kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
I don't feel like I have a whole lot to say today, though the hamster wheel in my head is spinning as always. :) So instead, have some recent photos!



Last weekend I took Friday off--I have some more vacation days to burn by the end of the year, and we'd been talking about going back to St. Augustine on a weekday, hoping the fort and old town wouldn't be as busy as it is on weekends. Ha! Instead of gaggles of tourists, there were gaggles of school groups instead. Note to self, in the future go there in the first weeks of the school year or something. Though it's way hot then, and at least we had lovely weather!

Clicky! )
And that's that. Thanks for looking, as always!

Some Pics!

Nov. 25th, 2014 02:42 pm
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
As promised, some photos from the past couple weeks!

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Weekend before last, I took Hallie to Disney's Hollywood Studios for the Indiana Jones stunt show. We'd gone to it once before, and they only did half of it because it was rainy. Plus there's a rumor that Disney is going to close the show soon to make room for an expanded Star Wars area, so we wanted to make sure we saw it before that happens. I like the show a lot, I think Hallie did too. Being such a fan, how could she not?

Clicky! )
And that's it for now. Thanks for looking!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140907-IMG_9561

I realized I didn't post about my kayaking excursion from the weekend before last! It had been a while, so I felt I really ought to get back out on the water, and I'd enjoyed the couple Sunday-morning paddles I'd done on the Wekiva, so I loaded up bright and early again. And now that summer's winding down and school's back in session, there was even less traffic than usual on the river, which was nice. I'm sure I was the first one out from Wekiva Springs State Park, and I didn't meet anyone coming the other way until near the Rock Springs confluence. I went downstream to just past Wekiva Island, and then came back up. And as the image up top teases, I made some friends!

Clicky! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
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Spot the gator?

I know, I just did the Wekiva a couple weeks ago. But I dunno, this might become a relatively regular Sunday-morning thing for me, it's a convenient location and a nice paddle!

This time around I got an earlier start--Wekiwa Springs State Park opens at 8am, and at 8:03 I was there. I suspect I was the first boat on the water, and had the whole river to myself as I headed downstream. This time I thought I'd go to the confluence of the Wekiva and Rock Springs Run, and head up RSR for a bit to see what that's like.

Just keep paddlin'... )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
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Sunday morning we had no plans, so I thought it might be a good opportunity to load up my kayak and hit the water. After that nice paddle along the Wekiva River a few weeks back, I'd wanted to go there again. So I tossed the boat in the van and off I went!

More! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
So I added a couple new friends from an AMA friending post (welcome aboard!) and then disappeared for a couple weeks. Sorry about that! Work's been busy, especially since I took a day off last week. And this Friday is July 4, so I get that day off as well. Go USA!

Anyway, I figure I'd better catch things up with recent goings-on, and of course there are photos, so this should be a decent introduction for the newcomers as to how things work around here. :)

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In my last post I mentioned getting my new solo kayak; one evening shortly thereafter, I dropped Heather and the girls off at a park while I took it for a quick test run on a chain of lakes around here. When I was done I went back to find the girls playing on this neat climbing playground. Amy likes tattoos, as you can see.

Lots to see! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Look, no photos for a change! Not that photos are a bad thing, I'm quite fond of them myself. But I just didn't take many this weekend, and really nothing worth sharing. So.. yeah.

It wasn't a bad weekend, though. Started out nicely Thursday afternoon, when the wife e-mailed me to say we could go get my Father's Day present that evening. Nothing too shocking, just another kayak. Yes, ANOTHER one! This is the single-adult one I'd had my eye on, so that we can all go out together when we want to, and also for me to take out on solo excursions. Actually okay, you can have a photo after all, even though it's not my photo:

bali10

It's purty! It's also much lighter to haul around than the big 3-person one, and a good deal faster on the water as well. Once we got it home, we took it down to the neighborhood lake so I could take it on a test run. It's definitely less stable than the big one--it's a sit-on-top, but as you can see, the seat is still down pretty low in the hull, and I think the bottom is less flat than a lot of sit-on-tops as well. So that will take a little getting used to. There's a little waterproof hatch between the legs, which will be handy for wallet and cell phone. And the watertight black box in the stern is removable so it can be towed behind, which is kinda nifty. But it did seem like a wetter ride than the big kayak too, though maybe that can be remedied with some scupper plugs. Anyway, I think I'll need a few times out to get comfortable with it before I dare to take a camera along. The iPhone will have to do for a start!

