Sunday, July 25, 2010

Socked Again by Mother Nature

We were coasting along for most of the summer with good luck, for the most part, with the weather. Each week there were threats of rain and thunderstorms, and each week we seemed to luck out and get nice weather. This helped a lot in terms of business at the farmer's market (FM). Funny how that works.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and this past week we seemed to get our share of bad weather. At the big city market we got socked by that massive windstorm that sent everyone's tent flying across the green. Then, this past local market, it rained the entire time. I kept hoping that at the very least the rain would stop. I can deal with clouds, but constant rain does amazing things to customers at FMs.

Either way, as I mentioned, we can't really complain, because the weather has worked in our favor for most of the summer. That, of course, won't stop me from whining, but what are you going to do?

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

friday's market rained on, had been lucky with weather

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maintaining Perspective at the Grateful Dumpling

Wow, it seems like you blink your eyes, and suddenly a week has passed. Sorry for my absence in my blog. Needless to say, there is a lot going on, and it doesn't take much for things to start sliding down that slippery slope.

I've been trying to maintain perspective in the face of all that we are trying to do, and it ain't easy. There is so much that needs to be done on a daily basis that it is difficult to get any of it done and maintain any sense of sanity. The farmer's market is responsible for a lot of this. It just takes so much time.

However, even though it has made our lives difficult, I have to confess that we are, for the most part, enjoying it. Beyond the money, which ain't much, there are satisfying aspects to it, all driven, of course, by our egos and the need for external validation. We enjoy making something that people like, and look forward to our regular customers coming and expressing their appreciation for something that we've sweat blood and tears to bring to them. Also, we really enjoy the sense of community and the kids have a great time being at the market, interacting with the vendors and seeing their friends. It's a wonderful experience for them.

Most of all, it's a good example of trying something and placing ourselves outside the warmth and safety of our comfort zones, something we, as well as probably a majority of the population, find difficult, if not impossible, to do. Of course, this is only an issue if there are things you want in life or changes you want to effect and are unable to initiate them.

In many ways, the abrupt and surprising nature of our endeavor is what made it all possible, because given enough time to ruminate over it, we probably never would have even started the Grateful Dumpling.

Things just took off without us really realizing it, and before we knew it, we had to take action, and fast. As a result, we didn't have time to cogitate and succumb to self-doubt and pessimism. We were literally thrown to the lions.

Mind you, it hasn't been easy, and everyone has suffered a little, but nothing life threatening, though at moments I've felt that way. We've learned a great deal about what we can accomplish if we just assert ourselves, but more importantly, we've learned a valuable lesson about taking chances and assuming a few risks and realizing that life goes on. You can try things and whatever be the outcome, you can always change directions.

I think it's good for the kids to learn this lesson as they approach life, and to know that there are many paths to take , and rather than live in fear of all the choices as I did for all of my life, they should embrace the wealth of experiences and look to the world as a wondrous place, worth exploring. I really think this is an important lesson.

If anything, you benefit from taking the chance because it really gives you perspective on what is going on all around. Otherwise, as you blindly go about your routines, you lose all perspective and stop really giving much thought to your life. It's just so much easier.

Anyway, I need to remind myself of these things, because life is fairly challenging at this moment and I find myself saying, on a continual basis, that I can't do this anymore, when in fact I can, if not so much more. There is value to reminding oneself of this fact.

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

Forces of Nature Affecting the Grateful Dumpling

We were cruising along at the big city market the other day when almost out of nowhere hurricane force winds came along and literally destroyed the market. I couldn't believe it, I saw entire tents hurtling across the green. It felt like a scene out of Mary Poppins.

It was a pretty nice day at first. We got to break in our killer new propane stove, which runs off of a 5 gallon tank, which pleases us to no end. The day had some heat, but lots of cloud cover which really cooled things off. We were doing a decent business, as well, and things really started to pick up at the usual hour, which is from 5 to 6, the dinner crowd. We were scrambling to fill orders of dumplings (why don't we ever learn?) when some of the vendors, R included, indicated that there were dark and angry clouds on the horizon. Thus far we had been spared bad weather, so I figured that like the rest of the day, the storm would just skirt our location.

Boy was I wrong.

The moment the wind started picking up, I knew we were in trouble, because by that time, it was too late. Mother nature had warned us, and we didn't listen. Within minutes the wind was so strong that everyone stopped what they were doing and grabbed their tents. We had dumpling cooking in hot oil, but figured they could sit for a few moments while we rescued our tent, which probably wasn't the smartest thing considering hot oil, flames, and propane are not things to be trifled with.

I went next door and helped the Honey Lady with her tent, but for whatever reason the wind still managed to bend the frame into a knot, it was pretty incredible. Many of the customers and the people passing by lent a hand, and it was encouraging to see the level of compassion everyone was showing. Like one big happy family.

Needless to say, the market ended at that point, even though we still had dumplings, which we ended up selling at fire sale prices to a fellow vendor. We packed up and R&A went off to have private girl time while N pleaded his case to play racquetball. I couldn't believe it. I was exhausted from the market, in addition to enduring nature's wrath, and here's our son wanting to play racquetball. Could he have chosen a worse time?

