Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Bathrooms(s) Renovation - The conclusion

This conclusion coincides with the last major renovation on my project house. Three years and three months worth. It's hard to believe I now live in a completely modern and functional house with a sound roof, all the ceilings in tact, no water gushing from the walls, new and functioning appliances, and beautiful floors. I had none of those things when I bought this wreck of a house.

As I mentioned before I salvaged the cultured marble tops. They have a nice vintage look and cleaned up well. They also saved me a lot of money. My final retirement sick time/vacation payout was around $20,000 and every bit of it is in these two bathrooms.


I had CL Kitchens perform the same magic they did in my kitchen and they did not disappoint. I like a simple pattern. Even so these look elegant in my bathroom and are lightyears ahead of the mess I tore out two months ago. As nice as these look, the customer service and installation staff is even better. It was quite stressful to spend this kind of money. Installation was quick and flawless and really eased my anxiety.


Floors Direct was much the same story. I first had the old floors chipped up then had the new tile set diagonally. With two bathrooms and a walk in closet there was a thousand cuts to perform but it all came together without a hickup. The attention they paid to being neat as possible was astounding. But folks - tile work in an occupied house is dirty and messy.


I still have the floor moulding and mirrors to do. Not to mention some painting touchups. That will give me something to do next year. I lived with barely functioning bathrooms for over 3 years. Some of that time I could not even use them. Water was coming out of valves in the wrong direction and had to be temporarily patched. Chunks of tile fell off the wall. Toilets broke. I now have a 100% functional and paid off house to start my retirement with. My next goal is figuring out how to travel on a budget.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Bathroom(s) Renovation - Finally the Tubs Arrived

It was a big decision to go with Bathcrest or rip out a tub and walls and go the old fashioned tile route. The price difference was marginal. The deciding factor was the amount of construction time and the finished look. These photos don't do it justice but shooting in a bathroom is tough. Installation time was two very full days for two bathrooms. Just as advertized. The sales person promised installation before Thanksgiving but they missed that by a day... as it was Thanksgiving and all.


I'm sure they promised that time frame to a lot of people all of whom were having heart attacks about getting it done. I'm not that impatient. I would rather best effort then rushed installation. Best effort is exactly what I got. The fit on both bathrooms is perfect. The trim work is precise. Caulking (my fatal flaw) is flawless. The shower doors are very heavy glass and glide, not slide. I paid a little extra for the corner shelf. It blends in nicely.


Both units include a floor, walls, ceiling, and all the plumbing. My original plumbing was on the bare verge of working and the master shower was shedding tile. This upgrade is phenomenal. If you take a quick look or even a second look, it looks like tile. You really have to push on the walls to notice they give a bit in spots. I've been to hundreds of hotels in my life and you can always tell a refit in the floor pan. Both the shower and the tub are rock solid. As good as the original. Better actually as they are non slip.


You can get an idea of the process from the last photo. I have all sorts of guarantees in case it leaks or peels off or something. I'm sure I won't be needing them. I saw no big list of complaints about that happening. If strong smelling glue is an indication of how long it sticks, it's never coming off.


I would just like to mention I have been contemplating this for years. I've spoken to their sales people at various fairs and festivals. Researched the company. Read reviews. My experience with the company has been nothing but pleasant.  When I finally brought an estimator into my home, I was very pleased. No hard sales pitch. I got the price, and a little discount to do both at the same time. Enough to make me pull the trigger. They could see I researched heavily and knew exactly what options I wanted so there was no pressure. The scheduler could not have been more pleasant and apologetic they were going to move me to the day after Thanksgiving holiday. The installer worked two long days non stop. I did most of the prep work. It took me the full two months I waited on this order. I'm good but I would not want to work for this guy. I would not last a week.

I now have a garage full of tile, cabinets, toilets, and two counters sitting in my bedrooms. Still a lot to do but the most expensive pieces are in and I am as pleased as I could be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Blowing Rocks Preserve - At High Tide This Time

It is fairly easy to check the tides. I have an ap on my phone in fact. But it is not always convenient to visit certain places at the exact right time. Now that I live relatively "around the corner" at 30 minutes away, and have completely free days,,,,, I have zero excuses to do this right.


