Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November Update

Wow this month is marching on and I've been busy preparing for this weeks Thanksgiving meal by shopping for all the goodies necessary to serve a proper dinner.  Think I'm ready, just need to do the cooking.

This month has gone from the 80 and 90's in outside temperatures, to a sudden drop down into the low 60's.  For we cold blooded Floridians that's quite chilly and it was reflected today with my girls donning long sleeve shirts, jackets and gloves to do their homeschool lessons.

We've enjoyed some beautiful sunrises lately, and some so foggy you could barely see the lake out back.

On one particularly rainy afternoon, between rain and brief sunny periods a hawk landed on the screen room out back and sat with it's wings spread to dry out a bit before flying off.

After the rain stopped we had a pretty rainbow that unfortunately I didn't quite capture it's full beauty, but it spanned the full horizon out back.

We continue to get some more produce from the garden.  Here are two more ripe pineapples and a nice size papaya and a few of the many kumquats we've had.  I've also harvested a lot more salad makings and sweet potatoes along with a couple more butternut squash.  My broccoli are really growing nicely along with onions that I planted at the beginning of this month.  With the temperatures so nice, I'll be adding more seedlings to the garden.

My Mexican Sunflower is blooming and a particularly large bee visits it regularly.

The fig trees are beginning to form figs, and my pear tree has about 4 on it.  Not bad since I just planted this pear only a few months ago.  The cranberry hibiscus is in full bloom and looks beautiful.

Cameron and I celebrated birthdays this month.  He's here trying on one of his new jackets that apparently arrived just in time to wear.

We're loving the cooler temperatures and I'm taking full advantage to be able to spend more time cleaning up and clearing out weeds from my garden beds.  It's a nice time of the year here in Central Florida.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Journey Continues

True to the name of our blog the journey continues as we round another bend on the road in our lives.  Not to be too ambiguous or obscure, but recent events have called for us as a family to really take time to reflect on what our priorities are and consider these when making choices.

As I've stated in past posts our transition to Florida came after Kevin was able to take an early retirement after his 22 years with the water district in Southern California.  The sale of our home there sealed the deal in making this move a new start and was our "Cortez" moment akin to his burning his ships to inspire his troops to succeed in their new venture without the escape option of climbing back on the ships that brought them and returning home.

As we've documented our projects, experiences and progress in our new home and the situations life's presented in the now 2 1/2 years we've been here it's time for another big change for our family.  Kevin has worked on finishing his Master's Degree during this time and successfully completed this in June.  He's also maintained a side business he's had for years that is still dealing primarily with clients in California.  This consulting business has always been a nice addition to the family income, but was never a full time career.  So with his degree completed and life offering opportunities that require more resources to pay for them he began looking into career moves available.

This brought him the chance to work for two great places and the difficulty now was to narrow it down to the finalist that he would go with.  Not a bad spot to be in, and one that we felt would be best suited to have a family meeting to really explore the options and give everyone a chance to weigh in since this change would have an impact on each member of the family. We began by having Kevin make a list of pros and cons for each of the choices.

Option 1 :  Great International Company located 38 miles from our home that would challenge him to use the skills he's acquired over the years along with the chance to grow in work experience and have additional long term opportunities.

The strongest benefit of this company was a GREAT annual salary and bonus - hard to ignore when weighing  the two options. The work environment of this company is more industrial due to the manufacturing portion of this site. This was also part  of the negatives on his list as this aspect of the company made for a more sterile work atmosphere and presented the additional negative of possible late nights and weekend hours as his would be a salaried managerial position with oversight of the two building complex as an Environmental Health and Safety Coordinator. This company also offered him 3 weeks vacation annually and occasional travel to other facilities in the states and countries they have locations in.

A negative that isn't the companies doing, but had to be taken into consideration by our family, was the commute. Though not long as far as distance was concerned - travel to the facility could only be made by using the Interstate Highway.  This is a stretch of road that is being widened and will eventually be a great change for the already congested conditions it currently has, however between roadwork slowing traffic, general congestion and the regular accidents that happen and often shut down whole sections of the highway, it can be a commuting nightmare that would add to longer hours away as a result of these potential delays from this construction that are scheduled to continue for the next few years.