The problem is, being the youngest in the family, he doesn't get taken seriously as often as he should, and he often complains that his requests and ideas seem to get ignored while everyone else gets what they want. In his defense, he doesn't ask for much, and he had been wanting to play racquetball for days. So what could I do?

I had actually packed the racquetball stuff thinking the kids could hit the ball back and forth on the green, so we were ready to go. We went over to the courts, which were closing in about 20 minutes, and played. It was actually fun, and N is very good, as he is at many sports. Best of all, he got his fix, felt like he was finally being taken seriously, and we spent quality dad and son time together. How can you beat that?

For the record, racquetball is a good sport to play with the kids because they can hit the ball more easily than tennis and don't have to deal with the hassles of getting the ball over the net. Just hit the thing as hard as you can.

Also, on a bright note, while we were playing it started pouring rain, which meant that even though the wind blew us to Maine and back, at least we didn't get rained on.

We finished with our game, headed over to the bookstore, where R&A were hanging, and spent some time in one of our favorite environments: surrounded by books.

A nice end to a turbulent day.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Alexander Rist for the pic.

market cooking along, disaster struck
destroyed the market, tents flying through the air
broke in our new stove
gaining new customers

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Crisis at the Grateful Dumpling

I hate to admit it, but I experienced a bit of a crisis at the Grateful Dumpling, and it stemmed from overextending ourselves. At some point, making all those dumplings suddenly seems like an exercise in futility, an endless road to nowhere. Needless to say, it can profoundly affect my point of view, not to mention my disposition. Just ask my wife and kids.

Fortunately, it's nothing a good night's sleep can't help, and the next day, I felt much better, even in lieu of the fact that there were still dumplings to be made.

At some point we'll catch up and get past the hump that we created in doing that extra market. Until that time, I won't feel like my head is above water, but I'm good at treading. My apologies to RA&N for having to put up with me. I'm ashamed at times at my behavior, but when you are in the throes of self-indulgent solipsism, the your world view is pretty narrow.

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Another Camp

I've never been one to farm the kids out to every sort of summer camp imaginable, and prefer more time just hanging out and relaxing and being mellow. I understand how parents who work need a place to park their kids while they're out earning the big bucks, but that doesn't necessarily apply to us.

As it turns out, however, we have been very active in the camp scene, and last week the kids took part in a local one sponsored by HCC, which is a major force behind a lot of great activities. Kudos to JM for all his efforts.

The camp in question was Clown Camp, and it was not only local (right in town), but it was free. How can you beat that? A&N were excited about it and had a ton of fun, aided by the fact that many of their friends took part, as well. It was basically neighborhood kids and they learned about miming and juggling, which kind of made me a little jealous because I've always wanted to juggle.

The camp lasted a week, and the kids loved it. I think new bonds were made, and A even got her pic on the cover of the Valley News. Not bad. I can't tell you how many people came up to us and commented on what a great shot it was.

Now, we have one more summer camp to survive, and then we can start enjoying a nice, relaxing summer.

Then again, maybe not.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Moment of Panic for the Grateful Dumpling

In a good example of the pitfalls of being dependent on your suppliers, I went to the Asian market to get dumpling wrappers and they were closed. This might not seem like a big deal, but it was late in the morning. I had tried calling them the day before and they never answered their phone, so when I went the next day and they were closed during normal business hours, I naturally assumed the worst: they had gone under.

Of course, in typical fashion, I panicked. My first thought was, how the heck was I going to get wrappers? It was Monday, and the market was on Wednesday. I could go to the Coop and request a case, which might come the next day, but could very well arrive on Wednesday, which would mean making dumplings all day to bring to the big city market. Crazy.

I had no time to waste. I drove over to the Coop, asked the manager in produce to order the wrappers, and then went to run more errands. On my way back the Lebanon, I revisited Yiping market and lo and behold, they were open. I wanted to ask her what the heck was going on with her business, but there is a serious communication issue going on there.

Either way, I bought enough wrappers, then got other supplies, but remembered that I had ordered a case from the Coop. I got home and called the store first thing, canceling the order. They were very cool, as they always are, about everything, and it worked out, but it sure was an eye-opening experience.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Suffering From Own Capitalist Greed

We are still recovering from the consequences of biting off more than we could chew, stemming, of course, from what I can only describe as being greedy.

We agreed to sell our dumplings at a concert two weekends ago, and the only reason we did it is because we thought it might be a good opportunity to make some extra money. The problem is, we didn't consider the fact that we were already stretched thin, and adding another event, which would require making more dumplings, would have really pushed us to the edge.

We'd spent all day Friday preparing for the local market, then we spent all day Saturday preparing for this concert. At some point we really wanted to just tell them we couldn't do it, but we committed way back when, and to back out would have left them the organizers in a bind, not that they were so on top of things in the first place.

