Saturday, August 28, 2010

Waxing Philosophical at the Grateful Dumpling

If you really wanted to be philosophical about this whole experience, I guess you could point to the selling of dumplings as a lesson in life, because it does incorporate a lot of issues that I struggle with yet feel have value.

First and foremost is the concept of hard work and following through on something you've started (there are also enjoying the fruits of your labors, which we have yet to realize) On the hard work front, I think for most of my life, I've shied away from it and opted for the easier path. In other words, when the going got tough, I tended to quit and walk away. This, as you can imagine, allowed me to develop a great deal of bad karma on the employment front, not to mention relationships. Also, being a parent has forced me to abandon this MO, which of course is a good thing.

Taking on these dumplings has been a trying experience, and not a day goes by when I don't about it or ask myself why we're doing this and wished we could just end it, now! However, I also feel that there is value in feeling pride in something you're doing, but even more importantly is feeling that you didn't let fear (something that haunts me all the time) of new experiences or challenges prevent you from at least trying something. This condition gets worse as I get older.

There is nothing, in my opinion, worse than going through life wondering how things might have been or wishing you had tried something but didn't. In other words, saying "I wished I'd..." or "What if..." are not great ways to live my life. For some of us, it works, but I feel like I've missed out on a lot of things because I was either too scared/lazy/apathetic to have tried.

Not that I have pined all my life to make dumplings, but having at least given it a go has introduced us to an amazing number of experiences and people, not to mention added to our income flow. But just as important is the concept that after some hard work and enduring some pain and suffering, life not only goes on, but can become richer.

From a parental standpoint, these are great lessons for our kids to learn. If anything, we'd like for them to know that the world is full of challenges, but worth exploring in order to find your place within it. These rewards, however, are never handed to you, and require that you take some chances. If you live your life sequestered in the safety of your comfort zone, something I'm all too familiar with, then life just passes you by. For most of us, this is fine, but if you want to make changes in your life, then it is necessary to break free from convention and shake up your routines.

Furthermore, what greater challenge is there than being a good parent to your kids? This whole experience is redolent of parenting in that it has pushed me to the extremes of my physical and mental endurance, but by hanging in there and persevering, I've come out the other end (at least for now) with a greater appreciation for many things in life, especially in light of the fact that we didn't quit or give up.

Bear in mind, of course, that you can't quit at being a parent. Then again, plenty of people do, right?

Anyway, excuse me for getting a little thoughtful, trying times tend to do this to me. In fact, that is another valuable part of challenging yourself, it inspires you to think more about life and what is important to you. When you're caught up in your routines, how much thought do you really give to life? Maybe that's a good thing, because too much thinking often gets people into more trouble.

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

Day of the Dumpling at the Grateful Dumpling

In yet another example of bad planning, we entered into last week's local market painfully unprepared, or should I say, painfully "for me" unprepared. By morning time of the market, we literally had only one type of dumpling, and we needed four more. We had the fillings made, but we needed the actual goods.

This was a terrible scenario, but the alternative was to simply give up and back down, and these sort of options are not available to a real-man in training (RMIT). So by morning time, I had to buckle down and start cranking out the dumplings of delight. I was not in the best frame of mind, and I began to get a sense of what it is like to be a political prisoner in China.

Since it is the local market, the misery level was lower because there were fewer dumplings to make, and I figured I'd low-ball it just to make it less painful. By noon, I'd made the minimum required level, and then set about cooking them.

Truth be told, it wasn't as painful as I'd thought, much like virtually every endeavor I embark on and that fear prevented me, at some point in time, from doing it in the first place. Have you ever had those moments, where thinking about something is enough to discourage you from even trying it? You don't even have to answer that question, I know this is a universal human condition.

We ended up coming out of it all unscathed, and the market was fine, though the crowd is getting thin. I really think things are winding down, and it will be interesting to see how many people come out once school has started. I'm guessing it's the beginning of the end.

Strangely enough, I view it with mixed emotions. On the one hand I can't wait for this to be over, but on the other, it's had its share of fun and rewarding moments, and I'll miss certain aspects of it. Funny how that works.

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

Before, During, and After at the Grateful Dumpling

I was talking to R after the market and she inspired in me one of those "ah-ha" insightful moments. We were tired and miserable and yet had to clean up in the aftermath of the local market, and yet we enjoyed doing the market. The local market in particular is a really good time with friends and neighbors.

She came to the conclusion that it is the before and after of the market that makes it a bummer, but that the during is what she really enjoys.

I have to say I agree, but can't quite figure out how to get to the during without the before and after. I'll have to work on that one.

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Forget About Dumplings

I took a day and decided to forsake the dreaded dumplings to get some much needed stuff done around the house. I know this will come back to haunt me, but sometimes a man has to do what he has to do.

On Thursday, I should have been making dumplings because we literally had nothing for the Friday local market. At that point, I thought, who cares? I don't, I'd had enough. I figured if need be, we could just call in and say we weren't coming, but that would have been taking the easy way out, right? And real men don't do those things.

Either way, our yard has been suffering, not to mention virtually every other aspect of our lives outside the dumplings, but don't get me started. I was tired of looking at the overgrown grass, and decided it had to be cut. Dumplings be damned.

Boy was it satisfying. The summer has been hot and dry, so the grass has been growing, but probably not as quickly than if we'd gotten a lot of rain. It was still sloppy looking, however, and somehow that just gets me down.

The cutting went fine, and the neatly coiffed grass even inspired the kids to break out the croquet set. How cool is that?

Best of all, when mom got home, she gave dad the external validation he hungers for by telling me that the grass looked great. What more does a man need in life (other than about 700 dumplings by Wednesday's market)?

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

Car Repair and Budding Engineer

In a testament to the fact that N has engineering in his genes, he came forward and enthusiastically helped me to fix the blinker on my Mentor's car. Not only that, but he was insightful enough to see that I was making a mistake and we were fixing the problem.

We were having blinker problems, and I figured that it would be easy enough to fix by just replacing the bulb, which I naturally assumed would be burned out.

I unscrewed the casing and took out the bulb as an example to take to the parts store. I asked N to hold it while I screwed on the casing, and he told me that the bulb looked fine to him.

I took the bulb and held it up to the light, and sure enough, the filament was still intact. We re-inserted the bulb, hit the blinker, and voila, the thing worked fine. N wanted to put the casing back in place, so of course I let him.

Sometimes our kids simply amaze me. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Busted at the Dump

When we take our recycling to the dump, which we seem to do almost three times each week, the kids like to take part in discarding the bottles. This, of course, entails throwing them against the concrete wall and smashing them, or tossing them into the pile and watching bottles and jars shatter into an explosion of glass. I have to admit, it's kind of fun.