On Saturday we headed over to Dad's in Sebastian, which is about a 2-hour drive. Along the way we stopped at a park we like in St. Cloud, which was fun. But Amy left her little stuffed animal on the playground, and realized it once we were about 10 minutes away, so we weren't about to turn back. But she complained about it the whole rest of the way. Not very fun. We met Dad for lunch first--there don't seem to be many restaurants to choose from in his area, which kinda sucks. Then we went back to his place to hang out for a while, and he and I went to his bank so he could add me to his accounts. He's trying to be prepared in case anything happens to him, I guess, though so far the cancer is still in remission so that's all good. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home to pick up some fried chicken for dinner, and that was about it for the day. Spending 4 hours in the car is exhausting!

Sunday was Father's Day, and initially I'd planned to take the girls and meet a friend at a park. But the girls all slept in late, and then said they didn't want to go anywhere since we'd been gone all day Saturday. So that was out. Instead I worked on the pressure washer a little more and cleaned a bit of the driveway, and then we went out for lunch. We stopped by a music store too, where we almost bought Hallie a new violin--she's interested in keeping up with it but needs a larger size. But we restrained ourselves and found it on Amazon for cheaper, thankfully. In the afternoon I took Hallie and Amy out to the second-run movie theater to catch Muppets Most Wanted. Hallie and I enjoyed it, and Amy fell asleep for about half of it, which was not a bad thing at all. Heather made one of my favorites for dinner, I got in some video-gaming time, and again that was about it for the day.

Back to the grindstone today, and it's been a busy one since my employee is on vacation until tomorrow. And tomorrow I'll be on the road to St. Pete, which I'm actually rather looking forward to. It's nice to hit the road and groove to some tunes for a while. And earn mileage money too. :)

I hope everyone's week is off to a good start!
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
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Well, here we are almost to the next weekend, but I thought I shouldn't disappoint my audience by failing to post a recap of last weekend!

Shall we? )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
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We did a fair amount of paddling this weekend! My sister-in-law came over for a visit, so Saturday evening we loaded up the kayaks and headed out to Secret Lake Park in Casselberry. It's a nice park with a playground and a short hike and boardwalk, but it also has a launch onto North Triplet Lake, which is connected via little canals to (as the name might imply) two other lakes, Middle Triplet and South Triplet. There are actually some other lakes it connects to as well, but North Triplet and Middle Triplet lakes have been fine to get started with. We thought it would make a nice first excursion with the new kids' kayak (though we did try it in the neighborhood lake first, as I mentioned before).

Clicky for more! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
Even though I don't really have many photos to show, and I don't usually include trips to the neighborhood lake since those don't feel like proper paddling excursions, I wanted to make sure to note the weekend's developments in the kayaking department. See, we'd been considering getting a small, inexpensive kayak for the older girls to try out and see if they like it. I had one in mind at the sporting goods store, so when I got a Memorial Day weekend 25%-off coupon we said what the heck, no time like the present. I took the girls to the store and picked up one of these--normally $120, but on sale for $110 and then the 25% on top of that, not a bad deal at all!

31cVx4sZ6XL

It's a cute little thing, nothing special but nice and lightweight. Hallie was really keen on getting it as soon as I mentioned the idea. Hermione kinda leaned towards not-interested, but she's always like that with new things until she actually tries it and finds she loves it. Anyway, we got it home Friday evening and tossed it in the pool so they could try it out in a controlled environment. Naturally, it was a big hit immediately:

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Both girls really took right to it and figured out paddling pretty easily, even though the only paddles I have are adult-sized. They had a little trouble stopping and reversing, but that'll come with time. They also practiced climbing back up onto it from the water, and even standing up on it to see how stable it was. And we had them see what floating with a lifejacket on feels like too, which is good to know.

