Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Almost Done

So close, I can almost taste it. In fact, I can pretty much taste it at this point. I am almost done with the first floor siding (sans dormers), and it’s kind of exciting. One less thing to worry about, not to mention the culmination of a fair amount of work. I thought I would breeze through the rest this past week with the kids away at camp, but no such luck. Here I am, four days later, and still not finished, but close. I actually have the boards stained and ready, so I could very well finish this week, and in an ideal world, today, but only time will tell.

Until then, thanks for reading.

First Game... sort of

We had our first pseudo-game this past weekend, and it was fun to be back on the ice. The kids got a taste of playing on their respective teams, and it felt good to be back on the ice. Being the pushover that I am agreed to help coach both teams, which should make for an interesting season, to say the least. The biggest issue will be who will get the majority of my time. It’s not easy being in demand, if that’s what you can call it.

Going into this game, for which the kids were thrilled to pieces, I figured the girls would control the game because they are older and faster, but also because N’s team is pretty young and inexperienced. This, however, was not the case. There are a few good players on N’s team, and they carried the team into victory. Some of A’s teammates were slacking a little, which helped N’s cause, but give N’s team some credit, they did well.

With the first game behind us, we can look forward to a fun, albeit busy, season. This should be interesting, let the games begin.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Matthew Paulson.

Meunier to the Rescue

This is the sort of thing that happens in small towns and makes you realize how great it is to be really connected with your community. First off, we have a mechanic, Meunier Towing, that we trust because he is our friend and neighbor. I could never say that when I lived in LA, that’s for sure.

Second, he does great work and is extremely reliable. Finally, he will help us out and do us favors in our time of need. In fact, just the other day, he squeezed us in at the last minute and took care of us. How can you beat that? We needed to have a car inspection because our sticker expires in October, which is this week. I called on a Saturday, when they are open in limited amounts, and he said come on in. He figured that they are booked well into November, and since he had some time, he’d take care of us sooner than later.

The car is pretty easy to inspect, it’s three years old, even though there is a little issue with one of the indicator lights. He said he could take care of it the next time I come in, and we were back in business. No need to worry about driving around with an expired sticker, which is a bummer, though not the end of the world.

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

Things Work Out... Sort Of

We had this crazy Friday all planned out a week or two back, and it sort of worked out, but sort of didn’t. A&N had to finish their movie for the CATV Halloween-A-Thon before they headed off to camp, because right after camp, they were off on another adventure, and with hockey starting, there was little time. I don’t know if I mentioned this, but big kudos to the kids for finishing the movie, especially A, for writing the script, organizing the cast and crew, and directing the movie in a matter of days. It was really incredible what they pulled off.

With time of the essence, at one point we were debating if they should just skip the movie contest, which would have been disappointing. A, however, decided that it was not to be, and was determined to get it done. Again, she did an amazing job of taking the reigns and making it happen. With all the scripting and filming done, all that was left was to edit, and she had one day to do it. The reason for this was because we were heading off to Ohio on the next week, and the studio is not open over the weekend. That left Friday to get all the editing and sound mixing done.

To complicate the matter (why are there always complications?), mom was away and we had arranged for our friends C&AE to come over and hang out, long before the need to edit came about. I had to come up with a plan. I called them the evening before to explain the situation, which was basically that A was going to spend the day at the studio editing, but N would be home and their kids could come over. I would take A over to the studio in the AM when they opened then come back to watch the kids. At some point DE would get them, and I could take N over to the studio to help A finish the movie. She would basically spend the day there.

Meanwhile, I needed to keep working on the barn and the wood pile, not to mention the yard and my glorious freelance writing career. Throw in a little hockey scheduling and you can see where this is going. The irony of all this is that in having their friends over, I was slated to get more work done because I was going to be at home. If it were just A&N, I would spend the day in WRJ, getting nothing done around the house.

Anyway, I came up with a plan and shared with DE, but his thinking was that it was more of a playdate, and that they could just do it another time. I learned this that morning. I felt bad, I really was prepared to make this work, but this new development did make things a little simpler. With no social obligations, I implemented plan B, which entailed making lunches for the kids, packing up the car with N’s skate park stuff, and heading over to CATV. This, however, meant I was not going to have the day to work on the barn. Darn!

We were the only ones there, so A got to choose a computer and get to work. She and N started downloading and editing while I ran off and ran errands, like dropping off the recycling and getting food. I left the food with them, so by the time I returned, it was past noon and they had eaten. Since editing is mostly a one-person gig, I then took N over to the skate park while A finished with the movie. N had a blast, as usual, at the park, and some of his skate buddies even showed up, and I sat and read and tried to write. Around 2:00 we went to get A, who was tying up the loose ends.

