Monday, October 20, 2008

Where'd It All Go!?

Just a quick note: I've reduced the number of articles that are on the "Front Page" down to 2 in order to reduce the load time. The old posts aren't gone, you will just have to look for them.

To view older posts you can:
1. Use the Blog Archive to the right to find posts by their Date/Title.
2. Use the Tags to the right to find posts by their tag or category.
3. Browse chronologically by using the "older posts" link at the bottom of the page.

Just keep in mind that we sometimes put up 2-3 posts at a time, and because of that a post that's only 1 day old may not show up on the front page. If you really want to keep up to date, you should sign up for email notification by emailing me or mom, or dropping a comment on this post. Heck, we'd love to hear from you anyway : )

Bye for now!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Ireland/UK 2009 - Part 1: Visualizing the Route

Alright so I have done some more looking at where we are going to want to see while in Ireland/UK next year, and the list is becoming a bit daunting. Being the visual learner that I am, I decided to put all the destinations into Google Maps and see what the driving distances were like.

One look at the resultant map was enough to make me realize I'm eventually going to need some professional help planning this thing (read travel agent imminent) so that we don't run out of money/patience/steam/time...

It also made me think about the price of rental cars! According to Google Maps the total travel time between all the places represented below is 1d and 23hrs; basically 2 full days of driving/ferry's. Divide that out over the ~30 days we will be there and you have about 1.6hrs of driving EVERY DAY! That's a ton of driving if you ask me, even for a vacation where we will largely be sightseeing from the car.

Although daunting, I know that with the proper planning we can use a mix of Trains, Ferry's, and Cars to get around reasonably well. Smart travel combined with keeping our list of must-see places to a minimum (not like any of them are going anywhere all of a sudden after hundreds of years) will help things go smoothly.

The end result is that we want to have a great trip, with as little stress/rush as possible and if that means waiting a year or two until we're European residents to see the rest of our destinations, then that's fine by us (oops, did I say that outloud?)

Next Time: Looking closer at some of the destinations!

Wye Island Trip

What do you do on a lazy Saturday afternoon when you don't have anything else to do? Well everyone knows that answer to that question is to go to the local Nature Preserve island and walk the trails for free...well at least that's what we do :)

Here some photos from when we went walking last weekend. Sorry its been a while since we posted, but we've been pretty busy. So here's something to hold you over until we can put some more stuff up.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Queen Annes County Faire

In keeping with the current theme of making our kids relive our childhoods "When I was a kid I used to..." posts; we went to the 4H Faire recently (which also serves as the County Faire). Full of farm animals, farm equipment, and some of the most rickety rides you will likely ever risk your families life on, a good time is guaranteed for all!

Actually we had a really good time, and Lauren brought the kids out earlier on in the day to see all the animals separately, so when we went back in the evening it was #2 for most of the fam.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Just Like a Day at The Beach

One of our favorite things growing up was going to stay at the beach house (God rest its soul :) in Rehoboth DE. Sadly that awesome old beach house is now gone (to make room for...well I'm still not sure why), but the beach and boardwalk still remain, so we try and make it a point to go at least once a year with the kids.

Here's some pictures from that fun day including beach chillin, riding the rides, and of course Grottos!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Kids Combine Ride

I remember getting off the bus as a kid and waiting in the yard with Mom for a chance to ride on the combine with Mr. Danny. So when he came out this year to harvest the corn, it was a perfect chance for Eden and James to help daddy live old memories vicariously to do something that I loved as a kid (as presumably all Eastern Shore kids do...right?)





One of the cooler things about homeschooling, is that a trip to the local farm (which also happens to be family) to see the miniature cows and help harvest the hay; serves double duty as a field trip.



As always you can see the whole set by following this link over to our Flickr Page.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Our first Home-Swapping Experience

One of the more immediate parts of getting ready for our Ireland & UK Trip next year was to set up a Home-Swap with a family in Ireland. We have now started this process and have our fingers crossed that a swap will pan out quickly as this is our first time and we'd like to get things secured ASAP.

