Sunday, August 28, 2011

Second Chance with Hurricane Irene

The big news around these parts is Hurricane Irene, and it's not to be taken lightly. There is potential for some serious conditions, and we have been doing what we can on this end, though maybe not as much as we should have.

Benefiting from hindsight, we actually got a second chance. They say to stock up on water because once the electricity goes, you can't use the tap. We bought drinking water and figured that would be enough, but you realize how much water you really use on any given day, especially when you want to flush the toilet.

Last night we went to bed thinking we were as prepared as we could be, and then this morning I woke up and noticed the electricity was already out. Bummer, but not the end of the world because we were prepared, right? Well, not really. First off, it's dark, and we would benefit from more candles. The biggest issue, however, is water. We should have stocked up more by filling pots and pans for cooking and washing. They also recommend filling your bathtub up and using that to flush your toilet. What a great idea, none of which we did.

I was sitting on the couch kicking myself for not doing those things, and even put the pots and pans outside to catch rain water, figuring that in a few hours they'd be full. The big thing was flushing the toilet, however, and I wished I'd filled that bathtub. I took some food out of the fridge and kept it in an ice chest, thinking that it could survive warming up to room temp.

The stove worked, so we could cook, and if worse came to worse, we could always use our camping stove and propane. Whatever be the case, it was going to be a long day without electricity, not unlike camping. At some point when I was making coffee, however, the electricity went back on. Wow, a second chance.

I immediately filled up several pots with water, and then the tub. I also put the food back into the fridge to keep it cool, and then took care of bathroom issues while we could flush the toilet. Fortunately I'm a morning person in that regard.

All in all, we're in decent shape because once the sun comes up, we can survive without lights, and in terms of food, we can cook. They say tomorrow should be nicer, so we'll just hang tight and see how things transpire. The storm is supposed to get worse as the hurricane gets closer, so we're not out of the woods just yet. The big concern will be the wind. We are toying with the idea of taking a walk to the nearby brook and see how the water levels are doing.

Then again, that may be flirting with disaster. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Fred Green and Glenn Pebley for the pic.

Not Worthy On Our Birthday

I just wanted to mention that we are not worthy of our children, but you knew that. They went out of their way and made these incredible birthday presents for us, and it's clear that they put a lot of time and effort into them. They really worked hard, and we cannot adequately express how much we appreciate it.

First off, I think a birthday tradition that I'd like to maintain on our birthday is eating a hot fudge sundae, with real hot fudge, which I was able to pull off at Ben and Jerry's. True, that place kind of depresses me because it's so Disneyland. Plus, it's a glaring reminder of the health problems in this country, which kind of puts damper on ice cream enjoyment, but maybe that's not a bad thing. You can't have your cake and eat it, too, right? That goes for ice cream, as well. Now being the whiny curmudgeon that I am, I would also like to point out that I tend to prefer vanilla ice cream with my sundaes, but since we were at B&J, I couldn't get vanilla, and opted for Chocolate Therapy. It was amazing, but chocolate ice cream seems to mask the flavor of the fudge a bit. Vanilla works much better. Also, not that I'm complaining, but when you get sundaes at places like B&J, then tend to put them in cups that are little too small, so you never get enough hot fudge because it starts to spill over the side. Also, they didn't have maraschino cherries. Okay, I've whined enough, it was a great sundae, and we all got to enjoy it.

We also went out for dinner on our birthday, and chose the restaurant in the hotel. The food that we had in Stowe was really good, but not mind boggling. I have to confess that the burger I got was good, but a little on the small side, and not that life altering. I think I've had better burgers at Stella's, and most definitely at In and Out Burger, but don't get me started.

Anyway, the whole point is that after supper, we went back to our rooms and opened the kid's gifts. They really did an amazing job, and I can't begin to tell you how much of a kick we get out of their efforts. First off, they made these lovely cards that were too cool for words. I always seem to get the peace signs, in homage to my days of following the Dead.

The kids also made these boxes out of paper and inside were little presents for R and I. R got little bracelets with nice messages on them. They were made of pipe cleaners, and they were really cute. I got personalized hair wraps with cool messages like "Dad Rocks" and other factual information on them. They were very nicely done.

Another birthday tradition in honor of my Mentor is that the kids always made little hot air balloons for each of us. They are really cool, and I'm sure my Mentor would be impressed with the attention to detail.

Finally, the piece de resistance was the little ski scene that they made with paper and pipe cleaners. That's a chairlift in the background. They even got the details of our hair and our ski outfits right - I have a red jacket and R has a bluish/green one. Too much. The kids did a great job, and once again, I felt unworthy to be their parent, but I'm still trying.

All in all, we had a great birthday, and got some of the best presents a parent can get in this world, namely the love and attention of their kids. You can't ask for much more than that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Twelfth Market, Almost Cancelled, and Good Neighbors

We finished our twelfth market and as much as we enjoy the market itself, I’d like to reiterate that I wouldn’t be heartbroken if we didn’t do this next year. I know there are those of you out there saying that we said the same thing last year, but these individuals fail to realize that we changed things up this year in the hopes that it would make it more feasible. I.e., we opted out of one market, which is a big change.

In light of this, our decision this time around is not just saying the same thing. We modified our approach, and even with these changes, we still don’t think it’s worthwhile. So it’s not just a case of “here we go again.” We’re trying to find a way on this end.

Also, we were inches away from backing out of the market because of R’s injured arm. Her range of motion is limited, and there was some question as to whether she could drive. In fact, we were at the doctor’s office the morning of the market and I had pretty much set my mind to skipping the market and working on the house when the doctor said her arm was fine (it wasn’t that fine, he was wrong). Suddenly, our day was going to be busy, and I had to shift gears. Oh well, what else is new?

After the docs, we had about an hour to prepare, and R was going to drive in with A next her to shift the gears. Talk about teamwork. They pulled it off, and we made it to market and I a lot of the heavy lifting, though for the record, A and N really helped out. It’s cool seeing them work hard and really contribute, warms my heart.

