Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Cauliflower Rice

In our quest to bring healthy vibes to our household while helping yours truly maintain his girlish figure, we've been leaning more toward the meat-free, lower carb diet. Not because we're crunchy and holistic (well, maybe a little), but for a whole host of reasons that I won't bore you with. In addition to my abstinence from sweets, which has thus far been progressing rather smoothly, we're eating less bread (no white bread-my favorite food), more veggies, and tons of fruit.

I have to say, I really miss eating killer soft white bread, like fresh ciabattas and sourdough boules, and avoiding sugar is next to impossible, but for the most part, this new eating pattern hasn't been that bad. For whatever reason I don't feel the sexy, irresistible allure of sugar calling to me. In fact, when I look at a bar of chocolate, I can pretty much walk on by and not feel tempted, though I have to confess, I did eat a bowl of ice cream the other night. I was warned my mom that it might drag me back down into my compulsive/binge-y sweet eating habits, but I found this wasn't the case. I figure a bowl of ice cream now and then may be about as good as it gets.

We are also dabbling in creative ways to eat the healthy veggies that everyone loves to hate, including cauliflower, Brussel sprouts, and cabbage. We've been making “cauliflower rice” in place of the real stuff, and while it tastes nothing like rice, it's not bad, and the girls like it. Plus, you can put away bowls of the stuff and not worry about glycemic shock or getting plugged up, an unfortunate consequence of eating lots of rice. Brussel sprouts are a family favorite, but I've found an easier way to make them that everyone seems to love, and with cabbage, caramelizing it is the way to go.

And, both mom and A have indicated that they'd prefer it if I'd make less food for supper, because I tend to make too much. The reason for this is because I can't stand it when the food runs out and there's no food left (bad planning), and leftovers usually get put to good use. However, with greater quantities of food come the temptation to simply eat more - just go to any all-you-can eat buffet and see this in action.

Having excess food is not a bad thing when you have a person such as myself (who enjoys engorging himself) and a growing boy in the house, but I understand where mom and A are coming from, and I'm happy to accommodate them. Plus, it's less food to prepare, which makes my life easier - no argument here. As a compromise, I've started making various burgers for N in addition to our pared down (mostly) vegetarian options. For burgers, we omit beef and go with veggie burgers, turkey burgers, and various “meat substitute” burgers. Don't ask about the last ones, you'll think I'm crazy.

Everyone seems to be happy, so far. There are days when I'm craving white rice big time, and if it's just the guys, I'll make it, but overall our diets have been pretty healthy. Throw in all that glorious fruit salad in the morning, and GI tracts are doing okay. I hope to keep it that way.

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

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Youth Hockey Comes to a Close

This weekend marked the end of N's youth hockey career, and I think it's been a good run for him, culminating in some changes that will be good for all of us in the years to come. I thought I would have mixed emotions about the end of hockey, but I have to confess, I feel good about it all. Not too much in the way of poignant nostalgia, partly because of hockey season fatigue, but also because I think N is in a good place in his life, and while hockey is a part of it, he's got a lot of other good things going on. For that, I'm grateful.

Hockey has always been a bit of a mixed bag for us. On the one hand it's a great sport and I'm glad that N enjoys it, and I think he's a pretty good player, but there is so much drama and political BS involved that it sometimes ruins the enjoyment. This is especially true when you've been involved with the same system for many years like I was in our old lame program, you really become incorporated into the complex and undesirable machinations of youth hockey culture. After all the BS we experienced and the dust had settled, we found ourselves in a new program and it worked out beautifully. All of us had our reservations about making the change, but it was all for the best.

Not only were we able to get a fresh perspective on things, but I was able to disconnect from the youth hockey machine that gave me so much anxiety, i.e., I didn't have to coach anymore. He got some great instruction from a great coach who, for once in his life, was not a father to one of the teammates (which really screws things up). The players were all good kids, the parents were (for the most part) down to earth, and most importantly, we got an objective idea of N's abilities. I've always thought N was a reasonably good player, but was always met with the proverbial cynicism that I'm not objective because I'm his dad. For the record, this is not true. In coming to the new program, which is not a soft, fuzzy place (this is a good thing), we experienced fairly objective analysis of N's hockey skills, because they don't beat around the bush. They're not going to sugar coat your kids abilities, or lack thereof. If your kid sucks, they're pretty much going to let you know this. Not only were the tryouts straightforward and cut and dry (unlike the ones at WYH, which for the record were complete horseshit), but his coach had no vested interested in playing up N's skills. Plus, he is a real hockey dude from Canada who was one step away from the NHL. With all this in mind, I think it confirmed what I've felt all along. Enough said.

