear about my raise for the new year. I know my boss has the info in hand, he just hangs on to it until we can get together to discuss. Oh well. I don't expect it to be a big bump, it usually isn't. And with the merger hanging over all our heads, I wonder if they're being especially conservative this year anyway. Still a lot of uncertainty about all that, though it's looking like the merger is likely to be approved. Next year should be interesting on the work front, though whether 'interesting' will mean good changes or bad is very much up in the air.

The Steam Winter Sale is underway! That's bad. I should take a lesson from the fact that I need to look up most games on the various bundle sites to see whether I already own them or not. If I have no idea what's in my collection, that might be a clue that it's big enough. :)

Got a few photoshoots coming up, family things. And today I'm meeting a co-worker for lunch to discuss shooting her wedding next summer. I'm not especially excited about it, I must say--the guy she's marrying is also an employee here, and not someone I've ever been very fond of. But the lady is nice enough, and we can certainly use the money, so..

Okay, enough for now, I guess. I do hope everyone has a great holiday, and makes some lasting and fond memories. That's what it's all about, anyway. Thanks for being a part of my LJ experience. :)

And here, have my favorite version of the aforementioned carol. Not sure why it repeats a bit at the end, ignore that. :)

kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20141227-IMG_3993

It's a slow day at work, and I'm still a little sickly and not feeling much like working. So what the heck, here's some photos to catch up on the past few weeks!

Clicky )
I feel another post coming momentarily. Thanks for looking!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Hey look, bullet points!

• Still convalescing. Christmas Day I felt worse, ended up taking a couple-hour nap with Amy. Luckily we were just planning to stay home all day, open presents, etc., so it worked out anyway. Since then it's been on-and-off, headache, runny nose, gook in the throat, endless throat-clearing and coughing, gravelly voice.. blech. I think I'm past being contagious and into the clearing-out phase, but I still only feel about 80%.

• It is too damn hot here. It cooled off for Christmas, down into the 60Fs, which was nice. But really just for that one day--since then it's been mid-70Fs and low 80Fs, and a bit muggy. Feels more like April. This coming weekend projected highs are 85F both days. NO THANKS. If the pool was warm enough, the girls would be in there every day. The extended forecast shows a nice dip in a week or two, can't come soon enough. I'd settle for some seasonal average temperatures, even!

• Christmas was pretty decent. There were no really big presents this year, nothing that was really a dream-come-true for any of us. The girls asked for some particular toys, which we were happy to provide. Heather and I stayed pretty low-key with our gifts to each other. I got her some books (sheet music, gardening, and the new novel by one of her favorite authors), a little vacuum chamber for her homeschool science lessons, and (very exciting!) a laminating machine since I read that those come in very handy for homeschoolers. She got me a couple geeky t-shirts, some Doctor Who-related stuff, and a LEGO set. Oh, and this weekend she let me go out and get myself a new toy.

• Specifically, this: Canon's new 24mm pancake lens. I've had the 40mm pancake lens since it was released, and really like it--it's a great lens to throw on when I want to travel light; even my big dSLR with that lens mounted feels small and light. But 40mm is a little long as a walkaround lens on an APS-C camera, so when I heard about the 24mm coming out I was interested. When reviews and MTF charts indicated it's even sharper than the 40mm (and, at some apertures, even Canon's 24mm f/1.4L) I was VERY interested. And then when I saw that it can focus as close as 6 inches, giving it a better than 1:4 ratio for macro, I was sold. So now my conundrum is just whether to sell the 40mm, since the 24mm is superior optically and, I think, better for my purposes.

• Speaking of selling stuff, I'm going to try to sell off our antique piano. Long-time readers (are there any left?) might remember when I got it, way back in 2008. I worked on it for a while, got it into a more presentable and playable condition, and then (as is my wont) have neglected it ever since. Since we picked up a nice digital piano, it's really just a huge waste of space. So while I suspect the market for antique fixer-upper baby grand pianos is not a large one, I'm gonna post it and see if I get any bites. It would free up some room, and maybe I can even turn a profit on it. Though frankly I'd give the thing away to whomever is willing to haul it off!

• Day after Christmas I felt a bit better, so we headed over to my Mom's for a visit, as was our plan. We had lunch with her, and my sister and her husband tagged along. I hadn't seen my sister for some time--she looked good, but reminded me so much of our grandmother, both in her appearance and speech. It was a little uncanny, actually. Anyway, she seems to be doing well.

• Back to work today--wow, almost quitting time already! And then I'm off for the next 3 days, burning my last 2 vacation days plus the New Year's holiday. I debated taking Friday off to give myself a 6-day weekend, but with the weather looking too hot to enjoy, I figured I might as well save the day and use it for nicer weather and/or when we have something fun on the agenda. Hoping for lots of travel this year!

