Saturday, December 19, 2009

Blizzard of Ahh's

What a day for snow lovers!  Woke up to see the snow coming down, and it's still coming down as I write this.  It's very powdery, though, so it's not very thick.  I went out in it with the kids twice (the first time with Adrian, second time without), and both times were relatively short.  It's pretty darned cold out there!  So the rest of the day was spent inside, organizing all my digital photos.  I've been playing with the new version of Google's Picasa image viewer program (3.6) which has facial recognition abilities.  It's kind of neat watching it guess who each person is as it scans all my photos.  The accuracy seems to get better as you "teach" it who's who.

Almost time for dinner...  Heating up a couple of Shop-Rite pizzas in the oven tonight.  Woo-hoo!  :-)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Washing Machine


After looking around in stores and on the web for the past few weeks, we decided to finally bite the bullet and buy a replacement washing machine for our old house (our "rental property").  I'm sure that Don is tired of taking his laundry to his parents' house every weekend!

So the final verdict is: you really can't go wrong with buying an appliance from Lowe's.  I mean, Free Delivery, Free Removal, and Free Installation!  Anywhere else we went, those were extra.  Or worse, some places would only give you "Free Placement" which means that they'll put the washer where you want it, but then you have to hook it up yourself.  The winning washer is a Maytag (to match the dryer) that we got for about $429, plus tax and hoses (about $50 combined).  So for under $500, they'll deliver it, disconnect & remove the old washer completely, and install the new one for you.

The only problem was that the doorway into our "laundry room" in the basement is about the size of a Hobbit's door.  We always assumed that the previous owners must have installed the washer and dryer, and then built the walls around them.  So I met my father at the house last night, and with Don's help we dismantled the entire doorway so the delivery guys have total access to the area.  Delivery is Saturday (they are supposed to call me today to confirm the time), so we'll see how it goes.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Basketball Practice

Dillon and Jason at b-ball practice (in white t-shirts).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas decorations 2009

Angie and I started decorating for Christmas this weekend.  I pulled all the boxes out of storage (basement, garage, etc.) and she attacked the inside of the house while I tackled the outside.  She helped me outside by steadying the ladder while I was stringing up the icicle lights on the second floor.  I had to use an extension ladder to do the lights on the left side, and then I climbed onto the roof to finish up the right side.  It was a little scary for me since I'm not a big fan of heights, shaky ladders, or walking on roofs...

After the second floor was done, it was all cake after that.  We haven't put up the tree yet because the kids weren't home today (they like helping out with decorating and building the tree; yes, it's a fake one).  So maybe next weekend we'll do that.  I believe we're putting the tree in the living room this year, so it will be positioned in the center of the front window.  I'll have to take another pic once it's up.

Hope everyone is having a nice weekend...



Thursday, November 26, 2009

Dillon and Adrian

Dillon and Adrian enjoy some Dunkin' Donuts hot chocolate at the parade...
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Adrian and Daddy

Here's me and Adrian @Thanksgiving Day Parade '09 in Philadelphia.
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Daddy and Jason

Here's Jason and I at the Philadelphia Thanksgiving Day Parade '09 (Dave Roberts' last parade!).
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Dillon and I (Thanksgiving Parade)

Here's Dillon and I in Philadelphia at the Thanksgiving Day Parade (2009). I think you can kind of see the Art Museum in the background. Angie took this pic (nice job, Angie!).
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Angie and the kids in Philly

Thanksgiving Day Parade in Philadelphia.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Complaint #101519

The clothes washer in our Maple Shade house is on the fritz, and according to the MayTag repair man it's not worth paying to fix.  The "transmission" is shot and needs to be replaced, and he estimated that this part alone is about $495.  He also said there's a bad pump which is causing the machine to leak.  A quick glance at Sears.com and HomeDepot.com shows me that we can buy a new washer for about $300.  The only problem is getting through the little doorway into the "laundry room" in that house.  The opening is only about 24" wide, and the existing (faulty) washer is about 27" wide.  So we'll have to take apart the door jamb to accommodate the delivery and removal of these machines.

In the meantime our fearless renter, Don Ocava, will be washerless.  But he's a trooper!  We'll try to get a new one in there STAT.

Adrian at McDonald's (Cherry Hill NJ)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Photos Posted

Check out the recent photos I uploaded to my Picasa Web Albums.
http://picasaweb.google.com/hampton.mark/November2009#slideshow/5404492546525518242

Hopefully, the slideshow will work when you click the link.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Night at the Hamptons'

Made "Island Heat Chili" from the Killer Chili book tonight.  Turned out well.  Angie said she liked it, and I think she was serious.  :-)

Took some persuading to get Jason to finally eat some (he ate it with Tortilla chips instead of out of a bowl with a spoon).  Adrian and Dillon both used a soft tortilla shell to eat their chili like a soft taco.  Hey, whatever works.

Actually, Adrian tends to not even finish his entire dinner, so tonight was a milestone.  Usually, he'll pick at his meat, but will absolutely NOT eat any vegetables.  Because of this, we usually deny him dessert (though you wouldn't know it to look at him).  But tonight he got to pick a dessert and was very happy.  I just hope he remembers this tomorrow night!

