Matt Archives

2/13/10

As the Dirt Turns… part 21

Hello?  Anyone out there?  I know it’s been a while and you probably gave up hope of ever seeing the final product of our home renovation.  Lucky you – we finally have some official “after” shots to share.  We’ll start in the living room:

Linda and I debated for many moons about where to put “the bug”.  We bought that when we were decorating the house the first time, and it’s been one of our favorite pieces.  On the other side of the wall is the carport, so it seems appropriate!

Next is a view of the opposite side of the room, which is what we see while sitting on our comfy couches!

The couches are really cool – the back portions move so you can switch them from couch to couch or turn them for different seating arrangements.  The couch by the window is currently in the “let’s have tea” configuration!

Now on to the kitchen – which we are SO happy with.  First view is the “main” area of island, back counter and appliances.  The second picture is of the pantry which is opposite from the island.  The big silver clock is another favorite, and for a short time it and the bug had swapped places.  This really threw off both room’s mojo, so we fixed that yesterday.

Before the renovation, we had one light switch.  Now we have three switches in various locations that control some of the same lights.  It’s taken some getting used to, but this learning aid has helped.

Now to the part you have all been waiting for – the stamp room!  We can’t promise the same flair as the opening ceremony of the Olympics, but we still ohh and ahh over it, so we hope you like it, too!

Much of the storage systems come from IKEA, with a few modifications here and there.  The slat wall was re-used from the old stamp room, and we still have to find some curtains that we like.

I’m sure it comes as no shock that every drawer is full!

If you turn 90 degrees to your right, you will see the display wall and cutting stations (back wall of room).

Another 90 degree turn reveals punch storage and the “creating station” (I just decided to call it that!).  Punches are held up by IKEA towel racks.

One more turn to the right – stamp storage! (wall adjacent to back wall of kitchen)

I hope you’ve enjoyed our progress so far!  Still more to come on landscaping and outside stuff.  It’s been unseasonably cold here in Florida, which has slowed us down a little bit.

Thanks!

Matt

1/30/10

As the Dirt Turns… part 20

Has it really been almost a month?  Not a ton of progress to report.  We’ve had some inspections done, some failed (and fixed), and some still yet to come.  Our big dilemma now is what to do with the front yard.  We aren’t even going to think about the back yard yet!

Trucks and a wicked frost have really done a number on the grass.  As we are thinking about game plans for our new yard, we are thinking that we want to add more plants and features, and use less grass.  We’ve had some sod and landscaping estimates, and today we took a field trip to two local nurseries.

I’ve never had what you might call a green thumb, so seeking out plants that are drought tolerant, frost tolerant and can survive in any sort of light/no light combination seems like a good idea.  Linda is much better at gardening and visualizing what could and should go together.  I’m learning, but it’s a slow process.

We’re supposed to have another frost in Feb., so after that would probably be a good time to kick the yard into gear.

More as we know it!  :o )

1/2/10

As the Dirt Turns… part 19

As we say hello to 2010, we must say goodbye to our camphor tree.  I mentioned in my last update how we found out that it was highly invasive and had to come out.  Well, on the morning we got back from New Hampshire, it was time.  Our trusty tree guy showed up and within 3.5 hours, it was gone.

A brief note:  if you need some large trees removed, go with someone reputable, even if they cost a little more.  We lucked out with our guy – very reasonable, knowledgeable and FAST.  Our neighbors next door AND across the street used some local yahoos with a trailer and a chainsaw as their only credentials.  Not only did they take 3X as long, the trees they left were a mess!

First, a before picture so you can remember what it looks like.  This was mid-construction, so you see lots trucks, etc.  Notice the big tree in the middle…

This is what we woke up to on Tuesday morning.  We were on a late flight from New Hampshire the night before, so we were sleeping in a bit.

Another shot to see just how massive this tree was:

A funny thing happened when the mail man walked by… turns out he’s a wood carver and this was his lucky day.  I wonder how much postage that would be?

And the final reveal… we hated to see the tree go, but think it opens up the yard (literally) and doesn’t make the house look so squatty.

You can also see the new paint color.  We need to add some more landscaping and shutters to break it up a bit.

Still more to come…

12/23/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 18

I know many of you have been patiently waiting for any sort of sign that we are still working on the house.  As things are coming to an end, it seems the monumental, newsworthy progress takes weeks to happen, not hours or days like before.

Most of the cabinet doors we were waiting on arrived and were installed.  A few things won’t be here until after the new year, so we wait.  We got a new bid on the garage and it’s WAY more than we want to spend.  Turns out there was extra engineering and of course we would have to repay for things that were already here when we were doing our other construction (we originally wanted to close int he garage first, many moons ago).  So, I think we’ll save our pennies and put them toward landscaping, removing another tree (a sad story) and possibly expanding the driveway.

The tree… we have a lovely camphor tree sitting in the middle of our front yard.  It gives great shade, the hawks love it, and it really gives the property and “established” feel.  Unfortunately, we have recently learned that this species is actually a “weed” tree, which chokes out most plants around it (no wonder nothing grew around it!).  Apparently it’s on the “do not plant” list and is VERY invasive.  So it’s got to come out.  I think we’ll plant something less harmful there to take it’s place.

So the big question is, what progress have we made in the stamp room?  I can’t show too many pictures… Linda wants to do a big reveal when it’s all done in January.  Here’s what I can show you:

Hanging the punch storage. Linda was snapping pictures instead of helping to level the racks.

A view of tables and a work area:  we’ve relocated most of the slat wall storage from the old stamp room and have added lots of other storage (which I can’t show you yet).  All will be revealed in due time.

We’ve got a few other things to share, however the areas weren’t quite picture worthy.  We’ll get things straightened up after Christmas and get those pictures posted.

Happy Holidays – from our stamp room to yours!

Matt

12/4/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 17

Finally some more house pics! We had sort of gotten to a point where nothing was happening for a few weeks, then there was Thanksgiving, but now we are back to making progress!

We’ve actually started moving things back into the kitchen, which is 95% done.  There were a few cabinet doors that were scratched during install, so we are waiting for those to arrive so they can be replaced (which should be next Tuesday).  Here is our attempt to be organized as we started making strategic trips back and forth from the storage unit.

And 2 minutes later…

Then the task of actually putting things away.  Linda had done a great job of mapping out where things should logically go, and it was my job to cut the liners for the cabinets.  Yes, that is an SU paper cutter that I’m using to cut down the liner.  It was Linda’s idea!

Speaking of moving back in… we’re starting to get the new stamp room in order.  A few trips to IKEA later and we have a lot of furniture to put together.  Some is already together and we need to get pictures of that.  As I type, Linda is in there right now working with a couple of make-shift stations, trying to see what the best set-up will be.

All that spare cardboard actually came in VERY handy.  With all that open space and no furniture or curtains to dampen the sound, it actually gets quite loud with a lot of echoes.  We created this fortress for Linda to make her videos for Stamping School so it would block the sound reflections lessen the “cave” effect.  We also had to use some to block the overabundance of light coming in the window!

Pay no attention that stamper behind the cardboard!

One of the contractors was over today working on a punch list of little things we noticed over the last few weeks.  Our laundry room now has drywall, and we’ve got some work done on the outside as well.  It’s dark right now so we’ll have to take the pictures tomorrow and get those up later.

Thanks for tuning in!

11/29/09

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since the last update!  I’ve got a few new pics to share from the house, which I will be working on over the next few days.  Part of the reason for the lack of updates is that I happened to be in Las Vegas for a week in the middle of November.  A full week… in Vegas… I was ready to come home after a few days!

I was out there for an amusement park convention (if you can believe there is such a thing!).  It’s kind of like SU’s convention except with rides, games, and free Dippin’ Dots! The industry association that hosts the convention is IAAPA (International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions), and I am on the Human Resources Committee.

This year, the chair of our committee was stepping down, so of course I had to make him a card.  With Linda’s help, this is what we came up with:

Yes, those are real casino chips!  He loved the card (and the chips, too) and couldn’t get over the fact that we MADE it.  It was actually a surprise to the committee as well because I said I was going to make it, but they didn’t see it until it was time to sign it and present it!

So now I’m back, Linda and I are working on the new stamp room and things are progressing.  More to come soon!

Matt

10/30/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 16 (and Happy Birthday to me, too!)

Since Linda’s b-day and my b-day are only 4 days apart, we’ve made it sort of a tradition to treat the whole week as our birthday week.  This year, we tested the limits of our new bike rack by hauling our tandem up to a bike trail in Sanford, FL.  (The rack isn’t really recommended for tandems, but we made it work!).  We took to the trail and spent some time looking for manatees at Blue Springs Park (didn’t see any).  For my birthday on Wednesday we ventured down to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal.  Linda had never been, and I was excited to see her reactions in the scare zones.  She did pretty well, as long as we were huddled in a large group of people.  It was when we ventured out on our own that the scareactors seemed to hone in us.  Linda got really scared a couple of times!

I was also really excited to receive a lot of wonderful b-day wishes and cards from Stampers from around the country.  The two cards below are from Linda Goldhersz and Susie Brown (two of Linda’s stampers).

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This one is from Deb from California:

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Thank you SO MUCH for thinkinf of me!

And of course, Linda’s!  I love her creative and non-traditional approach.  On the scrolls there were 40 reasons that she loves me.  Awwww…

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So what else did we do during our b-day week?  Well house stuff, of course!  There has been more progress and more finishing touches that make the light at the end of the tunnel seem even brighter.

Fred the tile guy has been busy grouting the floor tile and installing and grouting the backsplash tile.

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It took us a long time to find and decide on a backsplash tile, and we couldn’t be happier with the way it came out.  A number of the contractors and tradesmen have commented on how cool it is – they are a tough bunch to impress!  Here is the finsihed product:

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And a close-up to see the detail.  It’s wavy on the surface, so when the light reflects off it, it almost looks like water.  Then there is a texture underneath that creates some really cool effects.

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Besides the backsplash, one of my other favorite features of the kitchen is the rope light that we put above the cabinets. You can still see a little of oven hood pipe coming through the top of the cabinet, that still needs to be covered up.

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Our new door hardware is finally here, too!  Pretty sharp!

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Baseboards, window sills, paint and caulk really give a finished look.

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To get an overall view, my Dad wanted to see a picture from the front door looking into the kitchen…

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And then a shot from the stamp room over to the front door…

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Speaking of the stamp room, our new color is on the wall (it’s called Asparagus), and in person it is fresh, hip, and fun.  Below is a pretty good representation.

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The floor is still a little dusty, but that’s to be expected.  We’ll get that cleaned up before we move all the stamping supplies in.

We also noticed that the room wasn’t as bright as it could be.  We decided to try some different light bulbs, and viola – what a difference.  In fact, Linda brought in her technique book to see how true the colors were.  With the old bulbs, the white card stock looked vanilla.  With the new lights, white looked white!  We found that GE Reveal bulbs were the way to go.

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With us getting so close to the end of the major renovation work, both the big red dumpster and the port-a-potty disappeared this week.  We knew stuff was starting when they arrived.  I guess we know things are really winding down now that they are gone.

It’s kind of sad and exciting all at the same time!

10/27/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 15

The night had finally arrived… our variance meeting to see if we could build our garage or not happened last night, and we were approved.  It was a scary but anti-climactic process all at the same time.  First, this is the room where the meeting was held:

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Pretty intimidating to face “the board”!  We were the first item on the agenda, and as they were reading off the rules of conduct and procedure, I was getting more and more nervous about getting up to speak to plead our case.  What if I said something wrong and we were denied?  Cripes!

They got to the first agenda topic and started talking about our request.  We all of a sudden heard, “Is there a motion to approve?”  A motion was made, which was seconded, and BOOM, our variance was approved.  We didn’t have to get up or anything. All that work and anticipation, and now it’s over.  To celebrate we took a leisurely drive home with the top down and got a couple of chocolate dipped cones from Dairy Queen.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… today was a big electrical day.  The house was without electricity for about 6 hours.  Apparently when Linda got out of the shower the power had already been turned off, so she couldn’t blow dry her hair.  We had run an extension cord over from our neighbors house, so before we went to the meeting she plugged her hair dryer into that and fixed herself up.  Pretty funny to see Linda standing standing in the yard, blow drying her hair!

Here’s our new electrical panel (which should be inspected today).  Ain’t she a beauty?

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Other finishing touches going on… A new door bell button (the electrician had put a new button in, and it was NOT pretty – we replaced it with this one) :

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Linda painted the front door getting ready for new hardware:

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New faucet, soap dispenser, and RUNNING WATER in the kitchen!  WAHOO!!!!

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Here’s another view of the sink with the countertops (I don’t think I put up this picture when it originally when in):

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After lots of thoughts, talking, debating and pondering, we finally have settled on a new table.  The frosted glass top and base actually came from different stores.  (We’re trying to return the glass that came with it).  We just need some chairs now…

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In the stamp room, we’ve got window sills, baseboards, and some new paint cut in (ready for the painter to paint the baseboards today):

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Our contractor (Gold Key) thinks we’ll be done with interior work this week.  We keep making lists and they keep knocking them out.  The cabinet guy comes back for some final items today, electrical and plumbing inspections today, baseboard painting and grout today… oh yeah – and I think they are going to try to put up our back splash today.  Wish I could be here!  Luckily Linda sends me pictures throughout the day so I can keep up!

