Sunday, November 3, 2013

Remodeling the Kitchen Step One

Every year around bonus time we tend to do something significant (or necessary) to improve the quality of our life. Last year it was new cars.  This year it will be a major kitchen upgrade starting with the counters & paint and then appliances.  We started with the appliances last year when the refrigerator died and we opted to not scrimp and got a pretty nice stainless steel model.  The next step happened last week when we had the white tile counters removed and replaced with granite.  As soon as it was installed it was apparent that we need to change the red accent paint and cabinet/drawer hardware, as well as the nasty light fixture above the kitchen table that we've tolerated since we moved in.  Since I am going to paint anyway, I went ahead and ordered a new stainless microwave/convection oven that matches the refrigerator and that will arrive this coming Tuesday.  And since I had to install an exhaust vent for the microwave in anticipation changing out the electric stove for gas, I will also run the gas line into the wall behind the stove so I only have to fix, prep and paint back there once.  The good part is that we don't really have a large family here right now, and so there isn't the huge emergency to get it done quickly. The bad part is that it isn't really convenient to make meals right now since we don't have a microwave and I have the stove moved out for working back there. I cooked Sunday dinner tonight on the BBQ. Not sure now long that is going to continue to work with winter weather coming this week.  I may move the BBQ up to the deck to buy me a little more time.  That being said, here are pictures of the new counters:

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Grandma Jane's Big, Brave and Awesome Day

During our first evening on Maui we talked to the hotel concierge about scuba opportunities offered by the hotel, and found out that they offer a FREE scuba discovery class twice a day in a special 10ft training pool at the hotel.  Jane steeled herself and agreed to give it a try. The class started at 10am, and took about an hour.  They had a 20 minute classroom session first, in which Jane did her best to not be too frightened by all the terminology and physics and such, and she only got misty-eyed once. Then we went into the pool and practiced skills like clearing a mask, taking your regulator out of your mouth and clearing it, sharing air, and a little buoyancy. All in three feet of water, and then again at 8 feet. Jane did great with the skills, but struggled a bit with depth, attitude and motion control underwater. After that class she was sort of okay with the idea of scuba in general, but felt like she'd like to try it all again later in the day once she had calmed down. We came back at 1:30pm, but this time, instead of a complete repeat, Derrick (her long-haired Hawaiian dive instructor) just took her back into the pool 1:1 and reviewed the skills again. This time she was a lot more confident, and when we came out of the pool, she was just barely brave enough to want to try an open-water dive from the beach 50 yards a way.  We loaded up the cart with fresh tanks, and headed off to the beach.  Jane was still nervous when we entered the water, but we waded out about chest deep, put on our fins, inflated our buoyancy compensators, and kicked out about 30 yards to a shallow reef. We planted a dive buoy, and submerged into about 8 feet of water and first, which got gradually deeper as we kicked around until we were at a max depth of 19 feet. The water was 80 degrees. Jane seemed to grow more confident as we continued exploring the reef. We stayed down 50 minutes, and for the other divers in the family, she was using a 50 cuft tank and only used 1000psi, so she's a natural for sure.  When we broke the surface she gave a huge whoop of joy like it was the most amazing thing she'd ever seen and done, and asked if we can do it again tomorrow. I'm sure we'll figure out how to work in another dive for her before the trip is over. The pictures below are a split between the training pool and the beach dive (flat concrete bottom = pool).

 First breaths on a regulator
Practicing sharing air with instructor's secondary air supply
Down at 8 feet in the dive pool
First laps

In the ocean just off the beach
Cool sea urchin
Randy and Jane (probably not Christmas Card worthy)
Live sea urchin
They come when you snap your fingers!
Cruising over the reef
 Everything is "okay"
Jane's instructor Derrick


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Highlands Ranch Oktoberfest 5K Chug and Dash

Melissa and I ran in the Highlands Ranch Oktoberfest 5K Chug and Dash race this morning. The "chug and dash" part is at the end where you can drink a cup of beer and then sprint 100yard for a separate time and award (we declined that part). Bryson insisted on participating in the stroller (his last year for sure) so Melissa had to sacrifice her time for Bryson. I (unofficially) finished in :31' 13" (official results aren't published yet). Melissa finished in about :48' with Bryson and the stroller.  I was hoping to finish under 30 minutes so I guess that is a goal for the next race.  Post-race I don't feel like I did any injury to my knee, so I am optimistic I can continue to do running workouts and improve my time.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Labor Day Block Party Pancake Breakfast 2012

Yesterday we held our sort-of annual block party pancake breakfast. In years past we've held this even on July 4th, but due to conflicts with vacations and the local parade, we tried moving it to Labor Day, which turned out to be a great success.  We kicked things off at 8am, and people stayed until about 10am.  We provide the pancakes and eggs, and ask people to bring something to share. There was lots of yummy breakfast casseroles this year so we didn't even need to cook the eggs.  