Not only that, but other people have given us their glass recycling for the kids to have fun with, and sometimes the pile is so high that we can reach in and grab the bottles and smash them. What fun, right?

Well, apparently not to the people running the dump. The other day, there was a new sign that said NOT to throw the bottles but rather drop them gently into the pile. Also, children were not to be left unattended.

That, of course, translated into a directive aimed straight at me that said, "Hey, loser, stop making a mess of the glass." Wow, I felt kind of bad. The kids were bummed, too, but that's what happens when you have to follow the rules.

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

For All It's Worth

So, despite all of my moaning and dreading of the FM, the Grateful Dumpling had a fairly good day at the big-city market, even in lieu of the ominous signs. To start, we are having significant problems with our supply chain regarding the wrappers, so much so that we had toyed with idea of bailing out on both markets, but of course, we can't let our customers down.

Also, the weather was lousy and was forecast called for rainy and miserable conditions for the entire day. What further inspiration did we need to stay at home?

Well, we went ahead and prepared for the big city market and decided to go ahead with it, and believe it or not, it turned out to be a nice day, even though assorted disasters awaited us.

As I mentioned, it was raining pretty much the day before as well as the actual day of the big city market, which made loading the car a bit more challenging. On the drive over, the rain kept coming, and I was asking myself, as were the children, why exactly we were doing this?

By the time we got to Hanover, however, the rain stopped, and we were left with gray skies, which worked in our favor because it meant less heat. We set up and R showed up from a rough day at work with a disposition to match my own, i.e., not the best frame of mind to sell dumplings. I can totally relate.

Anyway, before the market even started, people came streaming over to get the goods. In fact, the musical performers, who were part of the kid's orchestra, were all itching for dumplings, but according to market regulations (who follows these rules?), we're not supposed to start selling until the 3:00 bell. After the bell, however, they became immediate regulars.

Then, from the get-go, business was steady. Not crazy or stressful, but a constant stream of people such that business was good. I'm not sure where they were coming from, but they kept coming. I'd heard that a tour bus was passing through, and at one point a group of older people showed up and just started grabbing dumplings and eating them on the spot. They paid, but it was kind of humorous, like a bunch of old New Yorkers getting their rural fix by bus.

We did run into a crisis-we ran out of food boats, and then started using bags, which we started to run out of. Things were looking gloomy, and R and I started in on our standard disaster MO, which is to start pointing fingers at each other to determine whose fault it was. The irony is, we have millions of these boats at home, we just forgot to pack more.

At some point, as the bags dwindled to a short stack, we employed our kids (doe eyes, and all) to set out in search of something to serve dumplings in. They came back empty handed because nobody used the same boats. It turns out, however, that NL of Hogwash Farm came to the rescue. She sells locally raised and unique breeds of meats, and serves killer burgers made with her beef, grilled on the spot, which the kids had for supper.

Well, I noticed that she served the burgers on paper plates, and sent the kids over to ask if she'd sell us some. She gave us an entire package, which saved us. I learned later that the kids had asked her for boats and she offered them plates, but since they were not what we specified, the kids said no-thank you. Kind of cute.

Afterward, I spoke with NL and she said no problem with the plates, we didn't need to pay her but she'd take dumplings instead. The thing about situations like this is that you can't quantify the value of her assistance in monetary terms. She literally saved our behinds. Plus, we made a connection, and she commented on how much liked our kids and how well mannered they were. That wins points in our book, any day.

The irony of all this is that despite all the suffering, there are moments of the market that are rewarding and enjoyable, and again, we love connecting with the other vendors and for that matter, our loyal customers.

So maybe things aren't so bad, after all. Then again, talk to me on Sunday, when we have to make dumplings. That is, of course, if we ever get our wrappers.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sigurd Decroos for the pic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More Signs

We have been shot down in flames from our wrapper supplier, not once, but twice. What is a person to make of such developments? Is someone trying to tell me something?

I went to get wrappers last weekend at YiPing's and she said she only had five packages left because she needed them to make dumplings herself. The nerve! Who does she think she is? She said more would come on Tuesday.

I took the five packages and had to go to our alternative source, the Coop, which is more expensive, but more reliable. However, they need to order them, so we couldn't get them that day. They ordered the goods and we got them on Monday, which meant that we furiously had to make dumplings on Monday and Tuesday for today's market. This is normally something we do on the weekend because we love it so much and can't imagine doing anything else with our free time.

Tuesday afternoon N had a dentist's appointment (no cavities, thankfully) and on the way back, we had to hurry because A had piano at 3:30. We had about 15 minutes to spare, which is a boatload of time in our world, so we swung by YiPing's to get the wrappers, and again, she didn't have any. Can you believe it? She said maybe Friday.

I was stunned. Clearly this week just wasn't meant to me. A sign, perhaps, or an indication of the bigger picture? Who's to say. All I know is, we've got to get to the market, and all I want to do is lay down and take a nap. What else is new?

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

Listen to Your Heart and See the Signs

Here we are, another market, and I have to confess, I'm not in possession of the best frame of mind. In other words, since I'm training to be a real man, I can no longer whine and bemoan the fact that we have to do the market, when in fact, all I want to do is moan and whine. Oh well, nobody said being a real man was easy.

I woke up this morning and felt like Charlie Brown on the first day of school, just dreading it, though my stomach didn't hurt. Whatever be the case, I think you have to listen to those voices when they speak to you. It's one thing if you're working in the salt mines to make a living and it's either dig or go hungry, but our situation is completely of our own making, and we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

FYI, this was pointed out to me the other day at BG's. I saw the town clerk and he asked how the dumplings were going. When I said it took up all of our time, he said, "This was your decision, you got yourself into this."

To which I replied, "What are you, the hall monitor?" Actually, I didn't say this because I didn't think of it until I was halfway home. Besides, he's right.

Anyway, we're off again to the market. The other day, R and I were talking about the market and decided that we cannot do both markets and retain our sanity. This decision alone filled me with hope. The two markets make it that much more difficult, and if we only did one, it would mean that we could potentially prepare for it in one day. How great would that be?

The question is, which market will be sacrificed?

One more note regarding listening to the signs, the weather is perfectly mirroring my mood-cold, gray, and miserable. How's that for a message coming down from above?

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

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Back in the Fray and Small Divine Intervention

Like all parties, the fun had to end, and now that our big day has passed, reality must set back in. In other words, time to make more dumplings. Why exactly are we doing this to ourselves? In act of minor divine intervention, however, we did run out of dumpling wrappers, and when we visited our supplier, she had run out, as well.