That is not to say that making dumplings isn’t a chore, and it bums us out to have to bend over backwards just to get a weekend off. However, we really appreciate our loyal customers and enjoy the fact that we tried something and it turned out well, but again, the amount of work and dedication is more than we bargained for. The money is nice, no doubt, but we’ve found that as we get older, time (with family, friends, and just alone) becomes more important than money, and if you can’t grasp this concept, you’ll never true peace and happiness in life.

With that in mind, I’d like to say that it was a nice market, and the kids had fun. We benefit from being right next to the Cupcake Queen, and they like our dumplings, so we swap our respective products. They are super nice, so we not only enjoy having them as neighbors, but we get to score cupcakes, as well. In a way, we are good complements to one another, and they do a brisk business, so there are no hard feelings, at least I don’t think there are any hard feelings. Their cupcakes are a huge draw to the market, even more so than dumplings.

Also, NL from Hogwash Farms got wind that our birthdays were last week (how, I have no clue) and gave us a Polish sausage. How cool is that? This past market they also had some big inflatable obstacle course set up and the kids got to play on it for free and for as many times as they wanted, so life was good for them. I love when that happens. A also continued with her babysitting gig, though I’m not sure what they worked out with her. She says she enjoys it, and she takes it very seriously, so I guess it’s a good thing.

All in all, it turned out to be a nice day, even in lieu of the fact that I’d set my mind to being elsewhere. Sure, I didn’t get the things done around the house, but sometimes training to be a real man has to be put on hold.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Zsuzsanna Kilian, Macin Smolinski, and kbralgpe for the pics.

Time Off for Good Behavior

We decided to take break for our birthdays and go away, though like all things in life, you can run away from your responsibilities, but you can’t hide. Life goes on without you, and at some point you have to jump back into the fray. I don’t mean to sound so negative, but I’ve always had an issue with the standard way of life where we work like dogs for a few weeks of vacation. Time off for good behavior, as the saying goes. Not to be naive and overly idealistic, but why not enjoy every day (or at least most days) of your life.

The reason I bring this up is because we’ve been staying at these nice hotels that have resorts attached to them, and the big thing they seem to sell is escape. Escape from the toil and turbulence of our regular lives in the form of saunas and massage and spas and all that good stuff. Like that makes a crummy life okay, but enough of my cynicism.

We had quite the birthday getaway, with the requisite amount of drama and intrigue that seems to make every trip an adventure. We had decided not to go too far on this trip, and instead spend a couple of days in Stowe, which is a major destination in Vermont. It is located about half an hour south of Burlington, near the venerable Ben and Jerry’s ice cream plant. We couldn’t go without a stop there.

B&J wasn’t like I remember it. It seems to have grown, which makes sense, because the brand has gone corporate. The place was like Disneyland, crowded and incredibly touristy, not that this was a problem. We enjoyed our visit, though as we watched people putting away gallons of ice cream, you begin to realize why there’s an obesity problem in this country. I’m not one to talk about abstaining from ice cream, but it’s pretty striking. There was a wood fired pizza stand there, so we were able to grab some lunch before dessert. I decided that for my birthday, I was going to have a hot fudge sundae, which I of course shared with everyone. We skipped the tour because they now charge for it, which I thought was a little lame.

From there, Stowe was not too far away, and on the drive into town, we saw a bear crossing the road. My first bear sighting since moving to Vermont. Stowe is a nice town, reminiscent of Woodstock, but bigger with more to do and a bit more tourist oriented. A fun place for families and a destination for city folks looking for a mountain getaway, though there seemed to be a preponderance of New Jersey license plates. We stayed at the Green Mountain Inn, which was located right in town, and the location was just right. The Inn was nice, and it reminded me a bit of the Franconia Inn, a bit rustic with touches of elegance. The only initial downside was that the annex, which was where we were staying, was built around the pool and had a bit of a motel feel. Otherwise, I really liked it.

Since it was a bit warm, we had ample opportunity to swim, and we ended up in the pool for a lot of our stay. The kids had a blast, and there were other kids so the atmosphere was fun. The town is filled with ice cream and souvenir shops, not to mention several restaurants, so there was plenty to do in town, all within walking distance. In this respect, the GM Inn was just right, because we could walk everywhere. I’m guessing it’s a popular place in Winter because it’s famous for skiing.

There is a really nice bike path that we wanted to try, and had brought the kid’s bikes just for that purpose. We took our blades along since we can’t fit four bikes on the rack. The path is beautiful and very manageable, though the few hills can present a problem on blades, and at one point I lost control and fell flat on my face. R tried to stop to see if I was okay and fell herself, hurting her arm. It turns out that she actually fractured a bone in her elbow, which was a total bummer, and kind of put a damper on the rest of our stay. She was a trooper, however, and didn’t let it ruin the trip, we just had to be more creative. For the record, the doctors said she didn’t need a cast, and moving the arm is an important part of rehabilitation.

A family that was staying at the Inn was leaving on our last day and the father gave us two free passes to the miniature golf place down the road. They earned them by getting a hole during their game, twice! Pretty impressive. We stopped and played, and it was fun, though the grouch in me will say that I’m not that into miniature golf. I play it all the time with the kids, so I suffer through it and never complain, but for the record, I’d rather take a nap.

From the golf course, we headed to the ski resort to ride what they promote as the Alpine slide, which something all the ski hills around here seem to offer in lieu of snow. They send you up on the chair lift and then you ride this cart down a concrete path, which was pretty steep. A went solo and N wanted me to ride with him, though I think he regretted this decision because my weight really slowed him down.

