Thursday, March 31, 2011

My First Pitch

Okay, time to flee the nest and move on with my life. As I mentioned, my introduction to writing is coming to a close, and in light of the fact that it coincided with my getting my website up and running, I have to take that as a sign that I need to get off my rear end and get to work.

This involves writing query letters and pitching my ideas, which in turn requires that I come up with some ideas. Yikes! My first thoughts were to write some pieces about the farmer’s market, and now is a good time to pitch it. If anything, I may be a little behind the curve, but I can’t worry about that.

I have a few targets in mind, so I need to get working. I’m a little scared about this new chapter, but excited as well. These are the first steps to getting my glorious freelance writing career started, the same one that will help support our fabulously luxurious lifestyles.

With this in mind, I can’t hesitate. Just do it, right? Wait, who said that? This should be good, so stay tuned for more drama.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Justin Taylor for the pic.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Back Rehab

I think I'm ready to get back to a fairly normal life, thanks in no small part to some back exercises recommended to my by my in-laws. I have vowed to take better care of my back, and this will entail stretching and strengthening on a regular basis, hopefully every day. That's up to me, I guess.

One thing I've found is that much of the karate exercises that we do involve the back, and along with breathing exercises, will help me in more ways than one. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks for NRL for the pic.

Losing Teeth

We have been losing teeth like it was going out of style over here. I think within a two day span, we lost three teeth. That's a lot of trips for the tooth fairy to make.

N had a loose tooth that had been staying put for what seemed like months, and it finally came out. He had an appointment with the dentist to have it removed, but now that it's gone, I think that will change things, though they always seem to find a way to charge you for something. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Market Developments

It is that time of year where we have to decide whether or not we want to do the farmer’s market. The deadline for the Hanover market is either coming up or past due, and the local market is coming up. We just go the email. One of the new complications with the local market is that they are requiring that every food vendor comply with state regulations and have a hand-washing station at their booth. This would require a hot and cold water dispenser that runs anywhere from $300-$500 a pop, not to mention transporting the beast.

Now I think we could easily make up that cost in sales, but it got me to thinking that maybe we’d be better off doing just one market, the big city market. After all, last year we were overwhelmed with making the dumplings, so one less market would decrease our workload. Plus, it’s hard to sell to your good friends and neighbors, and they tend to buy your product as a goodwill gesture, even if they don’t want it. It makes the interaction very awkward. In the big city, it’s all business, which is much simpler.

We don’t have my Mentor’s Explorer, either, so our carrying capacity has been seriously compromised. Perhaps the most telling thing is that when I ponder the idea of only doing one market, it makes me much happier. You need to listen to these signs. We’ll see where this goes.

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

Bye-Bye Rugged Bear

Much to my dismay, I’ve learned that one of our favorite stores, Rugged Bear, is going out of business. Bummer. We’re not massive consumers, but when you have young kids, there is a constant need to buy clothes as they grow, especially up here as the seasons change. Besides having cool stuff, Rugged Bear had these amazing sales where they would unload the unsold merchandise to make way for the new stuff. This, I learned, was part of the problem, because the store just wasn’t making enough money.

Now they’re leaving. I was told that another kid’s clothing store will replace it, but we’ll see how that goes. Rugged Bear was such an icon in this area, it’s hard to imagine what will takes it’s place, but we’ll see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to cde010 for the pic.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Up and Walking

With the help of R and the kids, I’ve managed to regain a level of mobility, and by extension, some degree of my life back. I’ve even been going back into work, which can be a bit of a challenge because being on me feet all day can take a toll on the spine. Also, getting in and out of the car is difficult, but not impossible. Makes you realize the benefit of big SUVs that you don’t have to stoop and bend over to get into.

The fact that I’m back on my feet and functioning also makes me wonder if it was in fact a slipped disc that put me out of commission, only because I get a sense those things don’t heal so quickly. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not 100%, and the pain was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before, but I was worried that I’d be laid up for weeks, a thought that is extremely hard to fathom. I’m grateful to have come this far. It’s also a good thing that ski season is over (wah!) because I don’t have to wrestle with the desire to hit the slopes vs. destroying my back.

Whatever be the case, I’ll take it easy, which means no karate for a week or so, and more stretching. I’ve been wrestling with a tight back for some time now, and this may be the culmination of things building up. Time to take action.

We’ll see how things progress. For now, I’ll take it really slow. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Robert Linder for the pic.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Hearing From My Niece

I keep in touch with my brother’s ex-wife and daughter (my niece) on a fairly regular basis. I’ve always liked D, and I figure it’s not her fault that she married a knucklehead like my brother. If anything, I feel sorry for her for having to have put up with the guy. However, I don’t really know much about my niece, and have only met her once when she was a baby. Now she’s 12 years old.

This lack of familiarity makes it hard at times to choose presents for her. I have some sense of who she is, but for the most part don’t know what her interests are or what she likes to do. This past birthday, we sent her a gift and card and indicated that we’d like to get to know her better.

Well, much to my surprise, she sent a really cute thank you letter to all of us, as well as a letter to A&N saying that she’d like to be pen pals with them. How cool is that? The letter was very well written, and full of personality. Plus, it gave us some insight into what she likes to do.

I’m glad, and hope the kids will take the reigns and keep in touch. Actually, we may have to play a role in that, but that’s okay. What else is new?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RAWKU5 for the pic.

Reflection on A's New Guitar

As I mentioned previously, we decided to go with the Samick guitar for A (can you see the difference?). Granted, it’s less expensive and made overseas (not in China, as the company is quick to point out). I really wrestled with this one. While I'm all for cheap, several factors beyond money pointed me to the Samick.

First off, A really liked it and kind of focused on that one. She played a few different ones, even the Seagull, which EE was promoting. He let her use it at her lesson, and it was a good size, but she mentioned the Samick as the one she liked.

Second was the issue of durability. I realize a guitar is a piece of art, and practical issues aren’t at the forefront, but maybe they are when you’re ten years old. R and I are constantly picking up A’s guitar off the floor, and it takes a bit of a beating. She’s just a kid and doesn’t have the appreciation that she’ll develop with time. All guitars sound good, and all sound better than what she is playing. With this in mind, a laminated top was desirable.

Third was the fact that I couldn’t get a really resounding endorsement for my initial plan, which was to go quality and buy the Seagull. I spoke with several trusted and objective guitarists, and I figured that being musicians and all, they would without question endorse the better quality guitar. This was not the case. In fact, it was almost as if they questioned my desire to get her a better quality guitar. They all unanimously said that we should get her the one she liked and thought sounded the best, which didn’t help, because she liked every one she played and thought they all sounded good.

I think the clincher was talking to resident music guru DC, who actually as a favor went and played the Seagull. He thought it was nice, but didn’t shower it with praise, and even brought up some of the drawbacks, while he did think that the Samick was a great deal for the money. He even bought one for his niece and had good things to say about it. Plus, he agreed with me that Blue Mountain is more of the working man’s guitar store, and that he liked and trusted the guys there. I do, too.

So it was decided, and as a bit of validation, A was thrilled. She really liked the guitar and was happy about it. One interesting note that really threw me off and kind of disappointed me was that the guy at Blue Mountain tried to get me to buy a nicer, more expensive guitar. This is the same guy who recommended the Samick in the first place, and now he’s trying to get me to upgrade. I was a little incensed, but figured he’s just doing his job. Besides, at that point, it had been decided, and I wasn’t going to budge.