10/21/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 14

Has it really already been a week since our last update?  I think I had planned to update over the weekend, but the 3rd Annual Cardboard Canoe Regatta sort of got in the way.  We did our best to defend our first place showing from last year, including a new design for our boat.  We really should have stuck with what worked for us… the team that won created almost an exact replica of our boat from last year.  We’ll be back in 2010!

So there’s been a little activity at the house.  Lots more electrical, more tile, texture and paint in the stamp room and an island!

But first a little work on the outside… lights and soffits go up around the outside of the new stamp room.

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Inside the stamp room we have lights, our ceiling fan and a preliminary paint color (which we are not happy with).  You can see some of our alternatives on the left hand wall.  I think we’re leaning toward something close to Certainly Celery.

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We’ve also got more tile going in… I think it’s very cool that we’ll have the same floor throughout the living room, kitchen and stamp room.  Really makes them flow together.

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Speaking of tile, the tile guy started on our hallway.  We have one little walking path (on the left) until it sets up… tomorrow he does the other side.

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Now on to the kitchen!  Here’s the island with appliances roughed into place (microwave and refrigerator are actually working!).  I am just so happy that I don’t have to go out into the utility room (where the fridge used to be) to get breakfast.  Wahoo!

You’ll also see lights, pendants and in the distance, one of our countertops.

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Here’s a close-up of the laminate counter top.  It’s not officially attached yet – just resting on top of the cabinets. We think it’s going to look really sharp with the turquoise tile back splash!

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So in goes the range hood… Linda’s question (and I think it was a good one) was how many people DOES it take to put in a hood? Apparently 3.

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Next question… how many trucks can fit in our front yard?  Apparently 4 (you may not be able to see them all, but they are there!).

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Tomorrow we should be getting our quartz countertop for the island, more tile, and finishing touches here and there.  I will try not to let another week go by before another update!

Matt

10/14/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 13

Big day.  Cabinet day! Up to this point, there have been some milestone days… walls and roof in the new stamp room, old kitchen removed, new tile floor going in, ANY inspection passing… but those seem to now pale in comparison given the newest addition.

Installers showed up yesterday morning and set up shop in the carport.

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As any good installers will do, Mike and Desmond started from the corner and worked their way out.  Problem was, they couldn’t find the corner cabinet to start with.  They thought it hadn’t been delivered.  They quickly called the designer who came right over.  Linda heard a hushed conversation and knew something was amiss.  She asked what was wrong and was told that one of the cabinets was missing, but they wanted to resolve it without upsetting the homeowners.  We appreciated that.

The funny part is that the cabinet they were looking for was sitting the carport under a blue tarp.  They thought that was the fridge or something.  Disaster #1 averted!  Disaster #2 was quickly approaching… it turns out that of the two boxes that were in the carport, only one was ours!  Someone else was missing their corner cabinet, complete with Lazy Susan’s!  (By the way, why is it always Susan who is so lazy?)  We feel bad that it’s been sitting in our carport for a few weeks, and no one noticed!

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By the way, this is the first time we were seeing the actual cabinets.  They had been packed up since arriving, and we didn’t want to open them and risk ruining them before they were even installed.  Well, we did WANT to open them, but we held back!

So here are some shots of the progress they made yesterday:

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Last night Linda and I spent the evening going over drawer pull assignments, and today I need to go to IKEA and pick up the rest that we need.  More kitchen today then all that new electrical stuff gets hooked up tomorrow!

10/13/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 12

So let’s see… at the end of Episode 11, we had just started taping off the walls to repaint our yellow stripes.  Since then, a lot more tile has gone down, the stripes re-appeared and we now have drywall in the stamp room!

It was a daunting task to try to tape all the walls again, so at a last minute trip to Lowe’s, I picked up little helper.  My new rotating laser level has become one of my favorite tools.  It easily cut a few hours off the process of taping up the stripes, which are hours we just don’t have right now.

Here’s the level in action:

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Linda was able to catch it at just the right point so you could see the laser.  It was good that we started this at night – made the laser so much easier to see!  Even with my special goggles…

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They came with the level to protect my eyes from errant laser beams, and like working at night, made the laser easier to see!

So with the help of my friend Vince on Saturday, the stripes returned and all is right with the world!  Our contractor said yesterday, “Wow, it didn’t take you long to get those stripes back up!”  That’s because we didn’t have to wait for a permit!!

Literally – watching the paint dry!

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The paint is dry, so the tape comes off…

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I should figure out how much is there.  And now… drum roll please… the STRIPES!!! (Oh yeah, and the kitchen cabinets moved again to make room for the drywall installers.)

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Vince left us a little present… (this will be behind the kitchen cabinets)

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Yesterday the drywall installers showed up bright and early to start making the stamp room look like a room!

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And just like that… done!

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Opposite view:

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Today is the “screw inspection” for the drywall (I can’t make that up!), and the kitchen cabinets start to be installed.  THAT’S going to be exciting!!

10/8/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 11 (these go to 11)

We are getting so smart with all these lessons!  Today we learned about insulation on a concrete block wall.  Apparently, you need an “insulation rating” of 6 (for the addition).  Six what, I don’t know.  Probably ‘R’ value or cubits or milli-poly-etha-dromes or something… anyway we didn’t have 6, we had 5.  We have the block wall, a layer of insulation, and then we were going to put up drywall.  Not good, says Mr. Inspector.  Typically people stucco (which was out of our budget) which would bring us to 7.  So now we are at 5, and our contractor springs into action, adding another layer of the insulation board over the exisiting insulation.  New ‘whatever’ value = 8.5.  Nice.

This week the kitchen and living room walls had texture and the first coat of base paint applied.  Yesterday the tile guy arrived and started working his magic.  Apparently our floor isn’t as flat and true as he would like, but he is working hard to make it work.

Here is some of his handy work.  He left us a path to the carport door.  Today that will get filled in and we’ll have to go out the back door.  We’re really wondering what will happen when he tiles the hallway, since we won’t be able to walk on it for a day.  Good thing we’re on the first floor – we can climb through the windows!

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You can see in the picture above the samples of our cabinets and counter top.  Below are some close-ups.  The dark wood is for the island and the cabinets that go on the side wall opposite the carport door, and the lighter wood will be the cabinets that wrap around the back of the kitchen.  The other piece is our quartz counter top that goes on the island and side cabinets.  We couldn’t afford quartz all the way around, so the rest of the ktichen will be a dark formica.

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Mini-island:

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And since the walls have been painted, it’s time to bring back the stripes!!!  It took Linda and I a while to re-figure out how we did this the first time, but after some trial and error, we got it going.  Still have the rest of the room to do, but then painting should be a breeze.

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Today is more tile and more tape on the walls.  Yippee!

10/2/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 10

I’ve decided to stop calling the delays we are facing with permitting and Seminole county as “delays”, but rather “lessons”.  Mostly lessons to teach , and re-teach patience.

At the end of episode 9 we were waiting for the foam inspection so we could drywall.  Turns out that Seminole county is the FIRST county in Florida to regulate the type of blown in foam insulation one puts in their home.  Any yahoo can truck on down to Home Depot and buy the foaming kit, but if you live in Seminole county, you had better make sure it’s the right stuff and that you are allowed to be doing what you are doing.

The good news is that the foam we used is one of 2 types approved by Seminole county.  The bad news is now that they are regulating it, it HAS to be on the plans.  We had originally planned just to foam the addition, so that’s what was on the plan.  We then realized we could afford to do the entire house, so we told our builder to go ahead with it.  That lead to him spending more time than he wanted at the county office trying to push this through so we could move forward with the inspection.  Luckily, there was still some work that could be done without Seminole county looking over our shoulder.

Of course the work that happened today was a little bitter-sweet – they skim-coated the kitchen and living room and covered up our (my) stripes!  On a positive note, the walls and ceiling look uniform and ready for texturing and paint.  Now the only holes are supposed to be there – light cans, electrical outlets, switch boxes and neatly coiled up wires.

Here are two of the drywallers on their stilts.  I actually learned how to walk on stilts at Universal, and it’s not easy.  I can only image holding your balance AND actually doing detailed work at the same time.  The only work I was doing was trying not to fall!

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I think they liked getting their picture taken…

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Here are a few views of the “white room” (VERY echo-y, too).  This first view is from the front door.  Notice red carpet (aka plastic sheets) laid out so we didn’t get the drying mud on our shoes.

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This is taken from the oppositre side of the room, in front of the new stamp room doorway.

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And our escape route…

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Wondering what happened to everything that was in this room?  It’s all tucked neatly in the “Land of Misfit Permits”, sponsored by Seminole County, FL.

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We can’t complain too much, though.  At least it’s progress.  AND, the skim coat smell has counteracted some of the foam smell.  It’s quite a lovely potpouri.  Tomorrow we pick up the stove hood, microwave, kitchen sink and faucet.  The drywallers will also be back to sand the skim coat.  Think it will be a little dusty??

9/29/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 9

So it’s been a couple of days… lots of shopping and some important progress.

Last Friday we got paint.  And paint, and paint, and more paint.  Outside, inside, different colors, primers, door paint, block sealer… but we were lucky to have a “paint guy”.  If you ever talk to contractor’s, they always have “a guy”.  Need your fenced ripped out?  They’ve got a guy  for that.  Have a sticky plumbing situation?  They have a guy for that.  Well, this time, Linda and I had “the guy”.  And I mean THE guy!  He saved us almost $500 on our paint and supplies.  THAT helps the budget!

We also bought new ceiling fans for the living room and stamp room, pendant lights for the kitchen, a kick plate for the front door, new louvers for the A/C vents, kitchen cabinet hardware… and there is probably more that I am forgetting.  Oh, and a peep hole for the front door!

On to the important progress – we’ve got foam!  Check out the installer and his tricked-out PPE (Personal Protection Equipment).

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I think Linda had to sneak in to take this picture… they wouldn’t let her anywhere near the spray zone.

Here is the foam, in all it’s glory!  They started at the edges and worked their way toward the center.

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It’s also in the rest of the house so we are now all sealed up.  Because we now have foam and windows, we can officially take down the partition wall that separated the new stamp room from the kitchen.

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We were supposed to get the foam inspected today and then the drywall would start.  Apparently the inspector never came because the drywall is still leaning against the back wall.  We’re waiting to hear what the new schedule will be considering the floor tile is supposed to arrive tomorrow, and kitchen cabinets were supposed to start being installed on Friday.

Light – meet the end of the tunnel!

9/25/09

As the Dirt Turns… Part 8

Ran into a bit of a delay this week with our framing inspection.  Much like our attempt to close in our carport, we learned that Seminole County likes to add codes and rules about framing that other counties deem unnecessary.  (I can understand different building codes based on the region of the country, but two counties next to each other in the same state?  I don’t get that.)  I’ve got to hand it to our builders, though.  What we were told could be a 10 day delay turned into 2, and on Wed. our framing inspection passed and we can move on.

So yesterday… the doors that were sitting in the living room were installed.

Here is the new front door from the outside.  (We need to pick out casing – molding around the outside of the door –  this weekend)  We also need to paint it.

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And the new front door from the inside…

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On a side note: those yellow stripes you see have now apparently been deemed “Matt’s Stripes” by not only our builder, but our kitchen designer as well.  Yes, I LOVE the stripes.  Linda and I did this about 5 years ago, and we love it so much we based a lot of our new design around them because we wanted to keep them.  We’re getting new drywall so we are going to have to repaint them.  I guess Linda or I really made a big deal of keeping these because people keep asking, “Is Matt going to repaint his stripes?”.  Um, YES!

Back to the doors… here is our new door that will go from the kitchen to the garage.  Not sure if you can tell, but blinds in the window are actually between the two window panes.  That is SO cool!

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And last but not least, our new utility room door.

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There was also some additional electrical work done in anticipation of the carport/garage transformation.  The two white wires are for lights and the blue wire on the right is for the the garage door opener.

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Cabinets – we’ve got cabinets!  Last week our cabinets arrived.  Lots of boxes, including two that would not fit through the door while there were still packed up.  Those we wrapped up with a blue tarp in case of rain.

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Foam insulation should go in today as well as some drywall.  We’re also told that the big divider between the kitchen and the stamp room will come down because the windows are in and it’s now secure.  It’ll be nice to have the house back – at least partially!

Looking forward to more progress!

Matt

9/19/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 7a

It’s a little progress, but it’s still progress…

Friday they were to finish up the electrical and plumbing for inspections.  My job this weekend was to remove all of our stuff from the attic so it would be ready for foam insulation next week.  I know Linda felt bad that she was going to be in Utah and miss all of the dusty, dirty fun of crawling up in the sweltering attic this weekend, but she did more of her share of the dirty work dealing with all the decisions that had to be made just before she left.

When I came home Friday afternoon, I saw two very encouraging signs.

#1 – arrival of new doors!  If the framing inspection goes well on Monday, we could see these bad boys swinging a day or two after!

