Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Dentist Aftermath and Decision Time

To do the 4th, or not, that is the question. We have to make a decision as to whether or not we want to do the July 4th celebration or not. That is terms of dumplings, of course. On the one hand we'd like to be a vendor for our community fair, which is a big event around here and draws a lot of people. On the other hand, the question is, can we pull it off? It would require making enough dumplings to do the Friday market, then the 4th, then the big city market that week. That's a whole lot of dumplings, and I don't even know if we can manage it and keep our sanity. Plus, there's no telling that there will be a lot of demand for dumplings at the 4th. It tends to be a hot dog and fries crowd, do they really want to eat dumpling? That's beside the point, we need to decide if we can even do it before we worry about economic issues. And we need to do it fast, because it's next weekend, as if we needed more food on our plate, no pun intended.

We'll see. In the meantime, A had her appointment yesterday and I was sure that Dr. B was going to bust my balls about opting out of the sealants. I've noticed that dentists on the whole really promote and encourage them, but again, I'm not completely convinced, and nobody has succeeded in completely convincing me. I appreciate that they didn't make an issue in any way or try to change my mind or even ask me why I was so against them. I anticipated all of the above, but was left alone, thankfully.

It was funny because we saw our friends, JD and E&G there. Julie called my name just as me and Dr. B were in the middle of food talk, and I apologized to JD. The hygienist was laughing and said the Dr. B and I were always talking about cooking and food, which is sort of funny, but may strike a blow to my real man training. What are you going to do?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to G Schouten de Jel for the pic.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Executive Decision on Dental Sealants

I had to make an executive decision about our daughter's teeth, and I still haven't had to deal with the consequences of it. Mind you, there might be none, but in the past I've felt a little bullied to comply.

It involves our daughter's teeth and the decision of whether or not to have them sealed. Personally, I'm against it, because who needs more plastics in their bodies. Plus, they are made with BPA. Now the information out there is all over the map, and depending on who you ask, you'll get either a pro or a con perspective. The sealants are purely preventative, and it makes perfect sense that they would protect teeth from decay, but so does brushing and proper cleaning.

Plus, having worked with doctors and scientists, and to a lesser degree dentists, I've learned one thing. Medical professionals are way too focused on their specialties to really have a healthy perspective on the big picture. In other words, they may prescribe a drug or treatment to cure a problem without adequately factoring in what it will do to the entire body. Secondly, I think medicine has way too much faith in technology. They think it's okay to let your health fall apart because they will devise some drug or therapy that will cure it.

This is usually not the case, and the side effects of many of these things can be in some cases be worse.

With the sealants, I think dentists are absolutely correct in saying that they will prevent cavities, of this I have no doubt. But by focusing on the teeth, maybe they are giving due attention to what those synthetic polymers may do to a person's health. They are, after all, dentists, and not doctors.

You see it all the time with medications, and is a reason why they are constantly being recalled. They address one specific problem while opening up a bunch of others. There is to date no concrete evidence that sealants cause problems, but I just don't want to put them in her teeth.

The dentist is going to slap me around, no doubt. I like him a lot, but don't appreciate being bullied into something I have reservations about. I don't do well in those situations, and if it were me, I'd probably just shrug my shoulders and deal with it. Of course I'd resent the heck out of having done it, but I tend not to speak up.

When it involves our kids, however, I feel like I have to be a pain the "arse." I think people should respect a parent's concerns, even if they don't agree, but that never happens.

Oh well, it should be interesting. I'm thinking they're going to give me the hard sell, but I have to be strong for my family.

Just a quick side note, my teeth have been killing me, and I called my dentist about the pain and he gave me some advice. Of course I had to ask him about sealants, and (of course) he was absolutely in favor of them. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Julia Freeman-Woolpert for the pic.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Taking a Toll

Now I'm not whining (well, maybe a little), but there are days, more than usual, when R and I feel like we have the weight of the world on our shoulders. Did you ever get that way?

We new from the outset of the Grateful Dumpling that this would be hard, and that prediction is panning out. I have to confess that it is taking a bit of a toll on this household on a number of levels. Our healthy eating plan seems to go out the window on days that have anything remotely to do with making and selling dumplings, which is 3-4 days out of the week. When we're at the market, healthy food is hard to come by, and on days when we're cooking the dumplings, healthy food is hard to make. Gotta find some balance in there.

Also, since cooking can be such a mess, it takes a lot of time cleaning up afterward, not to mention making and cooking the darn things. Because of this added strain and fatigue, I'm finding that we are snapping a little more at each other and my moods are not always the brightest and the best. Needless to say, free time is at a premium, not to mention sleep. I think our kids think we're crazy, not to mention pretty much every person we know.

When friends and acquaintances ask us why we're doing this, I still can't give them an adequate answer, but I can say this: it is most definitely not to support our fabulously luxurious lifestyles.

I'm working on an answer, so please check back with me in a few weeks.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jenny Z for the pic.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

From The Chaos and Rubble Comes the Grateful Dumpling

We had a brutal beginning to the market the other night, where you feel like you're being pulled in every direction but the right one. However, though it started out badly, it ended on a good note and turned out to be a really nice evening for the Grateful Dumpling.

Oddly enough, the day started out on a good note, because I&A's friend E called and mentioned that they were going to the swimming hole and wanted to know if A&N could join in. Could they ever, they were thrilled at the idea. It was a warm day, too, so a perfect time to jump in some cool water. The only problem was, I couldn't join them because I had to prepare dumplings for the market. E was more than happy to watch the kids, and we trust her, so we were in business.

We had errands to run beforehand, however. We had to visit the dump and also had to do some preparation for the mid-week market, which meant getting wrappers and other assorted goodies. We also wanted to check out the new Coop in WRJ. We had to accomplish all of this before noon so I could get the dumplings ready for market and also feed everyone before their big splash in the drink.

With no time to waste, we hit the road. We're stoked about the new Coop, but it was smaller than the Lebanon version, and you can sense that it's still going through some growing pains. Then again, they had only been open for two days. Either way, the selection was not great, and a lot of the things we look for at the big Coop were not there, most notably nitrate free cold cuts and certain kinds of yogurt and beer. You can see that things will arrive with time.

Mind you, I'm not complaining, simply observing. We then headed over to New Hampshire, and that's when things got complicated. Normally we just cross the bridge over the Connecticut River, but the darn thing was closed because of yet another repair job. This meant I had to get on the freeway and then cross over, which added about 20 minutes to the trip that would normally take 2-3 minutes. Plus, traffic was a bear because of all the detours. I felt like I was in LA. We got to the market, got our wrappers, then I had the brilliant idea of getting a movie for R&I, so I went over to Video Stop in W. Leb, and the darn place was closed. I forgot they don't open until noon. I think I'm over that place, though I think they just put in an after hours drop off.

We didn't have time to whine and dawdle, so we went home. From there I threw together lunch for the kids and started heating the oil. The kids were so excited about swimming that they waited outside for their friends, so I wasn't even sure when they had left. At some point in the middle of the cooking, I got a phone call from E telling me that IH had forgotten a bathing suit and could she borrow one of A's? I was mostly done with the cooking, so it wasn't a horrible situation, but I did have to shut down the operation to go over there, which for the record, I was more than happy to do.

The problem was, I started getting complacent, and slacked off. Before I knew it, it was crunch time and I hadn't even loaded the car. Fortunately our local market is much more relaxed, and you can pretty much get there when you want. This, however, can come back to haunt you.

The kids were all going to the market together, so I was riding solo, which was fine, but it was a bit of a rush to get it all together. When R got home, I was still there and running around like crazy, and by the time I got there, I'd forgotten a few things. I had to keep calling R to bring them, and I could sense that she was irritated and that life as I knew it was now over.