Now this is a double-edged sword, because on the one had, it's a good thing because it forces us to not spend the entire day cranking out hundreds of dumplings. On the other hand, this is bad, because we can't make nearly enough dumplings and will be forced to do it during the week, which translates into me, myself, and I being the one who will have to do it. I guess it's a lucky break for R, though she will express the required sympathy while breathing a huge sigh of relief on the inside.

On the anointed day when we had to begin, which for the record, we were not looking forward to, R said "I am so not into doing this," to which I replied, "Look on the bright side, you're not me and don't have to spend all week making them." You have to love the bright side of things.

Meanwhile, we had to prioritize. We made a majority of the beef dumplings we'll need, but during the week, we'll have to get more wrappers from our alternate source, who is more expensive, but more reliable. At that point, which will hopefully be Monday, because Tuesday is cutting it close for the Wednesday market, we'll have to crank out all the other dumplings, which will be a chore, but doable.

Guess what I'm going to be doing for the next few days, in between working on my tan, of course.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vivek Chugh for the pic.

Birthday Meal and Cake

Okay, this is the last post on our birthdays, at least until tomorrow. We finished off our big day with a big feast made from as many local (and preferably home grown) items as possible. As much as I harp on our garden and how much I dislike gardening, the effort of R and the kids is very fruitful. In fact, if not for that darn woodchuck, we would have a fairly good bounty. Sure, we lost the beets and cabbage, and the green beans never really recovered from the decimation, but for the most part, the other veggies did well.

The corn grew beautifully, which is in contrast to past years, where we got small and emaciated ears. In fact, the corn not only grew tall, but they tasted amazingly good. It might be that we got our seeds through Fedco versus past years when we bought them at Home Depot, a fact I'm not proud to admit. Also, we've had a hot and sunny summer, more so than previous years, so the garden really benefited from all that photosynthesis.

Whatever be the case, I think R and the kids should be proud, they did a stand-up job. Our tomato plants are also on the verge of inundating us with fruit, and they even managed to grow purple potatoes, which are these really cool and delicious spuds that we've had in the past.

Last year we got the blight, which took out all of our potatoes and tomatoes, so this year we were keeping our fingers crossed. The weather last year didn't help, so the warm dry weather was a welcome change.

R also made fresh pesto from the basil in our garden and the garlic we got from CS's farmstand. We got some fresh bread from the HFM, which our good friend made, and with slices of fresh tomato from the garden, coupled with purple tomatoes, we had a killer appetizer.

We barbecued some pork country style ribs with BBQ sauce, and then grilled some asparagus in olive oil and garlic. The food was great, and there was plenty of it. We tried to save room for cake and ice cream, but we were famished from our big kayaking trip.

We were thinking of going out to eat, and it would have been much simpler, with no cooking involved and no clean-up, but we've reached a stage in our lives where it doesn't completely matter (sometimes it does) where we are, as long as we are together having fun. So we enjoyed ourselves even in lieu of the fact that there was a lot of preparation and clean up.

After chowing down, we lit the cake, with our ages scrambled on top for effect (you'll have to decipher what the numbers mean), and along with peanut butter cup ice cream, topped off a great meal with some treats.

So, in closing, though we didn't plan properly to manage our yearly trip to the Franconia Inn, or anywhere for that matter, we had a great birthday, and it really boiled down to hanging out and being together.

And, of course, not dealing with the dumplings, which will inevitably come back to bite us in the you-know-what, but I can't think of such things right now.

Just a quick side-note. I was given a bottle of sparkling apple cider from none other than DC, and I foolishly assumed it was alcohol free. It's apple cider, right? I was saving it for a special occasion and figured a birthday was a good time to pop the cork. I served to everyone at the table, and on the first sip, it became painfully clear that it contained alcohol. You should have seen the look on everyone's face, and the kids gave me constant grief for my slip-up. I guess I should have read the label more closely, especially the part where it says it contains 7.5% alcohol. For the record, the kids hated the taste, and I'm not much of wine drinker, myself... though I play one on TV.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Going Down the River

Not to keep harping on our birthdays, but we went out did something that we'd been wanting to do for a long time, and yet never managed to do: kayaking along the river. It's easy enough to do, our friend MB owns Wilderness Trails, the outdoor shop adjacent to the Quechee Inn that rents kayaks and bikes in the Summer and XC skis and snowshoes in the Winter. He also maintains all the trails near Dewey's Mill Pond. He does a great job, and has kayaks available at the Hartland Dam.

Interestingly enough, after we got the key, we headed to the dam and stopped by his house, of all things, to check out his wife's farm stand, which is en route. She is CS, who is the matriarch of the HFM, where sells quiche and fresh fruits and veggies, as well as a variety of other foods. She does an amazing job and has quite the spread at their house. Rows of blueberries and an amazing garden, not to mention a world of knowledge about growing. We picked her brain about growing blueberries, which we have failed at miserably... or not. We did learn a lot, some of which indicates that we didn't screw up completely, which would be a first.

Anyway, back to the kayaks. The way it works is you head over to see MB and he gives you a key and some lifejackets and oars. You then head over to the dam and unlock the kayaks and you're ready to go. We had never really done this as a family, and N expressed some reservations, perhaps because the last (and first) time he went out on a kayak was at Lake Sunapee, and the conditions were horrible. It was so windy that the water was choppy like the ocean. I don't blame him for being pensive.

That day, however, was calm and beautiful. In fact, we benefited from some cloud cover to help keep it cool. As usual, there was nobody at the water's edge, so we launched and headed down the Ottaquechee River. It was so beautiful. The water was calm like glass, and we glided along, enjoying the serenity and quiet. I could have done it all day, and wanted to see how far we could make it, though at points it was rather shallow. We even got stuck in the mud at one point and had to claw our way out.

We were told to keep an eye out for beavers, eagles, and herons, though we only saw herons, which were really cool. We didn't see any actual beavers, though we saw what looked like their lodgings. They had "No Vacancy" signs, however.

We went pretty far down before some individuals, who shall remain unnamed, expressed an interest in heading back. It was getting a bit late, and it even rained a few times. Furthermore, upon heading back, we realized that we had actually gone pretty far down river, because the trip back was a bit of a chore.

I did notice that leaving is easier and more enjoyable than coming back. When you head out, there is no destination and there is the element of the unknown that makes it enjoyable. You have nowhere to be, so you can peacefully glide down the river without feeling any need to hurry.

On the way back, however, the sudden knowledge of a destination seems to change everything. You become painfully aware of distances, and I found myself working harder in the knowledge that we had so far to go. It made it less enjoyable, and this could be my imagination, but it seemed like more work going back, even in lieu of the fact that we were heading downstream.