Preparing for the show wasn't so bad, it was the after effects that really got to me. Because we had to prepare/cook/clean for Saturday, it left us in a deficit for the big city market, which meant preparing dumplings on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. The ripple effect continued after the big city market because then we had to prepare for the local market on Friday. The end result was that we were making dumpling non-stop, and it was brutal.

Doing the show was a big mistake, and reminded us that we have to keep things in perspective and remember why we are doing this. Not to make huge amounts of money, which is pretty much impossible, anyway, but to make some dough and have some adventure and then eventually take a trip.

BUT, when it starts to take over your life, then you really have to take a step back and ask the big questions. I know I did.

One bright note was that the kids were able to hang with A&IH most of the day and into the evening, so they weren't subjected to the grind of the capitalist machine.

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

The Grateful Dumpling Setting New Standards

Well, for all it's worth, the Grateful Dumpling set a new sales record this past local market, which appears to be growing (the market) each week. Of course, the day started out with many difficulties, as usual. We just can't get it together in a prompt and orderly manner, or rather, I can't do it. I am always scrambling at the last minute, and it drives everyone crazy.

What makes the day truly challenging is cooking the dumplings that morning (it takes all day) and then bringing them to the market. It takes the entire day, and it is not fun and relaxing, especially in light of the fact that if I leave a mess in the kitchen, then there will be hell to pay. Then we have to pack up the car, set up, and do our thing. If we could be more organized and somehow streamline our operation, things might go more smoothly, but that may be out of the realm of possibilities.

Anyway, we always seem to begin the market with a less than ideal disposition, grouchy, stressed and snapping at one another, but once the market gets doing, you really don't have time for such self-indulgent behavior. This is a bummer, because sometimes you just can't beat solipsism for a good time.

The market started out slowly, as usual, but there were some new faces as the market grows. In fact, there were even vendors I didn't recognize, though or friend WM showed up and wowed the crowds with his beautiful displays. He really does a nice job.

The band that played was amazing, one of my favorites thus far. They were Second Wind, and they consisted of just a guy on guitar and a woman on vocals, but boy were they good. Her voice was amazing, and they played some great music. Everyone really enjoyed them, and the crowd responded.

The kids were a little bored at first, but then their friends A&I showed up, and then they were off running around and playing, so they enjoyed that. We sold well, even though the weather was supposed to be poor. It turned out nicely, cool and breezy, so the crowds enjoyed themselves. What works nicely is that the library shows movies right after the market, so people come to eat and hang out, then go enjoy a little cinema verite. You can't beat that.

We also set a new sales record, which is nice, but boy are we working hard. Still not sure if this is worth it, but talk to me in the Fall. Every day I tell myself I can't do this anymore, but I used to (and still do) always say that about being a parent. You just reach deep and find a way.

Go figure.

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

Friday, July 16, 2010

Our New Stove

Our new stove arrived, too late to use at the big-city market, of course, but it arrived nonetheless, and is it ever nice. We're talking tens of thousands of BTUs per hour, whatever that means. I just read that off of the side of the box.

The moment we got it, N's interest was piqued, and he never stopped asking me when we were going to break it in, or if he could do it himself. To his credit, he opened the box, pulled the thing out, assembled and had it ready to operate in minutes. The guy is such an engineer. His granddad and uncle would be proud.

Now all we need is a 5 gallon propane tank and we're good to go. This, of course, adds the added complication of where to get the thing. They are ubiquitous, everyone and their uncle seems to sell these things, it's just that now I have to choose a place, and we all know what a disaster that can be.

Having this new stove also means we can cook the dumplings outside and not coat our kitchen, house, and bodies with grease. This is a good thing.

Finally, I'm going to fill out the registration and send it in. I never do this, and have run into many situations where I wished I had, especially when warranties and proof of purchase are involved. I see it all around me as well, i.e., people who buy things that break, and in order to honor the warranty, a proof of purchase is required. Who saves these things?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Life Lessons From The Grateful Dumpling

If you can believe this, we had a great market day, and all in the face of adversity. One of the great lessons we've learned via the Grateful Dumpling is that whatever life throws at you, you just have to keep pushing on, because you just never know what is going to happen. If anything, the worst thing you can do is let fear and adversity prevent you from ever trying in the first place. Sometimes serendipity falls in your lap like a gift from above. Then again, it helps when you work toward a solution. Amazingly enough, hard work and determination seem to increase your odds of experiencing divine intervention.

As I mentioned, last week our stove took a dive right at the beginning of the market, and we pretty much sat around the entire time and watched people walk by. Looking at the bright side, it was a miserably hot day, so not too many people came out. Thus, we didn't lose that many customers, and our dumplings were on dry ice, so we could save them for another day.

We still had to address our stove problem. I called the company and was prepared to buy another regulator, but the guy was really cool, and they sent me a new one for free. The question was, would it get here on time (answer: of course NOT). We also wanted to upgrade our system and get something that runs off a 5 gallon tank. I had a credit with an online store that I've written for, and used it towards a new big gas camp stove, but again, would it arrive on time (answer: no way!).