I thought the ride was a sham, $20 a pop, and it lasts about 5 minutes. In my opinion a total rip off, but the kids wanted to go for it, and they enjoyed it. They wanted to go again but we had to be Scrooges and say no. One interesting note is that before we rode a guy asked R if she wanted to buy his tickets, and R called me over. The guy looked familiar, and he asked me if I worked at ADARC in NYC. Sure enough, it was DW, a guy who worked down the hall when R and I were there. He had moved to San Francisco and then Colorado, then landed in Stowe, VT, of all places, raising goats for their milk. How cool is that? We will KIT.

I’d like to try skiing Stowe one day, though the place looked huge, and might be big for our tastes. We’re small hill skiers, but never say never, right? Cost is an issue, of course.

We headed home, and the ride was short and pleasant. Stowe is a nice destination, not too far away but different enough to give it a vacation feel. Plus, it wasn’t exorbitantly expensive, and we had good vibes (except for broken bones) from our trip. I think we’ll return again soon, though we’ll leave the Rollerblades behind.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sigurd Decroos, Becco Eliacik, and Jacque Stengel for the pics.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Helping Out iKODI

Our friend DO is always looking for help on his mission to provide for his village in Africa (Kenya, specifically), and he’s such a nice and sincere guy that you can’t help but want to help. Now don’t ask me what I was thinking when I agreed to help out on this one, but his web guy is leaving, and I said I’d help to maintain the website for I-KODI. I know I’m going to gripe and moan when the time comes, but this is an organization that is important to R, and she has been integrally involved for years.

I do things for them now and then, but this is my first foray into an official capacity, doing something that I have little experience in. Regardless of my ineptitude, he is grateful for my help. This could be interesting.

We met over in the big city and he gave me the relevant information, though I may need more. The website looks fine, and I believe it was done using iWeb, which is the same software that I used. It may be tricky going in and tweaking what has already been done, which may mean that it might be easier to just start over again, though that is not as appealing. It’s just tricky getting in touch with the previous webmaster because he’s a man in transition. Somehow I’ll need to get ahold of him.

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

Cramming It In

Talk about a drag, just so we can take a weekend off to celebrate our birthdays, we have to cram in dumpling making over a few days. What sort of life is that? I know, you make your bed and sleep in it, it’s just a bummer when you really get down to it.

Part of the process is gathering the goods, and I had to drive around all day to get wrappers, fillings, and paper products. The one bright note was that HH called right as we were about to leave and said the kids wanted to get together, so I dropped A&N off at her house for swimming and fun, and didn’t have to drag them along. They were pleased about this development. When I went to get them, you couldn’t find two people in this world who were more disappointed to see me. They wanted to swim some more at the pond, and I said fine. It would give me time to make supper and let the kids have a few more hours getting crazy.

I was also able to get some lumber for the deck, and it always makes me feel good to do real-man’s work, so there were some bright spots. Now I just have to do it.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Eleventh Market and Things Are Slowing Down

Things seem to be slowing down at the market, and we can’t seem to figure out why. This really came to light when we had so many dumplings left over, even though it seemed so busy at the time. I felt like we were cooking without a break, and things were cruising along, even stressful because our tent seems to have become a daycare center for the other kids at the market.

A actually got another babysitting gig and things were even crazier, if not unfair to the point R and I felt like we had to step in. The other vendors seem to think it’s okay to send their kids over and have us watch them for the day. Sometimes this works out fine because the kids play, but we’re very busy, and the tent gets crowded as the kids want to sit and play, not to mention be fed and have a drink. This time, as A had activities for the the kids she was watching, she suddenly had to entertain these other kids as well. Needless to say, she was overwhelmed, and it wasn’t right.

As I mentioned, the market seemed busy, and the end result was we sold a fair number of dumplings, but not as much as we’d anticipated given the timing. At some point the Summer crowd will leave and the students will return, and it is at this juncture when things will really slow down.

Oh well, that’s what happens when you’re a slave to the marketplace. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to akedeszign for the pic.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Happy Birthday to Us

In honor of our special day, R and I vowed not to make dumplings or do anything dumpling related . This, of course, entailed cramming in dumpling work on the days preceding, but what are you going to do? We need more things to whine about.

Either way, we are going to celebrate our birthdays up in Stowe. We've never been there, and figure a couple of days up there should be fun, and easy to manage. Not too much to pack, though we're going to bring the kid's bikes and our Rollerblades.

For our pre-birthday celebration, we had a nice supper with grilled steaks and local corn on the cob. I'm thinking we need a bigger BBQ because we couldn't grill the corn, it was too big. Also, our tiny grill makes it hard to cook because I have to lean over the whole time. Complain, complain, is that all I ever do? Just wanted to mention that the local corn has been really good.

The kids were excited about the meal, we cooked rib-eye steaks, though we couldn't score them from Cloudland, whose meat we love. I wanted to get filets, but man were they expensive. We're talking $26/lb. Yikes. Cloudland's are cheaper, too, but it's such a drive to get out there. Bad planning on my part, I could have gotten them when I get the ground beef, but you can't plan for everything. I did learn that Cobb Hill has steak, as well, though I've never tried them.

After supper, we had brownies with whipped cream and strawberry pie, as well as toasted marshmallows with chocolate. How can you beat that.

Now we're off to Stowe for a night or two, back in time to be there for the dreaded market. We're slaves to capitalism over here.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Mean Mr. Mustard (i.e. dad)

We had to drive over to Stern’s to order wrappers, and A mentioned that she needed more Wiki Stix. I also said we should get Jibbits for their Crocs, which are these whimsical decorative toys for their shoes. Before we left, the kids were playing with their Swiss Army knives when A announced that she had lost N’s knife. He was very upset, not only because it was his knife, but because this wasn’t the first time it got lost. We replaced it before, and alluded to the fact that it was not okay to just lose things and replace them. The world, at least our world, doesn’t work that way.

A figured the answer was to just give him her knife, but I didn’t want her to think it was okay to just give up the search. The easy way out is to quit and just buy a new one. She had a guitar lesson and decided it wasn’t worth her time to look for the knife and instead get ready. I told her we weren’t leaving the house until we found that knife. I can’t resist a little drama.