Most importantly, N's shift to the big city will set him up for the years ahead, because he'll go to school with these guys and probably interact with them, at least on some level, in the days to come. And, now that the season has ended, it's time for N to turn his attention to other interests, reminding us that, yes, there is more to life than hockey. It's hard to remember this when you're enmeshed in youth hockey because the season is so long and requires so much dedication. I really can't think of another sport that asks so much of you, though I know they're out there.

While lacrosse will start to take up a big place in our lives, I'm glad N is interested in doing more MTB riding, and once the weather warms up, I'm thinking (can't say for sure) that he'll still be keen on hitting the waves. Plus, he's got his drone racing stuff that he loves.

I'm not one to believe that all's well that ends well. When bad things happen, even if the results are good, I still can't let go of the bad things that happened. However, I am grateful that things turned out as well as they did. If anything, I should just let go of the past and move forward into the future, but as anyone who knows me can attest to, that ain't going to happen.

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

Friday, March 16, 2018

Stranded in the Capital (again)

This past weekend N had his hockey state tournament, and it was a fun weekend but at times long and excruciating. The reason for this is because it required some time sitting around and awaiting our fate, and in retrospect, I definitely did things the wrong way. You'd think I'd have learned the drill by now.

N had his state tournament playoffs down in Nashua, and we actually got a good deal on a hotel. It was a Homestead Suites, which is part of the Hilton chain, which usually bodes well for us. Plus, I'm a Hilton Honors member, though I haven't quite figured out what benefits I get from that. The playoffs were played on neutral ice so they had two rinks at play, one in Tyngsboro, MA (wherever that is), and the other in Nashua. Our hotel was pretty much right in between, so you couldn't beat it for location. Since there's so much going on down there, we was no shortage of places to eat.

Our first game was late Friday evening, and with so much time to get there, I decided to take the long way over there, which meant heading down the state and then cutting across on small backroads. I personally prefer to travel this way, it's so much more interesting, though it added about 20 minutes to our trip. We arrived in the early afternoon and had time to chill out, get some supper, and then go to his game.

Since we were in the happening big city and in the market for a new MTB, we did a search for bike shops and found a really nice one called Goodales. Next, we came up with a plan - since we didn't have to be at the rink until 7:00PM, we figured we'd order some supper for pickup, go to the bike shop, learn about bitchen dual suspension (dualies) MTBs, check out some afforable models, get our supper and eat it back at the hotel, digest the meal, and then go to the game. How's that for a plan? It actually worked out beautifully, and the bike shop was actually really nice (huge selection) and the guy who helped us was very cool. Definitely a young hipster who had the outdoor nature vibe. The bikes were on the higher end, but it was nice to look.

We then headed back toward the hotel to get our food. Just for the record, we could not have done any of this without Google Maps, and thankfully I got my new $30 phone just before we left, so we were connected. We got pizza and wings for supper, ate back at the room while watching Guy Fieri on the Food Network, and chilled out for a bit. We then headed over to his game where N's team got beat pretty badly, then back to the hotel to chill out some more before going to bed. Luckily we had leftovers from supper so we could chow a little before bed.

The hotel had breakfast included, so we chowed down and then went to N's second game, which they won. Now this is where things got complicated. Not to be such a pessimist, but I figured we would get a hotel for just one night. If the team did well and qualified for the elimination round, they would play on Sunday, requiring a second night in the hotel. However, this wasn't completely realistic because they had never beaten either team. GSL rules require that every team play each other twice, and N's team has lost all for meetings with these two teams, Lakes Region and Concord. They are very strong, and chances were pretty slim that they would advance to the next round. I hate to be such a cynic, but if we had gotten a hotel room for a second night, we could not have canceled at the last minute and would have had to have eaten the cost. We figured if they advanced, we could probably find a room somewhere, even closer to Concord.

And that's where the situation gets even more complicated. Since we were down by the Capital, naturally N wanted to hang out with his girlfriend. Can you blame him? She even came to the game Friday evening, which I think is so cool. They didn't have a ton of time together, so I broached the idea of them hanging out on Saturday after his second game against Concord. Since I assumed they'd lose the game (wrong), N and she could spend the rest of the day together, and they invited him to spend the night (in the guest room, of course). I would simply drop him off at their house and head home, then meet them at our regular halfway meeting spot and pick him up. Great plan, right?