Somewhere in that scenario is an analogy for life, but I'll get back to you later on that one.

In the meantime, thanks for reading.

Again, Not Worthy

Our kids sure do a good job of making me feel unworthy of their presence, or should I say, "presents?" They made, by hand, all by their lonesome, a bunch of gifts for us on our birthday. They were so cute, and it was clear that they really put a lot of time and thought into them.

What was great was that they made everything, right down to the boxes that the gifts were put in. R and I were so touched, and we loved opening them and seeing what their efforts produced.

N made a box filled with Jacob's Ladders, made with a variety of paper in all sorts of colors. They were so cool, fun to play with. He even said that they were easy and he'd be happy to show me how to make them. The box that they came in was made by his very own hands, and it even had a pipe-cleaner clasp to open and close it. What a great design, a true engineer at heart.

He also made a puzzle for mom, and I have to confess that it was a little beyond my abilities to solve. I tried it, but couldn't solve it, he made an expert level puzzle. We kept mentioning that perhaps only Grandmom JR could solve it since she's an ace puzzle-solver.

A made some bead art, or whatever it's called, in the pattern of "Peace, Love, and Happiness." How cool is that? So conscientious for a 9-year-old. I have to confess, I got to see the charms beforehand because I am the one who usually irons them to set the patterns, but it was still a wonderful surprise.

She also made a jack-in-the-box out of construction paper, complete with a heart made out of pipe-cleaners on the end. It worked, too. Our kids should be toy designers for Hasbro.

Finally, in homage to my Mentor, A made two origami hot-air balloons complete with pipe-cleaner renditions of mom and dad, which for the record we beautifully done. Pipe-cleaner Mom even had blond hair and a matching outfit, and Pipe-cleaner Dad had a dark ponytail with an orange hair wrap. Both mom and dad were holding hearts above their heads to honor their big day. It was really cool.

There were more things, but I can't really describe them all in excruciating detail without driving all of you crazy, so I'll leave it at that. Suffice it to say that the presents were fabulous and yet another example of how unworthy we are, or at least I am, of having such great kids.

Then again, that's just my opinion, and who really cares what I think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC, ARL, and NRL for the pics.

What a Great Day

In the aftermath of our birthdays, I must confess, we had a really nice day, and part of that was pushing dumplings out of psyche. We had decided that we would not work on or even mention the word "dumplings" on our big day, and we succeeded in doing that, with a minor slip-up or two now and again.

Now R and I aren't big sticklers for celebrating our birthday, and prefer to let it just pass by without much fanfare, but we've been working like dogs for the past several months (for what, I couldn't tell you), and the kids get a huge kick out of preparing for and celebrating the day.

In fact, they did a fabulous job making a bunch of handmade presents. They were holed up in the school room for days, telling mom and dad that entry by us was forbidden, and worked really hard on their gifts. Let me tell you, they did an amazing job. Some of the best presents ever. I love when they make the cards by themselves, it's so much fun.

We opened presents in the morning, then took a nice long walk along the ski trail into town to have breakfast at our favorite restaurant, Stella's. We figured there would be a crowd, which there was, and we got to see a bunch of our friends, including JM, B, RW, P, ST, and a bunch of people we knew by sight but not by name. Even some FM people. Don't you love life in a small town? RW and P came over and asked how the dumplings were doing and I almost fainted. Just kidding.

After breakfast, the plan was to go for a kayak ride at the Hartland Dam, then back home for our local supper followed by cake and ice cream. The cake was from Lou's, their chocolate mousse cake, and is one of my all-time favorites. Amazing stuff.

It was a busy but super-nice day, just doing fun stuff and avoiding dumplings at all costs. Sure, it will come back to haunt us, but we enjoyed it in the meantime.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to ARL and NRL for the pics.

spent a great day
kids made us presents
breakfast at stellas, saw all of our friends

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Our Birthday

Yet another birthday has arrived, and in honor of this special day, as I mentioned, we have decided to push dumplings out of our minds and spend the day doing enjoyable things together, which of course would preclude anything having to do with making dumplings.

The question is, what have we gotten ourselves into?

The plan is to go to Stella's, our favorite restaurant, and have breakfast, then do something fun, maybe on the river, and then have a barbecue at home. We've got our favorite cake, Lou's chocolate mousse cake, and we'll have ice cream and homemade hot fudge, which BTW we still have to make.

It's funny, but I can't help but think of all the projects that need to be completed and how, even though it's my birthday, all I want to do is work on them. How's that for twisted?

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

Fried on Dumplings

We asked our kids the other day what their thoughts were on this whole dumpling business, or more specifically, if they thought we should do it again next year, and they answered with a resound "NO WAY!" I can't say I blame them, it's been a very difficult time. The entire summer seems somewhat consumed by making these darn dumplings, and I have to admit, I don't like it, either.

In fact, at this point in time, I'm not so keen on doing it again next year, but talk to me in the Winter. I may change my tune.

In the meantime, since today is a special day, we've vowed not to do anything dumpling related, though that's hard to do when something consumes your life. We're going to try to even push the things out of our collective consciousness, but that will take some serious mind control.

We'll see how this works out. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to John evans for the pic.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Frailty of the Male Ego

Medical Billing
Medical Billing

Now for reasons that are completely beyond me, I seemed to have been given some sort of award for my blog. I'm not sure what it is all about, but being the insecure male writer that I am, of course I am displaying it prominently on my blog.

My first thought upon receiving it, however, was what's the catch? Isn't it terrible to be so cynical? It does seem to be a rather specialized category, but I'm not knocking it.

The award notification came out of the blue, thus adding to the mysterious nature of it all, but I have to confess, I'm flattered and touched at being recognized, even if it is an obscure category. I didn't even realize people outside of my sphere of friends, family and acquaintances (some of whom have a moral obligation to read my blog), actually read my blog. Thanks, BTW, to all of you for taking the time hear me out. It's much appreciated.

Now, if I could just make some income writing to help support our fabulously opulent lifestyles, life would be good... not that it isn't already.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Things Are Picking Up at the Grateful Dumpling

We spoke with our neighbor at the big-city market and she said that two weeks ago was traditionally the busiest week, and then things taper off until the market ends. We have not necessarily found this to be the case, though in all fairness, it has only been one week. We just did a huge market, and it was amazingly busy. So much so that at points we literally had to keep cranking out dumplings non-stop just to keep pace, and even then we failed at that.

In the past, we found that customers came in waves, with long lulls in between that allow us to play catch-up. This was not the case this past week, and there was a steady stream of people from the get-go. We got to see lots of our regulars, and I think we developed new loyalties. You have to love making connections with people. Believe it or not, the crowds are increasing and school has not even started yet. It will be interesting, to say the least, once the students return.