Part of the problem was that the previous week's local market was not a good one for the Grateful Dumpling. It was slow, hot and miserable, and we had dumplings left over, which is never a good thing. Also, the mid-week market wasn't so great, either, so our mental dispositions were not in a good place. Through in my ineptitude, and we pretty much did not want to be there.

In fact, we were late in setting up, by as much as one half hour. On a bright note, if you can see the positives in things, people did come up to me and say that they wanted dumplings, even though we were not up and running and did not have any. One woman came and said she was there just for the dumplings and needed a bundle. What could I do but apologize and make some excuses. She said she'd come back, and she did, though her tone told me that there had better be dumplings when she did.

When R got there, she was a bit frazzled, understandably so, and it did not portend for a good afternoon. We were still missing things and her response when I asked her why she didn't bring them was, "Because (you loser) you didn't tell me you needed them."

Uh-oh.

Once we had it together, we pretty much had the attitude that we just wanted to go home and recover. Let's sell what we have and then pass out on the couch, it had been a rough week.

Things started to pick up, however. One adaptation that really helped us was to put a tarp on the side of our tent to shield us from the sun. This made a world of difference, and made our time cool and pleasant. I can't tell you how huge this was.

Also, the market was lively, and plenty of customers streamed through, some of them repeats. Many of the kid's friends were there, and they had a blast, pretty much running around the entire time.

It was, to say the least, a very nice evening, even in lieu of its inauspicious beginnings. We sold out of dumplings, the evening ended on a bright note, and we pretty much closed the bar. We could have left much earlier, but hung around to help out and just enjoy the moment. It was really nice.

Just goes to show you, you just never know how things will turn out.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to robert davey and Colin Brough for the pics.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Q&A

As I mentioned, I was asked to sit in on the board for the arts council, and felt a little on the spot. Not in an intimidating or aggressive way, but you can tell they take this seriously and don't want slackers. Then again, it's obvious they are the real deal when you see the quality of the work they do. Either way, they want to know if I can do the job and not be a flake, though they didn't use those words. Time was an area of concern, since some of them read my blog and know all that I have on my plate. Fair enough, though I'd like to be involved and help out because I think they are a great organization and I think I could contribute. We shall see.

They also asked me if I had any talent and could perform at the big meeting, to which I had no reply. What's a guy to do?

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

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fourth Market for the Grateful Dumpling

We survived our fourth day of the market, and the Grateful Dumpling came away from it with mixed reviews in terms of our mental, physical, and emotional POVs. It was a bit brutal, and did not help our frame of mind going into our local market, which is today, but suffering is an integral part of the journey, is it not?

For starters, the weather was brutally hot when the sun came out, which was thankfully not constant. An occasional cloud and breeze offered respite from the intolerable heat, but it was uncomfortable for most of the market, especially when you're slaving over a hot stove. I wonder if Martha Stewart started out this way.

To make matters worse, perhaps due to the heat, sales were on the slow side, and for the first time, we came home with product. Don't get me wrong, we did okay, but not phenomenal, which is what you hope for. I'm guessing when it's intolerably hot, people want ice cream, not fried food, though you gotta eat something substantial before digging into the good stuff.

Also, for whatever reason, our cooking seems to run into problems. For the life of me, I can't figure out what is going on, but at some point, the dumplings don't seem to cook as well in one of our pans (the same pan). Maybe the pan is getting coated and isn't heating the oil properly, but we end up turning it off and using just one. This would normally not be a problem if we had adequate stocks up and running, but that is rarely the case, and though the market was slow all day, it picked up in the last half hour, just as our operation was falling apart. Funny how that works. So we had lines of people waiting for dumplings and we didn't have the capacity to fill the orders. That's when things get stressful. Factor in the heat and the fatigue, and you have a nightmare scenario being played out. People are either patient or simply move on to greener pastures. I can't say I blame them.

There were positives to the day, however. People were coming up and mentioning that they'd heard about the dumplings and wanted to give them a try, so we may very well be developing a reputation. Also, the neighbors that we thought hated us showed up and it turns out don't hate us after all. In fact, N even asked if we missed her, to which we replied with an emphatic "Yes." She is so nice to the kids, she lets them help out and work with the materials (she is an alpaca farmer) and even rewards their efforts. She told me that they she thinks they're a joy, and I can't tell you how much we appreciate her letting the kids take part. What a great experience.

As the market progresses, we tend to see more and more of our friends from the University and the Hospital, and they all trip out on us and give us looks that scream, "What the #$%# are you guys up to?" I can't say that I can adequately answer that question, and again, in a business setting, it's always awkward dealing with friends, but what are you going to do? Besides, it's so busy there is no time for idle chit-chat or neurotic insecurity, the people must be fed.

And finally, in what is maybe the biggest bright note of them all, N has made a buddy who came over to our booth and called for him. It brought a tear to my eye, his little friend and he took off running and were playing the grass. That's what life is all about.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have dumpling to prepare for tonight's market. If I can only improve upon my disposition, we'll be in business.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Marjorie Manicke for the pic.

COVER Class and Learning Bathroom Repair

This weekend will be my first home improvement class with COVER, the non-profit contracting service that helps people who cannot afford to fix their homes. They are a great organization, and when they offered these classes, I jumped at the opportunity to get a little real-man training. Our friend NT is in charge of education, so she gave me a heads-up.

The upcoming class will involve bathrooms, something that intimidates the heck out of me. Anytime that water is involved, I worry about rot, which is not an invalid concern. Also, raw sewage is something to think about, as well. However, in a stroke of good luck, the class will be held locally out here, so the commute will be easy, and it should be good.

After thinking about the class, it dawned on me that since we moved into this house, there were certain changes that we wanted to make, and I am taking these classes in the hopes that they will help me implement these changes. One area that is in fine working condition but could use a little aesthetic repair are the bathrooms, particularly the sinks. Sure, I've replaced a toilet, which was a fairly daunting task, but eventually we'll turn out attention to getting a new vanity. After doing a quick Google search, I checked out the first result and was directed to Just Vanities, an amazing site that offers pretty much anything you can think of in terms bathroom and bedroom vanities and accessories.

Like many things in life, I had no idea that there were so many possibilities. And, of course, with so many choices comes the rigors of having to make a decision, but in an instance like this, it's good to have options, especially when you have a Mentor who is filled with good advice, both practical and aesthetic, as well as a brother and sister in-law who have keen eyes for style and quality. Needless to say, we'll be in consultation with both.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Zsuzsanna Kilian for the pic.

YKW Comes Calling

I'm not sure what to make of all this, but the other day, YKW called, and A picked up. We are having problems with our phone, an ongoing situation, and for whatever reason, it doesn't always ring, so people will call and leave a message without us knowing it until we actually pick up the phone. Either way, there was a message from YKW that morning, and I figured A could call her back and leave a message, but it wasn't urgent.

I was in the shower when there was an frantic knocking at the door, and A said that YKW had called and wanted to get together. Clearly YKW had called back. There was no getting around this one, we were headed to playdate-land. She had to be somewhere in an hour, and we had things to do, as well, so it worked out fairly well. The kids played over there for a bit while I got ready for market.

There was the usual conviviality, real or not, as if everything were peachy, but I still can't shake the sense that beneath the smiles something is amiss. Oh well, can't stress too much over it, though I will say that I will not allow certain parties to jump in head first like it's been in the past. We are taking this slow, and have gotten over the feigned pleasantries and expressions of regret that we don't see each other more often, though clearly not everyone is in the same boat with me on this one.