That meant no Wiki Stix, no Jibbits, no nothing. We searched everywhere and couldn’t find it, and at some point, we had to go to her lesson, with the understanding that the search wasn’t over. That evening after supper, I said that we shouldn’t watch movies until we at least looked some more, and we could enlist the help of mom, who is a super-finder.

Well, after some time, A eventually did locate the knife, and it was on her bed. She’d left it there in the AM, and that’s where she found it. We were all relieved, especially N, who was really bummed. Best of all, the kids learned an important lesson about responsibility, and I hope they don’t think of their possessions as being disposable, simply replaceable with money. From there, it’s not long before you being to see people in the same light.

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

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rainy Days and Mondays

We talked about our dry Summer, but it then rained for two days straight. We needed it, I’m not complaining (sort of), but it makes it hard to do things outside. Then again, there’s plenty to do inside. The kids had their friends over and they hung out and had fun while I made meals and stuff for the market. As we know well enough, you can never prepare too early for the market. This week will be especially complicated because we have our birthdays next week, and we vowed not to make dumplings on our birthday. Is that so unreasonable?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ozan Uzel for the pic.

New Crocs

We went looking for new Crocs for the kids, which for the record are just great shoes, so versatile and convenient, not to mention affordable. However, being the cheap person that I am, I’m always looking for a sale, and sure enough, one came around. First off, Crocs are not that easy to find, not every kid’s store carries them. When I called around, the one place I was planning on going to, Huberts, said they had limited quantities, and they referred me to Olympia Sports. When I called them, they said they were on sale. Yahoo.

Of course, when I went over there, they had maybe two colors to choose from, black and blacker, and no sizes to fit the kids. The store next door, Famous Footwear, had Crocs on sale, as well, but same problem. I decided to finally bite the bullet and just buy them at full price. Again, Crocs are not painfully expensive, and we were able to get the colors and sizes they wanted. I was worried that R would read me the riot act, but she was happy as long as the kids actually wore them, which they do all the time.

Glad we got that out of the way. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Weekend in the Big City, Our Dumpling Groove, and Hooked on UF

We had a nice weekend, getting our kicks in before the bad weather took over, not that we’re complaining. It’s been a hot, dry Summer, and we need the rain. We made our regular trek into the big city (i.e., Hanover) and hung out at the library while R tied up some loose ends at work. We saw our good friend (former?) AM and she completely blew us off, just like at the market. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but she came to the market and walked right past us several times, so I’m guessing she’s making a statement.

I haven’t seen much of AM, not that I’m complaining because she is a difficult person who happens to have wonderful children, and a really cool spouse. They are orbiting in their own circles which do not happen to overlap with ours. The fact that we don’t speak makes it awkward on those rare occasions when we do cross paths, but what are you going to do?

After the library, we were all set to have supper at Boloco when we did an abrupt shift and opted for pizza, instead. The Brick and Brew has killer pizza, and the kids were transfixed on the big screen TV that was broadcasting NASCAR. I have to confess, I don’t like eating or drinking at places with TVs, it just ruins any sort of personal interaction. It makes life easier because you have license to ignore each other, which I personally think is a big problem in our world today, but let’s not get started.

Over the weekend we’ve been tweaking our new approach to making dumplings, and so far, so good. The key for me (since I do most of the making) is to space the stuff out and get it done as early as possible. With this in mind, I have to make the dumplings over several days, and start as early in the AM as possible. The fillings can be made on Wed, Thu, and Fri, at any time, really. They store well in the fridge. The making of the dumplings occurs on Fri, Sat, and Sun. Thu or Fri, usually not both, can be long days, but not horrible. I’ve found it works well if I can get as much done as possible before the weekend, so that come Sat, our workload is lighter and we can plan to do things together, or I can continue my real-man training around the house. We’ve been able to stop making dumplings by noon. The worst thing is having dumplings on your mind late in the day, that’s when I feel the most despair.

Maybe our new plan will make doing dumplings next year more plausible, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Since the weather was nice, I was able to get a fair amount down on the house. I managed to get pretty far on finishing the entry, and the wood is moving along. I need to get back on the roof to finish that flashing and repair clapboards, though I had a brilliant idea - paint the boards before I nail them in. Painting on the roof is hard.

At some point the weather turned and it looked like we were going to get rain, but again, we need it. I figured UF would be cancelled, but the funny thing is, the weather looked threatening, but the rain never really came. R even did laundry, and I worked in the yard. Even by the time UF was to start, it looked ominous, but only a few drops here and there. We were excited, because that meant UF, and sure enough, a big crew was out there. The cool drizzle made for a much more enjoyable experience, and we had a blast. Sure, it rained, but they said they play in thunderstorms. Yikes!

We really caught a break with the weather, because just as we got home from UF, the deluge came, and it’s been raining ever since. You have to appreciate timing like that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Bank BBQ and Local Market Woes

Last week was the annual Summer BBQ for our bank, and we made a point of heading over on our bikes for some burgers and sausages. The event is nice, they hold it throughout the area, and we’d made it to the Windsor one and chowed down. We figured it would be fun to see all of our friends and neighbors, but interestingly enough, when we got there, they weren’t there. We knew a few people, but most them I didn’t recognize, which is amazing when you realize how small our town is. It’s awkward, too, because we have to go and sit down with people we don’t know. This trepidation is always unfounded because everyone is so nice, and this time was no different.

It was good we rode our bikes because we stuffed ourselves, and then had ice cream, so riding back was a chance to burn some calories. That afternoon, however, was also the local FM, and the kids wanted to go even though I was not so keen on the idea. Then again, who cares what dad wants?

The market was slow, and if I may say so, a bit depressing. In fact, the kids usually love being there, but none of their friends were there, and at one point, they even said they wanted to leave. Once again, I felt guilty for not being a vendor.