Okay, enough for now, gonna shut down and head home shortly. I hope you all had a lovely Christmas, and something festive on deck to welcome 2015. May it treat us all kindly.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel kinda yucky. I have for a few days, on and off--nothing major, just a nagging headache, occasionally all-over achiness, stuffiness in the head, maybe a touch of fever. It comes and goes. I think I'm fighting whatever bug Amy is still getting over, which she probably caught on our trip. She was really feverish and logy for a couple days--luckily most illnesses in our family seem to run their course in 48 hours or so--and is still pretty snotty. Eww, I know.

So anyway, here I am at work on Christmas Eve, feeling yucky. But there's hardly anyone else around, so it's a pretty quiet day. Can't say I'd be doing anything more productive at home, so why not hang out here where it's quiet, you know? But I'll probably knock off early (as we typically do on the day before company holidays) and go home to lie down later.

In the meantime, I'm researching upgrade speakers for my car and it's making my head hurt even more. There are so many, and audio quality is so subjective that reviews don't mean much. The stock speakers aren't BAD by any means--I think it's a pretty good-sounding system overall--but I also think I could get more clarity and punchiness with a new set of speakers. But I'm not about to drop many hundreds of bucks to add an amp and crossovers or anything like that, you know? Though I'm damn near sold on something like Dynamat for sound and vibration deadening. It's also not helping that Crutchfield tells me certain speakers will fit, and Amazon says they won't. But I trust Crutchfield a lot more in that arena, so that's not too big a deal. I think I need to pop off a door panel or two this weekend and see exactly what's in there to put my mind at ease, and go from there. Maybe go see what Best Buy has sitting around--I'm not averse to clearance and open-box items if the price is right!

What else.. jeez, I really haven't posted much this month, have I? I dunno if I'll get around to a proper recap of our Virginia trip. It was okay--the weather kinda put a damper on it, as the first few days were cold and windy and rainy and then the rain stopped and it was just cold and windy instead. So we didn't feel like doing a whole lot outdoors, and I didn't get as many good photos as I might have liked. But we still had a good time, did some fun stuff, and it was nice as always to see the in-laws. Though I think next time I will insist that we get a hotel for at least part of the visit. It's wonderful of them to put us up, and much appreciated, but if there's such a thing as a comfortable sofabed, I have yet to encounter it.

Christmas is upon us! I think we're all set. Last night was our neighborhood's traditional event, where we put out luminaries along the sidewalks and roam the neighborhood to chat with neighbors. Usually 2 or 3 people host open houses, but this time we had a handful of people do things in their driveways instead. Fire pits, hot chocolate and cookies, s'mores stations, that sort of thing. It was fun, but I thought not as good as the open houses. But maybe that's just because the 80F temperatures lately made it feel not very seasonal. We're expecting a cool front today that should make tomorrow nicer, though.

Our Christmas routine these days is to open presents in the morning and then stay home most of the day. Maybe a pancake breakfast. Friday we're going to head over to my Mom's, and I should call my Dad to see when we can go visit him too. Maybe this weekend, or next week I'm off Tue-Thu (and maybe Friday too, if I decide to tack it on).

So I hope you all have a wonderful holiday, however you choose to observe it. And if you choose not to observe it, have a fantastic Thursday. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
It seems a little worse every year, how quickly Christmas comes and goes. Since I adore the season (well, at least I do when it isn't freakishly hot outside), it's a bit of a letdown when it's all said and done. We took our tree down yesterday, and it leaves a spiritual hole. How's that for overly dramatic?

Still and all, it was a pretty good Christmas. I had a 5-day weekend, which reinforces my oft-stated belief that the norm should be 2 on, 5 off. :)

On Christmas Eve I worked, but as usual before a big holiday I got to check out of work early. So after I got home, we packed up the girls and went to play at a local park for a bit, which was nice. That evening the girls opened their presents from each other, which was sweet, and then they helped us prepare for Santa by setting out the cookies they'd made, and a mug for hot chocolate, and some carrot sticks for the reindeer. As a parent, the Santa thing is weird--on one hand it feels like actively deceiving my children, but on the other hand it's a lot of fun. And I don't recall being traumatized when I realized the truth, so it's okay, right? I figure we only have another year or two for Hermione to believe, I guess we'll see.

Christmas morning the girls actually weren't up early--as much as they'd been bouncing off the walls in the days leading up to Christmas, I expected to hear them around 5am! We actually had to wake them up and get them to come out and see. Our tradition on Christmas is to check out the pile, open a few things each, and then take a break for breakfast before getting back to it. I think everyone was pretty happy with their presents, and I even did a good job for Heather, who I find a bit difficult to buy things for. She's not into any of the typical 'girly' stuff, so I can't just default to jewelry and makeup and stuff like that. But she's crafty so I played into that, getting her a few sewing-related books that I thought she'd like (and hoped she didn't already have). So those and a few other things went over pretty well. Me, my main present was a nice big LEGO set, and I got to buy my kayak!