Now being so busy is a double edged sword. We appreciate the business, no doubt, but it also means that we need to make more dumplings. This, as you might have guessed, is not as appealing, and means more hours down in the salt mines making the dumplings. Oh well, who needs a life.

We also have to decide where to put our earnings. We are able to use the proceeds to buy the raw ingredients for the treats, but what to do with the money after that is another story. We're planning our big trip at the end of the season, and who knows, maybe we'll splurge and buy new shoes or look into getting a couple of bistro sets for the new house we're building, or rather, trying to build in-between the making of dumplings. We'll have to consult with my my mother-in-law, JR, to see what she'd like.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare for the local market. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Christian Ferrari for the pic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Upper Valley Foods

Just wanted to mention that we met the guy who created the website for Upper Valley Foods, JR, and he's a great guy, not to mention a foodie, so we share a common passion. He reviews eateries all around the area and has a great website and writes a bit for the local paper. He's a fan of our dumplings, which makes him A-Okay in our book.

He's also a whiz on the web, and I'm hoping to tap into his pool of knowledge to help me create my website, which just may happen before the year is up. Stay tuned for that one.

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

Wrong Order

I was running around dragging the kids with me to do errands and went to get more paper goods at White River Paper, which is in White River (thus the name) and not always so convenient. Then again, anything that isn't right down the street is inconvenient to me.

I made a huge blunder and forgot to bring an example of the paper boats we use, so I had to guess. The guy showed me an example of one size, and it looked right, so I said yes. He brought the stuff out, and we went home. Of course, being the complete moron that I am, I didn't check the case, even in lieu of the fact that my gut instinct told me the box looked small.

Sure enough, when I got home, he hadn't given me what he told me I needed. In other words, he showed me one size, and then sold me another. This meant, of course, that I needed to pile the kids into the car and go back, a fact that they were not happy about (a gross understatement if there ever was one). A even said, upon telling her that I needed to go back to WRJ, "Okay, have fun." You have to love a little attitude in a time of crisis.

Not wanting to subject them to more parental BS, even though that's a parent's right, I called our good friend HH and she was fortuitously home. I asked her if they could watch the kids for an hour while I went back to WRJ, and since her girls were there, they replied with an emphatic, "Yes." A&N were pleased to no end.

The situation was complicated by the fact that it was 4:00 and I had karate at 6:00. This meant that I had to get the right stuff, make dinner and feed the kids, then get to karate so I can continue my training in how to deliver death blows to my foes.

I dropped the kids off and went back to White River paper to raise some hell. I was ready to give him a piece of my mind, though it wasn't completely the guy's fault. I wasn't clear about what I wanted, and I should have checked the box before heading home. He did, however, sell me something different than what he was telling me.

We both had blood on our hands. I got to the store armed with an example of what I needed, and the guy was so nice and helpful, that I couldn't be mad. He helped me out, we straightened out the situation, and I came away from it grateful that we live in a small town and get to deal with businesses on a more personal level. I can appreciate that.

For the record, when I got to HH's to pick up the kids, A&N were not happy to see me, and kept commenting on how it seemed like such a short time. If only they knew.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thank for reading, and thanks to HH for saving the day.

Slaves to Dumplings

In a testament to the fact that we slaves to our dumplings, our birthdays are coming up and we can't go away for fear of letting our customers down. This is a gross exaggeration, of course, but great for dramatic effect and a good excuse to whine.

Even still, we've missed a day at each market, and heard all about it upon our return. At the big city market, we couldn't make it and some of our regular customers told us they came and were disappointed we weren't there. One family said they had out of town visitors and brought them over to get dumplings and were shot down in flames. They even throw in how their kids were bummed. Ouch!

At the local market, one woman was having a dinner party and wanted to bring dumplings for her guests and was also denied because we were sick and couldn't make it.

Now don't get me wrong, wars are not won and lost because of our dumplings, and there are plenty of great vendors and good food offerings at the market, but we somehow feel an obligation to our customers, even in lieu of the fact that we have to be there each week and they can come whenever they choose. We nonetheless appreciate our customers and the fact that they come back for more.

That's what life in the service industry is all about, isn't it? The question is, what the heck are we doing here?

Ah, life's big questions often torment us, but that doesn't stop us from searching for the answers.

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

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Our Birthdays

Our birthdays are coming up, and for those of you who don't know, R and I have the same birthday. Makes it hard to come up with an excuse when you forget your spouses big day, but that never happens, right?

It's also an annual rite of passage for my mom to let us know she doesn't like us by completely and blatantly ignoring us. It's her way of reaching out and slapping us, something she loves to do since we don't talk on the phone too often.

Whatever be the case, we have been so busy and haven't given it much thought, and as result, we were late in planning our annual rite of passage and were subsequently shut out. We usually go to Franconia every year and stay at the Franconia Inn, a place we love. They know us well, and even commented on how we'd visited every year for the past 7-8 years, but not this year. When I called, they were completely booked. Can you believe they didn't hold a room for us? The nerve.

Now we have no plans. We're not sticklers for our birthdays, but this has been a particularly trying summer with dumplings and all, so we wanted to do something fun that did not in any way involve dumplings. We blew it, however, by waiting too long, and now our options have dwindled. At the very least, we won't make dumpling on our birthday, but we sure as heck will the day before and the day after.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Lisa for the pic.

A Night (or Day) at the Opera

Being the incredibly cultured and cosmopolitan people that we are, we spent a day at the opera. Opera North was presenting performances of La Boheme and Don Giovanni at the LOH. Now I've only been to one opera before, Carmen, and have to confess that I enjoy them.

Sure, I can't understand a word they're saying, mainly because it is all in Italian, but even if they spoke English I doubt I'd understand anything, but that's not the point, right?

It's really more about the spectacle and the music. The story lines are ridiculous, but the power of the singing is amazing, and who can resist a good tragic love story? Plus, the visuals always blow me away, and the raw artistic energy and emotion is enough to carry the show.

We did have some reservations about A&N, mostly N. He's only 6, after all, and has a preference for the Beatles and the Stones, so we worried how he'd deal with Puccini. In the end, they both did fine, though at some point N leaned over to me and asked me how much longer it was going to go.

I personally enjoyed the show a lot, and you can't beat the price. I'm no opera buff, but the performers were fantastic, and we even got to meet them after the show. Many of them go on to make a name for themselves in big cities like New York and Boston, so they are the real deal. We also saw a bunch of our neighbors at the show, so we didn't feel alone. In fact, one of our neighbor, MK, who also has the pond we frequent, wanted to take A with her. She likes to include young kids in artistic pursuits, and asked us if she could take A. We didn't want N to feel left out, though in retrospect she would have taken him, as well. Either way, we decided to all go since we're cultural animals.

