Friday, December 2, 2016

The Big Slowdown

The holidays are upon us and like every year they seem to come out of nowhere. Chalk it up to a busy life, or something like that, but I honestly never see the holidays coming and suddenly it's time to get a tree. Maybe it's due in part to the weather, which has been uncharacteristically mild, with little in the way of snow.

Whatever be the case, one thing that does get my attention is that employment dwindles, and in some cases, comes to a halt. Work at the Inn has pretty much non-existent because nobody wants to get married in dreary November weather, though I personally like the moody ambiance. Then again, I also like east coast beaches in the winter. The holidays also mean that school is out so poster boy work is on break, as well.

There are two ways to look at this situation. On the one hand, it's nice to get a break, because in addition to domestic duties, which can be extensive when you're training to be a real man, the kids have school and various activities that require transportation, not to mention parental participation. Plus, it's nice to be able to all have supper together on a regular basis, which is something we really work hard on maintaining and seems to be lacking in the modern family.

On the other hand, it's hard not making the fat paycheck that helps us support our fabulous lifestyles, especially with the holidays et al. What this means is that we just have to live a little more sensibly, not that we don't already do this, but also maybe I need to get my fabulous freelance career off the ground. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Juliet Kay for the pic.

Photo Op

We have an older digital camera that we use for everyday usage, not to mention pics when we travel. It's about 5 years old, which in new technology means that it's beyond ancient, and truth be told, even I acknowledge that we could use an upgrade. The camera uses 4 AA batteries, so for a small point and shoot, it's on the bigger side. This makes it a little less convenient when we are traveling or out and about, mainly because it doesn't sit well in my pocket. When we travel I try to keep it there and if I'm wearing shorts, they inevitably get pulled down. If I'm wearing jeans, forget about it.

Now I know I'm whining about first world problems and there are bigger issues that deserve my attention in this world, so I didn't put too much time or resources into it. In fact, I didn't put any, figuring I could just use our old camera and deal with it. For all intents and purposes, it still works, though I've been led to believe that digital cameras have a finite lifetime.

When we were heading off to a trip last spring we were debating whether or not to upgrade our camera but as usual, with the overload of information, didn't know where to begin. Since mom is a photographer she consulted with one of her associates and he not only recommended a few models, but offered to lend us one of his "spares." He's a pro so he has multiple cameras, and the one he lent us was a nice. It fit nicely in my pocket, took awesome pics, and charged like a smartphone or laptop - you simply plugged the thing directly into the outlet, alleviating the need to replace batteries. This is the modern way to go if you don't have a smartphone, which you may have guessed we don't have.

Well if you can believe this, after our trip he mentioned that we could simply keep the camera, he never uses it. I wasn't sure how to respond, but he insisted, and now we have the camera we (or at least I) was hoping for. I feel sort of guilty because it's not a small gift, but am also grateful because it was a generous gesture.

I guess in the end I should stop over-analyzing it and go out and take some pictures. What a great idea.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to peterwoelwer for the pic.

Fat Logs

Splitting wood can be a chore, though I enjoy it a lot. There are, however, limitations in my ability to split certain blocks of wood, especially when I'm dealing with hard maple or really knotty logs. I can tell just by looking at it that it's going to be difficult, and sure enough, when that maul blade hits the surface, it bounces off like it was rubber. It's really amazing how tough wood can be, going along the grain, no less. This is even more impressive when you've somehow managed to split the block in half and you still can't split it any further - the first split often compromises the grains so every subsequent split becomes easier.

I could definitely split most of the pieces given enough time with a wedge and sledgehammer, but at some point you have to get on with your life, and spending 10 minutes on one piece of wood is not worth it. Before I was able to borrow a splitter I would simply put these fat logs aside and eventually they would just rot out in the woods. Kind of a waste but what was I supposed to do?

Well, I realized that in many cases, I could burn them. I piled them on a pallet in spring and let them dry all summer, than in the fall put them in the basement. As long as they were reasonably dry they would burn nice and slow, helping to keep the house warm overnight. Usually there are coals glowing in the morning, which not only makes it easier to get a new fire going, but the stove is also warm. I'm not a big fan of having a raging fire going and then leaving the stove alone, but on the nights when it gets below zero degrees, it sure is nice to have the fire going as long as possible. Plus, I don't have to waste the pieces of wood that are too hard to split, which breaks my heart.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Andy Bowen for the pic.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Branching Out

We had a bit of a Charlie Brown crisis yesterday, though in the modern era it's not kite that gets stuck in a tree but a drone. It was a pretty serious dilemma, however, and just goes to show you that you can't get between a boy and his drone. We even called the fire department in a desperate bid to see if they could help - they couldn't, so we were left to our own devices. To be clear, by the time we contacted the firemen and were told it wasn't going to happen, we had already resolved the situation.

N has been really getting into drones and it's pretty crazy stuff, albeit cool crazy stuff. Not only does he like to fly them, but he and his buddy make them from scratch, or close enough to count as making them from scratch. You can buy the components online and then assemble the drones to the specifications that you want. There are many levels of complexity, and the lower levels are surprisingly affordable. The big thing is first person viewing, or FPV. I mistakenly thought this was virtual reality (VR) and earned the scorn of both my kids.

Anyway, with FPV you control the drone, which has a camera, but you can see what's going on in real time while wearing a headset. It's pretty crazy stuff, and depending on the range of your receiver, you could theoretically fly the thing anywhere. The problem you run into is when you are just learning the ropes and can't always fly out of complicated situations. This includes flying your drone into a tree and getting stuck in the branches. This happened yesterday, and N came home in distress because not only was the drone stuck, but the battery was dying, and apparently you don't want the thing to completely run out. They are sensitive things, so time was an issue.