With our best two options exhausted, we needed to come up with plan. We had to have a functioning stove for the market, but didn't want to buy a new one because we'd already done that. On the day before the market, we were in W. Leb buying assorted things, when on a whim, I thought of going to Wally World to see if they sold regulators. Stores sell replacement regulators for the big boys, but nobody, and I mean nobody sells them for small camp stoves. I get looks from salespeople that scream, "You loser, get a real stove."

And, of course, even Wally World did not carry them, though it's possible they do but I simply couldn't find them in that cave of a store. Plus, you can't find someone who can help you if your life depended on it.

However, I did come up with a last second plan. We were slated to receive a new regulator, so it was a question of time. We had one more day for it to arrive. Knowing this, I ended up buying a new camp stove right then and there in Wally World. The plan was as follows. If the new regulator arrived by Wed, I could use that on our old stove and then return the one I'd bought. No harm, no foul.

If it didn't, I could take the regulator off the new one I'd just bought at WW and when the new regulator arrived, replace it in the new camp stove, and then return it as if nothing had happened.

Better yet, if our new super stove arrived, the one that runs off a 5 gallon tank, we could simply use that and dispense with the small camping stove.

How's that for planning?

As it turns out, the regulator arrived on time (thanks to Blue Rhino). I can simply returned the stove I bought at WW untouched, we went to market and had a great time, setting a new sales record, making new customers and seeing old and loyal ones, seeing good friends and trying great new foods. We are now big fans of the crepe stand. It was, to say the least, a nice day overall, but I never would have guessed that in the beginning.

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

Super Supper with Thai Kitchen

We whipped up a great meal of Thai food the other day, and I have to give a little plug to Thai Kitchens and KOR. I've written things in the past for their clients, and was told they would welcome a review of their Thai products. We love Thai food, but having lived in California, have found much of the East Coast Thai offerings to fall a little short. We've made decent dishes, but haven't done as much since the kids were born.

So we jumped at the chance to try the Thai Kitchen products. They are in most stores, but I guess I never really thought of buying them because I just didn't know. Just goes to show you what you're missing out on when you don't give things a try.

When we got our box of Thai Kitchen stuff, the kids were excited to give them a try. The question was, where to begin. Pad Thai is one of our favorites, but we had loads of basil, and wanted to use it, so went with a stir-fry noodle dish. I was going to make fried rice, but misread the recipe (it wasn't that clear) and didn't cook the rice in time. Bummer. We stuck with noodles and curry for this go around. Next time we'll go for the Pad Thai.

The recipes were surprisingly easy, and most of the work is pretty basic stuff. The key seems to be the sauces, especially the fish sauce. After using the big knife, N was able to jump in and pretty much do everything else, which he loves. Best of all, the food was great. We'll be eating Thai food more often, no doubt.

I also made the mistake of using too many noodles. The recipe calls for half the package, 7 ounces, but of course I paid no attention to that and just used the whole box. It was still good, but could have been so much better. Also, the noodles seem a little thick for pad thai, so I might go on a mission to find the proper texture, but that's a story for another time.

Oh well, next time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RC for the pics.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Never So Happy to See the Rain

I'm not the biggest fan of rainy weather, but the heat has been excruciating, lately. So brutal, in fact, that I was so happy to see storm clouds come in and unload some precipitation. I can't even begin to tell you how relieved I was. Usually the brutal heat portends of a coming storm, but that has not been the case. We have had a stretch of hot days that remind me of living in California, with no end in sight. I can't take it, and we are sweating our buns off over here.

Fortunately, we have ponds and rivers to jump in, but even they are suffering the consequences of the weather. In fact, we are verging on drought conditions. Nothing like California, mind you, but pretty painful.

Anyway, the rain finally came, and was I ever happy to see it. Our garden was grateful, as were we.

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

Another Rough Start for the Grateful Dumpling

We had another tough start to the market last week, and like the previous week where we were pulled in every direction, what started out difficult ended rather well. It seems as if some sort of pattern may be developing. We had to arrive at the market late because the kids had a camp closing ceremony and we didn't want to miss it. We could have sent a single parent representative, but we thought it would be nice for both of us to be there. Besides, like everything, we have to keep the dumpling life in perspective and remember why we're doing this.

We didn't know about the ceremony until the day before, so it was rather hard to plan properly. R claimed that I wasn't paying attention to what I was being told, but in my defense, I spoke with other parents and they, too, didn't know about it until the day before.

Also, a friend asked if their kids could sell lemonade at our table that afternoon. I said fine, though we couldn't really sell our cider at the same time, so that complicated things a little. We don't have much space, either, so with 2 adults, 2 kids, and 2 more kids, we were pushing things to the limit. Then again, how can you say no to 2 cool kids?

Either way, we had a conundrum. The ceremony was to start at 4:00, the same time the market begins. We were basically going to have to get there late, which isn't the end of the world since the market is slow at first. However, I was contacted by a few people who wanted to see us at the market (for assorted reasons) and I told them we'd be there late. I also had to put a sign up saying we'd be there after 4:30.

