Tuesday, July 29, 2014

More Disc Golf

I think I already mentioned this, but I just wanted to say a few more words on our disc golf adventures. We went to two courses down around Concord and they were both nice, one more than the other. The Deven course still kind of blows my mind not only in size, but in terms of how nicely it was made. They went to great lengths to groom the course and make every aspect really nice. Plus, it had 36 holes, which is pretty amazing when you get down to it. The course cut through the forest and hills, so it took a lot of effort. Each tee had a platform and hole description, and the paths were clearly marked. Even though we were in the forest, finding the discs was not a problem, not like at the course near us, where we constantly lose discs in the tall grass. And I mean constantly. The Deven course was like going on a hike as well, because it was fairly rigorous following the course up and down the hills. I can't say enough (clearly) about how impressed I was with it.

The Burlington (MA) course was much more low key, but again, it was nicely done. The tee platforms were not as nicely done, but they did have hole descriptions and this course went through the woods, as well, though it was basically a city park, smack in the middle of the suburbs. For a city park, they sure had some big trees. I enjoyed the course except for the traffic noise. The park did have a skate park, however, so when we were done, N rode his bike and scooter for a bit. The woman who I believe helps run the rec department there asked us what we thought of the course and if we had any feedback, which I thought was nice.

Since the Burlington course was in the middle of civilization, we had access to certain life necessities, like a place to get refreshments, as well as a Bank of America, which is my bank. They are very hard to find around us, and tend to be more prevalent in civilized areas. Maybe it's time to find a new bank.

It was a nice day of disc golf. We went back to the hotel for a swim, which worked out beautifully because the sun was scorching by that time. One of the few times I like it when it's hot.

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

Discovering New Mountains

We love to hike and usually go to the same place every time (Mt. Tom) and have a picnic at the summit. This time around, we decided to try something different and went to Mt. Ascutney. It used to be a fairly decent sized ski hill that went belly-up and now I'm not sure what's going on with it. It's a shame because the hill is pretty close to us, and I was told it was a friendly place to ski. The resort still functions and there are hiking and mountain biking trails, but it would be nice to ski there. Plus, we have many friends who live in that area.

I'd heard a lot about hiking Mt. Ascutney, and was told you could get a 360 degree view of the entire valley at the top, so we decided to go for it, much to N's chagrin. He always gets crabby at the thought of going on a hike, and then has fun, only to get crabby again the next time. Sometimes we have to force the issue. The hiking trail was actually in a different place than the ski hill, which threw me off. I'm guessing the mountain is big, maybe even a range of peaks, because it sure seemed as if we were nowhere near the resort. In fact, until we reached the trailhead, I was convinced I got the directions wrong and we were in the wrong place.

We landed at the right spot, however, and again, I was struck by how far it seemed from the actual ski hill. The trail head was fairly busy, with numerous cars, and we saw a bunch hikers along the trail. When we climb Mt. Tom, we usually see nobody. I think Mt. Ascutney attracts more city folks and people from further away, because I sensed a more urban element, and perhaps a slightly rougher edge, i.e., tattoos and cigarettes.

We headed up the hill and even though he griped endlessly about going, N took the lead with A and they shot up like rockets. I realize I'm getting old, but I can't keep up with those guys. The hike was nice, the mountain is beautiful and even though we didn't even get close to the top (it's over 3 miles one way), we had nice views. We made it as far as the Cascade Falls, which were nice even though the flow was low. I'm guessing around spring the falls are pretty impressive. At some point we decided to head back, even though N was ready to keep pushing on.

I have to say, it was nice. I'd like to hike it more often, it's more challenging than Mt. Tom, and maybe a little more interesting. Plus, we barely scratched the surface of all the hiking it has to offer.

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

Skate Shopping

After three years it looks like N will need new hockey skates. I will say this, we got our money's worth on those skates. They were fairly high-end but we got them at a massive clearance sale online, so I guess you get what you pay for. We are at the stage where really cheap hockey gear is no longer an option. Maybe for certain things, but with skates, it's better to get a decent pair.

We were at Stateline just browsing at skates and we found a pair he likes. What's cool is that he's excited about getting new skates, and he's usually pretty reserved. We won't get them now, the season is a few months away, but at least we have a target to keep our eyes on, i.e., I can scour the websites and sporting goods for amazing deals. You never know.

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

Monday, July 28, 2014

Lost Weekend

Or should I say, lost week? We had a crazy week, at least for me, and as a consequence, I got nothing done on the barn or for that matter, on the home front. A blip in my real man training, I guess. Mon and Tue were shot because we traveled down to Concord, and Wed we had the market. Thu was the only day we stayed home, so I got a little work done, but then on Fri A got a last minute invitation to 6 Flags Great Adventure. Her track buddy invited her since they have season passes, and of course A was thrilled. Not wanting N to feel left out, he and I headed to Killington to ride mountain bikes and get in a round of disc golf, both of which were a lot of fun and worked out beautifully, but more on that later.