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#2 – concrete covered pipes.  This means that the plumbing inspection went well, and our contractor (Gold Key) was so proud that they marked their territory (the rest of the message says “was here”).  They’ve been working hard – they deserve it!

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9/16/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 7

Lots going on…

First, a picture of the completed roof.  Snazzy, eh?

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Here is close-up of the roof with our new paint color.  We will either have framing or shutters on the windows to dress them up.

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On to the inside.  The title of this series could just as easily be, “As the Dust Flies” considering how much dust is, well, everywhere!  We’ve called the entrance to the hallway below the Mason-Dixon line, because no construction (except for new flooring) is happening beyond there.  As were were talking about what to do, one thing always leads to another, and all of a sudden you are rebuilding everything!  We knew our budget wouldn’t take that, so we had to draw a line in the sand (or dust) somewhere.

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Of course, you have to have a way to open it…

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The last few days have been mostly plumbing and rough electrical, which is not very photogenic so there wasn’t much to show.  But today… we’ve got can lights, wires sticking out of walls, new windows, and no more wood floors!  Talk about progress!

This is a view from the kitchen to the new stamp room.  Can’t you just feel the creativity?

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Opposite shot – from the stamp room to the kitchen.  Are those cookies I smell??

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Plenty of light for stamping!

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And some natural light through new windows!

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The brown dots on the ceiling are the proposed locations for some of the kitchen lights.  The three on the right are pendants that will hang down over the island, mon.  The existing lights will go bye-bye.

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Do we call animal control?  No.  This is the super-duper vacuum thing that is going to suck all of the old insulation out of the attic to get ready for foam!  I was so enthralled with this when I first saw it that I didn’t notice what was (or wasn’t) underneath – the hardwood floor is all gone.  That would have taken me a week.

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Luckily, the contractor and electrician know what all this means.

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As always, dust is just a day away!

Matt

9/10/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 6

We’ve got shingles!!!  That’s usually not a good thing, but when they are going on your roof, it’s a great thing.  The roofers were working late to try to get the whole thing done so it could be inspected tomorrow.  Gotta love their stick-to-it-iv-ness.

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While the banging on the roof continued, a little interior demo took place.  It starts with a little pilot hole…

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Then it gets drastically bigger.  That was the wall that separated the kitchen from the family room.  Weird how the space actually looks smaller with the wall gone.  Maybe when the decorative header and the frame go away we’ll see it open up.

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Here’s our first look at the stamp room with its true dimensions.  You can see where the old floor meets the new floor in the middle of the room. Starting to take shape.

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In anticipation of more demo in the family room, we had to move our fridge out to the utility room.  Linda’s friend Paula happened to be here when it was time to make the move, and it helped having an extra pair of eyes to make sure we didn’t add any extra “character” to it.

Today our contractor asked for the phone numbers for all the places that have something to deliver… like kitchen cabinets, appliances, sink, and floor tile.  We sent off the list, and were pretty proud that so many things were already taken care of.  We felt better prepared than many of the people we see on the home improvement shows.  Maybe it was their lack of preparation that inspired us to get the ball rolling.

Now we’ve just got to keep it rolling!

9/9/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 5

Got a call tonight from our contractor Jeff, and he said, “I hope you are not mad at me.”

“Mad?  Why would I be mad?” I asked.

“Because you don’t have TV.”  (They had to take down our satellite dish to put up the new roof.)

I responded, “But, I do have a roof over my new addition – I’m ecstatic!”

Today was out with the and in with the new.  Linda was gone for a good portion of the day, but when she got home she snapped a couple of great pictures to continue our saga…

This is what Linda saw when she first got home.  I would say there were a few things going on!  Notice the color of the roof – a lovely bare wood color.  The old shingles are gone!

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Oh, that’s where they went… at first. (Can you tell we’ve been trying to decide on a new paint color?  We’re going with the dark gray – very cool and modern!)

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Then they went here… our first full dumpster.  We’re so proud.

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Trusses – we’ve got trusses! (and they are on the house!)  Don’t look now, but I think we’ve got ourselves a room!

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Another view…

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And another… notice the haze emanating from between the beams… I’ll explain in a moment.   You may also notice the bottom of the trusses are angled up toward the center rather than flat across the bottom.  Yepper, it’s going to be a vaulted ceiling!

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Remember all that dust?  Pig Pen was cutting through the former concrete header that used to hold up the back of the house.  He’s cutting it so they can get it out of there without a crane.

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Lumber yard.  Wait for it.

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Tomorrow the new roof shingles go on and we get our schedule for the next few weeks!

Giddy-up!

Matt

9/8/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 4

So we didn’t get our trusses installed as scheduled today, but there was a LOT of progress made.  The person who was supposed to oversee the installation of the trusses was stuck out of town, so they did some other demo instead.  We also got help from a neighbor who is taking our old kitchen cabinets.

First, the outside…

Notice anything missing?  Like maybe the ceiling?  Yep.  Gone.  You can’t really see it from this picture, but the roof is gone, too.  It wasn’t much a ceiling/roof combo in the first place (very flat and shallow, no room for insulation), which is why this room used to get unbearably hot.

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Here’s a nice view of where the flat roof met the real roof.  I am continually amazed at the versatility of a 4′ x 8′ sheet of plywood.  Here it doubles as the roof of the lanai.

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Okay, so it’s not a lanai, but the tarp-and-plywood-for-a-roof solution lets in some light and gives it that breezy, tropical feel.  Where’s my Pina Colada?  Linda even said it makes her want to have dinner out there.  Maybe we’ll wait on that…

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Inside, our neighbor Glenn put a hurtin’ on the kitchen (in a good way).  He wanted the cabinets for his daughter and son-in-law, so he came over and took them out carefully so they would be reusable.

Linda sent me this picture at about 1:30 pm.  There WERE upper cabinets, counter tops, a sink and a stove when I left for work this morning!

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At about 3:30, this one came in…

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Then this glorious scene…

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All that stuff in the carport means it is not in the kitchen – which means we are that much closer to usable appliances!!!  The view below is of the kitchen from another angle.  The fridge sure looks lonely!

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Remember our make shift kitchen from a few days ago?  We’ll we’ve downsized again because tomorrow we are told the contractors are coming inside to demo the rest of the kitchen, the wall behind the fridge and possibly start working on pulling up the rest of the floor.  Linda and I hurried to clear out the rest of the living room, which meant relocating the kitchen to our bedroom.  We know have just about everything we need in about 300 square feet of space.  Feels a bit like a studio apartment in New York City!

Excited about more dust being kicked up tomorrow – too bad I have to be at work!  We’ll get as many pictures as we can.

Matt

9/5/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 3

Have aliens taken over our project?  Are they trying to tell us something??  Are the neighborhood pranksters toying with us?  What could this mean??

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Nothing that dramatic… it’s the imprint left from the roof trusses that have been moved to the back yard in anticipation of being installed soon.  Soon meaning Tuesday (weather permitting).  Our contractor told us to expect about 15 people here… all scurrying about to remove what’s left of the Florida room roof, install the new trusses and tie the new roof into the old roof.  They hope to have it done in one day so we don’t have to live with the world’s largest (and unplanned) skylight.

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Work also completed on the new piping going across the Florida room floor.  Started out a little messy, but ended up looking sharp!

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Tying into the existing drain from the house.

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The plumber and his assistant were really cool.  I happened to be home from work that day, so I would peek out every so often to check on them and snap a picture or two.  Whenever they made significant progress or were ready to move on to another task, the assistant would come get me to see if I wanted to take a picture… so I did!!

The pipe that runs on top of the floor is not a mistake… that comes from the current sink location, which will be changing with the remodel.  The new trench to the right that looks like it goes nowhere will be continued into the new kitchen and will carry the pipes for the sink.

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With work on the outside humming along that means that they’ll be coming inside soon… which means Linda and I had some serious packing to do!!

Our original plan was to turn our carport into a garage as phase one of this project, but Seminole county and their permit department had other ideas.  Apparently there is a new code about how far your garage can be from the edge of the property… blah, blah, blah.  Now we need to get a variance, and the committee doesn’t meet until the end of October!  So, our dream of using our new garage space for storage while the inside of the house is worked on was not to be, so we rented a big truck and a storage unit.  First, the packing.

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Certainly the Stampin’ Up! boxes helped, as did Linda’s organizational system of arranging the boxes by what we would need right away vs. what could stay in the storage unit for awhile.

I’m sure the neighbors love the new additions to the area.  Luckily they are temporary!

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Speaking of temporary, we still had to have a way to at least make tea, coffee, and heat-up some pop-tarts.  Ironically, our culinary capabilities are not all that different with this set-up as they are with our current kitchen (which is a big reason for the remodel).  Our stove and oven have been in critical condition for some time now, so we got used to surviving on a microwave, a toaster oven, and most importantly… cookies!

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Looking forward to Tuesday!

Matt

9/2/09

As the Dirt Turns… part 2

More progress!  And from the expect the unexpected department… a little extra project!

The crew started early on our walls.  Seriously impressed by their craftsmanship (and speed!).

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Here the last old window is removed to make room for a new one.  Sad?  Not at all!

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Here’s the new fun… Long story short, a pipe that we thought was no longer being used was dug up and put into the dumpster.  It was a pretty important drain pipe, we found out!  The trench in the floor below is the new path for the new drain pipe, which will actually be better than where it was before.

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The room is starting to take shape from the inside… I think Linda already has spots picked out for her stamping supplies!

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Here we are peeking out of the new windows.  If we’re both in there, who took the picture?

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More happening as I type!  Stay tuned!

Matt

8/30/09

As the Dirt Turns…

Linda thought this would be a fun title for my construction updates, so here goes:

We’ve got a slab!  Concrete guys were here pouring and leveling to get everything just right.  Our contractor wanted to really make sure that the new floor in the addition would line up with the old floor, so he took out the window and knocked down the lower part of the wall.  Note the stylish plywood wall coverings.  I think they sell those at IKEA…

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So now the concrete has been curing for a few days, so tomorrow (weather permitting), these will move from the front yard to the back yard to make WALLS!!!

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Speaking of the floor that the addition needed to match up to, this was one part of our “sweat equity” contribution to the project.  First, Linda and I attacked the hardwood floor that WAS in this room with hammers, chisels and crowbars.  Seeing SLOW progress, we rented a power hammer thing that in some ways made removal harder, but certainly made it faster.  Here is the newly exposed terrazzo that will soon be covered in some really cool new tile.  (Notice more of the fancy wall covering to the left – this room is now completely blocked off from the rest of the house.)

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It’s kind of sad seeing all this flooring in the dumpster, but it means progress – and we like that!!

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More to come!

Matt

8/27/09

Game On!

Stamping School member Linda Boyages took our license plate game to the next level – we love her additions!

  • Ringo on a (VW) Beetle (or John or Paul or George)
  • Scottish on a Highlander
  • Magellan on a Voyager
  • Atomic on a (Ford) Fusion
  • Everest on an Expedition
  • Roger on a (VW) Rabbit
  • Tiger on a (VW) Golf
  • ISTAY on a YUGO
The last one made Linda and I laugh out loud!  Hysterical!
Thanks, Linda B.!

8/26/09

Travel games

Tonight as Linda and I were stuck in traffic, we noticed a Ford Mustang up ahead of us.  I said, “if I had a Mustang, I would put ‘Sally’ on the license plate.”  (for the song, ‘Mustang Sally’).

Not to be outdone, Linda looked around at some other cars and saw a Toyota Corolla and she just said, “Adam”.  (for comedian Adam Corolla).

And a game is born… game on!

Next up a Ford Explorer… thinking of a show about Superman, I said, “Lois and Clark.”  I thought Linda was going to fall out of the car she was laughing so hard.  Of course I meant Lewis and Clark but I mispronounced the first name because I had Superman on the brain.  Either way, it’s not fitting on a license plate without some abbreviation.  LWS CLK might work.

Here are some others…

CHASE on a Chevy

GOLD or TRITRY on a Yukon

RUEHL on a Mercedes

KIRK on a Camry (Cameron – its a bit of a stretch)

HRISN (Harrison) on a Ford

HATCH on a Ford Escape

I think there were others but I can’t think of them right now.  If you have others, we’d love to hear them!

Game ON!

8/23/09

Not-so-extreme home makeover (but sort of…)

Linda and I have been talking for quite some time about making some pretty significant changes to the ol’ homestead.  We’re pretty handy and can tackle small projects, but this time we figured we should call in the big guns.  After many months of designing, planning, and shopping, the project is starting to take shape.

One of the first things we tried to tackle was a new kitchen layout.  We felt that the original 1960′s kitchen just wasn’t working for us anymore, so it was time for a change.  We saw a cool kitchen planning tool at IKEA, and decided to make our own version.  Our architect and contractors were ‘politely’ impressed.

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We liked it, and it helped put things in perspective.

Part of our plan is to bump out our Florida room so it will be more of a usable room.  The guy driving the back hoe swears this is 8 feet off the back the house, although Linda and I both eyeballed it with extreme precision and said it wasn’t.  To be sure, I got out the old tape measure and sure enough… Linda and I were wrong.  Time to trust the professionals!