I am still amazed she got it all done so quickly, and we got to watch the final product, which was really cool. We left a copy for BF to burn, and then headed home, stopping at Fore-U for some ice cream since the season is coming to an end. We stopped at the library on the way home so the kids could see their buddies, and I went home to get about 45 minutes of work on the barn before I had to go and get the kids.

We then came home and I made supper before they watched some movies and we all went to bed.

Quite a day, wouldn’t you say? Then again, we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to 3D Film Factory for the pic.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Putting On Some Trim

The siding is coming along nicely, and I would say that I’m about 75% done, but that’s only the siding. There are the dormers to consider, as well as the trim, which will be a fairly big job, but the siding is the big one.

Speaking of trim, I got loads of advice from my Mentor and KB. The first big decision (no decisions, please!) was what color. We are going with white because it’s safe and looks good, but even that wasn’t an easy decision. Now I’ve learned that trim is one of those things that are important to the look of house, but you never pay attention or notice it, at least until you start to put it on. Then you see the difference, and the difference is huge.

I wanted just to get a sense of what it would look like but didn’t want to get too distracted from the more important job at hand, i.e., the siding, so I just put a little up, and it looks nice. The beautiful thing about trim is that it also hides the imperfections in the siding, mainly where it meets windows and doors. I realize people go without the trim and it’s one more step, but I like the way it looks, and again, it’s about hiding those mistakes. I’m a framer, not a cabinet maker.

Now that I have a little trim, I can go back and get that darn siding on. My goal is to get it all on before it gets too cold, and the clock is ticking, so if you’ll excuse me, I need to put up some trim, or was it siding?

Until then, thanks for reading.

Home Alone

The kids are away at camp this week, and I have to confess, I really miss them. It’s not so much that I’m sitting around pining away for them, but they are such a presence in our household that you really feel the void when they are gone. I realize I should be relishing all this free time to ourselves, and true, it’s nice not to have to stop working because I have to make lunch or dinner, but maybe I enjoy stopping to do things for the kids? Have I become a slave to domesticity, or what?

Either way, the house is quiet, but there is some value to not having an inordinate amount of free time. I remember when I was single, I sat around and got nothing done. Now that I’m a parent, I have so little free time but get so much more accomplished.

Aah, the paradoxes of life. Don’t you love it?

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy Birthday to N

N had his birthday yesterday, the big 1-0, and I think he had a nice day despite the fact that it was fairly low key. His mom and dad sort of prefer it that way, and we like to think he might, as well, but that could be guilty justification, we’re just not big party types. N has now and then alluded to wanting a party, but when the time arrives, he seems fine with a quiet family gig with his favorite thing: presents.

He was excited, nonetheless, especially since it arrived on the heels of our trip to Ohio and right before his big week at camp. When does all the madness end? Hopefully never. As usual, we fretted a bit about what to do and whether or not he and his sister had enough gifts, which of course conflicts with our feelings about over-reliance on material possessions to be happy and all that good stuff.

The reality is, kids like to get presents, and especially N, who really values his stuff. He tends to be thoughtful and specific about his wish list and takes very good care of his belongings. His sister, on the other hand, tends to want something and then once she gets it, her interest wanes a little. N’s list tends to be a little more rooted in practical reality, with the exception of the occasional mini-bike or race car, whereas A will sometimes aim for more extravagant items. She really has an artist’s sensibility

Either way, since we were just returning from our trip, we had to scramble a bit to pull off N’s big day. We arrived back home around 9:00PM, then got everyone into bed. Then R and I went to work, despite our exhaustion. We decorated the dining room and wrapped his presents, but there were still items that needed to be purchased, not to mention retrieved from the post office.

The original plan was for me to take N mountain biking at Killington, but there were a couple of complications. First, N’s bike is a little big on him, and it doesn’t have a suspension, which is not essential, but is kind of important to a kid. I wasn’t sure if they allowed people to use older bikes with their own equipment, but I’m assuming they would. I failed to clarify this, which is my bad, but it turns out the biking season on the hill ended while we were away. Now we can look forward to next season, which also gives me a year to round up the necessary gear, including a bike w/suspension. It’s not about safety but looking cool.

