Blog Archives

Home improvement stores

I don’t know what it is about Lowes or the Home Depot, but I could get in real trouble at these stores. I went to Lowes on Saturday morning to get a ladder and some little things for the house. I walked around that store for almost 2 hours and was admittedly doing a good amount of window shopping. I came out with my ladder which I needed to fix our playroom roof, and some little odds and ends, but it took great restraint not to go crazy. I wish I could win a shopping spree to a Lowes or Home Depot. Where we are from in the MD/DE area, Home Depot is the best IMHO and Lowes stinks. However in Tampa, Lowes seems to have nicer stores and better selection. There is a really nice Home Depot in New Tampa, but most of them around here are kind of run down. There is a really nice Lowes in New Tampa as well, so we have plenty of choice for our home improvement needs.

Vacation Summary

We are finally back from Vacation (actually got back on Tuesday evening). We had a nice relaxing time (mostly) and it was nice to see family and friends and places we haven’t seen in a few years. Now lets see if I can remember a few highlights…

My favorite part was playing badminton for over 6 hours straight. I think it was Saturday we had a family get togther and a cookout, after everyone ate, we started playing and it was a lot of fun. It was a little disappointing at how easy it was to beat Ray and Jeremy, I expected more competition than what I saw out there. Liz got some great shots of me playing, and they are available in the picture gallery.

We went blueberry picking (actually I took the kids to the field) and we picked over 13 pounds of blue berries. They were $1.50 a pound, so I spent almost $20, but boy were they good!!! I probably ate about 6 pounds by myself the first day we got them.

The kids played in a stream down a dirt road, and rode bikes through it. My kids loved it and enjoyed getting wet and muddy. At one point Abby had to go to the bathroom while we were all at the stream, so I carried her on my back all the way back to the house and helped her, and then we drove back to the stream in Uncle Jam’s car. I stuck Abby up through the sunroof so thats the first thing they’d see as we drove up. Then on the way back, I had Michael ride with me, I drove Jam’s car in reverse all the way back to the house with Michael in my lap, I had to hold the steering wheel tightly as Michael was trying to “steer” with me.

Overall our flights up and back were very good, no bumps or problems. When we got to the Tampa airport, our main bag was 3 pounds over weight. They made us take out 3 pounds. So Liz took her purse out and shoved some shoes in there to get through check-in. The girls were great on the flights, only bugged me a bit about pushing the seat’s recline button, they really wanted to push it bad, so I told them it was to push if you wanted to take a nap, then they weren’t really interested anymore. They watched a movie on my laptop on the way there.

We forgot Michael’s stroller on the way back, so Liz used the snug carrier thing that straps onto you, and carried Michael that way, which worked out good on the plane.

We rented a van from Budget on the way from Dover to Newark to visit my Aunt and Uncle. We got a nice Dodge Grand Caravan which was very comfortable. We had a nice visit with them as well and I ended up staying up really late talking “tech” with David.

Leaving Philly on Tuesday, our plane was delayed a little getting in, and had to wait in line for about 30 minutes before we could leave. So there was a little delay getting back home. Mike picked us up in their van and brought us home, which was nice.

While staying with my mom, we basically had no cell service, so it was a little disturbing to be so disconnected for the first day or two. After that I got used to it and it was actually nice not to be glued to my phone all day. I almost forgot how relaxing that is. I was joking around telling people that we have these nice GSM quad band world phones that will work in Austrailia, the UK and abroad, but we can’t even use them in Delaware! Cingular has good signal in the major areas, but service in the rural areas is really bad. Verizon by far is the better carrier in the north east. Now that Cingular is the new at&t, maybe that will improve over time.

Overall our trip was good, it was good to see old faces and places and catch up with people. We got lots of good pictures and had a relaxing time. However, it is still a difficult thing to travel with small kids, so I hope not to have to travel like that again for at least 5 years!!! 🙂

Busy weekend with Birthday parties and Mother's Day

Friday night I went to WalMart in New Tampa to get a birthday present for Abby since we planned to have Abby’s 4th birthday party on Saturday. I got her a helium balloon kit and an extra pack of balloons. I made a few wrong turns and missed a few turns which made my trip a bit longer than I wanted. When I got back home Liz and I baked Abby a blue cake as a surprise, since her favorite color is blue.

Saturday morning we cleaned up a little and got ready for Abby’s party. Christina got there in the morning and Liz and Christina went to a salon and Liz got her hair cut. It looks really nice and she had a nice time. It took 3 hours from leaving to getting back, since it was the day before Mother’s day. We had a few people over and had a nice time.