On Sat N had her final track meet up in St. Johnsbury, and Sun I spent most of the day making falafels, with UF in the afternoon. I know I shouldn't whine because we had a really fun week, but I got very little done on the real-man front, and when you're training to be a real-man, the last thing you want is an interruption in your learning, especially when there are barns to be built, firewood to split, and garden/yards to be maintained. Oh yeah, there's a glorious writing career to think of, as well.

Looks like I'll have to make up for lost time this week. We'll see how that goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Matt Bilton for the pic.

Fun with Ultimate

UF has been going nicely this season, though last weekend the group was on the smaller side with many regulars not showing up. This always happens, but fortunately we have a fairly big core group that shows up. The pros get bored and stop coming, while the neophytes and recreational-ists still manage to have a good time.

I'm glad this is the case because we all really love UF and it's a nice community thing. When else do you ever get to see your neighbors? People of my generation grew up in neighborhoods and there was always something to do. This is not the case for us, and I know it's not simply because we live in the country. People just don't get out as much, for a number of reasons I won't get into.

I'm hoping the crowds will continue well into the summer/fall, because not only is it fun, but it's great exercise and one of the few times I will run barefoot in the grass. I'm getting the most of my country-living experience.

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

Almost a Copywriter

I almost became a copywriter with this job that came up, but some red flags came up when they responded to my query from the get-go, and things sort of went south from there. The pay was terrible, but I'm not above working for peanuts, at least at this stage. One of the biggest issues was that they wanted me to sign a contract that stipulated for me to produce a fair amount of work each day, and that I would guarantee this level of production. I think I could manage it even though it was a lot, but the thing that got me was the contract. I didn't see anything in the form of an exit clause, and I was wary of getting locked into something that was beyond my abilities where legal action might ensue. I had a lawyer friend look at it and he said two things: the pay was terrible, and there was concern about what would happen if I couldn't produce the prodigious amounts the required. I emailed the recruiter and she was very nice and said the job would end when I felt like it ended, but it didn't say that anywhere in the contract. As my lawyer friend said, it it's not in writing, then it isn't so.

Either way, I chickened out. I could regret it, but I don't want any legal issues haunting me right now. If there were no contracts involved, I'd do it. Oh well, time will tell. For now, the hunt for the dream job continues.

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

Golf Appreciation

I have become more philosophical about golf lately, and like everything in life, when you take your time and give it more thought, it makes it more enjoyable. I think N approaches his hobbies this way, he's very into the process and thought behind what he is doing. It's interesting to see, he's a student of whatever piques his interest, and he enjoys the process of understanding the mechanics of what he is doing.

With golf, I used to just approach it with brute force and try to hit the ball as hard as I could, the goal being to drive it farther and farther. Just recently, I tried to calm things down a bit and be more thoughtful, and like all things in life, it was more enjoyable. When you try to make the most of the journey rather than focusing on the end result, you get more out of it. Why can't we learn (re-learn?) these sort of things? Either way, I think the same goes for disc golf, if you can put some thought into what you're doing and try to make the most of the process, the game becomes challenging in a fun way. You definitely appreciate the subtleties of what's going on, and that's what life is all about, right?

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Bad Forecast, Good Market

We got slammed by bad weather again at the market, except that this time, we were prepared, and it came later rather than sooner. As a consequence, we missed the storm by the skin of our teeth. I couldn't believe it. The forecast called for bad weather as usual, so we could have either bailed on the market or just dealt with it. I could have gone either way, but at some point you're missing every market. We went for it, fully prepared to get slammed. It wasn't a good sign when I called my Mentor for a weather update and the first words when he answered the phone was, "You're screwed." He meant it affectionately, and even said there was a chance we might be okay.

The weather was foreboding, but for most of our time there, it wasn't too bad. Storms are rough, but they often bring clouds and breezes, which means it's cooler, and cooler it was. In fact, it was fairly pleasant, and the crowds were good. We were pretty busy, but near the end the manager came by and said a big storm was going to hit in about 15 minutes and to prepare. There was a line of people waiting for food but we had to tell them sorry and scramble to break down. We worked at warp speed, as did everyone around us, and within about 10 minutes, many of the vendors were done and packed up. By the time we had our tent broken down and everything packed in the car, the wind kicked up and some people lost their tents. With everything in the car, we tried to help people around us who needed it before piling into the car and heading to Boloco. Just a we were pulling into the street, the rain came and the storm broke. Boy, talk about close calls.

I'm still struck by the weather pattern and wonder why it always hits on market day, but some things just aren't meant to be understood.

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

Just Like LA

Just a quick thought on Concord. First off, Walden Pond was nothing like I imagined. It was so big and so busy with tourists, smack in the middle of a bustling suburb. None of the quaintness or charm that I anticipated, but that's the romantic in me.

Overall it was a beautiful town, affluent with beautiful young people like we saw in Providence. The biggest downer was the traffic. The family model down there seems fairly typical of young successful people - young and beautiful with at least 3 kids and a pet. A beautiful house that they don't get to spend a lot of time together because dad or mom (or both) work hard and prestigious jobs but spend most of their waking hours working or stuck in traffic. Time away from the office is spent traveling for work or heading off on your own to hang with your friends.

I understand the need for time to yourself, but when do you spend time with your family? It ain't easy when you're chasing down the American Dream.