Another innovation was to invite our "Sister" missionaries to cook. It was their prep-day so they came in casual clothes, but wore their badges.  This low key approach resulted in several informational conversations that didn't intimidate the neighbors.  Our friends that own fire trucks came by and gave everyone rides around the block, which was a huge hit for kids and adults alike. Allie and Jarom's families were their with much appreciated help, which also contributed to our holiday experience.  I guess we had 60 or 70 people attend. We've received at least one thank-you note already, and several offers to get more involved next year.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finding Nemo: Three Days on the Great Barrier Reef

This year Microsoft held its annual student technology competition in Sydney, Australia.  Since the Great Barrier Reef is one of the "must see" dive destinations, and getting there is ridiculously expensive, I took advantage of the situation and traveled a week early and took a three-day "live aboard" dive trip on the Great Barrier Reef. There were 24 of us on the boat, and I shared a bunk with another solo guy near my age.  Since it takes 3 or more hours to reach the outer reef, it makes sense to go out there one day and then stay awhile to maximize your dive time.  We did 11 dives in three days, including 2 night dives.  My first day there was a mix-up on where my hotel was, and I ended up missing my boat's departure, but hitched a ride on a much faster day boat owned by the same company, so I actually got out there hours early and started diving earlier. Plus, the day boat had a pro-photographer that went down with us so I actually got some fun pictures that included me in it (price of photo CD extra of course, but well worth the price since he gave me every picture he took of me).

We had quite an international group on board including folks from Germany, France, Australia, and the USA. We ate buffet style, and the food was good and plenty of it. Snacks in-between meals.

It was rather windy while I was out there, that made being on deck during breaks not very pleasant, but once we were underwater it was calm, with very little current or surge. The water temperature was 75 degrees most of the time, and surface temps during the day sometimes rose up to 77. The first morning I wore a shorty wet suit, but once I was on my real boat, I wore a full wet suit (but with short sleeves).

The time zone difference wasn't a problem, but when 8:30 or 9:30pm rolled around (about 4am Mountain, I would hit the wall and fall immediately asleep once I got into bed (the top bunk).

My bunk mate was a nice guy and he ended up being my default dive partner, but sometimes he got a little nervous and would sit a dive out so I would join another group. 

It was a great adventure and I'm really glad I made the effort to go.

My dive boat left from the resort town of Cairns (pronounced "cans" with an Australian accent. This sign is on the main beach. If you click on the picture you can see children (otherwise referred to as "bait") playing in the tidal flats in the distance.

This is the dive deck. My cabin was on the top deck just aft of the wheelhouse

Just coming aboard the day boat; photo by the staff photographer. Cairns Harbour in the background.
The Dive Deck; my rig is second from the right
Another view of the dive deck. We kept our towels hanging out here, but they never got dry; we used them too often and it was too humid, plus the salt in them slows down the drying.
This is the reef from the top deck.The dark mounds of coral are called "bommies" and we dive in between them. Snorkelers go on top.
After meals they hook up a hose to a pump (ocean water) so we can rinse our dishes overboard. The fish don't seem to mind.
Our cook was french. Here he is on the dive platform cleaning up after dinner with lots of grateful fish below
Another shot of the reef at low tide from the top deck.

Multi-purpose marine head; notice the shower nozzle above the mirror.  Basically if we had a few hours between a dive you would jump in here for a minute and rinse the salt out of your hair and bathing suit, then put on a dry rash guard and board shorts and call it good. I don't think anyone really bathed per se; since we were doing four dives a day we were always clean-ish.
This is the saloon where we ate and generally hung out; kitchen in the foreground on the left.  Notice we are all barefoot, which was a rule.  It was much safer in terms of not slipping or tripping.
This is the wheel house, and where the Skipper sleeps as well. He has a sun-shade over the windshield to keep the sun off while we are anchored

This is my stateroom. Tiny with me on the top bunk. The beds were comfortable and I slept like a rock each night.
Most of the divers rotated their bathing suits; particularly the women. We tied out suits out on the rail so they would dry in the wind (it sort of worked... well not really).
Sunset out on the reef.
Me getting ready for my first dive
I took this picture of our guide
Boat photographer's pics of hawk-bill turtle with me in the background

Barracuda were common
Nigel the Napoleonic Maori Wrasse

Underwater cartoons always have giant clams in them but I never seen them off the coast of the US or in the Caribbean. These ranged from 12 inches to 24 inches across. The electric blue fringe was common but sometimes the colors were different.
View of a diver reentering the boat.  The guy in this picture has already removed his fins and handed them to our guide, who will hold them until he is safely on the ladder.

Parrot fish with beak; click picture to get a better view
A smaller clam.
What we call a "swim through"
My dive buddy with a clam showing the size

The side of a coral bommie
White-tip Reef Shark
Green Sea Turtle
Divers and snorkelers on the dive step defogging and putting on masks, and getting checked on the dive list
Pro picture of me, coral and fish
White-tip Reef Shark resting under a ledge
Clown fish "family" living in a big anemone

Montage of my favorite video clips.

Diving the Great Barrier Reef from randy guthrie on Vimeo.