Plus, it dawned on me that the Samick is a great kid’s guitar. All good guitarists at some point have two guitars, one they love to play, and one that they can use in a pinch or travel with and don’t mind if it gets a little beat up. A can grow with this Samick, and down the line if and when she wants to upgrade, she’ll be more practiced and capable of making that choice for herself. Something like that should be more of a personal decision, anyway.

One final note: I had to face the guys at Hanover Strings. I wasn’t buying their guitar, and now had to see them every week. No big deal, right? Well, surprisingly, the nice and helpful guy there was a little snippy about my decision. I can understand that he didn’t make the sale, but I figured we could all rise above it. A’s teacher, EE, promotes Hanover Strings because it’s his home base, but he’s not as invested in selling their products, I think. He just teaches there and even hinted that it wasn’t so critical what choice we made, just that we got A a better guitar. The guy working there, however, was clearly disappointed.

I was somewhat apologetic, I felt bad, and was hoping he’d be more congenial about the whole affair, but I got the impression he was being a little snippy. He even had an air about him when he said, “My first guitar was a Samick, and I grew out of it real quickly.”

Hmm, not quite the response I was expecting or hoping for. I guess I won’t be buying a guitar at Hanover Strings anytime soon.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 25, 2011

More "Feeling Unworthy"

During my short but painful convalescence, the kids were simply fantastic about helping out and not being a burden. It really makes me feel unworthy at times, but you do the best you can, right?

Not only did they help out around the house, making their own breakfasts and lunches, cleaning up, and building the fire in the morning, but they also gave me a special two-headed back-scratcher that they adapted from our original back-scratcher. They attached a disc with a rough edge to scratch those wide surfaces. They also made me a get-well card that came with five coupons that I was told I could redeem over and over.

The coupons are for things like one day of chores, a back massage, and breakfast in bed. How can you beat that? Sometimes they're so cute it brings a tear to my eye.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Road to Recovery

Today is Wednesday, almost one week after my big back implosion, and I think I’m on the road to recovery, which makes me wonder if I did in fact slip a disc. I’ve never had really serious back injuries, but I do get regular neck pain in the form of a pinched nerve, and my recent back woes were very reminiscent of all that. I tend to get these deep, sharp pains in my neck (and now my back) that don’t chronically hurt but if I turn in just the right position, it feels like a knife going into my neck (or spine).

It makes life miserable because you just never know when the pain is going to strike, just that it will, and when it does, it’s going to hurt. It’s even worse for the back, because your back supports so much of your weight and is involved in so many different types of motion, you don’t realize it. When the pain comes, it is both blinding and debilitating.

I was bed-ridden for three days, and even sleeping was a chore. Just a slight shift in position would make me cry out in pain. It scared the kids, they didn’t know what to make of it all. For the record, they were troopers and incredibly helpful, making me feel, as usual, completely unworthy, but more on that later.

By Monday, I was a little better and felt like I couldn’t just lie in bed and waste away, even though that’s exactly what I wanted to do. I tried to do some cooking and an occasional chore, low impact stuff, but just being upright was hard. Even sitting down was tough, because not only was it painful, but I had a really hard time getting up out of the chair. As for getting dressed and putting on socks, forget about it.

By Tuesday, however, I was feeling a lot better. In fact, so much so that it made me question if in fact I’d blown out a disc, because I don’t think they recover that quickly. I was in pain, no doubt, but I could move, and even, if you can believe this, filled the wood box. It just took me four trips. One of the pitfalls of heating with wood is that someone has to fill the wood box. R was prepared to do it, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Adding to this challenge was the fact that it snowed. We got about 4-5 inches, which made me want to cry. Sure, I love snow and pine for more, but in my present state, the thought of shoveling snow was intolerable. How I felt made no difference, however, and I had to go out and shovel a path so I could push the wheelbarrow through. I managed by just taking my time. The snow was wet and heavy, which makes for good snowballs and snowmen.

We had a busy day planned, as well. There was a lot of catching up to do on the domestic front in terms of food and activities. We had to cancel assorted appointments and were running out of food. Again, R was taking off work and was prepared to do all this, but I felt like I could manage. Driving is a little hard, though the hardest part is getting in and out of the car.

The kids, once again, were amazing in all this. They helped out so much, it was too cute for words how eager they were. We went shopping and I literally stood there as they ran off and got all the stuff. We had to go to three stores, and we also got A her new guitar, for which I have more thoughts, as well.

Then off to the big city for A’s lesson and to return/check out books. From there, we got home late. I made supper and then laid down to rest. Quite a long day for a man in traction. I’m not complaining, just thankful that I’m feeling better. Even though we do it all the time, we should never take our health for granted, especially our backs.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ariel da Silva Parreira for the pic.

Crazy Weather

Like they say, if you don’t like the weather in Vermont, wait five minutes. This is crazy. Last week when we went skiing (and destroyed my back), the temps were in the low 60s, which made for nice skiing conditions, albeit hot. This week, while I’m in traction, the temps dropped to below 20 with snow. In fact, we got a fair amount of the white stuff, enough so that KB came and plowed our driveway, though I question if that was really necessary. Sometimes a plow makes thing worse because it forms snow drifts, and it was also slated to rise to over 40 degrees, which would have melted a lot of it away.

Now, of course, it’s cold again, which means possibly more snow, and the need for more wood. Two things that are not so desirable when you have a bad back. Plus, we’ve already tapped into next year’s wood pile, so I need to plan better.

Either way, I wouldn’t complain if we didn’t get any more snow, and look forward to some warmer and hopefully drier weather.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Walking Blues

Way back when R and I first started going out, I mentioned to her that I thought it would be cool to have a walking stick. What I meant was one of the Tolkien-esque staffs that wizards use to conjure up spells and send lightning bolts through their enemies. One year for Christmas, she got me an actual walking stick, which was a really beautiful piece of hand carved wood, but not something that I would necessarily use on a regular basis.

No longer is this the case. Since my back injury, I can’t live without this thing. I walk everywhere with it, and use it to help me kneel down and get out of chairs. I even use it when I go to the bathroom, but that may be getting too personal.

Either way, I love my walking stick, it’s amazing. It even helps me to open the stove and feed in more wood, and I haven't tested this out, but I'm guessing it would make a good weapon for fending off attackers. Talk about a multi-purpose tool.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Guitar Resolution

After all this neurotic hand-wringing, I'm happy to say that I may have finally come to a resolution on this whole guitar issue, and I’ve done a complete about-face on this one. Now for the most part, the musicians I’ve talked to have been vague and non-committal in their assessment of the situation, which made it all that much harder for me. I.e., I had to decide for myself.

One commonality was that they said to have A go and play the different guitars and decide which one she thought felt and sounded the best, and which one she preferred. While this makes perfect sense, it ignores the fact that she doesn’t really have enough experience or a frame of reference to really distinguish between all the different instruments. They all look, feel, and sound good to her. It is not as if she said, “Oh, this one has much better action than this one,” or “That one has a much brighter tone.” This, of course, if perfectly understandable.

Truth be told, she did like the Samick, which is made in Korea is actually a regular guitar with a slightly narrower “waist” to make it rest lower so that it’s easier to play. The guy at Blue Mountain pegged it just right, and when A played it, she said it played nicely and sounded good. Then again, she said the same thing about the Seagull, as well as other guitars she’s played. The Samick is less than half the price of the Seagull, but it also has a laminated top, while the Seagull has a solid top. Solid is more desirable, I know this much.