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

Lawnmower Man

My Mentor and the Amazing PR Man (not to mention JH and his magic bag of tools) would be proud of me - I fixed the lawnmower, and it was more involved than simply changing a spark plug. Not much, but it required tools and some specialized reagents (carb cleaner), but most importantly, the courage to take a leap of faith and think I could actually fix a machine.

This has happened to us in the past, and one of the reasons they highly recommend not using gasoline that's too old. 30 days is what they say, though my Mentor thinks that's way too conservative. Either way, the first year I had the lawnmower, I slacked off on the maintenance and let the gas sit in the engine over the winter. The next year, when I tried to start it, it wouldn't budge. I took it in and had the carb cleaned, and it cost about $40. Bummer. After that, I properly drained the engine and used gas that wasn't too old, and it worked fine. Just the other day, however, I ran into a problem.

I would start the mower and it would die immediately. I was using it all week, and was even cutting grass an hour before, so it seemed strange to me. I contacted JH, who is a carb expert, and he gave me some tips. I also went online and learned that cleaning the carb fuel spout is not that hard. In fact, it's downright easy, though JH said to install it properly because it affects the flow of gas. I took out the bolt and cleaned the holes with a wire, but it didn't seem to work. I was ready to take the thing in when I also learned that it helps to spray the bolt with some carb cleaner. I went out and got a can (only to learn later I already had an industrial sized can in the basement) of carb cleaner, sprayed the thing, and voila - the mower started and stayed on. The only question is, what am I going to do with all that carb cleaner? Cars don't have carbs anymore.

Oh well, at least I feel like I earned a few points in my real man training by not only fixing the thing on my own, but having the guts to even try. I love when that happens.

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

A Night of Arts and Culture

We spent a night in the big city watching what Dartmouth has to offer in terms of art and culture, and of course we dragged the kids along, much to their chagrin. There was lots of free food, so that helped, but I think they were for the most part pretty bored. I can't say I blame them.

The Hop offers a lot in terms of art and culture, and the preview it before the season starts. I didn't know this, but I personally like this sort of thing. Kind of like an overture before an opera, you get a taste before the big show. They offer kids programming, as well, but as you can imagine, in an Ivy League college town, they're going for the big cultural extravaganza, which is not always kid-friendly. As much as I enjoy this sort of thing, even I was struck by how esoteric some of the offerings were. A lot of the really artsy stuff leaves me scratching my head and wondering what exactly is going on here. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but the hyper-educated crowd eats that stuff up like it was porn.

They had a huge food spread, however, and we got to chow down. There was lots of it, so I didn't feel bad going back seconds or thirds. I missed out on the cookies, however, but you just can't have it all. After the show and supper, the kids said that for next year, they'd rather stay at home and sit it out. It's hard to compete with Mythbusters and Phinnaeus and Ferb.

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

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Playdate in Concord

Talk about hardcore parenting, we made a trip down to the Boston area so that A could visit her buddy from homeschool camp. Now normally I'd say you were crazy to drive that far just so your kids could see a friend, but she's a good buddy of hers, and we made a fun trip out of it. I think it worked out well, even though it was a brutal drive and took up a couple of days. That's two days when I couldn't do real man's work here at home, but such is the life of a real man in training.

A's friend lives down in the Concord area (home to Walden Pond), and they have been corresponding regularly by email, Skype, social media, etc. I can't keep up with all this stuff. They have been trying to set up a rendezvous for awhile, and finally her friend J got her mom involved, and she's clearly a go-getter. She contacted us and invited A down for a sleepover. A was thrilled, but we weren't sure how we were going to manage all this. We pondered it and came up with a plan. Now as crazy as this sounds, I drove down with A&N and dropped A off at J's and N and I spent a couple of days in and around the Concord area. It was fun, and I think N enjoyed it, mainly because we got to do things that he wanted to do. I was his valet for a couple of days, but what else is new?

J lives in a really nice area. Concord has money I guess, it's one of those affluent Boston suburbs, and they have a beautiful house nestled in the woods, though traffic was a nightmare. Even though they have a beautiful house nestled in the woods, there is major traffic all around. All those commuters chasing the American dream. I have to say, it really reminded me of LA. We were stuck in traffic the entire time we were there, it was crazy. We met J's mom, M, who was really nice, and dropped A off for her fun sleepover. They have a beautiful house, with a kitchen to die for, not to mention major renovations. It reminded me so much of when we lived in Providence, people are very focused on their homes and remodeling. Basically the same demographic: young affluent families that are highly-educated and hyper-socially conscious. Nice people with pedigrees that drink South African wine and take their kids to the opera.

Once we dropped off A, that left N and I to hit the town. Concord is nice, and very historical. There are all sorts of interesting historic sites to visit, especially ones pertaining to the Revolutionary War. Of course we ignored all of these things in the pursuit of more important stuff, like disc golf, swimming, and skate parks. What else is there? We were staying at the Best Western which for the record was very nice, with a killer pool. Very key during these hot summer days. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and went looking for disc golf, our new obsession. I'd been recently told that disc golf is big in MA, and there are plenty of opportunities to play, though you have to drive to them and spend some time in traffic. We found a double course (36 holes!) in the nearby town of Deven, which was about 30 minutes away. The traffic was a little rough, but we managed to get there in one piece. N is an excellent navigator, which isn't easy with stressed-out dad at the wheel. Before we hit Deven, we went to Natick to find a Dick's Sporting Goods to get N a new golf disc. Talk about retail hell, the place is like one big mall, and huge ones, to boot. We found Dick's, N picked out a nice driver and we then headed to Deven.