On that note, the idea came up for us to do an occasional market to help pump things up a little. There used to be a decent contingent of people who would come and spend the evening having a meal and listening to music. It was very pleasant with the kids running around and parents just chatting. That seems to have disappeared, and largely because there are is a lack of food options.

I spoke with CS, and she mentioned having the food vendors return for an occasional market that they would promote to encourage people to return. I said I would talk to R about it and get back to her, but I’m thinking we’ll give it a try. I’d like to help, even in lieu of the hell that it entails in our lives. Our community market needs us. It’s difficult to reconcile sometimes because customers say they miss us and we feel bad when they come for dumplings and we’re not there, but you have to remember that they get to come whenever they please. We, on the other hand, show up regardless of whether or not they do, and we can’t ask them why they weren’t there.

Then again, nobody said life was fair. This should be interesting. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Piotr OmaƄski for the pic.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seeing Old Friends

My old friend from LA, GL and his wife O, stopped by last week for a short visit, and it was really nice seeing him. I hadn’t spoken to the guy in years, and out of the blue I got an email from him saying he was going to be passing through on his way from Maine to Boston. My first thought was, what does he need? I had visions of him looking for a place to stay and was prepared to broach the subject when he mentioned they only had about an hour and then had to be on their way. This simplified things and made me realize what a cynic I am.

He came during our kid’s clown camp, so he didn’t get to meet them, but it was nice chatting and hanging out. He looks great, and he and his wife seem happy and doing well, though it’s hard to imagine anyone being happy in LA. GL was one of my best friends in college, and he was initially buddies with my brother before he came to his senses and realized what a derelict my brother really is. In a lot of ways he was like the brother I never had, and we kept in touch when I first left LA, but at some point we went in our separate directions. Life has a way of doing that.

I’m hoping we’ll keep in touch, but that’s up to me, as well, so we’ll make it happen, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Musical Progress

We are getting back into our music lessons after a bit of chaos during the Summer, and it’s been good to have some regularity. It’s one of those funny things that the kids resist and don’t want to do, so I have to force the issue, and then they enjoy it. Besides, it’s just a cool thing to be somewhat, even marginally, musical. The kids are too young to realize this, though A does love to perform.

On this note, their teacher, JB, said they are making good progress, but was particularly happy with N’s skills and abilities. She said he’s really coming along as a drummer and she can see that he’s playing by feel rather than mechanically. How cool is that?

For A, her guitar teacher, EE, constantly comments on her guitar playing, he’s very kind and supportive. Talking to A, you can see that not only is she interested, but she speaks the language of music. When she listens, she’s always talking about music and displays a genuine understanding of music. It’s really cool to see.

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

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mixed Emotions

I have been trying to contact some important people and have had mixed results, but I’ll keep my cool and be patient. First off, I got in touch with JH and his magic bag of tools, and we’re all set to begin building again next week. This should be good. I also had some concerns about our propane contract. They seemed to have changed providers, and it’s a little tricky when that happens because there are legal issues about who owns your propane tank and who fills it. I.e., they have to be the same, unless you own your own tank. I’m not sure if we own ours, though a quick call would clear that up.

Either way, they had used Irving for all these years, which is our provider, but then they mentioned someone new, and I worried that they wouldn’t fill our tank, but I contacted the Fuel Club and it was all straightened out. Phew!

Next up, BL, our plumber. I was thinking we could work this weekend, but no word from him. I have to stay on that one. Also, TB the logger has yet to return my calls. I spoke with him early in Spring and arranged to get firewood at some point this Summer, though it’s not a rush. He hasn’t returned my call from Monday, which makes me wonder if he’s out of town. He’s generally very reliable, and at the very least, would let me know if he cannot pull it off. I need to know, however, so I can look elsewhere if need be.

Finally, I sent out a few query letters for writing projects, and no word on that front, either. I just can’t seem to get a break in this town.

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

Ambitious Day Being Betty Crocker

We went to Stern’s to get our wrappers and the owner’s wife, which technically makes her an owner, too, I think for the first time, stopped and chatted with me. This is surprising because she’s a bit intimidating (she doesn’t take any flak from anybody) and sort of scared me. I walked on eggshells around her, and didn’t want to irritate her, but now that I’ve been interacting with her more, we’ve become congenial with one another. I guess I’m sort of in with the boss.

It’s good to be on a name basis because I shop there so often, but also because I need those wrappers regularly, and if they at least know my name, then it maybe makes it more likely that I’ll get them. Finally, they’re really nice people, and I like shopping there, it’s quite the experience. I said I’d bring in some dumplings for them to try.

With that in mind, we had a busy day yesterday. Kudos to the kids for entertaining themselves while dad bit off way more than he could chew, but what else is new? I planned on painting the front entryway and maybe even mowing the lawn, but the kitchen beckoned me. There were dumpling fillings to make, and while I was at it, a ton of baking to do. My thinking was that I could make fillings while the stuff was baking, but of course this didn’t work out.

The plan was to have chili for supper, and you can’t have chili without corn bread. Since I had to bake the cornbread, I figured I’d make R’s raisin bread, and some strawberry pie, which has become a family favorite. Finally, why not throw in some brownies, for good measure. Talk about a whirlwind. For the record, I screwed up the pie crust, but N was astute enough to explain to me what I did wrong and how to avoid it the next time. How cool is that?

My day was delayed by the fact that we had to pick up the dumpling wrappers, and while we were at it, stop at LaValley’s to pick up the paint I’d left there, and then to the Bike Hub to get N’s handlebar grips. It was a beautiful day, so it was nice to be out, but the clock was ticking. Oh yeah, we stopped at Newt’s for ice cream, as well, which was not as nice as Fore-U, but more on that later.

By the time we got home, it was lunchtime. I whipped together a light meal with lots of fruit (no dessert because of the ice cream), and then got to work. I literally worked until supper time, and got none of the things I wanted to outside done. Bummer. However, I did manage to make fillings for three types of dumplings, in addition to all that baking. My inspiration for having a day or two of hell is that it makes our weekends more enjoyable, so we can spend them together and do fun stuff. Talk about taking a bullet for your family.