The backup plan was to take him golfing and then maybe to the skate park, and the weather made all this possible. However, once N woke up, we had a nice birthday breakfast of pancakes and breakfast, then he got to open his presents, which he was thrilled with. So thrilled, in fact, that he spent the entire day opening and assembling them, and before we knew it, it was afternoon and too late for golf.

We were going for pizza for supper, and R still had to pick up the cake, so I took N to the skate park, R took A to get the fudge cake at Lou’s, and we met at the Brick-N-Brew. After supper, we came home opened more presents and had cake and ice cream, then sat down for family movie night, Edward Scissorhands, which the kids loved. Personally, my idea of a perfect birthday, but I’m an old man and like these quiet events.

Whatever be the case, N really loved his gifts, he’s really lucky to have wonderful grandparents and an uncle and aunt who give him thoughtful gifts. Maybe he was bummed at not having a party, but it didn’t seem like it, and in the end, he’s not that sort of kid, not like his sister who is effusively social. He’s definitely more of an introvert.

We got to be at a reasonable time, and then the next day we carted the kids off for camp. Hockey is starting soon, and then we’re off to California. The adventure continues.

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

Ohio Time

Having lived in California and New York, and now residing in New England, you don’t really have the Midwest on your radar, and maybe even hear (or share) a disparaging remark or two about it. I have to confess, however, that having spent some time out there visiting R’s folks, it’s really not half bad. Sure, there are pockets of backward conservatism that make me a bit uncomfortable, not to mention the fairly hardcore pious crowd, but you know what? You find that wherever you go, and there are plenty of nice people in R’s hometown, not to mention a fair number of things to do.

It helps that it’s a college town with a reasonably big international population. If anything, it is perhaps more diverse than Hanover, which boasts an Ivy League college. It’s also fairly progressive with a good cultural scene and lots to do, and we always have fun going there. This time was no different, and we got to stay in hotel with a pool. You can’t beat that.

We stayed at the Hampton Inn, which is your typical chain hotel, with the generic decor that is ubiquitous in most brand name accommodations. The staff is always friendly, and breakfast that is included is like most others except that they do change the hot food every day, and they offer a better cereal selection along with real oatmeal, not to mention real fruit salad, as opposed to the canned stuff in heavy syrup. Sometimes when you stay at really low end motels, the food is really depressing.

As usual, we were looking for the most economical way to fly, so we flew out of Manchester NH doing the park and fly at La Quinta Inn, and though the hotel itself was nice, the park and fly is a bit of a sham. They don’t have their own shuttle service and end up hiring a cab. Plus, the hotel is not that close to the airport. The topper was that they charged us extra for the parking, which was cheaper than long term, but clearly not spelled out in their agreement. After haggling and complaining, they gave us a small break, but in my opinion, in the interest of good customer relations, I think they should have just let us slide. Their efforts to me were largely inadequate and I came away from it with a negative impression. Still, it’s a nice hotel in a great location, so we’ll keep it in mind if we want to visit Manchester, we’ll just skip the park and fly. It’s not worth it.

The flight to Ohio was very smooth sailing, and though connections can make flying a pain, they do tend to break up the flight and make it more manageable. The flight was rough in one aspect, however, and that was the timing. We caught what must have been the first plane out of Manchester at 5:30AM. Talk about brutal, we had to wake up around 4:00AM and catch a cab. The one bright note of flying this early is that you’re the first plane so there usually are no delays, and when you finally do land, you still have the day ahead of you.

It was nice as always seeing R’s folks. We hung out and ate great meals, and had plenty of time to reconnect and chat. The weather was nice for most of our stay, so the kids got to play outside and we even rented bikes from the library. What a great idea. I was hoping to catch a college hockey game, but it didn’t work out, which is a bummer. It wasn’t the end of the world, though, because we had a great time just chilling and catching up on rest and sleep. I tend to get lots of sleep and lose weight when we travel, though this time around I feel like I engorged myself on food. R’s parents must look at me in disbelief and wonder where their daughter found a “gordita” like me. I can’t say I blame them.

I don’t deny that I have a voracious appetite, but when we’re at home, I am moving constantly doing chores around the house. When we travel, I am not moving as much, but usually I don’t eat as much, either. Not so when we visit R&J, because J takes care of us on the food front. I definitely have to get back in shape now that we’re back.

All in all, it was a nice trip but as always, it’s nice to be back home. We landed and celebrated N’s birthday, and now the kids are ready to head off to camp. On to the next adventure, as the saying goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Bernie Thomas for the pic.