The town of Deven was an interesting place, I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Apparently it's a military town, or rather, base. It's called Fort Deven, and it reminded me of business park, college campus, and recreation area combined into one. It was very nicely developed, but there was no central entity to speak of. Huge tracts of grassy fields, clearly designed for recreation, and what looked like dorms. Our tax dollars at work, I guess. Either way, they have an amazing disc golf course, or rather, two of them. They are difficult to find if you don't know what you're looking for, but once you find them, they are amazing. They are nestled in the woods and beautifully done. I'm no disc golf expert, but it was pretty impressive. It covers a huge amount of space, and each tee and hole was beautifully done. Plus, it's deep in the woods, so it's like taking a hike. The trees made it challenging, but we never lost our disc. There were tons of people going through, as well. We had a blast, and N got to try out his new disc, which he loved. It took us well over an hour to golf, and by the time we were done, it was getting late and the pool closed at 8:00.

We jumped back into traffic and headed back to the hotel and went for a swim. There were other kids in the pool and I spoke with the grandmother watching them and she said they were there for hockey camp. Now I could be losing my mind, but I could have sworn she said they were visiting from Alaska. I should have asked her to clarify, but I didn't want to be nosy. Talk about hockey dedication, I can relate to it. After the swim, we went to our room and ordered some Chinese food. I made sure to get the broccoli in garlic sauce so we had some veggies, and then we Skyped mom. We then watched a movie and went to bed.

The next day we were up early and had a nice breakfast at the hotel, which for the record was nice by chain hotel standards. Then it was time for more disc golf. We went to Burlington (MA) this time. The course was in a park and was not as impressive as Deven (nothing could match that), but was still nice. We did nine holes and then N got to ride his bike/scooter at the skate park adjacent to the golf course. The park was smack in the middle of the busy city, so the sound of traffic was prominent, which was a little distracting but not a huge deal. It was getting really hot, so we decided to head back and go for a swim. We had to check out at 11:30, so we didn't have a huge amount of time. We hit the pool, which was amazing in the 90 degree heat, and swam for an hour before heading off to our next adventure.

Now by this time it was hot, and we had to get A around 5:00, so we didn't have unlimited time. We headed back to Natick for lunch and decided to see a movie. N suggested Olive Garden, and I seconded because there were healthy options there. I got the unlimited soup, salad and bread, and he got the meatball sandwich, which also came with salad. I gave him my minestrone soup. Salad and bread is my kind of meal, and we avoided overly-unhealthy stuff. We then hit the theater and saw How to Train Your Dragon 2.

When got out, we figured we had enough time to get A at her friends, and then head home. What to do about dinner? We were going to have to eat on the road, so what would work best? It turns out that there was a Boloco near the theater, so I got burritos, and we were on our way. We hit traffic again to get A and were late, as usual, but we got there. We loaded up the car and headed home for the long drive. I have to say, we had a really nice trip, but it must be a bit of a hassle living there. Sure, it's beautiful and affluent, but everyone works in Boston and you spend your life in the car. You get the dream job and house, but at what cost?

Concord is also the home of Walden Pond, and we drove by it several times and I have to say, it's not what I thought it would be. Either way, it was nice to be back in Vermont, where traffic jams are rare and people let into their lane when you need it. We got home around 8:30, and we all hit the sack, exhausted. It was nice to see mom again, and of course, nice to he home.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joanne C Sullivan for the pic.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Another Perfect Market Day

Here we are with another perfect forecast for the market: sunny and hot until right around the beginning of the market, when a massive thunderstorm is supposed to move in. For the record, it's been sunny and pleasant leading up to it, and is supposed to cool off and be beautiful and pleasant after the market. Don't you just love it?

Thanks for reading, and thanks to prajakt_23 for the pic.

Frisbee Dog-Walking

A week or two back we watched HH's animals while she was a away, and she obtained two new kittens which are very cute and fun to play with, so the kids got a kick out of going over there. This helps because I feel bad for her dog, who sits at home all day by his lonesome and needs to get out. With that in mind, we went for extra visits and took him on extra long walks. The kids played with the kittens while I walked the dog.

At some point we felt like he needed more stimulation so we drove him over to the field and played disc golf and let him roam around. He's a good dog so he didn't get too crazy, and if anything, I think he was getting tired because disc golf requires a bit of walking. It was hot, as well, and we all jumped into the brook and he was more than happy to follow suit. He's basically a Lab mix, so he was made for water. It was fun, we all got out and played disc golf, which we all are becoming more interested in, and the dog got plenty of fresh air. Everyone was happy, which is our goal in life.