It boiled down to some practical issues. First, is she ready for an artisan guitar? Will she care for it and protect it from damage, or just leave it lying on the floor where it will get dinged and scratched? The Seagull is more vulnerable in this sense, the finish is more aesthetic and less practical. The Samick is probably more durable and stronger, which is not necessarily something you look for in a musical instrument, except when you’re talking about children, however.

I spoke with DC of Yellow House Media, resident musical guru, and he was the only one who gave me concrete advice. He said he liked the Samicks and got one for his niece and it has worked out beautifully. He said for the money it’s a great instrument, and that contrary to popular sentiment, there are really good guitars being made overseas.

Finally, for all intents and purposes, this will be a transitional guitar. Let’s face it, even though I marvel at her musical prowess (I’m a shameless dad), she’s still a young kid, and maybe now really isn’t the time to get an expensive guitar. At some point as she gets older if she is still into it, I’d like to get her an instrument that she can play for the rest of her life, but I would need her input on that one. At this point in her life, she’s too young and inexperienced to make that decision. All full sized guitars probably feel about the same for her.

So, after all this debate (a bird’s-eye view of how my neurotic mind works), I’m pretty sure we’re going with the Samick, which being more economical, increases the odds that mom will give it a thumbs up. Also, while the guys at Hanover Strings are great, I really like the guys at Blue Mountain, and have more history with them, so it’s a win-win situation. I love when that happens.

Now I just have to see if I can stand on my own two feet to get over there.

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

Monday, March 21, 2011

In Traction

My back injury seems to have worsened to the point where I'm completely disabled and bed-ridden. Suddenly things seem to be serious. I literally spent the past few days not only unable to get out of bed, but in excruciating pain, as well. I don't think I can even make it into the car to see the doctor. Today is Monday, and I managed to make it out of bed and downstairs, with the help of my trusty walking stick that I got years ago in NYC. It sure is coming in handy now.

The amateur diagnosis seems to be a disc problem, either herniated or slipped. Whatever be the case, it sure hurts. I can't sit upright, walk, or for that matter, stand. Even lying in bed can be painful if I'm not in the right position. Sleeping is a chore.

Needless to say, this complicates life significantly, because there is so much to do around the house, not to mention at work. Life has literally come to halt, and R has had to pick up the slack at a difficult time because she's writing a grant and now has to worry about domestic duties. If I could just get on my feet, I could cover some of these things, especially cooking. This is also a bummer because N had a dentist's appointment that we had to cancel, we have loads of food shopping to do, and I not only have tons of work to do around the house with Spring on the way, but I also have work to do in the lab. We were on such a roll.

Either way, no sense in whining, I'm feeling a little better, and can actually stand and walk about ten steps before the pain really sets in. Talk about miserable, not to mention bad timing. Then again, is it ever a good time to suffer in miserable pain?

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Russell Weller for the pic.

Paying the Price

We had a great last hurrah at S6, and I’m grateful that we had the chance for one more day on the slopes, but man am I paying for it. At least I think I’m paying for it. My back is killing me, and it seems as though I may have slipped a disc or something. I’m suffering terribly, and I think it’s a bit disconcerting for the kids (and for me) to see their dad completely incapacitated.

While I can’t say for sure that skiing did me in, I’m guessing that going off all those jumps with N didn’t help. Besides, my back hurt after Whaleback, but it was killing me after S6. I could barely get out of bed, and when I was at work yesterday, my colleague WWA astutely advised me to, “act my age.” Thanks for the advice.

Either way, it’s a good thing ski season is over and I won’t be lured by the call of the ski hills. One more day on the slopes could kill me.

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

Finally Achieving Closure

I had fully intended on hanging up our skis and putting them in storage after this last trip to the Whale. I even told the Hs and SS that we weren’t going to make it to S6 on Thu because I figured we were done with skiing. A had said she was burned out, I wasn’t sure how R would feel if I told her we were going to ski again, and the weather was getting poor. A lot of the smaller hills are closing this weekend, so the writing was on the wall.

Little did I know that on Thursday morning, the weather turned out beautiful, if not downright hot. A woke up and said she wanted to ski, after all, and I got an encouraging email from SS about skiing with them. Say no more. N is always up for hitting the slopes, and I gently presented it to R in a way that she was fine with it. Woo-hoo, we had the green light and were ready to go.

It was a really sunny and warm day, hovering near the 60s, and the conditions were amazing. Sure, the snow was soft, but that made it easier to ski the tough runs. We literally had to take off our coats and ski in sweater shirts, and even then A got overheated.

We had a great day, I was stoked to get one last day of skiing in, and feel that I can finally get some closure on the situation, i.e., we can put our skis in storage and get ready for Spring. I’m grateful, however, that we got in our last hurrah.

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

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Last Day at the Whale?

It saddens me to say that we may have skied our last day at Whaleback (WB). There were perfect Spring conditions and the skiing was great. N and I even went for the face which we found out later was a double black diamond, yikes. We saw some snowboarders going down it and that was a big mistake. They ended up taking their boards off and walking down, it’s really not a good snowboarding hill.

There are several skiers that seem to be affiliated with WB and they are amazing to watch. They can do all sorts of tricks, and can tackle the most challenging of terrain. I asked one of them where he learned, and he said WB has several programs that teach kids to ski like that, and of course N was interested. He’s only 7, however, and certain people might not be so keen on the whole idea.

Either way, we got there early, had lunch, and had a great day of skiing. The hill was empty as usual, but that didn’t matter. We skied for several hours and then went to A’s lesson. I’m glad we finally experienced WB this season, and look forward to next Winter. They actually have all sorts of Summer programs, as well, so we’ll see.

One final note, in an effort to keep up with N and be a hip dad, I made the mistake of taking several jumps with him. They were fun, but I think they pounded by spine, because now my back is killing me. You play, you pay, right?

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

Seek and Ye Shall Find

I was pretty much done with my phredude.com with the exception of one last issue that I could not seem to resolve and for the life of me couldn’t find someone who was either willing to help me, or for that matter, able.

I don’t know if you’re familiar with this feature, but on certain websites (the ones where, unlike me, people know what they’re doing), they present you with live streaming content. This usually involves some news or a blog where there is a short clip of a current story and if you’re interested in reading the “teaser,” you simply click on it and it transports you to the actual page, where you can read the whole thing.

This is similar to what is known as an RSS feed. Either way, I wanted to have this with my blog. A short teaser line that you click on to read the whole thing. Nothing fancy, just standard website stuff. I struggled with this one, and was ready to pay someone (yikes!) to do it for me.

One day I went to an iWeb forum and posed the question, and sure enough, some guy in Barcelona, Spain helped me out. I couldn’t believe it. I found a link where you can type in a website and it gives you the HTML code which you paste into your HTML snippet, and sure enough, it works. You can even do certain modifications to change color or appearances. I couldn’t believe it.

Thanks for the help, and thanks for reading, and thanks to Murali cm for the pic.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Working Out

I started taking steps to becoming what Master H refers to as a “trained killer” by working out more in earnest. This entailed doing strength exercises and aerobic stuff in the form of jumping rope, which is a great way to build up your leg strength and foot movements, especially when it comes to sparring.