Today was a murky dreary day, but since we didn't actually have rain (after about 9am, anyway) I went outside and took care of some leaves.  I bought a gas-powered Troy-Bilt leaf blower a couple of weekends ago, and it has been working out well.  There's no getting away from handling a rake at some point, though.  Like today, for example.  The leaves were just too wet to blow from one place to another.  I used the blower to get the leaves about half-way to where I needed to go and then I bashed them with a rake the rest of the way.  Fortunately, I can blow most of the leaves into the woods on two sides of our property; but the front and right-side of the house need to go to the curb for leaf pickup.

Angie is finishing up watching "Ice Age 3" with the kids, and then it's bed time. I need to download the first 8 episodes of "Mad Men: Season 3" so we can pick up where we left off last night!  Comcast has episodes 9-13 in the On Demand area, but we need eps 1-8!  So I paid a visit to TPB earlier and started downloading... By the looks of it, we should have the first episode in about 30 minutes.  Nice!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Sixers vs. Nets

Angie and Jason at tonight's Sixers game. I got the score wrong in my previous post. Current score is: 76ers 59, Nets 62. 3rd quarter.

Sixers game

Angie, Jason and (sleepy) Dillon at tonight's Sixers game (vs. NJ Nets). Current score: 76ers 24, Nets 19.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Tarzjay

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Going for a walk

It is such a nice day today, we decided to take a stroll thru the woods and then back thru the neighborhood. The kids wanted to walk together for a stretch so I grabbed a pic...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

In-ground statue

Near the hotel I'm staying at in National Harbor...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Gaylord National Convention Center MD

Part of the HUGE, MASSIVE convention center here in National Harbor, MD. They should have called it "The Monstrosity" or "Metropolis." You could get lost inside...

National Harbor MD

View from the convention center...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Stinkin' Mouse

For the longest time, I've been using a Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse (MX700) setup on my home computer. Recently (maybe within the past 3-4 months or so), the mouse has been going completely haywire on me whenever I've using it. If I leave the mouse pointer hovering over a web browser window, for instance, it will start scrolling the page down even when I'm not touching the mouse! And it's not affecting just web browsers (both Firefox and IE), but also Windows Explorer, Adobe Reader, etc.; anything that can scroll down, will do it and I have to fight with it to keep the page steady. Or I can move the pointer elsewhere on the screen.

I've found other people on the Internet with similar complaints, but everything I've tried has failed to fix the problem. I've uninstalled the stupid Logitech Mouseware software and reinstalled it about 10 times (currently it's removed), and I've switched out the rechargeable batteries with new ones. I've mucked with the settings in the Control Panel, too, but nothing fixes it. The wireless keyboard is fine (I'm typing on it right now).

I have an old Dell wireless mouse that I just hooked up a few minutes ago. The downside to using it is that I have to plug its receiver into yet another USB port on the computer, so I had to add a USB hub into the mix just to accommodate it. [USB devices: MagicJack, Epson scanner, Canon printer, Logitech wireless dock for keyboard/mouse, Western Digital MyBook, Dell wireless receiver, iPod, and the occasional thumb drive.]

Anyone else have this problem with the Logitech MX700 mouse? I had to throw it into a drawer because it was getting too annoying to keep using it.

House & Yard work today

Working around the house today. Need to clean the filter in the furnace. The previous owners had this Sears electronic air filtering gizmo installed, and it calls for periodic cleaning rather than replacing the filters (like I'm used to from our old house). Seems easy enough, just a bit more time consuming than sliding out a used filter and inserting a clean, new one.

The leaves are starting to fall again, so that means it's time to break out the leaf blower, mulcher, bags, etc. This will be a 2-month-long battle: me vs. tons of trees. Along the way, I will break down and pay a lawn service to blast through and do the yard because they're in and out in about 30 minutes. But we'll see.

I also need to schedule the sprinkler system guy to come out and shut everything down. Again, this seems easy enough, but since I don't have an air compressor (yet), I don't know how I would be able to "blow the lines" so all of the water is cleared out for the winter. Last year, this cost about $60-$70, so I'm hoping it's the same this year.

I guess I'll run my new edger out front again. Probably for the last time until next spring.

Well, gotta go pull the filter device out of the wash basin sink. It's been soaking for about 30 minutes now (using hot water and 2 ounces of dishwashing liquid).

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's magic, Jack

We bought a MagicJack from RadioShack on Sunday for $40. You plug it into a USB port on your computer and then you plug a phone line into the phone jack on the device and presto! You're making calls over the Interwebs. Works really well from what I can tell over the past 24 hours of usage.

We also purchased a new Panasonic cordless phone system so that I could connect the base into the MagicJack (which resides in the basement) and then plug in all four "satellite" telephones in four other rooms of the house. MagicJack now offers 911 Emergency service, so we mainly bought this thing to have a "land line" for the kids to use in an emergency. Up till now, we've just had my cell phone and Angie's cell phone.

I know that if the power goes out, it will take the computer, MagicJack and cordless phones with it, so somewhere down the line I'll pick up a UPS battery and connect all that stuff (including the Comcast cable modem and Belkin router) to it. That might buy us 15-30 minutes of phone time if needed.

You can add an additional 5 years of Magicjack service for $59.95, which I'll probably do after we check it out for a few weeks. If we end up doing that, it means we'll have spent about $100 on this thing for 6 years of phone service. With Verizon regular landline service in Maple Shade, we were spending 100 bucks every 2 1/2 months! And that didn't include long distance!