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

Contact Sport

You don't think of UF as a contact sport, but there have been a few injuries, including to myself. In fact, I've been bounced around a few times, and have done a bit of bouncing myself. Usually it's me running into someone who outweighs me by 50-100 pounds, so I just bounce off them, but a few weeks back I was jumping up to get the disc when my friend CT tried to intercept it and slammed me into the ground. He's bigger and thicker than me, so I went flying and landed on my hand. I seriously thought I broke my hand, but I think I sprained my finger. It still hurts to this day.

Then, about a week back, I was running by the person with the disc and they just happened to throw the thing just as I was passing and it nailed me right in the face, square on the nose. I went down immediately and thought it was broken. It swelled up and there was no blood, but it sure did hurt. A few people have left the game with injuries, which is a bummer but I think that's what happens when you get the testosterone flowing and bodies flying. People should keep in mind that we're not that hardcore and it's all about fun, but then again, there are a fair number of teenage boys out there, so things are going to happen.

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Garden Update

There is a critter amongst us, but we knew that would be an issue when we signed onto this project. In years past we'd battled woodchucks and deer, and have found it's just a losing battle. You can't beat nature, nor I guess, should you. It's their world, right? Either way, it can be frustrating and disheartening, but you do the best you can and roll with it. Our high-tech solution seems to have limited capabilities on certain fronts, and one front in particular is woodchucks, especially since a colony seems to live nearby.

For weeks we had no problems and things were moving along smoothly until we noticed that something was eating our squash plants. Thankfully they left the tomatoes alone, but gradually the squash started to disappear until some of the plants were completely gone. What a bummer. I put wire barriers around them, but the beast simply collapsed them to get to the plants, which were starting to flower. Some of the plants are right next to the radar gun, too. Oh well, at this point I feel that if he eats the squash and leaves the tomatoes alone, that's about as much as I can ask for. We'll see how this one goes.

We have three plots going so between them we should get some sort of crop this year... I hope. Weeding thus far hasn't been too bad because we have been making an effort to stay on top of it, and so far, so good. Stay tuned for more.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to eva8 for the pic.

Market Day

We had a good market day this week, and the weather seemed to go in reverse compared to past weeks. The last few weeks we got slammed with thunderstorms and what made it worse was the weather was nice before and after market day. This time around, it poured the day/night before, and we woke up to gray skies and rain the day of the market. By late morning, however, the rain stopped, and as we headed to the market, the weather was pleasant. The storm cooled things off.

Not taking anything for granted, we approached the day with measured happiness, figuring a storm could come and slam us at any minute. I think everyone at the market felt the same way, but the big one never came, and we had nice weather for the entire day. Business was good, and we sold out of our product. It even got a little crazy at times. Probably the best day we've had all season, keeping in mind that the season has been pretty poor up to this point, not that I'm complaining. At this point, I'll take it and be happy with it.

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

Frisbee in the Rain

Last weekend we went to the race track that was part of the NASCAR circuit, and since we didn't stay until the end, we got home in the late afternoon, which meant we could whip together a quick supper for later, and then hit the ultimate frisbee field. I wasn't sure we would be home in time, figuring the race would be an all day affair. Plus, it was raining, but there were plenty of people out there. In fact, we had a good crowd, which just goes to show you, UF people are hardcore. If anything, the rain was light and made it cool and pleasant to play.

It was wet and slippery out there, but that adds to the entertainment value as everyone ends up on their rear end at some point. The disc was slippery, but we're not that competitive, and it's more about fun, which suits us just fine. A little friendly competition is fine, but not at a high level, at least not yet.

We weren't even sure we were going to play because of the weather, but it just goes to show you that it takes a lot to turn away dedicated UF players. I will say this, the kids are really into it and will go out of their way to play. That's good enough for me.

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

Riding the Trails

N and I hit the mountain bike trails for the first time, and it was pretty cool. It was hard work, no doubt, but I think N enjoyed it, and I have to confess, it was fun. There are extensive trails nearby at Ascutney and I was told they had some easier stuff for neophytes like us. It was just a question of motivating and getting over there. N has been itching to do it, and I figured the time had come. I'd love for this to become a regular thing because it's great for him to get out and exert himself. Plus, trail riding has the cool "X-Games" thing going for it.

I wanted to get a trail map over at Paradise Sports but RH, the owner, who for the record is a way cool dude, said that for beginners, the best thing was to just go to the mountain and look at the big map posted at the trailhead, which is what we did. Of course, we couldn't make sense out of what the map was telling us, so we just started riding. We couldn't find the actual trail at first, and just sort of rode around the open fields and over the terrain area. It was hot so it was not as enjoyable as it should have been, and at one point I thought we should just leave. We decided to venture a little further ahead, which meant climbing a decent sized hill, when the trail branched off into the woods, and that's when things got cool, both literally and figuratively.

As you can imagine, once we got into the woods, it was a lot cooler being out from under the sun. Plus, the trail was really neat, winding through the trees. It was an adventure, and I wished we would have found it sooner because at some point we were hot and thirsty. We headed back to the car but at least we broke the ice and now know the drill. Hit the woods right away and bring plenty of water. Cooler weather would be nice, but you can't have it all when you're having fun in the wilds of New England.