I made the chicken, veg, and apple fillings, and then the preliminaries for the black bean. I’ll thaw the beef today, and make the fillings on Saturday for our big push on Sunday to make the dumplings. If things work out as well as they did last weekend, we should be done by noon so we can enjoy the rest of the day. Then again, things never work out as they are planned, but that’s what makes life a journey of discovery.

Today will be a bit of a grind, but hopefully not too bad. I may even get around to mowing the lawn, or better yet, splitting some firewood.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Tenth Market and Is Someone Trying to Tell Us Something

You can make of this what you will, but I can’t help but think that someone is trying to tell us something. The past few weeks have brought us stormy, rainy weather on the day of the market, not to mention slow business. I’m not sure what’s going on, but it’s almost like clockwork, and everyone at the market jokes around about it, but it’s a bummer.

It wasn’t as awful as it could have been because the bad weather hit us near the end of the market, but it was slow up to that point, which begs the question, where are all the people? I’m guessing they are on vacation, it’s that time of year. People want to get in one last hurrah before the grind of the school year kicks in, but somehow that doesn’t explain it all.

We got soaked in the end, but at some point the rain tapered off, and we were able to close up shop with dry weather. The crazy thing is the weather was nice up to that point, sunny and just a tad warm. It didn’t seem like we were going to get rain, but sure enough it came. It doesn’t seem to discourage customers, however, and they order dumplings while the deluge pours down around them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. The weather does bring all the vendors together in shared misery, and gives us something to joke about.

One last note, we think S, the manager, gives us a little more credit these days, and even used us as an example to a neophyte. How’s that for progress? In the early days of the market, we were clueless, and S definitely looked at us and probably gave us three weeks, max, to survive, but survive we did. She even (sort of ) alluded to this, jokingly, but probably serious, as well. My how things change.

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

Fun With Karate

I was on the verge of blowing off karate the other night, but then felt like it was too easy to give in to the urge to quit. A&R weren’t so keen on it either, so I was swimming against a tide of resistance, which was all the more reason to go. So we went. I have to admit, it takes a lot to go to class every week, and they are toying with the idea of doing it twice a week, which is probably too much for us. I’m glad we go regularly, however, because I’ve always regretted not doing it in the past, and I’ve had loads of time and opportunity, and yet never did.

Class was nice, we were lucky to have DC show up, he’s a good teacher. The class was small, but big enough to get a lot out of it. I ended up teaching bow katas to the blue belts while sensei H worked with the purples. It worked out well, and I’m glad we went. No sign of Master H, hope all is well.

You realize how much work it is for the senseis, especially CH, because they work all day and then come to teach class where the students get to show up whenever they please. That can’t be easy. Much thanks to them for making the effort.

We didn’t get to spar, and as always, I came away from class vowing to be more diligent about practicing and working with A before next class. Let’s hope I can follow through on that one.

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

Our Birthdays

August is our birthday month, and we’ve decided that rather than ignore it like we did last year, or for that matter, like my mom and brother do every year, we thought it would be nice to do something fun and out of the ordinary. At the very least, we’d like it if we didn’t make dumplings, though blowing it off comes back to haunt us.

R had taken it upon herself to plan a trip of some sort, though where to becomes the issue. The beach sounds nice, or a lake. Then again, there are lots of hidden pockets throughout the Twin States that are worth a visit, so we shall see. I like the idea of staying in a hotel and not having to cook or clean.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daniel Andres Forero for the pic.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bad Planning

We had to drive out to Pittsfield, just past Killington, yesterday and it really threw off our daily plan. I.e., we were on the road when lunchtime rolled around, and I didn’t want to stop somewhere to eat for numerous reasons. We weren’t that far from home. Anyway, the situation was complicated by the fact that we had karate that night, so we had to either eat a late lunch, skipping supper, or have a snack and then an early supper. I opted for the latter, and it didn’t quite work out.

In fact, this always seems to happen, and I never quite learn from my mistakes. Not a good thing in the whole Darwinian scheme of things. I stopped at the store to get something for the kids to eat and drink, opting for popcorn and some Nantucket Nectars. For the record, it ain’t easy finding beverages that don’t contain preservatives, artificial flavor/colors, and high fructose corn syrup. It’s amazing what we put into our bodies.

The kids ate their snack, and by the time they were done, were pretty sated. This was around 2:00, and I figured that by 5:00, they’d be hungry again, but they weren’t. We ended up skipping dinner and then eating after karate. I was kicking myself, because it’s bad enough to skip a meal, but to skip it and have popcorn instead is a bummer.

What I should have done was simply make them wait and then made a big lunch. Then they’d have some real food in their stomachs and could have a light snack after karate. I hate when I blow it like that.

Oh well, live and learn, or not. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to aprilbell for the pic.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Owl Family

Our owl family is back, and it’s too cool for words. I love hearing them communicate at night, and better still, getting a glimpse of them. They are such beautiful animals. The funny thing is, since they screech rather than hoot, people have been coming up to us and commenting on their presence or asking us what that sound is.

They seem to hang out near the ski trail, and walkers have told us that they spot them up in the trees, and I’ve had several joggers say they hear a screeching sound in the woods when they go by. We’ve been lucky enough to see them now and then, and it’s really cool, especially when they fly away, because they are so quiet.

I hope they set up a permanent residence. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to cinemaven for the pic.

Managing the Dumplings

We may have figured out a more manageable way to do these dumplings, and it all boils down to having a plan and being organized. I don’t know if this means we’ll be doing this next year, but it surely doesn’t close the door. You just never know.

The key was not letting up and getting too complacent. After a rough day at the market, the last thing you want to do is more dumpling stuff, but that’s exactly what you must do. In the past, I’ve taken Thursday off and just relaxed, but therein lies the fatal error. This time around, I started making fillings, and the more the better. All of the fillings except for beef can sit for long periods in the fridge. The best results for the beef are accomplished if you make it within a day of cooking.