So far so good.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Huge flag at Eagles game today

E-A-G-L-E-S

View from the West Club Suites, around the 20 Yard Line... Eagles home opener vs. Saints.

Fogo De Chao, Philadelphia

The other night, we went out for a late dinner at Fogo De Chao in Philadelphia, PA. It's located just off of Broad Street on Chestnut Street, before you get to 13th Street. Branded as a Brazilian Steakhouse, it's a meat lovers' paradise. If you've ever had food served to you "family style", you'll be a little familiar with how this works, but in a slightly different way. Typically, at a family style restaurant, each course is served in large portions to the table and if you need more, you notify your server who eventually brings out another serving. But at Fogo de Chao, you're provided with a small cardboard coaster marked "No, Thanks" on the red side, and "More, please" on the green side. A team of "carvers" walks the restaurant floor armed with skewers of beef, chicken, pork, and lamb; and when they see your coaster showing the green side, they will stop right next to you and either plop a skewer of meat onto your plate, or they will begin carving a nice-sized piece of meat onto your plate (at which point you need to grab your tongs and assist the carver).

This was by far the most amount of meat I've ever had in one sitting before. I had a little of everything (except I didn't make it to the pork), and it was all great. Of course, I had a few favorites. The boneless chicken wrapped in bacon was incredible, and the filet mignon was also to-die-for (and also wrapped in bacon). It was the meat version of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup: two great tastes that taste great together! But the house specialty was a seasoned beef with garlic, and it was mouth-wateringly awesome.

There's an unlimited salad bar, too, but a friend of mine had warned me to avoid it and "go for the meat." Good advice. Fogo also serves three hot side dishes that are endless, so this night we had cornmeal, garlic mashed potatoes, and some kind of grilled banana. At one point, my plate was overloaded with meat, and yet the carvers were still stopping at my place to cut more meat. I realized I had forgotten to flip over my coaster, so I quickly made the change to "Red" so I could catch up. You can always flip back over to "Green" when you want to resume your Meat-aholics' meat onslaught.

All in all, a great experience and we will definitely be visiting Fogo de Chao again! Check it out if you're a meat lover.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Spline of the Times

Do you know what spline is? Well, you're about to learn...

In the past, when I've needed to have a screen door "re-screened" I've taken the door off and brought it to a local hardware store for repair. It's usually cheap ($20/$25 or so) and only takes a few days before it's ready for pick up. But over the weekend, we had a mishap with our sliding screen door (someone walked into it) and it ripped the bottom and part of the side away from the edge. Given where our house is (edge of the woods), we like any barrier we can put up to keep out the insects.

So this time I decided I'd try to tackle the job myself. I measured the door (44" x 72") and went to Home Depot in search of a rescreening kit. That's where I learned that you not only need to buy the screen, but you also need "spline" and a spline applicator tool (a "spline roller"). Basically, spline is just a soft plastic line (get it?) that you smoosh into the groove of the door to hold the screen in place. What I didn't know was that it comes in about 4 different sizes/thicknesses. So I grabbed the smallest one and a middle-of-the-road one (about $8 total), a spline roller ($4), and a roll of screen that was just big enough to do my door ($7). This, of course, left no room for error. One small screw-up and I'd be back at Home Depot buying another roll.

Installation wasn't too bad, actually. I think it took me about 90 minutes, but that's because I was figuring it out as I went along and damn near came close to ripping it in a place that would leave no room to shift it over. But I was pretty confident in how to do it after finishing, so I decided to replace the screen on the sliding screen door at our Maple Shade house. That one almost needed it more than the other one did, and we've been showing the house to prospective buyers with a rip near the handle and tape covering it up! :-( It took me about 45 minutes to do that one (is was a bit narrower, but I think I just knew what to expect, which helped). Total cost = $10 (not including the tool since I'd already purchased that before).

I haven't told Don that I replaced it today, so I'm curious if he'll notice it or if he'll read this first. Or maybe he'll never even notice it...

Spline - your new word for the day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dutch Wonderland video

Here are the kids riding the "Whip" ride at Dutch Wonderland on August 19th. Dillon is riding solo, while Adrian and Jason try to catch up. For a couple of laps, Adrian was throwing his arms up in the air on the turns, but unfortunately I missed it on the video...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Busy weekend

Barbecue at Uncle Joe & Aunt Jackie's house today and then we'll be going to Uncle Ian's birthday party on Sunday. The kids had a really nice time at Joe and Jackie's, and they're really excited to go to Uncle Ian's party tomorrow where they'll play with their uncles and cousins at the Sportsmen's Club.

The Automobile Saga

After arranging to get a ride to work with a co-worker last Friday, we arrived at 150 North Broad Street only to realize that I'd forgotten the keys to my car! Since I had called for a tow truck through Triple A before leaving home, I had to hope that Angie could beat the tow truck to my office and bring my keys with her. Unfortunately, that didn't happen so I had to tell the tow guy to leave, which put me back into the queue for a tow. After Angie dropped off the keys, I called to reschedule the tow. Five minutes later I tried starting my car, and it started! I was faced with a dilemma: leave it running and drive to the mechanic in Maple Shade (Angie could meet me and take me back to work); turn off the car and wait for the tow truck; or turn it off, cancel the tow and hope that it would start when I had to leave work. I opted for option #1: drive immediately to the mechanic.