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Hey, there’s a back hoe in our new room!!! (or what will be the new room!)

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Of course with a new exterior wall going up, we’ll have to paint it.  We figured that was a good opportunity to paint the whole house.  So… off to the paint store we go, looking for the just the right color.  Before we can paint, though, a little dirty work ensues…

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I have to say, one of the most exciting moments of this project so far has been when the contractor told he was finally ordering a dumpster.  Permitting seemed to be taking WAY too long and we were anxious to get started.  A dumpster means real stuff is about to happen.

We’ve now got a dumpster, and I’ve got goosebumps!

Matt

8/8/09

The waiting…

…is definitely the hardest part!  Linda told me this morning that she would find out about the winner of the SU Make Your Own Commercial contest between 3 pm and 5 pm today.  Originally I thought she meant 3-5 pm Mountain Time, which would have given me a little extra time to get the video and post ready.  Well little did I know how much she was looking ahead – it was 3-5 Eastern (my) time.  I realized this when I got a text at 3:02 my time that said, “Sitting down for the session – get ready.”

Of course being 2300 miles away from the convention, I had no idea what was happening minute to minute.  As time ticked by, the knots in my stomach got tighter and tighter.  We had worked so hard on that video and are so proud of it… it was unbearable to have to wait for the results!

3:59 pm – another text.  This one says, “Nothing yet.”  I felt like I was going to explode.  I didn’t know what to do… do I sit at the computer, waiting for the text or call, or do I go about my business?  I was too nervous for business as usual, so sitting by the computer it is.

4:27 pm – “Not yet” was the next text to come in.  Seriously??  I can’t stand it!  I’m freaking out!!!

4:59 pm – a phone call.  Linda tells me there are 4 finalists, three have been shown already and none of those were ours.  They are now on a 20 minute break!  Ahhh!  I asked about the other videos and Linda said they were really cute.  That made me more nervous… I knew there would be competition – now it’s real!

5:31 pm – some sort of game show going on with prizes… no news.

I had decided to go work on something else because just waiting was not helping.  Then it happened.  At about 5:40 pm, Eastern Standard Time, the text I had been waiting for.

“We won!!!”

That’s all I needed to hear.  I was excited, relieved and proud that we had pulled it off.  Obviously Stampin’ Up! liked it to pick it as number one, but I was also interested in the reaction from the audience.  So I sent a text with that very question to Linda.

“Major!!!!”

Icing on the cake!

Matt

7/25/09

A night at the theater

Last week, our friends Dave and Toni invited us to a show at the Athens theater in DeLand, FL.  Built in 1922, the Athens was home to movies, live theater performances and vaudeville acts.  Through its history, it had been a place for community theatre and prom parties, a dinner theater, a video game room, a restaurant, a pizza, beer and movie house, and a teen night spot.  Time and a lack of interest took its toll, and the theater closed in 1990.

It has now been refurbished and reopened to house classic movies, film festivals, more live performances and like we saw last week, comedians.  Linda called it, “DeLand’s Got Talent”… some of these folks were quite funny.  Our favorite was an older couple who performed as if on an old radio show (complete with a uekele).  It’s tough to tell from the picture, but that’s them.  I’m sorry I don’t have their names.

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In between the comedians, Dave’s brother’s band played to keep things moving along.  They hadn’t been together very long but they sounded really good.  The latest addition to the band was Phil Harmonica.  He played the harmonica.

We’re thinking of going back for the Elvis tribute in late August.  Good times!

Matt

6-29-09

SU Commercial Contest

Some of you may have heard about a contest to create a Stampin Up commercial, which could be worth a $200 SU catalog shopping spree.  Linda and I talked about doing one last year, but just never got around to it.  This year, we thought, we HAVE to do this.

I can’t give too much away just yet.  The video will debut (if we win) at the SU convention in August, and then we can post it here.  We’re pretty darn proud of the outcome and even if we don’t win, we had a great time making the video.

Part of the fun of making this is that we recorded our own version of a popular song to go along with the video.  I finally got to put my real education from Full Sail to work by donning the headphones and assuming the role of Engineer, Producer, and while we’re at it, Gopher and Key Grip (not that I even know what a Key Grip does, but it sounds important.)

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Lots of people helped us out with this, and once the video goes public we’ll be able to publicly and sincerely thank them all.  One person who can be revealed right now is the person who sang our customized lyrics – my friend (and vocalist in my band), Wayne “D.W.” Martin.

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See how Linda cleverly cropped out the lyric sheet… very crafty!

More to come…

6-20-09

Is that tile?  No, concrete stain!

2009 must be the year of home improvements at our house… seems like all the little projects we have been talking about are now starting to take shape.  One of the those projects was the floor on porch.

We recently painted the walls of the porch and of course, that meant that the floor needed upgrading, too.  We debated a long time about what to do for flooring out there.  Tile? Paint? Wood decking squares? Astroturf?  At one point we found a tile on clearance that we brought home to check the coloring.  As we looked at it (and the price – even on clearance) we said, we can do this ourselves.

So, a trip to the hardware store produced three colors of concrete stain that we would use to mimic the tile.  To make it look authentic, we tried different brush techniques, sponges, rollers, and in the end, it was a combination of a sponge roller with very little stain on it to create the veins and markings, and layers of slate blue and brown applied with a brush, almost as a wash.  This was all after two coats of a light base stain color to cover the lovely emerald green that was there before.

We’re pretty darn happy with the results.

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6-8-09

The house that Stampin’ Up! built

So Stampin’ Up! didn’t exactly build our house, but it is now part of the fabric that holds our home together – literally!

One of our previous DIY home improvement projects was to paint our bedroom.  Sounds simple enough, but as we removed the old base boards, 30 years of paint and Spackle made it a little messier than anticipated.    We removed a little more of the wall material (a thin layer of concrete stuff) than we wanted (or could cover with the new base boards).  So we had to patch it.

As we went to repaint a few weeks ago, I was looking for something thin and sturdy to fill the hole and act like the thin layer of concrete that was removed.  Linda had just gotten an order of 12×12 designer paper, which comes with a sturdy “card stock-like” backing board to keep the paper neat during shipping.  Well, wouldn’t you know it that that was exactly the thickness and sturdiness that I was looking for.  I traced out the shape of the piece I needed, globbed on the Spackle and there you have it – instant (almost) patch kit.  Add the new base boards and a little paint and it’s good as new!

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Of course I used the part of the card stock with the Stampin’ Up! logo (hidden behind the base board).  Linda is always saying that a Stampin’ Up! gadget is always “saving the day”, whether a stamp related issue or not.  Exhibit A, your honor.

I’m also told that our new wall color (above) is very similar to one of the new In Colors.

Coincidence?

5-26-09

Layers, we’ve got layers…

The other day I was getting ready to teach a class at Universal called Change Management.  I was putting the books on the table when I noticed something…

Layers.

Without thinking, I was layering the books like you might layer a card.  I had to take a picture.

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Hmmm… wonder where I got that from??

5-16-09

Hang gliding finale!

As promised, here is a motion picture proof that I flew… almost like Superman!  Once I get up in the air, its a little tough to see its me – but believe me I was having a blast!!!   Linda did a great job capturing my flight… enjoy!

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Here are Eric and I with Linda and Nicole once we made it back to Earth.

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5-11-09

Hang gliding primer…

For Christmas last year, Linda went above and beyond by giving me a gift certificate for a tandem hang gliding flight!  In fact, Linda was in cahoots with our friend Nicole, who got the same thing for her husband Eric.  So, what better day than Mother’s Day to spread our wings and fly!

I’m in the process of editing the video that Linda and Nicole shot, and I hope to have that done soon.  In the mean time, I wanted to share just a few pictures…

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This is me getting ready to fly.  That’s Lucy, the yellow lab who was the unofficial mascot of Wallaby Ranch.  When I heard her name was Lucy, I knew everything would be just fine!

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Its sort of tough to see, but that’s me, floating safely to Earth.  What a great time.

More to come…

4/28/09

No phones, no lights, no motor cars…

So it was really just the computer that Linda and I were able to get away from for a day – a whole day.  Having a “home office” is a blessing and a curse.  The upside is that you can work when you want, for as long as you want.  I would also say that’s the downside.  Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we’re “closed”.  On this particular day, I even put up a sign.

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We had very nice lo-tech day… tooling around on our new (used) tandem bike, feeding the fish and turtles and looking for new patio furniture.  All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful day, without so much as a login, right-click, or “save as”.

Ahhhhh!

4/12/09

A little more Hawaii

One of our favorite days on the trip to Hawaii was our last day.  Not because we were leaving, but because that day we checked out of the resort and just went exploring – where ever the road (or lack of road) would take us!

We had read about a little place called the Coffee Shack in South Kona that sounded like a place we wanted to check out.  The food was supposed to be good (and it was), but the view is really what you write home about.  I’ll let the pictures tell the story:

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I’m not sure how high up we were, but it was literally the wall of the restaurant, then a huge drop off the cliff.

That day we also found (quite by accident) a little one-lane road seemed to go on forever, but lead nowhere.  Of course we followed it, and it took us to a little residential community… a place you could call “off the beaten path”… certainly NOT a main tourist destination… the real Big Island – we loved it!!

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More to come – stay tuned!

Mahalo!

4/5/09

In my mind, I’m still in Hawaii…

I REALLY enjoyed Hawaii.  The culture, the geography and the topography, and of course, the lava.  Linda wasn’t as much of a fan, but on the Big Island (formed – and still being formed – by volcano’s), lava is kind of, well, everywhere.  This made for a treacherous journey from the parking lot to the ‘beach’ where we had our surfing lesson – almost a mile of loose lava walkway – me with a surf board on my head and Linda with loose fitting sandals that provided NO protection whatsoever!

Along the roads you can see ‘Hawaiian graffiti’ with the dark black and brown lava as a back drop.  People will arrange hawaii-last-day-002the white rocks into pictures or words that will last only until the next group comes along and needs some rocks for their own message.  All along Route 19 (major N/S route on the western coast) there is graffiti for miles and miles, but you rarely actually see someone doing it.  We hypothosized that maybe it was the wild donkeys or goats!

Linda and I decided to leave our mark on the island with our typical closing salutation when emailing or texting each other.  (LU = love you)

3/25/09

So Linda has been telling you all about the stamping fun going on in Hawaii, now I get to tell you about some of the other fun so far…

Hawaii is amazing!  There is so much to tell I don’t know where to begin… how about the view from our room?

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Yes, we have palm trees in Florida, but we don’t have a direct view of the Pacific Ocean!  We are told that if you are out by the coast early in morning you can see whales and dolphins swimming by.  We are going to check that out tomorrow.

If you recall, Linda and I were really looking forward to zip lining across the Hawaiian jungle/rain forest.  We had a blast!  Our guides were fantastic and very knowledgeable about zip lining (as they should be) but also about the ecology of the region.  As we drove to the “zipping” location in an old Swiss Army transport vehicle, they pointed out plants and animals – such as wild cows.  Yes, wild cows.  People on the island actually hunt them, which doesn’t seem to difficult given their less-than-swift movement through the forest.

Here’s Linda and I in our zipping get-up, complete with named helmets.  Might be hard to see but Linda was ZipChick, and I was Rockstar.

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Linda braving the elements!

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There were 8 different “zips”, the last one being 325 feet up and about 300 yards long.  Although we have no scientific proof, we are told we reached about 35 mph on that one!  Linda got some great video of that, and I will add it here once it’s ready.

After zipping, we stopped in the town of Hawi (pronounced Ha-vi) for lunch, dessert and an impromptu massage.  Donald the spiritual guru had set-up shop next to a coffee and ice cream store, so I got some ice cream (Macadamia Nut, of course), Linda got some coffee, and we both got a 5 minute massage.

Leaving Hawi, we took the scenic route back to the hotel up the Kohala Mountain Highway.  I learned quickly that when say mountain in Hawaii, they mean it.  We went from an elevation about 500 feet to 3500 feet in about 15 minutes.  All of sudden (it seemed) we found ourselves looking over a good portion of the Northwestern part of the Big Island.  We also got to see the drastic changes in weather this area can go through… yes, that is snow on the top of the mountain in the picture below.

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Then, not 10 minutes later, we saw this:

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The picture may not do it justice, but this was the most vibrant rainbow I have ever seen.

Today was a highlight among highlights for me… I took my first (and hopefully not last) surfing lesson.  I really took the opportunity to work on falling off the board and drinking salt water, which I think I have now mastered.  Our guides were great – very helpful and encouraging – and they even extended our class time because we were having so much fun.  Here are a few pics:

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To say I was exhausted after two hours in the water is an understatement.  I am sure I will be REALLY sore tomorrow!

Last on the list for today was a trip to Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation.  Coffee is a big industry on the island, and Kona Coffee is the sought after brand.  We got there after they had finished roasting (and giving their official tours) for the day, but Bryce was nice enough to give us a special tour and samples of some different types of coffee. Bryce’s knowledge of coffee and the process a bean goes through to get to your cup was astounding. (That’s Bryce in the white shirt in the middle picture.)

