Category Archives: Holidays

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Well, I know it’s been ages since I wrote last.  I’ve been on vacation for for a week now and it’s been outstanding.  Good for my soul.  Been thinking a lot about why I haven’t been writing lately.  I can’t really pin it down other than the time it takes to do it.  It’s difficult to do during the day with all the distractions and such.  I just don’t possess the focus required.  For instance… it’s taken me 10 minutes to get this far.

Certainly much has happened since I wrote last.  Can’t say I remember all of it.  The Jeep engine has been acting up and indicating that it is going to need rebuilt.  That’s going to be a pricey endeavor.  The oil pressure has been dropping to zero on hot days at a stop light.  But here in the past week on the hottest days… it’s been acting fine… so I’m a bit baffled.  I guess we’ll just keep driving it.

Mario Kart 8 came out.  What a great game.  I’ve been having a lot of fun playing it myself, but most of all, playing with some of the people I’ve met on the N64 forum I’ve started frequenting: N64Forever.com.  We do tournaments every Friday night.  I’m not very good, but it’s fun to play with real people and then talk about the craziness.  It’s about as close as it gets to playing with real friends anymore!

Speaking of party games, we had some family over for my birthday.  Nintendo offered a free digital game download with the purcase of Mario Kart 8.  I got Wii Party U thinking that maybe… someday… people would come over and play video games.  This past weekend we fired it up.  I didn’t even get to play, but I had a blast watching everyone else play.  It’s just a collection of mini-games, but everyone was having fun, and shouting at each other (all in fun of course).  That’s the way games should be played!

Also gaming and birthday related is what is now the centerpiece of my game collection.  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law made a NES themed table for the retro room!  It’s very cool with raised buttons and everything.  I can tell they put a ton of thought and time into it and it’s cool to think that someone went through so much trouble for me.  I’m quite humbled and honored by such a gift.

I picked up a Wii U Pro Controller (just writing as the thoughts come to mind now).  I’d been wanting to get one ever since I got Mario Kart 8.  The Gamepad is ok to play with, but I’m still leary about the punishment that some hardcore Mario Kart dishes out.  I’d rather inflict that punishment on a more easily replaceable controller than the expensive gamepad.  Though I’m sure the sticks are the same and swappable… Not that the Pro Controllers are very cheap… $50!  I remember thinking how outrageous it was that the N64 controllers were $30 back in the day.  Even still, it’s a very nice quality controller.

How else have I been spending my vacation?  Hmmm… Luke has been going to swimming lessons this week and last week.  Too much fun.  He looks forward to it so much that some days it’s the first think that comes out of his mouth when he wakes up.  They’re very basic lessons, mostly about safety and just being comfortable in the water.  But Luke is just out there playing and having a blast.  He gets to mingle with some other kids too, so that is good.  I swam with him all last week, and Andrea is swimming with him this week.

I had great intentions of being super productive with my time off.  And I haven’t been entirely melting into the couch, I did get the yard looking great and the windows on the outside of the house washed.  Washed the Cutlass and waxed the Jeep.  But nothing really life-changing.  I had intended that I would have had the ball joints replaced on the Toronado (already have the parts) and my Vectrex tuned up.  Neither of those have happened, but I don’t feel too terrible about it.  It’s been nice to have some time just to do things that I wanted to do.

I’ve played a lot of Final Fantasy X-HD.  Said it before here… but what a fantastic game.  It’s getting close to the end now, so I’m looking for side stuff to do to drag out the experience as long as possible.  But I still have FFX-2 HD to play after that, so I should just power through… nah.  What good is it if I don’t have all the ultimate weapons!  This or Mario Kart is probably what I’ll get back to right after this blog.