We even managed to squeeze in a shopping trip and then dinner at Bolocos, one of our favorite food digs. Of course, we had to come home and make dumplings, but what else is new?

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

re going tot eh opera
La Boheme
shoudl be interesting

Dahlia Festival

One day soon I'll be caught up on this blog. My apologies to people who are inundated and maybe even a little overwhelmed by the onslaught of posts, I'm trying to make up lost ground here. I'm almost there.

Last night we attended the annual Dahlia Festival at our good friend and neighbor's house, NT and JM. They throw this amazing party with great food and good friends, and the community really shows up for a wonderful evening.

They then set up this amazing stage with all the necessary equipment for an evening of open mic. Best of all, A gets to get up there and perform. The people who sing and dance and read poetry are all amazingly talented, it's a really fun show, though I'm partial to our daughter's performance. She sang an original that she wrote, and our good friend KR was kind enough to get up there and back her for confidence and comfort. She's an amazing friend.

The night was mellow at first. The kids were itching to get there and wanted to be there from the get-go. They knew their friends would be there, and couldn't get out the door fast enough. We got there a little late, but not enough to spoil things. We brought dumplings, of course.

After the food and libations, we headed up the hill to the stage, and the show began. It's so much fun seeing everyone get up there and just have fun. That's the main theme, and it doesn't matter what your act is, everyone can appreciate a good time.

A got up and she and KR performed a duet. First they did A's original, Nature, and then they sang the song Home by Karla Bonoff (I had to look this up on Google). It's a beautiful song and a very interesting choice for a 9 year-old.

She really thrives on stage, and it helps that KR, who is a simply amazing singer/performer, is willing to go up and support her. We love KR.

Several other musicians got up and sang, and it really was a nice show. We wanted to stay for the whole thing, but at some point it was getting late, and we had to cut our a little early, but not before the kids were satisfied that they had seen enough of the show. Left to their own devices, they'd have stayed until midnight.

Thanks to NT and JM for hosting yet another amazing party.

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

The Grateful Dumpling Returns to the Local Market

Okay, it has become painfully clear to us that we cannot afford to take time off for fear of letting our customers down. We missed that last local market because I was sick, and upon returning the next week, ran into a whole slew of people who came during our absence for dumplings only to be denied. I couldn't believe it, and felt so darn guilty.

In fact, one woman who is a regular said she was having friends over for dinner and raved about the dumplings but came to get some and we weren't there. How can you reconcile such disappointment? You can't, you just have to show up. Such is life.

It's like Woody Allen said, "87% of life is just showing up."

Oh well, it's like working all your life and saving for retirement. We'll take a vacation when the market is over, which could be never.

Busy Big City Market and New Beef

We just finished our big city market and man was it busy, not to mention hot. We just can't seem to get a break from the heat, though it has been a truly warm summer, like summer should be. I guess. I shouldn't complain, because last summer was cool and VERY rainy, which was a total bummer. So enough of my negativity. At least it's cooling off.

The market started out slowly, like all of them do, and at some point I feel resigned to the fact that we won't be selling many dumplings, and I'm fine with that. We showed up, we did our best. At some point, however, things started to really pick up, and then it was a constant stream of customers lining up for dumplings. It was literally unrelenting, and I was cooking those dumplings as fast as I could to keep up with demand.

I felt at one point of just telling everyone were closed until further notice, i.e., I could stockpile enough dumplings to meet demand. I'm not complaining, it's just stressful when people are lined up and you can't crank the goodies out fast enough. We feel an obligation to our customers. At the Grateful Dumpling, customer comes first.

I also begin the market with the best of intentions in terms of getting stuff on site for our dumplings, but once the market begins, we literally have no free time. I managed to get veggies from Sidetrack and Mt. Pleasant, but it was at the end of the day, and the pickings were slim. Have to get there BEFORE the market begins next time.

I am also investigating a new beef supplier. There are a couple of them at the market, and one is Howvale Farms from Tunbridge and knows WM and GS, our buddies. His prices are higher, but he said he'd give me a break if I bought 10 pounds, which is what we do at Cloudland. I really love Cloudland's beef, it's so tasty, and I really like B&CE, but man is it a chore going out to Pomfret to get the beef. I guess you have to work hard and suffer a little for the best product, and their beef is top notch.

We shall see. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Edwin Pijpe for the pic.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to the Books

With all that's going on, it's easy to forget that we still have school to deal with, especially with Fall on the horizon. Not only do we have to answer to the state, but we have to prepare for the next school year, which is always a stressful time for yours truly. Boy, parents whose kids are in school don't know how easy they have it. Just get them dressed and out the door and you've got 7 hours of free time on your hands. I'm not complaining, it's just interesting when you really get down to it.

Anyway, enough of my whining. R and I need to go over last year's curriculum and make sure we're up to speed and then meet with SG and get our evaluations done. Then we need to formulate a school plan for next year, which is always a bear of a job.

Then again, we wouldn't have it any other way. Besides, folding the perfect dumpling is a good lesson in physics, and selling them requires an understanding of math and economics. They don't teach you that in school (it's all in how you look at things).

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

Back in the Swing of Things

Taking time off is nice, and dare I say necessary, but the problem is that the world keeps going whether or not you're involved. Case in point, we took a day off the local market, not to go galavant about town, mind you, but because we were sick. Anyway, it's still nice to get a break, but then the cold reality of capitalism kicks in, and you realize you have to make up for lost time once you get back into the swing of things.

We have been making dumplings like there is no tomorrow, but I've found that it's more bearable if you just pace yourself and set realistic goals. Chip away at the stone, so to speak. It's the only way I can keep my sanity.

I also found out that the market goes until October, which I find hard to imagine, but such is life. We're a little over halfway done, so the fun never stops.

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

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Scaling Mount Tom

We've been doing family hikes recently, and are impressed with how well the kids do. We got a little more ambitious and went for a hike up Mt. Tom in Woodstock. We'd never done it before, and as usual were a little wary of how the kids would do, but they were fine. In fact, they did better than their dad, who was a little winded at points.

The hike was a bit challenging, and a fairly steep ascent the whole time. We'd stopped at the store earlier and got bread, olives, and cheese, and were ready to feast on the summit. We were not completely sure where the trailhead was, but R somehow remembered it being near a cemetery.