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All Day at the Track

Last week A had a big summer track meet up in Essex and as usual, it was an all day affair. For all the complaining I hear about traveling to hockey games, at least they last only an hour and then you can go home and get on with your life. Track meets are brutal affairs, lasting all day and your child only takes part in a few events, so you end up watching other people's kids compete. Who wants to do that? To compound the matter, it's summer track, so it's hot and sunny, but who am I to complain?

I actually like watching A compete in track, she's a good runner, but as I mentioned, she only competes in a few events, and there are dozens of others. You figure one for every age group in each category, and there are 5-6 age groups for each event. You do the math. The meet started at 9:50, and we had to be there by 9:30. Essex is close to two hours away, so it meant an early morning. I was going to hitch a ride with our friends, the Ws, but then a friend of A's needed a lift, so I figured it would be more fun for her to be with a buddy, so I volunteered to drive. Having company made it pleasant for A, and I could zone out and drive.

The weather was hot, but we sort of lucked out with some cloud cover, so it was bearable. A did well in her events and had fun, though her team is small this year. Participation seems to be waning. I had hours to kill, so I went out looking for hockey deals and found none. Essex is a big hockey town, so I figured there would be killer hockey shops, but it's very possible only the locals know where to go.

We also lucked out in that A usually runs in the 200m relay, which for whatever reason is always the last event of the meet. This year they didn't have a relay team, so we could leave earlier. How cool is that? A ran her event and then it was time to leave, so we probably got out at least 2 hours earlier than usual. The drive home was fine, though I struggled with fatigue. I always do around that time of day. We got home in time to do a quick round of disc golf since we have nothing but free time on our hands. The life of the modern parent.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Daniel X. O'neil for the pic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Midnight Raid

Something has been raiding our garbage, and I suspect it's a raccoon, only because the creature in question has been employing a certain level of stealth and finesse. A bear tends to just rip through everything and toss the trash car around. Plus, they make a lot of noise and spread the mess over a large area. This creature has simply knocked the can over and ripped open selective bags, making cleanup a little easier. I haven't seen the guy, and A has not heard anything even though her window is close by.

It's sort of a bummer waking up and seeing all your garbage strewn about your front yard, but such is life in the wilds of New England. I'll take a raccoon over a bear any day.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to bee happy123 for the pic.

Day at the Races

We went to the race track the other day, and believe me when I tell you, it was quite the experience. I'd never seen so many tattoos and guys drinking Bud Light. You realize what a lot of people do on their weekends, and what sport is popular in this country. I realize the allure of the sport, but still don't completely get it.

We received free tickets to the race track online, and I figured it would be fun and exciting, especially for N. The track is down in Loudon NH, and it was part of the NASCAR circuit. I didn't realize this at first, and learned firsthand what NASCAR is all about. We had been to the races in Canaan, which I believe has some sort of NASCAR affiliation, and it was fun. It's a small track and the races were fun and manageable, if not really loud. I figured this time would be more of the same, but maybe a little bigger. Boy was I wrong.

This race was real deal NASCAR stuff, with all the big names in racing. I was blown away by not only the size of the track, but the number of people there, and this is NH. I can't even fathom what the crowds would be like in the South or Midwest. When we first got there, the traffic was heavy but moving smoothly. It wasn't until we got to the actual track that we learned how big the place was. It seemed like we were driving around forever just to find a parking space, the place was packed. Once we parked the car, we walked about a half mile to the stadium, and that's when we realized how big the place was. I think the track is a 1 mile loop, and the stadium seated tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands. Our seats were opposite of where we entered, and it took us about 15 minutes to walk there.

We arrived just at the race started, and the cars were cruising around the track before hitting full speed. Once they took off, the sound was amazing. I mean really deafening. We brought ear protection, but even then, the noise was incredible. We sat and watched the race, but you can't hear a thing, and for whatever reason they announce the race even though you can't hear them over the cars. As I mentioned, I don't completely get it. The cars do 300 laps but at some point it got pretty monotonous for me. It wasn't until about halfway through the race that I realized big names were out there, including Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, and Danica Patrick. Even knowing that, I still was not that enthused.

Maybe the most interesting part of the whole experience was watching the people. Boy, you really get a glimpse of what people like to do in this country. First off, I've never seen so many tattoos, even at a rock concert. It made me realize why all those tattoo parlors exist, they are clearly doing a lot of business. I've also never seen so much beer consumption. They let people bring beer into the stadium, which sort of surprised me, but makes sense with in light of the racing culture. Guys were getting hammered and I wondered if belligerence was going to ensue. It didn't, but getting tens of thousands of guys together pumped up on testosterone and alcohol seems like a recipe for disaster.

We watched the race for about 200 laps, and then decided to take off. We were in the minority, but the idea of trying to leave at the same time as the masses was intolerable. It would have taken us hours to get out of that parking lot, and even leaving early we hit a traffic jam. It also started to rain when we were on the highway, though the cloudy weather made it tolerable to be out there. We got home in time to whip together supper and then make it over to the ultimate frisbee field, where there were lots of people waiting to play. A nice end to a crazy day.