In case your not familiar with the concept of Home Swapping, the way it works is just as the name implies; you swap homes with someone in the destination you would like to travel to. For us we will hopefully be trading homes for several weeks with a family in Ireland; they will use our house/car and we theirs. Not only is one of the easiest ways to drastically reduce the cost of an extended vacation, but more importantly it gives you the opportunity to experience a new land from a place of comfort. Rather than living out of our suitcases for 2 or 3 weeks, we should be able to enjoy a slice of somewhat normal life just with different surroundings/people.

HouseSwap Photo
Photo we posted on our home swap page

Also, we are also really looking forward to getting to know a new family from Ireland who we can hopefully stay close with for a while. Meeting new people and making friends is one of the great things that you can totally miss out on when traveling conventionally as a tourist.

We are going through a web-based HomeSwapping Site with thousand of homes up for swap each year all over the world. Its actually pretty cool to see whats available in some pretty exotic places, but for this year we have or sights set on Ireland. So this Saturday I went out and took some pictures of the house and yard, and typed up a description of our Home/Area/Family, and posted them to the home swap site. You can view our listing here if you are interested.

HouseSwap Photo
Nice looking place eh!

So now, we can either just leave it and pray about it, hoping someone will seek us out, or we can go and try and find someone who we want to swap with and be proactive about doing so. We will probably do a little of both in the end and leave it in the Lords hands...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games 2008: Debriefing Part 1

Well we had an awesome time at this years GMHG's and unanimously decided that it needs to become an annual family tradition. Of course next year at this point we should will be enjoying the real thing in Scotland itself, however when we are in the states its already penciled in on the schedule.

We took tons of pictures and have even more stories, so we've split it all up into two posts. In this one we will cover the Traveling, Camping, and Food, and the Games, Music, and Final Thoughts in part 2. And as always theres more photos than we could fit here over at Flickr.


The travel time was listed on Google as almost 9 hours which would have turned out to be pretty accurate...had we not spend almost an hour turning circles in the pouring rain about 20 minutes from our destination : )

The Mercedes performed superbly (as I hoped), the turbocharged Diesel thrusted us up any incline that the BlueRidge Parkway could throw at it, and we found ourselves cruising by numerous other vehicles struggling to make it to the top...all this while resting firmly at 3K RPM!

James had the privilege of getting the best view in the house (which also cost him his lunch through the mountains : ). He also got to share in the pain that is filling up a whole tank with $70 worth of Diesel.

Loaded up

Claire did reeeeealy well for being 3 weeks old, heck she slept most of the ride, but even she has her limits after 6+ hours!

Get me out of here!

It worked out really well that Leah was nice enough to let James and Eden sleep with her in the big bed when we stayed in the hotel on the way down.


The Diesel in the south was definitely cheaper, we got it for $4.64 at this one little place.

Cheaper Diesel down south

And of course we passed by Max Meadows...why does that sound so familiar?

Max Meadows


Its impossible to describe the atmosphere present in the camping areas at the games, so I wont even try. Suffice it to say, family friendly does not even come close to describing how great an environment it was.

We got there late (in the scheme of things) by arriving on Thursday as many people camp out the entire week before the games, so we were wondering what kind of spot we would get. Turns out God had hand-picked our spot for us beforehand :) We had room for both of our tents (stuff tent and living tent) and had a great tree for shade and hanging the flag. Plus we were near the parking lot where our car was for an easy exit if need be.

Tent City 2

We set up our smaller 4Man tent as the StuffTent where we kept all our unused junk, food storage, and wet clothes instead of keeping them in the tent we were sleeping in. Heres Laurens great job of organizing :)


I mentioned that the spot we wound up with was perfect because of placement and whatnot, however a large part of the reason it was so great was because of the family next door. As soon as we started unloading the stuff, they came over and asked if they could help set up the tent (which was great in the rain!). We then found out that they had 6 year old girl, and a 4 year old boy would be great playmates for Eden and James all weekend. We hung out together as families (not as much as we would have liked in retrospect), and our time with them remains one of the highlights of the trip!

The Baileys

Here are the kids just before saying goodbye.