Blowing Rocks Preserve is a somewhat unique bit of Florida beach. Solid limestone rather than endless sand that comprises most of the Florida beaches. For the first time I've captured the waves actually blowing out of the holes that have been drilled into the hard rock over the last hundred thousand years. There is even a low whistling sound as the air is pushed out ahead of the waves.


It's hard to tell from the photos but this was a very breezy and rainy day. I was forced to return to the car more than once because of showers.


Even though the weather was not the best for my camera, it was perfect for this bit of beach. The surf was crashing rhythmically and spectacularly. Huge sprays of water misting across the beach. As the tide reached its high point, I was forced to head a bit inland. That's where I found this little guy. It's actually the biggest hermit crab I've ever seen.


I like the photo below as it was storming right before I took it. You can see the angry clouds in the video below. I was about to leave but decided to wait out a downpour in the car. Moments later blue skies and 25 pelicans all in formation coasting at high speed down the beach.


[click here] for the rest of my photos. Now that I have finally caught this spectacle with my camera, I think I will no longer be a stranger. There are not many completely empty beaches in Florida and on all my visits, this one has seldom had more than a few visitor. Next time I just want to sit on the rocks and let the water wash over me. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jupiter Lighthouse Revisited

The last time I visited the Jupiter Lighthouse to take photos was in 2012. I brought along my only quality camera, the Nikon D70 and the 18-70 mm lens that came with it.

[click here] to see that set. Now that I have all the time in the world I decided to go back with a newer camera and lens and try again.


My Nikon D3100 with the Tamron 18-270 mm lens has been my go to camera for fairs and festivals. To find the complete set from this weeks shoot, [click here]. Honestly I don't know if I did any better than last time. I brought along a big flash which I struggled with right in the beginning so I went to the pop up. Also you have to go along with the tour so there is a limited amount of time to get a shot with no people in it. That and my never ending struggle with vertigo and fully open staircase lead me to be more cautious about tumbling down the stairs than setting a proper shot.


I did time my visit perfectly to see the rainbow effect from the Fresnel lens cascading down the staircase but clouds were continuously shutting it off to tease me. You can get a small sense of this amazing effect from the photo below. Standing where I was in the moment the clouds peeled fully back, this rainbow traveled all the way to the ground floor. I managed to catch the fading glimmer as the group behind me began heading down and the clouds shut it off for the full descent.


I had some goals for this visit. The staircase, the lenses, and the rainbow. Time was certainly a limiting factor but I did capture what I set out to and a bit more. I'm still waiting for the "must print and hang on the wall" shot. I do have another camera so maybe one day.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Walt Disney World - My Personal Happy Place

I used to keep track of my visits to Walt Disney World but I stopped counting at 150 days at the parks. I'm sure I'm over the 200 mark by now. My first visit was 1976 and a drive all the way down from Philadelphia. It's a little easier to get to since the move to Fort Lauderdale in 1978.

Disney's Magic Kingdom - Cinderella's Castle
That said, it's been a long time since I've had an annual pass. Until a few months ago that is. I took a few years off as life got in the way a bit and there was way too much of the rest of the world to see.

In the last two months I've made 4 solo trips. Mostly to take it all in at my own speed and take the kind of photos I can't enjoy trudging around in a group. I also like to ride all the thrill rides and I don't know hardly anyone who can bounce from one to the next as fast as I can.

One of the unexpected things was the flood of memories, the excitement of new rides, sights, sounds, food, and attractions, and missing the rides of the past. I suppose traveling alone really brought out a deeper experience than just asking all day long "What do you want to do next"?

Disney's Hollywood Studios - Tower of Terror
One of my best memories was riding Tower of Terror and Rocking Rollercoaster 10 times each in one day. That actually consumed an entire trip. Wait times are seldom in the 5 minute range on the most popular rides. If you go early enough you can get several rides in as I did last week before the lines grow. Of course these days I need to sit a bit right after.

I also pick notoriously slow days at the park. Never weekends or holidays. I'm ok with the crowds but not wait times over an hour.

A lot of my reminiscing involved my daughter.  I brought her so many times (starting at 6 months old) that by high school she wanted to go anywhere but. And we did exactly that.

When EPCOT opened, the family and I were there the first month.  I remember how fascinated I was by virtually visiting countries around the world knowing full well my family would never get to see any of them. Collectively we have visited Canada, Norway, England, France, China, Japan, and several not even on the list. I have no doubt if not for this introduction, we would have not visited a single one.