So I went to the market, got all set up, put up a sign apologizing for our tardiness, and then left everything there. I went to the closing ceremony, which was cute (A did most of the talking, she was the self-appointed representative and did a stand-up job, maybe going above and beyond the call of duty, but she gets credit), and we got a chance to see the things they did. It was really cool, and I think everyone was bummed that it was over, but exhausted, as well. I'm guessing they didn't get too much sleep on the last night.

The ceremony, of course, went longer than we thought, and before we knew it, it was closing in on 5:00 PM, and we were very late. Bummer. I rushed home, got the dumplings, went to the market and got set up. Several of our friends were waiting, and I filled their orders immediately. Our friends D&SJ were heading out of the driveway, they had been waiting for awhile and had to go, then turned around and met with me. Talk about cutting it close.

I tried to stabilize and get things cruising, but it was crazy from the get-go, and I was all by my lonesome. It was a little crazy, and I had the two little entrepreneurs next to me. They were doing a great job, and were courteous of our space, but it did complicates things a little. Two more bodies to be aware of.

By the time R and the kids showed up, things were cooking. We got things together, she brought more dumplings, and finally things calmed down. The music was great, all blues, though a little loud, making conversation difficult. The weather cooperated, and was breezy and comfortable.

Before we knew it, we had sold out, and had time to kill. Not only did we start late, but business was good enough to sell everything before the end of the market. Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if we had gotten there earlier armed with more dumplings. Whatever be the case, we saw many of our friends, and it was a really nice time, and the weather worked in our favor.

Chalk one up for the local market, once again.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sergio Roberto Bichara and Niels Rameckers for the pics.

Reflections on Camp Teazel

Camp wound down last week and the kids ended their big survival run with a sleepover at Camp Wild Teazel and a closing ceremony the next day. Needless to say, R&I were worried about the kids being away for the night, especially N. Not just because he's so young, but he's also the youngest boy amongst a group of wild boys, though it makes it easier because CH and EC are there, and they are thoughtful and sensitive. Also, N benefits from having his big sis, who looks after them.

It was also the first time that mom and dad have gone to be without the kids overnight, and we were at a loss for what to do with ourselves. Call me crazy, but I find it hard at times to really let loose and enjoy myself when the kids are not around, even though I know they enjoy not having their annoying and overbearing dad around.

The plan for the day was to drop them off in the AM, where they'd have a day at camp, which would run into the dinner and then the sleepover. The next day would go until the afternoon, where they would have a closing ceremony. Talk about a long day.

It was complicated by the fact that the closing ceremony was to begin right at the beginning of the local market, so we weren't sure what to do. We both wanted to be there, but had other practical issues to deal with.

I wanted to help out as much as I could without being a presence, even though A&H both said parents were welcome to take part. I liked the idea of the kids being comfortable with me around, so I tried to help out in the background by bringing food for the dinner. That way, the kids have no idea that I was there.

Either way, the entire experience was great for the kids. They thoroughly enjoyed it, and I think they really grew from the experience. They went on and on about what they did and how much fun it was, and they connected with some new friends. H&A did a wonderful job.

The closing ceremony was tough to make, but we managed. I went to the market, set up our tent, and left a sign saying we'd be open at 5:00. I realized we'd be losing a lot of customers, but what are you going to do? It's more important to be there for your kid's events, because that's what life is all about, isn't it?

Now I don't know how this transpired, but A ended up being the one to give the final speech, along with EC, and to a lesser degree, N. She did a wonderful job, and spoke with confidence and dare I say, eloquence. She's a fairly articulate kid, and not shy about being up on stage. There was a point where she carried on for a bit, and I wasn't sure if this was sanctioned by the group, but either way, it was a nice time.

After the ceremony, we said our goodbyes, and then I bolted over to the market, where people were waiting for us to sell our dumplings, but that is a story for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Kata Szikora for the pic.

Inauspicious Start of the Day for the Grateful Dumpling

Today is market day, and as is often the case, things are starting off on a bad note, the least of which is the weather.

Our stove is still on the blink, we ordered a new one that was supposed to arrive yesterday, and still hasn't come, and the new part that they were supposed to send us to amend the problems we were having on the old one has not arrived.

The weather has also turned sour with rain and thunder storms forecast, but at the very least, it is thankfully cooler. I'll take it.

It should be an interesting market, to say the least. We have a backup plan to cover our bases, so we'll see how that goes. More on that later.

Gotta run. We powered through this week and made a lot of dumplings, but are not sure how many people will show up. It ain't easy feeding the masses.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Disaster Market for the Grateful Dumpling

The Grateful Dumpling had a bit of a disaster last week in the big city market, and ironically enough, the horrible, awful weather may have worked in our favor and actually dampened the negative impact of the day. How's that for looking at the bright side? In the end, if you can remain philosophical about these sort of things, there are interesting and sometimes amazing lessons to be learned.

We were debating how many dumpling to bring in light of the stifling heat we've been having. Not so much because we were worried about the dumplings, which are on dry ice, but more because the heat would discourage people from coming to the market. It was slated to be in the high 90s, with no relief in sight. It was a brutal day.