I have yet to fill that darn punching bag with water so I can use it, thus supporting R’s concerns of my apathy, but I’ll get to it, I promise. I must. How else am I going to be a real karate man?

Thanks for reading.

What Have I Been Missing?

For all these years I’ve been making mom’s raisin bread, and then opting for bagels and cereal for breakfast. Just the other day I chose her raisin bread and thought to myself, “Hey, this ain’t bad. What have I been missing?” Granted, I love bagels and cereal, but wrestle with the fact that bagels are loaded with simple carbs, and we’re trying to cut back on our milk consumption.

Either way, the raisin bread is chock full of goodies, and the kids are starting to eat it as well, which I think is great. However, this means dad has to start cranking out more bread. I used to make three small loaves a week and this was enough for R, but now that we’ve all jumped into the fray, three loaves won’t do. I doubled the recipe and made five loaves this time (I only have five bread pans), and I think we’re ready to get crazy with breakfast. I can’t wait.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Guitar Saga Continues

Unable to avoid my OCD on the guitar front, I’ve been trying to do some research and have come up with some more information, not to mention more advice from the pros. We went to a recital/performance the other night at NT’s house, and the artists, Travis Knapp and Polly Wood, were outstanding. It was a really nice concert, and they sang so beautifully and with such passion. Such a talented duo, and she homeschools her daughter.

Anyway, A got to perform a couple of songs, and Travis let A play her guitar, which like mine is a Takamine, though much nicer. A actually liked it, even though it was a full sized guitar. I asked him his advice about Seagulls, and he said they were nice guitars but he didn’t have a lot of experience with them. In the end, he thought it was a good choice for her. I mentioned that a liked playing his guitar, and he said of all the guitars he’s played, this one had great “action,” which I think relates to the ease of play. I’ve been told similar things about my guitar.

I also broached the subject with DC of Yellow House Media, the local music guru and performer extraordinaire. He said that he’s impressed with the lower end guitars made in Asia (Samick) and thinks they would be fine They sell these at Blue Mountain, the working man’s guitar store. He does not know a great deal about Seagulls, but he is good friends with EE, A’s new teacher, and he even offered to try out the guitar the next time he’s over there. So now I have two experts who said they’d do this (DC and AG), which begs the question, which one of them will actually come through?

And finally, the one person who I would have asked in the first place never returned my messages, which naturally made me assume she was mad at us. KR is our good friend and A’s old teacher, and we don’t see her as much since we started going to EE, at her suggestion, mind you. I didn’t know if she was actually mad, but by ending our learning association, I wasn’t sure if we were ending our social association, as well. Either way, I never heard back from her.

She finally did respond, and made the usual apologies and said she wasn’t mad at us, though I think she sort of was, but won’t dwell on it. Either way, she’s a guitar aficionado, and would have, without question, been the first person I would have talked to about guitars, if she didn’t hate us. Now that we’ve reconnected, I can open up this area of discourse. I’m interested in knowing what she thinks.

I’m still leaning towards to the Seagull. R has not given her consent, but has expressed some support, so all hope is not lost.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to a1977 for the pic.

Oh Canada

We embraced our Canadian heritage (sort of), not to mention our affection for the Great White North, by taking part in some genuine Canadian sports. N has expressed interest in hockey, but playing hockey is rather involved and takes some planning, organization, and a whole lot of gear. This partly stemmed from seeing some friends who were playing organized hockey, and being the shameless dad that I am, thinking that N could skate circles around those boys.

The league is designed to teach kids how to skate/play hockey and prepare them for organized play, which is the next step. We missed the entire season, but were invited to come to the final practice. Since we were late comers, we decided to simply go and watch, and then assess whether it was something we wanted to do. I was interested to see what the level of play was.

It turns out that there were all levels of players, there were even kids that could not even skate. They just wore the gear and kind of stood there, holding onto their milk crates. The age range was 3-9 years old, which would place N in the high-middle. These kids have been skating together for the past 2-3 months, and being the shameless dad that I am, I have to say that N could have skated circles around 99% of them, though one or two of the older kids skated well.

We didn’t get to take part, but it was more of a reconnaissance mission, and I’m glad we went, because I think it made N realize that he can do this. They have a summer league that preps kids for the Fall, when the games begin. This should be interesting.

On the subject of Canadian sports, N has also expressed interest in watching (thankfully not playing, at least not yet) curling. I’m not sure where this spark came from, but he has continually asked if we can go and watch curling for the past several months. Union Arena has a curling league, and they play every Friday night. We never make it because by Friday we’re ready to enter the vegetative state. This past weekend, they had their final match, and then they were going to remove the ice.

It was on a Sunday, so there was no way we weren’t going to check it out. It was interesting, I still don’t understand the game, but N was excited to go. With the exception of one spouse, we were the only ones in the audience, but that didn’t matter. We had our first curling experience, and maybe not our last.

That’s a lot of Canada for one weekend. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to creative daw for the pic.

Quest for Killer Brownies

We’ve been struggling with this one for years, and we just may have had a breakthrough in the last day or so. It involves the ultimate in manly challenges, the making of a killer brownie. Now we’ve made plenty of brownies, some of which are good, but two things have been impossible for us to achieve. First off, brownies that are chewy, and secondly, ones that have a crispy, crusty top.

Our brownies always fall a little short and are cakey, until now, that is. When we had supper with HH, she brought over these brownies that were killer, and I asked her the secret. Like everyone before her, she seemed somewhat ambivalent about her accomplishment, and almost made it seem like it was no big deal. Ha, little did she know how this problem had tormented me.

Part of the problem is that we deviate from the recipe. We always use whole wheat flour, and substitute low glycemic sugar. Even still, I’ve tweaked the number of eggs and the baking time, all to no avail.

R suggested that I just follow the standard recipe to a T and see if I can pull it off using regular sugar and white flour. I decided to follow HH’s recipe, though couldn’t bring myself to use white flour and used white wheat, instead. The beauty of brownies is that they’re fairly quick and easy to make, not like cookies, which take more work.

I was cruising along when I glanced in our new bible of baking, the King Arthur Whole Grains Cookbook, and I noticed a key piece of information. They mention that to get a crispy coating on top, make sure you dissolve as much of the sugar as possible. This is best accomplished by melting the butter and then re-heating it after you add the sugar to help it dissolve. Genius. I love that book.

Sure enough, after baking, we got that nice crispy topping. The brownies were awesome but a bit undercooked, I was paranoid, but now feel pretty comfortable getting the desired effect. I should have consulted the baking book of wisdom in the first place. Best of all, the book uses whole wheat flour, so we don’t have to change our ways. Next up, we’ll try to repeat the results with low glycemic sugar. If it works, we’ll be in brownie heaven.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Thought I Was Through

By the time last Friday rolled around, I figured I was through with all the birthday preparations, but no such luck. We had a series of miscommunications that led to one more grueling day of baking and preparation. We had spent the previous day celebrating A’s birthday with a special birthday breakfast followed by presents, skiing, a Waldorf Mardi Gras celebration, then a party, where as I think I mentioned, A got up and performed and did a stand up job. There were two parts of the celebration left, Friday’s series of activities, and a sleepover on Saturday.

Now A at one time mentioned having a party at home, but one of the complications was that her friends are all over the map. She has buddies that are hip school kids, ones that are smart and cerebral academic types, and artsy types that like to sing and perform. Some are painfully shy, and others are quirky and a little out there. I may very well be making excuses here, but it would have challenging to get them together in one room and to integrate them.