Sunday, we took Liz to Romano’s Maccorroni Grille for a late lunch/dinner. We intended to go to the Olive Garden, but when we got there, there was a line out the door and a 1+ hour wait time. So we went to Romano’s instead. I loved the restuarant, it was very nice and the food was good. They have excellent bread! I wasn’t too plesaed with the sause they use on their pizza, but oh well. There were several other items I want to try later. I had the pizza because it was a Marguerita pizza, and I like the one at the CPK in the mall, so I thought I’d try the one at Romano’s. The girls had various thing like chicken, maccoroni, and ended with ice cream which neither of them really liked. Liz had the usual, and if you know her you know what I’m talking about. While at the restaurant, the girls and I played tic tac toe in crayon on the paper table cloth.

NetFlix trial

For the past few weeks I’ve been trying NetFlix, which has actually turned out to be pretty cool. You can logon to their website and rate moveis that you’ve seen, and then you get a huge list of recommendations which are generated based on your ratings of other movies. They have a great selection and a local warehouse in Tampa, so I get my next selections pretty fast! I don’t know if I’ll keep it or not, its not that expensive but I only have a few more movies left that I want to see in my queue, after searching most of their inventory. So I will probably end up cancelling.

Weekend Summary

This weekend was a busy one in Tampa, with lots of things going on. This past Saturday, the Strawberry Festival kicked off. I really want to go and get some fresh strawberry shortcake, its soooooo good! They also sell flats of fresh strawberries for a good price as well. I was going to go down to Plant city and get some yesterday afternoon, but I was pooped and ended up taking a nap. (I must be getting old, I’ve been taking naps almost every weekend lately). It rained most of Saturday evening and night, so we stayed in. Amanda brought the kids over that afternoon (on Sat) and the kids played togther and we (the adults) watched Star Trek Voyager until about 8 or 8:30.

After the kids went to bed Liz and I watched some of the episodes of Monk from Season 5 that we had missed since dropping cable. We sitll have 3 more episodes to go and we’ll be caught up. BSG was new last night, but I have to wait to watch it until it shows up in the newsgroups.

Little Cesears

We had Little Cesears Pizza on Sunday afternoon for the first time since I was kid. I knew it was going to be cheap, and probably taste aweful, but I was a little surprised when I actually had it. Its still a cheap pizza, the sauce was not very good, but it was better than some other cheap pizza’s I’ve had. We got a large pizza, (I ordered extra cheese, but they gave us pepperoni), and two orders of crazy bread, all for $8. The bread was great, just as I remember it as a kid. Little Cesears is still around here in Tampa, we have a branch location about 3 miles from our house, but most of them are now in K-Marts. Pizza Hut and Papa Johns are still our favorites by far, but if we need a cheap meal or have to feed a bunch of people on a budget, Little Cesears is the place to go.

Security scare

The other day in the parking garage next to my office at work, there was a security scare. Apparently two men (said to be armed) approached a woman in her vehicle and demanded the vehicle and her personal belongings. The woman was not injured, but it was still a scary thing. Thats the first time something like this has happened in the almost 2 years I’ve been working here. I never even gave security a thought during the many times I’ve been in that garage. It just makes me think how much of a shame it is, that we live in such a beautiful state, and yet it has such ugliness in it.

UPDATE 2-1-07

I recently found out that the two guys who did this were caught. They are in jail where they belong. Tampa police said this type of thing is rare in the Westshore business district.

Beautiful Drive

Today is a beautiful example of why I love living in Tampa. Its December 18th and its over 80 degrees outside. That may not mean anything to you the reader (other than sheer jealousy), but to me it means top down weather. Thats right, I will be driving home today with warm temps and a great breeze blowing through my hair. 75% of my relaxation is derived from driving my Miata with the top down. So today is a GOOD day!

Cold Season

Its that time of year again, cold season. Although not very cold here in Tampa, FL, its still cold season. I picked something up probably from the kids and now I have a cold. I’m hoping it won’t turn into a major deal and run its course quickly. When you have kids, it seems like its hard to go a month without someone being sick.

Details

Our old house sold rather quickly, it was listed, sold and closed within 30 days. Our buyer was a little wacky and we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to make him happy. The closing date snuck up on us big time and we had only a few days to make moving arrangements. Liz and I packed up as much as we could and we had some friends that were nice enough to come over and help us. We had some help loading large items onto a moving truck which we were fortunately able to get for free from our real estate agent’s company. It was a 15′ truck and took 2 full loads to get all of our things to the garage of the new house. Liz and I loaded the first truck load along with some help from friends with the large items on Saturday morning. We then took the load to the new garage and unloaded it with just Liz and myself. It took us about 1 hour or so to unload the first trip. Then we took the truck back to our house and started to load more. It was getting late and Liz’s dad had come down to help from Ocala, so we took a dinner break and ended up with Liz’s dad and myself stopping by Dairy Queen on the way back. We got all the rest of the stuff from our old house loaded onto the truck in a few hours. Leaving only some trash to put out for collection and some small items like mirrors and things we could get with the van. It was almost 10pm by this time so we decided to leave it at that for the night and I drove the full truck back to a baseball field parking lot next to some friend’s house whom we were staying with. The next afternoon, Liz went somewhere with the kids and I took the truck to the new house and unloaded it by myself. It only took me a little over an hour and a half to get the extremely packed truck unloaded. What can I say, I’m nothing if not efficient. Ha ha. That evening I took the truck back to the real estate agent’s office and got my precious Miata back. I enjoyed a nice pleasant ride back to where we were staying.