As a stockholder, one of the perks was to book a new hotel when it opened for $99.00 a night. The Dolphin, Swan, Coronado Springs, Beach Club, Port Orleans, and Caribbean Beach. I missed the Grand Floridian and that little perk has long ago expired. A room in those hotels is significantly higher than a hundred bucks these days. On my new retirement salary,,,,,, It's pretty much All Sports or All Movies for me but a Disney hotel beats anything outside. There is a customer service level second to none even in the lesser priced lodging.

Disney's Animal Kingdom - Tree of Life
If you have been following my blog you know I have been adding to my experience with special attractions like Cirque Du Soleil and the giant helium balloon at Disney Springs or the very pricey Wild Africa Trek at Animal Kingdom. Pricey but worth it as are most things at Disney. I plan at the end of my season pass to do the Backstage Magic Tour. An all day back stage pass to the 4 parks and a long time dream of mine.

So why do I keep coming back. I have traveled extensively and most places I've only tread once or a few times at most. I've never really had an answer to that question. I suppose it's part of the magic.

Disney's EPCOT - Spaceship Earth

Since these 4 visits were mostly to grab a few photos, click on the park to view them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Stuart Air Show - 2015


I should rename this post to "I Flew in a Huey"!! That's pretty much how I've started every conversation this week. Sure I managed to take some of the best air show photos I have to date but for a mere $75.00 I took and unbelievably amazing ride.


The Stuart Air Show has had my attention the last 3 years. The first time I went I was very impressed. I even took a $40.00 helicopter ride at the end of the day. The show has only grown each passing year. For my photos from the show [click here]

But let's get back to my helicopter ride this year.


The Army Aviation Heritage Foundation provided the flight. I did not get a chance to do this last year so I was first in line this year. Well 11th actually. They take ten riders at a time and I was on the second trip. You can see from the photo I took of the group ahead of us, there is not a lot between the seat and the ground in the door gunners position. Just a little old vintage seat belt.


I was using a 500 MM lens and it was sticking out of the door enough to be affected by the down wash. I guess I was more interested in getting the shot than worrying about the seeing the ground in a quick hurry.


Getting that birds eye view was a dream come true but most of my photos were from the ground. When you think air show you typically think way up in the air above your head. At this show, you can walk right up to planes and pilots on the ground that will later be performing overhead, battle re-enactments and weapons demonstrations of vintage fire power.  Not all the action is a mile in the sky Some is pretty close and very loud.


As much as I enjoy the ground show.... "I Flew in a HUEY"!!!!!!!! I had to throw a little music on the video as the rotors were loud as hell but damn - it does not get better than this.

Ok.... well maybe next year it does.....


Friday, October 30, 2015

Boynton Beach Pirate Fest - 2015


DSC_9172 They grow up so fast these days. Not the people in my photos but the events. This is the 4th annual Boynton Beach Haunted Pirate Fest and Mermaid Splash.  An event that has quickly grown to be as big as it's name.

This was my third year of attending. It was not looking good for my schedule this year and really, how many annual events can one person attend. Well considering I took about 500 photos and most of them that were not crowd scenes and vendors were people I know. So I guess, yeah - a lot of people enjoy an annual event.

Speaking of crowd scenes, the first year I went it was tough to get a group shot. This year, it was hard to walk at the end of the day. I heard 70,000 in attendance. I didn't count personally but that seems like a fair estimate. The top photo was taken dead center of the event. There were an equal number of people behind me.

DSC_8937Throw in a beautiful South Florida weekend, exceptional entertainment, vendors, and food. Make it one of the most kid friendly events I attend each year and really, how can you miss.

I was pretty sure I was going to miss it this year but I made one day very last minute.... from before it opened officially till just about close. It is fair to say I missed half the shows. Very disappointing that I could not go both days. I did make a new friend - The fairy right there. It's great to catch up with old friends and make future old friends at the same time. They all fill my camera and my life with color.

If you want to relive the event or see what you missed, I have another 200 photos. Just [click here].  If you sat home this beautiful weekend, Why? There was a time not too long ago that events like this were struggling. Now they are happening around the calendar and overflowing their capacity. I'm hoping this event goes two weekends next year - I don't want to miss a thing.




Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bathrooms(s) Renovation - One Month of Destruction.