Except that his team won. They beat Concord, who dominated them all season and had all of their high school players back. Logically speaking, they shouldn't have won, and yet they shut them out, 2-0. I was very happy for them, but a little shocked. And, it completely threw off my plan. Now, there was a chance that they would play on Sunday, with one condition - Concord had to lose it's next game and thus be eliminated. There was a good chance of this, as well, because their next game was against Lakes Region, the odds on favorite to win it all. They had beaten N's team 8-3. Since we beat Concord, and Lakes Region stomped on us, the logical conclusion was that Lakes Region would also beat Concord, thereby propelling us into the next round.

What was a total pain was that we wouldn't know the results of the Lakes/Concord game until late Saturday evening. Their game was at 7:00PM. What made this hard was that we wouldn't know if we needed to get a hotel for a Sunday game until after this game, which would be around 8:00PM at the earliest. How's that for a pain in the YKW? Almost all of N's teammates simply went home and awaited word. If need be, they were planning on driving down the next morning for a 9:30 game. Since it's a two hour drive and they had to be there at 8:30, we're talking waking up at 5:30 and getting out the door by 6:30. I decided to wait it out down in Nashua and see, mainly because N was with his girlfriend, anyway. If, as it should have gone, Lakes beat Concord, eliminating them, I would go get N in Concord and then we'd get a hotel for Sunday's game. I asked mom to search for a hotel for us and she found one but didn't reserve anything until we knew if they were even going to play.

I went to the Lakes/Concord game and can you guess what happened? Concord upset Lakes Region. Not only that, but they controlled the game. By the time it was over, I realized that there wasn't going to be another game, and that I could just go home. In retrospect I screwed up because I didn't need to stay and watch those games. I should have just gone home in the first place. If they had a game, I could have picked up N en route the next mornign. Instead, I did a lot of back and forth driving just to see the result. It was a fun game to watch, but what a drain on time.

So, I got in my car and headed home around 8:30PM, got home around 10:30PM, and went to bed. The next day, I went back down to Concord to get N, and then back home. Boy, talk about a crazy weekend. I can't believe how much driving we do, but that's what happens when you play hockey with the big boys.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2018

More Toys = More OCD

As if I needed something more to stroke my OCD, we are currently in the market for a new mountain bike (MTB) for N. Not only has he outgrown his current bike, but we are thinking that it's time for him to move up to some serious MTB equipment, namely a dual suspension unit. He currently rides a single suspension MTB with a “hardtail,” and it's worked out fine for almost all the riding he does, but as I think I may have mentioned, last summer we went up to the Northeast Kingdom and rode the ski trails at Burke Mountain, which were very cool. It became painfully apparent, however, that our bikes were completely inadequate. Not only were our bikes embarrassingly out of touch with MTB reality, but our protective gear was, as well. For the record, we were the only people riding hardtails, not to mention the only ones lacking proper helmets and padding (more on this later).

Riding was fine, but the trails were pretty hairy, at least for me. I rode down with N but couldn't even come close to keeping up with him, he flew down those trails. At some point I stopped even trying, and just let him do his own thing. I did notice, however, that even with my bike upgrade from my previous “rigid” frame, I was still getting bounced around pretty hard. You can see where a rear suspension would make the ride much more enjoyable. To add to the suffering (oh how we suffer), N took a spill. I don't think this is attributable to his bike, but he took a wrong turn and hit a tree, bruising his ribs enough to make him want to stop riding. At the very least, it made us realize he would have benefitted from better protective gear, which as I mentioned, all the other riders were sporting. This meant a full face-protecting helmet, much like a motorcycle helmet, and rib and shoulder protection. This is also known as body armor. When I first heard of this, I thought it was the usual commercial overkill, but now it totally made sense. I felt like I really screwed up and didn't prepare him for the worst.

The injuries did not turn out to be so bad (thankfully), but I sure learned a lesson on that one. I decided that for the next season, we would do things differently, and hopefully get things right. This meant proper protective gear, and maybe even a new bike. I can justify this because he's grown so much that his current bike is realistically a bit small. Of course, I did some research and looked into getting him a better/bigger bike, and if there's one thing I've learned it's that they're not cheap, especially for a frugality monger as myself. I don't even like spending more than $20 at the grocery store, never mind a MTB. And we're shopping on the low end. A high end bike, not the highest, mind you, but a really good MTB will set you back $4000-5000, easy. People don't blink an eye at spending that much, I couldn't believe it. You realize what keeps the economy humming, people like to spend money, especially guys and their toys.

This is going to take some research and maybe a little blood, sweat and tears. I've found that deals can be found if you have time (I do) and are willing to do the legwork (I am), but this journey can also result in plenty of disappointment and frustration. Believe me, I know all about disappointment and frustration, especially when things online are not as they seem... are they ever?

