Sunday, March 25, 2012

A New Year - A New Life

Well now that we're all but finished with the first quarter of the year, I suppose it's time to post some thing...anything.

The big news is as of December 31st I am officially retired from federal service. After almost 38 years, it was time to get out and see what retired life is like. I have had several friends that have recently retired and none of them has expressed regret in retiring when they did. So what have I've been doing these last few months? Actually not a whole lot of anything. Sleeping a lot (Yea! No more getting up at 3:30 to get ready for work). Walking the dogs a lot. Doing more of the cooking.

By Washington standards, we've had a very mild winter. We've had no real snow to speak of. We've already had temperatures in the 80s. Its been mild enough that one of my boat clubs has okayed going out in singles 2 weeks earlier then usual. Singles aren't usually allowed out until 1 April. I've taken advantaged of that opportunity and taken a single out twice so far and looking to do more as time goes by. What I've found out so far on my two outings is that no one is on the water during the week. I have the reservoir to myself. No settling for the sucky boats since others have already claimed the best and are out n the water. No fishermen who seemed to think you're either invisible or think it great sport to wake you. It was incredibly peaceful. I did the seven mile round trip row to Fountainhead Park and back. As I get back into some semblance of shape, I'll stretch those out to eight to eleven mile rows. The old dam beckoned me on Thursday, but I resisted rowing the extra mile that would entail for perhaps next week. I've even been out on the bike a few times. Extra rowing and biking were the two things I was most looking forward to doing a lot more of during my retirement and now that winter is over, it's time to step up and start doing it.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

I hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and I'll leave you tonight with a few Christmas quotes - the ones I used for the past four years, which I love. They represent to me the meaning of Christmas.

"Perhaps Christmas doesn't come from a store. Perhaps Christmas means a little bit more." - How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Suess. '

From "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. The meaning of Christmas as told by Scrooge's nephew Fred:

There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,' returned the nephew. 'Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round -apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that- as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!'

And from Dr Suess and the Whos, the lyrics from the song "Welcome, Christmas" from the TV version of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas":

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Come this way!

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas,
Christmas Day.

Welcome, Welcome
Fah who rah-moose
Welcome, Welcome
Dah who dah-moose
Christmas day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp

Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome Christmas
Bring your cheer
Fah who for-aze!
Dah who dor-aze!
Welcome all Who's
Far and near

Welcome Christmas, fah who rah-moose
Welcome Christmas, dah who dah-moose
Christmas day will always be
Just so long as we have we

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome Christmas
Bring your light

Welcome Christmas
Fah who rah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
Dah who dah-moose!
Welcome Christmas
While we stand
Heart to heart
And hand in hand

Fah who for-aze
Dah who dor-aze
Welcome welcome

So to one and all a Very Merry Christmas and as Tiny Tim observed: "God Bless Us Every One"

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Holiday Tour

Welcome to northern Virginia and the 2011 Holiday House Tour hosted by Jen of Jen on the Edge. The idea is to give the reader an idea of how we decorate for the Holidays.

We decorate pretty basically. We have a tree in the living room.

We did go to LED lights this year as I was getting pretty tired of replacing burned out bulbs and/or strings of lights. I have to say the new lights can be a bit bright. Actually bright may be an under statement. You almost need sunglasses to look at it. We do have a voice activated gizmo that allows us to turn the lights on and off without having to crawl behind the tree to pull out the plus to turn it off and that same gizmo allows us to dim the lights, which actually looks better. That same gizmo also provides hours of fun for Daughter#2 when she visits. She'll lay out on the couch and talk to the tree and turn in on and off and on and off... You get the idea.

We also decorate the family room. Lights on the mantle, stockings hung by the chimney with care...including ones for each of our four dogs. There is also a lighted wreath. The wreath is a fairly new addition.

Finally there are decorations outside to help make the neighborhood festive. We go for all white lights to cover the bushes. We also have two wreaths on the front door.

That's pretty much the extent of our holiday decorating. I can't say that we're very crafty folks so everything comes from the store except a few handmade ornaments on the tree - holdovers from when the kids made them way back in elementary school.

I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of our house. Things have been a bit hectic this December what with Daughter#2 graduating from the University of Florida with a Masters degree and over the same weekend having my Dad pass away. We burying him later this week.

From northern Virginia (or NoVA as we say in these parts), here's hoping you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and wishing you all the best for the coming New Year!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Is It Dry Yet?