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We’ve noticed that the Big Island has a lot of cats running around, and this one took a liking to our car.  First it was on the roof, then settled down for a nap on the hood.

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We have no big plans for tomorrow, but sometimes that’s when the really fun stuff happens.  Stay tuned…

Mahalo!

3/15/09

Aloha!

I’ll admit it – I’ve got Hawaii on the brain!  It’s a good thing there is a lot going on this week at work to keep my mind occupied, otherwise I could see myself day dreaming about surfing, volcanoes, and a week of complete relaxation.  We leave in one week…logo-home

There a few things on our to do list when we arrive on the Big Island.  For me, I want to try surfing.  I think that would be so cool!  My head is spinning with all the research I’ve done on different surfing schools, so I guess I just need to pick one.  Collectively, Linda and I are also looking forward to experiencing the first zipline on the Big Island.  That just sounds like a ton of fun!

We are also really looking forward to hanging out with friends by the pool, by a volcano… where ever!  I’m sure there will be a few pictures and experiences shared here!

Mahalo!

3/1/09

Mug preference?

When its time for tea (or coffee), Linda and I have amassed quite a collection of mugs to choose from.  I think the tradition started on our first 4th of July together as a dating couple when we rented a convertible Mustang and headed to the west coast of Florida.  We found ourselves at a gift shop in Madeira Beach where we picked out a few mugs to commemorate the trip.  Since then, a coffee/tea mug has been the one souvenir we must get on each trip (that could a post by itself!).  Our upcoming trip to Hawaii will be no different!

We have also gotten a number of mugs as gifts that we absolutely adore.  Just this week, I got a Superman mug from our friend Jan Burnett from Metropolis, IL.  When Jan found out what a huge fan of Superman I am, she made sure that I was well quipped with authentic Superman gear.

supermanJan also sent a post card commemorating the annual Superman Celebration that runs for 4 days in early June.  Maybe Linda would like to take a trip up that way?  I hear there is a Superman Museum and everything!

Whether we make it to the museum or not, thanks to Jan I now have another favorite mug!

Matt

2/22/09

Not a gift for everyone!

Working in the training department at Universal Orlando, I get to meet a lot of cool and interesting people, and do just as many cool and interesting things.

From June of 2006 to January of 2009, one of my responsibilities was to support the Entertainment department with all of their training needs. About a month ago, my responsibilities changed, and Entertainment was taken off my plate, so to speak. To commemorate my time with Entertainment, I was presented with the “trophy” below.  This may need some explanation…

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Hellboy is a Universal movie about some unlikely heroes who try to save the world, and we were lucky enough to get to use a the character likeness in the parks last year during the release of Hellboy 2. Supporting Entertainment, I was heavily involved with training the “scare-actors” who worked during Halloween Horror Nights and during orientation, I would be introduced as “HellerBoy” by my co-facilitator and partner in crime, Mike Mergenthaler (we call him ‘Merg’ for short).  We would put a photoshopped picture of me (below) up on the screen and pull out a prosthetic arm from the Hellboy character (like the one on my new trophy) to give people an idea of the amazing quality of the make-up, costumes and prosthetics they would get to use during the event.

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This also included a short discussion of Michael Burnett, Prosthetics Supervisor at Universal. He is well known around the movie industry and is listed on the Internet Movie Database. His credits are WAY impressive, and Universal is lucky to have him on board!

This “trophy” was hand-made by Michael for me, and he even signed the bottom.

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When it was presented, I had to promise not to try to sell it on eBay! It may not look like something a lot of people would want, but coming from Michael and the people in Entertainment at Universal, it means the world to me.

Thank you Michael, Merg, and the entire Universal Entertainment family!

2/14/09

How do you know if you are a reality TV junky?

They other day, Linda and I got excited because we realized that Survivor, The Amazing Race and Celebrity Apprentice were all starting new seasons within a few weeks of each other.  (Truth be told, we really prefer the non-celebrity version of the Apprentice, but you take what you can get.)  It dawned on me at that moment that I may have become… dare I say… a reality TV junky.

Let’s look at this logically.  There are more “reality” shows on the tube than ever.  (I put “reality” in quotes because some of them seem more scripted than a sitcom.)  Because of this, the choices for plot-based entertainment are getting fewer and fewer.  One could say it’s a numbers thing, but I don’t think that’s the whole story (plus, I have no hard evidence to back up this claim.)

When watching Survivor or the Amazing Race, it’s fun to compare what we would do in those situations.  It’s much the_amazing_raceeasier to identify with the characters when just a few weeks ago, they were the ones sitting on the couch eating Doritos – just like you are now.  It’s the struggle, the competition, and the “real” drama that get us hooked.

So back to the original question – am I a reality TV junky?  To leverage the only evidence I have, I have to go to the TiVo. I took a look at what was on my “to record” list.  Here is what I found:

For plot-based TV, there is The Office (which is kind of based on a reality show), 30 Rock, Trust Me (which started off slow but is growing on me), Ten Items or Less, and Lie to Me.

For reality, there is of course Survivor, the Amazing Race and the Apprentice, as well as Gone Country and Top Chef.  (I’ve also been known to keep Linda company when she is watching the Bachelor, but that is more about spending time with my wife and in fact, that one is not on MY to do list.)

So, if we do the math, it looks like a tie – which means – I am officially NOT a reality TV junky.  I think I would have had to tip the scales much more favoribly to the reality side, or had no representation on the plot side to really be called a junky.

I feel better now.

Matt

2/5/09

We’re going to the Super Bowl

More accurately, we went to WATCH the Super Bowl.  This year, the tradition of going away with friends for some R&R and the last meaningful NFL football game of the season took us to Palm Coast, FL.  We were in a lovely 3 bedroom condo a mere stones throw from Cinnamon Beach.  We all agreed this was a great find!

First things first, congrats to Nicole and the Pittsburgh Steelers for winning the Super Bowl.  It sounds funny, but I almost forgot we were there to watch the game.  We enjoyed relaxing, going to Publix, exploring the beach and clubhouse, going to Publix, playing games, going to Publix.  We did most of our own cooking, so we needed supplies.  It just took a couple of trips to make sure we had everything.

The video below will outline some highlights of the trip.  From a wildlife perspective, there was Ollie the Osprey who perched upon the roof of the condo then without warning, swooped into the lake below for a little lunch.  Linda and I were stunned at the raw nature we had witnessed, and waited for a repeat performance around dinner time.  He must not have been hungry because he came back, but didn’t go back down near the water.  On the morning of our last day, we took one last trip down to the beach, and were told that two whales were in the area.  Sure enough, out near the horizon we saw them swimming south for warmer waters.  We also saw 2-3 dolphins frolicking closer to shore.  Unfortunately, the camera was already packed away in the car.

On the canine front, we met Ally the young Boston Terrier.  Linda saw her coming from about 50 yards away and made a bee-line for her.  The owner warned that Ally wasn’t the most friendly, but she warmed right up to Linda.  Big surprise!

I may also need to explain the big blue ball that you will see being kicked around.  I don’t know the real name, but Eric and Nicole got this for Christmas and its a way to make your own homemade ice cream. We call it ‘Hot Potato Ice Cream’.   Cream, sugar and flavorings go in one end, and ice goes in the other.  Shake it around for about 30 minutes and viola – ice cream… as long as you don’t forget the sugar.  That realization lead to one of the extra trips to Publix.

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We’ll probably go back to Cinnamon Beach again next year – we really liked it!  The only thing that would make it even better would be a Patriots appearance – and victory!

Matt

1/17/09

Fact or myth – blood thinning in warmer climates

This morning as I trotted off to Einstein’s for a couple of everything bagels, I noticed a certain – a very certain – chill in the air.  Gurdy was telling me it was 39 degrees outside.  She even had the “icy road warning” (the little ice crystal graphic) displayed to warn of potential hazards.  While icy roads are not out of the question in Florida, the likelihood is minimal.  I do appreciate Gurdy looking out for us though!cold

Having lived in Ohio, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Connecticut, I have experienced my fair share of cold weather.  I then started thinking about the concept of your blood thinning as you get acclimated to a warmer climate, thus making 39 degrees FEEL like 9 degrees.  I wondered, does that really happen?

So I did a little research, and what I found was interesting.  According to Dr. Ashok Kumar of the University of Texas Health Science Center, the answer is no, the blood does not thin in warmer climates.  Was DOES happen (that might explain the myth) is that at higher altitudes (and typically colder temperatures), the body does create more red blood cells which creates thicker blood.  Altitude is the key… just going from warm to cold or vise-versa will have no effect on your blood’s viscosity.

What might explain feeling colder or warmer better than thinning blood, is simply our natural ability to adapt to the climate we are in.  We get used to experiencing warmer weather all the time, so extreme (or even mild) cold is more of a shock to our system.  It’s just like jumping in a pool or dipping your toes in the ocean.  It may feel cold at first, but eventually you get used to it.

Here’s what I do know for sure.  Living in Minnesota and Florida are really not all that different.  In both places there are 2-3 months out of the year that you just do not want to be outside because of either extreme cold or extreme heat.  I have to say, though, after living in Florida for 6 years, I think I’ll take the heat!

Matt

1/10/09

My experience at the SU Leadership conference

If you have been following the blog over the last week, you have undoubtedly seen Linda’s adventures at the SU Leadership conference held here in Orlando.   What you may not have seen is what she left me back at the house:

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I appreciate that she is always thinking about my well being!

I did get to go to the Manager’s reception at Universal, and this was cool on SEVERAL levels.

1.  I got to hang out with Linda and some of her stamper friends… some I had met before, others I had not.  Stampers have such a great time together – no matter what they do.

2.  While we were waiting in line to get on the bus to go to Universal, a stamper (I’m sorry I didn’t get her name) came up to me and told me how much she and her husband had enjoyed my Man Card video.  I felt like a celebrity!!

3.  We had a great time at Universal.  Even though I work there, I still love going there as a guest.  To see everyone enjoying themselves was the greatest thrill for me.  This was the first time I got to see first hand what our Special Events teams do.  There is so much to organize – the music, characters, sound/lights, food, rides… it all came together for a wonderful experience.  Linda organized this picture of Lisa Schmid, Karen Titus and I after we got off Spider-man for the second time…

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A few times during the night I did slip into work mode… picking up trash and directing people to the nearest restroom, but that was totally okay by me.

I have been lucky enough to experience SU’s generosity on the incentive trips, and this was even more of the same!

Matt

1/4/09

The Lop-i-na-tor!

When my parents asked what I was going to be doing when we got back to Florida, I said yard work.  I know that sounded funny wearing a heavy winter coat and gloves, but that’s the beauty of Florida in January!

And what has made the yard work that much easier is my new favorite tool, the Black and Decker Alligator Lopper.  This thing is part lopper, part chain saw and it makes yard work, dare I say, fun!

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It can grab and cut branches up to 6″ in diameter and makes quick work of little bundles of branches that used to take multiple cuts.  Both handles have switches that must be pushed in order for the chainsaw to start.  Good thinking, B&D!

A big part of the reason for this purchase was the amount of brush and trees we want to clear out of our back yard.  The picture below is only the beginning…

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As Norm Abram from This Old House reminds us, “be sure to read, understand and follow the safety instructions that come with your power tools.  And remember, there is no more important safety rule than to wear these, safety glasses.”

The Alligator can throw a mighty splinter if you are not careful.  Safety glasses are a must.

Happy lopping!

Matt

12/30/08

A Christmas story…

Dec. 25th, 5:55am – Linda and I realize that we have developed one of our own holiday traditions without even knowing it.  Sitting in the Orlando airport, enjoying a Mickey D’s bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, we realize that this has been our holiday routine for the last four years.  First, spend a relaxing day at her Dad’xmas-08-11s house in Deland, FL on Christmas Eve.   Then come home, pack, and get up early on Christmas morning to catch a flight to New Hampshire to visit my family.  (We have found that Christmas day is a GREAT day to travel – the airport is nearly empty!).

A brief aside: it became more apparent than ever that Linda loves this time of year not for the shopping, the decorations or the food, but for the opportunity to deceive.  Linda’s Dad had a big surprise for me, and Linda was in on it.  She kept saying that she didn’t know if I would want it, need it, or if we would even have room for it in the house.  At one point she asked if I thought our yard was too small for a riding lawn mower.  She even said she had to make a special trip to her Dad’s house to “pick it up” because it was going to take three people.  By this point I am confused and half expecting some sort of lawn tool.  She kept a great poker face right up until I opened the gift from her Dad – an iPhone 3G!!  I couldn’t believe the generosity, nor my wife’s ability to throw me off the trail.  Hooray for the holidays!

Up in cold, snowy New Hampshire, Linda and I settled in for a few days at my parents house.  Our big surprise to them this year was that we “borrowed” some of their old 8mm home movies when we were visiting them last year and had them transferred to DVD.  The folks at Network Sound and Video in Longwood, FL did a great job preserving our memories.  We ended up with about 2 hours of footage that had either been forgotten or not seen in many years.  We watched every frame (some more than once) before dinner!