Kids hanging out

The Food

I'm not really sure why I have a separate section on the food, as most of what we ate was typical camping food; burgers, hot dogs, and sundry canned food. Maybe I'm just hungry and like looking at the pictures again :)

We did however have one day of eating some Scottish/English food. Eden and James got the Fish and Chips (old standby), Lauren had a Bridie (basically meat in pastry), and of course I had to have some Haggis. The cool thing was that the vendor was called "Cameron Foods", and was run by members of the Cameron Clan...our clan! (sadly no discount)


We also enjoyed some other not-so-scottish food while listening to the Celtic Jam, namely Sweet Potato Fries (with brown sugar) and a Bloomin Onion (mmmm).

Sweet Potato Chips

Bloomin Onion

Monday, July 7, 2008

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games 2008: Getting There

I wanted to write more here, but we are headed out the door as I type this. Here is our route for the trip down and back. We are staying far west NC in the mountains (close to TN) and are taking a small detour through the Blue Ridge Pky hoping for some great views!

View the whole map

Here are some pics of the Tank Wagon all loaded down for the Journey with about 10 tons of stuff on top, hopefully its still on there when we get back!




Saturday, July 5, 2008

Grandfather Mountain Highland Games 2008: What is it?

Well, we are now literally knee-deep in the planning and packing stage for our big family trip down to NC for the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (website) so I am running out of time to mention it here on the site. Touted as one of the largest and oldest Highland Games/Celtic Festivals in the states, we are really excited about this trip that we have been planning since this time last year. Plus, and festival represented by this guy has to be awesome! : )

GMHG Program Cover
More Program Covers

Highland Games, in case you aren't familiar with the term, are celebrations of Scottish heritage that include (as the focus) traditional Scottish Competitions, Scottish Food, Music, and activities. They are basically a place to celebrate all things Scottish. You can also take a look at my post from the 2006 Games in Richmond VA for an idea of what the actual games look like.

One of the coolest things about GMHG is the large list of kids events offered. They have everything from highland wrestling clinics (James the Destroyer) to bare-foot relay races. Part of our MO as a family is to do most things together, and I am really glad this wont be a weekend where the kids are basically drug around everywhere.


Here are some of the events planned:

- Sheep Herding
- Torchlight Opening Ceremony
- Sheep Herding
- Highland Dancing Championship
- Celtic Music Jam Concert tracing the evolution of Celtic Music from the ancient to the contemporary
- Children's Highland Wrestling Competition
- More Sheep Herding
- Massed Bands Bagpipe Performance
- Scottish Worship Service
- Children's Border Collie Demonstration
- Sheep Herding
- Scottish Fiddling Competition

Stay tuned for Part #2: "Getting There" where I'll post some details about the prep and the journey.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Fathers Day 2008

I know its late, but these pictures still deserve to be put up :) We had a great time at Mom-Moms with a picnic and then gifts.

Take a look at these shots of James rockin it out with the Frisbee. At first Mom didn't believe me when I told her that he was a killer at throwing and catching it...heres the proof!

Click on the photo to see the next one in the set!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Project 1987 Mercedes 300TDT - Part 2: Where do we stand?

One of the first things that needed to be done, was to figure out what condition the vehicle was truly in, and what kind of maintenance had been carried out on it by the previous owners. And while I've researched this car pretty heavily, and spent a lot of time reading on the forums to know what to look for, there is really nothing better than having someone take a look at it who has worked on these cars their whole professional life.

Turns out there is an independent Merc mechanic in Easton that fits the bill...lucky me. I took the car in to have it looked over and assessed (something that really should have been done before I purchased it). Turns out that God was definitely taking care of me on this transaction... not that I'm not really surprised by that! Who was pretty surprised was my mechanic regarding the condition of the car. He kept saying while he was looking it over "Now typically this part is worn out by now......oh, it looks like it was recently replaced with a factory part" or "This is a place notorious for leaks........Wow, I've never seen one that didn't have oil there!". Needless to say I was pretty happy when after our first meeting he tells me that I've got the nicest one of this model he's ever seen

Claires Birth-1

At 198K miles its important to stay on top of routine maintenance. Usually you would start by by checking the service records for things like fluid changes, and scheduled maintenance to see what was needed. However none of those records came with the vehicle, so we had to establish a new baseline. Essentially we had to change all the fluids and do some proper preventative maintenance and document it.