Because the kids were at camp, they were spared the misery of sitting through the market in the heat. As I was setting up the tent, I was grateful (literally and figuratively) that they weren't there, because I was sweating like a pig. I looked around the market and asked myself, "Who were we trying to kid?"

The fact is, the crowds were thin, because nobody in their right mind was going to hang out in the great outdoors on a day like that. It was so much like Florida, and we were drenched in sweat. I had brought a fan and hooked it up to a jump box, which garnered praise from our compatriots who were suffering along with us. It actually worked pretty well, and we managed to squeeze out a couple of hours of juice from the thing, and it wasn't even fully charged.

To add fuel to the fire (no pun intended), our stove died. I couldn't believe it. The oil was getting too hot, so we naturally turned the flame off to let it cool. Then, of course, we couldn't start it up again. The fuel just wasn't getting to the stove, and we tried everything to clear the regulator, which we surmised was the root of the problem because the tanks were fine and we couldn't get the gas to release with the regulator thingy. Finally, after selling dumplings for about an hour, we were done. We spent the next two hours baking at the market trying to figure out what was wrong and apologizing to customers in search of Grateful Dumplings. What a bummer.

As I mentioned, the market was very slow, people were, for the most part, sensible enough to submerge their bodies in water or stay in an air conditioned space, so we didn't really lose as many sales as we could have. Plus, the dumplings were frozen, so we could save them for another day. On another bright note, we had many returning customers telling us they'd be back next week, and even some that put advanced orders in, though I'm curious to see if they'll actually come back.

As for the stove, we've ordered a newer, more powerful one and hope that it will get here before Wednesday, which is possible. I've searched high and low for a new regulator for the old stove, but it's pretty hard to find for a camp stove, though I've yet to try Wally World. I did call the company, Ozark Trails, which is owned by Blue Rhino, of all things, and they were very cool, and with no questions asked, are sending me a new regulator. The guy on the phone gave me some insight into what may have happened, and then sent me a new one. How cool is that? At least we can still use our little stove, maybe for a camping trip.

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

Crazy Heat

Okay, I don't know what is going on, but the heat has been excruciating, and there is no end in sight. Usually we get a day or two of intense heat that precedes a massive thunderstorm, but no such luck. Just day after day of intensely hot days. What is going on? I have to confess, I can't take it. It reminds me of Vegas, which is a brutal place to be on so many levels.

Fortunately there are ponds and lakes nearby, but I'm wondering what the rest of summer is going to be like. It's only early July, after all.

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

Monday, July 5, 2010

First Day of Camp Wild Teasel

The weekend went by like a whirlwind, and before you know it, here it is on Monday, and the kids are beginning camp. The camp is called Camp Wild Teasel, and it is being run by our friend and neighbor, NT and JM's daughter, HM, and her boyfriend, A. They held it last year and it was a sort of survival camp for kids. They learned things like how to build a fire with sticks, build shelters, and make things with animal skins. It struck me as a really cool experience, and I tried to get our kids in, but it was too late. This year, I saw HM at one of the town fairs and she mentioned they were doing it again and if we were interested. Were we ever, though we had some reservations about N, since he's so young. It turns out, he wasn't the youngest. There are 14 kids altogether, so they have their hands full.

The camp is at their house and it's a beautiful grounds. They have trails all over the place, and there is a pond fed by a natural spring that JM converted into a fountain. The pond is a must during this heat spell, and N expressed a few reservations about swimming, but it turns out he didn't need his noodle at all. He just went for it, which what we were hoping for.

There are several of our kid's friends, so it was sure to be a good time. There will be a sleepover night on the final day, and they will make pizza and then build a shelter, which they will sleep under. How cool is that.

The camp is named after a type of plant that literally means thirst. I believe it has thistles. Thank you Google.

The camp is amazing, and I encourage anyone interested in giving your kids a really great experience learning about nature and being outside, check out Camp Teasel. I think it's too late this year, but there's always next year.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stephen Eastop for the pic.

Fabulous Fourth

Last weekend we had a great 4th of July celebration, though we were kind of dreading it at first, mainly because we were initially slated to sell dumplings, and in the end, we couldn't pull it off. The committee was understanding because there was no shortage of food to be had, and we ended up helping them out by lending them some of our supplies that we were not going to use. Besides, it was the 4th, you can't compete with hot dogs and burgers.

The weather was brutal, as it has been for the past few days. Blistering hot, en par with San Fernando Valley Heat. I couldn't believe it. We were lucky to get some cloud cover for much of the day, so it wasn't too bad, but it was hot. I think it put a damper on the festivities, though there were amazing amounts of people.

The crowds really come out in droves to see our 4th of July parade, it's quite and event. I've been told people like it because it really combines small town values with a fairly decent showing in the parade. And because there are so many artists in this town, it ends up being quite a show. There's a marching band, floats, fire engines, old cars, and all sorts of interesting things to see. I, of course, got recruited to hold the banner for the arts council, which was mildly redolent of extortion, but that's what happens when you're the new kid on the block. They did an amazing job on their float, recreating the show on a much smaller scale, but it looked great. A testament to their artistic vision and how much fun they have realizing it. For the record, the float won first place in the parade, so kudos to everyone involved. I'm guessing they won because of the fabulous job that the person holding the banner did.

