Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Low Glycemic Sugar

We've been reading this really interesting book about cancer that has got us thinking a lot about what we eat. The gist of the book is that our diets are way more important than the medical establishment is willing to acknowledge, something I've always believed in, but taking it step further, points out that the foods we eat predispose us to getting sick.

One of the biggest culprits is sugar, which is a horrible realization in light of the fact that we love sugar over here. We eat it a lot, and can't imagine life without it, but are becoming increasingly aware of the damage that excessive consumption of sugar can have on your body, especially over time. Just look at the health of the general public.

Plus, we don't want to gain too much weight, so we've been trying out these new sugars that are all natural but are low in glycemic index. What that means is that they are sweet, but don't lead to spikes in your blood sugar, which can take a toll on your body. They are meant to be eaten by people with diabetes, in certain instances.

They've worked out well, and best of all, we feel a little less guilty to our pancreas. Stay tuned for more, but for now, it's working out well. I've been told raw honey and maple syrup are acceptable, but am getting conflicting information. More on this later.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Calling for Faceplates

I'm never really sure what to make of free offers. I like the idea of free things, but have found that when there is not money being paid out, you simply cannot rely on things actually happening. This is especially true with getting things done around the house, understandably so.

The kids got some cool two-way radios for N's birthday, and they came with an offer for free color faceplates. We submitted the order online, and then waited for what seemed like months. The kids were relentless in their inquiry regarding the shipment, but they never seemed to come.

I was reluctant to call since they were free and could not really expect the best customer service, but A&N kept asking, so finally I called. Well, if you can believe this, the people at Motorola not only had a record of the order, but they told me when they would be shipped. Score one for them on customer service.

Also just goes to show you, you never really know until you try. I could talk myself out of doing anything, but just a little bit of effort can sometimes yield results, sometimes significant ones.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.
figured free things don't come easy
called and they had a record of our order
kids asking constantly, not sure what to tell them

Car Talk

Lots of news on the car front. First off, we got a new car, for those of you who don't know by now, and I can't tell you how happy this makes us. Having a second car is a great thing, and kind of a necessity when you have kids.

Also, I got some good advice from my brother in law, PR, about the new car and our old car. First off, we've been having problems with the old car running cold. It's the strangest thing, but it takes a long time for it to warm up. Usually within the first few miles it's warm and pumping out hot air, but now it's cold and remains cool for miles on end. Not a good thing in the dead of Winter. PR mentioned the thermostat, and I slapped myself in the head and asked, "Why didn't I think of that?" Probably because I'm not PR. I've actually, if you can believe this one, replaced a thermostat, and suddenly it all made sense. I'm not sure if this will solve our problems, which aren't huge. The car runs fine, it's just that it runs cold. You know what I mean.

Either way, it's easy enough to fix, and we'll put our snow tires on at the same time, not that it's an urgent situation. Whatever be the case, Winter is here, and this time of year is always hard on the car.

I also want to change the oil on the Honda, even though they say it isn't necessary until about 6,000 miles, though I'm not sure I'm totally buying that. Either way, PR also recommends an early oil change on a brand new engine, and I'm in agreement with him. The question is, do I do it myself, or pay someone else? The big questions that haunt me.

We are off to NYC for the weekend, so I'll be out of touch until the next week. Until then, thanks for reading.


We had what amounted to our second snowfall since the cold weather has been here, and it wasn't much, but was pleasant to see. On the other hand, I'm not sure I'm quite ready for the ground to be covered with snow, as much as I love the white stuff.

We still need to put the snow tires on the cars, and I need to keep working on the barn and the FEBP. I think painting is done for for this year, I'll have to wait until Spring, but I can put clapboards up, if I could just get those darn porch lights on.

Either way, the snow didn't last long, and it freaked the cats out enough so that they wouldn't go outside, as much as they were itching to. I'm guessing in a few weeks it will be cold enough for the hills to start making snow, and then we could be looking at skiing.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Holidays Coming

This is a little crazy, but right on the heels of our big Thanksgiving celebration, we find ourselves thinking about Christmas and the holiday season. Is that crazy, or what?

I'm seeing the trees out already, and I feel this sudden need to get one before they sell out. Also, I've got to start writing Christmas cards, and we are heading down to New York City, which is always a fabulous place to be during the Christmas season. In fact, it's a great place to be, though a bit insane.

In the meantime, there are a ton of things that need to be taken care of at home, and everyone is excited about the big day on the horizon. Now if we got some snow, that would be outstanding, though we haven't gotten our snow tires for the Fit, yet.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Hard to Say Goodbye

Okay, not to harp on all this, but it's always hard to say goodbye to R's family when they leave. The preparation can make me anxious, and there are a lot of things to attend to before (cleaning and hiding the mess), during (keeping the mess at bay), and after they go, but it's always sad to say goodbye.

It takes a day or two to settle back into our routines, and there is a bit of a gray cloud over all of us once they are gone. Then again, we're so busy that it isn't long before we're back into the frenzied pace of our lives, which is good or bad, depending on who you ask.

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

More Cool Pottery Creations

As a testament to how cool their pottery class is, A made this really cool clock for her brother. Who cares if there isn't a clock in there, that's a minor issue that we can address. The beauty is in the creation, and I personally think she did a great job.

You gotta love the fine arts. Thanks for reading.