I called AAA while driving and canceled the tow (this was a bit more of an ordeal than it had to be), then I called Angie (who had just left Philly) and asked her to meet me in Maple Shade at the auto shop. On Monday, I was $250 poorer but the car was running again so I was happy.

Next on the list of car issues was replacing the two front tires, which were practically bald and one had a slow air leak so I was having to stop and fill it at least monthly. Took the car over to Just Tires in Cherry Hill this morning and had them put two new Goodyear Eagle GT's on the front and do a front-end alignment. While they were doing that, Ryan picked me up and we went over to Fox Meadow Driving Range to hit a couple of large buckets for an hour. [We had tried to play a 9-hole round of golf with dad on Friday, but the rain killed that idea.] So, $350 later I've got two new front tires and the car seems to drive better than it did before. At least I'll feel safer when driving on wet roads now.

I still need air conditioning and I have to get that clanging sound taken care of at some point. But for now, I'm hoping the car isn't waiting to spring any more surprises on me.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Maximus Down

My car must be settling into old age now or something. A few months ago, the alternator completely died on me about one block from where I work in Philly. I had to get a tow truck to take the car about 7 or 8 blocks and then wait around until 8:30pm for the car to get fixed. About $800 later, I drove away with my car. I can't really complain about that, though, because the place did fix the car the same day and I was able to drive home (on a Friday night, no less).

Then my air conditioner quit and I found out that it requires a part that is on back order. So I've been waiting for the part for a couple of months now. Since I've made it into late August, I can probably do without it until next year at this point.

I noticed a "clanging" sound coming from the bottom of the car a while ago. Turns out it's part of the exhaust pipe that has come loose. It's not dragging on the ground yet, but I'm fearing the worst ("hey, buddy! Your thing's draggin'!") This project has been on hold until I can get the mechanic to just fix the pipe. One place told me that they'd prefer to replace the pipe AND the catalytic converter, which by itself is like $400-$500. But the one on my car is fine, so no deal.

My front tires have almost no tread left and need to be replaced ASAP. I was planning on doing it this weekend, but...

Drove to work this morning fine. Went to leave around 5:15pm, turned the key in the ignition, and nothing happened. All electrical systems come up, the headlights blaze fine, the radio and clock are working, so I know it's not the battery or alternator. I'm guessing it's the starter, but since I can't get the damned thing started, I'm going to have to get it towed from Philly to Maple Shade tomorrow. The second tow for this car in about 4 months.

So on my way home I signed up for AAA. Better late than never, I guess. $85 for the year and I'll get 100 miles of free towing (per tow) as part of the Plus membership plan. However, for the first week you only get 3 free miles and then it's $4/mile thereafter. So tomorrow should cost me maybe $40 for the tow, and I'll have some peace of mind over the next year with the car. She ain't dead yet!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Open House results

Well, technically we had only one visitor to the Open House today. But we also had a scheduled showing at 11am, so we had a total of two parties look at the house today. We'll see how it goes.

The weather didn't help much today, I'm sure. Maybe in a few weeks we'll do another one if we don't hear anything this week. There's some yard work I'd like to do, and I'm sure we can jazz up the interior a little bit more, too. The house has to sell someday!

Chef Mark's Harlequin Chicken

Tonight's dinner... Hoping the kids will eat it. It smells and looks awesome. I hope it tastes as good...

Home for Sale

22 South Clinton Ave

Open House today from 1-3pm in Maple Shade, NJ.

We recently reduced the price of the house to $234K, and we're offering $2000 to the buyer at closing. If anyone knows someone who is looking to own a house that has all the basics covered (new roof, new windows, new furnace, new A/C unit, new hot water heater, etc.), please let us know. Maple Shade is conveniently located just minutes from Philadelphia, and is close to all kinds of shopping spots: Cherry Hill Mall, Moorestown Mall, Mount Laurel, Marlton, etc. You're also walking distance from grocery shopping at Acme, eating lunch or dinner at Charlie Brown's Steakhouse, grabbing a beer and watching the game at the Alden Cafe, having some seafood at Sea-Lect Seafood, taking a stroll in the park, mailing a letter at the post office, etc.

Click the link to view the listing and additional photos: 22 South Clinton Ave

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Fightin' Phils

Top of the 9th... Phils winning 7-0.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Boat trip photos

Here's a couple more photos...

Jason's flounder

Jason was the only one of us that caught a fish this morning (it was a small flounder). Angie and I both hooked crabs and threw them back. Jason's fish flopped off the hook onto the boat before Grandpop could get it, so Jason dropped the fishing rod and ran to the back of the boat as fast as he could! He stood at a safe distance while the fish flopped around on the deck, until Grandpop got him under control...

We're on a Boat!

After our 2-hour boat ride/fishing trip with Grandpop...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Feeding the seagulls

Here's Angel (Angie's cousin Chad's wife), Jason and Adrian feeding the seagulls some bread. They had lots of fun doing this!

Jason in Ocean City

Jason pretending to be a seagull.

Ocean City

Here's Dillon, Sophia and Olivia in their own private 'hot tub.'

Adrian at Ocean City

Here's Adrian on the beach at Ocean City, NJ.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Balloon Tag

This was a game where the DJ tied a balloon around your ankle and you had to try to guard your balloon while popping the other people's balloons. Dillon lasted a few minutes and then had to go sit out the rest of the game. That's him running off to the left.

Water balloon toss

Getting ready to start the water balloon toss game (you throw the balloon to your partner and if he catches it, you're still in the game). Dillon and Jason were out after the first throw.