Speaking of dinner, each year my Dad makes a great roast in his Ron Popeil rotating cooker.  This year I was responsible for turning it on at 2:30 pm – which I did.  What I didn’t do was check to see if there was anything on top of the cooker that might, lets say, melt, if they got too hot.  The aroma of burnt rubber gloves will now always say “Christmas” to me.  That’s my sister, Kim, attempting to remove the other parts of the glove from the top of the cooker.

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More successful than my foray into the culinary world was my Dad’s gag gift to my Mom.  She is not the most technologically savvy person in the world, so my Dad jokes that she doesn’t need a Blackberry, she needs a Dingleberry – and he created one for her!  All the functions are represented like texting (a blanket, matches and book on smoke signals), time (a sun dial) and a phone (2 cans and a string).  All this is contained in the fashion-forward bag and container below.  As you can, see my Mom was happy to get the broadband (thick rubber band) model.

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Another gift that kept us busy was a picture puzzle that my Mom got.  It was a picture of all of us at Season’s 52 when they visited last year.  We all took turns “pulling ourselves together”.

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During our stay we also got to visit Strawberry Banke, an historic settlement in Portsmouth, NH where you can learn about some of the early settlers of the area.  Since we were visiting in the winter, only a few of the buildings were open on the tour, but we did get some hot apple cider and a lesson on preserving fish and veggies over the winter.  Below is a picture of Linda, me, Kim, my nephew Dylan and niece Sam in front of the general store.

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After the ‘banke’, it was off to a great place for some lobster (or lob-stah if you are from New England).  Newick’s in Dover, NH isn’t the fanciest, but then who wants fancy when you have to eat with a bib.  Linda couldn’t bring herself to be the “cause of death” for a poor innocent lobster, especially with them swimming and frolicking in the tank as you walk in.  We tried to tell her that these were just the ‘show’ lobsters, but she wasn’t buying it.

We posed for another family portrait with our bellies full of seafood.  Who knows – this might become a puzzle some day!

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Notice the pay phone that is off the hook in the above picture (behind Dylan’s shoulder)?  That rang just as we were sitting down for the picture.  Of course, my Dad took the opportunity to see if the caller understood Japanese.  I don’t think they did.

We’ll round out this Christmas tale with a gift that no one had heard of or even understood.  I first saw the Snuggie in a catalog and thought that it was pretty cool.  A blanket with arms – brilliant!  I was laughed at until it got a little chilly and someone wanted to hold a plate of cookies or a hot coffee WHILE keeping warm under the blanket.  We are all now believers!

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Happy Holidays!

Matt

12/12/08

What’s the opposite of Top Chef?

Linda and I love watching Top Chef. We don’t really pick up a lot of cooking tips, we just like the competition.  Linda and I are not what you call “foodies”… we like good food and we like to eat, but that’s where our relationship with the kitchen stops.  (We have a towel on the handle of our oven that reads, “I am ordering as fast as I can dial.”)

This week Linda was planning a food-related stamping project.  I volunteered to take care of the food part since Linda really needed to be in charge of the stamping part.  We wanted to dip pretzels in white chocolate and then roll them in peppermints or candy bars.  Seemed easy enough.pretzel-logic

As you can see we got a few done, but not without some “sticky” moments.  There were a few mishaps involving a little hammer and baggies with puncture wounds.  That of course sent microscopic bits of peppermint candies all over the counter and the kitchen floor.  My Crocs seemed to do a nice job of finding most of the bits (not on purpose) and Linda’s socks took care of the rest.

When I took this picture, they were still “setting up” so we haven’t actually tried them yet.  Linda has to use them for a video and then we’ll get to sample the gourmet holiday cuisine.

What was the number to the candy shop again?

Matt

12/06/08

December 7

Linda and I still joke that this is a day that will “live in infamy”, but not because of what happened in 1941.  It was on this date in 2003 that we met for the first time – on a blind date.

A few weeks earlier I had been at the wedding of a friend from work.  During the reception, I was talking to my friend Rob and his girlfriend.  We talked about all sorts of things like pets, do I want to get married, am I seeing anyone, do I want kids, etc.  I didn’t really think anything of the line of questioning at the time… little did I know that Rob’s girlfriend knew Linda, and she was actually collecting data.

Apparently I said all the right things because the green light was given to exchange phone numbers.  My first conversation with Linda was about 2 hours long.  It was almost a lot shorter when we were talking about music and Linda said the only band she really didn’t like was Rush.  (If you read my Father’s Day post from 6/15, you’ll know why this is significant.)  The rest of the conversation was going so well I decided to give her another chance.  I’m glad I did.

We decided to meet at Houlihan’s for dinner on Dec. 7.  Dinner and the conversation were great.  We had planned to go to a coffee shop after dinner to relax and continue the conversation, but it was closed.  However, that’s not what we told our friends who set us up…

We told them that I had shown up 30 minutes late and had forgotten my wallet. The coffee shop we went to after policedinner was raided by the cops and since I had no ID (it was in my wallet) we were not immediately dismissed.  We were thrown in the back of the squad car and the contents of Linda’s purse were strewn out across the hood.  After about 30 minutes, the owner of the coffee shop cleared us and we were free to go.

We both relayed the exact same story to our friends who were mortified at this blind-date-gone-wrong.  We held out for a bout a week, then felt really bad about how bad our friends felt for us, and finally came clean.

What really happened?  First, I showed up on time—early in fact.  I had my wallet and we had a great time at dinner. We were a little bummed that the coffee house was closed because neither of us wanted the evening to end.  We ended up in the magazine section of a nearby Barnes and Noble where we spent the rest of the evening sharing our hobbies and passions through the magazines we picked up. I thumbed through ‘Modern Drummer’ and Linda grabbed the most recent copies of ‘Rubber Stamper’ and ‘Paper Crafts’.  (My first introduction to the world of rubber stamping!)

We sat and talked about everything from drummers and drum equipment to cardstock and bone folders.  We had so much fun getting to know each other that we forgot about the coffee house being closed—until we started creating our story!

Little did we know that that was the first of many creative projects we would tackle together.  It definitely set a precedent!

Matt

11/21/08

I’ve got Happy Feet

Seriously… I discovered something wonderful this week that I have been compelled to share with, well, just about everyone.

This past week Orlando hosted the annual convention for the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions.  About 24,000 attendees were here from around the world to see the latest and greatest rides, games, stuffed animals, quick serve food ideas and anything else you can think of that might be involved with operating an amusement park, fair, museum, zoo, aquarium, or family entertainment center.iaapa-1

Because these companies are trying to entice the attendees to buy their products, there are lots of free food samples.  (Some people don’t even bother stopping for lunch… a slice of pizza or a deep-fried something-or-other will be right around the corner.)  My friend and fellow IAAPA Human Resources Committee member John and I went on a mission to see which was better: Dippin’ Dots, Mini Melts, or IttiBits.  (We liked the Dippin’ Dots!)

What about the happy feet???  As you can see below, the trade show floor itself was massive, with about 8 miles of aisles to navigate.

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One of the vendors at the show was called Happy Feet, which are gel-filled insoles for your shoes.  Of course you can try them for free and buy them on the spot if you like them.  And I liked them.  The gel actually moves back and forth so it massages your foot as you walk, keeping the blood flow moving.  I walked the entire show floor (maybe more than once), stood up for long periods while teaching and my feet didn’t get tired.  It was AMAZING.  I also noticed that my back felt better the day after I wore them for the first time.  I liked ‘em so much I went back and bought Linda a pair. I hate to sound like a testimonial, but these things ROCK!

Matt

11/15/08

Bike Equals Garage Sale Success

Last weekend our community held their annual garage/yard sale.  We decided early on that we had more than enough “treasures” to make a solid showing, so we got out the stickers and started pricing things.  Our friends Vince and Brenda and Eric and Nicole got in on the action as well.

The sale ran Friday and Saturday, and Linda ended up being the only person available to work the sale on Friday.  Of course this was the worst day to be on her own, considering all the wheelers and dealers were out in force.  Saturday was a relative cake-walk, especially with 4 people running the “shop”.

But what about the bike?  We were discussing how many people buy bikes at garage sales and there always seems to be at least one at every sale.  Eric asked if we had a bike we could put out front, just to attract attention.  As it turned out, Linda had an old bike in our shed out back that had essentially served as home base to lizards, frogs and other critters for the last few years.  It was dirty, beat up, the chain was off and there was no front brake.  It was in ROUGH shape.

Eric got the hose and Linda pulled out the Simple Green cleaner.  We spiffed it up, pumped up the tires and put a price sticker on it for $15 including the working tire pump we found.  We immediately got (and accepted) a very fair offer of $10.  The bike was still wet when the new owner put it in the trunk of her car.

Of course we then started wondering what else we could clean up and make a quick ten bucks on…

10/30/08

Linda’s b-day and a quick get-away…

Linda’s birthday was last week, which gave me an excuse to make another card.  This time, I went for a World’s Record.  (I have no idea if this record is legit, but I thought it would be a fun card.)  I made the world’s smallest birthday card, complete with matching (and custom made) envelope.

The inside said, “For the person with the biggest heart, imagination and personality!”

Since my birthday fell just four days later (with a weekend in between) we decided to make it a loooong weekend and get out of town for a few days.  A few months ago I had done a speaking gig for the sales and marketing team at work, and they rewarded me with a 2-night stay at the J.W. Marriott Grande Lakes.  This seemed like the perfect chance to make sure that offer didn’t expire!

Whenever we “go away”, we like to do things we can’t normally do at home.  Granted, the hotel was a mere 21 miles from our house, but it seemed like another city.  We tried a new Thai restaurant called Ayothaya on Sand Lake Road in Orlando.  Linda said it was the BEST coconut milk and curry she had ever had!

The hotel is situated near Shingle Creek, which is part of the headwaters of the Florida Everglades.  Shingle Creek was so named because it was a major thruway to transport cedar from the many cedar trees in the area which were eventually used for roof shingles.  Betcha didn’t know that!

Neither did we… we learned that from Ben, our guide for the Eco-Tour offered by the hotel – a wonderfully relaxing 2 hour canoe trip up and down Shingle Creek.  This was definitely a high point of the weekend for both of us, as is evidenced by the number of pictures we took.  Here are just a few:

This was my view for most of the trip.  Linda occasionally turned around when I wasn’t paddling fast enough or we were headed for the river banks!  That’s Ben in the kayak.

Ben was always on the lookout for critters.  He noticed this snake nestled in the root system of a cedar tree that had been toppled by one of the hurricanes a few years ago.  We really weren’t that close – the camera has a good zoom!

Speaking of hurricanes, did you know that the Miami Hurricanes mascot is the White Ibis because these are the first birds to return to an area after a hurricane has gone through?  Ben told us that.

The best part was getting to see some gators!  We saw a few babies hiding in the greenery after we actually got out of the canoe and were headed back to the hotel.  Either way, we saw us some gators!  (Again, not that close – love that zoom lens.)

And here we are, back on dry land (although we both said we could have stayed out there for days!)

One last sighting… a Red-Shouldered Hawk.  Very similar to a pair that we often see flying around the homestead.

The rest of the trip was spent lounging by the pool, swimming, reading, and playing Scrabble.  I came within 14 points of Linda this time… getting closer!

Matt

10/19/08

Bounce Around

It was a rare, one-football game this Sunday.  All teams (that we want to watch) were either playing at 1 pm or Monday night (well done, Patriots!).  So after the Cowboys’ disappointing performance, John, Eric, Nicole and I decided to check out a new place in town, Rebounderz.  Linda and I heard about this place from our friend Al who we met when building our website.

The main attraction is a ginormous trampoline.  It took us a few minutes to get started after our safety tutorial, but once we got the hang of it it was a ton of fun!  Each of the blue and black areas (including the walls) are individual trampolines.  Luckily, the green partitions are padded for less accurate jumpers (like me).

For safety, they give everyone a helmet and special shoes.  The little red helmets you see above are from a birthday party that invaded the jump zone about 40 minutes after we got there.  Given our level (or lack there of) of physical fitness, 40 minutes was actually enough.  We did get some comforting news on the way out… a group from UCF (University of Central Florida) was there the night before, paid for 2 hours but only made it 30 minutes.

Maybe next time we’ll make it the full hour…

Matt

10/12/08

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Cardboard Canoe Regatta

I’m not sure whose bright idea it was to organize an event where perfectly sane human beings sign-up for the chance to build (and then try to float in) a vessel made entirely of cardboard and duct tape – but I’d like to thank them!

This weekend Ty, Ari (Ty and TJ’s 2 year old), Eric, Linda and I represented the FFB (Florida Fun Bunch) in the Kelly Park Cardboard Canoe Regatta – and we WON!  The grand prize was 4 Sea World passes, 2 passes to Kings Landing, and four stadium seats.  While I think we were all a little surprised by our success, Linda was really befuddled.  She kept telling everyone, “There was no preparation, no research.  No one tried to figure out the best plan. I have no idea how we won.”

I’ll tell you how… our design was solid, starting with a false floor with side-to-side reinforcing strips.  We also utilized three top-side stabilizing devices and a total of 8, count ‘em 8 rolls of duct tape.  We were originally given 6, but were able to win two more through trivia challenges.  We purposely passed on a team dance challenge that would have taken all four of us away from the boat for far too long.  At that point, we figured we needed the time to work more than an extra roll of duct tape.