I'll leave it at that. It'll be interesting to see where this goes, or not. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Gokhan Okur for the pic.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day

I'm not much for celebrating Father's Day, and figured it would simply pass without much fanfare, but we ended up having a really nice day, and I had no idea that anything had been planned. A and N made me a bunch of nice presents, including a replica of myself in pipe cleaner form, complete with my orange shorts, ponytail, and hair wrap. The details are amazing. N made me my own spinner decorating kit, complete with markers and template spinner. A few days earlier, N had made me a couple of killer ties, one of which said, "Dads rock," and A made me another brilliant pipe cleaner rendition of me with N on my shoulders holding a butterfly. Bear in mind that pictures do not do these pieces of art justice, they can only be truly appreciated in the flesh. I loved my presents, they were the best gifts I'd ever received.

On Father's Day, we were planning on making our 1000 dumplings, but everyone wanted to do at least something for the day, so we planned a little outing, the end result of which was supposed to be a surprise for me.

The day before I had started preparations for our marathon dumpling making session, and because it was started, I couldn't really break away, so R took the kids to the local pond (it was a scorching hot day). They then went over to the Bog, which is a nature preserve that is actually in our town, sequestered deep in the woods. Unless you know about it, you would never find it. They also have a bunch of wild orchids called Lady's Slippers, or something like that.

Anyway, the plan was to take me there, but it was supposed to be a surprise, so we piled into the car and headed over. The place is really neat, and though I don't necessarily appreciate flowers, the Slippers were really neat. They do look like slippers.

R and the kids also set me up for a big surprise. We'd found an old tupperware container, and they acted like it was this gross lunch container that someone had left behind. They wanted to throw it away, and I kept telling them that it wasn't garbage, it had been left behind for a reason. We opened it up and inside was a booklet with pages for people to sign in and leave a personal stamps. I'd never seen it before, but apparently it's a pretty popular thing. There were people that came all the way from New York State to do it. There is even a website to follow up and learn more, but I've forgotten what it was called. R and the kids had even brought stamps, so we signed in and left our mark. Kind of cool.

Afterward, we went for lunch at Stellas, and stuffed ourselves silly, finishing our meal off with their amazing chocolate cream pie. Then, it was dumpling time.

We did a pretty good job in making our week's stash, and I even had time to mow the lawn, which needed it badly. What a fitting end to a wonderful Father's Day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Grateful Dumpling's Thoughts on the Local Market

Well, we made it through our second local market, and it was interesting for the Grateful Dumpling, to say the least. It was brutally hot, and setting up was a bear. The kids were hot as popovers, but they found refuge in the library. We also partially resolved our problems with serving pre-cooked dumplings. Last week we couldn't cook at the market because of rules and regulations, and had to cook beforehand and serve them hot. However, they really suffer when they're cooked too early, and become soggy and tough. You can't beat freshly fried food, just like mom used to make. Plus, the theatrics and spectacle of cooking are part of the whole experience.

Either way, this time around, we did it in shifts, and R went home and cooked a fresh batch about midway through. It worked out well, the dumplings looked and tasted a whole lot better, so now we know.

The market itself was really slow, and I wonder if people are on vacation, or just are not interested in the market. Nobody sold much of anything, and we ended up bartering with each other for food. Talk about survival.

And as much as I love the local market and seeing our friends and neighbors, it makes for an awkward situation. I know this flies in the face of my capitalist aspirations, but I find it difficult taking money from my friends, and I also do not like the impression that they feel obligated to buy something from their friends (i.e., us). I do think it's nice for them to come to the market and show their support, but I don't want them to buy our dumplings because they feel they have to. If they like them, great, but otherwise, no problem. We'll always made due in the big city.

Either way, I came away from it not as elated as the previous week, and we had leftover dumplings for the first time. Not sure what we are going to do with those. It was a little depressing, and I felt kind of down. For some people, they sold nothing, and that's a bitter pill to swallow.

Also, the band didn't show up. You realize that without the music, it's a little strange, it's so quiet. DC and JM stepped up at the last minute and did an impromptu jam, which was nice because they are great musicians. I'm guessing the market manager called them at the last minute and asked them to stand in. Once the music kicks in, the carnival atmosphere begins, but again, there was not a huge rush of people.

Should be interesting to see what happens next week. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Aneta Blaszczyk for the pic.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Didjeridu Jam

We were at a party the other day and the dad of the kids, KM, is also the owner and proprietor of White Raven Drums out in Bridgewater. Great guy, great kids, and great store. If you're ever out there, check out his store/gallery. It's a beautiful building that he built, and inside are his works, which are mainly fine handmade drums made with exotic woods. Beautiful pieces. He also sells didjeridus, and the kids went bonkers over them. KM also let us in on a little secret. You can make a didjeridu with some PVC piping, or any long tube.

Once the seed was planted in our collective imaginations, there was no way we weren't going to do it. We headed over to the hardware store and asked for some PVC piping, which comes in 10 foot lengths. The guy quizzed me as to what sort of application I had in mind, because there are different sizes depending on what you are planning to do (like I know these things?). I wasn't sure how to answer that, so I had to come clean and tell him that we were making didjeridus. Well, if you can believe this, the manager said he was just at a show where didjeridus were featured, and he thought what we were doing was cool. Go figure. Also, the size we wanted was the most commonly used for plumbing purposes, so that was fortunate.

We brought the pipes home, cut them to size, and put on the reducer. The kids picked up on how to play them right away. They're so good. It is not that simple, I can't do it, though I get plenty of laughs from the kids when I try. They're having loads of fun with them, though there is not too much in the way of peace and quiet around here, but such is life.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Glorious Life of Public Service

I've been asked to sit on two more committees, and I'm beginning to wonder if someone is playing a big fat joke on me, not unlike candid camera. I mean really, do these people know what they're getting themselves into in asking me? Some of them have never met me, and when they finally do, they'll probably do a double-take and ask themselves, "Whoa, what have we gone and done?"

I was contacted about a month ago to be on the governing board of the Howe Library, which for the record, is one of the best libraries that I've ever used. As you might have guessed, you don't have to be a town resident to serve. I tried contacting the woman who called me in order to demand a recount, but failed at every attempt, so I figured it was done and over. That is, of course, until yesterday, when I got a letter thanking me for agreeing to help and encouraging me to attend the official nomination gathering in October. Wow, do I need to wear a tie? I actually own three of them.

Then I was asked to serve on the art council board in town. They mush have exhausted all their options and had to dredge the bottom of the barrel. RC approached me and inquired, and I was flattered but baffled, especially in light of the fact that I'm not an artist (but play one on TV). There is also the issue of my spectacularly abundant amounts of free time.

Either way, I'm honored to be considered but am not sure what to make of all this. The arts council was responsible for putting on the fabulous show, Vermont Idol, so maybe it is a good thing if it could happen more frequently. We shall see.

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

Third Market and Learning the Ropes

The big-city market is growing as the farmers are beginning to show up with their crops. We've also learned two pieces of good news. First, the Grateful Dumpling has locked in a spot at the market, at least for this season, and second, we won't have to share a spot, so we are well on our way to living our capitalist dream.

One thing we noticed is that there seems to be a turnover of vendors in our vicinity, and the insecure side of me would interpret it as if people don't like being near us. After the first market the tea woman moved her booth to the other end, and after the second market the alpaca booth was nowhere to be seen. The honey lady EM alluded to people not wanting to be next to busy booths, i.e., us. My person feeling is that it's good to be near a busy booth because it draws people in, but what do I know? Either way, it made us a little neurotic, but then that's life, and we can't change that, though it is a bit of a bummer, because I really liked the alpaca woman, N, because she was super nice and the kids really liked her.

The third market started out rather ominously. There were serious clouds forming and thunder storms were predicted. It even started to rain as we were setting up, so there was some question as to how much we would actually sell. We sat there, wondering and waiting, but the poor weather did let up a bit, and the rain stopped. It was cloudy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing because it made it cooler. And, once the rain stopped, people did come.

We'd prepared better this time around, including supper for the kids. Last time we got burritos at our favorite place, Bolocos, but they don't do so well once they're cold, so this time, when I went to get the cider, I got them sushi, which they love. For some reason I love the fact that they love sushi. They gobbled it up, and have come to love the salmon and the eel, in addition to the old standby, the California roll. Our kids are so cosmopolitan.