Wonderful Thanksgiving

We had a really nice Thanksgiving, and appreciate that R's family made the effort to come out here.

On this end, preparing can be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. After all, even though our house is in a constant state of disarray, it doesn't take a whole lot to get ready, and besides, we're family. If anything, preparing adds to the excitement, and it means the house will get cleaned every now and then. This is a good thing.

This time around was not different, and we had a series of nice meals that were made all the more enjoyable by wonderful company, enjoyable conversation, and basically just hanging out and spending time together. JR, R, and the kids even finished the puzzle that stumped Einstein, which meant I wouldn't have had a chance. We were sorry that DR couldn't make it, but next time.

As the icing on the cake, PR was there and he was a home improvement madman. The guy is an inspiration. He doesn't let doubt stand in his way, and plowed through many of the jobs that were languishing because I had no clue how to fix them, which pretty much sums up everything regarding home improvement.

Not only did he fix the dining room light, but he fixed the seal on the front door, and was ready to tackle various other projects, including the wiring that JH had set up. I think if he stayed for about the week, the barn would be completed and ready for occupation. He's that good.

Best of all, he really enjoys it. At least, that's what I tell myself, and he likes being occupied rather than sitting around corpse like yours truly. He's a man of action, he doesn't let fatigue stand in his way.

I have to confess, even though the holidays are a lot of work, we love having the family around, and are always sad to see them go. Oh well, all the more reason to spend more time together. Something to work on.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Preparing for the Holiday Visit

Prior the our big holiday get-together, we did the usual clean up and re-organization of the house, not that it was that bad. R's family is not high maintenance group, and we really love having them over.

We all look forward to seeing them, but the kids really get excited. They spend every day cleaning their rooms, organizing things and helping to get the house ready, making welcome signs and decorating their rooms. It's really cute to see.

Of course, I had this brilliant notion of cleaning the windows, because with the sun hovering near the horizon, it really highlights how dirty our windows are. Unfortunately, with storm windows and all, it ends up being 8 surfaces to clean for every window, in freezing conditions, no less.

Well, as it turns out, the kids wanted to help out on this one, and they did a stand-up job. They helped me clean the relevant windows (we skipped the ones on the other side of the house that don't get much sun), and they looked great. Not perfect, but good enough.

With the house clean and tidy, we're ready for anything. Thanks for reading.

Getting a Workout

I wanted to mention that I've been having fewer problems with my back, and I attribute it my fabulous new hyperextension workout bench, which I got through CSN stores. I've had a number of good experiences with these guys. Besides the fact that they have such a wide range of products, they have outstanding service and in many instances you can score free shipping. How can you beat that?

In the near future, we may be in need of some furniture. A needs a new dresser, and we could use could use a couple of new coffee tables, one for the living room, and one for the barn when it is finished. I think I'll be looking to CSN stores when that time comes.

I don't have the time or patience to deal with shopping in W. Leb, and the traffic takes years off my life. In this respect, online shopping is a bonus.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crazy Times Ahead

We have a crazy few weeks on the horizon, but what else is new in our lives? We have family coming to stay with us over Thanksgiving, which we are elated about, but we still have to being the process of hiding everything in the hall closet. Then, in the first week of December, we have the Africa benefit, for which we have to cook some major foods and deserts to raise money for I-KODI, then the Christmas holiday will be here, on top of the millions of projects that we have around town and for the house.

In other words, just another day in paradise. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mattox for the pic.


We spent a really nice day last week with the H's doing the geography bee, and though A expressed reservations about taking part, she really had fun. In fact, N had fun, too, and I have to confess, I was proud as heck of him for how well he played and how well he was reading. It was great to see.

They had geo-bee practice at the library, and we went for the simple fact that we love to hang with the H's, but we also got some constructive activities, as well. It was a lot of fun, and the kids really learned some geography, as did I. Some interesting facts out there.

After the practice, we hit Stella's for lunch, then back to the library to get some books for the kids. Now that N is a reading machine, I can spend more time getting books that he is more interested in, and that's always fun.

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

Reading Machine

It has generally been the provenance of A, but recently N has become a bit of a reading machine. We are very pleased about this development, and can now start looking for books that are specifically geared towards him as his interests grow.

For now, he seems to like simpler, more basic stories and comics and graphic novels, but A was that way in the beginning, as well, and she still loves them. The important thing is that N likes to read, is following a story, and can get absorbed in whatever he is reading. This a great development, especially in light of the fact that getting him interested in books was a little more challenging than it was with his sister, who simply devours books.

I think he will always be a more physical and active person, but at least he can sit still long enough to finish a story and get lost in a book. I'll take it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Loose Teeth

I realize it's a natural part of growing up, but it seems like lately the kids have been losing teeth like it's going out of style. They've had loose ones for what seems like months, and then they suddenly started popping out.

It's kind of a relief, because it's hard flossing loose teeth, I always worry that I'm hurting them. Plus, the kids have one less thing to obsess over while they're eating, and can look forward to the tooth fairy coming.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Angel Fragallo for the pic.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Fire Pit

We have been wanting to have a fire pit in our yard but weren't really sure what it involved or how to go about making one, not that it is rocket science. I spoke with the fire marshal and he said that making a fire in a pit would not require a burn permit, and making one is really just taking some rocks and setting them up in a ring.

Then, just start a fire inside. Somehow, it all sounds so easy, but I manage to make things more complicated. We had lots of rocks leftover from the excavators making the septic system, and together we managed to make the ring.

