Liam’s 7th Birthday

We celebrated Liam’s highly-anticipated 7th birthday this year by doing something different and having his birthday party at a private gymnastics facility. We thought it was an original idea but now it seems like everyone else is doing the same thing this year. It’s a welcome relief from the jumper/arcade/pizza parties and I sure do prefer the private parties to being mixed in with the crowds at the public facilities.

Liam’s chosen theme for this year’s party was Batman, which made it pretty easy for us to put together. Instead of the traditional 1/2 sheet cake, we did a cupcake cake (a bunch of cupcakes iced together to look like a cake). I made the mistake of not asking what color the icing was going to be so we ended up with lots of blue faces at the end of the party. Note to self: only do white icing from now on!

The kids (and a few of the adults) had lots of fun jumping on the trampolines, walking the balance beams and tumbling on the mats. It’s definitely something I would do again!

I can’t believe my baby is now 7 years old. The last 5 years have just flown by so quickly that I know I’m going to wake up one of these days with a teenager on my hands and I’m just not ready for that! Until then, here is my sweet baby boy having fun at his birthday party.

Liam jumping off of the balance beam
Liam on a trampoline
Batman cupcake cake

Soccer 2013

This year Liam played soccer for the first time. The jury is still out on whether he liked it enough to play again. I enjoyed it much more than T-Ball because it is faster paced and the season ends just as our temperatures start hitting triple digits! Yesterday was the final game for the season and the kids were very excited about getting trophies. Liam is so proud that he carries his trophy all around the house with him.

Know When To Fold ‘Em

When we began car-shopping recently to replace Dede’s Honda CR-V, I suppose it was only natural that I’d catch the new car fever too, even though there’s nothing wrong with my trusty Element aside from it being 10+ yrs old and lacking in all of the techno-goodies, conveniences, and creature comforts of the cool new vehicles.

It was while I was half-looking for a suitable replacement, however, that I was very inspired by the EcoModder “Buy a Trailer Instead of a Pickup Truck” thread that I just stumbled upon. The argument that a trailer (and hitch) added to an existing car can give you almost all the functionality of a truck without the lower fuel efficiency—or hefty new car payments—really appealed to me. Even as much as this seemed like a great idea, I had all but dismissed the whole thing as impractical since I don’t have any space to park a trailer. But then several pages deep into the thread, I read a comment about the Haul Master Folding Trailer at Harbor Freight and I was hooked!

So the next thing I knew, I was at Harbor Freight:

Haul Master Folding Trailer - Boxes Loaded

Loaded up at Harbor Freight

Who would’ve guessed that a couple of unassuming (but heavy) boxes would hold an entire trailer?!

Haul Master Folding Trailer boxes unloaded

Boxes unloaded into the garage

Liam and I set about getting the pieces unboxed…

Haul Master Folding Trailer unboxed

Parts staged and ready to go

Then we started putting the puzzle together:

Haul Master Folding Trailer assembly

Assembling the trailer

It went together fairly quickly with Liam manning the power tools!

Haul Master Folding Trailer assembled

Liam rocks the cordless driver!

Once it was all assembled, I called in favors from Pete for bearing lube and Fred for some wiring assistance and it was ready for the decking. Ironically tho, I needed the trailer to get the plywood home! So with the help of a very overworked but friendly guy at the U-Haul store, I added an inexpensive Class 3 (chosen for size and flexibility more than weight capacity) hidden trailer hitch to my Element. Then I hitched up the trailer for its maiden voyage:

Haul Master Folding Trailer hitched up

Hitched and ready for the maiden voyage

After I primed & waterproofed the plywood with truck bed liner paint and attached, the trailer was complete:

Haul Master Folding Trailer completed

Decked out and finshed!

Perhaps the coolest thing is that once the trailer is folded (made much easier thanks to Corky’s clever how-to “rope trick” video), it only occupies an unobtrusive sliver of space in the front of the Element in our garage:

Haul Master Folding Trailer stored in the garage

Folded and stored in front of the Element

Once I started Googling around about this folding trailer, I discovered there are quite a few forums dedicated to building and customizing (sometimes extensively) these for a limitless array of uses:

And there’s tons of cool stuff to accessorize the trailer at Harbor Freight and RedTrailers.com.



Of course, the whole time we were working on this, Kenny Rogers’ “Gambler” was the song that stuck in my head. But Dede’s theme song for this project was different—she kept singing that line “Trailers for sale or rent…” While I’m confident that what was going thru her mind was the classic Roger Miller version, I really dig Josh Turner & Randy Travis’s rendition of “King of the Road”.

Virginia Beach 2013

We just returned from a fantastic 10 day vacation to Virginia Beach! We flew into Washington DC and stayed a couple of days with our friends Chris & Teresa and then we all drove to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg. It was very hot and humid but the park was not crowded at all. Liam rode all the rides they would let him on, including the Loch Ness Monster (his first roller coaster).

The next day we drove to Virginia Beach and spent the next 5 days there. Our hotel was right on the beach and Liam loved playing in the ocean! We visited the Virginia Aquarium and took a ride on The Lost Pearl. Those pirates really work at entertaining the kids!

On our last day at the beach, Troy and Rachel drove down to meet us. We’ve been following each other’s blogs for years, but had never met in person. Their son Daniel and Liam hit it off famously just like we both had predicted they would. It was so nice to finally meet. Thanks again for making the drive down!

What wonderful memories and it was so nice to spend time with Chris, Teresa and Anna again!
Click the link below the picture to view more pics of our vacation.

Liam on the beach

Mapping Monopoly

monopoly_carAs much as the classic game Monopoly was a perennial favorite at family gatherings when I was a kid (and I look forward to the day when my son is old enough to start learning to play) I have to admit that I never gave even a moment’s thought to the properties arranged around the board. They were just abstract things that you needed to own plenty of if you wanted a chance at winning the game.

I suppose that way down deep, I might’ve had some vague notion that the Monopoly squares were named after actual locations but I never had any notion of where that was or what those locations might really look like. Well sure enough, the properties up for grabs in the game are indeed named after real locales in and around Atlantic City, New Jersey and Nick Carr at Scouting NY recently paid a visit to those sites represented on the Monopoly board and showcased the images from his trip.

Now that I’ve seen some of the real locations that correspond with the places on the board, it gives the game a little different perspective on those deeds you buy and leverage in the game. Knowing about the Absecon Light lighthouse makes Vermont Avenue that much more appealing. And here’s a glimpse of the real version of the highly-coveted Park Place:

The real Park Place from Monopoly

Does seeing the real locations that the Monopoly properties are based on give the game a different feel for you? Does this make you wanna dust off the old classic and play it again?