Since we’d already had our big birthday bash, Friday was essentially gravy, so there was less pressure, or so I thought. We had the idea of rather than bringing the party home, we would bring the party to her activities. The idea was to bake dozens of cupcakes and bring them to pottery, play rehearsal, and library story hour. We could thus celebrate with all of her individualistic friends in a comfortable setting, but it would require a little legwork by, you guessed it, yours truly.

The previous two days we furiously baked cakes, cupcakes, bread, cookies, and brownies. It was a bit much, and I have to confess to burning out a little. Things got a little dramatic, as well, with her rehearsal. I had asked a few days earlier how many kids were in her theater class, but never got a reply. On the day of the rehearsal, I found out there were 30 kids, and we only had 24 cupcakes. I had to back out and tell the teacher that we didn’t have enough and couldn’t just give them to some of the kids and not others.

Well, embracing the idea that when in doubt, just go for it, we hatched up a plan. Friday has two rehearsals, one in the late morning, and one about an hour and a half later. Because it’s school, it’s easy enough for the kids to just jet over to the rehearsal, but for us it’s a little more of a challenge.

Anyway, we were short on cupcakes, and I at first told JB it wasn’t going to work, but on the way home, I broached the idea with the kids that we could go home, whip up some cupcakes, bake them and frost them, all in the hour in-between rehearsals. I wavered back and forth on this one, when N chimed in and said, “It’s better to regret what you have done than what you haven’t done.” Wow, give that boy a high-five.

So, feeling inspired, we got home, I made the kids lunch and started making cupcakes. I figured I only needed a dozen, so one tray would do us. I told the kids that dad was going to be stressed out in the next hour and not to bother him, and they were more than happy to oblige. We got the cupcakes into the oven and while they were cooling, whipped up the frosting.

I then proceeded to put the frosting on and the kids would take them and decorate them with sprinkles and colored sugar. It was an amazing site to behold, and the kids did a brilliant job. We finished with about ten minutes to spare and loaded up the car and headed over to the school. After rehearsal, it was off to library story hour, and then home for a break.

In the end, we went for it and were happy we did, but it wasn’t easy. Perhaps as a result of all the excitement, A came down with a cold and couldn’t fulfill the final part of her celebration, the sleepover, but that’s okay. It was a great birthday celebration, and there’s always next weekend.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Latest phredude.com Developments

I have been struggling with my website to get certain things done on it, and I’ve managed to accomplish a few, though some elude me. I wanted to include social networking links, and there are a number of ways to pull this off, with the most common a button that links to the site, be it Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. The question was, how to make those buttons.

I toiled on this one, and searched far and wide for a way to code the button via an HTML snippet. There are tons of sites devoted solely to buttons for social networking sites, it’s a bit ridiculous. I was looking for a simply icon button, and it wasn’t easy. I’d found plenty of icons, but they didn’t come with the proper HTML code that would send the reader to my profile.

It was only after a couple of days that I realized that I was barking up the wrong tree. Instead of HTML snippets, I should have been simply using hyperlinks. I didn’t know this until yesterday, but you can hyperlink a picture. I always assumed you hyperlinked text, but I was wrong.

With this in mind, I could now use any one of the millions of icons out there and simply paste it onto my website, then hyperlink it to my profile. Piece of cake, right? I realize I’m using a bunch of obnoxious technical jargon, but I don’t know how else to describe it, and in the end, it makes me feel like I know what I’m talking about.

I still need to work out those HTML snippets, however, but that may take some professional intervention. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Guitar Conundrum

Yet another week passes and we still haven’t gotten A a new guitar. This process, like many things in life, is not an easy one for me, exacerbated of course by the fact that guitars are not cheap, and the issue of choosing between quality and economy is something I continually wrestle with.

While my first inclination is to go cheap, this is different than buying a screwdriver or hammer. For my applications, buying a cheap hammer will do the job, though for the record, I went quality in this area and got a Estwing. My Mentor and JH and his magic bag of tools would approve, though I have to confess, one of the hammers I use most was given to me by my Mentor (an Estwing)

My thoughts on A’s guitar is that it’s something that she’ll play for years to come, and I’d like to get her something decent, if not nice. The problem is, even cheap guitars will run you around $200. As you go up the scale, the sky is the limit. I am not a musician, either, so I can’t go into a music store and talk the talk, and consequently, have to rely on their wisdom and advice to guide me. This is not an ideal situation because I don’t like being in the dark, and hate the feeling of vulnerability.

I could ask opinions, I have several good friends who are accomplished musicians, but when you talk to serious artists, they’re like serious contractors, they don’t go cheap and will promote quality. Hmm, maybe they are telling me something.

Either way, I’ve done a little research, and have come up with some thoughts. I would like to avoid buying a cheap, made in China guitar, even though A would not be able to really tell the difference. It can’t be too big, like mine, which is a standard dreadnought, which has a big frame. If it’s too small, she’ll outgrow it and she’s big enough to have a standard size guitar.

There are two places to consider, Hanover Strings and Blue Mountain Guitar. Both have a decent selection of good guitars, and both have great guys working there. I think of Blue Mountain as more of the working man’s guitar store, a wider selection and better prices (i.e., cheaper). Hanover Strings, being in Hanover and all, has higher quality and thus more expensive, and seems to cater to the Hanover crowd. Since A takes lessons at Hanover Strings, her teacher promotes it, which is a double-edged sword because I trust this guy, but of course I assume he’s being biased.

I find the whole process intimidating, though the guys are more than happy to talk about the instruments and give you any advice. All the esoteric talk, however, is like listening to Latin. I have a longer standing relationship with the Blue Mountain guys, and am a relative newcomer to Hanover Strings. I just assumed that since it’s Hanover, it’s beyond my means. This, however, is not necessarily the case. Sure, they have high end Martins that will cost you thousands of dollars, but I don’t even like looking at those instruments. They scare me.

In the end, after browsing around just a bit, I have to confess that there is a guitar that I am leaning towards, and it is sold at Hanover Strings. A got to play one during her lesson and she loved it, but you have to take the impressions of a 9 year old (soon to be 10) with a grain of salt. Yes, I may very well have fallen for the sales pitch, but it is a nice guitar. It’s made by a company called Seagull, and I’d never even heard of this brand before, but it’s made in North America, in one of my favorite countries, no less: Canada. If that’s not enough, the company has a branch in New Hampshire, so it’s a locally made guitar, as well.

The guitar costs about $400, which is maybe a tad bit higher than I wanted to pay. However, when you really get down to it, getting even a cheaper import will run you about $200, at least. We are not going to get this instrument at Walmart, so whatever choice we make, we’re in this ballpark. With this in mind, $400 is not such a stretch. Plus, it’s an instrument she can play for the rest of her life, and one she can cherish.

So that’s where I currently stand, and this could very well change from week to week. Whatever be the case, A needs a new guitar, and that’s not going to change. I know what I’d like to get her, it just may take some effort to convince R that it’s worth it. While it’s out of character for me to push and promote a higher priced item, I’m not a cheap scoundrel with everything, especially when it involves the kids. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Really Nice Day, part 2

After a wonderful but wet day of skiing, we had a few hours before going to our evening party at NT’s. I was exhausted after a long day of skiing really tough terrain. The snow was wet and slushy, so it was like skiing heavy powder. This really takes a toll on your leg muscles, and all I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep, but there was much to do.