We then started a small and manageable fire, with the hose at the ready, and it was a lot of fun. Who needs TV? Plus, the kids to get to play with fire under controlled and safe conditions, and did they ever have a blast. Best of all, they were very thoughtful about being careful, and I was able to get some work done outside while not being too far away.

Plus, we now have a fire pit to just hang out around or roast marshmallows over. We have enough wood, so fuel won't be a problem.

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

Loving Karate

This pleases me to no end, but A has been really getting into karate, and she is doing such a nice job. She takes it very seriously, takes the time to learn the spars and katas (she's a good learner), and is earning the praise of Master H and sensei H. They could be biased because I'm her dad, but I think she does a great job and I'm the most thoroughly objective person on the planet.

Either way, I'm glad she's taking it seriously. It's good for her to have goals, challenge herself, and work hard at something that has tangible rewards, not to mention fitness and self-defense benefits. Plus, she has many friends involved in the class, and she gets to be mentored by some stand-up people, including some good female role models.

Being able to bust a few heads now and then isn't a bad thing, either. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Christopher Bruno for the pic.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Food Discoveries

I'm finding that healthy eating and buying local meat is more plausible than I initially anticipated. We have been thinking a lot about eating excessive amounts of garbage in our food, mainly in the form of chemical preservatives and dyes and flavors. It's amazing what we put in our bodies.

When you really get down to it, if you were in a factory and someone handed you a chemical and told you to eat it, you'd say they were crazy, and yet we eat that stuff every day of our lives and don't blink an eye. Not for me, thank you. Whenever possible, I would make an effort to avoid it.

Unfortunately, healthy eating also involves reducing the good things in life like sugar and white flour. Ouch. However, we have been discovering sugar alternatives that taste good, if not great. The jury is still out, but at least we have some options.

We also found a source of local, nitrate free bacon and sausage/kielbasa. The movement is taking place before our very eyes.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Anne-Mette Pedersen for the pic.

found new sugar
found local nitrate free bacon and sausage
get our meat locally


I got myself into a situation that I regretted for a moment, and then it turned into a great experience for me and the kids. You can't beat that. The other day they announced that there was "help-your-neighbor" day, whereby they were meeting and going around the community and helping people who could use a hand. I have no idea how they determine this, but they requested volunteers.

They said someone needed wood split and stacked, and of course, being the real man in training, said I wanted to help. That was a couple of weeks back, and then I thought nothing of it. When the actual day was approaching, however, I was asked if I would still help, and of course I said yes. However, when the actual day arrived, I had so many other things to do, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed.

On top of that, A wanted to hang with mom, and N wanted to hang with me. This plan was disrupted by the fact that my morning was now going to be taken. I thought maybe they wouldn't need me, but JM called and left a message, so I couldn't back out.

On the bright side, the kids said they wanted to come and help, so I gathered them up, took them to the rec center, where they gave us directions on where to go. I figured that if the kids got bored enough, they could sit in the car and listen to NPR.

This, however, was not the case. There was a lot of wood to stack, and A&N jumped right in and helped the adults. I brought my maul and split about 30 blocks, and everyone pitched in to help. It was a really nice morning. In appreciation of our services, they served a Thai food lunch which was outstanding, and then we headed off to spend our days together, which meant that A went out with mom, and N and I went to the pool.

We met later on in Hanover to have dinner at, you guessed it, Boloco. What a nice day, but best of all, the kids had fun helping out a neighbor in need, and they enjoyed it. We are so proud of them.

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

Winter Swimming

N said he wanted to go swimming the other day and it's a bit complicated because it would entail swimming at the indoor pool, which is nice because we can swim year-round, but I'm not so keen on breathing in all that chlorine. For the record, I grew up swimming in a pool, but never swam indoors. I've been exposed to my fair share of chlorine, but something about indoor pools that seems worse.

Either way, every now and then is okay. The pool in White River is a bit like Disneyland, with all sorts of fountains and slides. There's a wave pool that takes you around in circles, so you don't have to do much other than float, and they offer high speed internet for all the parents, which is about 95% of them, who do not want to take part. In all fairness, I can understand.

The slide has a height requirement, and the child's head has to touch or surpass a certain mark. N's head is about 1/2 an inch below, close to enough to argue that he can do it. Either way, he went for it, and he loves it. I actually did it a couple of times, but I'm too old to have so much fun.

After doing it about 20 times, another lifeguard said he was a little too small, and we had to stop. Total bummer, but we still managed to have a lot of fun. N is becoming an excellent swimmer, and he really has fun just jumping around and swimming by himself.

It also struck me that he's really getting to be a big boy. He was hanging with the other big kids, and I couldn't help but think he's growing up. Amazing.

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

N on fire
great swimmer, confident and comfortable
did the slide before busted
N growing up, no longer a little boy, becomig a big boy, poignant

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Karate Gear

I had a good experience with Karate Depot as they came through once again with great service. I had ordered A her gear for sparring, but the helmet was too small, even though I measured her head and used their sizing chart, even going a size up, just to be safe. Even then, it was too small, so I had to exchange it.

We wanted to get the new one before her next class so she could wear it when she trained her hands and feet to be lethal weapons, but the way it works is you return the merchandise and then they send you the new one. That would take weeks. Also, the helmet was part of a package, so it was cheaper than if you bought it separately. Because of this, I couldn't simply buy another one at the right size, send the old one back and get a refund.