We found a trail, not even sure if it was Mt. Tom, and went for it. It was not was clearly marked as the Mt. Peg Trail, but still well maintained. It was late afternoon so the path was getting dark, but as we approached the top, it really lighted up, which was kind of nice way indicator.

The view was fantastic, and we sat down for our meal, which was great. After a hike and being out in the great outdoors enhances the flavor of any meal.

It was getting late, and as we headed down it was getting fairly dark. Being the fear-monger that I am, I was little pensive, and we even got confused a bit on the way down, but figured if we just kept heading downward, we'd be okay. Sure enough, we found our way no problem, with the kids leading the way. They really have come a long way in terms of what they can handle. It's inspiring.

We stopped in Woodstock for some dessert at pretty much the only place open after 7:00 on a Sunday and had a big chocolate cookie. The place also sold ground beef, but a bit expensive. Then again, it's local.

Until the next time (or next summit), thanks for reading, and thanks to Martyn E. Jones for the pic.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Car Shopping and Local Mechanic

We've a critical stage where we really need to get a new car. R and I don't see eye-to-eye on this. We've needed a car for years, and can't come to an agreement over whether to get a new one or a used one. My approach, of course, is to go cheap and get something quickly, thus increasing the odds that it will happen. R's approach is to get a new one, but since it's much more money, the likelihood of it happening is smaller.

We've embraced her approach, and three to four years later, we still don't have a car. My feeling is that we should just get something, anything, as long as it moves. However, I also understand that when you buy something cheap, especially with a car, you can really regret it. I just want something.

Part of the problem is the domestic dilemma. Since I stay at home and don't pull in the income (some, but not enough), I don't have as much say in money matters, which is really unfair when you think about it because even though I don't make a tangible income, I work like a dog and don't get paid a penny for my efforts. I should have some say in whether or not we buy a car and what sort of car we get.

Something had to give. After many discussions, we are going to shop for a new car, sooner than later. We have some options. We've decided on a small compact and reliable car, and were told of a local mechanic, Meunier Towing, whom several people I trust highly recommend. They also mentioned he buys cars all the time at auction and has gotten good deals on cars for people we know.

I went and visited him. He's actually right by the freeway, and I see his shop frequently and have never stopped by to see him. He has cars all the time for sale out front. I actually went over because I needed a scissor jack to replace the one in our car, which has become badly rusted. He has all sorts of cars out back and he gave me one, no charge. A good-vibe first meeting.

Also, while I was waiting to talk to him, there was a retired doctor sitting there waiting for his oil to be changed and I recognized him. He buys our dumplings at the market, and sat down and chatted. In addition to being a big fan of the dumplings, he said he's bought two cars through Meunier and had nothing but good things to say about the guy.

In light of all this, we may talk more with him about getting a late model Honda or Toyota. He says he gets them all the time, and he's a great guy. AND, he's local.

A nice first meeting, so we'll see where it goes. Until then, thanks for reading, Jayson Kingsbeer for the pic.

Taking a Break From the Grateful Dumpling

Being sick has forced to stop, the break from the rigors of feeding Vermont and New Hampshire, and the time off has been nice, even if we spent it sick. We don't want to spread the joy.

I think in the 24 hours that I was in the death throes of my illness, I probably slept for about 20 of it. Man did I need it, though sleeping while sick is never as fruitful as healthy sleep. I had weird dreams, tossed and turned, and ended up sweating a gallon of fluid. It was a little extreme.

Fortunately, it only lasted about 36 hours, and after about two days I was ready to jump back in. For the record, even while I was sick as a dog, I still had to be on my feet taking care of house duties. JR, my mother in law, can completely relate to this, I'm sure.

We missed the local market, which is a bummer, because we really enjoy that one, but the time off has been nice. We've got stocks of dumplings, so we're set on that, and when you really get down to it, our lives are busy, maybe too busy.

We're not sure where this dumpling gig is going to take us, but on the other hand, we're not sure if we want to go there. We shall see.

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

Tie Dye Camp

We learned at the last minute that A&IH were taking part in art camp at the Club, and that on Friday they were doing a tied-eye camp. Wow, how did we miss out on that? The kids love tied-eyeing, and we missed out on the library day for that.

Better late than never, as the saying goes. We knew the person running the camp, they were an old Quechee acquaintance of ours, so I gave her a call and asked if the kids could jump in at the last minute, and she said sure thing.

The camp was in the basement of the club, and shirts and dye were provided. We saw some old friends, as well, including I&SS. Some of the other kids were daycare situations, you could tell. They definitely played the part.

The camp was about four hours long, so I could head home and work on the dormers. If only it were down the street, it would have been perfect. I was to watch A&I afterward for a couple of hours, so it worked out well.

The kids loved the camp, they did a nice job, and we had lunch at the Club and got to see our buddy SW. Also spent some time chatting with CS, who ran the camp, and that was rather enjoyable, as well.

Sorry we missed the two weeks prior to that day, but at least we got in one day of fun. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Erin Calaway-Mackay for the pic.

Hiking Machines-Summitting Mount Peg

We pulled off our first family hike where either R or I needed to carry one of the kids for an extended period of time. We went up Mt. Peg in Woodstock, which looks just like the mountain pictured to the left. What a nice hike, perfect first one for the family.

A had done the hike with her camping group, and it was definitely manageable. We had some concerns about N since he's not experienced at hiking, but he breezed through it. In fact, he did a better job than his old dad.

We stopped in Woodstock first to get some cheese and bread to feel like Europeans and then we parked the car and went for it. Truth be told, it was pretty easy, and we had a little camping supper at the summit, followed by a piece of mint-chocolate fudge for dessert.

What a nice way to end the day as we watched the sun set over hills. Since the weather is cooler, it's perfect for late afternoon hikes, so we'll plan more in future.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Evan Earwicker for the pic.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Not Worthy of Our Kids

As I mentioned, I was sick all day yesterday, Thursday, and found it hard to even move. It was nice laying on the couch and vegging out like a carrot stick, but there are so many things that need to be done on any given day that you can't really afford to indulge in such luxury, even when you're on your death bed. Life sure isn't fair, is it?

Well, believe it or not, the kids stepped up and took care of their old dad. It was too cute for words, and I was touched to the point where it almost made me cry. They are such cool kids, though keep in mind I'm hardly an objective observer on this one.

At some point as the noon hour rolled around the kids expressed desires for lunch, and I was able to pull it off, though not necessarily enthused. A&N chimed in and said they'd be happy to make lunch for everyone, including me. Wow, how cool was that?

They told me to take a load off and rest on the couch while they made sandwiches. A made ham and turkey and cheddar for N and a PB&J for her, while N made one for me. Truth be told, I was not in the least bit hungry, but how could I turn down such a wonderful offer?