We'd also brought more dumplings, but once again, we sold out, albeit at a later time than last week. We are gradually figuring out our gig, though I think it is important to consider some factors. First, school just got out last week, so there is a transition period where students are leaving and summer folks are entering. Second, the weather wasn't so great, so on a beautiful summer day, I think more people will come out. And third, people are just beginning to realize the market is open. The take home message is that I think traffic will pick up, but we shall see.

One thing we are seeing, and this gratifies us to no end, are repeat customers. People are coming back to eat our dumplings, and we are seeing the same faces each week. You have to love that, and it feels nice that people, at least some people, like our product. The Valley News contacted us and is doing a piece on the market and wanted to mention our booth.

On the production side, we are finding a better rhythm, as well, and realize we are our own rate limiting step. We can sell as many as we can make, and we can only make so many. We could up the production, and have been approached about selling at special events, which would be a good business move, but we're not sure if we can make them fast enough. We might have to start importing them from abroad. It's so interesting being on the business end of things, you realize what producers go through in order to maximize efficiency.

The kids are finding a groove, as well. Our friends aren't necessarily showing up in droves, but there are kids out there, many of them familiar, and the musicians have been great, so A&N basically wander about on their own, checking out the other vendors, seeing what is available, and having fun. The League of NH Craftsmen has a booth set up for doing crafts, and the kids made all more father's day projects, including this one. It's a figurine of me with N on my shoulders, who is also holding a butterfly. The details on it are nothing short of amazing.

They've placed us next to the what I believe is the hottest seller at the market, the bakery Allechante. They really have their act together, and have quite the impressive stand. Tons of beautiful baked goods, beautifully arranged and really delicious. I'm partial to the focaccia and the croissants, which are outstanding. Plus, they all wear their starched white uniforms and look great, and people flock to their table. I actually like being next to them, because we are not competitors, and don't threaten each other. Plus, we bring people to each other. Bread and dumplings, and you've got a meal.

So, things are cruising along. We could have sold more, but again, we're learning, and are doing the best we can. Then again, you can always do better.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to memeuL and damil for the pics.

Giant Steps

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I can mention N's big moment. He lost his first tooth, at least one that came out naturally rather than being knocked out like the other one. He was so excited, and it came out while he was eating ice cream. You can't beat that. Also, the other tooth that did in fact get knocked out when he was 1 year old is finally coming in, so we are well on our way to adolescence.

Just a quick note, we hope he knows what a great big sister he has. She was so happy for her brother that she went out and bought him a little tooth-fairy present and left it by his bed while he was sleeping. How many sisters do things like that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

PS N mentioned tonight that yet another one of his teeth is loose. I can't believe it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Last T-Ball

We had a heck of a busy day yesterday, but managed to get it all done. It was the last t-ball game for N, and though he's sad to see it end, I have to confess, I'm not going to miss it as much. Time is like gold over here. AND, since I'm also aspiring to be like Martha Stewart, I figured we'd make cupcakes as the final farewell, though in all honesty, I wouldn't have complained if the other parents took a bit more initiative, but who am I to say?

Either way, I also had to make the final batch of dumplings, as well as R's morning bread, which I haven't made in days because we are so swamped. This, of course, meant that I'd have to spend the day slaving over a hot stove, barefoot and pregnant. It was such a beautiful day, too.

I definitely did npt have time to waste whining, and got to work early. Because it was so nice, the kids spent the day outside, which made it easier for me to streamline my operation. The cupcakes were easy, and baked quickly. I used a simple, basic chocolate cake recipe, using whole wheat flour, of course, instead of regular. Since we hate using the oven for only one thing, we made brownies, as well, and then mom's special breakfast bread. Once that was all done, it was time to make the dumplings.

The kids helped decorate the cupcakes, and they did a stand up job. They worked very diligently and I really appreciated the help. You have to love win-win situations. As the evening hour approached, we had to get ready for the game. Because the library was also kicking off the summer reading program, which A wanted to attend, we were going to have to drop her off alone at the library and then take N to the game. I knew there would be plenty of people she knew, and I spoke with AM the librarian and she said A would be fine, she'd keep an eye on her, and her daughter would be there and she and A are buddies. Again, I knew she'd be fine, I just get a little anxious dropping her off alone, even though she loves when I do that.

We got to the library and there was a good crowd, and right off the bat A took off to play with friends. N and I went to t-ball, and it was a fun last game. The coach KW got all the parents involved and we played Whiffle-ball. Everyone had cupcakes and ice cream sandwiches, and it was a nice time. N also connected with his buddy, CV, and we met his folks and spoke of having a playdate. They play at the same level, and share a love of the game, so they are a good match, though his dad was a professional baseball player with the Cubs, so that's a little intimidating.

Speaking of intimidating, I was a little worried about coming up to bat, for fear of striking out. I know, male insecurity is a terrible thing, but it wasn't so bad, and I managed to hit the ball. After the game, we had a nice talk with some of the parents, and CV approached N and asked if he'd like to play catch together, a major bonus. Then we went to meet A.

The library program had a magician, and I didn't catch his name, but man was he funny. He did a great job integrating the kids and entertaining them, as well as the parents. We were rolling in the aisles. A had a blast, and got to hang with DH and EM, so she loving it. Afterward, she and EM got to hang on the playground while we watched the big kids play with N.

Then we came home, ate supper (we went vegetarian with our new favorite, Peanut Sesame Noodles) and went to bed. Man was I beat, but of course, I had to Farmer's Market to look forward to and prepare for the next day. Oh joy.

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

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Fun With Karate

We had a great karate class this week, and it all stemmed from a minor inconvenience that we had to adapt to, which BTW had nothing to do with dumplings. R had to go to a graduation dinner which meant that she couldn't home to watch the kids. This meant I either had to get a baby-sitter or take the kids along. They had never seen dad doing karate, but a couple of their friends take the class.

I asked them and they said they'd like to come along, so I brought them, hoping for good weather (it was supposed to rain) so that we could have class outside. This would allow them to play and watch. We had errands to run early in the day, so we headed out and got them done.

While we were at the store, we saw Master H, and the kids finally got to meet him. I told the kids that he's intimidating and not the kind of guy you want to mess with when you first meet him, even though for the record, he's got a heart of gold and loves children. He came over and talked to us and met the kids, and afterward, N said, "Dad, you weren't kidding when you said Master H looks like a guy you wouldn't mess with." I almost fell over laughing. It is ironic, too, because as I mentioned, Master H is a fantastic guy, it's just that he's a master who's been through two tours of Vietnam and was a guard in a maximum security prison, so he knows how to protect himself and is dedicated to the art of Karate.

After supper, we loaded up the bikes and headed to class. It was cloudy and cool, but nice enough for us to have class outside. I think sensei C also decided to do it outside because of the kids, which was for my benefit. Thanks. Two of A&N's good friends were there, and they played on the playground and got crazy before class. Then we began, and the kids got to see us in action. I think they were interested, because they watched the entire time. Plus, they got to see that kids their age take part and have fun.

We had a good class, and are preparing for the next stage in our testing. Best of all, both A&N expressed interest in taking part, which I think would be fabulous. We'll see where it goes, but I would love it if they learned how to break boards with their fists, not to mention heads... just kidding. Sort of.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Linden Laserna for the pic.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Journey of a Thousand Dumplings, part 2

On Sunday, there was still much work to be done. We had to make our you-know-whats, and we also had a birthday to attend, and again, I was not thrilled about breaking away from the task at hand, but I wasn't about to deny the kids the enjoyment of hanging with their friends. The invite left it open for parents to unload their kids and run errands, but the party was out past Woodstock and about a half-hour drive, so it wasn't practical to go back and forth for a two-hour party, though I would have loved to have taken a nap. Also, I wasn't thrilled about leaving R on her own to make and cook the goods. For the record, I felt really bad about this, and I also made and cooked about half before I left, so I didn't feel that guilty, sort of.