Either way, I spoke with the rep, and she was amazingly helpful. She agreed to sell me a new helmet a la carte for the cheaper price, and then refund it when the other one came back.

That was really cool, and it worked out beautifully. Now A is all set, and I think all the cool equipment is piquing her brother's interest, so we'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Finishing My Website Bio

I realize this process is intolerably slow, and that I'm subjecting you to the tedium of my neurosis, but I've gotten the introduction of my website finished, and am working on the bio part. When that's done, I'll put the appropriate links, and then I'll be ready to go live.

I'm thinking that this will happen some time before 2012, but that's being optimistic. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to akedeszign for the pic.

More Cool Pottery Creations

Pottery has been going well, and even though it is an expensive class (everything is expensive), I really think it's a good experience for them. Not only are their buddies in the class, but it's an extended time for them to be away from their overbearing dad, and they get a lot of satisfaction out of making some cool creations that aren't simply cheesy Playdough creations. These are the real deal.

The only problem is, we are getting buried in ceramics. I am toying with the idea of building a simple shelf that would sit in the corner to display them it. This would not only let them showcase their talents, but it would clear some of the clutter that is gradually filling up the house.

That's all we need, another project. We are trying to encourage them to think of gift ideas for friends and family, so they can spread the joy of their creations. They're really nice pieces of art, and ones that any family member of friend could appreciate.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Engineers In The Making

The kids received a model kit to make a replica of an internal combustion engine for N's birthday, and it was one of those really neat gifts from their uncle and aunt, which for the record, they are very adept at finding. In the past, they've chosen real winners for presents, very cool interactive stuff that they love, and this was no exception.

Just the other day, I was outside working and they asked if they could put it together. I said it was fine, expecting that they'd need my help at some point, but after about an hour, they informed me that they'd almost finished it. The engine even has spark plugs that "fire" with each stroke of the pistons. How cool is that? Also, the kids now know about cams and pistons and all sorts of engineer talk.

I was pretty impressed, the machine is not for the faint of heart. Not only did they manage to figure out the assembly, but they worked out the inevitable kinks in making it, and worked together. All in all, it took a lot of cooperation, patience, and focus. They did a really nice job, I'm proud of them.

It was also a good lesson for me to take a step back and let them do their thing. There were points where they could have used my assistance, not that I would have been any help, and at the very least I could have read the instructions and walked them through it, but I was too busy, a fact that they were more than happy to relay to mom. No life or death situations here, but a good chance for them to learn by themselves, accomplish something on their own, and make mistakes and learn from them.

Plus, it's a reminder to me to lighten up and give them some space. A win-win situation, the kind we love.

They can't wait to show their uncle and aunt, as well as their grandparents their handy-work. I can't say I blame them.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Clean Teeth and Sparring With the Dentist

A had her regular checkup at the dentist, whom for the record I really like, but I noticed that they really play hardball when it comes to certain things, and won't take no for an answer unless you are a real nuisance about it. It's like a boxing match, in a civil manner, of course. For the record, being a karate man and all, I'm confident that if I got into a fight with the hygienist, I could take her.

In the past, I've had to kick and scream and endure the scorn of both dentist and hygienist regarding sealants. I don't want them, and my stance has met with great resistance. They look at me like I'm crazy, but whatever be the case, I've had to make a stink and tell them not to do it. It's almost as if they don't care what I think, or think I'm out of my mind, which has some credibility.

This time around, they have this new fluoride treatment that R and N both had, and expressed dislike for it. I figured why put A through it, so mentioned to the hygienist that we would like to pass on it, and she wouldn't accept no for an answer. She just kept going on about how it was only yearly and it was good for her teeth, which I don't doubt.

However, I sometimes wonder if dentists, like doctors, who are all specialists, can't see the forest from the trees (is that how that expression goes?). In other words, being so preoccupied with avoiding cavities, might they overlooking the health consequences of putting some of that stuff in a person's body, much less a child?

I have no doubt that the dentist is looking out for the patients teeth, it's just that technology is not always the answer. Just look at all those drugs out there and the bad health consequences. Either way, I'm struck by how much they push their ways. It makes me defensive.

And I am NOT a defensive person.

On a bright note, A's teeth are cavity free and coming in beautifully. In fact, the dentist even said that the spacing was looking good, so we'll see. Also had a chance to chat with Dr. B about cooking and recipes, our usual MO. The guy is a gourmand, you can tell he loves food. Can't say I blame him.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Finding a New Ice Skating Rink

Ice skating is one activity that we can all take part in together, so on the weekends, we are always looking for a place to go. Since it's too warm to skate outside (I'm not complaining), we are left with finding an indoor rink. We like Union Arena, but Woodstock is a bit of a trek, and out of the way. We just don't go that way much, and do so only to skate.

I did some research and learned that Hartford has its own rink. So does Lebanon, but they are not usually open on the weekends. The Hartford rink has good hours on Saturday and Sunday, so this past weekend we checked it out. It was pretty hopping, with lots of little kids learning the ropes. The ice was not in the best condition, kind of choppy, but the rink is big, and you can't beat the price. We also saw our excavator man there with his family, it's a small world up here.

We had a lot of fun, the kids enjoyed watching all the other people skate, and we got some exercise, though R still has some issues with her skates. We just can't seem to find the perfect pair. Maybe it just doesn't exist.