As I sit here this moment, the sun is out and it's a balmy 80 degrees. It's quite the difference from yesterday when it was pouring and rain rates were hitting over 2 inches an hour. Over the past few days area rain totals have exceeded 12 inches. There has been a lot of flooding in various areas, including around the Ft Belvoir area where The Son now works. They closed Rt 1 and the Fairfax County Parkway leaving him little options on how to drive home. After sitting in traffic for about 40 minutes with no movement, he pulled a U turn and went back to work for a few hours. His second attempt at getting home got him lost in the Springfield area, which led to a phone call home. I was able to get him in the right direction and get home - finally.

This is the weekend for the Wye Island Regatta - a 12.5 mile row around Wye Island hosted by the Annapolis Rowing Club. This race has been the kick off race for the head race season for my rowing club for years. It's our novice rowers first introduction to organized racing and what's involved in attending an away regatta (i.e., derigging boats, loading them on a trailer, rerigging them on site ,etc). It's one of my favorite races just because it's so different from anything else we do. For whatever the reason, the club bailed on the race this year. We just couldn't come up with enough men to row a Men's 8+ and we couldn't even get 4 women (our club is like 80% female) to row a mixed 8+. Very disappointing. I hope we can get everyone on board for next year.

I have to fly to the west coast on business on Sunday, September 11. I can't tell you how excited I am to have to be traveling (flying) on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Sometimes the lack of proper planning to avoid this kind of nonsense drives me crazy. To make matters worse, my boss will also be attending the program review. Totally uncalled for to have both of us there. Waste of time and money. This will probably be my last business travel ever. More on that to follow. 9/11 is also my wedding anniversary so Ann is thrilled I won't be home for that. What's the present for year 37 anyway?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Actually I didn't take a summer vacation, but given school is starting here in a few days, it sounded like a good title.

First off there was rowing. Our rowing season is broken into two parts - sprint racing in the summer and Head racing in the fall. This year we entered two sprint races. The first was the Occoquan Masters Sprint (OMS) held on our home water of the Occoquan Reservoir. It's hosted by the Occoquan Boat Club, also known as OBC. One of the highlights of this season is that Daughter#1 is coaching our Competitive Women. Here she gives final instructions to her "A" Boat before they head off to the start line.

They got a Silver Medal in their race. Nice job ladies.

I raced in an "8" and a Quad. We didn't medal. Here we are taking the "8" down to be launched.

Down to the dock.

Pushing off. I'm in 2 seat.

After OMS, there was Diamond States. That was an away regatta so there was boats to unrig.

And to strap down unto the trailer.

And boats to load onto the trailer.

It was a full trailer in the end.

Once the trailer arrived onsite in Middleton, DE, the boats had to be rigged and readied for racing.

And the racing begins being piped along to the finish like. I hurt my knee getting our mixed "8" out of the water and back to our trailer. I could hardly walk so I didn't managed to get any more pictures.

I also attended a Washington Nationals game vs the NY Mets. Daughter#1's husband is a Mets fan so it's the game we picked to go to. We got there early so we could look around the park. This is a view from the Red Porch in center field before the game

I was there with these guys - Ann, Daughter#1 and her Husband Matt shown here in the Red Porch.

We had some decent seats behind home plate from which we got to see the Nats win in the bottom of the ninth. Exciting ending.

We also have a National's farm team right down the road from us. Less then 5 miles actually. It's their High "A" club - the Potomac Nationals. The Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg showed up for a rehab start recovering from Tommy John surgery. The stadium, such as it is (it has to be the worst "A" stadium in existence) holds 6,200. Almost 9,000 showed up to watch him pitch 3 innings. He didn't disappoint. He struck out 5 and gave up only two weak infield hits. What struck me about him is how big he is. He was easily the biggest player there. After Stephen left, The PNats held on to win. So nice finish all the way around.

There has also been some biking along the W&OD Trail and the bike trail along Rt 123, but no camera so no picture on those outings.

How have you spent your summer?

Monday, August 29, 2011

New Kitchen

We've lived in our current residence for over 28 years now. As we all know, over time styles change and things get old. So it is with our house. Ann has been wanting to upgrade the kitchen for a long time. Sure we've made some changes over the years. We've replaced the old drop down ceiling that had these 4 ft long fluorescent bulbs. We've replaced the flooring once before, but it was still linoleum. We've also have replaced the appliances once before. It should be said that Ann watches HGTV endlessly so it's no surprise the remodel bug hit her big time.

This is what our kitchen looked like before the remodel began. The kitchen is pretty empty as we had to empty everything out so the Contractor could begin the demolition.

After Day 1 our kitchen was pretty much gutted. All the cabinets were gone as were our appliances. The flooring was also torn up.

Day 2 saw the start of the cabinet installation. It was a slow process. Apparently our walls are no where close to square which required a lot of adjustment.