First our home sale was supposed to happen on a Friday and the closing on our new house on a Monday. However, there was some kind of delay last minute and we could not close on either until Wednesday. So Wednesday finally came, I took some vacation days off work for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but also had Monday off for Columbus day. So I had 6 days to move and get settled in. We met at the title company at 3pm on Wednesday to close on both houses. The buyer of our house could not be there so he came earlier and signed paperwork. Which we were very happy about so we didn’t have to deal with him in person since he gave us such a time dealing through his real estate agent. Not to mention his agent had a horrible accent and was very hard to understand. They got to us in a short amount of time and we signed all the sale papers for our old house. We finished only after about 15 minutes or so, and then decided to move on and finish the signing of the papers on our new house. This way, when the seller got there all he had to do was sign a few papers and we’d be all set.

Bad thing was that the amount we got back at closing was not as much as we had thought due to higher taxes and expenses in closing. So we got back just short of the amount we wanted. We had planned to pay off two big debts but didn’t receive enough to pay off just one of them. We will be getting an escrow refund from our first mortgage which will help and we don’t have a mortgage payment until Dec 1st, so I’m hoping the extra bill I hadn’t counted on will not be too high of a payment. We should be able to pay a little on the second debt which will hopefully make it more managable. We still have some things we need to buy though, like a dishwasher, since it died just after we got the keys. I’d like to get a new refridgerator, but that will have to wait. We did get a new TV (woo hoo), couch set, and some other things, but the budget is going to be interesting now. We are going to have to take Sarah out of private school and send her to a very highly rated public school nearby. We just can’t afford her tuition anymore with the higher living expenses. This has been hard for Liz and I’m not happy about it either, but unless I get a major career boost (and I already do good) or Liz gets a good job, we just can’t afford to send our kids to private school. Its bad enough just paying tuition for one, I can’t immaging how we could send all our kids to private school. Sarah will likely start public school in early November.

Activating utilities at the new house was a little strange, we are just outside the city limits of Temple Terrace, but still are on their water/sewer system. Tampa Electric still services us which is good, but water and trash pickup were tricky. The county told me they didn’t service my address, the city said they didn’t service the address, Temple Terrace told us they did. So it was a bit confusing getting it all setup. But on the day we moved in we had power, water/sewer and trash pickup is covered in our property taxes. I missed trash pickup this morning, I guess they come way earlier than I am used to, so I’ll have to remember to put it out the night before the pickup day. I ordered Verizon FIOS for internet access to try it out and see how it works for me. Its cheaper than Road Runner and has faster upload speeds which is more important to me than a few MB faster download speeds. I am downloading any TV shows I want to watch now so we didn’t get cable again and I don’t want to pay for Satellite, which stinks in Florida anyway with all the rain in the summer. I connected my PC via DVI to the new TV – a Hitachi 57″ HDTV. I watched some things on it in HD and its amazing. I just need to get a good surround sound system and I’ll be set. But thats one more thing I can’t afford right now. I might be able to get a PCI video card with a DVI port on it, and just use my e-mail server as my multimedia machine. I’d also need to get a wireless keyboard and mouse, but thats not too expensive. I have yet to decide what I want to do about that yet.

We love our new house, its not brand new and it has some maintenance things that will need to be done, but its been cared for and is in good shape overall. Its in a very quiet neighborhood, peaceful and pleasant. Liz has already been rollerblading a few times and I took the kids in the back yard last night to assemble their swing set and it was so quiet and there was a nice cool breeze blowing with no one else around. I have some installation inadequicies so it took a little longer than I had wanted to get the swing set assembled 🙂 We still have lots of stuff in the new garage so only my Miata can fit in there at night right now. I would like to have both vehicles in the garage by next weekend. Its not that much left to move, but its a matter of time and energy to go through it all. We made good progress in the few days we have been there, the kitchen and living room look great, but the other rooms are a little bare right now.

So I’m back at work today after a long break and am right back into the mix of things again. I think I am becomming a supporter of capitol punnishment for spammers. :-)]]>