We were heading to a house concert, and because it was also a celebration of A’s birthday, we were bringing a cake, which we were still in the process of making. I had baked the two layers that morning, and R was in charge of making the frosting and decorating. A wanted to help, so she and R put on the frosting, and then A was in charge of decorating. She did a great job and had fun. Here’s what’s left of it.

Since supper was involved, I figured we should bring some food. We didn’t have much time, so I opted to make a frittata, but needed eggs, and in another example of the stars aligning properly, scored a last-second dozen off KJ a the Flower Farm. I was stoked. I whipped up the frittata, and headed over to the party. It was a small gathering of friends, and A’s best buddies A&I were there. We ate, mingled, and then the musicians performed.

The show was amazing, I really liked the music, and the duo were really talented. You can see the passion in their singing and performance. They took a break and let A get up to play, which took me a bit by surprise. In the past, during KR’s performances, she was always really nice and let A come up and do a few songs, but this was another deal. The evening was about their performance, and I didn’t want to make any assumptions that A could get up their during their show, and even decided not to bring along her guitar.

However, everyone there was all for it, and even asked if A could play. She was more than happy to oblige, and as usual, being the neurotic parent, found reason to be mortified. What if she hadn’t practiced enough? What song was she going to sing? She didn’t have her guitar.

And as usual, my concerns were completely unfounded. She did a fantastic job, playing a really difficult song and doing a great job. It was amazing, and I’m grateful that the performers were supportive in letting her play. After her song, we had cake and the artists sang happy birthday, which was really cool. The cake turned out well, I think because there was a good frosting to cake ratio. Very important. Here's what's left of it.

A got up and sang another song, and then the artists finished the show. It was a really amazing night, and most importantly, A had a blast on her special day. She said as much. We got home and hit the sack immediately, we were all exhausted, but I can’t tell you how grateful I am that her day ended up nicely, especially since so many things were up in the air. Sometimes you have to just throw fate to the wind and see how things unfold. It adds to my level of anxiety, but makes life m ore interesting in the end.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

A Really Nice Day, part 1

We had a really nice day for A’s birthday, the big 10.0, and it could have gone many different ways because we were sort of exposing ourselves to the hands of fate, including a reliance on the weather, other people, and the unknown. We had spent the previous two days baking like crazy in preparation. We must have made four dozen cupcakes. The pic shows them in the shape of the #10, in honor of A's 10th birthday.

As I mentioned before, A was not sure what exactly she wanted to do, so we had to leave things somewhat open-ended. She mentioned a party, something R and I were not so keen on but were prepared to do, and also a trip, an evening out, skiing, and/or a sleepover. All possibilities, some more preferred by boring mom and dad.

As the day approached, we were still without a plan. We figured we’d go out to Jesse’s for supper, like we always do, but our good friend and neighbor NT also mentioned a house dinner concert for her musician friend. I asked her if it would be okay to bring a cake in celebration of A’s birthday, NT gave an emphatic thumbs up, and hinted that we could turn it into a birthday/dinner/concert. When we broached this with A, she said she was all for it, so we had come to at least one decision.

There was also the issue of skiing. We had been skiing fairly regularly at S6 and seeing our former Waldorf brethren there. At some point our friend SS invited us to ski with them, and on A’s birthday, they were having a Mardi Gras celebration complete with food, hot cocoa, and even beads. A&N were excited at the prospect, but it would have only worked if the H’s came, because A loves to ski with CH, her buddy (they’re such good friends). It works perfectly because she and CH ride the lift and ski together, and me and N do the same.

Since it was a celebration, and we were in essence crashing their party, I figured we couldn’t show up empty handed, so I spent all morning making an apple bundt cake to bring along. We were also dependent on the weather, which didn’t turn out to be so bad. Snow instead of sleet. I called SS in the AM and he said the show was on. However, I talked to CH as well, and she mentioned C was not feeling well, and there was a possibility that he wouldn’t make it. This, of course, would have put a big damper on things (no pressure), because it was A’s birthday and it would have been a bummer if her buddy was not there.

So many what-ifs, but there was no turning back. We started started the day with the breakfast of A’s choice (pancakes and bacon) and then present opening. She was thrilled with all the fun stuff that she got, and for the record, still no word from my mom or my knucklehead brother. The kids were excited, but we had places to be, so we had to get ready, keeping our eyes on the weather.

We went to the hill and awaited our fate. It turns out that CH was feeling okay, and that pretty much made the day okay. I don’t mean to make such a big deal about it, but A and C are such good friends, and in so many ways they operate on similar levels. Plus, they get along like a house on fire, as the saying goes. AND, like A, not only is CH not a Waldorf student, but they were former classmates in the same class. Without CH there, A would have been the one kid who wasn’t in the school. She would have been fine, she always does well in social situations, but it’s kind of a bummer being the odd-man out.

Anyway, CH made it. When I saw him walking up the ramp, my heart skyrocketed, because it meant that A was going to have that much more fun on the hill. It’s nicer to ski with a buddy. The weather turned out to be pretty awful, freezing rain the entire time, which hurt your face when you skied and drenched everyone on the hill, but it didn’t stop us from having a blast. We were soaked to the bone, but we stuck it out and skied for the entire time. It was challenging, but fun, and N and I skied one of the hardest runs all day. He is such a good skier.

After skiing, we hit the lodge, crashing the Waldorf party, though we were invited. A actually had fun seeing some of her old classmates, and reconnected with some of them, including YKW. The bundt cake was a hit (even though I destroyed it trying to get it out of the pan), and we got to snack on finger foods. We couldn’t stay long because we were soaked, and we had another gig to get to that evening. We packed up at the same time as C,S&CH, and headed home. It was a really fun day at the ski hill, and I just wanted to thank SS for inviting us and helping us out, and to everyone at the school for making it a nice day.

We were ready to begin the second phase of A’s birthday, but more on that later. For now, thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday v.10.0

Today is A’s birthday, and she’s the big 10.0. I can’t believe it. Happy birthday to our big girl, we wish R’s parents and brother and sister could be here, but that’s something to aspire to.

Big things planned for the day, we’ll see how many we pull off. Until then, happy birthday to A and thanks for reading, and thanks to Michaela Maslarska for the pic.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Where's the Beef?

I just realized that St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and we usually do the whole corned beef thing. For the past several years, we’ve been going to the Coop and getting their nitrate free corned beef, which we love. They call it the gray beef because, you guessed it, it’s gray without the nitrates, which preserve the red color of the meat. We try to avoid them whenever possible.

They cannot vouch for the beef, however, in terms of where it comes from. I.e., it’s neither local nor grass fed. To find that, you’d have to really search long and hard, and pay the big bucks. The solution? Make your own.

Now I’d never done anything like this until a few months back when my in-laws came for a visit, and of course I turned to my resource of choice (and for most of the world), Google. There were numerous recipes, some of which called for brining the meat for two weeks. No thank you. I ended up using one that brined for 2-3 days, and called for the addition of beer. This sounded good at first, but in retrospect, flavored the meat too much, and I think next time I’ll omit it.

We were off to our favorite beef farm, Cloudland Farms, to get the brisket and other assorted forms of beef. I saw on their website that they were open Thu-Sat, so on the way back home from Bridgewater, we made the long trek up to Pomfret. Since Spring is in the air, the roads were driveable, but just barely.