Option 2:  This position is the oversight of 4 campuses for the States College system with the local one being his main base of operation.  The salary is good, but clearly a lot less than Option 1 - this was a major negative for this option.  The work environment is that of 4 beautiful campuses and from the time spent in interviews his experience with the team he would be working with gave him a feeling of being very positive and excited at the prospect of taking on the task of creating a position that while being federally mandated has never been fully implemented so he would be essentially creating the parameters of his job.  This draws on his past work experiences, his love of teaching through training programs he would have to implement and a freedom of movement and time setting that allows for the sense of being treated as the responsible adult and professional that he is.

The commute is 18 miles with a choice of routes to take that keep the travel time to a half hour each way.  The availability of continued educational benefits for Kevin and the family at no expense are a part of the benefits package to offset the significantly lower salary.  Another factor to be considered was paid time off.  In addition to the 1 1/2 weeks vacation time offered, because the campuses shut down during Winter and Springs breaks Kevin would have this additional paid time off and both are at times that are particularly important to our family in being together.  Then during the summer the schedule switches to 4, ten hour days because of reduced class schedules and that would offer him the chance to return to the 4 day work week he had in the last several years with the water district in California that we as a family found really nice for time together and all the activities and projects we liked to get done.

So after weighing all the options on his list and each of us putting in our two cents worth of advice and presenting our perspective on which we thought would be the best way to go, Kevin reached the challenging decision to go with Option 2.  I say challenging because each employment option was a positive situation, but looking at the long term best interest of the family and for himself this second option listed seemed the best fit.   So our lives are preparing for a big change as Kevin will head off to his new position in the next couple of weeks, and we'll adjust to our homeschooling day without the benefit of dad's input and teaching skills.  Still there's a lot of positives that come with this opportunity and we'll be exploring and experiencing these in the months and years to come.  So the journey continues,  and we hope you'll stick around for the adventures that lay ahead.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Flooring Update

We're almost done, YAY!!!  Kevin's office now has the flooring down and what is left is trim, organizing furniture and decorative touches.  Here are some photos of the progress he's made .  I love the look of this new flooring over the old carpet.

As carpet is first removed in Kevin's office and he takes off the tack strips that held it.  Jake is checking out what he's doing.

Floor down on first half and furniture stacked on this side as Kevin works the other half.  Bear's got to check out the new flooring here and keep an eye on Kevin's progress.

Another look as flooring goes down

Time for the trim and moving furniture into place

The new fan and light in his office work so much better with our decor and having the fan has made this space far more comfortable for Kevin to work in his office.

Old light and Kevin installing the new one with fan.

Finished fan/light in place as we begin organizing his office

The hall is still in need of an area rug in this photo, but replacing the cracked old white tile and ugly entry light with the new flooring and lamp, made for a nice improvement.

Old light and tile as it's coming up, and now the new look

Just a few more pictures of the new look to our living areas and Kevin's office.

Had to throw this one in. Jake joining Kevin for a break after lunch

From living room to my work space and on left front entry

Kevin's office

Entry hall looking from Kevin's office
That's our progress for now.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Busy September

Before this month ends I suppose it's time to finally get a post up about this months activities.  We are fully back to our homeschool schedule, and the garden is still producing as we gathered up our peanuts and sweet potatoes in the first of these harvests for us.  We've cleared out the last of the beans and loofah squash that had grown so thick over the trellises we'd set up.  We are now preparing our beds for Fall planting which I'm having to learn that here in Central Florida is actually the preferred time for a greater yield because it's still warm for months and we won't have the intense heat and humidity of the summer months.

Now with that being said the activity that has really taken our time and attention and had our house in a state of chaos for the past month has been replacing the old carpet in the living room and Kevin's office.  When we moved in we decided to live with the old light blue/grey carpet that was original to this 20 year old home, until we completed a few other projects first and had a chance to live here and decide what would be the best type of flooring for us here in this home and environment.  I'm glad we waited because initially I was looking at tile throughout and though that would look nice, I don't think it would work as well as the antiqued hickory laminate we chose to go with.

Here is the living room and my work space in the far corner near the window after we've removed books and decorative items and prepare to move the furniture.  Bea's enjoying her last days laying on the carpet here.

With the bookshelves moved Kevin began removing the carpet and pad against this wall first to lay the flooring

With the new fireplace in we could now begin the process of clearing out furniture and ripping up the carpet and padding to lay flooring, do the trim and then move furniture and all each piece holds to then move on to the next section of flooring.