Used bikes are of course and option, but having perused more than my fair share of used surfboards and surf gear, not to mention skis, snowboards, and hockey equipment, sometimes buying used stuff is more of a hassle than it's worth. When it works out, it's great, it's just that it often does not. So we'll see where this adventure takes me. One thing for sure, there will be an interesting story to come out of it... oh yeah, and there's the issue of getting mom on board with this one. I think I have my work cut out for me.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mark Hodges for the pic.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Last Hurrah

Ski season is winding down, and would under normal circumstances be done and over, but we hardly (ever) have normal circumstances here in New England. First off, the winter has been all over the map, starting off with a couple of cold brutal weeks (with snow) in December, followed by up and down temps for the rest of the season. Not a huge amount in terms of snow, though ski season was manageable. At some point in February we got this major warm spell with rain and I figured that the ski season was over, so much so that I had set my mind to milder temps and spring activities.

Then we got hit with this major storm, and now we're getting another one. Can you believe it? I realize it's still March and we've gotten snow storms around April, but this is crazy. Normally I'd be stoked to get more snow so we can ski, and would be calling our local ski hill to see if they're still open (they said they would close this past weekend). However, I'm sort of over skiing at this point, and have a hard time getting too excited about it. I think N has one more day teaching the kids, so we'll probably get one last hurrah in, but after that, I'm ready to put our ski equipment into storage.

Time to break out the bikes and surfboards. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Martin Griffiths for the pic.

Winding Down

As the hockey season draws to a close, I often have mixed feelings because on the one hand, it's a long season (6 months) and I'm ready for it to be all done. On the other, it's fun to watch the kids play, and I enjoy many aspects about it. This year is particularly poignant because it's N's last year of youth hockey, if you can believe that. 7 years of youth hockey and now his run is over, almost. I have to say, I've really enjoyed it, and it's been a growing experience for myself, as well. How I ever had the audacity to step onto the ice and help coach, I'll never know.

I will say this - it's been very cool to watch N grow as a player, and unlike many kids that you see out there, I don't think he peaked early. In fact, I think it's fair to say that he's progressed as a player every year, this one being no different. I think this stems a lot from the fact that he's a good listener, very coachable (coaches have said this, it isn't just me), and he learns what he's taught and employs it.

It remains to be seen whether he'll play high school hockey, though I think he's good enough. The choice will be his, but regardless of what that decision is, I'm proud of the way he's developed as a young man of character who just happens to be pretty good at certain sport, hockey being just one of them. I will leave it at that.

A week or two more and it'll be time for him to hang up the hockey skates. Then we'll have to figure out what to do with our lives.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave McKinley for the pic.

Getting What You Pay For?

I know My Mentor is shaking his head right now, but my cheap phone recently bit the dust, and for the life of me, I can't explain why. It was only a few months old. It just conked out. What's crazy is that it was working the morning and when I went to use it a few hours later, nothing. I was going to give it to N to dismantle and if not fix it, do something cool with the parts, but he said it might void the warranty. It was then that I realized that it didn't have a warranty, or at least it didn't seem to have one. Such is the case when you buy a $30 cell phone, you get what you pay for.

Naturally, being disgusted with such a poor quality product, I did what any sensible person would do - I bought another one. For $30, it's worth another shot. I actually really liked that particular phone, and if this new one dies like the one before it, then I'll have learned my lesson. We shall see.

Of course, there's a story to go along with it, as well. My phone died on a Tuesday, and I was going away that Friday for N's tournament. It helps to have a phone when you travel for countless reasons, one of which is just finding your hotel, not to mention places to eat. I looked online and saw that I could order the phone on Wednesday and get free overnight shipping for Thursday via Fedex, so I did it.

Well, wouldn't you know that a big storm would come in on Wednesday into Thursday, and Fedex wasn't able to deliver the package. We were leaving Friday around noon, and deliveries usually come in the early evening, so I probably wouldn't get it in time. I tried to simply have them hold it at the shipping facility, where they said it was being held, but they wouldn't let me. Also, I couldn't call them because when you try, you get some central routing location that has no clue what's going on at any specific location.

Since I had to take A to school that morning, I figured I had nothing to lose by simply going there when they opened and seeing if I could just pick the thing up. As luck would have it, I was just in time because the person said they were just about to load it onto the truck. She handed me my phone, I activated it when I got home, and spent the first day down at the hotel loading apps. Luckily with Google+, I could transfer all my contacts from my old phone, even though the thing is dead. Sure, some things got lost, but all in all, it wasn't too painful, especially for $30.

Let's hope this one last a little longer... maybe three weeks instead of two. Just kidding.

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