After the parade, we went to the grounds, and it was a madhouse. It always takes a few minutes to find your groove at these events. We got some food, the kids played some games and ran around with their friends, but at some point, the heat just gets to you. We told the kids we were going home, and they were reluctant, but had little choice.

We wanted to get home, get some rest, then eat a healthy dinner in preparation for more junk food and then fireworks. It also meant that we could get some badly needed work done around the house.

Around 7:30, the kids were getting excited, and we headed over to the rec center and scored on a prime parking space. We walked over to the lawn where there was an impressive crowd, and we staked out a spot near P&JC. There were kids everywhere, and they all got to sit together and have fun. The weather cooled down considerably, and people were even complaining of being too cold.

The fire-spinners came on, as they did last year, and wowed the audience with their act while we munched on brownie fudge sundaes. Then the fireworks began, and for a small town, they sure do a great job.

Afterward, we exchanged phone numbers for some potential playdates, and then went home for sleep. The next day the kids were supposed to go to their first day at Camp Teasel, and they needed to get a good night's sleep, which it was too late for, but we had to try.

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

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Birthday Fun and OHD Float Building

A&R attended a birthday bash the other day at a buddies house, and we had a few reservations on a couple of fronts. First off, it was going to be pretty much all boys, and energetic and active ones, as that. Second, they were older boys, so N might have had his work cut out for him. And thirdly, we were right on the heels of some dramatic encounters with one of the boys, so we weren't sure what would come of it. The kids were itching to go, however, and we wanted them to go and have fun.

It was going to be a busy day because afterward we were slated to help build a float for the 4th of July parade, which was going to take up the rest of the afternoon. Throw in extremely hot weather, and we weren't sure what was in store.

Well, it turns out the party went well. We were initially backing out for assorted personal and logistical reasons (we had to prepare the market and usually bring the kids along), but our good friend CH stepped up to the plate and not only agreed to take the kids to the party, but said she could bring them over to the float site, as well. What a good friend.

The party went well, the kids had a blast, and the parents, S&MP, did a fabulous job of throwing a great party, filled with water activities on a hot summer day. A&N went on about how much fun it was, and they then had a blast doing the float. I went over to meet them and sat around feeling useless. I think SJ is having second thoughts about me being on the board, and I can't say I blame her. Nothing worse than being dead weight.

After a long hot day, we still had the 4th of July to contend with. At least we were going to have to make 1000 dumplings, though for the record, we could have done it.

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

Surprise Market for the Grateful Dumpling

In a good example of the fact that you just never really know what life has in store for you, we went into last week's local market with really low expectations and it turned out beautifully, except for the fact that we could have sold a lot more. In fact, we sold out about halfway through the market, but it was all okay. We went into it remembering the previous week where we ended up with so many extra dumplings. It was a bummer. Obviously we didn't want so much to go to waste, so basing our numbers on previous weeks, we went in with a safe number, and people came in droves. We're even developing a loyal clientele, which is a really cool thing.

We felt bad we sold out, and we lost out on developing new customers, which ended up going elsewhere for their meals, but we didn't seem to mind, because it was such a beautiful afternoon, and everyone had a great time. A&N's buddy came over with a peace offering after a traumatic playdate, and they ended up reconciling things, which we are glad for because he really is a nice kid, and we really like the parents, who are great people.

So the kids went off like usual and went crazy, we hung out and had a nice evening with our neighbors, and the other vendors seemed to do well, which is a great thing. Betsey Stewart played guitar and sang, and she was outstanding. She is a professional musician who performs throughout the area, and she has a beautiful voice and sang some of my favorite obscure songs, including Our Town by Iris Dement. I love that song.

She was nice enough to A get up and play, as well. She performed two of her own songs, and I just get a huge kick out of seeing her perform. Thanks to BS for being so patient and kind.

A also connected with a new-ish buddy, SR, I believe, but I could be off a little on that one.

It was a wonderful evening, the weather was cool, people came out to show their support, and everyone had a great time. I love our local market, it's such a nice time and a great way to rub elbows with friends and neighbors. People are saying that it is growing, and the numbers here at the Grateful Dumpling seem to support this, but only time will tell.

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

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grateful Dumpling Needs a New Stove

It turns out that we need a new stove. Our Wally World special of a camp stove has been acting up and needs replacing. We've been running into problems with it at the market, and it has happened on more than one occasion. For whatever reason, it stops heating the oil enough to cook the dumplings quickly enough, and we start encountering deficit situations, which can be stressful in the heat of the moment. Also, it's can get expensive dealing with those small propane canisters, not just buying them, but disposing of them. Finally, it's not the eco-friendly way to go.

I'm guessing the stove is designed for light camping use, and in light of that, it has held up fairly well. We bought the thing at the zero hour, the evening before our first market. We had picked up another on with one large single burner, but decided that we wanted one with two separate burners, instead. It must have been about 8:00 PM when I went out, found the stove, and we used it the next morning. It has done the job, and I'm guessing the problem is rooted in the regulator, which can probably be replaced.