I should back up a little here. I mentioned the kayak last time--we'd gone to the store and I found one I liked, and we decided the next day that I could go ahead and get it. So Hallie came with me and we headed back to the store, only to find that they'd sold both of the ones they had in stock that very day. So the guy at the store very kindly called around to like 5 other stores in town before he finally found one that had one available. It was waaay on the other side of town, but Hallie was up for it so we made the drive. It was a bit tough fitting it in the van (with no proper kayak rack, securing it to the roof was a last resort), but we managed. We tried it out the following morning, and I even got Hermione to take a ride--she thought it would be tippy like a canoe, so she wasn't interested, but it's actually very stable so I think she liked it.

So anyway, on the day after Christmas (Thursday) we drove over to visit my Mom, which was nice. We also met up with our friend Holly at a park so our kids could play.

Friday morning was gloomy, and I was a little afraid that it would be rainy and wash out the photoshoot I had scheduled, but it turned out just fine. When I got home, Heather took the older girls ice skating while I stayed home with Amy. After they tried ice skating for the first time a few weeks back, they really liked it and wanted to go again--Hallie is even interested in taking lessons, so we'll see how that goes.

Saturday we went over to visit Dad in Sebastian. Along the way we stopped at Lakefront Park in Kissimmee, which we found by accident last time we went out that way. It's a very nice park, recently re-developed (and still a work in progress, even). At Dad's the girls took a dip in the pool since theirs has stayed a bit warmer than ours, and I did some technical support work. For Christmas Dad had gotten a new laptop computer, and he wanted help transferring some stuff over from his old desktop, and upgrading the laptop to Windows 8.1. And his SO had gotten a new smartphone and Android tablet, so they needed a little help with those too. Fun enough for me, but I'm sure Heather and the kids were a bit bored. Ah well, that's what visiting family for the holidays is all about, innit?

Then Sunday was supposed to be a rainy day, so we just stayed home most of the day. I made a quick run to Home Depot to get some wood to build another LEGO shelf (we needed a place for all of the Indiana Jones sets Hallie got for Christmas!) and a toolbox stand for my workshop. A couple years ago my Dad gave me his huge toolbox, and it's been sitting on a metal desk in my workshop--I was never quite sure if he might ask for it back once he got settled into his new house. But I figure it's about time I claimed it as my own, and I could use that desk's surface space, so I got the bright idea to build a simple stand for the toolbox, which will both free up the desktop and provide me with more floor storage space underneath. So now I have to make room where the desk will go, and somehow transfer the toolbox (which weighs approximately one metric asston) to the stand. Fun!

Today I'm back to work, and if today is any indication it should be a nice, quiet week. I get Wednesday off for New Year's Day, and I'm tempted to ask for Thursday and/or Friday off as well to get another long weekend. I ordered and received a cart and roof rack for the kayak, and I've been reading up a little on places to go paddling (with another pair of recommended books on the way as well), so I'm excited to take it out and about!

But tomorrow I'll have to put together some 2013 recap posts, photos galore. Stay tuned!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I feel like I've been neglecting my LJ as of late, and neglecting you fine folks reading even more. I've tried to drop in a quick comment or two here and there when I have something quick to say, but I've really been meaning to take more time to catch up in-depth and chime in as relevant. But the time hasn't been there to do so, and I'm sorry.

Especially since I added a few new folk recently--welcome aboard! I made an introductory post some time ago, which I believe is still relevant, and which you are welcome to pop over and read here. I'm glad you're here and look forward to getting to know you a bit!

So let's see, what's going on.. tomorrow is the first day of winter and we're going to be back up in the mid-80Fs, ugh. At least the next cool front is expected around Christmas Eve, so the holiday should be.. well, not cold by a long shot, but at least seasonable. There's just something wrong about sweating on Christmas, I tell ya.

Speaking of sweating, we went to a sporting goods store last night and I think I decided on which kayak to get, which might happen as soon as tomorrow. It's a nice flat one that should be pretty stable, and it seats up to 3 people which means I could go out alone or with a couple of the kids. The downside is that it's a bit on the heavy and bulky side, which would make it difficult to get around by myself. But I plan to get a little set of wheels that will make it easier to haul around. And if I like it as much as I expect to, maybe I can also invest in a lighter 1-person model for solo excursions. We'll see! I was looking online at a ceiling hoist to store it overhead in the garage and it wasn't as pricey as I expected, so that's nice too.

Otherwise.. just coasting through this Friday at work. I work a normal day Monday, Tuesday we should get kicked out fairly early as we always do before major holidays, and then I'm off from Christmas through the weekend. Somewhere in there we'll go visit Mom, and I need to call Dad to see when and where we can meet up with him. And other than that, a mix of relaxing, playing with the kids, and maybe some fun outdoors activities. Bring it on!

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