Whirlwind That Is Our Lives

Excuse my absence, we have been away and just returned a day or two back. I found it hard to blog during our trip... some excuse, huh?

That’s about the best way to currently describe our lives, and like any situation, you feel that all you have to do is make it through the next event and things will become calmer, only to lead into the next event.

We just got back from a nice trip to Ohio to R’s folks, and it’s always great to get the family together. Travel, however, is still a bit of a marathon, especially with the kids, though they have much more stamina than either of us. We spent about a week in Ohio hanging out and helping out where we could. I think R’s parents enjoy having us over, but it does throw a wrench into their routines, and a majority of that burden falls on JR, who cooks and cleans like crazy. She’s not used to feeding four extra mouths, three of which (myself included) have voracious appetites, but as usual, she did a stand-up job.

Last week R had a photography class downstate, which meant I was riding solo and taking care of business on this end, and let me tell you, it really clarifies how much parenting is a team sport. It’s tough to run the show alone, and I do most of the domestic duties. Plus, it is isolating to be around kids all day with not much in the way of adult contact. Factor in a busy week of kid’s activities, as well as work around the house mowing lawns, raking leaves, cutting firewood, and fixing a barn, and it’s a lot of work. It sure was nice when R came back home.

Not for long, however, because the day after she returned, we packed up our things and jumped on a plane to Ohio. Traveling is always an odyssey, and this one was no different. The kids were great, they really know the drill and do a fantastic job of cleaning their rooms and packing their stuff, packing light, no less. They get excited about traveling, and I’m happy about that because when you don’t travel much, you really lose the passion to get out there on the open road.

We spent a nice week in Ohio, then headed back and are now getting the kids ready for their camp. After their camp is over, we have a brief time of respite, and then we’re off to California, which I can assure you will not be relaxing but will without question be interesting. I’ll leave it at that.

In the meantime, as I sit here quietly in the house (it sure feels good to be back), I’m also thinking about getting my glorious freelance career going, but not before I have a cup of coffee, and maybe a cup of tea.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Clem103 for the pic.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Roast Beef and More

We have been trying to reduce our consumption of red meat, and doing a fine job, I might add, even though we are family of meat lovers (at least three of us are). The vegetarian thing is really not that bad when you get down to it, and it’s definitely a rewarding challenge, but every now and then, a good steak or burger really hits the spot, though after eating a lot of vegetarian meals, big slabs or roasted meat don't actually look that appetizing. Go figure.

Either way, we attended our first roast beef supper at the local church. They are famous for this meal, and the big story was that JD Salinger used to be a regular and was usually the first one in line. He used to live right across the river. We know a countless number of people who attend this church, and they are always asking us if we were interested, but as I mentioned, we’re not so keen on eating a ton of meat. Actually, we’re keen on it, but think better of it.

We finally broke down and went for it. I contacted the H’s for tips on when to go, they are regulars, and we arranged to meet them for supper. We never see those guys anymore, so it was a nice way to reconnect. I took the kids over and we sat down to an incredible meal. R was away for the weekend, and she would have opted out of all you can eat roast beef. To be clear, the meat is not just roast beef, but prime rib, and plenty of it. They get their beef from the meat experts, too - BG’s Market, and believe me, they know their meat. Just ask my Mentor.

The place was crowded when we got there, though I was told not as crowded as it can be. You have to stand in line to get in, but it moved quickly, and again, I was told the line was nothing compared to how it can be. The seating is communal, which fits in with the small town/church vibe, though we had a party of ten, so we got to sit at our own table.

The food was great, and in interesting combinations, though we were really there for the beef. It could be that I was just clueless, but they served sweet pickles and coleslaw, which I thought was unusual, along with the staples of a roast beef supper - mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans (canned), and generic dinner rolls. Then came the meat, and plenty of it. They bring large plates of thinly sliced prime rib, thin enough to eat all of it, even the gristle, not to be gross. I don’t mind a little fat, it really gives the meat flavor. Every time something ran out, they’d bring more. I could have eaten four to five plates of the stuff, it’s so rare that I eat prime rib. The thin slices are a great way to go, too.

At some point they want you to move along, though they would never come out and say that, they are super friendly and the service is great. Instead, they let you know the meal is coming to an end by taking your pie order (smart idea), which for the kids, sealed the deal. I wanted to say I wasn’t finished, but didn’t want to hold things up. I ate the kid’s leftovers, instead.

The pies were amazing, as well. I got the chocolate chip pie, the kids opted for something else chocolate. The slices were generous and the pie delicious. Then it was time to go. The meals are very businesslike, and the room was fairly noisy. It was like eating in New York City, you have to yell to be heard.