1. Oil Change/Oil Filter
2. Automatic Transmission Fluid change/ATF Filter change (pan off)
3. Rear Differential Fluid change
4. Coolant change/system flush
5. Brake Fluid change/brake system flush
6. Power Steering Fluid change/Power Steering Filter
7. Both Fuel Filters including pre-filter
8. Timing belt inspection/cleaning

Changing the Oil Filter (canister type)

Draining the old oil (filter must come off first to open system)

Removing old Power Steering filter

New Power Steering Filter labeled and in place

Searching for the drain-plug on the Transmission

Drainging the Transmission Fluid

The Transmission pan removed showing the Filter assembly prior to replacement

Draining the rear differential

View from atop the lift while bleeding the breaklines

My mechanic also lets out some floor space to a guy who races vintage imports


Now that I have a pretty good feel for where we are I can start on some of the projecty stuff that I've got in the works; namely the cruise control, and the window/door projects. Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Claires Birth: Redux

The first post we had for Claires birth was sparse to say the least. We snapped a ton of photos in our 2.5 days in the hospital, and have a bunch that are worth sharing. Here is a slideshow of some of the better shots we captured.

As a reminder you can click on the image itself to go to the next one in the list, or you can hover your mouse at the bottom of the image to get a menu where you can chose an individual photo.

Here is a brief rundown of Mondays Events:

6:00a: Lauren wakes up from having contractions off and on all night long.
8:00a: Eli wakes up :)
10:00a: Lauren is pretty convinced that these are not false labour due to the severity of them, so we decide to go into Easton and do some shopping and chores to stall and get a bit further into labour.
11:30a: As we are walking out of Target Lauren turns and says (in the middle of a contraction) "I think we need to drop the kids off now"
11:31a: We drop the kids off :)
12:00p: We get to the hospital to get checked and Lauren is now at 6cm and 60% effacement.
12:45p: They give us a room and take care of Laurens IV that she needed.
1:30p: Karen; the resident Labour Therapist comes in to help Lauren with the labour by giving her massages, accupressure, technique on the birthing ball, and general encouragement. She was pretty awesome and a great help.
2:45p: The doctor comes in and checks Lauren; now at 8cm and 80% effaced. She offers to break the water and once she does the contractions kick up.
3:00p: Lauren starts to feel the need to push and the doctor say "Go for it"
3:07p: We've got a kid!

All in all things went really smoothly, and relatively quickly. No doubt God really blessed us throughout this labour and birth, payment for having James? ;) Were really glad that it went down the way it did, and are now back home just getting settled into family life with 3 kids!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Project 1987 Mercedes 300TDT - Part 1: Introduction

Back in March we started looking for a new car for Lauren. The Element while a great family vehicle only had 2 seats in the back, and figuring that Claire wouldn't want to ride on the roof, we had to get something else.

Growing up we had a 1971 Mercedes 300D which we all loved, and recently I've been reading about Mercedes Diesel Wagons with some interest. Turns out the the 1987 300TDT Wagon is a pretty rare breed with several things unique to that year; an extremely overbuilt inline 6 cylinder turbo-charged diesel being one of them. These cars are said to routinely get 500K plus when maintained decently, so I set out to see if I could find one.

There were only ~3000 or so of them in the states back in 1987 and due to rust and accidents, likely far fewer in working condition currently. These numbers plus the fact that this specific model has become quite a hot commodity recently due to the ease of SVO and WVO conversions had me wondering if I would find one worth buying locally.

Good old showed that there was actually one for sale in VA, I went and looked at it, and as soon as I gave it a onece-over, I could tell this one was a gem. The previous owner had taken great care of it as well as putting about $2K worth of repairs/maintenance into it within the last year including the rear hydraulic system and the sunroof (can be a real pain!).




I've got some plans for this car both big and small, however the first project was to get it up to snuff for Laurens daily driver/grocery getter. This involved getting the maintenance schedule up to a proper baseline (I'll go over that more in Part 2), and some various cush and comfort projects.