By Friday, we were ready to make dumplings, and we knocked off the chicken and veg, and some of the black bean. We had leftovers from the previous market, so weren’t in dire straights. On Saturday, I’d made the beef and apple, and then made dumplings and cooked on Sunday. By 11:00 on Sunday morning, we were finished, which is unheard of. It felt good to have some of the day leftover to do other things, but more so, to not have the dark dumpling cloud lingering over our heads. I even squeezed in a nap.

All we have to do is make the sauces, and we are ready to roll. Wow, have we turned a corner here? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pic.

Fun with UF and a Break in the Weather

We caught a lucky break with the weather, and because of it, were able to have fun with ultimate frisbee. The weather has been a little strange, actually. We had tons of rain in the beginning of Spring, which seemed to portend a wet and cool Summer, but this has not been the case. Summer thus far has been warm and dry. We just recently got some badly needed rain, though probably not enough.

It started raining on Saturday, and the forecast called for more of the same on Sunday, but the precipitation let up early in the day, though the clouds lingered. There were predictions of thunder storms in the afternoon, with hot humid temps, but the rain didn’t come, and the clouds kept things cool.

We went over to the field, and initially there were no people, which was disheartening, but gradually they came, and by 6:15, we had a good enough crowd to begin. We played a small field, which is better for the kids, and we had a blast. It was muggy, and we all sweat bullets, but had fun, and it was a really nice time. A&N each scored multiple touchdowns, so that makes it all okay. I went head to head with JM and paid the price, the guy is a juggernaut, but all in the name of playing UF, right?

I love our weekly UF. Not only do we get lots of exercise, but it’s fun and great to see the community come out to play.

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

Friday, August 5, 2011

First Babysitting Gig

A scored her first babysitting gig at the market, and I think it thrilled her to pieces. The fact is, A is good with younger kids, she really takes the time to pay attention to them and play with them, and they really gravitate to her. I’ve seen her at the park or playground, and even in lieu of her friends, she’ll take the time to be with younger kids. At first I thought she got stuck babysitting the little ones, but she really likes it, I think, because she always ends up doing it.

Parents have asked her/us if she was interested in babysitting their toddlers, and she was excited about it, but it never really came to pass. R and I figured that if it happened, we would always be there to back her up. This past market, one of the vendors needed some help and wondered if A would watch their 5 year old daughter, and A said yes. This girl is one of the cutest, spunkiest kids I have ever seen, and she adores A. Because it’s the market, it’s nice because they can play in the grass and just hang out. It worked out beautifully, I think A had fun (N was there for support), and A is now an official babysitter. How exciting.

We’re so proud of here, she showed great responsibility, and I think everyone had fun. Where do you go from here?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to valerio lo bello for the pic.

Ninth Market and Reflections on My Sanity

I hate to say this, but the only way to keep my sanity in regards to the market is to keep my feet moving and start preparing for next week immediately. The last thing I want to do is do is make dumplings, but I figure if I can get some stuff done, then the weekends won’t be one complete hellish experience. What have we created?

On that note, we had a good market, though not as good as I anticipated. In fact, at some point we were in danger of making too many dumplings, and leftover dumplings are a waste. I stopped cooking with about half an hour to go and we tried to sell what we had left. We pulled it off, but it was close. The weather was beautiful, and there were lots of people on the green, but somehow it just wasn’t that busy. Don’t get me wrong, we sold dumplings, and lots of them, but it wasn’t crazy like I anticipated. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing.

We also found that people came up to us and said they were disappointed we weren’t there last week. In fact, many people said this, including the market manager, who said people kept asking about us. While this is nice to hear, it also makes us want to keep our customers happy, which sort of enslaves us to this gig, and that’s the last thing we need. We have enough stuff going on in our lives, we were kind of hoping that this was something we could just walk away from when all was said and done, but the loyalty of our customers makes it hard. We feel guilty when we’re not there, how crazy is that? I know it’s not a huge deal, life goes on and people can live happily without our dumplings, but we do feel an obligation of sorts for our fans. Then again, maybe we’re stroking our own egoes.

We’ll see where this one goes. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Susanne Nilsjo for the pic.

Clowning Around

The kids are having a blast at clown camp. Much thanks to JM, MZ, and JM, the guys running the show, they do such a nice job. They had really nice words to say about A&N, especially the creative energy that they bring to the camp. M came up to me and said jokingly, “You gotta get your kids to lighten up.” Of course, I missed the facetiousness and immediately felt my defensive blood flowing before I realized that he was kidding. Whew, almost made a fool of myself.

The nice thing about it is that many of their friends are in attendance, and they all live in town, so it’s a lot of fun. What’s really cool is that N has come out of his shell, and when I told the teachers that he’s normally reserved and low-key, they were floored and couldn’t believe it. Hmm, looks like we have a performer just waiting to break out, something to think about in the future.

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

For the Birds

Dead animals in your yard just seems like an inevitable consequence of having cats, but at some point our cats pushed their luck a little too far, and now we’ve had to take more drastic action. Part of the problem is the failure of our current measure of putting a bell on the cats. While this sound like a good idea, it seems like it’s best left to fairy tales and fables. In real life, it doesn’st stop the carnage.

Now a few voles or mice here and there might not have been such a big deal, but the song birds are another matter, especially when you mess with the thrushes, the state bird, which might be a threatened species. Whatever be the case, it’s a sad thing when you find the dead birds, but extra sad when they’re still alive and holding on for dear life while the cat casually licks her paws.

R has decided that we either keep them inside, or find a way to prevent the slaughter. We may have found something, promoted by bird lovers, no less. They sell these rubber bibs that go around their necks and somehow prevent them from hunting animals. They look hilarious, and I’m guessing the cats hate them, but at this point, we’re willing to give it a try. You can see how they might work, so we’re optimistic. The reality is, the cats kill soley for entertainment, so they can live without it.