In the meantime, we need a new stove, something that works off of a 20 gallon propane tank. I found one that I sort of like on the website Best of all, because of some of the work I've done with this blog (of all things) I've managed to score a $60 gift certificate which I can apply to the cost of the thing. How cool is that?

After you dig around a bit, you begin to realize that people get pretty serious about their camping cookware. I'm not sure if I'm ready to go there, but we do need a better setup, so I'm not knocking it.

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

Not This Year for the Grateful Dumpling

After much rumination and debate, the Grateful Dumpling decided that it wasn't going to sell dumplings at the 4th of July celebration. We figured we could sell a lot because it really draws a big crowd, but given that there will be a lot of other food vendors, and that the 4th is a time for hot dogs, hamburgers, and lemonade, we kind of figured that maybe dumplings would be a little out of place. I did, however, learn that several of our friends were going to give it a go, so best of luck to them. Besides, we're working on the arts council float.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Robert Linder for the pic.

Peony Festival

The other weekend they held the local Peony Fest, and it's such a wonderful event, one that we love to attend, especially because it's so close by. Unfortunately, it wasn't so well attended, and it was sort of a bummer that more people didn't come out and support our friends and neighbors. This is particularly true when you consider that the Harmony Farms people are very involved and supportive of events in the area, and then the people they help support are not necessarily reciprocating their efforts. Just an observation.

Either way, the crowd was a little thin, but we had a lot of fun. The music was nice, there were games for the kids, and lots of food. After the event, people were brainstorming on ideas to increase traffic to the gig, and I think together we can come up with something. The word cogitating was employed at some point.

It's a wonderful event and it would be a shame it if came to an end. Then again, that takes effort on everyone's part. One problem is that it falls on the same day as other big events, including the Strawberry Fest and assorted farmer's markets. I don't know what the answer is, but we'll keep working on it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michaela Kobyakov for the pic.

Nice 5th Market for the Grateful Dumpling and Geography

In a good example of how you just never really know what life will hand you, we at the Grateful Dumpling had a really nice day at the market. The weather has been very unpredictable, and on that particular day, it was cool and breezy, dare I say cold. The kids were wearing jackets, and even I began to second guess the wearing of short pants. Then again, it sure beat sweating my socks off.

We saw many of our friends, and are beginning to see many repeat customers, some of whom come and buy large orders, on the order of 20 or more dumplings. It's nice to see, I have to admit, and by the end of the day, we had sold out, so we're not complaining. N,J&A C came by and the kids all played together, which was nice. I've always liked JC, he's such a good kid, and he plays nicely with A&N. Good thing we had the Frisbee.

Also, at some point, a family showed up and played baseball on the field, and one of the kids asked N if he'd like to join in, and not only did he take part, but he shined. What a jock that boy is, and from our vantage point, it was too cute for words to see the kids hitting the ball and running with all they had around the bases. It warmed our hearts, to say the least.

Also saw H,E&D W, and they gave a thumbs up for the dumplings. What we love is when people stop by and try them, and then come back for more. You gotta love that.

We also feel lucky to be next to N and her alpaca store, she is so wonderfully nice, and I've once again forgotten the name of her business. Darn. Either way, she is an amazing person, and she always lets the kids help her out and hang out around her booth. She's said they're a joy, but we appreciate her patience in letting them explore all that she has to offer. Plus, she's got a big, manly pickup truck that is purple, so she wins points with the kids.

I did manage to get some local produce that we will use in the dumplings. We got scallions and some bok choy, and I've been told that the local CSA will have a booth at the local market, so we can get more stuff. Should be good.

We noticed that geography at the market can be a key to business. The booths that are at the entrance do the best, and I'm guessing that people buy stuff and just leave. We are at the far end, so we get the more adventurous people that are willing to brave the mysterious depths of the market. We don't get to hear the music as well, but I like our location. We have our little corner where we enjoy our neighbor's company. Plus we benefit from Allechante, which sells amazing baked goods (really amazing), and the kettle corn folks, whose product really draws a crowd. Food in general seems to attract people, so it may not be a huge issue.

There was a farm booth that sold fresh veggies, and they had a great marketing angle. The guy was making balloon animals, and included in the purchase of vegetables was a custom made balloon figure. How brilliant is that? The kids were lining up, forcing mom and dad to buy tomatoes or balloons-they cost $1 if you didn't buy produce. Of course A&N wanted balloon swords, so I got tomatoes and cucumbers. For the record, the tomatoes were beautiful, but clearly of the hothouse variety.

As I mentioned, we sold out, and we somehow managed to pace it so that it was never really that crazy and overwhelming. I wish we could do that for every market, but you just never know who is going to show up on any given day. For what it's worth, I do think the population of the big city has stabilized, with the regular crowd away and the summer population in place. This makes for a more regular crowd on market day, which is a good thing.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dave Dyet and Jan Krat��na for the pics.