It was nice to see the Hs, we never see them anymore, and as usual, I enjoyed catching up with DH. We always end up having a nice conversation, he has a secret rebellious/rock and roll side to him that slips out now and then.

It was a fun evening, good food in a social atmosphere. How often do we do that? Actually, probably more than I realize, considering that we are such social animals. Just wait until hockey season starts.

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

Reaching My Goal

I set a goal of finishing the gable end of the barn by the end of this weekend, and lo and behold, I reached it. In fact, through a process of a little luck and good planning, I was even able to continue around to the backside and get about 20% of that done. I am in pretty good shape to finish the siding before it gets too cold, which is pretty amazing when you think about it. Then again, I shouldn't talk before the job is done.

The gable ends are definitely a challenge because not only are they tall, requiring work on a ladder, but they require angle cuts on the boards, which means more thought and deliberation. Now that both gable ends are done, it’s almost like a vacation doing the back side. Also, in an effort to get the gable end done, I stained several extra 16’ boards, which were more than enough. With extra boards stained and ready to install, all I had to do
was cut them to size and nail them in. Don’t you just love when that happens?

The first order of business was to install the skirt and drip shield, which took a little time. Now that that is in, I can just put the siding over it, and then we’re done. Sure, we still have the dormers to deal with, but let me relish a small victory while I can.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The Things We’ve Learned About Stoves

Boy, it sure is nice having our stove back in working order. For the record, not only did Graham provide most excellent service, but he taught us a thing or two. First off, we learned that we can operate the stove with the front doors open, giving us the “ski-lodge” ambience effect. Second, we learned that it is important to keep a layer of ash on the bottom plate to protect it from cracking. Go figure! I diligently scooped that ash up every morning figuring that was what you’re supposed to do, and then I learn I was wrong.

As luck would have it (or not), I had tossed out all the ash we had into the woods. Who holds onto that stuff? Usually I have two places where I keep ash, a small can by the stove, and a big can outside to give it time to extinguish before I toss it into the woods. Both were empty, so I was out of luck, sort of. I was told sand would work fine, and I just happened to have some sand that I got for putting on the walkway. It didn’t have any salt, so Graham said it should be fine.

The one issue was it was soaking wet. Not wanting to introduce unnecessary moisture into the stove and flue, I decided to dry the stuff. It would have worked best in summer, but you work with what you got. After a couple of days with no luck, I finally put the stuff in baking dishes and baked it in the oven. It took about 15 minutes, and before I knew it, I had sand ready to go.

I put a layer on the bottom, did a series of small pre-burns, and now the stove is ready to rock and roll. How cool is that? The stove is working beautifully, and as far as I’m concerned, it seems to be burning more efficiently, which hopefully will translate into burning less wood. Graham actually alluded to it having tons of leaks before he rebuilt the thing, so it makes sense. We shall see.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Getting My Act Together

Did I mention that the time has come for me to be a real man in other area? Namely, making some dough. My real-man in training status is a constant process, but now I think I need to start thinking about becoming gainfully employed in some capacity or another. That’s how a man is measured in the modern era, right? The size of his income, in addition to other assets.

I have no basis for optimism, but for whatever reason I feel optimistic about this whole process. I would say I feel good about my prospects, if I had any. Then again, you can’t trivial details like these get in your way, you have to just start moving your feet and plow forward.

For me, at least in terms of my fabulous lifestyle, this is going to boil down to writing. Simply put, I need to find some (more) writing gigs that pay more than what I’m making. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the stuff I have going, money is money, it’s just that sometimes it’s just not enough. The small gigs that I do have, however, are a stepping stone to help pave the way, and you can’t knock that.

I am in the process of making contact with some established writers I know. Truth be told, I know a fair number of them, and since they are friends, I can approach tell them I have no clue what I’m doing. Hopefully something will come out of it, but we’ll see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to batter job for the pic.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Help With I-KODI

R has been very active with a non-profit that is building infrastructure and providing food and medicine to a village in Africa. The organization is I-KODI and the reason we (mainly R) got so involved is that the man behind it all, DO, is actually from this village. His story is a good one. He came from a dirt poor village, worked hard and got an education, then came to the States to get his Ph.D. and now wants to give back to where he came from. It’s genuine grassroots philanthropy at its truest. How can we not help?