I was a bit concerned about the party because the twins, A&D, are pre-teen boys, as were all the friends who were invited with the exception of A&N. Also, they all knew each other from the local school, and they all shared a common interest in certain things like Yugio (sp?) and other hobbies. This meant that A&N were going to have to work at inserting themselves into the mix. It also meant that neurotic dad was going to have to sit back and let things unfold as they may.

It helped that the kids were super nice, and they all were very accepting of A into their circle of fun. N was by far the youngest, by about 5 years, which is huge in terms of kids, especially boys. But to their credit, they included them when they could, and N had a blast going into D's room and playing with his prolific collection of Legos and other assorted gadgets. D even checked in on him to make sure he was okay, which I thought showed amazing maturity, warranting a nod of approval to mom and dad.

I got to sit and converse with three sets of grandparents, one of whom I knew fairly well. And do you want to know what we talked about? You guessed it-dumplings. I'm guessing they were just being courteous, but they were very interested in our little venture, and offered all sorts of advice. In fact, one of the grandparents was leaving for Mongolia in a few days, and knew all sorts of people who made dumplings. I really enjoyed talking to them, and it was a really nice time.

They also set a finite amount of time for the party, and by the time 4:00 rolled around, we were ready to head home and rescue mom from her dumpling purgatory. R was well in control by the time we got home, and we ate supper and the kids relaxed while I took the reigns. R talks to her mom on Sundays, so that meant I was riding solo for the rest of the evening. So after getting the kids brushed and ready for bed, I came downstairs and got to work. It wasn't easy.

I was beat, and I was looking at a fairly late night, so my mood was not good. R came down at some point and helped, and we got through it. Once the dumplings are made, cooking is fairly simple, so that went quickly, but it was the end of a reasonably brutal weekend centered around one thing, which can kind of get old fast.

Hopefully we'll be able to streamline the operation and if there are no interruptions, get it done in a timely and more efficient manner.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Nauris Paulins for the pic.

Journey of a Thousand Dumplings, part 1

Our lives are beginning to sound like Kung-Fu theater. We've resolved to sacrifice one day and devote it to making our entire stock of dumplings. Heaven help us. What started out to be a good theory was not so simple in practice, because we ended up making dumpling well into the evening. I did learn an important lesson, however, and that was that if you get two pans cooking, the job goes twice as fast. Wow, it's a good thing I studied math in college.

The weekend was complicated by the fact that we had other things we needed to do, but what else is new? Our good friends from Africa were graduating from the medical school, so we attended the graduation and I had to not only wear long pants, but a button down shirt, as well. Talk about being out of character, though I did enjoy the compliments from my kids. Every now and then a real-man has to break out with a little style and panache.

I have to confess that I wasn't thrilled about going to graduation, mainly because it meant crowds and a day spent away from making dumplings, plus the weather was terrible, but as usual, we had a really nice time. It was nice for the kids to see all the pomp and circumstance, and it felt nice supporting our friends at such an important time. They also had a nice lunch (though it would have benefited immensely with some dumplings), and we got to sit around and talk to some of the graduates, not to mention mingle with many of our friends with whom we work with.

Afterward, we went to the library and then off to run errands, including a food trip to the Coop. We also had to get more dumpling wrappers, 1000 of them for all you math majors out there, and then went over to BJ's to find chafing dishes. We are currently borrowing our chafing dishes from our good friend and neighbor, K&BJ, who for the record are some of the nicest people I've ever met. We were slated to buy these fancy serving dishes when they offered to lend us theirs. They aren't fancy, which is good. They run under $10 for each setup, a price range that is right up my alley. Not cheap, but frugal, as my wise Mentor would say.

It was our first time at BJ's, which was an interesting experience, as well. We didn't know what to expect, though I got a sense that they try to promote themselves as the antithesis of Wallyworld. Personally, I didn't see that much difference. They are both like massive warehouses with no windows, and the prices weren't that great. It's just that you get to buy things in bulk, and they sell you this image of privilege through membership. Members only, as the saying goes. Like Wallyworld, they are cathedrals of consumerism.

We were able to get a temporary membership, and of course they tried to get us join for the long haul with all these promotional goodies, which fall on deaf ears when you're a frugal fanatic as myself. So when they go on about how you can get a 14 month membership for the price of a 12 month membership, all I hear is, "We want your money."

Thanks, but no thanks. Either way, after browsing around, I wasn't blown away by their prices, and for certain things, they weren't cheap at all. It reminds me of the her mentality you see at tent sales for higher end items. The prices are still terrible, but they are "cheaper" than usual, so people come out in droves and buy the stuff up. It gets to be a frenzy.

I don't mean to knock BJ's, they have good deals, though I wonder how they compare to Wallyworld, which doesn't have membership. Both places are incredibly huge, making it easy to get lost and almost impossible to find things, compounded by the fact that you can never find someone who works there, and when you do, they have no idea what you're talking about. We did find the chafing dishes, however, and for that, we are grateful.

From BJ's, we went to the Asian market for dumpling wrappers. We had other errands, including home improvement supplies, but we were tired, and there was work that needed to be done. So we came home and got some rest. It was a long day, and we still a great deal of work to do, but that is for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jean Scheijen and mantis wong for the pics.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Community Market

We did our first neighborhood farmer's market, and it was different than I'd envisioned. In fact, I assumed it would be so small and so quiet that we wouldn't sell much of anything. Coupled with the fact that we weren't allowed to cook the food on-site and would have to make everything at home and bring it hot, I did not have the best disposition about the whole thing.

However, I learned right beforehand that KR was playing, which is always an occasion to come out and have fun, and it was our local market. We couldn't let our community down. So we hunkered down and just dealt with it. The situation was further exacerbated by the fact that I was running solo for this show, R had to go to an early morning meeting, which meant that it was up to me to not only make all the dumplings that morning, but I had to cook them and keep them hot and ready to serve by showtime. In other words, I had my work cut out for me.

Fortunately, I have two amazing helpers who love to pitch in. They haven't reached that teenage phase where their only goal in life is to get away from me. A&N spent the better part of the morning helping me construct the dumplings, and they were very helpful, not just in a "I'm bored and want something to do," sort of way. They really pitch in and help, and their efforts make a huge difference. What's great is that they really want to help, and I have to keep that in mind when they ask if they can help, because my first impulse is say, "No, you guys just go and have fun, I'll slave away in the kitchen." Good lessons to be learned there.

As usual, we literally went down to the wire. I'm no efficiency guru, so it took a lot of time to cook the darn things. I had to cook a batch and keep it warm in the oven. What I should have been doing was cooking two batches at a time, which would have, amazingly enough, doubled my production efficiency. Live in learn.

By the time I had finished cooking the last batch and turned off the burner, it was time to get in the car and leave. I had pre-loaded the vehicle, and this time around it was much simpler since we didn't need our portable cooking setup. I told the kids to get in and we hit the open road. There was library story hour, so the plan was to have the kids attend that, then meet us at the market where we would spend the evening in pursuit of the American Dream. The plan was for me to leave the dumplings in the oven to stay warm and then go to the market and set up. R would come home, change into her market clothes and bring the hot dumplings at start time. Then we'd be well on our way to incredible corporate earnings.

From the get-go the market was a good vibe. It was much calmer than the big city market, and because it involved our friends and neighbors, it was a fun and festive atmosphere. Everyone helped each other out, and the weather was beautiful. We were nestled between Harmony Farm and Z's breads. The market is small, no doubt about it, but it makes it more intimate and relaxed. Plus, as I mentioned, we get to see our friends.