All of us went out to the tree to assess the situation, and it wasn't looking good. It was about 40 feet up there, and climbing the tree was out of the question. I brought my extension ladder and tried to knock it out with a roof rake, but couldn't reach it. We probably could have extended the thing all the way but it was pretty squirrelly resting it against a tree and trying to climb up so high. Mom wasn't having any of it, so we were reduced to trying to dislodge the thing by hitting it with various thrown objects. This included a hockey puck, a football, frisbees, and a soccer ball. If you've ever tried this, you know it isn't easy throwing something straight up into the air, especially high up, and we couldn't get any of these things high enough. We finally tried with tennis balls and a racquet. Using this method we got the height, but as you can imagine, our aim suffered greatly. We toyed with the idea of hiring an arborist to get it.

While A went to see if the fire department could help us, I kept hitting tennis balls straight up in the air and finally one of the balls hit the drone and dislodged it. It immediately occurred to me that the thing was falling and I needed to catch it, so I dropped everything and stuck my hands out to grab the drone, which I did, cutting my hand in the process - the things we do for our kids. N was hugely relieved, and the drone came out pretty much unscathed. Mom and dad were relieved that the drone did not need expensive replacement parts, and dad got to feel like he did something good for once in his life. I love when that happens.

For all it's worth, this is not a unique problem for drone enthusiasts, as you can imagine, and there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping the needy drone owners reclaim their vehicles from trees. You gotta love the internet... sort of.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Amy Duffy for the pic.

Early Mornings

It seems like dad (i.e, me) can't get a break when it comes to sleep. All week long I'm taking A to school in the early AM, and on weekends it's early morning hockey games. On Mondays there is band practice that begins at 7:00AM, which I think is outrageous but this is what school kids have to deal with today. Work has been slow but on the nights I do work I'm usually there late which makes getting up early that much more challenging. Boy, poor little old me.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I"m a morning person. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to The Greatest for the pic.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Snow

Normally I'm thrilled to pieces about the first snow, but this year I was not as thrilled, mainly because I wasn't completely prepared for it, both mentally and logistically. As usual there was still some raking that needed to be done and power tools that needed to be stored, but more importantly, I didn't have my snow tires on. Maybe it's a function of getting older, but I've also found that I'm better off when I ease into a change of seasons, and part of this process is just wrapping my feeble mind around it.

Fortunately it didn't snow a lot, just enough to make it look like winter and give me anxiety about the roads. This in turn motivated me to take care of the final preparations for winter, which include dusting off the ski equipment and installing the storm windows. Luckily our firewood is all set, so at the very least we'll be warm, which when you get down to it is really the most important thing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Patrick Frauchiger for the pic.

Turkey Day

Hope that everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving, hope all is well with you and your loved ones. It seems like every year Thanksgiving crept up on us, or at least me, maybe because our plans were up in the air until the end of last week. Usually we visit family but it can be a challenge on our end because we're traveling with two kids. Plus, it's hard to schedule things around all the kids' activities. Unfortunately with all these moving pieces we couldn't get all them to fit. It's a bit of a bummer for everyone involved, but hopefully we can work something out in the near future.

I will say this - cooking for just four people can be a pretty intimidating endeavor, so you can imagine what it's like to cook for eight people. I fielded requests from the family about what we should eat and the biggest requests were for Yorkshire pudding and a stuffed pumpkin. The main course was up in the air and I wavered between broiled salmon or roasted chicken, finally opting for the chicken because it's a bit closer to a turkey (we never cook a turkey) and it goes a little better with Yorkshire pudding, which is a family favorite.

The timing of the supper went well, as well. I'm a disorganized person and tend to do things as they pop into my head, and when cooking a meal this can lead to disaster. This time around it wasn't so bad, and we not only ended up eating at a reasonable time, but the meal wasn't rushed at the last minute, where you end up compromising the cooking times because you just want to get the food onto the table and the plates of hungry family members. This is a bummer when cooking chicken to completion (165 degrees inside) and squash, which really needs to be soft and tender.

So with this in mind, on Thanksgiving morning as I was enjoying down time with nowhere to be, I realized that I needed to get preliminary things going. This meant brining both chickens (I cooked two, for reasons I'll explain at a later date) and getting the stuffed pumpkin together. Once the brine was going the birds would sit for 3 hours and I could do other things. Mom wanted to make a pumpkin pie as well but our kitchen is poorly designed so that you really can't have more than one person doing the cooking, especially a stressed out dad who is in desperate need of time and space. Then again, you do what you gotta do.

I got the pumpkin ready and once that was sitting, I could cut the squash and then relax. The other food items could made closer to the actual meal, especially the Yorkshire pudding, which really should be served hot. Everything went according to plan and I got everything into the oven by noon, with a scheduled 3:00PM dinner time.

Anyway, it all went according to plan and the meal was quite enjoyable. One thing that helps is remembering that food stays hot for a lot longer than you think once it's out of the oven, especially dense foods like squash, potatoes, and roast chicken. Even though I let the chickens rest for about 30 minutes, the insides were still too hot to handle. I took this as a good thing. Mom's pumpkin pie was excellent, and all in all we had a great meal. We went for a walk afterward and were toying with the idea of seeing a movie, but instead decided to play a family game and then watch a family movie, something we don't do as much as we used to.

It was really nice, and I hope everyone out there had as nice a Thanksgiving as we did.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to amanda for the pic.