So this is what we started with.  A pile (not Pyles) of cardboard and 6 roles of duct tape.  We did have a few ideas in mind, but ultimately the type of cardboard we had would determine our design.

As I mentioned, there was a false bottom.  The first step was to create the reinforcing strips that would run from side to side to support our weight.  One thing we did figure was that with Eric (in the hat) and I as the ones riding in the boat, we were going to need significant support!  We decided the strips should be as tall as the big level is wide… mostly so we wouldn’t have to measure each one!

Here the FFB Minno-sota is starting to take shape.  Just 7 more roles of duct tape to go!

We got some great advice from last years winner.  She said to duct tape the inside as well because when we step into the boat, our feet would be wet and that would compromise the integrity of the vessel.  We didn’t want that, so we took heed, and kept taping!

Time was called, the FFB Minno-sota was dry docked, and we had lunch.  We had no idea what to expect next…

There were three heats of single-elimination racing.  Some boats fared well, others… not so well.  Below is a team that didn’t quite make it to the finish line.

ESPN couldn’t make it out that day, so we had to make our own video to chronicle history in the making.  Enjoy!

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We’ve already got ideas for next year!  Watch out!

Matt

10/4/08

Buddy No Thumbs

This week we have the pleasure of dog-sitting for Buddy, a sweet and people-focused Jack Russell Terrier who belongs to our friends Pete and Shelly.  They used to watch Lucy quite a bit when we went away, so it’s only natural for us to return the favor.  Here Buddy is helping me edit Linda’s latest video.

Buddy is such a pleasure to watch, and I’m not just saying that because Shelly reads the blog!  He is calm, doesn’t bark, and just loves to be around people.  He also likes to monitor the squirrel and lizard situation in the back yard, then at just the right moment, sprints out after them.  He hasn’t caught one yet, but he’ll be here for a few more days…

(Brief side note…  Travelin’ Man by Bob Seger just came on the radio – one of Linda’s favorite songs.  And I thought I liked to crank up the tunes!)

We now return to our regularly scheduled ramblings…

Buddy’s new nickname (No Thumbs) is an throwback to something that happened when I was first living here with Linda and Lucy.  Linda wasn’t home, and it was a nice day so I was going to leave the back door open so Lucy could come and go as needed.  I actually had the conversation in my head about whether the door should be locked or unlocked, because I didn’t want to have Lucy outside if the door blew shut and it was locked.  She wouldn’t be able to get back in.

Wait for it…

Yep.  Multiple issues… Lucy was way too small to be able to reach the door handle, and even if she could, she doesn’t have the opposable thumbs needed to TURN THE HANDLE!!  So it wouldn’t matter if it was locked or unlocked… duh!

The other night Linda asked something and I looked at Buddy’s paws, and said, “Nope.  No Thumbs.  He’s Buddy No Thumbs.”

And a new Sopranos character is born.

9/21/08

Our Knot-Tying Adventure

Based on my post from 8/24/08, a few of you asked about the talking fountain that married us at Islands of Adventure. Since there wasn’t much happening at the homestead this week (except for a sprained, possibly broken toe), I thought I would elaborate.

When we decided to get married, we knew we wanted it to be non-traditional.  This, of course, opens up a ba-zillion possibilities that have to be narrowed down.  We came to the conclusion that there were many ties to Universal that brought us together, so having it there seemed appropriate.

Also being fans of the Amazing Race, we wanted there to be an element of adventure to the day.  We told our guests to meet at the entrance of the park in their best ‘tourist formal’ wear (i.e., t-shirts and flip-flops). Each ‘team’ of guests then received a passport, a disposable camera, a pen and a note card.

In the passport were clues to locations and tasks that needed to be completed in order for them to find where the ceremony was taking place.  Once their last clue was solved, it was off to the Mystic Fountain for the actual wedding.

Just as we came out for the ceremony, we noticed that everyone was wearing a white t-shirt.  We didn’t know it, but my parents had made up “Tourist Formal Wear” t-shirts for EVERYONE!  Here’s what they look like.  (Notice in the first picture – our friend Joey who cannot miss a photo op!)

Of course the ceremony was the main event.  The park was open at the time so we have some random guests lurking about in some of our wedding photos.  It’s all part of the adventure!

Here’s the ceremony, short and sweet – expertly filmed by my nephew, Dylan.

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9/13/08

Linda is amazing…

But I’m guessing you already knew that.  Right now she is preparing 150 swaps (I should know, I just punched 150 scalloped frames) for her trip to Stampin Up!’s Founders Circle, an honor she rightly deserves.  Typically, Linda is not one to pat herself on the back – she’s usually too busy thinking about how to make her businesses better, serve her downline better, or make our lives better.

I am an continually amazed and impressed by the cards and projects she comes up with.  She’s never happy with doing what others have done and works tirelessly to create something she can be proud of.  It reminds me of a quote from someone in my high school yearbook, “Don’t be different to be different.  Be different to be better”.

Recently, Linder (that’s what I call her – a little nod to New Englanders who add an ‘er’ where it doesn’t belong!) wanted to try a new way of inviting her stampers to her monthly meetings.  We were working with EventBrite and we just couldn’t get it configured to do what she wanted it to do.  Most people would have given up or settled, but not Linder.  She persevered and got it working.  She did the same thing when we decided to start the blog.  I really admire that type of stick-to-it-iveness.

So this week that stick-to-it-iveness pays off with a trip to Utah with the Stampin’ Up! elite.  I’ll miss her like crazy and will be anxious to hear all about the trip.  I’ll start by watching the blog! :o )

Matt

9/6/08

Return of the bean bag chairs

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the 2008-2009 NFL season.  This means that every Sunday for the next few months, the FFB (Florida Fun Bunch) will make their way to the Heller Football Compound to watch the gridiron greats battle for pigskin supremacy (or something like that.)

The FFB “Football Sunday” tradition started a few years ago when we were talking about how we never get to see “our” teams play.  Living in Central Florida we get a healthy dose of the Jags, Dolphins and Bucs, but since none of us are actually from here, we like teams from all over the place.  Bob and I root for the New England Patriots, Ty is gaga for the Minnesota Vikings, his wife TJ is a Green Bay Packers fan, John likes the Dallas Cowboys, and Nicole has some strange allegiance to the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Direct TV’s NFL Sunday Ticket allows us to watch them all (not at the same time, of course!)

What does this have to do with bean bags chairs?  Our living room isn’t all that big, and folding chairs don’t really cut it for an afternoon gazing at a giant screen.  We decided to look into bean bag chairs because they would be a little lower and would create a “stadium” feel with the folks sitting behind them.  Here’s where the fun comes in…

I found three wonderfully colorful and comfortable bean bag chairs at Wal-Mart.  I piled them on my shopping cart to the oohs and aahhs of the jealous kids walking by (those were actually NOTHING compared to the looks I got driving home).  You see, Linda was away at a stamping gig, and it was Gurdy (our VW Bug) and I who were tasked with getting these monsters home.  I almost got all three in at once, but that would have been way too dangerous.  Here’s what people were gawking at:

Now imagine the yellow one in the passenger seat – not a good idea.  The greeter at Wal-Mart was kind enough to let me leave one in the lobby while I ran these home and went back.  Here I am with the ‘sun’ in my back seat:

Don’t try this at home, kids!

Matt

8/31/08

Getting organized

This week Linda and I decided to finally tackle a project that had been looming over our heads for a long time now (you know the type I’m talking about).  Ours was to clean out the office closet, install shelves, and reorganize.

Linda did a great job of cleaning it out, and this morning we set out for our favorite home furnishings store, IKEA.  We met our friends Ty, TJ and their daughter Ari in the IKEA cafe, had a little brunch and commenced with the hunt to find a suitable system for closet organization.  We had other things on our list, but the closet was the priority.

Unfortunately, the Great Closet Organizer Hunt was a bust, but we did find many other noteworthy things that were NOT on our list.  It reminded us of a trip we took to the IKEA in Minnesota just after we were married.  There was no IKEA in Orlando yet, so we flew so Minneapolis, saw some of my old friends from Valleyfair, then spent two solid days at IKEA.  Our first day was mostly research, taking pictures of things we liked and making lists.  We found that the best way to remember the oodles of uber (Linda’s new favorite word) cool stuff they had was to take a picture of the tag along with the item.

(This was from today… to remind us of the cool new legs we are thinking about for our couch and love seat.)

Back to Minnesota… our second next day was all about making the final decisions and purchases.  Our living room and home office were almost entirely furnished on that trip.  The only two steps left?  Delivery and assembly.  I’ll see if I can dig out the pictures of my attempt to put our desks together.  It seems easy now!

Closet hunt aside, our trip to IKEA today was rather successful.  We were able to acquire two packs of some of the greatest cookies ever made!  We have been hooked on these since we tried them in Minnesota for the first time.  They are some sort of Swedish delight called Double Chocolate Crisps.  They are equally satisfying with a cup of hot tea (my choice) or a glass of cold milk (Linda’s choice).  If you are looking for them at your local IKEA, here is what they look like:

Adjö´ så lä´nge!
(click above to hear ‘goodbye for now’ in Swedish)

8/24/08

Something in the Water

So Fay brought some water… a lot of water.  We were very lucky not to have any serious flooding around us.  Neighboring communities and certainly the coasts of Florida were not so lucky.  Fay just didn’t seem to want to go away.  Mother Nature did help us thin out a few trees – and some branches were large enough to give me an excuse to break out the chain saw.

Speaking of water… Linda mentioned in her post about my preference for Zephyrhills water.  It’s true.  I don’t know why, but it just tastes better.  Actually, it’s the lack of taste I find appealing.  But don’t let Linda tell you that she doesn’t like a good swig of the Z-hills H2O.

Exhibit A:

March 5, 2005 – our wedding at Islands of Adventure (Yes, we got married at a theme park… and a talking fountain performed the ceremony!)  Our good friend Bob delivered the ceremonial toast (with a Sponge Bob Square Pants sippy cup), and afterward Linda and I and all of our guests tipped back a refreshing gulp of Zephyrhills.  See that smile?  She knows it’s the best water on the planet!

Your witness!

8/17/08

It’s Fay…

Many people have been asking if we are getting ready for Tropical Storm Fay.  The answer is that we are preparing, not panicking. I think its funny that everyone is running out to buy flashlights – what happened to the ones you got during the last hurricane season?  Puzzling.

Here is the forecast as of Sunday afternoon:

I do remember a few years ago when hurricanes Charlie, Francis and Jean came through town.  Linda, Lucy and I were set up in a hall closet with a weather radio, a flashlight and some blankets.  The storms were pretty nasty, but when the eye came over there was this eerie calm with no wind or rain, and at times the sky was either orange or purple.  Of course we had to go outside and see what it was like.  I think it was Linda who was standing out in the middle of the street looking up at the swirling clouds.

We also saw our share of power transformer fireworks during those storms.  As the third storm approached, we had abandoned the closet and were playing a game of Scrabble on the back porch when one of the transformers lit up the sky (and made a pretty good racket as well).  That was our cue to continue the game inside.

We’ll see what Fay brings us.

Matt

8/10/08

It was a slow week until…

… this morning. I almost had nothing to post until I attempted to finish the new wall decor rub on that Linda has in her stamp room.

By the way, faithful readers will be happy to know that I got ALL three of the projects (and then some) done mentioned last week. But back to the rub on…

We’ve got some pretty heavy texture on our walls so this posed quite a challenge! Linda suggested a bone folder or a stylus, and I found the small end of the stylus worked best to get inside the nooks and crannies.

The picture below will give you an idea of what we were up against.

Part of the trick is removing the cover paper after the rubbin’. Pulling straight up from the bottom seemed to be the best solution. If the bottom of the letter remains on the wall, you have probably rubbed enough. If it doesn’t, put the paper back down and give it some more elbow grease. I found that if the bottom was secure, the rest of the letter usually peeled off nicely.

As I was doing this I thought, this would make a good video – so I made one.

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8/02/08

Since Linda has been at convention…

…I’ve been doing nothing but working and slaving around the house!

Okay… that’s not exactly true. These are just some sympathy pictures while Linda is away having fun (although I will be doing at least two out of the three activities tomorrow – weather permitting)!

The weather would have been great for this today, but Gurdy and I had other plans. Gurdy is our VW Bug. When we brought her home and looked at her license plate, we noticed that the last three numbers/letters looked like GRD. That spells Gurdy in our book… until you look closely and realize that it’s really 6RD. That doesn’t spell anything that I am aware of.

So I put the top down, set the iPod on shuffle, and Gurdy and I hit the open road. Destination? Jensen Beach, FL to visit my friend Erin, who I used to work with at Universal. Since leaving the U, Erin has lived in Norway and Texas, and it is always interesting to hear about her travels. In the fall she’ll be going to school in Australia to pursue her PhD. We should have her say g’day to our Stamping School members from down under!