I knew exactly what I was getting into with this project. Both financially and life disruption wise. It's been 30 days since I signed all the contracts and just a few days ago I finished destroying things. My entire house is covered in a thin layer of dust but I can finally see a little progress.

DSCN0149 DSCN0168
DSCN0157 DSCN0156

I had a ceiling vent fan to replace which required crawling through the attic. All 6' 4" of me. Broken drywall from old leaks. The removal of the soffit over the master shower. That one foot makes a huge difference but required moving the light, electric, and water lines. Had to call in a specialist but totally worth it. That 6' 4" thing again. Tearing the mirrors off the wall damaged the drywall quite a bit so there was a lot of patch and sanding.

I have worked on this project every day I have been here but I've also been out of town a few times. I have one shower and one toilet still working but I've had all the tile stripped from the floor. I think if I had someone living with me there would be a sizable conflict brewing.

Here's the kicker - I may still be 2-3 weeks from delivery on the units from Bath Crest. Until that work is done, the tile stays at the tile store, the cabinets sit in boxes in the garage, and the counter tops remain as a trip hazard in the bedrooms. I still have woodwork to paint but I am actually ready right now for the install.



I was most pleased to hang the lighting I bought over a year ago. Pretty much how long I've waited for all the stars to align to start this project. I may be a bit ahead on the parts I was capable of doing but I had no real clue how long it would take. I've worked in computers for the last 35 years. House renovations has always been a fun hobby but this time I have no help.


The next update may be a little while but I'm expecting great things. The rest of this project for me is just phone calls and check writing. I can take pride in the fact that I have now touched every square inch of this house in some way. This 3 year long rehab is weeks from ending. I'm looking forward to just kicking back with no to do list for a little while.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Margaritaville Hollywood - Now open

I would say open for business but it's like a party inside. A gigantic beach party. I've been waiting a long time for a resort such as this to open on Hollywood beach. About 37 years more or less. I just noticed this is my 100th post. What better way to celebrate than this grand opening.


When I first moved to Hollywood way back when, the beach was beautiful, the Broadwalk wide and busy with tourists. The shops and motels were right out of the 50's and 60's and would have been no loss if swept out to sea.


I didn't actually book a room. A bit pricy, but that's not to say I won't in the future. This was a soft opening but even so it was packed with people checking in and at the pool. I'm holding out till all the restaurants are open.


I did manage a meal at the Landshark. A better view can just not be had on Hollywood Beach simply by strolling up and asking for a table. Live bands at the bandshell and the crash of the surf make this the best seat in the house. Any of the seats. They all have an unbeatable view.


If you don't have time for the full meal experience, there is a very convenient bar right on the beach. This is the noon crowd. Good luck getting a stool if you wait much longer than this.  There is no doubt this place it going to put Hollywood Beach on the map. It's a shame I don't live here anymore or I would be a regular. I will certainly visit again when I come back.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

High Tide in Stuart

Not just any high tide but the Super Moon King Tide. I know... I'm a little late with this post. I have a very busy life. I took a few minutes to document the highest tide there is likely to be on a clear day in Stuart. It was not much of a concern. I'm a firm believer in global warming. In the town I left recently, there was water spilling over the boat ramps and into the street on this day. I was there 35 years and water always rises to an annoying, street flooding point each spring and fall but this year it was just a bit bigger.


As I walked around my new town, it was pretty obvious it's going to take a whole lot more of the ice caps to melt before these city streets are swamped. It was still interesting to watch the river flow backwards. I'm sure it happens twice a day but since it rarely touched the bottom of the pedestrian walkway under the Roosevelt Bridge, it's not noticeable. On this day it sounded like a waterfall as water jammed up against the concrete.


I'm also working on my artistic shots. I've shot a lot of photos of this area but I'm finally starting to see a more interesting result. Interesting enough to print and sell??? I suppose not but that is one of the goals.



So far among my friends, the shot above is the winner by a landslide. It is the one I was going after as it can not be reproduced until the tide reaches this height in the spring. The photo below is from a while ago. Normally the grass is not covered in salt water.


I took a quick video as well so you can hear the rush of water heading up river. I really want to go back again in a few weeks at exactly high tide and see if I notice this time. I suspect that without all the sloshing noise I never would have seen a few leaves and bubbles heading upstream.