Good to have another alternative for Winter fun. We'll make the most of it. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Amy Palm for the pic.

Helping Our Wonderful Library

As a trustee for our local library, I'd like to do more to help out, and a lot of that boils down to helping solicit funds. Volunteering time is a big plus, but what a community library needs most, especially ours, which is such a great little library, is money to buy things and most importantly, to pay their staff to keep up the good work. How can you not want to help?

So, I am going to do my best, mainly because I have so much free time and don't know what to do with it. In an ideal world, I'd write a grant, or several grants, but having never done this, the challenge could kill me. Something to aspire to.

In the meantime, I'll write letters and learn how to write grants. How's that for a start? We are in the process of seeking out grants that the library might qualify for, so that's a good place to start. I'll let you know how that goes.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Doing the Right Thing

I had a one of those reflective moments the other day, and I did what was the right thing, even though my first impulse was to embrace cheating and try to beat the system. However, I've found that when you live in a community that you like, this is akin to cheating your friends and neighbors.

We got new skis for A and tuned up her old ones for N. We buy equipment used at Henderson's, they sell their rental equipment at massive markdowns, upwards of 75%, and even let you trade in certain pieces in order to trade up to a bigger size. It's an amazing deal. Sure, the equipment isn't shining and brand new, but you realize that it doesn't take $500 equipment to be a good skier and have a good time. This is a good thing to teach your kids. Also, can you really tell the difference between a $500 pair of skis and a $200 pair? I've been skiing for over 30 years and as far as I'm concerned, the answer is no.

Anyway, I know the guys are Henderson's, they're a great group of guys, and about a month ago I took the kids in and we upgraded A's equipment. This entailed a new pair of skis and two tuneups. I waited to pick them up because there's no snow, so no hurry to get them. When I went to pick them up, the guy behind the counter made a big mistake.

He only charged me for the tuneups, and the total came to about half of what I was expecting. I was stoked, but new in the back of my mind that something wasn't right. I took the equipment and loaded it into the car, excited that I'd saved so much money, but as I sat there and thought about it, I realized that what I was doing was essentially cheating my friends out of what was rightfully theirs.

So I went back inside and told the guy he undercharged me. Even after that, he said no, it was all fine. I had to literally press the issue and explain to him that he hadn't charged me for the equipment. He picked the receipt out of the trash and upon closer inspection, realized that he had in fact undercharged me, and we settled the bill properly. He was grateful, and I felt better.

Truth be told, they would have probably never noticed the mistake, because the paper trail was removed, and I was home free, but again, it just felt wrong. People are trying to make a living here, and I still benefit from getting a great deal from a great bunch of guys who I can turn to and trust. You can't put a price on that.

I hate to admit this, but if I were living in New York or LA, I probably wouldn't have said anything. It just would have been reminded of my bad deed every time I hit the slopes, thus compromising my enjoyment.

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

Saved By the Higher Belts

I was all set to have my first karate class as a newly minted brown belt when I got the dreaded phone call from our sensei. Not only was he not going to be able to make it, but neither was Master H, which meant there was a high likelihood that yours truly was going to have to run the class. I'd done this in the past, but wasn't so keen on it. Besides, it's hard to keep kids focused and interested, I just don't have the charisma.

We got to class early and set up, and I kept my eyes on that front door, hoping the higher belts would come. Sure enough, NS and BS arrived, and being black belts (BS is a brown belt, but for all intents and purposes, should be a black belt), were senior members and thus were going to hold class. I was so happy.

For the record, both of them are great teachers, and PC and I spent the night with BS and she taught us things about the katas that we never knew. It's a great experience.

We had a great class, learned a lot, and are moving forward in our learning. Master H mentioned another mid-term test coming up for the people who did not test this last time, so we have things to go over and polish at home.

Nothing but the best for our trained killers. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sucker for the pic.

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Winter Market

We thought it over, and after much delay, have decided not to do the Winter Farmer's Market. We just can't get it together in time, and for that matter, do not have the desire to. In fact, when we finally decided, I breathed a sigh of relief the size of Vermont. That is a telling sign, if ever there was one.

I fell kind of bad, because I think a lot of the summer market folks were planning on attending, and it probably would have been sort of fun, but boy, the amount of work, not to mention the mess and cleanup, were too much to even consider.

Plus, now we can focus on more important issues, like our lives.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Yet another fringe benefit realized from this whole septic system drama has been access to, of all things, rocks. We wanted to build a fire pit for roasting marshmallows and indulging the kid's pyromania fantasies. For the record, the fire marshal said we did not need a burn permit for these occasions.

The first step was to find rocks to line the perimeter of the pit, which proved to be a little trickier than it might seem. We needed bigger rocks, and many of them. We have a few in the garden, but rocks can be useful there, so I went looking elsewhere.

At some point, I called our neighbor, who had a huge pile of them in his field, and he said I could help myself. I was ready to drive over and start collecting when lo and behold, the excavators arrived with the biggest rock collector you can find. The diesel variety.

As they dug up the yard to install the septic system, it was rock city. I could take my pick of the litter, and managed to get my fill without even leaving the property. How fortuitous.

Now we're all set to spend cold Winter evenings around the fire. How cools is that? All we need are some chairs. Until then, thanks for reading.