The kids came out from the library and N made me these amazing ties for Father's Day (if the pic is not clear, the tie reads, "Dads rock!"), once again making me feel unworthy to be a father such great kids. R showed up and brought the dumplings and we were good to go. I have to confess, I had low expectations, but it was a really fabulous time. We saw our friends, both in the neighboring booths and the flow of traffic, and there numerous other kids for A&N to play with. Plus, there were plenty of snacks and treats, so we didn't go hungry, though we were in want of a healthy meal. Nothing like a plate of steamed broccoli to feed the soul.

We didn't bring a lot of dumplings anticipating a slow day, so naturally we sold out, as usual. I think because it's the dinner hour, people came ready to eat. We even had repeat customers within the market. This complicates things, in a good way, mind you. We need to make more dumplings, which means more work and less time, but we're not complaining. It's just a surprise.

It was a wonderful evening, I can't stress this enough. There was a constant stream of friends and neighbors, the weather was perfect, people were just hanging out on the grass, listening to great music and snacking while the Kerry Rose Band played two wonderful sets. Best of all, A got to go up there and jam with KR, the highlight for us, of course. KR is so generous to let A come up and play at her gigs, we really appreciate it. Yet another reason to love that girl.

By evening time, we were done and ready to head home. We were exhausted but happy to have been a part of the local market. What a nice time, we hope it stays that way and even more people come. Kudos to SI and CS for all their work in connecting all the dots. It really shows the strength of the community to put something like together, as well as the outstanding efforts of those in charge.

Thanks to everyone.

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

Friday, June 11, 2010

Camp Options

Now that we are on the cusp of Summer, the theme for this area is camp, camp, and more camp. This seems to mainly apply to kids in school. Because mom and dad work, they need to do something with their offspring, and camp is a great, albeit expensive, way to have the kids in a fun and safe environment playing with other kids. Hopefully it goes beyond daycare and has some enriching quality to it, but you can't have it all.

Either way, it also means decision time for mom and dad, which is never an easy thing. We had already signed them up for one camp that they've been to in the past, and we figured that was enough, but then we heard about a local camp run by our friends that sounds like fun, and when our friends hinted that they might be interested, as well, then it became a no-brainer. The only problem is, I can't get ahold of the person running the show. I hope this works out, because it would be a nice experience for everyone, and it's close by, and best of all, it would mean the kids could have fun without their annoying, overbearing dad watching over them. The question is, what am I going to do with my life during that time?

We also toyed with more theatrically oriented camps, this time with A at the helm. The instructors and the local theater mentioned that they loved having A on board and thought she was a promising actor, but that her true calling seem to lie in directing. This came from the director of the educational program. I can see it, too. A really has a wonderful take on things, and her imagination and creativity are really unique. She also loves to be in charge and oversee things. While I could pontificate for days on this subject, I'll leave it at that.

We'll see where this all leads. I sometimes wonder where the expression "The lazy days of summer," ever came from.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Mauricio Lencina for the pic.

Getting In Over Our Heads

Last night I had one of those moments (for the millionth time) when I thought, "My gosh, what have we done?" I was exhausted from the usual lack of sleep, and it was the end of a long day getting nothing accomplished on the domestic front because of the rain, when the painful realization came over me that there was no time to relax, we had dumplings to make for Friday's market.

Our community market is a bit more challenging because not only are we fried (no pun intended) from doing Wednesday's market, but we have to everything cooked, hot and ready from the start. This means making and cooking everything beforehand, which is a monstrous task, exacerbated by chronic fatigue, sprinkled in with a level of disillusionment. A recipe for disaster, if there ever was one.

Being the busy people that we are with everything else in our lives, that meant that come Thursday evening, after eating dinner and cleaning up and putting the kids to bed, we had to the wonderful job of making dumplings. We were tired and my disposition was the pits, but there was work to be done, and whining wasn't going to help, not that this fact stopped me. Needless to say, the mood was not bright and sunny in the house that evening.

And, of course, it inspired us to ask that familiar question, "What the heck are we doing?"

Anyway, we made the fillings for the dumplings, assuming that the local market would be slower and we'd sell a lot less. Not knowing how business would be, we made certain assumptions about how much to make and of what, employing our extremely high level of business acumen, which has thus far gotten us nowhere, but what are you going do?

We caught another break thanks to divine intervention in that rain and threats of lightning canceled our t-ball game, the last one. Being the masochist that I am, I thought it would be nice to make cookies or cupcakes for the kids on their last day, like I have the time, but it wasn't necessary. We rescheduled for next week, the day before the market. This should be good.

Also, since it's so busy, I haven't been able to make R's breakfast bread, which is a bummer, but where do you find the time and energy? I'll get back to you on that one.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Zsuzsanna Kilian for the pic

More Market Reflections - Second Market

Okay, so we've got two markets now under our belt, and boy have we learned a lot. First off, the question of what exactly have we gotten ourselves into continually echoes in our heads. The work is hard, we have no free time (not that we had any of it in the first place), and the profit margin is slim, at best. So what exactly are we doing here? I can't answer that question right now, but needless to say, we're searching for that answer.

In the meantime, there is the constant adjustment process. The student crowds are thinning out with graduation nearly here, but that doesn't mean people aren't coming. In fact, there are more family-types stopping by, and they tend to want to eat around the dinner hour. What this means is that it is really slow at the beginning of the market, filling our hearts with despair, and then, at some point, the steady flow begins to trickle in. Before you know it, things are a little crazy, and suddenly we've sold out. This is both good and bad.

Good in the sense that people are buying our dumplings, but bad in the sense that we may have to step up production. Like we have the time or the wherewithal? I can see why companies become so ruthless in maximizing their profits, the margins are so thin in the first place. It really makes you question why they do it in the first place, though I guess we can ask that of ourselves.

Our neighbors have changed, and the woman next to us moved to the other side of the market, though I wonder if she didn't want to be next to a dumpling stand, which of course kind of hurts my feelings. Our other neighbor sells alpaca yarn and she remained by our side. She is super nice and lets the kids help out and check out her stuff.

Meanwhile, our new neighbor sells honey products and is also nice, though she has many challenges. She comes by herself, and has to set up and break down her stand alone. The kids helped her set up, and I lingered afterward to help her break down. How could I not?

One thing I've noticed is that there are an inordinate number of older women on their own, and being the real-man in training that I am, I felt obligated to at least help in some way. They didn't ask for it, I offered, and in some instances they accepted, others they declined. Life sure is challenging, and it makes you kind of question the free-market mentality. Everyone struggles so hard just to make ends meet, but there must be an easier way just to survive.

Anyway, enough of my pontification, at least for the next few minutes. As I mentioned, we sold out, and have decided to bring even more dumplings the next time. The beauty of the market is that we can bring frozen product and cook it on site, so we can simply bring home the unused goods. Our own community market won't let us cook on site, so we have to predict our sales, which is pretty much impossible. Either way, whatever we don't sell will go to waste, and as any good capitalist knows, this makes no business sense.

We've adapted our system in certain ways, and that is saving us some money. Previously we had problems with the wind and the stove. Even the slightest breeze compromises the heating quality of the flame on both the propane and the Sterno. I was going to build a wood barrier, but R voiced valid concerns over fire safety. I realized that I had all this flashing sitting around, and used that, instead, and voila. Suddenly we were protected from the wind, and as a consequence of improving our efficiency, saving money on propane. Who cares if the stuff is sharp as a knife and cuts our hands up? What's a little pain and blood in pursuit of the American Dream?

We've also found some new sources for raw materials, though our true goal will be to eventually either make/grow our ingredients, or at least find the most local suppliers as possible. We will continue to strive towards those core goals, but it ain't easy. Certain things are easier to find than others, but we have to keep in mind that we've only been doing this for a few weeks. Rome wasn't built in a day, after all.