I’ve also been thinking more about video stuff.  How I can pull it off, not only technically, but also just penciling in the time.  If I can’t even make time to write a blog or two in the last several months… how am I going to come up with content for videos and get them edited and uploaded?  The answer is I just need to make the time… like I’ve always said, but never do.  I could get up early and shoot while everyone is sleeping.  Then edit in the evenings.  Maybe just set a goal of one video a week to start with.  What about?   That I don’t know yet.

Luke and I have been watching a lot of a YouTube channel called RaceGrooves. There’s really not much too it other than a guy unboxing Hot Wheels track sets and playing with them on the camera.  Luke loves watching it and I admire the guy’s passion.  The videos are simple two or three angle videos.  He’s not doing anything special, but he has almost 150,000 subscribers and gets close to 1,000,000 views on a lot of his videos.  I’m not worried about becoming an internet celebrity, but I enjoy creating things and it’s fun to share it and find out that there’s other people out there as passionate about the things you are.

But now I’m back.  After another long hiatus.  The long vacation from work has been a healthy thing.  I love my job, but sometimes it takes a lot of energy.  There’s always something more to do.  I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with my family and still have some time for me this week.  And that’s the kind of stuff that recharges me.  Maybe that’s the difference.  I hope to spend some more time here with the blog.  Maybe dive into a few things in more detail.  Or just push ahead from this point forward.  I dunno, and suppose it doesn’t really matter.

See you soon!

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Vegetating and getting caught up.

What a great day.  I slept until 9AM and got out of bed and Luke was already up, goofing around in his crib.  The Saturday morning ritual commenced with pancakes and Care Bears.  I actually had zero obligations today.  Well… I did have to work on a website for somebody, but that only took about 15 minutes.

hexxit

Biebs has been bugging me to play Hexxit, a Minecraft mod pack with heavy emphasis on adventuring.  Today I finally got the opportunity.  At first I pretty much dove right in.  I made a wooden sword and started rolling through some of the light dungeons near the spawn.  I promptly got my butt kicked.  So at that point I decided I needed to establish a stronghold and build up some resources.  There’s a TON to do and a ton you can do in this version of Minecraft.  And I’m excited to dive into it.

I’ve been enjoying Animal Crossing: New Leaf to a great extent.  With only one big gripe… there’s only been the fishing pole, net or shovel for sale at Nookling’s since I started the game.  I really need my slingshot, watering can, and axe.  It bugs me to no end as I’ve seen about six presents floating overhead so far and no way to get them.

This is the first Animal Crossing game since the first that really feels different.  The biggest difference is you get to be the mayor as Tortimer has retired to a tropical island.  It’s cool because you get to decide in what order you want to enhance your town.  It definitely would benefit from multiple players as many of the projects are pretty expensive.  Right now I’m working on getting my house filled out with more room, so that soaks up all my bells.  But there will be plenty of time to get to it all.  Animal Crossing is a long term dedication.

I’d really been craving a game of this type too.  Something you can build on incrementally.  You end up feeling pretty invested in games like this after you’ve been playing off and on for a couple years.  You have your favorite residents, the collections you’re trying to complete and all the different holidays you want to check in on.  We even used Animal Crossing as our official New Year’s Eve countdown!

All of the holiday travels are done.  And they weren’t without some eventfulness.  We got all loaded up to head to Kansas City for Christmas with Andrea’s family, that’s when I noticed a steady stream of antifreeze dripping from underneath the Jeep.  It was coming out quick enough that I knew we weren’t going to try taking it.  I looked it over quickly and couldn’t exactly deduce where the leak was coming from, so Andrea, frustrated, loaded all our gear into the Cutlass instead which made the trip without issue.

Old Water Pump Removed

New pump installed!

When we got back home Thursday, I looked the Jeep over a bit more and it looked like it was leaking from the gasket.  Which meant the pump had to come off, which in turn meant, might as well replace the pump.  Long story short: I have learned never to be shocked by what you find when you buy a used vehicle.  The water pump had a HOLE in it!  Like an actual hole through the pump.  Sometime before we bought the Jeep someone had dabbed some RTV sealer over the hole.  It’s amazing that it lasted over a year.  But now we have a new pump and thermostat and it seems like it’s working great and doesn’t leak a drop.  Even got it put back together in time to head to Cimarron on that Saturday!  Not too bad for the old KartMaster’s Garage.