Progress On My Website

Okay, for all it's worth, I've managed to get my website about 26% finished, but there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears in the process. I still can't imagine paying someone $1000 to create a site, that's crazy.

Either way, one of my biggest stumbling blocks is writing the darn bio. Sure, I could get crazy and write something whimsical and funny, but there has to be some seriousness because this website will be used as my virtual resume for any potential employers, all in the quest to launch my fabulous freelance writing career.

These sort of occasions always make me a little nervous. Also, since I am still figuring out the ropes of web design, the learning curve is steep, and even though the program in question, iWeb, is designed for completely clueless individuals as myself, there sure is a lot to learn.

I've managed to get several pages created, and it becomes a process of writing and inserting text, which is significant when you consider that this will be a writer's homepage, but also tricks to add HTML links and maybe even a snippet or two. Listen to me, as if I were suddenly Bill Gates.

Either way, I'm confident that at some point in the not-too-distant future, I'll get this done. Then begins the equally difficult, if not more so, process of coming up with article ideas and writing query letters.

Yikes, maybe I should put this off for another year. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to DGBurns for the pic.

Fun Day of Shopping on a Whim

We did some spontaneous activities this past weekend, and even though it infringed on my attempt to get some real man work done, we had a great time and I have no regrets. Besides, there's no hurry because training to be a real man is a lifetime pursuit.

I had just attended the community breakfast and wanted to get some stuff done around the house, mainly working on the firewood and hopefully the front door (yeah, right). I was in the process of making a huge pile of split wood when R came out and said that she and A wanted to go shopping for some clothes. She desperately needs some pants, and a few tops would be nice, as well. Also, N needed pants, but he's incredibly picky about his clothes and won't wear 99% of what we give him.

Either way, since R and A were planning on hanging out, that meant girls-day out, necessitating a boy's day out, which meant that the guys were going to do something together. In the past, stacking firewood or painting a piece of furniture was enough for N, but he had it in his head that he wanted to go ice skating. I was all for that, but for whatever reason, Union Arena was closed for public skating. The nerve.

We had to come up with an alternative plan, because N was bummed, and was not content to simply stack wood. We pondered it a bit, and finally decided that we'd hit the big city, get some clothes shopping done, catch a movie, then get some supper at our favorite eatery, Boloco.

How can you beat that? The American Dream, in the flesh. We managed to score clothes for both A&N at our favorite clothing store, Rugged Bear, which for the record is the only place a parent needs to shop, and stopped the Listen center for some other items, grabbed some killer burritos at Boloco, and then to the Nugget to catch MegaMind, which BTW was a great movie.

So, in what amounted to a spontaneous day for us, we didn't get much done around the house, but we sure had a really nice time.

Sometimes you have to put real-man training on hold to spend time with your family. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Allie Hylton for the pic.

Winter Sports

Winter is fast approaching, and we still need a bit of preparation. We are all set with our downhill skis, the most important thing, and we are kind of set with XC stuff. The only shortcoming we have is N's XC ski boots. His are too small, and we need to find him bigger ones. The thing about XC skis I've found is that the boots are binding specific, not like downhill stuff.

So, we need to get Rossignol boots. I've been told that Alpina will work, but the best bet, to be sure, is get the Rossignol. This may mean that we can't go to yard or consignment sales, and may even have to buy new, which is hard because he'll outgrow them by next year, but what are you going to do? The alternative would be just not to get them, because we don't XC ski that much, but if we do this, then no doubt the time will come when we all want to go out for a XC trek, and N will be the only one left out with no equipment. This is a bummer, and makes me inclined to just get him the boots new. They aren't that expensive, though if I do, R will tear me a new one. Such is the life of a SAHD.

Also, N has indicated that he'd like to give hockey a go, which I think is tremendous, because he's a good skater. We'll have to look into that, though it will require procuring more equipment, and hockey seems to have a bunch of it. This could be difficult, but nobody said parenting was easy.

For now, I'll keep my eyes peeled in the classifieds and the consignment stores. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to sanja gjenero and Patti Gray for the pics.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fiscal Responsibility

We went to the bank the other day to deposit the kids' savings, and there were some good lessons involved. Part of the problem stems from the fact that some of the kids' friends get to spend their own money. They even shop on EBay, which I find ludicrous for an 11 year old, but that's just me. Then again, it could be just talk. In fact, it's very likely.

Either way, the seed has been planted, and the kids want to spend. We are reluctant to let this happen for numerous reasons, but don't want to be mean and unfair, either, so we came up with a plan. The kids get allowance every week for helping around the house. They can now put aside a percentage of that to spend, the rest of which will go to the bank.

When they counted up their money, it really struck A that N had so much more money than she did. In fact, it really bummed her out. She tends to spend her money, granted on things for other people, which is really nice, but that adds up. I think the moment really spoke to her, because she decided that she wasn't going to spend any more money.

I had this urge to step in and just make up the difference, but in feeling the bite of spending her savings, she really learned a good lesson, and will now (hopefully) change her ways accordingly.

Wow, it feels good to stop being an overbearing parent once in awhile. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steven Goodwin for the pic.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Everybody's Joining the Fun

It took me awhile because there were so many nuts and bolts, but I managed to get that darn back-workout bench together, and right off the bat, everyone joined in on the fun.

I started with a serious back workout, and then A&N gave it go, more for the experience than anything. The reality is, they are way too young (hopefully) to have any back issues.