Dillon and the little red-haired girl

Taking a break from the festivities at the block party.

Block Party recap

We had a really nice time at the block party tonight. The kids had an absolute blast, of course. The DJ was great; he did all kinds of games for the kids, and he brought a ton of water balloons for games and a giant sling-shot that he brought with him; he also used hula-hoops and regular balloons to play some games and he had all of the kids do some group dancing. All the neighborhood kids seemed to have a great time.

People were hanging out in front of various houses, and most of the older kids were playing volley ball or dodge ball for a while. After the party got going, most of the smaller kids made their way over to the "Tot Lot" to play in the little park on the jungle gym.

It was really nice getting to meet more of the neighbors and to talk a bit more with the people we had only met briefly before. There was a lot of food there (tons of hoagies, hot dogs, desserts, snacks, etc.), and everyone brought their own adult beverages. I didn't notice any trouble at all, everything seemed to go off without a hitch. It was a lot of fun, and I hope it's made into a yearly thing.

Here's the video from the pie-eating contest

You can tell Angie has really done a number on these kids... They're so afraid to get "messy" they won't even dive into a bowl full of whipped cream! Eventually, Jason gives in though. Dillon just has a melt-down and quits (he took the hot dog from my hand and finished eating that instead).


video

Whipped cream pie eating contest

Timbercrest Block Party

Angie's helping get everything ready for today's block party in our neighborhood. I think we're up to about 33 families that are participating. There will be things for the kids (a DJ, a balloon guy, games, etc.) and food/drink for everyone (hoagies, hot dogs, snacks, etc.). It should be fun, at least as long as it doesn't rain. Weather forecast is calling for clouds to roll in around 8pm. The party starts at 4pm, so that should be plenty of time to hang out, meet some neighbors, eat some food, drink a beer or two, and let the kids blow off some steam. I'd think we'd be back home by 9pm at the latest.

A full report will follow... :-)

Monday, July 6, 2009

More from Seaside Heights

About to board the Jungle Safari Train in Seaside Heights, NJ. Dillon and Jason.

Dillon at Seaside Heights

Greetings from Seaside Heights NJ!

Dillon and Jason

Synergy

This one's for all the geeks out there with two or more computers...

I read about this program called Synergy that allows you to control two or more computers on the same network (connected to the same router) with one keyboard and one mouse. You don't have to use a KVM-type of switch and there are no cables to mess with. It takes a few minutes to get the software configured, but once it's set up you'll be able to control 2+ computers with one keyboard and mouse. If you have more than one monitor, this software will let your mouse pointer cruise from one monitor to the other, too. You can't drag and drop files or move application windows from one screen to the other, but it lets you regain some desk space by removing a keyboard/mouse.

I have only one monitor, but it has two video inputs so I was able to connect two computers to the same monitor (I just press the "Source" button to switch between the two computers). But now when I do, I just move my mouse pointer "over" to the 'other' screen and start controlling the other computer. Previously, I was using Tight VNC and/or LogMeIn Free to control the computer, but those required me to have to put in a username and password to remotely control the desktop. Don't get me wrong, those are cool free programs, but now I just press "Source" and start working.

Enjoy!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

4th of July Holiday Weekend

Recap:

FRIDAY:
Even though I was off from my day job, Angie and I spent the entire morning doing landscaping/yard work at our Maple Shade house (still on the market, interested?). I picked up 5 bags of mulch and 24 impatiens from Lowe's early in the morning and then met Angie at the house. She dropped the kids off at Mom Mom and Pop Pop's first, of course. I cut the lawn, did the weed whacking, cleaned the front-right gutter, replaced the light bulb in the porch light at the top of the foyer, and planted the impatiens in the front while Angie pulled a lot of the weeds out, swept up the scrap and bagged everything up. She spread out the mulch and we smoothed it out with our rakes. It looked really nice when we were done (which was about 11:40am and we had someone coming to look at the place at noon!).

After that, we ate lunch at Mom Mom and Pop Pop's house with the kids and then headed back to Mount Laurel where Adrian took his afternoon nap.

Uncle Ryan stopped by later that night for some musical noodling (me on drums, him on guitar). It was Van Hampton reunited! ;-)


SATURDAY:
Spent the morning doing the yard work at the Mount Laurel house and while I was mowing, I noticed that our neighbor's kids were over in our yard playing with Dillon and Jason. Angie came out back at that point with Adrian and started talking to the neighbor. They agreed that all of the kids could play in our yard for a while, which was nice (the boys loved it). They even ended up staying for lunch and playing inside for a while). They ran around outside with water pistols and Super Soakers for a little bit, too.

Uncle Ryan and Mom Mom & Pop Pop stopped by later on and we threw some meat on the grill for dinner. It was nice - some of us ate outside since I had the tiki torches going with the citronella fuel in them. They work well, but they aren't 100%, of course. Since we live "in the woods" there are lots of mosquitoes around. I'll have to pick up a bug zapper at some point.

After the kids went to bed, we launched some remaining fireworks from last year that our friend Steve had left behind. The kids watched from their bedroom window. Then Uncle Ryan and daddy played some PS3 (MLB '09 demo, and Star Wars Unleashed demo - I rarely actually buy games, but the SW Unleashed game is pretty cool).

Sunday: Lazy Sunday!!!