Kevin's put down the underlayment and is setting out the first floor boards

I took this opportunity to paint the armoire in my crafting and office space a country white which makes it work so much better in this space.

The first pieces of flooring and trim are complete and the armoire is painted and we've moved these along with the bookshelves and it's contents back into place as we prepare to move other furniture and continue the process of laying this new flooring.  The look of this works really well with the rock work we did on the fire place when we replaced the old one.
The new flooring from this angle with the fireplace and the bookshelf back in place.  The fans were needed, it's in the 90's outside and humid so even with the air conditioning it's hot while working on this.

The longest process for Kevin that gave him a real workout and caused another intense cleaning spree in the house was removing the white tile by the front door.  He initially worked with a hammer and chisel a little section at a time until we made a trip to Harbor Freight and picked up a wider chisel for his hammer drill that made much quicker work of this part of the project.

Making real progress with the old tile and all the grout once he had the chisel piece for his hammer drill

Almost done, you can see a pile of the fine dust that was all over from this process by the broom

We also replaced the ugly light in the hall entry area and Kevin's office that work much better with the look of our furniture and the new flooring.  As I share my pictures I won't have all the finished ones yet as we still have some final work to complete and I need to find my camera cord to download more updated photos.  The work at this time that still needs to be done is the trims on the edges of the flooring by the kitchen, and hallway. The rock work at the base of the fireplace hearth to cover the old brick now that the floor is in place this can be done. Then before we put everything back on the shelves and in Kevin's office we're taking the time to go through everything to clear out materials no longer needed as well as to find nicer looking storage containers for all the DVD's we have.  So little by little we are making a real change that is looking really nice.

This is the hall as the tile is being removed with the old light up

Glad to see this one go.

Our new hall light that works much better for our purposes
That's it for now.  My next post will be of the finished look the new floors, lights and furniture in place give to our living space.  In the meantime the organizing process continues.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Garden Produce

The banana circles and edible yard today

We've been enjoying some of the fruits of our labor from the garden recently, as well as storing it for future use. We've harvested loads of yard long beans and most are in the freezer awaiting use at a later date.  Despite another onslaught of pickle worms, I've managed to gather 20 butternut squash and there are still more on the vines.  I've been fighting these awful worms with BT applications and by the tedious process of squishing them by hand.  Disgusting, but effective and a bit satisfying with how destructive these things can be and remembering how much we lost from our crops last year because of those worms. Next year I'll try to figure out a way I can put up insect fabric to cover the plants at night as that's when the moths lay their eggs that result in so many problems.

Fifteen of our butternut squash
More squash almost ready to pick

I've planted a number of plants this year in order to produce seed for future crops seeing that I had limited seed and much of it was getting old so only some of what I planted proved viable and actually produced.  Still, it was enough to resupply me for future plantings.  This includes my giant golden amaranth and calypso beans.
Girls shelling dried yard long beans for future planting

Some of the calypso beans harvested I'll use for seed

Calypso beans growing
Golden giant amaranth growing.  This stands about 6 feet tall right now.

We've enjoyed 3 of our pineapples so far and though they were small they were so sweet and delicious.  We still have many on the plants in varying stages of growth so these are still something to look forward to.  With each pineapple we eat, I take the top and replant for future produce.

Our first pineapples that were so good!!

I purchased 2 year old asparagus root stock this year and have set them in a bed that they will be allowed to grow in hopefully for years since asparagus can be so long lived.  They've taken off and produced huge fern like foliage that I will leave this year cutting in the Fall once they've yellowed so that the root stock will be strengthened and grow more vigorously next year when I can harvest some of the asparagus for eating.

Asparagus look a bit wild right now, but will eventually produce wonderful results that we're looking forward to eating.

More papayas growing

My tomatillos have really been producing and I picked the first of my loofah squash that I used in place of zucchini for making my zucchini brownies.  Loofah is wonderful for eating provided you pick it when it's still smaller and green.  Otherwise it gets very tough and fibrous and is best used for the loofah sponges you find in stores.

Just some of the MANY tomatillos we've picked this year.  These still have their outer casings on them.
A squash picked to day along with the loofah squash

My first peanuts accidentally pulled up when I pulled some dead lemon balm out- looking forward to harvesting these plants to see what my results are as this is the first time I've grown  these.

More of our yard long beans harvested today

Lima beans growing

Banana circles today, and the golden giant amaranth on the right. You can see all the sweet potatoes growing along with squash around the banana circles.