While I was on the couch, I started shivering from the chills, so N ran up and got me some warm clothes and took my temperature. He also poured me some juice and brought it all to me on the couch. What service.

When he brought me my sandwich, he said he put extra peanut butter because he knew I loved the stuff. What a guy. Lunch was great, the kids ate and then had some cake that mom brought home from work the day before. Then they went out to play, leaving me to wash the dishes. Let me tell you, the kitchen was a disaster, but I was in no position to be angry.

Later, as I lay on the couch dying, I kept thinking that I'm not worthy of our kids, they're so good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sick as a Dog

The last big city market was brutal, and pretty much all day I felt run down and hot and miserable, but mind you, I didn't moan and whine like I usually do. I'm getting better. By the end of the market, I was wiped out, and we began the long process of breaking down and cleaning up, which can completely crush your spirit if you let it.

By the time we got back to our town, we had to pick up the kids at HH's house, and then get everyone ready for bed. I went to bed and slept terribly, tossing and turning, and yet I was so exhausted. In an amusing bit of cruel irony, I recall dreaming all night about frying dumplings. How's that for a "sisyphus-ian" sentence? The next morning, Thursday, I woke up feeling miserable, and spent the entire morning staring at the computer and getting nothing done. Bummer.

I had several appointments that day, too. JH was supposed to come over and we were going to install that door on the second floor, but I had to call him at the last minute and cancel. He was cool as always, but I feel bad that I'm wasting his time. We also had a playdate that evening with GK&T, but I had to cancel that, as well, because I felt like death warmed over.

I spent the rest of the day laying on the couch while the kids hovered around me and asked me when I was going to get up. It's a good thing they're cute. You really begin to realize that in the crazy world that we live in, you just can't afford to get sick and take time off. There are things that need to be done.

It's looking like we may not make it to the local market, either, but you can't serve food when you're sick as a dog. It makes me thing of that Aerosmith song, one of my favorites, "Sick as a dog... stick out your tongue."

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

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Brutal Heat and Serendipity

It's funny how life works out, especially in a small town. I mean this in a good way, of course.

We were driving home and A&N mentioned that they really wanted to hang with A&I and they could call them to arrange it. I said sure, give them a call and let me know the details.

Well, as we pulled into the local market to get some rations, I noticed their car parked in the lot, and as I went inside and greeted HH, the kids chatted with I, who was sitting in the car. Little did I know they were plotting something, because they came into the store with a list of demands.

HH was all for it. I told her that we had the big city FM the next day, and we couldn't get the kids until around 7:30, and she said that would be fine. She'd feed them dinner. I offered to make some food for them to eat because I have so much free time on my hands.

It was serendipitous because the weather was supposed to be brutally hot, which it was. It was like the friggin Sahara desert out there. To quote Neil Simon, "It was Africa hot, even Tarzan couldn't take this weather." Fortunately, the kids got to hang with their buddies and not have to endure the brutality of a hot market. Leave that for mom and dad.

That day I had to scramble to get things together for the market and on top of that, make supper for our kids and friends, which I was happy. It is complicated by the fact that they are vegetarians, so it took some creativity, but I was able to whip up some steamed veggie dumplings and sesame peanut noodles, both family favorites.

The market was hotter than heck, and we were fairly miserable but such is the life at the market. There is little relief in sight, you are literally baking out in the hot sun. I had my fan and jump box but it seemed to run out quickly, so we sat there and basked in the heat. Brutal.

Business was decent, and we saw some of our loyal customers who said they came the week before and were disappointed we weren't there. That bums me out, when we let our customers down, but these things happen.

You just do the best you can and keep plugging along.

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

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Taking the Time

In the never ending quest to maintain perspective, I realize that being a parent puts you on the front line of that battle. We have been incredibly busy lately with all that is going on, so much so that it is easy to remain focused and allow other areas fall by the wayside. This is especially true when it comes to making time to play with the kids.

A is fairly independent and generally likes to read or go off and play in her own world, but N wants to be more interactive. Whenever he asks to throw the ball or toss the frisbee, he's met with the same refrain, "I'm too busy." The cat's in the cradle and the silver spoon...

Now don't get me wrong, we spend an inordinate amount of time with our kids being homeschoolers and all, but truth be told, it doesn't take a lot of time to just stop what you're doing and pay attention to what your kids are asking. Sure, it would be much easier to ignore them and tell them to go away, but you have to remind yourself why you're doing things in the first place, and at least in this household, we made a conscious decision to put our family first.

I will say this-life sure was easier before we started the Grateful Dumpling, but you can't whine about the past... well, maybe a little.

Anyway, I've vowed to make sure that N knows he's being heard and that his requests are at least acknowledged and his questions are answered, and let me tell you, he's got plenty of questions. Sometimes it's exhausting just listening to a constant barrage of questions or statements, never mind answering them, but it's good that he's curious, and we want to encourage him to look at the world around him in awe and not to be afraid of asking the big questions.

It makes life worth living.

So far, so good, and I think it's been working well. I've found that it's good for me to stop when I'm frantic to take a break and play with N, and often A will join in so we have family fun time. It doesn't take much time, and best of all, it's fun. It also helps me to decompress a little, and I don't feel like such a jerk when I blow the kids off because I'm too busy. A win-win situation, wouldn't you say?

Truth be told, the kids are not demanding, and they don't ask for something very often, so when they do, isn't it a parent's duty to take the time to at least listen to them? I think it is.

Now, if I could just remember what N wanted for dinner tonight, I'll be in business.

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

Final Camp

I've also been a bit cynical about the whole camp thing, mainly because everyone does it and it strikes me more as a way to get the kids into some activity in the absence of school, but sure enough, we've enrolled our kids in several camps this summer. I couldn't believe it, but some of them took us by surprise.

The survival camp came out of nowhere, I had no idea they were even doing it, when I saw HM at the market and she mentioned it to me. CH was there, and she expressed interest, as did two other moms whose kids are friends with A&N. That pretty much sealed the deal.

The clown camp came out of nowhere, as well. In fact, they barely advertised it, and I just happened to see a sign for it at the Rec Center. Besides the fact that it was local and sounded like fun, it was free, so say no more.

And finally, this past week, the kids had Montshire camp, which is a yearly tradition, though again, it strikes me at time as daycare. The kids are cute, and they have a lot of fun playing and learning a thing or two about nature, but for the most part, they play and do fun things. You can't beat that.

Now that camps are over, I think we should take some time to chill and then start thinking about school once again. At the very least we need to address end of year evaluations. Of course, we are behind the curve again, so we need to take care of that.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Marcos Santos for the pic.