Yesterday evening our area was dodging some thunderstorms, but they all seemed to be going around us and not coming through, so I loaded my kayak onto its wheels, put the kid kayak inside (perfect fit!) and hauled them down to the neighborhood lake. Took two spins out and back--the first time I had Hallie and Amy on my boat while Hermione tried out the new one, and then Hallie took the new one and I took Amy again. It did start raining, but just a light sprinkle that we hardly even felt, so not bad. And again, the girls both did just fine with the new kayak--really well, in fact. We got out through the lily pads into the open water of the lake, then just paddled around for a while and watched a pair of terns swoop around and occasionally dive into the lake to catch dinner. It was quite peaceful, and I think the girls really enjoyed it too. No photos, though--I wished I'd brought my camera, but I wasn't sure if I'd need to do any rescuing or towing, and with the rain it's just as well I left it behind too. Next time!

I'm really excited that maybe we can start paddling as a family pretty soon! With the new member of our fleet I could take all 3 girls out, with one of them on the little kayak and two on mine. But I think our plan now is to procure one more kayak, a mid-sized one that would work for me when I'm going out alone (the big kayak is nice, but it's such a pain to get up on the van and muscle around out of the water, I worry about how secure it is while driving, and on the water it's a bit slow), but that Hermione or Heather could handle solo too. Then we could all hit the water with me and Amy and another kid on the big kayak, Heather or Hermione on the medium one, and Hallie or Hermione on the little one. Lots of options! I could even see us getting another one of the kid kayaks since this one seems to be a hit, but then it would become problematic to haul all 4 around without getting a trailer of some sort. I guess we'll see what happens.
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
At the end of our street is a lovely little lake of the sort that dot the whole state of Florida. The lakefront area is the neighborhood's common property, sort of our own little private park that serves as our gathering place for the annual homeowner's association meeting and the neighborhood events and festivals we host now and then. The girls love to go down there to run around and look for critters--grasshoppers, minnows in the lake, tadpoles if there are puddles, dragonflies and wading birds in the stormwater retention pond that's also down there, other things on occasion. I've also hauled the kayak down there a few times now, since it's not too tough with the wheels. I haven't really posted about those kayak trips because I don't consider them true expeditions, and I usually don't even bring the camera so there's not much to post anyway. There usually are some interesting things to see, various waterbirds on the lake and other birds flying overhead looking for fish--but since I haven't been brave enough to take one of my proper telephoto lenses on the kayak, I wouldn't get good photos anyway.

But this past weekend was a little different! Saturday after dinner (it's nice that we're getting a bit more daylight now, and even more so in a week or two when the spring time change comes) I thought it would be fun to tote the kayak down to the lake. Heather's sister Stef was visiting, so it was even an opportunity for Heather to come out on the boat with me--usually she has to stay on shore to watch the kids, of course. So I took Hermione out for a short trip first, and then I went back out with Heather and Amy. And what should we see but a gorgeous bald eagle, swooping down over the lake maybe 100 feet ahead of us. It landed on a grassy part of the shoreline, where it hung out for a bit and got some drinks of water from the lake. I happened to have brought my camera this time, thinking I'd try my old manual-focus Tamron 35-210mm f/3.5-4.2 lens, which I realized is actually a pretty good lens for kayaking in terms of focal length range, plus it has a not-too-shabby 1:3.8 macro mode for when I'm close up to shore. The manual focusing presents a challenge, especially in fading light and on a moving boat, but still, I'll have to keep it in mind for future trips!

So I paddled slowly in the eagle's direction, snapping off lots of shots as we approached, hoping I might get a couple in focus. This one was pretty close:

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As we got too close for the eagle's comfort, of course, it took off and headed for the pine trees along the shore, but I got a lucky shot (almost sharp!) as he did:

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Aunt Stef and the other girls on the shoreline as we headed back.

I must say, it's nice to have the lake so close when I feel like taking a quick paddle and don't want to deal with loading up the van. Especially now that the evenings will be getting longer before dark falls, I'll have to do this more often. And the water is calm so I should start feeling confident enough to bring the good lenses. :)
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140111-IMG_5746_HDR
Ahh, you know how I love these old live oaks festooned with Spanish moss.

The weather Saturday called for another unseasonably warm day in these parts, so my daughters liked the idea of heading back to DeLeon Springs State Park, where they could take a dip in the spring pool while I took the kayak out for a spin. Our plan was to have lunch at the Old Sugar Mill restaurant in the park, but when we arrived we discovered that there was a special event going on which had the park packed to the gills, and the wait for the restaurant was 2 hours. Yikes! So we turned around and had lunch at a charming little bakery cafe run by a very nice German couple, and then headed back to the park. In addition to being very warm, it was also rather windy--and I discovered upon getting my gear together that in my brilliance I had grabbed two paddle halves that did not fit together, leaving me a bit underpowered. Oops and lesson learned. But I soldiered on and took a short trip into Spring Garden Lake with a half a paddle.