Bright red amp power cable and fuse.

Also did some work on the Jeep that was more, “scheduled”.  For Christmas I got Andrea a new amp and speaker box.  We already had the speaker which is what made the project affordable.  It was quite a bit of work, but I’m glad I did it right.  Had the front seat out and all the interior trim apart on the passenger side to run the power cable.  Ended up breaking off one of the bolts that holds the seat down because it was siezed up, so that won’t be fun to drill out and fix… but I’ll get it done eventually.  The finished product is the only thing you can really see is the power cable under the hood, and the speaker in the back.  No ugly wires showing anywhere.  Real clean.

So that kinda gets caught back up to today.  Got a little more snow, but just about an inch or so, nothing that will slow anything down.  Maybe enough for Luke and I to go play in tomorrow morning!

Catching Up

As usual… the blog has gone neglected. Man, I never really thought when I had a kid that so much of my free time would be completely soaked up. Existing parents feel free to laugh it up in the comments. But seriously. After Luke is in bed at 8:30 (when things go smoothly) that leaves me 2 hours to get what I want and NEED to do done.  That’s just about enough time to start something and not finish it.  Work has been pretty exhausting the past few weeks as well, and when I do finally get a chance to relax I’m really only in the mood for something completely passive, and writing isn’t it.

Was that an excuse?  An explanation?  I don’t know.  I feel a bit of regret that I don’t put more of my thoughts here these days.  Seems like if I don’t write it down, it’s a day that can be lost forever, and if that’s the case what good was it?  Good, bad, tough or easy, I really need to remind myself this is one of my favorite places.  It’s the place I feel comfortable talking about anything other than bitching about work.  That’s just not a practice I recommend for the internet…

So what have I missed?  Well if you follow my Twitter you’ll see I’ve got the Christmas lights up on the house.  Did that the weekend after Thanksgiving (appropriately).  The two weekends preceeding Thanksgiving were absolutely gorgeous.  Just knock down beautiful days.  That would have made the most sense to put them up then, but I just can’t do it before the holiday.  Not because it’s tacky… but because I refuse to dilute my joy of the Christmas season.  I really love Christmas and all the traditions surrounding it.  But I don’t want to be one of those people that as soon as Halloween is on the horizon, it’s Christmas time.  I prefer my holidays to be potent and rare enough to be savored.

So I spent one of those weekends working, and the other one I spent Saturday being productive otherwise outside of the house, raking leaves, cleaning out the garage.  Got the black car tucked good and away for the winter.  And that Sunday I was a total bump on a log.

Thanksgiving itself was very nice.  We drove out to Cimarron and spent the holiday with Dad and Carrie’s family.  Then we stopped by Mom’s house briefly and Luke and Daisy chased Mom’s cat around.  It was good to see everyone as usual, but it’s just so hard to see everyone in a day.  I’m glad that Mom is coming up for New Year’s so we can hang out and do some level 5 relaxin’.  Some people’s idea of thrill is zip-lining over a forest canopy (read: Andrea), my idea of an absolute blast is sitting with some good company, enjoying a beverage, and soaking myself in the lack of urgency.

I don’t think Andrea gets that sometimes.  How much, when I’m sitting at home, beer in hand, staring at the firepit… that inside I’m going out of my mind nuts with joy.  There is literally no place else I’d rather be.  God bless her, she wants to go everywhere and do it all.  And I’m up for it from time to time, but it takes a toll on me, because it’s not a release for me.  I think we do a fairly good job balancing each style though.  I don’t always get what I want, but then again, neither does she.

Post Thanksgiving has been a blur.  I really couldn’t tell you much of anything specifically that’s happened in the two weeks since.