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

Friday, July 11, 2014

Family Hike

A week or two back we went on a rather ambitious hike in search of a fabled pond and proceeded to get somewhat lost, which was an adventure in and of itself. A week or two back N&R went out searching for a pond called the Pogue that we'd heard of but had never seen. They set out early in the day and walked until they found it. It's up around Mt. Tom where we often go hiking, and there is a path that lead from it to the summit where we hike up to.

This time around, we decided to hike from the Pogue to the summit and then have a picnic. The only problem was, we found the Pogue but couldn't quite find the summit, and ended up hiking all over that mountain before giving up and simply eating our meal by the pond. It was getting dark and at some point we figured we needed to head back or risk walking in the dark, which is a bit of a drag. During our search for the summit, we couldn't quite decipher the signs and ended up all over the place. We would have benefited from a map. It was still enjoyable if not a little frustrating at times, but the kids were great and never complained. Plus, the picnic is always nice.

When we got back down to the trailhead, we looked at the big map and realized what mistakes we had made, and vowed to return to get it right the next time. We'll see how that one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to George Draskoy for the pic.

Small Steps

I've been slowly but surely working on the barn, and it's hard when you can only take small steps, but you have to do what you can with the time you're given. What I find frustrating is setting up all the equipment to do about an hour's worth of work, and then having to put it all away. It just takes up a lot of time. If this was California I'd just leave everything out and just show up and work, but that's not an option in the wilds of New England. It seems like every day brings a threat of rain.

Whatever be the case, in my one hour of allotted time, I can only manage to get a part of the soffit done. Part of that laborious process means climbing up on the roof to measure the space, cutting the boards to size, painting them, climbing back up on the roof to learn that the board is either too big or cut at the wrong angle (dormers are a pain), then cutting it some more. I know a seasoned pro would do it more efficiently, and I'm sure my Mentor (and the Amazing PR Man) is shaking his head and wondering, "Where did I go wrong with this one?" but I can't seem to do this any other way. It's hard to get perfect measurements when I'm working up there, and I always seem to need to fine tune the pieces before I nail them in. It's sort of embarrassing, and frustrating at times, but for all it's worth, it does get done. Thousand mile journey begins with small steps, right?

It doesn't help that all my other domestic duties are continually calling me, but don't get me started. I know what I was getting into when I signed on, so I can't complain... yeah, right. It will help when more visible progress is being made because some of us will be happier to see the results, but when you're doing the work, you realize how much goes on behind the scenes that never gets seen or appreciated. It's not unlike being a parent.

I don't want to look too far into the future, but once those dormers are done, I'll be happy to stop working on the roof and plant my feet on solid ground.

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

Here We Go Again

Well, if you can believe this one, we are 3 for 3 on the weather front for the market (not that we would ever whine about it). Every week on market day, the forecast is for rain and thunderstorms by the afternoon, and sure enough, we get plenty of both. Three weeks ago the forecast called for heavy thunderstorms so we cancelled and sure enough, it came down in buckets. The next week the weather was nice but called for afternoon t-storms. We figured we couldn't keep skipping out on the market, so we showed up and hoped for the best, and got the exact opposite. It was nice until about an hour into the market when the skies opened up and it poured. We broke down our operation and simply went home.

Then this week, we'd had beautiful weather all week, but sure enough, the forecast was for t-storms on market day. It was hard to fathom since the day started out beautifully. I even contacted my Mentor, who is a pilot and gets first-rate weather info, and he said it was looking good. Well imagine my surprise when he actually showed up at the market to remind me that weather forecasting is a notoriously unreliable science, and that there was a big storm that was battering Rutland and was on the way to us. At that point, what are you going to do?

If there's one bright note to these sort of weather situations, it's that everyone at the market is united in our collective misery, and it sort of brings us together as friends. Within an hour of the market, a big storm came and slammed us. The heavy rains are one thing, but when that wind kicks up and blows tents around, it gets pretty serious. The storm was quick, however, and after about 15 minutes it cleared and was beautiful once again. We were soaked, but we're learning the drill and have gotten much better at preparing for the big storm by putting as much as we can back into the car. Plus, it cooled off a lot and was pleasant, and people returned to be outside and the scene was quite nice.

We were able to have a decent day considering the circumstances, so there's no point in whining. You just have to roll with whatever life throws at you, right? I'm curious to know what the weather will be like next week, but then again, what's the point?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to George Lunsford for the pic.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Pond Time

Last week we had some scorching hot days, at least by New England standards, and as much as I dread the heat, it's good weather to go swimming. Cool summer days are harder because the cold water can be too cold for my wimpy bones. Now we try to hook up with our friends in the next town and swim in their ponds or pools, but everyone is busy with summer stuff, and it's a bit of trek just to go for a swim. They are always very kind and welcoming and invite us to swim anytime in their ponds, but the truth is, the only point of going out there is to swim with friends.

With that in mind, we swam locally, instead, and it was a blast. Not only is it nice to just hop on our bikes and go, but we often see other kids there. What we should do is coordinate with our friends, but as I mentioned, everyone seems so busy with summer stuff that they are all away. Summertime, where the living is easy.

While it's not as quick and convenient as having a pool or pond in your backyard, it's only takes a few minutes to get their on our bikes, and you just can't beat a dip in the drink to cool off on a hot day. The weather has been a little crazy thus far, but it's nice to know that relief is not too far away.