Currently listening to: Girl Upstairs (I was in the mood for some homemade original music!)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fireworks

Went to see the fireworks in Maple Shade tonight. By far the best display they've had in a long time; it lasted about 30 minutes or so.

Dillon and Jason did not have such a great time because they didn't like the really loud explosions. We'll have to see if we can even convince them to go to another fireworks display.

Last night we saw Red Orange Morning and Action Set perform in Audobon, NJ. They both put on good performances, and afterward we hung out at "Oaklyn Manor" in Oaklyn, NJ with some friends (including a long-lost friend or two) which was very nice. It was great catching up. It made for a late night, though, so we were extremely tired when we got home.

Today was the usual lawn mowing chore for me in Maple Shade, while Angie cleaned and did laundry in Mount Laurel. We went to dinner at Hoolihan's in Cherry Hill and then went to Mom Mom and Pop Pop's to grab the kids (well, the twins), get some ice cream at the ice cream stand and then meet up with Chad (Angie's cousin), Angel (his wife), and their two daughters, Sofia and Olivia. We all walked to the Maple Shade HS baseball field to watch the fireworks around 9:30pm. Oh, and then we put up with the whining and complaining on the walk back to my parents' house ("I have to go to the bathroom", "I'm tired", "Are we there yet?"). But all are home in bed now...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

BSG 4.5

Angie and I started watching the last half of the final season of Battlestar on Sunday night. Last night we finished episode 15, so we only have 5 to go! It's really good. Some of the things that I thought the writers would hold off on revealing until the end of the series were already revealed (like the "last" of the final five Cylons, what happened to Earth, etc.). If you haven't seen it, I don't think I've given away any spoilers because, you know, the devil is in the details. The writing is consistently great, and the cast is amazing. Definitely worth watching if you can dedicate the time to watching in excess of 40 one-hour episodes of the show (not including "Razor" and any other spin-offs).

So say we all...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

NJ State Tax Refund

Despite e-filing through NJWebFile in February of this year, we still haven't gotten our state tax refund yet (it's only $50). Typically, we get it within about 8 or 9 days of filing, but this year we received a letter from the Department of Treasury about a month after filing saying that we needed to provide copies of our W-2's, social security cards, and driver's licenses. I did all of that within a day or two and mailed it back. Here we are in late June and we still haven't seen the refund.

I called the Treasury Department last week and (thankfully) the person I spoke with was able to track down our information and told me that, yes, they did receive all of our stuff back on March 16th (over three months ago now). When I asked if there was something the matter, she said no, that they've just been slammed with returns and ours will be processed soon. I understand if they were slammed, but they've had my return for 3 months! When does the "slamming" begin? I would assume around April 14th-15th!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

The twins made me Fathers Day cards at summer camp and gave them to me this morning. They also made me little booklets with cardboard covers that day "Dad" on the front and blank pages inside. I guess we're supposed to fill up those pages with drawings, writings, and photos. We'll have to start today!

Adrian learned to say "Happy Fathers Day" this morning and did very well. (He's such a charmer!)

Angie took all of the kids to church and breakfast with grandmom, so I'm having a relaxing time enjoying the rainy, overcast morning. We're having Angie's dad (and Nancy) and my dad (and mom) over for dinner later today, and I'm looking forward to it. Angie's hoping we can fire up the grill for some chicken and steak, as long as the skies clear up. Maybe we could even dine outside on the patio. The twins are looking forward to seeing all their uncles at one time: Uncle Jake, Uncle Ian and Uncle Ryan will all be here visiting at the same time. That's a pretty rare occurrence, I think.

To all the other dad's out there: Happy Fathers Day!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I owe, I owe...

...it's off to work I go...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Weekend Update

I went over to our Maple Shade house to cut the lawn yesterday around 11:30am, and within 15 minutes it started to rain. I tried to "mow through it", but it turned into a downpour in a matter of minutes. Luckily, Don had left the back door open because I had forgotten my key. Unfortunately for Don, I tracked some grass into the house. I tried to clean it up as best as I could, but it was a futile effort since everywhere I went grass was falling off of me.

So I had to abort the grass-cutting mission half way through (at least I had finished the front yard completely). The back yard was about half cut.

Today Angie took the kids to church and then out to breakfast with Grandmom (who still hasn't purchased a new car yet!). While they were out, I loaded my mower back into my trunk and went back to Maple Shade to finish the job.

After that, I came back here and had lunch. Everyone came home around 12:30pm or so, just in time for Adrian's afternoon nap. While he napped, I took Dillon outside to play while I cut the Mount Laurel house's lawn (Angie went to the bookstore with Jason for a little bit). Dillon had fun driving his Jeep around while I cut the grass (takes me about an hour and 20 minutes to do front and back). When mommy got back, we treated ourselves to some Mister Softee ice cream and watched some TV (well, the kids did - I went back out and trimmed the hedges).

Angie gave the kids a bath and now everyone's in bed...

Now it's time for more of BSG Season 3.5

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Pictures from Six Flags

Here is a link to some...

Pictures from Great Adventure 6/12/09

Alternatively, you can click the Picasa Slideshow link in the right hand column of my blog. Either way, just scroll through the pictures until you get to the elephant...