Yesterday I took one of my last vacation days.  No particular reason other than it was use it or lose it by the end of the year.  I pretty much hunkered down in the basement for the entirety of the day.  After breakfast with Luke we went down stairs and he played with his toys.  We built a scale model of Albert out of his blocks and then I installed Morrowind on my computer from an old disk I had while he continued to play.  I also played a significant amount of Guild Wars 2 and made some considerable progress with my character, something I haven’t been able to say for months!  I’m up to level 72.  Only 8 more levels until I can finally start investing in my “final” gear and progress towards beating the storyline.  After that I hope to play some World vs World… but I don’t know if MY real world has time enough for what I know that game could occupy.

Adventuring with Andrea and Mom through the Norn area.

Today was another nice day.  I spent the morning in with Luke doing our usual “weekend” routine since today was a day off too.  Breakfast, Care Bears then lots of hard core playing!  It was actually almost 60 degrees outside this afternoon so I decided I needed to get the salt washed off the Cutlass and give it a good wax to keep it protected for the winter.  Luke and Andrea hung out with me while I had the tunes on in the garage.  It was a job that was over due, but an enjoyable task with the company I had.

There’s a lot looking good in this picture!

I’ve started “playing” Wii Fit U.  I use the quotes because I’m not so much doing the games as I am actually trying to use it as a fitness tool.  Andrea got a Wii balance board ages ago that she apparently had been keeping tucked away for some reason.  So upon the realization that we had a balance board, we downloaded the Free Wii Fit U trial.  It only last a month, but here after Christmas I’m planning on buying a Fit Meter and registering it, then we’ll get the whole game.  I like it so far.  I use it mostly for the “Free Run” to get my heart rate up and burn some calories.  I think it’s pretty need to “jog” through Wuhu Island.  It’s been in so many other games from Mario Kart to Pilotwings, that getting down on the ground level and taking a slow jog brings a really neat and immersive perspective for me.  It has really exposed how out of shape I am though.  I’ve been aching for the past few days from all the workouts, which I guess is a good thing.  I’ve been trying to get in 30 minutes to an hour a day with it.  I’d love to find a good Wii Fit U Community to help keep me accountable.

wfu

Back in the day, as I’ve written here before, I used to spend a lot of time on the IGN forums.  Well… lately I’ve been kinda sucked back into the forum life.  Not on IGN.  Sadly it’s just a husk of what it once was.  But I’ve found two new more niche forums that I am really enjoying thoroughly.  The first is N64Forever.com.  As you would assume, it’s a message board focused on only the N64.  It’s not a huge community and the topics don’t move very fast compared to the old IGN days, but they are all good mature people.  Many with families of their own like myself now.  It’s fun to share with a group of people that’s as passionate about those old games and system as I am.

n64fe

The second is the new ClassicGameRoom.com forums.  CGR has recently put a lot of effort into their website since some YouTube policy changes, and it is really blossoming by the day.  The forums there largely center around retro gaming, but also touch on modern releases, just as the show does.  But much like N64Forever.com the demographic skews a bit older, and with that, a bit more mature.  Lots of good folks.  Guys that just love old games, love beer and are just there to relax and have a good time.  If that’s not right up my alley… I don’t know what is.

cgr forum

So that’s it.  That’s everything I could have been writing about this whole time.  It feels good… this writing thing.  I’m so rusty. Just like Wii Fit… I need to keep exercising this skill.  I really have plenty to put on here.  It’s just getting the uninterrupted time to do it.  Here’s to making it important enough that I find time to keep it up.

Halloween 2013

Sorry for the delay getting the pictures up, and just a general lack of writing as of late.  Been super busy at work and I’ve been going to bed about the same time as Luke the past few days, so that didn’t leave much time for anything else!

But here ya go. Luke was a Train Conductor!  We just stayed here in Albert.  The night started out kinda slow, but we walked all over town (which doesn’t take too long here) and Luke did pretty good!