The people that make and sell these things are bird lovers, so they are not necessarily in it to get rich. The first day we put them on the cats, they lost them within an hour, and when we told the company, they sent us two free replacements, as well as the collars. We figured out that we could make them ourselves with material bought at Joanne’s, so we are in business. Hopefully we’ll see fewer dead animals on our doorstep.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back in the Fray

Now that we’re back from AZ, we had to focus on making dumplings, and it’s not pretty. In fact, I spent most of Saturday making the fillings, and at some point I said to R that I am so done with this gig. No more! I’m pretty sure we won’t do this next year, the work is simply not worth it.

Then again, I said the same thing last year. There just has to be an easier way.

Until I find it, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pic.

Nice Weather for the Eighth Market

I realize this is long after the fact, but on our market before we went away, we got killer weather, and it was a welcome change from the previous pattern. The original forecast called for increasing temps and finally scorching weather on Wed, only to taper off and cool down from there. Typical. I think for the first time, we caught a break, and I don’t take that granted for a minute.

In fact, the weather was nice on Wed, and then got hotter later in the week, and it was ugly hot. Makes you wonder how people live in the South, or for that matter, Arizona.

Whatever be the case, I was thankful for a nice day, and sales were good. It was hot, no doubt, but at least there was a steady breeze, making it all okay. In fact, it was nice enough to make you sit back and think that maybe doing dumplings isn’t so bad after all... nah!

It was busy, and we were actually selling dumplings until the zero hour, By the time 6:00 rolled around, the pans were still cranking hot. I had to be careful on the cleanup, but we managed, and then cruised on home to get the kids. They were not that excited to see us, as to be expected, which is not a bad thing because it means they were having a good time. HH actually said she would bring them home, so I went home and started unloading the cars and doing some cleanup.

Thanks much again to JD, my Mentor, and HH for helping out, it made it all possible. It really does take a village, doesn’t it?

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

Reflections on AZ

Good to be back in VT, but as I mentioned, we had fun in AZ. The heat was ridiculous, but it’s important to remember that many people hate the cold in VT, and they live here! I’m personally a fan, but that’s just me.

AZ was actually fun with the kids, but it took a lot of legwork on the part of dad, and it’s not in any way like real life. If you had to live in AZ and function in that heat on a daily basis, I can’t help but think you’d grow weary of it. Spending all that time in an air-conditioned space is not only unnatural, but it can’t be healthy. Plus, you can’t swim in a pool all day.

I just want to mention that when we landed in NH, the kids said it felt good to be back, a triumph for me. I think part of the allure of AZ was that we went to places that we don’t normally visit at home. There was an amusement park that was a lot of fun for everyone, though again, you get cooked out in that sun. It was called CrackerJax, and it was the kid’s dream come true. Go-carts, bumper boats, miniature golf, and lots of junk food. The heat was so excruciating that at one point, even A said she felt like passing out. We had to constantly keep hydrating ourselves, which wasn’t easy.

Now for whatever reason, N got it in his head that he wanted to play golf. Don’t ask me where that came from, because I have some issues with that game, especially in a place like AZ, where they must waste unconscionably amounts of water to maintain those golf courses. They must have a few dozen in the Phoenix area, just ridiculous. They have to water them constantly, not to mention all the chemicals to keep the grass pristine, and the gas needed to maintain them. Plus, they waste huge amounts of land, all to hit a little ball into a hole. They have the same issues here in VT, where there are two courses nearby and they leach enormous amounts of fertilizer and weed killer into the river. Shameless.

Anyway, N’s interest got piqued. I kept telling him that golf isn’t easy, and the real game is nothing like mini-golf, but he was undeterred. So at some point, we snuck over to the driving range and hit a few buckets. Speaking of wasting water, at the driving range, they spray a constant mist of water over the golfers to keep them cool and comfortable in the 110 degree heat. N did pretty well with the driving, and he looked too cute for words out there. I even hit a few, though I hooked every one of them. A even gave it a go, though she wasn’t that interested and gave up after a couple of tries.

The most fun for the kids were the cars and boats, because they were motorized and they got to drive. It was a bummer for N because he’s still too young to drive the big cars, so he sat next to me in the two-seater, the next best thing. A had a blast, and she must have driven at least a dozen times. We had unlimited ride tickets, so she could pull it off. It was impressive watching her, she really went for it, and made some nice passes, even past me!

N got to ride in the kiddie cars, though they are slower and the track is smaller. Even still, you get the gas/brake experience, and it’s a start. In a couple of years, he’ll get to ride the big kid cars. Truth be told, I think he was way too young to handle them, because they take some strength to maintain control, and the pedals are at an adult distance.

The boats were fun because they got to do it together, and it was wet and cool. Because it was Tuesday, the crowds were not as bad, so they could easily jump back on and go again and again. There were, however, enough kids to make it fun and enjoyable and allow me to sit in the shade and watch. I actually went over and hit a few balls at the batting cage, though my shoulder acted up, and it was too darn hot (wah-wah!)

The park is smart because they write the time on the wristbands, which are only good for 4 hours. The beauty of this for me is that departure time is set, and they can’t argue with me and beg to stay longer. By 2:00, it was time to go, and they had to comply. We got some ice water, loaded into the scorching hot car, and went to In N Out Burger, my dream come true. The kids loved it, and it sure felt good to bite into a Double-Double. We had milkshakes afterward, and the kids even complained that it was too much food. Say no more.

After our exciting day at the CrackerJax, we did what any sane person would do and hit the pool. After cooling off for an hour, we picked up mom from her meeting, got some dinner, and then retired to our air conditioned room.

I have to confess that I’m proud to say that we did not turn on the TV in our room once. Not one single time. How’s that for a family vacation?

More on the Science Museum later. For the record, it was the nicest science museum that I had ever been to. It was huge!

Until the next time, thanks for reading.