When we got there, however, my heart sank because the sign said closed. Bummer. Not to be deterred, however, I went and knocked on the door anyway, and sure enough, they were inside. BE opened the door and greeted me, and CE was in the kitchen. They were out of brisket because, if you can believe this, they were preparing for a St. Patrick’s Day feast. Shot down in flames. However, they said a round cut would work, so I went with that. This should be interesting, not to mention a learning experience since I don’t understand all the differences between the different cuts. I also picked up some filets and some ground beef, and we were on our way.

I’m glad we were able to score some meat, and it’s always nice to see B&CE, they’re great people, not to mention former homeschoolers.

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

I Don't Want to Work, I Just Want to Bang on My Drum All Day

Words to live by.

Our good friend KM is a drum maker, but not just any sort of drum. He makes works of art, serious artisan drums made with local and exotic hard woods. He also makes flutes and diggeridoos, and his work is amazing. Really beautiful pieces. He was in the process of making these special drums called frame drums that are these large and round disc shape pieces that require some special processing. He asked if we were interested in watching him make them, and of course we jumped at the opportunity.

We drove out to his studio in Bridgewater, White Raven Drums, which is a really cool place to visit in and of itself. For the record, he built the place with his own two hands, which is amazing when you see the place. The studio upstairs is a real man in trainings dream, filled with countless pieces of these beautiful hardwoods and more power tools than you can even imagine. KM is definitely a fine craftsman, unlike myself, who leans more towards rough details. Like my Mentor once said, there are cabinet makers, and there are framers. I definitely fall into the latter category.

He had these long maple boards that were ready to be shaped, and they needed be planed. He used both an electric planer and several hand planers before he set the boards in the steamer to soften. After about 20 minutes, he bent the softened wood into the rounds that will eventually be covered with the hydes to form the drum head. It was pretty cool to watch.

In between the shaping, we hung out with his boys and ate kettle corn and cranberry cake, and checked out some games they had on the PC. The kids have a lot of fun, KM’s boys are super nice kids, and A&N really enjoy hanging out with them. KM and myself also really jive. He’s one of those typical Vermont guys who can do almost everything construction wise, and is basically building an addtion to his house with his own hands, yet is well-read and informed about the world’s events.

After the demonstration, we had to run because we had rehearsal, not to mention story hours. Since we were out past Woodstock, I had planned on stopping by Cloudland Farms to get some beef. With St. Patrick’s Day coming up, I’m going to brine a brisket for the meal. Plus, we’re out of ground beef, and we are in need of a taco night.

We had a typically busy but fun and fruitful day. I didn’t manage to get to the dump, but sometimes you just can’t do it all.

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

Monday, March 7, 2011

Changes in Latitudes

There are some big changes coming on the writing front, and it’s forcing me to deal with my life, for better or worse. My association with the blog sites that I write for seems to be winding down, for numerous reasons, and in the near future I will no longer be able to simply churn out small pieces of content for peanuts. Man do I love peanuts.

The reality of the matter is, writing short blog pieces was never the goal, but rather a step in the right direction. However, like many things in life, it is easy to get caught up in what is comfortable and familiar, and I’d gotten used to researching and writing these pieces. They didn’t pay much, but I learned the drill. The goal was to graduate from these into bigger articles in larger publications, both print and online, so that I could make enough money to support our fabulously luxurious lifestyles.

Now I’ve got to take the next step. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to LT, GG, and WC for giving me my first gig and allowing me to practice my craft, it’s been a great experience, and now I’m like the little bird being nudged out of the nest. It’s either flap my wings or perish. I’ll choose the former, thank you.

Time to step up to the plate and be a real man, or at least a real man in training. This should be good, or at the very least, interesting, not to mention a source of inspiration for this blog.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Petra Winkler for the pic.

Skiing For Our Lunch

We were spending a quiet lazy Saturday at home when we felt the need to get out and do something, mainly because the kids were bouncing off the walls. There was a tentative plan to maybe hit the big city, go to the library and eat at Boloco, but at some point it seemed like too much of a production, so we sought out something closer to home.

We decided to go to lunch at Stella’s, and to get there by the ski trails. The only question was how the weather was going to be. It had warmed up considerably and there was a threat of rain. It had been sprinkling for most of the morning.

Not to be deterred, we geared up and hit the trails. We figured we could cover 80% of the distance on skis, and then walk the rest on foot. The conditions weren’t bad, though it was misty and moody, and the snow is clearly beginning its decline. The days of skiing are numbered.

We had a nice lunch at Stella’s, it was crowded as usual, but fun. There’s a whole new crew there, so I didn’t recognize anybody. We ate, had our customary chocolate cream pie, and then headed home. It was actually nice to burn off some of the lunch on the way home, where we proceeded to lie around and do nothing for the rest of the day. My kind of weekend.

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

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birthday on the Horizon

A’s birthday is coming up next week, the big 10.0 on March 10th (10 on the 10th!), and we are trying to decide what to do. Her preferences have sort of been all over the map. At one point she wanted to have a party (yikes!), but then she wavered bit on that one. A trip has been mentioned, as well as a sleepover, but nothing concrete has fallen into place. I’m guessing that we probably won’t hear anything from my own mom or my brother because they’ve ignored us for the past several birthdays, but such is life.

A is pretty excited about it all, and so are we. I'm certain presents that she’s asked for will be involved, as well as supper and some cake in-between, but otherwise, the possibilities are unlimited. The only thing I can say for certain is that our little girl is growing up.

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

Impromptu Supper

We had our Friday supper all planned out and ready to go. I was going to make salmon with all the fixings, but then I ran into HH, whom we had invited over for supper the previous week, along with her girls who are buddies with our kids, but she couldn’t make it. At the time I mentioned that maybe we could just do it the next week, and left it at that.

We had not touched base since that time, so I didn’t give it much thought. Plus, we had been eating pizza all week, so we weren’t in the mood for more. Anyway, when I ran into HH, she mentioned the previous week’s invitation for supper, and I said I hadn’t given it any thought. I was sort of scrambling, saying we weren’t really prepared and had other plans, but realized it wasn’t such a big deal. HH is our good friend, and her kids are amazing.

I decided right then and there to lighten up and be more spontaneous. When I was a kid, we never had friends over for supper, or for that matter, over to our house period. When I became a parent, I vowed to relax and let things evolve as they may. This includes being able to have people over on the spur of the moment.

So, I said why not? I’d have to scratch our original plan because HH and her kids are vegetarians, and the fish wasn’t big enough for seven people. I also had not confirmed these plans with R. So the plan was for HH to take all the kids over to her place, and I was going home to throw together a vegetarian supper. I had about an hour to pull it together.

I jetted home and left a message with R at work, then slapped together a salad, sweet potato soup, fritata (they eat eggs and dairy), and grilled asparagus. HH brought over bread and these killer brownies. Got to get the recipe for those, they had what we long for, the crispy top and chewy inside.

After supper, the kids went crazy upstairs while we chatted with HH. She’s a really cool person, so many experiences, and we love hanging out with her. She and R do things together, so everyone is comfortable and we always have a good time.

The question is, will she give up that brownie recipe? Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to typofi and diamondjoy for the pics.