Luke’s First 4th of July

Luke started the day off happy as can be.  He’s definitely a morning person and always wakes up in a good mood.  I wish I could say the same about myself!  So he and I are up eating waffles and pancakes for breakfast and I told him, “Today we get to shoot off fireworks!”

“Fireworks?  Fireworks, right there,” he grinned, and pointed to the family pack we’ve had propped up near the back door the past couple days.  With all the American Flags (he’s a big flag fan) and the colorful packaging, Luke has been very interested in them.  But until yesterday, he didn’t really know what a firework did.

Fireworks Backpack

The fireworks store I did remotes at this year, had a cool little kid sized backpack full of all the traditional kid themed fireworks.  Tanks, chickens, cars, etc.  He thought it was awesome.  Riiiight up to the point we started lighting fuses.  I knew he probably wouldn’t like the big fireworks, but I thought he’d love some of the little cars and trains and such.  Nope.  Not at all.  He was pretty much ready for it to be over as soon as it began.

At this point he has no idea what’s about to happen. This one whistled and scooted across the ground.

After the first tank went off, he’d really had enough.  I guess I forgot that the tanks pop out full fledged, loud, banging, firecrakers.  Too loud for little ears.

It’s no fun being scared. But it is kinda cute.

So we took a nice long break.  Luke got himself a well earned nap.  And when he got up, the sun was getting lower.  Other people in the neighborhood were starting to light their own fireworks.  Funnily enough, Luke started to say “Watch fireworks? Watch fireworks?”  So we figured we’d give it another shot. We pretty much just left the back patio door open, and he could come in and out as he felt comfortable.  And we used some ear muffs we’d gotten for him to use at the race track.

This worked out a lot better.  He still kept a cool weary distance from where we were lighting them down on the patio.  But at least no crying.  And once they were cooled off, Luke really had fun playing with them as toys.  So he at least finally got a little enjoyment out of the holiday.

We all stayed out until about 9:00pm having fun, then figured we would try to put Luke to bed.  It was going to be interesting on how he’d sleep, given that it sounded like a warzone all around us.  Remarkably, other than not paying much attention to his bedtime story, our bedtime routine was fairly normal, and he laid down in his bed without a peep, and we didn’t hear from him the rest of the night.  We kept the baby monitor on outside and Andrea and I decided to start pulling out some big stuff!

And with that, the night was over.  Wrapped up around 11:30pm.  Had a lot of fun.  Been 2 years since we got to have one around here.  And we had an ample supply to shoot off, fun with the family, it was just a really great day!

4th of July Eve

Fireworks

Alright!  4th of July.  Most of me can’t believe that it’s here already.  This year seems to have flown by like none other.  But I feel like we all say that every year, so whatever.  Last year we didn’t get to have a 4th of July.  It was so dry that the county literally banned all fireworks. I remember it was so quiet on the 4th… seemed even quieter than a normal night.

But not this year.  The party is ready to go.  No big plans for us.  We have a small assortment of fireworks we plan on shooting.  Lots of little kid stuff like chickens and tanks for Luke.  I really think he’s not going to enjoy it much.  At least at first.  We got out some Snap ‘N’ Pops today and he wasn’t too keen on them.  We got him to toss one and make it pop, but after that he’d had enough.  Maybe once he sees the little cars and things going he’ll get more into it.  We’ll be sure to take lots of pictures.

2013 is Here

I was doing so good posting on the blog.  Then all of a sudden it’s like the will and ability to post just wasn’t there anymore.

It’s been busy as every holiday is.  So many weekends in a row being gone, and my free time for producing anything tangible during the week is limited.  I have just enough time to start most things, but not enough time to finish them.  Right now I’m writing this at 9:00 PM while I’m still at work training one of our part-timers.  Which hopefully means I’ll be filling in for missing part-timers less often in the long run.