We saw more of our friends, some of whom I'm sure are scratching their heads and wondering what exactly we're doing there. I have to confess, I'm not sure myself. What started out as a curious endeavor is starting to get bigger than we'd envisioned, and now we're not completely sure where it's going. In the beginning, we had this idea of selling dumplings to make some money so that we could take some trips. We figured a thousand dollars or two (or three!) made during the summer would help fund a late summer/fall trip. But you begin to realize that making money at a farmer's market is not that simple. The work is hard, and the profits are slim.

In fact, one thing I find fascinating is the struggle of everyone involved just to make money. This is particularly evident when you contrast the struggle of everyday people with the local population in town, which has a large number of Ivy League students and faculty, as well as highly educated and well-to-do professionals from the college and the hospital. It's a great population to target to buy your wares, but it becomes painfully evident that they operate in another world and many of whom have no concept of the continual struggles that so many people encounter in their daily lives just trying to make ends meet.

Nothing is easy. If money is made, which is not always the case, it's the result of blood, sweat and tears, and is offset by the costs of production. I've experienced this firsthand. Having a booth is really a labor of love (who do you love?), and I can't imagine that anyone makes a living doing this, which is a shame, because at the heart of the matter, farmer's markets are a great thing. They really strengthen communities and local markets, it's just that it's a struggle just to generate income. At least, that's my impression.

I do enjoy meeting the other vendors and learning about their stories and inspirations. You really get to the heart of the American Dream here. These are people who are pursuing something and are trying their best just get by. I don't think anybody there has the illusion that they are going to make a lot of money, but that doesn't stop them from trying. You have to admire that level of courage and determination. It really forces you to think about things and operate outside of the comfort zone.

For now, we'll keep plugging along, forsaking sleep and recreation for feeding the Upper Valley. Not sure how long we can sustain this, but as our social obligations begin to pare down as summer approaches, we're hoping we can streamline this process and have more free time. One thing you learn in doing business is that you either adapt or perish, not unlike life in general.

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

California Connection

We had a wonderful surprise visit from our neighbors and good friends the other day, and learned about a California connection that I had no idea about. I was out doing real-man's work on the barn when a car pulled into the driveway and who should it be other than the lovely ladies SJ, KH and HC, all key players from Vermont Idol and amazingly talented individuals. They were the driving force behind the musical and good examples of why we're so lucky to live in this town. AND, not only are they all from California, but they all went to a UC school, either in LA, Santa Barbara, or San Diego. How funny is that? Furthermore, SJ grew up in the Valley and went to a rival high school of mine. What a small world it is.

Anyway, it was fantastic to see them, I told them they were welcome anytime, and hope that they'll come again, and often, especially if they bring a hammer or wood-splitter. Hope to see them soon, especially since they live right up the road.

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

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Penultimate T-Ball Practice

These days are sure challenging. On top of the dumpling hell that we've created for ourselves, there is t-ball and theater (which is sadly now over, but a relief on the other hand) and the quotidian demands of parenthood. We had a game in the afternoon, which meant that I had to have dinner ready early because there is no time to cook after practice. On top of that, N has been hounding me to go and watch the loggers up the road, which I actually enjoy, but who has time for enjoyment? We walked over nonetheless, because sometimes you have to force yourself to do fun things.

Also, I sure dodged a bullet with practice, and thanks to coach KW for stepping up to the plate. It was a heck of a day on Tuesday, and bad planning was once again creating pain and suffering. I had to cook dumplings all day and get them ready for market, which isn't hard, but takes quite a bit of time. We had t-ball practice, which meant at some point we had to get a little batting practice in before the game. Just wanted to mention that the coach's son, who is a jock, was watching N play ball and said that it was clear that he was an athlete. I have to agree. N was calm and collected about the manly compliment, but I could tell he was beaming inside.

Either way, being the second Tuesday and all, I had a library trustee meeting to go to before the game, and it's never easy breaking away early because there is so much to talk about, and I feel like an idiot excusing myself in the heat of discussion. In fact, last time I couldn't do it, and ended up staying the whole time and missing part of N's practice. I was determined not to let that happen.

And then the last bit of horrendously bad news-the coach said she wasn't feeling well and that I might have to lead practice. What!?!? I told her that she had little choice in the matter, she had to come to practice. The idea of running the show was mortifying to me, though in a pinch, I could have done it with the help of other parents. In the end, I pleaded with her to show up, and she did, thankfully. I am grateful to no end.

The fact that I had a meeting motivated her, I believe, even though I was planning on leaving it early. Yeah, right. I should have said something in the beginning, but I tried to last time and it got me nowhere. I made the mistake of hoping that someone was going to turn to me and say, "Don't you have to go?" But nobody came forward, and I ended up staying the whole time. I like the meetings, it's just that I have t-ball to be at. So this time, I was prepared to bolt. It wasn't easy, once the meeting gets going, there is a lot of stuff to go over, and the board doesn't waste time and dawdle. I could feel myself getting stressed as the clock ticked away, and finally, as it neared the zero hour, I stood up right in the middle of a discussion and said, "I gotta make like a bread truck and haul buns."

I think they were a little surprised, and looked at me at first with expressions that screamed, "Where the heck do you think you're going?" I know, I should have said something in the beginning, but what are you going to do? I'm a guy trying to survive in a woman's world. I had this delusional belief that it would be simpler, but no such luck. Boy did the fresh air feel good once I got outside.

Practice was fine, almost the last one. KW was there and I appreciate her effort, thanks to her. One more practice to go and then onto the next thing.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sergio Roberto Bichara for the pic.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Dumpling Purgatory

After putting our not-so-brilliant marketing minds to the task, we've learned a thing or two about selling dumplings, and hope to incorporate these hard lessons into our next go of it. First off, we need to be better prepared. We spent so much time cooking the dumplings that we lost loads of customers. When the arrived and we didn't have the food ready, they were gone. They said they would be back, but that's a nice way of saying, "Sorry losers, you snooze, you lose."

With this in mind, we need to be better prepared. We need to have hot water on the ready, so we'll bring it in a thermos. We need to set up faster so we can have dumplings on the ready. This will satisfy hungry customers while also avoiding giving them dumpling fresh out of the oil, which are greasy-looking.

And finally, we need a chicken dumpling. I don't know why we didn't think of this sooner, but when it comes to meat, people prefer chicken. There are plenty of people out there who just don't eat red meat, but will eat chicken in a heartbeat. How could we not realize this?

We scrambled to find a good chicken recipe, and whipped up a batch, which went over well with our testers, i.e., the kids. This, of course, meant that we would have to cook up a load by today, which therefore meant that yours truly was going to have to spend the next two days barefoot and pregnant, making and cooking the darn things, in addition to the all of the beef and apple ones. Needless to say, I was bummed. I spent the better part of two days literally forming and cooking dumplings. I had them coming out of my ears.

The bright note is that the kids helped, and their contribution was substantial. It wasn't a case of diminishing helpful returns, they really made a difference. N setup the press and spritzed them, and A helped to fill, form and press them. It worked out beautifully, and before we knew it, we were done. I love the fact that not only do they want to help, but that they are helpful. A win-win situation if there ever was one.

We also got our tent. Do you think it's big enough? It's the brand that everyone recommends, an EZ-up, but I have to confess, the one we borrowed, which our friend got at Walmart, is nicer, but such is life. At least we got free shipping, and I got to use my $25 gift certificate that I won on one of my blog sites. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Colin Brough and Michael Khozyaikin for the pics.

Closing Night

The final show and the end of an amazing run. Sunday's show had a great turnout, less than Saturday but about the same as Friday. People really came out to support the performers, and it was such a great experience for everyone involved.