Off we go! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
20140104-IMG_5562_HDR

So like I said, for this past Saturday I was contemplating a few destinations for a proper kayaking excursion, with a few criteria. To wit:

-Not too far away (say 90 minutes, tops)
-Good scenery (may as well start out with something awesome, right?)
-Easy access for put-in and take-out
-Minimal launch fees
-Reasonable distance between put-in/take-out
-Something for Heather and the kids to do while I'm on the water

When we found out Stef (my sister-in-law) was going to come along too, I wanted to make it somewhere really good too, since we're sort of showing her the highlights of the state (as she just moved here last summer). So we decided on Silver Springs. At first I was thinking we'd just take turns paddling around the headsprings area (at the old Silver Springs amusement park site, which became a state park in October), but it turned out that I could put in at Silver Springs and paddle about 2 miles downstream to the dock at (what used to be) Silver River State Park, and that sounded like a good distance to start.

Continued below the cut! )
kv0925: (Gromit Reading)
The New Year, that is. :) I was off yesterday for the holiday, and it was a pretty good start to the year. The weather was crap, dismal and overcast and drizzly, but I'd been looking forward to taking out my new kayak! So instead of the overly-ambitious plans I had to go to a state park, we decided instead to go to the park where I tried out the kayaks a few weeks back. It's a chain of 3 lakes linked by little canals, which made for a nice little outing. Getting the kayak onto the roof of the van was a bit of a challenge, and I wasn't too confident in how well it was attached, but I think it's just a matter of practice--it was easier when we left the park, and I figured out a better way to strap it down, too. So next time I think will be even better. The paddle itself was a good little workout--I only stayed out on the water for 45 minutes or so, and then the rain was starting so I paddled back as fast as I could. Didn't see too much wildlife, mostly some common shorebirds and no snakes or gators, but it was all very serene. The girls were more interested in playing on the playground than coming along for a ride, but that was okay since I'm still getting used to paddling and everything. Looking forward to more good times on the water, probably this weekend! If I find myself doing it a lot, I may spring for a 1-person kayak too, which would be much lighter and easier to haul around by myself.

After that we went home, and then planned to go to Jason's Deli for lunch--only to get there and find them closed. We really didn't expect to find them closed on New Year's Day! Disappointed and without a Plan B, we went back on the road and were just going to go to a sub place we like, but in the same plaza we saw a little pizza place we'd never tried, and that looked good on a dreary day. So we did that, and it was very good indeed. The girls demolished their own small cheese pizza, and Heather and I got their supreme, and it was yummy. Nice big sausage chunks, fresh mushrooms, good cheese. In fact, I may just have to go home for lunch and have some of that if there's enough left. We're always saying we'd like to try out more places to eat--we cycle through our few favorites, but some days even those don't sound good if we've done them all recently. So I think it was a good omen for the new year that we started out with lunch at a new place.

The rest of the afternoon we just stayed home, built some LEGOs and worked on preparations for our next furniture-rearrangement plan. That's our main hobby around the house, you see--we're always thinking of new ways to try putting things, and repurposing one room or another. With Amy now old enough to work a mouse, she's been interested in playing computer games with her sisters, but at present someone has to give up a computer to make that happen. The older two share a desk, but it doesn't have room for a third computer. The little office Heather's been using does, but that's where the computer she uses is, and she doesn't want to potentially have to fight someone for a PC either. So we decided she can use the little laptop PC my Mom gave us a while back, and I spent some time getting that all set up with her e-mail and other stuff she uses, while she put all the files she needs into her Dropbox so they'll be available. The next step will be to move the girls' computers in there instead, and then Heather can have that desk in her sewing room, for her laptop as well as the new embroidery machine we have on the way. But I need one of those PCs to be a media server, at least until I invest in some sort of NAS. Which I'd actually like to do fairly soon, need to do some research on that.

Okay, enough for now. Almost time to go home for yummy leftover pizza! :)
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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