R works very hard for I-KODI, on top of all her professional and familial duties, and we help out when we can. R and MD are constantly holding fundraisers and selling food to make money, because when you’re that poor, every dollar counts. This past weekend was no different. MD had arranged to sell food at the Lyme Flea Market. Apparently the town does this regularly by allowing people to set up a table and sell whatever they want to sell.

MD decided to cook up a feast and sell breakfast and lunch, using the money to give to I-KODI. They open first thing in the AM in Lyme, which is about 45 minutes away. This meant that someone was going to have to get there around 6:30 to help set up, which meant waking up at 5:00AM. Of course that meant me, but what else is new? I was willing to help, and since I’m the early riser in this family, it was my job to show up early.

The plan was for me to go to Lyme in the early AM, help set up and get things going, and then at some point R would show up with the kids. They could have some breakfast, browse the flea market, have some lunch, and then we were free for the day as R would take over. It worked out fine, though the market was not that bustling. We lucked out on the weather, it was beautiful, but the sales were a little disappointing. It was sort of nice being at a market without having a huge vested interest like we have at the big city market. More relaxing.

Anyways, it was fine, the food was amazing, even if sales were just okay, but MD managed to save the food and have a lunch the next day, so all was well. I’m not sure if DO truly grasps all that they do for I-KODI, but R and MD (especially MD) work amazingly hard.

Afterward, we all headed home and got some stuff done around the house, and R came home with supper and lots of sweets, which we were happy to devour, though being the complainer that I am, I have to say, the portions were a bit small, especially for someone who spent 5 hours working like a dog.

Oh well, you just can’t please some people. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daniel for the pic.

Pensive Reunion

I’m learning that all this contact and good will with my mom seems to come with a cost, namely in the form of a family reunion. As I have mentioned, I have been in contact with my mom recently, and it’s been very civil. She has softened her tone even if deep down I know she hasn’t really changed, but nonetheless, sometimes you have just have to grow up and deal with a person’s quirks, if that's what you can call them. Maybe this is especially true with your parents.

My mom isn’t getting any younger, though she lives a very active life with lots of activities and social interactions. She still drives herself around and travels a lot overseas. I don’t get a sense she’s lonely, though as I’ve learned firsthand, being socially active doesn’t mean you’re not lonely. I remember living in New York and even in LA, you can go to parties all the time but at the end of the evening you still go home alone to an empty house.

I could go on and on about what a rough relationship we’ve had, but truth be told, I’d like for her to see the kids, even if it’s brutally painful for me. I know that she’s going to be catty and go for the jugular when I see her, it’s even starting a bit now when we talk on the phone. Then again, when I was dreading calling her weeks ago, she turned out to be way more civil than I had ever expected, so it might be fine. I hope it is.

I’ve decided that it all boils down to me. I need to prep the kids and R about what to expect, and I myself have to just deal with it and not retaliate. I don’t know if this is passive agressive or just outright vindictive, but she always begins every interaction with an attack of some sort, just so that she feels like she is setting the tone of the interaction. It’s a power thing, but that puts the ball in my court as to how I respond. I need to just suck it up, let it roll off my back, and move on.

With this in mind, I think we should keep the visit to a minimum and maybe plan on just a few days, which for the record, will earn me some wrath, but what else is new? Throw my derelict brother into the mix and you have the makings of a Jonathan Franzen novel, in the flesh.

This should be interesting. It’s not easy confronting a lifetime of emotional abuse that not even 2000 miles can ameliorate. I need to mentally prepare.

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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Breaking Our Stove In

We lit our first fire in our newly rebuilt stove, and it felt good to be back in business when it comes to warmth. About a week ago Graham the Stove Man came over and fixed our stove, doing a stand-up job, I might add - fast, reliable, and thorough, I was very pleased with his work. Now I’d heard from other stove folks that once a stove is rebuilt, the cement needs some time to cure before you can jump back into burning wood. GSM said as much, telling us to wait at least three days or longer. One of the other stove guys said a month, so I’m not sure who to believe, though I know whom I want to believe. I actually called the company that makes the cement and they said 24 hours to set, 72 hours to use the stove. Good enough for me.

It had been a week since he was here, and at some point we had to build a fire because not only is it getting cold, but apparently you have to do a series of pre-burns to break it in. Part of the problem is the metal gets painted and when it’s first exposed to heat, might give off some fumes. This is not a huge problem in warmer weather because you can just open windows and let the house air out. On colder days, which are becoming the norm, it’s not so simple.