It was about a 2.5 hour drive, so having some good tunes was going to be critical. The idea of the trip reminded me of a book called Traveling Music by Neil Peart, who is a highly accomplished and influential drummer and author. In the book, he chronicles a cross country journey by the music he listened to and how it impacted his life. Today mine ran the gamut including Rush (Neil’s band), Living Colour, Lyle Lovett, Natalie Merchant, Van Morrison, The Beach Boys, The Buddy Rich Big Band, Tower of Power and the Yonder Mountain String Band. I also had the treat of hearing one of the bands I used to play with when I lived in Minneapolis – The Anne Demming Band. We were working on a version of The Little Drummer Boy and had recorded it at rehearsal, but I don’t think it ever made it to the stage. Par-ump a pa pa.

Back to today… Erin is very plugged into technology and what is hip, and she told me about a website called wordle. Here you can plunk in any text that you might have, and it will create “word balloon”. The words that appear most will be the most prominent. For grins, I plunked in all the text from my page of the blog and this is what it came up with. Not too surprising!

I thought it was kind of cool, and thought it might even have some artistic merit.

Wordle on, stampers!

Matt

7/27/08

Meetin’ the members

One of the perks of working at Universal Studios is that people like to visit! On Thursday I got a call from Guest Services that a Linda Boyages was looking for me and she left a cell phone number. I recognized the name right away as one of our Stamping School members who emailed me a month or so ago about this upcoming trip to Florida. She and her family were in the park on their way to the Simpson’s ride so I went out to meet them.

It was great to talk to Linda in person (her husband and kids couldn’t wait – the Simpson’s were calling!). Interaction with our members is typically limited to email and phone calls, so to meet someone face-to-face is a real treat! Linda shared her experiences as a stamper and with the website, and how every time she pulls out a stamp pad, her kids say, “See it, Learn it, Stamp it”! When explaining to her kids who I was (besides the guy who gave them tips on getting a higher score on Men in Black), she referenced the Man Card video and they knew right away – I felt like a celebrity!

A-Z is DONE!

The A-Z Techniques have been fun and more than a few letters posed quite a challenge. As you may have seen on the front page, I actually tackled ‘Z’ this week with a Zipper technique. It really gave me a different perspective on the video making process. I knew it wasn’t easy on that side of camera, and Linda makes it look so effortless. I now understand why Linda has to sometimes go back to the stamp room to get something in the middle of a video… there are a lot of little pieces to remember!

iPhoney

In preparation for convention, we added an application to Linda’s iPhone that will allow her to post to the blog from it. It seems to be working well, but we’re going to do some more testing. If you see random posts with titles like “hjiodfhasfjhfkjfh”, that’s just us experimenting.

It still amazes me what this little box can do. Heck, I’m still in awe of my old school cell phone!

7/19/08

Any excuse to make a card…

Our friend Ty had a birthday recently, and of course the chatter around the house prior to the big day is, “What are we going to do for a card?”. The one we came up with this time has few different story lines…

First of all, Ty is a HUGE Minnesota Vikings fan. Huge. The Vikings arch rivals are the Green Bay Packers (which happen to be his wife’s favorite team). Brett Favre is/was/wants to be the quarterback for the Packers, but he “retired” again last year. Long story short, Ty is NOT a big fan of Mr. Favre, and thinks it’s about time for him to hang up the cleats.

Next, last year a bunch of us took a trip to Vero Beach, FL. Our friend Eric’s parents were nice enough to let us use their house for the weekend, which was only steps from the beach. We found their supply of trinkets to keep the grandkids busy and one of those happened to be the Fisher-Price Lift and Load Depot. Like most of us when we revisit a childhood favorite, Ty was captivated. He didn’t even pretend that he was “just playing along” with his daughter, Ari. This was all about him, the dump truck, and oil drums.

Fast forward to the card for his birthday… we found an ad for the Lift and Load, and decided that this was just the thing to bring him (wearing the sunglasses) and Brett Favre together. We thought it would also be helpful if Brett did decide to retire… at least he would have another skill besides throwing interceptions! (That was for Ty).

By the way, if you look at the way Brett Favre’s name is spelled, you would think it was pronounced Fav-ra. However, everyone I know pronounces it Farv. Never understood that.

Matt

7/12/08

Frankie says relax…

Last weekend Linda and I went up to northern Michigan to visit her Dad for the 4th of July. We flew into Detroit and then drove the rest of the way. We spent more time in the car than in the plane, but even with gas prices it was more economical this way than flying into a closer airport. We pre-bought the gas and coasted back to the rental car place on fumes. This added a bit of adventure to a relaxing weekend full of reading and taking in the sights.

Of course we snapped a few pics… couple of city folks hittin’ the wilderness.

The first was of me taking a spin on her Dad’s tractor. I was admiring the gadgets and levers and attachments when he says, “hop on, take it for a spin.” So I did.

It wouldn’t be a visit up nort’ without some good old fashion critter watching – and Linda’s Dad has the hook-up! He’s got feeders for squirrels and birds and even the deer come out from time to time. Here are some of our new friends:

Linda snapped this one of a Gold Finch. There was also a Humming Bird fluttering around – he was a bit more elusive!

Linda plunked herself down right by the corn feeder and waited. And waited. Good thing we had the time to wait for the chipmunks to fill their cheeks.

We saved the best for last. We happened to be sitting at the dinner table when I looked up to see this deer looking right in at us. We went into stealth mode to get the camera – thank goodness for the zoom. This was taken from the kitchen, looking through the sliding glass door.

Now we’re back and the only squirrels we see are the ones who kindly remind us to slow down as they scurry across the road!

Matt

6/29/08

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… no wait… it’s a bird.

Last week was a tough week. Having to say goodbye to Lucy was, and still is, very hard to fathom. The support we have received from our online stamping community has been overwhelming and very therapeutic. Thank you so much for sending along your warm wishes.

We know that Lucy would not have wanted us to be moping around the house feeling sorry for ourselves, so we set out to learn more about some of the birds we have been seeing and hearing around our house recently (in addition to the Osprey that was previously mentioned).

We took off (no pun intended) for the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey right here in Maitland, FL. While I had heard them called ‘raptors’ in the past, I had always associated the word raptor with a monsterous roller coaster in Ohio. But I digress…

Seeing these birds up close and personal was incredible. Linda snapped a lovely picture with me and a feisty Bald Eagle named Paige. She squawked a few times while we were standing there and WOW was it loud! Here she’s giving me the “eagle eye”.

We also spotted our new neighbors, a Red Tailed Hawk and a Barred Owl. We typically see the hawk and hear the owl.

Impressive pictures, eh? We can credit the person who took them for the postcards! We just got a new camera and are working on being able to take pictures like this.

This morning while coming home from the Spoon, we spotted what we think was another Osprey on a light pole having its own breakfast. The coloring looked right, but it also had some funky plumes on it’s head. We’ll have to look that one up!

Matt

6/15/08

Happy Father’s Day!

I wanted to share what I sent my Dad for Father’s Day this year, but I didn’t want to put it up here before he has a chance to open it. Still wanting to honor Father’s Day, I thought I would share what I did last year.

My Dad took me to my first concert when I was 15, but not without teaching me a few important life lessons along the way. I happened to see that all come full circle last year, so that became the basis for the card. Click here or the picture below to see the whole message.

Speaking of drumming…

This past Friday night Universal Orlando (where I work) held it’s annual Golden Woody Awards (named for our icon, Woody Woodpecker) celebrating the outstanding achievements of the Entertainment department over the last year. Since I support Entertainment, Linda and I were invited to attend the gala.

To enhance this years theme (The ’80′s), the organizers put together a band to accompany various performances of classic ’80′s tunes such as “We Built This City”, “Beat It”, and “We are the World”. Of course I could not pass up this chance to wear acid-washed jeans and sweatbands, so I volunteered to play drums. We called the band, “Deer in the Headlights”, since that’s what we looked like at the first rehearsal!

6/7/08

The Simpson’s Ride at Universal Orlando

Today we braved the heat and set out for Universal Studios to experience the new Simpson’s ride. I had been on it many times, but Linda and our friends Ty, TJ, Eric and Nicole had not. While I was a fan of the Back to the Future ride (which occupied the same building that the Simpson’s now call home), I am an even bigger fan of the new ride. Great humor and lots of action… maybe a little too much for some of the folks we were with!

After the Simpson’s, we hit a couple of the other staples such as the Mummy, Disaster, Jurassic Park and Men in Black. Lunch was at the Hard Rock Cafe at CityWalk where we were able to take an unexpected tour of the London Room – a private function room containing memorabilia from John Lennon. Our waiter told us this area was typically closed to the public, but there was nothing going on there at the time so he took us up while we waited for our food. The highlight was Lennon’s white piano. Each key was signed by famous musicians from Neil Sedaka to Stevie Wonder.

I did try to take some of our own pictures along the way, but I couldn’t figure out how to use the camera on my phone fast enough. I thought I would include a shot that Linda and I took a few years ago in the New York section of Universal Studios.

6/1/08

Shuttle – the “other” S for this week!

It’s one of those things everyone who lives in Florida should do at least once… go to the coast and watch the Space Shuttle take off up close and personal. We went with our friends Ty, TJ and their daughter Ari. Our “up close and personal” was about 15 miles from the launch pad, but it was cool to feel like we were a part of it.

We camped out (not literally – that is NOT our tent!) right next to Space View Park in Titusville and from there we could see the main tower at Kennedy Space Center. This was pretty much our view until T-minus nothing to go…

It was about thirty seconds after lift off that we finally heard the sound of the rocket. Since we were so far away, it was a nice low rumble you could feel in your chest; no windows rattling or car alarms going off.

One thing that puzzled us… we saw some very excited onlookers who were actually in the water, trying to get a closer view. At 15 miles, I’m not sure 20 feet is going to make that much of a difference. But what do I know…


5/25/08

Parade of mugs…

One of my favorite mugs to use for tea (especially on a Saturday morning with an everything bagel) is the “Big Cheese” mug. This was a Christmas gift from Linda’s Dad a few years ago. When asked why “the Big Cheese”, he just said, “I don’t know, I just thought it fit.” There are worse things to be called by your father-in-law!

Stamper Mail

Nancy from Friendswood, TX (who proclaims to be our #1 fan!) asked about the process of making our videos. I wish I could say that it’s as quick and easy as Linda makes some of the projects look. Of course it’s not exactly brain surgery, but it sure took a lot of trial and error to get to where we are now.

The first word that we got to know REALLY well was render. Rendering is the fancy term for copying or formatting the data from one form to another. For a video to get from Linda’s head to the computer screen, it must be “rendered” no less than 5 times. This is partly because we have taken painstaking efforts to make the videos accessible to as many stampers as possible (with the unfortunate exception of those on dial-up – files are just too big).

The journey starts with a transfer from the camera to the computer, then a format change, some creative editing, 2 more format changes and then uploading either to the blog or to Stamping School. For each of the format changes and transfers there is a lot of data being crunched, so it takes a little time. This provides a great opportunity to catch up on things like folding laundry or reading War and Peace.

Here is one of the many rendering screens we get to see along the way:

The end result is a Flash movie wrapped in an SWF player. Think of the video itself as a candy bar (Snickers would be my choice) and the SWF player as the wrapper. The wrapper is going to make sure the candy bar gets to where it needs to go and be usable (edible) when it gets there. You may have seen other sites with choices of different formats, download sizes, etc. We didn’t want you to have to go through all that, so we chose to deliver the video in a format that everyone could see with the least amount of trouble. The SWF player allows us to play, stop, and change the volume while watching. If you have ever uploaded or watched a video on YouTube, all of this happens behind the scenes – but it happens.

Here’s how I keep track of where I am in the process:

Depending on the complexity of the project and any bloopers that might occur, this whole process could take anywhere from 20 to 90 minutes per video (not including rendering time). We then take pictures of the projects, render those in different formats for different locations, and SHAZAAM! – we’re done… for this week!

As I said, it took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to do this, but it has been a fun learning experience.

Until next week…
Matt

Man Card Video

I couldn’t let Linda have all the fun. I decided that I wanted to make a stamping video… but I would be using tools that you would find in the garage, not the stamp room. Funny thing is, most of the tools that stampers use are very similar to the tools you might find at Home Depot, just with a slightly different marketing twist. I don’t think my card will be winning any design awards, but Linda and I sure had fun making the video.

man-card.jpg

<!– This movie requires Adobe Flash for playback. <!–

Matt’s Cards

Here are some of the cards I’ve done…

This was one of Linda’s birthday cards celebrating our tradition of “tea time”…

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Another b-day card… the generic look of the card is in direct contrast to Linda’s personality! Might be tough to see, but the numbers in the bar code are actually her birthday.

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Our second anniversary!!

second-year.jpg

Can’t remember the occasion, but this was a gift card holder for some ‘fun and funky’ clothes!

fun-and-funky.jpg

After Linda’s beloved Lumina went to the great junk yard in the sky, she occasionally had to drive my old station wagon, which had spent many years hauling drums, sound equipment, mulch and old cinder blocks. This card was announcing the detail service I had gotten for it.

dirty-car.jpg

In my first post, I mentioned a card I made for my Mom because she is my biggest fan…(click to enlarge)

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And… our third anniversary (just happened on March 5!!)

year-3.jpg

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