In the meantime, we'll have to show R these pics so she can see that the purchase (it was free!) was not a complete waste, and maybe even get her to take part.

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

Hearing From My Brother... I Think

N got a box a couple of days ago for his birthday, and even though it was a little late, it was a really nice surprise. The kids were thrilled. The thing is, the box came from my niece, and it looked like my brother's writing on the front.

Knowing that kids don't possess the most initiative when it comes to these matters, and it is usually the parents who remember family birthdays, the question becomes, was it my niece's mom, my brother's ex, or my brother who was behind this?

Of course, my first inclination is to think it was her mom, because my brother is a big fat selfish slob who has never once in the past remembered N's birthday, or for that matter, anyone else's. My brother even went to great lengths to ignore the day that N was born, which I found unconscionable. To suddenly receive a gift makes me wonder what exactly is going on.

The question becomes, does it matter?

Of course it does, I'd like to know. I tried contacting my brother's ex, but she never replied. I could call her but at some point you have to ask yourself what exactly is the point. I guess I'm just curious, because my brother really is a peculiar character.

I'll probably investigate this a little further. In the meantime, thanks for reading, and thanks to Svilen Milev for the pic.

Music Lessons Cruising Along

I am happy to report that thus far, A&N love their lessons. They are having a lot of fun, and it could because they like the teacher, JB, or that they simply enjoy the instruments. I hope it's a little of both.

Their enjoyment and interest, however, present us with a couple of conundrums. First off, if they continue along, at some point we are going to have to invest in the instruments of choice, i.e., a piano and drum set. I personally think these are worthy investments because they are things everyone in the house can enjoy, and what better rite of passage for a child than to experience the torment and suffering of having to perform a piano or drum recital in front of family and friends?

The only question is, if we got said instruments, could we maintain our sanity with them being blasted throughout the house at all hours of the day? The better question I guess would be, can I handle it, considering the fact that I'm the one home all day.

The things you do for love. Besides, it's like Charles Bukowski said, some people never lose their minds and go crazy. What horrible lives they must lead.

Whatever be the case, I really hope they maintain their interest and continue their love of music. It is a really important part of our lives, and one I hope they embrace, as well.

I think this is the case. So far, so good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Miroslav Nagy and Bo de Visser for the pics.

Spanked By The State

Just when we thought it was safe to open the mail... the state got back to us and told me that I was deficient (I knew this) in certain areas. More specifically, in terms of one or two subjects. Truth be told, the damage was minimal, and I just need to revise one section for each child, but it would have been nicer if they'd just accepted it as it was. Wishful thinking, I know.

I'm not knocking the people at the state offices, they're very helpful and very nice, it's just that sometimes these little details seem superfluous. Either way, complaining ain't gonna change the fact that I have to deal with this, so back I go to the drawing board, or in this instance, the chalkboard.

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

Blogging Perks

As I've mentioned in the past, I've been able to reap a few benefits from my blogging, and one of them involves reviewing products. As an incentive, I was able to procure a back hyper-extension bench, which is fortuitous in light of the fact that I have been having some back problems.

When I used to work out religiously, I used to always work my lower back, but the bench is rather specialized and not something you find lying around the house. Even R mentioned that she'd like to do the exercises.

Say no more. The bench came with free shipping, too. How can you beat that? Now all I have to do is put the thing together. It has about 1 million bolts, so naturally I've put it off, thereby giving R fodder to comment about how I waste money on things that never get used, even if it was free.

Oh well, can't win them all. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go find my socket wrench. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ordering Karate Gear

A is getting more serious about karate, and of course she needed sparring equipment to continue her training to be a lethal weapon. Naturally, we turned to Karate Depot for our needs. There is a martial arts store at the dojo in West Leb, but it's hard to beat the selection you get online. Plus, their shipping prices can't be beat. A did indicate that she didn't want any gear that had the word "Macho" on it, and I completely understand.

Since A already had her gi, next up were gloves and headgear. The sets they sell seemed to be the best way to go, so we also got her foot protection and a mouth guard. Not that she's ready for it, but competitions require mouth protection, and from my own personal experience, protecting those feet during sparring is not a bad idea. The kids don't kick that hard, but I've sparred with people in my class and always manage to nail an elbow or knee, and man does it hurt.

Anyway, A can't wait to get her stuff. I'm excited for her, too. It adds to the fun having your own gear, and a great way for her to really enjoy herself while she learns.

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

Helping Out the Kids

I was scrambling a bit to record a bunch of CDs for the kids Christmas show, complaining about all I had to do and, dare I say, whining a bit, when R asked me, "Whose idea was this, anyway?"

I had to shut up at that point, because it was my idea. You make your bed and sleep in it, right?

First, some background. The Arts council is doing a Christmas show like they do every year, and for the record, it is top-notch. It's really incredible, because they put on this wonderful show and it is free to the community. The performers are amazing, some of them professionals, and they dedicate the time and energy all out of the desire to do something for the community. I love this town.

Either way, they also do a kid's show, and it's a great time for the children. The kids, however, benefit from hearing the carols and then emulating them. Now the easiest way to do this would have been to choose a bunch of common and familiar carols, the kind that everyone has on a Christmas CD at home, and then the kids could simply sing to the discs. Or, choose popular songs like Jingle Bells or Santa Claus is coming to town, which everyone knows.