This problem compounds itself over time, because as the weather gets colder, we run out of ideal days to run the stove. This would have worked out beautifully in July or August, but as October inched forward, I felt the need to get things moving, if at the very least to get the stove primed for winter. Well, that day finally came, and it wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. GSM said to build a couple of small fires at first and let them burn down, which is what we did. We were contemplating going out for the day, but had no plans, so we opened some windows and waited. As I said, it wasn’t that bad, and it sure felt good to have some heat. I figure a couple more fires and we’re good to go for winter. We’ve got all our wood stacked and dried, and I have a pile of kindling in the basement. I think we’re in pretty good shape.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

MTV Moment

As part of their video club, the kids were given the assignment to make a music video. After choosing the music and contemplating their piece, they were ready to take action, and might I say, they did a stand-up job. A was in charge and she does a nice job of having fun but keeping things together to get the job done. Their idea was to film at the Path of Life in Windsor, which for the record is a really interesting and cool place and well worth a visit.

I called them a few days before to see if we could actually film there, and the guy working there, C, was cool and said come on down. The plan was to get the filming equipment, pack a lunch, and meet up at the library. That is when I took over and drove the kids to the Path of Life. We lucked out on the weather, it was beautiful and sunny, and the kids brought a boatload of costumes. We found a shady spot, left all the gear, and the kids went to work. C was really cool and let us all in free on the condition that he gets to see the final work, and maybe even put it on his website. Fair enough.

I ended up having to sit there and read a book because we couldn’t let the kids run around free and crazy. Plus, there were other groups there at the time. In fact, this was a bit awkward, but there was a group of people in recovery spending the day there, and they all came and sat around me to have their lunch because I was in a nice shady spot. I sat there and minded my own business, but after lunch, they went around the group and talked about their recovery and what brought them there. It was a little heavy, and I’m glad the kids were off somewhere else filming their piece.

The filming went for a few hours, with a break for lunch in-between. Kudos to A for leading the way and taking charge. At some point I heard her say to the group that she was all for fun, but at some point she was going to have to crack the whip or they’d never finish. Such a director.

After the filming was all done, we headed over to Fraser’s Place to get ice cream, then back to the library for story hour. It was quite the day, and I’m glad the kids not only had fun, but worked hard on their project and got the job done. Next up is editing, but that’s a subject for another time.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Drawer Divided

We have been having a nightmare of a time with our food storage container drawer, it was nearly impossible to match a lid to a container or vice-versa. It got to the point where it was pretty ridiculous, so something had to be done. Feeling like a real-man in training, I cut some plywood up and made a drawer spacer so that R can divide the containers up in their respective locations. I even painted the thing blue to match the drawer liner, how professional-like is that?

Now the containers (I hesitate to say Tupperware) are all nice and tidy, and best of all, R is happy. She said that it was causing her great distress whenever she looked at that messy drawer, and believe me, she looked at it several times a day, so the situation was repaired not a moment too soon.

Best of all, I got to use my power tools to create it. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

It’s That Time Again

Now that cooler weather is here, of course everyone is getting sick in some form or another. Fortunately this time around it’s just head colds and sniffles, but a few weeks back, we had stomach bugs, and believe me when I tell you it wasn’t pretty. Either way, we got past the stomach issues, and now they’ve migrated to our heads. Don’t you hate when that happens?

I guess it’s best to just get the colds and be done with it before it gets really cold and miserable, but unfortunately, it doesn’t guarantee that we won’t get sick when that time comes, as well, which is a total bummer, but such is life.

For now, we’ll just keep blowing our noses and live wth chafed nostrils. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Tina for the pic.

Still Searching

I have been struggling to get my glorious freelance writing career off the ground, but it has taken on new sense of profundity given the potentially precarious nature of our financial situation. While it seems very possible for me to go out and find a job given my most recent experiences, that would entail me being out of the house for 8-10 hours each day in the salt mines. I realize this is standard MO for most people, but if possible, would love to be able to still be at home while maintaining our fabulously opulent lifestyles

This leaves the same old pie-in-the-sky hopes of finding writing gigs. Truth be told, I haven’t been searching with the sense of urgency that I should have had, partly because I have so much work to do besides looking for a job. Nonetheless, the time has come, no more messing around.

It’s kind of a bummer feeling the pressure, but it’s also a strong motivator and perhaps one of the only ways I’m actually going to get something done.