Heres the To-Do list for both big and small in the order I'll likely tackle them. If all goes according to plan I'll be posting these as they are undertaken and actually be able to finish the list with some money in my pocket!

1. Assessment and setting a maintenance baseline - Done (look for Part 2 soon)
2. Cruise Control - Likely a DIY project
3. New stereo.
4. AC Upgrade and Recharge
5. Timing Chain and Vacuum Pump
6. Window tint/Doors apart projects (speakers, wiring, soundproofing...)
7. WVO Conversion (dual tank pre-warming)

"When I Get To Them" projects:
1. Converting to auto switches for all windows and sunroof.
2. Replace all aging vacuum parts including dash vent actuators.
3. While the dash is off, tackle various other projects that require it.
4. Headlamp wipers
5. Better batter/"built-in" inverter with accessory outlet.

All indications point to this car being around when Claire is learning to drive, so I've got a great solid foundation in this vehicle to put some real effort into, and I intend to do so. Stay tuned for future posts about the progress I'm making.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shes Here!

Claire Aryn Taylor was born at 3:07p on Monday June 16th. She was 7lbs 13oz, and came in at 20.5 inches long/tall (however they measure that :)

Good job to everyone who picked Aryn in the poll...and shame on you whoever wanted our daughters name to be Clarinette (just kidding :) Well have more on the name choice and meanings up soon.

Super cute and very hungry, she is now spending most of her time munching. We've got tons of pictures and more info on the way, and will throw it up when we get home (laptop posting is a pain!) For now, here she is.




Note: We now have these posted on Flickr in high-res, so if you want you can get prints of them directly from Flickr. Simply click on a photo and you will be taken to the right page on Flickr.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Edens Message

Here is a message from Eden to the entire viewing audience (since she has now learned that she is famous!). The pictures were picked by her, in the video she did all her own stunts, and picked her favorite song for the sound track. The message is transcribed from her own words.

So without further ado;

Hi everybody, I love the song Saily Away, it was my favorite song. We used to all ride in the 4Runner and I used to listen to it and I really like it.

Listen to this video and watch it, you will see what I really like about this part. I like the part where I was holding the iPod, it doesn't really work but I was holding it.

This day of my video is a special day, Jamesy has one too. Send me back a message and say "Hello Eden".


Kids Pics 08-3

Kids Pics 08-4

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quick Tutorial: Subscribing to New Posts

Rather than having to check back in every so often to see if something new has been posted (at least once an hour I'm sure : ) , we can set it up so that you are automatically emailed once something new is posted.

If you want to do this, then you can email me at pitpawten at gmail dot com or let Mom know and she will pass it along.

Once I add your address, you will get an email every time something new is posted.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

6 Years In 4 Minutes

UPDATE: We've got the images used in this video posted as a set on Flickr if you wanted to see any of them individually. You can find them here.

Something I've been wanting to do for a while is put together some sequential pictures of the kids over the years into a small video. The quality isn't exactly world class, but I think it gets the point across:

WERE LOSING OUR GIRL! Just kidding :)

She is becoming quite the little lady now-a-days though. Sorting and picking through the photos to use was quite an experience in itself!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Renovating The Nursery

When Dad built this house, he did it right. That includes the location of the nursery; Off to the side of the MBR yet accessible through a door. Although well-placed, it was in no condition to hold a baby after years of not being used. So we had a list of things to do to get it up to snuff.

1. Remove old wallpaper (thanks Mom! :)
2. Prep all surfaces for paint (remove all switches, lights, fill/sand...)
3. Paint the ceiling and walls (re-coat of white for ceiling and Aqua for walls)
4. Fill the nailholes and gaps in trim and paint it.
5. Position all the furniture as it will be used.

It took the better part of the weekend to get it all done, but its pretty much ready. The only thing really still needed is to put the door in the jam (I need to modify it to swing the other direction first) and replace the carpet at some point.

The last couple of images are of the booty we got at Laurens baby shower. Thanks everyone!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Waiting Game


Alright, so we spent all day yesterday playing the frustrating game of trying to figure out if Lauren was in real labour or not.

She wasn't.