Instead, they had to include some pretty eclectic pieces, some of which I had never heard of. They ran into some problems with kids knowing how to sing the songs, so they decided to have one of the soloists, CH (amazing singer), from the adult choir sing them into a recorder and give them to the kids.

Next problem, how to record and distribute. Their plan was to record on a tape player, then give them out. This, of course, brought up two new problems. First off, who the heck still has a tape player in the modern world? Second problem, how do you duplicate 15 cassette tapes in the span of a few days?

Naturally, being the big sucker that I am, I offered to help. There is a recording program standard on all Macs that is simply amazing. I have no clue how to use it, but it's amazing, as told to me by my friend, KN, a recording engineer. I told CK that we could simply record on the computer, burn to CD, and easily make digital copies. She thought it was a great idea, I just had to figure out the program.

It actually wasn't that bad, and I'm sure I wasn't doing it optimally, or for that matter, getting the most out of the program, but we aren't at Carnegie Hall. They just needed something they could listen and practice to.

So we met one weekend and recorded. It went well, I thought, and the kids came along and it was kind of fun. Sure, I was bummed that my Saturday was shot, but sometimes you gotta make sacrifices for the kids and the community. Besides, it was only a few hours.

I then had to go home and format the CD, then burn it. This turned out to be a little trickier, because again, I didn't use the program properly. However, I did use it adequately, and I was able to compile a CD and burn 15 copies.

In retrospect, I was glad I could help, because one of the reasons why this is such a great community to live in is because people are able to get past their own self-interest and lend a helping hand to make things happen. I rather like being a part of that.

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

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fall Fun... Sort Of

Raking leaves is not my favorite thing to do, but when the kids come out and help, it sure makes it more enjoyable, and dare I say, fun? We get a fair number of leaves in the Fall, and if you can believe this, I'd like to increase the number of "leaf" trees on the property. I just like them, and love the colors in the Fall. It's the raking I could do without.

A&N love raking, however, and are always asking me to come and join them. Sometimes they are fine by themselves, but generally it's more enjoyable with all three of us. I just have to suck it up and jump in. Either way, we do have fun, and it's a great way to spend time with the kids while being outside. Plus, it's a good way to deal with things I don't like to deal with and to just stop whining.

The pile of leaves is growing, as well. Last year we seemed to have a bigger pile, it was really massive, but this one is becoming respectable. Plus, all the leaves haven't fallen, yet. We still have some time, so stay tuned for updates.

Until then, thanks for reading.

raking leaves, new rakes, pile getting big

Brown Belt and Proud Parent

We had our test the other night in karate class, and it was a great night, if not a little grueling. Five of us were testing, and we were thinking letting A test, but truth be told, she's only been to three or four classes, and the other people testing have been preparing for months.

However, that is not to say that she isn't ready. She is a good learner (when she wants to be), and has really picked up on the katas and one-step spars. She needs work a little on her technique, but for the most part, she does a good job. She could definitely pass the test, but we decided to wait and give her more time. I think it's for the best.

In the meantime, she did want to be the one to recite the koan, which is usually something most people shy away from. Not A. She was hoping to be chosen last week and gave me grief when she wasn't the one. I spoke to Chip and mentioned she wanted to go, and sure enough she got to go.

She did a wonderful job, and afterward both CH and Master H commented on what a nice job she did, especially how she held her head up high and spoke with confidence. They could have been simply humoring me, but I think she was great.

The test was a bit of a marathon because I had to go last and they ran me through from start to finish. Most people get a break between basics, spars, and katas, but not me. They threw me to the lions. I didn't mind, it's better to just get it all over with, but I was tired, and my mouth was so dry that I was beginning to choke on my tongue. Then I thought about Kwai Chang Kane from Kung Fu and how he could sit naked in the snow for years and eat bugs, and told myself to be a man and deal with it.

Of course, after it was all done, I had to spar, but such is the life of a karate man. A got to spar her two buddies, and I have to say, she is pretty good, especially when you consider that she's only been doing this for a few weeks. She holds her own, and takes instructions really well. She knows how to defend herself when she's under attack, which is the most important thing. Also, she looks too cute for words in her gi and her protective gear. Speaking of which, we need to get her gloves and a helmet so she can complete her training to be a walking lethal weapon.

It was a nice test, I made a few missteps, but all in all, it went fine. I even got a little trophy (pictured above) for having a strong test. You can't beat that.

After the test, we had a little snack of cookies made by PC's wife, JK. She makes these legendary brownies, but since the class has gotten so big, she brought killer cookies instead. Everyone wins in the end.

I told A how proud I was of her, and am secretly hoping that at some point N will join in, too, but no pressure.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Manageable Halloween

Our Halloween ended up being manageable and if anything, fairly mellow. We also managed to escape a trip to the Woodstock Inn, which in past years has always been heavy on the Waldorf contingency.

We headed out to our usual haunt, Woodstock, and the streets were fairly lively, though they seemed to fizzle out fairly quickly. Also, there didn't seem to be as many houses taking part. Either that, or we were late and they were closing shop.

What I seemed to notice was that as we headed down the fairway, the kids hit all the houses and got candy, but on the way back, many of the houses were closed up and dark. It seems as if we just squeaked in.

Either way, we ended up heading home and the kids got to take stock of their bounty, and even sample a piece or two. We were glad it was a fairly early evening, even if the kids did want to hit the Inn. It just wasn't in the stars for that night.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.