Six Flags Great Adventure

We (me, Angie, Dillon, Jason and Adrian) spent the day at Six Flags Great Adventure yesterday. We had our two Coke cans for "Buy One Get One Free" tickets and drove straight to the Safari entrance (it was around 11am by the time we got there, I think). With the coupons and paying $10 each for the Safari, it was about $150 with tax (Adrian was free for everything, of course). The Safari was really cool and everyone really enjoyed it. It was a great time of day to go because all of the animals were out and about (mostly eating). One giraffe started "tasting" a car in front of us at one point, which was pretty funny. The kids all got a kick out of that.

Then we ate our pre-packed lunch at the Safari "Exploration Station." We grabbed a picnic table and sat down to eat there. Just when we were finishing up, it started to rain (and we had already paid for our theme park admission). So we went back to the minivan and waited about 10 minutes or so before heading over to the big parking lot. We paid $15 to park (they do not accept cash anymore, either, it's all credit card), and opted not to pay an additional $10 for "Preferred Parking." Attendance seemed to be down anyway, and we were able to park in the first row after the "Preferred Area" anyway. So it seemed silly to pay another 10 bucks to be one row closer (although I saw a handful of cars that did this).

By the time we got into the park, it was pretty humid, but the rain had stopped and the sun was out. We also realized at this point that we had forgotten Adrian's stroller so we had to rent one for $10 (thank God we "saved" that 10 bucks on not parking in the preferred area!). We headed straight to the little Looney Toons "National Park" where they had little rides for kids. We did a few of these and made our way around back to the left. We all did the big carousel, even though Jason was very nervous about the horse going up and down. I think Angie did the big tea cups with Dillon and Adrian at this point. After that, Dillon and I went on the log flume while Angie waited with Jason (who said he didn't want to go) and Adrian. I saw people with kids Adrian's age on there, but Angie didn't feel like it would be safe. Then Angie did the Runaway Train with Dillon, while Jason (who opted out again) sat with me and Adrian. There were no lines at all on the rides, so when Angie/Dillon came back, she suggested I go on it with Dillon right then (which we did). It was great, we went right up to the loading deck and got right on. Days like that are the best!

We then made our way to the back and headed to the back right corner of the park. On the way, we passed some kiddie roller coasters (Blackbeard's Treasure Train) that mommy went on with Dillon and Adrian (Jason again opted out so I waited with him).

Oh yeah, somewhere around this time Adrian started nodding off in the stroller, so since we were near "El Toro" (a relatively new wooden coaster I hadn't been on yet, ever), I asked Angie if she'd park while I checked out the lines. There was no waiting, so I jumped on the very next train that was departing. Man, this thing is a beast!! No loops, but the coaster maintains a very fast speed (something like 68 MPH) the WHOLE TIME! There are so many steep drops that I was cracking up laughing the whole time. If you haven't been on it and you like roller coasters, make it a point to GET ON THIS RIDE. I told Angie afterward that she had to go on it, so I waited with the kids (Adrian was still sleeping) while she walked over to the track. About 10 or 15 minutes later she came back looking completely shocked with a huge smile on her face. I know she was blown away by it, too. Totally crazy coaster... You have to do it!

Next we stopped off for some ice cream at Coldstone Creamery ($16 for three "smalls" that were more than enough for all of us).

I tried talking Dillon into getting on Rolling Thunder, but for some reason he didn't want to. I think the name freaked him out. Although, Jason and Dillon kept pointing to "Skull Mountain" on the map. It's all they talked about and was their goal for the day, it seemed. When we finally got to it, Jason was about a 1/2 inch too short and got turned away, but Dillon was tall enough so he and I entered the dark mountain. Some teenagers were whopping and screaming on their way through the tunnels and this really freaked Dillon out. He started to run back to the entrance, but I grabbed him and picked him up. I carried him all the way to the loading deck where he calmed down for a second or two. Then all he kept saying was "I don't like the dark. Why does it have to be dark in here??!" I told him I'd sit right next to him and hold his hand, but he really lost it then. So I carried him across the coaster and we went straight to the exit of the ride and met up with Angie again. He was still sobbing when we got outside. Maybe next year!

After that we went to the Wiggles park where all of the kids got to enjoy some rides (flying planes, driving cars, flying in the spinning balloons, etc.). And we did the large ferris wheel (not a soul in line when we went up to it - I was totally shocked).

By this point it was almost 7pm and we hadn't had dinner (and the park was closing at 8pm). So we let the boys pick a couple of rides that they wanted to "re-do" and they chose Log Flume (Dillon) and the Looney Toons National Park (Jason). But there was enough time to get Jason on the log flume (he finally relented and had a great time) and on the Runaway Train (which he loved). We hit the gift shop, bought some souvenir Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny cups and headed out of the park (after making a pitstop at the restrooms, of course).

Dillon dropped his cup just outside the exit, and it (of course) broke. I was ticked off (more at myself for letting him carry it), but decided to go back into the park to see if they would switch it for a replacement (they did). We hit McD's for dinner and went home for baths and bed.

Long day, but it was really fun and I think everyone had a really good time... I'll post some pictures soon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Dillon and Jason: Great Adventure

On the small tea cups ride.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

BSG S3.0 and PS3

Moving right along through Seasons 2.0 and 2.5, Angie and I started watching Season 3.0 last night. We're totally hooked and just motoring through the seasons. Thanks to Matt, we were able to watch Seasons 1, 2, and 2.5 on DVD, but Season 3 we're watching via AVI files that I grabbed off the Internet. At least we're able to watch them in the family room using the PlayStation 3. The quality isn't the greatest, but it's definitely watchable.