Bummed at Having to Pay Full Price

I have to confess, I was a little let down by my good friends at that ski shop, through no fault of their own, mind you. This stemmed from my own shortcomings, and my quest to save money. The funny thing is, I could have skewed things in my favor if I’d played it right, but things happen for a reason, do they not? Plus, the end result was entirely positive, so I shouldn’t complain.

First, a little background. We have been skiing a lot and N has become quite proficient at doing the moguls. So much so that I’ve become a hindrance to his progress, and though he never complains, he has indicated that he’d go a lot faster if he didn’t have to keep waiting for me. It’s good to know you’re appreciated.

Either way, the runs he takes are fairly challenging, especially for the likes of me, and he skis them without poles. I seriously struggle down these runs, even with poles, but they help out a lot. I tried explaining this to him, but he likes going pole-less. Part of the problem is his poles are too small.

We were going skiing that day, so en route to the hill, we set out to replace the poles. In the past, the guys at Henderson’s, where we get all of our equipment, have usually let us do a swap to upgrade. This does not work for all equipment, but we traded in A’s poles and got a bigger set, no charge. This time around, I was hoping for the same.

The funny thing is, when we got there, I saw the owner, JH, who is just one of the nicest and coolest guys you’ll meet. After chatting, I could have said something to him about our need to replace our poles, and being the owner and all, he probably would have taken care of us. But he was on his way out to somewhere, and I didn’t want to bother him.

Inside, I asked the guy if we could do a swap, and if not, buy a cheap pair of rental poles. I sensed he was giving me a bit of the run around. He said they don’t swap poles, and that they didn’t carry the brand I was holding. Also, they didn’t rent that size, so he couldn’t sell me a used pair. The end result? I was going to have to pay full price on a pair of poles that N might not even want to use. Bummer.

My first thought was to tell this guy that (a) we’d exchanged poles in the past, and (b) I knew the owner. The only problem is, you end up sounding like a jerk when you say these sort of things (do you know who I am?) and the guy was just doing his job. BTW, this was the same guy who undercharged me in the past and I could have taken him but was honest and pointed out his mistake. I figured that was worth some goodwill.

He showed us some new poles, and N was excited about it, so I ended up getting them for him, begrudgingly, of course. They weren’t too expensive, but it was the principle of the matter. I shouldn’t complain because N loved the poles, though on the drive to S6, A asked the sensible question of why we were buying N new poles if he never used them. Why didn’t I think of that.

The happy ending to all this was N not only loved the new poles, and you can't put a price on these things. He used them all day and said emphatically that he now loves skiing with poles. Truth be told, I think it made a huge difference in his mogul skiing, and now he’s ready to become a shredder on the ski hill. It’s also nice because N tends to get the used hand-me-down stuff, so it’s well worth it getting him new stuff when he really loves it.

So I guess I just need to lighten up, but that’s an understatement if there ever was one. I still think the guy was giving me a bit of the run around, but what are you going to do? We still love Henderson’s and will continue to make that our main equipment destination.

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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Pushing My Luck and the Beauty of Just Going For It

What an interesting turn of events we had the other day, stemming from the fact that rather than wishing we had done something, we instead opted to just take a leap and faith and do it, albeit with some trepidation.

We had gone skiing on Tue, and I knew I was pushing my luck a bit in thinking of skiing another day, as well, but there was purpose to my madness. When we ski at Whaleback, we are practically the only ones on the hill. It makes sense when you really get down to it. At some point in the afternoon, the crowds begin to show up, but for the first few hours we literally have the hill to ourselves. Now most people would see this as a huge bonus, but I find it a bit lonely and depressing. I guess I like a little human presence on the ski hill, especially for the kids.

This is what is beautiful about S6. On the days we go, A&N’s friends are there in droves from the school program. The hill is not too crowded, but for a change A can ride the chair with her buddies while N and I go up together. It works beautifully. I don’t deny that I love to ski myself, but that’s another story.

Anyway, when I broached the possibility of skiing with R, she was not enthusiastic about it, but she also wasn’t vehemently against it, either. Good enough for me. Normally I would have balked because I felt guilty, but the season is winding down, and our time in ski Eden was coming to an end.

The fact that S6 is on the expensive side doesn’t help, either. Whaleback has amazing deals, but S6 we were dishing out the big bucks. I figured that this might be the last time we skied this season. We knew our friends the Hs would be there, so A would get to hang with CH, our buddy.

It turns out it was his birthday, and in celebration of it all, his uncle showed up. His uncle is none other than JH and his magic bag of tools, sans tools, of course. Talk about a bonus, we were going to get to spend the day with the Hs on the hill. It doesn’t get any better than that.

The weather was beautiful, a little on the cool side, but sunny with very little wind. No complaints here. N and I got to hit the more challenging terrain because A was free to ski with her buddies, and N now had poles, so he was ready to tear it up. We had a great time, and we all re-convened at the base of the hill.

The added bonus to it all is that we may get some group discounts the next time we ski. We saw our good friend SS and he said we should join their group. I asked who should I talk to, and he said he was the man. Fabulous. Also, it was CH’s birthday, and next Thursday just happens to be A’s birthday, and we might very well celebrate in a similar manner. I love that. Next week they’re supposed to have a bit of a soiree after skiing, as well.

We had a great day, and hit the lodge for hot cocoa before piano/drum lessons. We bought one for CH for his birthday. The day worked out beautifully, and all because we decided to just do it rather than torture ourselves over whether we should or shouldn’t, and then do nothing about it. Just think, if we hadn’t gone skiing, we wouldn’t have experienced all those good vibes. I acknowledge that I’m probably justifying my desire to go skiing, but you can’t deny that things don’t happen unless you take action. Otherwise, you spend the rest of your life wishing you had and wondering what might have happened if you had just tried.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Karl-Erik Bennion for the pic.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Back at the Whale and Suffering for Our Supper

We couldn’t miss out on skiing at our favorite hill, Whaleback, especially on Vegas Tuesdays. The weather was pretty good, though the day before we had the crazy freezing rain, and then it got cold overnight so the conditions could have been icy. To their credit, the crew at WB did a fine job on the hill, and the snow was great.

As usual, the crowds were thin, and though it’s nice to have the hill all to yourself, I have to confess to liking more people around. Call me crazy, but I feel that having bodies on the hill makes for a more interesting ski experience, especially when your survival depends on avoiding them.

We had a blast, and N is really coming into his own in terms of skiing the moguls. He really tears them up, and leaves me behind to eat his dust, or in this case, his snow. At some point I told him that I couldn’t handle these runs, at least not with my poles, and he went them all by his lonesome. I felt bad leaving him to fend for himself, and went with A down one of the more manageable runs. I figured that I’d have to wait for him at the bottom while he struggled his way through the rugged terrain.

Well, if you can believe this, when A and I got to the bottom of the hill, who should be standing there waiting for us but N. He’d zoomed through the moguls and beat us down. When I asked him how he’d come down so quickly, he said he can ski much faster when he doesn’t have to stop and wait for me. Good old dad, holding back progress once again.

The hill was open until 7:00, though it seems too cold to night ski. However, as Spring conditions start to prevail, I would be more inclined to night ski. We’ll see where that one goes. We got our cocoas and headed over to the big city for A’s guitar lesson. From there, the plan was to meet mom and have supper at Tuck. The only problem was, we couldn’t find parking, and ended up searching for quite a bit before parking about 1/2 mile away and walking in. We had a nice meal, but in retrospect realized it was more work than it was worth, and probably won’t be doing that again.

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