Meanwhile our garage became our storage area. It held the new and old cabinets as well as the new appliances.

Leading into our kitchen is the foyer area. We are going to retile that area along with the kitchen. Day 2 saw the start of the tile removal. I was surprised how easy it came up.

Done in almost no time.

Days 3 and 4 saw further progress on the cabinet installation. I was somewhat surprised they installed the new microwave early in Day 3.

By Friday the work on the cabinet installation was done. We're waiting on the counter tops now. They also took pity on us and put in our appliances so we had a somewhat functional kitchen for the weekend. We really needed the refrigerator. We still don't have a sink so we're really don't have a way to clean up if we tried cooking our own meals and we're not really into washing dishes in the tub, etc. Needless to say we've been eating out for all our meals.

We were also told on Day 5 (Friday) that due to the wonky outside wall, they needed to come remeasure for the counter tops. This time they brought this amazing looking measuring device.

He had it hooked up to a laptop and right after he finished measuring, he sent the measurements electronically to the factory in Maryland. All in all it was pretty cool.

We still have to pick out tile for the kitchen and foyer areas. We've tried. Oh we have tried, but our counter tops have this unique coloring and for whatever reason we can't hold the color in our heads long enough to pick out a tile. Not to mention we have no sense of style whatsoever. The counter tops are due to be installed on Thursday along with a new sink and by the end of the day we should have a fully functional kitchen once again. The plan going forward is to get a piece of the actual counter top and take it to the tile store with us. Hopefully that will allow the tile "design expert" to pick out a few styles/colors that will work and allow us to pick one.

I will say, this remodel has gone better then I expected. The crew has been super nice and have cleaned up everything after wrapping up every day. That's not to say there hasn't been noise and dust and chaos. There's been plenty, but its all been bearable. Even the dogs have pretty much gone with the flow. I figured they would be barking all day long, but again not so. They've just settled into our bedroom and chilled out. Even taking them out for walks, they've pretty much accepted the crew and not gone after them like the crazy maniacs they can be. But truly I'm ready for this all to be done.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Of This and That

Its been quite a while since I have posted anything. I'd like to say I've been so busy that I've just not had the time. Alas that would be a lie. It's more due to pure laziness. That being said, lets do some catch up. The most exciting news is that Daughter#1's husband has finally found a job in the Old Dominion State and has rejoined his bride after 9 months of being separated. He has given up his sales job to work in a rehabilitation clinic out in Warrenton. He eventually wants to work in Occupational Therapy. This job is a good foundation while he completes the educational requirements. Speaking of Daughter#1, she began a new job this past Monday working at Fairfax Hospital doing some sort of meeting planning work. So far she seems to like it. The added income doesn't hurt either. She has also been named the Head Coach for the Prince William Rowing Club's women program. She was the assistant coach last year and is looking forward to taking over the program and keeping the women as one of the top women Masters programs in the country. The Son is currently between jobs - again. He has a job offer but is waiting for the necessary security clearances to come through. It's for more money then his old job so he's excited about that, but the commute will be a little tougher. He doesn't do well with a lot of free time on his hands so we are all hoping that the necessary paperwork comes through quickly. No new news from Daughter#2 and her husband. They are still renovating the farm house they are living in and renting out their old house in Harrisonburg. She was really excited when they managed to finagle high speed Internet in their remote cableless location. She is also close to completing her masters degree with the University of Florida. I told her she had to go down to Gainesville to do the graduation walk. She has put in a lot of work in getting this degree and she should be able to take the bows for it. A vacation to Florida wouldn't hurt us either. Ann has sold and had closing on her Aunt's house in Cape Coral, FL. Ann inherited the house when her Aunt passed away in August. We toyed with the idea of keeping the house and using it for vacations and winter times especially with Ann and I approaching retirement In the end we decided that we wouldn't get that much use out of it and none of the kids were interested in using it for vacations either. The upside is it will make our retirement easier as it has allowed us to significantly reduce our debt load. As for me, it has been a tough winter. We haven't had much snow, but its been brutally cold for Virginia. I have also been inflicted with an upper respiratory infection. After getting over that, I broke one of my toes in January. Now again I seem to be fighting some sort of respiratory ailment. All to say that that combination has severely limited by off season conditioning to get ready for this year's rowing. I can get out on the water starting tomorrow (although the weather will be crap so I won't actually row, but I could!). My aerobic condition is sucky to say the least. I hope our spring is really nice to allow me to spend a lot of time rowing on my own to get me ready for the competitive season, which starts in early June. Looking forward to getting my first blisters of the season.