A really flourished and loved the experience. She is so good on stage when she is having fun with it, and can really, as some of her teachers have alluded to, reach deep down within and find her voice. I think she really thrives in that environment, and she gets to interact with like-minded people and tap into her creative/dramatic side. Plus, she loves the attention.

The last show was probably the sloppiest, with more mistakes made and a feeling that people were understandably tired, but they did a stand up job, nonetheless, and the audience responded in kind. When it was done, it was hard to grasp the concept that it was over.

From my own personal perspective, I found the closing of the show an emotional letdown and a bit depressing. After all the strain and effort and anxiety and emotional highs, I came away from it feeling a little blue, wondering to myself, "What next?" I was standing around theater, not sure what to do with myself. Everyone was displaying a warm glow of accomplishment, and rightfully so, but when you pour your heart into something and then it's over, it can take some time to re-adjust.

I guess, in the end, as much as I'm glad to have our normal lives back, there are aspects of the show that we'll miss. Mostly the sense of community and camaraderie the comes with working so hard on something with a great group of people. There are times you just don't want it to end, and other times you can't wait until it's over.

Whatever be the case, the kids connected with their friends, made new ones (as did mom and dad), and as far as I can tell, the signs keep pointing to creative pursuits for the kids, especially where drama and performing are involved. I still like the idea of A working on stage, not as a career, but for the challenges and rewards, the creative outlet, and especially for the quirky and interesting group of kids that she will encounter. I really feel like they are more her speed. Let's not waste our time with the prom queens and football team captains. We want the individual and thoughtful fringe artists and future bohemians.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have dumplings to make.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Valerie C. Fouche for the pic.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Second Night of the Show

Saturday night was an amazing night of the show, though the heat was incredible and the inside of the theater was intolerably hot. I think it put a bit of a damper on the show because the audience was all dopey from the heat, but the show must go on. People came in droves, the theater was packed and it was almost beyond standing room only. We saw many friends, and it was really nice evening if not for the discomfort. J,I and SS came out, we haven't seen them in ages, and that was nice. The list of people who came out to support the show is too long to list, but thanks to them all for their time.

I thought the performers did a great job, though there were a few mistakes made, but they kept it rolling and remained poised. And, as usual, it was another late night for the kids.

A did a stand up job, and got a ton of compliments. I spoke with a drama teacher from the next town (one of the best performers in the show) and she enthusiastically asked me if A would be interested in participating in her drama camp over the summer. However, she mistakenly thought that A was older, and her camp is for 5th grade and up. Bummer. Oh well, next time. I took the fact that she was so open to A taking part and approached us as a good sign. She is so nice to A, and the fact that they worked together and are now friends may encourage A to give it a go, but we'll see.

The show got another standing ovation, even though the crowd was more subdued. The huge turnout was fed by positive word of mouth, as was told. What a great thing, people loved the first night and told their friends to check it out, so they came.

One more show to go. I'm not sure how much more of this I can take, but also don't know what I'm going to do when it's over. Maybe make a dumpling or two.

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

Friday, June 4, 2010

Opening Night of Vermont Idol

Our community theater opened last night, and what a show it was. Everybody had worked so hard on the production, a true testament to what a wonderful community we live it. People volunteered their time and really gave a stellar effort. The writing, music, acting, singing, and production that went into this show is nothing short of amazing, and the proof is in the pudding. The show is fantastic, and the response to the first night was huge. People loved the show, and came out in droves to see it. It helped that the Valley News did a cover piece on it, sparking interest, but you could tell they loved the performance, and responded accordingly. Not quite a sold out show, but close.

N and I were working the door, and we were supposed to keep track of how many people entered with a counter, but soon lost track of that in the rush to sell tickets. It got a little hectic, but not too bad. There no tickets, per se, so people formed a queue and arrived well before the actual beginning of the show. I made the mistake of letting them in, and didn't get scolded but the powers that be let it be known that it wasn't what they would have done. Live and learn.

Once the show started, the energy in the theater was palpable. The show benefits from having the likes of RC at the helm, and the guy is hilarious. The panel of judges is fabulous, as well, and they really carry the show. They are so funny, it's amazing.

And, of course, let's not forget about A and her performance. Being the shameless parent that I am, of course I'm biased to her part. She did such a wonderful job, so calm and composed. She really does well on stage, though I think she leans more towards the singing side of performing versus actual drama. We have enough of that in our daily lives.

The first act was great, but I think the show really takes off in the second act, which has more energy and is even more funny. They did such a nice job.

The audience gave them a standing ovation, which I think is way overdone, but fitting on a night like that night. What a fun show.

People said many nice things about A's performance. We never know what to say, and being the parents, try to take it with a grain of salt. People are nice and are just saying nice things, but I really do think A has some ability in the performance arena, but I'll leave it at that. One of the performers is a drama teacher who holds a theater camp and she asked me if A would be a part of it. I said yes, but that it was really up to A, and figured if I brought it up she would say "no thanks," but if one of the actors, who has more clout than boring dad, asked, she would be more into it. Unfortunately, her camp is for older kids, and she incorrectly assumed A was much older. Oh well, something to look forward to.

The show was great, we had a lot of fun. Best of all, we all got to be involved, N got to work the door with me, so he felt included and got a t-shirt with CREW written on the back. That's all we need.

Great job to the performers and writers and support crew. It was truly a memorable show, and yet another reminder of how lucky we are to live here.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Market Reflections

Having survived our first day of market, of course we have some thoughts on the matter.

First off, you realize how difficult it is for many people just to get by. We worked our tails off, before, during, and after the market, and we made some money, but not a lot. I do think we made more than some of our neighbors, which got me to thinking that it's a rough world out there, and some people struggle just to make a few bucks. Then again, some of us don't have a choice. We're lucky (or not) that we have that option, though that can work against you at times, especially if you're a quitter. Nothing like desperation to motivate you.

It also makes me question whether it's all really worth it (see, I'm already looking for an "out"). There is a romantic ideal of having your own business and being your own boss, but nobody's going to hand you a paycheck out there (duh!).

I'm also struck by how little empathy some people have out there. There are those, and mind you, they are for the most part the minority, who will nickel and dime you and do everything they can to get free things off of you, and many of them make more money than anybody out there. Some of the Dartmouth students try to get anything they can for free, and it seems shameful that somebody who can afford a $35,000/year education would try to take advantage of someone struggling to make pennies. I used to see that in NYC, where people making big bucks would kick and scream over a few cents. What a joke.

Anyway, I thought the adventure, at least for the first time, went well enough. We sold out of a few things and were busy, but boy was it hard work, not to mention a little stressful handling orders. It only worked because R and I were working together, obviously I couldn't do it alone.

And, I might even say it was kind of fun being outside and interacting with all those people, many of whom we knew and were probably wondering what exactly we were doing out there. Mind you, these aren't the salt of the earth Vermonters/NHers who may be farmers or contractors or craftsmen, but highly educated professionals of the Dartmouth community. I can see people in a small town like ours who wouldn't blink an eye if you decided to work a farmer's market, but to someone with an advanced degree who is on a tenure track at a university, it might make them scratch their heads and wonder. In a previous lifetime, this may have been an issue to me, but we've got too many things going on to worry about that.

As I mentioned, the work is hard, and continues long after the fact. There is the rigorous cleaning involved (all that grease), compounded by the fact that you've just been standing for 4 hours. The fact that you sell out of something is a wonderful thing, but is also a reminder that you have to make more and more, and then some. Forget about fatigue, there is work to be done. Wow, sort of reminds me of parenthood.

One bright note is that the kids were so well behaved, and they saw some friends and people complimented A on her guitar playing. The setting is nice, and they can play on the grass and see other vendors, many of whom are really nice and allow them to visit and chat.

It will be interesting to see where this goes. I've never ventured into the area of running a small business, and we just so happened to have chosen a rigorous one, but as with everything in life, with greater challenge comes greater reward. Who the heck came up with that one?

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