Hard to imagine with the utter lack of my existence online lately, but I really think I need to unplug.  It’s one of the things I love about camping.  There’s no radio, internet, TV or distractions.  And you just free your mind to think about things in a more deep and meaningful way.  So much content out there is trying to evoke some sort of desired emotional response, whether its outrage, desire, or excitement.  Everyonce in a while I need some utter solitude where there are no outside messages trying to influence my decision making and just let my mind unravel things as it will.

I’ve been playing some Tekkit on Bieb’s server.  I got my resource collection up and running to a point now I can just login and build stuff.  I’ll post some screenshots of my project once it starts to take shape a bit.  It’s something you should recognize.

I have a hard time really committing myself to Minecraft.  Everything I’ve ever built has been lost for one reason or another.  Server crashes, world corruptions.  It’s just a matter of time before its all gone in a digital POOF.  I’ve had a lot of fun watching the Yogscast Tekkit series though.  And it’s hard to resist playing for myself.  There’s that outside influence I was talking about earlier.

I also am anxious to get back into Guild Wars 2.  I mean REALLY anxious.  There is just so many damn things to do!  It’s a little bit daunting considering I want to do it ALL.  But I need to just take my time and realize I have years and years ahead of me yet to experience all that content.  It doesn’t help much that Andrea doesn’t play so I’m playing solo all the time.  I really would like to find a nice guild… but again, I don’t really have the time to commit to something like that.

So this was basically another chapter in “How Matt Became a Grumpy Old Man”.

Max

Look at this crap.

This just hasn’t been my day…

Why can’t I just buy NORMAL bulbs!?  Look at this cheap chinese Wal-Mart crap.  You’d think something as simple as some insulated wire and LEDs they could get right, but no.  These haven’t even been up a week and one strand is already out.  Complete bull crap.

Then when I’m heading to work, I notice that the dashboard in the Cutlass is indicating I have a bulb out.  So I do a walkaround, sure enough.  It’s still dark out so I can’t see all that well, and I have to get to work, so I waited until after work to check it out.  That’s when I see this:

Super… and a nice sized rock is still resting inside the lens.  So I’m on the hunt for new ones.  Yay.

Then I go to take the bulb out and the glass comes out leaving the metal part of the bulb stuck in the socket.  So more fun trying to pry that out.  No permanent damage there though, once I got all of the old bulb out, the new bulb works just fine.

I did get one thing done though.  I put a wreath on the Jeep.  Every year I see a few people driving around with them on their truck and I always kinda liked it.  So I wanted to see what it would look like.  We’ll see how it holds up with semi-trucks blowing past on the highway.  If it gets destroyed I’m not out much, but the way my luck is going it will probably somehow rip off the entire grille.

Keepin’ it Simple

Well I spent some time on the roof and put up some Christmas lights.  I haven’t strung up proper Christmas lights… well ever.

Finding the lights was a royal pain.  And I ended up settling on these.  I like the old big bulbs.  You know the ones that can burn down your Christmas tree if you leave them on all night?  That’s what I want.  Big incandescent bulbs.  But just like my CFL problem… it’s hard to buy Christmas lights that aren’t LEDs anymore.  Especially in the big bulb form.  Honestly though, these didn’t turn out too bad.  They are still a pretty warm white.  I suppose I can handle that.

I have one more strand to put up on the front porch, but I goofed and bought 125 lights, and only 100 clips.  So I only had enough to do the roof.  Which was the hard part anyway.  I should have the rest of it finished up tomorrow!

Halloween 2012

Sorry I haven’t posted much. Really thought I would over the vacation here, but we’ve been super busy.

Here’s some pictures of Halloween out in SWK with the family.  Luke is a little dragon.  We were super surprised that he left the little hat on almost the whole time!

It was a perfect night for Trick-or-Treating. Temperature was in the 50’s and it was just starting to get dark. Things were winding down by time time we got started, but there were still PLENTY of lights on.