I have Season 4.0 on DVD waiting in the wings, but we'll have to get through 3.0 and 3.5 using these computer files first. I'm going to keep looking for higher quality versions, but for now these will have to do.

I actually learned something about the PS3 that I think is totally ridiculous. For months now I've been trying to watch computer video files (MPG, AVI, etc.) on the PS3 (either via wi-fi or USB thumb drive), but never had any luck. Then last night I had to figure it out because we finished up Season 2.5 and were dying to watch episode 1 of Season 3.0. Once again I copied the AVI file to the thumb drive and popped it into the PS3, but it said "No files" when I clicked on the thumb drive's icon. This ticked me off because I knew the file was on there. I went online and did some "research" and found out that instead of clicking the "X" button when I clicked on the thumb drive, I should be clicking on the "triangle" button which then brings up the "Display All" menu option. Once I clicked that, the stupid thing displayed all the video files on the thumb drive! Like, WHY should I have to do that??! Totally ridiculous...

Anyway, we'll be watching 2 or 3 more episodes tonight...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

T-Ball League Photos

Jason and Dillon's t-ball league photos:

Adrian at the park

Friday, June 5, 2009

BSG S1

Angie and I finally started watching Battlestar Galactica last week (on DVD). We started with the Season 1 discs, which include the original 4-part miniseries, and I must say we're both completely hooked. We averaged about 2 or 3 episodes per night and polished off all 17 episodes within about 5-6 days. The season-ending cliffhanger was a doozy! I never saw it coming...

Dr. Gaius Baltar ("No more Mr. Nice Gaius!!") is a fascinating character. I hate him, but I love watching him in every scene he is in. He's such a weasel, but I love laughing at the predicaments he gets himself into while talking to Number 6 (in his head). The scene where Number 6 appears on Galactica as a doctor's assistant is a classic since Baltar assumes that she is in his head and no one else can see her. The looks on the other actors' faces in that scene and every other scene where Baltar is talking to himself are priceless.

Great series... I'm actually glad we didn't watch it when it aired because now we can steamroll through them as fast as we want.

Now it's on to Season Two!!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thunder Ball (T-ball, for short)

Tomorrow morning at 9am, the twins will play their second-to-last game of t-ball. Ah, t-ball. You've brought such joy into our home...

I know that our kids aren't the only ones who "dislike" t-ball. At the last game (Thursday night), our team was the last to bat, so when they ran off the field for the last time I heard one kid yell out, "YAY! LAST INNING!" I saw the coach burst out laughing, and I couldn't help but tell him, "Yeah, that about sums it up..."

On Thursday, Angie told me that the twins were hoping for rain. Angie left the game while the kids were playing the field during the final inning, but she had told them that "this was it and then the game is over." She forgot that they had to bat last. When Dillon ran off the field at the end of the inning and sat on the bench, I told him that he would "get to hit one more time." He looked SO sad about it! He said, "Mom said it was time for dinner and we could go home now..." Sheesh!

I mean, I know baseball isn't exactly action-packed, especially for 5-year-olds, but I kept hoping they would like it. Even just a little bit. But any time that I, or the coach, or my father try to give any instruction to the twins at all (even something like 'hold your glove up - like this'), we're met with the coldest looks you can imagine. And you can just tell that the instructions are going in one ear and out the other. It's more fun playing with the dirt, spinning in circles, throwing our gloves, knocking other teammates' hats off their heads, throwing rocks, drawing in the dirt with sticks, etc. Who needs baseball when you've got all that?

Looking forward to next Saturday's final game!

Sprinklers

Tomorrow morning I get to learn how to turn on the sprinkler system and program the thing. I hear it's pretty easy, but I want to make sure everything is working right. Plus, the timer thing is the old school "push pins" and I'm not sure how to work it.

Of course, this will also set us back about 70 dollars. Add it to the pile!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ice Cream Social

The twins' pre-school class had their "Ice Cream Social" today and Mom Mom was there with the camera to preserve the moment in pictures. You can click on the "Picasa Slideshow" link at right to view the photos that I added to the "Kid Photos" album or you can click this link for the slideshow.

Home Again

Well, our flight landed almost exactly on time in Philly tonight, so we were able to get to our car in the Economy Lot and drive to my parents' house by about 6pm. Angie practically jumped out of the car and ran to the front door because she could see Adrian peaking out the window. The kids were very happy to see us and began showing us all the things they created during the past 5 days (drawings, booklets, colorings, art projects from school). And we were equally as happy to see them. Like Angie said, "It's almost like we never left."

I received a text message from our friend Don letting us know that someone is coming out to look at our Maple Shade house tomorrow. Of course, the lawn hasn't been mowed in 2 weeks, so I have to get my butt over there to mow it tomorrow morning. Thank God I took off tomorrow! Our new house needs a good mowing, too, but that will have to wait until late afternoon at the earliest now. We recently lowered the asking price of our Maple Shade house, so we're hoping that maybe, for once, we'll actually get an honest-to-God offer on it! That would be amazing! Even if it's a low-ball offer, we'd just like to get the dialogue going.

The kids are in bed and all is back to normal again.

It's good to be home...

Big Bear attacks Denver Convention Ctr

Here's a view of the bear from the first floor of the Denver convention center. This thing is pretty huge!