This should be interesting, stay tuned for more. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to dmangust for the pic.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back on the Ice

The ice has returned over in Hanover and we managed to lace up our skates and get back on it. We enrolled N into a fall skills camp to warm up for hockey season. It was one of those situations where he wasn’t jumping for joy at the idea of it, but loved it once he did it. It’s a complicated situation because we don’t want to force him into doing something he doesn’t want to do, but on the other, there are times that it seems as if he would sit at home and watch TV and play video games all day if we didn’t give him a little nudge. It’s a good thing we don’t have TV or video games in this house, because it’s an irresistible vacuum for most people.

Either way, this time around he was more enthused, maybe because after a long summer, he was ready to hit the ice. I also reasoned with him that he’s going to miss some of the early part of the season due to assorted reasons, and this is also his year to be the big man on campus. All good things. Plus, once he got on the ice, he had a blast, especially during the games.

Now that it’s all finished, we have a few weeks before the actual season starts, at which point our lives will become pretty much about one thing - hockey... but don’t remind R, it won’t make her happy.

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

Goodbye... but not Farewell?

It is with mixed feelings that the market has come to an end, which it did yesterday. On the one hand, it’s great to have some time back to do other assorted forms of hard labor (like building a barn), but on the other, there were numerous rewards to doing the market. First off, the income. We are in an interesting financial situation these days, and even though falafels didn’t bring in loads of cash, it was something, and when you’re facing the pit of financial gloom, any form of income is good income.

Beyond the money, however, was the whole process of being a part of the market. We enjoyed getting to know our neighbors at the market, whom we now consider friends, and we appreciated developing a loyal clientele, some of whom came to the market just to get our falafels. The human ego is such a frail thing. It was also a great experience for us a family because we tackled a project and learned a great deal about confronting challenges and overcoming obstacles. These are great experiences when you do them together as a family, not unlike traveling. Even the kids appreciated the rewards that come from a honest day’s work, and for the record, they did a great job. It’s a pretty cool experience, and sort of unique.

The market manager is a well-connected person, and she even said if we were interested that we might be able to score some falafel gigs through Dartmouth, though we would have to go through official channels. This could be interesting, and at the very least, make for an interesting story.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Natalie Maynor for the pic.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back in Black

We finally got the stove fixed, and now we’re ready for winter, sort of. Maybe give it a month or two. We originally planned on having Graham the Stove Man come on 9/13, but we lost power due to a storm, so had to reschedule two weeks later. Total bummer, and of course, the morning of the 13th the power came on first thing in the morning. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

Graham showed up promptly at 9:00 this Monday, and he did a stand up job. I give him high marks on reliability and service, he did a great job. The process itself was interesting, he undid the pins and took it apart piece by piece until it was all gone, then brought each piece, starting with the base, back in. I figured it would take him all day, but it took him a few hours, and he was done by lunchtime.

 I was ready to feed the guy, but he was done and out of here, so I had to force him to take some chili. Now our stove is like new. He cleaned the metal and added a coat of paint, which I didn’t realize was how it was. It looks beautiful, and now it’s sealed properly and ready. He said it would take a couple of break-in burns and we would smell a little of the paint, but we’re fortunate in that the weather is still warm enough to open the windows.

We were also informed to keep an inch or two of ash on the bottom to prevent future cracking. Of course, I discarded all the ash over the summer, but I do have sand, which I was told would work just as well. I’m also hoping that the stove will burn more efficiently since it’s sealed up, but time will tell.

Until then, thanks for reading.

50% Done... and More

In a good example of what you can get done if you just set your mind to it (either that or you have the time), I’ve finished about 50% of the siding on the barn. Sure, if you factor in the dormers, I’m below 50%, but let me enjoy the illusion of progress.

I will say this, the structure does look a lot nicer with siding than simply house wrap. It makes it look like it’s protected from the elements and like progress is really being made. Best of all, I get to cement my real-man in training status as waves of friends and neighbors stop by and comment on how good the barn looks and how much more manly I look these days in a tank top. Go figure.

I originally ordered 1000 ft of siding thinking that would cover half, and I was close in the calculation. My original math came to about 2000 linear feet, and with 1000 feet, I’ve covered one face, on gable end, and about 1/5 of the other gable end. With that in mind, I need to order more shiplap.

Once both gable ends are done, which I’m hoping to complete in the next week, then it’s just one more face and we are good to go for the winter, I think. The dormers will be a bit more tricky because it involves working on the roof, but let’s worry about that when the time comes.

I definitely have a deadline to meet in that I would like to get this done before it gets really cold, or starts to snow, whichever comes first. In the meantime, I’ll relish the fact that something is actually getting done on this barn.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.