We had gotten up in the middle of the night, packed and were tracking contractions and whatnot (see below), I had taken the day off work, we had dropped the kids off at friends, went to the hospital, and in the end all we got was a good workout (probably walked 10 miles) and a day together.

Normally that would be good enough for a Thursday, but we sure were hoping for a baby too! Well, were just taking it as it comes and enjoying the time we have (thanks Mom for the encouragement).

8:00 AM
Well for the past 3 hours the contractions subsided and allowed Lauren to get some sleep. As of now, they are pretty sporadic again ranging everywhere from 15seconds @ 17mins to 1min @ 2.5 mins.

Who knows. It would suck to go through 12 hours of false labour, but stranger things have happened. Lauren is doing her best not to get discouraged.

5:00 AM
We've completed packing and are going to try and get some more sleep. Lauren is doing well (always a trooper) and is now semi-snoring. Im going to try to do the same for a bit.

Contractions: 30 seconds @ 8 mins. Regularly for over an hour.

3:30 AM
We are both up and moving about due to Lauren not being able to sleep well. Were gonna finish packing and see what she feels like in a bit. Hope we dont have to take the kids somewhere in the middle of the night!

10:00 PM
Lauren was feeling nauseous all through dinner and having some mild contractions. Weve just completed most of the packing and have it in bags lying around for when we have to leave.

Contractions: 10-12 seconds @ 10 mins. Sporadic.

Quick Tutorial: Viewing Slideshows

As you may have noticed in from the last post, we've now got a cool new way to show photos: Slideshow. It's pretty straight forward to use, however I thought I'd take a minute and explain it to avoid any confusion.

1. Clicking on the photo itself will automatically bring up the next photo in the set.
2. Hovering your mouse over the light bar at the bottom of the photo, will bring up a menu showing all the photos. You can go directly to any of them by clicking on them.
3. In that same menu there are some other options such as zooming in (if the given photo supports it) and going directly to the photo on Flickr (useful if you want to download a hi-res or get a print).

Heres a sample show to play around with, using some pictures of our first cat Peach.

Hopefully this will begin to reduce the load time of the page a bit by removing the number of photos that have to load by default, while still allowing you to see all the photos we uploaded. If you run into any trouble with it, leave a comment and I'll get back to ya!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

National Zoo in Washington DC

Back in March, we gathered up the family and headed out towards DC. We all got on the Subway (which is always fun) and headed into the heart of DC and got off at the National Zoo. It was pretty cool cause it was a Tuesday or something and there were very few people walking around.

Sadly the big-cats were a no show, and the Giraffes were all snoozing. Nonetheless we got to see some great animals including the Giant Pandas.

On the way back to the subway (an 8 block walk) the clouds opened up and downpoured on who were not wearing ANY kind of rain who proceeded to get absolutely who loved it :)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Poll: Picking a middle name for Claire - UPDATED

UPDATE - 06.03.2008

It is finished...well sort of. We've decided on a middle name for Claire. Although its one of the ones on the list we're not going to spill the beans just yet.

So if you haven't yet, get your vote in before its public : )

Poll Results

Well, we've settled on Claire Taylor for our daughters name, however we still cant nail down the middle name.

We've gone back and forth on several choices and have narrowed it down to a couple (2 or 3) serious choices.

Vote on which one you like best from these choices (and one silly one) using the poll to the right. Not that we're gonna pick based on a poll or anything, but just thought it would be cool to have you share in the agony of picking see what you like!

Memorial Day 2008

On Memorial Day we headed over to the Wests' house for a cookout and pool party. There were like 6 or 7 families there representing about 25 kids!

Their place is pretty awesome with a large yard for the kids to run in, tree swings, a pond, a pool and so on.

Wheres my sunglasses?

Snorkle Time

Frog Farming

Hidin in the shade

Later that evening Lauren and I went out to the new Chilis in Easton with one of our $50 GiftCards we had from cashing in some of our Credit Card points. The food was really good, but I'm always surprised how quick $50 goes! :(


Lauren took Eden and James to the playground in Easton and let take charge of the place for a while and got these great shots.


All Smiles

Head on over to Flickr to check out the rest of the pics from this weekend.