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

Dormer Ready

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The most recent update on the barn is that I've finished installing the soffit on one of the dormers, and it only took me a week. It was challenging, no question, mainly because I could only squeeze in an hour at a time and during that time I was battling hornets and wasps who had built their nests up in the rafters. This is not easy when you're standing on a ladder perched on a metal roof, but real men don't whine about these sort of things. It's also been hot, scorching hot, which adds to the fun.

Either way, I got the soffit in, and now I can start staining and cutting the siding and trim. The beautiful thing about this is that once the siding starts going up, it actually looks like something is happening, which makes certain people who are watching happy, and when certain people are happy, everyone is happy. Funny how that works.

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

Happy Rainy Fourth

Hope everyone had a good Fourth of July. I don't know about the rest of you, but our's was amazingly rainy and cool, if you can believe that. I'm all for the cooler temps, but the rain was unrelenting. I'd never seen anything like it for the Fourth. The days leading up to it were sweltering hot, and then a front seemed to move in bringing rain, and lots of it. The forecasters really got it wrong in predicting clear weather for the holiday, but I've noticed that recently their forecasts are strikingly inaccurate. Maybe the weather is just too volatile to predict.

The morning of the Fourth, it poured rain, and I was beginning to wonder if the parade was going to happen. I later learned it happens rain or shine. I went over to help run the show and at that point the rain had stopped. In fact, it was cloudy and pleasant, with no rain. You couldn't ask for better conditions at this time of year, though a little sun would have been nice, but I wasn't about to complain. The parade went smoothly, and a good time was had by all. We then went to the field for the festivities, and again, it was cloudy and cool and nice. By about 3:00, however, it started to drizzle and this helped us to cajole the kids back home. Our timing was spot-on because within a few minutes of being inside, the clouds opened up and it poured. I mean really poured. It rained for a while, and then it never really stopped for the rest of the day-into-night.

We were keeping our eyes on the conditions because we wanted to see the fireworks. We headed back over and it was drizzly but bearable. I think they shot the fireworks a little earlier than usual because the rain had let up a bit and I'm guessing they wanted to seize that window of opportunity. The show was nice, we had a great time, and then it was time to go. Of course, the rain kicked up again, but it was not too bad, and we came home reasonably dry. Not like earlier in the day, where my shoes and socks were soaked. Total bummer.

Strange weather we're having, don't you think? A consequence of global warming, perhaps?

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

Friday, July 4, 2014

Rain On Me

This weather situation is getting pretty ridiculous. Just like last week, this market day was soaked with heavy thunderstorms, and what's really crazy is that the weather is fine up to market day at which point the storm builds up and Mother Nature unloads her wrath. Maybe someone is trying to tell us something. The difference is that last week, we were smart enough to cancel and this week we decided to show up. We sort of felt guilty about missing another market, which also meant no income to help support our fabulously opulent lifestyle.

We watched the weather forecast every day and even a week before market day a storm was slated to arrive. Now they can't predict the weather that far ahead, but it was almost as if to taunt us that the forecast called for beautiful weather all weekend and the days leading up to market day, at which point the temperature peaks and thunderstorms arrive. It's crazy. Like I said, last week we skipped out and sure enough a deluge arrived. This week we figured that we might luck out or we'd just have to man-up and deal with the bad weather.

We sort of got the one-two punch. The temps soared on market day, and as I was loading the car I couldn't believe how hot and humid it was. Completely miserable. We set up our tent and started preparing the falafels when the clouds rolled in and a cool breeze arrived, which was actually really nice. The weather suddenly became very pleasant, and then the storm arrived. We were about one hour into the market when a light drizzle turned into a massive storm, complete with thunder and lightning. It was pretty hairy, and we initially thought we could wait it out before learning that a big front was moving in. We pulled up the cars and quickly loaded everything in and bailed out. We were soaked, as was all of our gear. We skipped out on supper at Boloco (heartbreaking) and came straight home, where we had to unload the car in the rain. What a bummer, but such is life. One thing for sure, it felt good to be home.

On a bright note, we don't have to water the garden and we won't have to make falafels this week, which will give me more time to work on that barn. Lucky me, right?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Henry Bulow for the pic.

Girl's and Boy's Night Out

A week or two back we had girls/boys night out, where the ladies of the household went and did cultural stuff and the men went and played sports. How's that for gender separation? R has expressed interest in attending more cultural performances at the college and I'm all for it, but not everyone is as enthused, at least not yet. This could call for at some point forcing the situation, but for now, she thought it would be a nice thing for the girls to do and the boys could entertain themselves with other activities. There was a modern dance performance that she wanted to check out, so she got tickets for her and A, and luckily, N had a lax practice. While the lax season is over, one of the coaches wanted to do a relaxed summer thing just for fun, though with things like hockey and lax, it's never just about fun.

Either way, it worked out nicely. A&R went out for supper and some culture, while N and I went out for sports and some cheeseburgers. The lax gig was fun, though not many of his teammates showed up, it was mostly his friends on the older squad. N's hockey buddies are all a year above him in school, even though they are the same age. Consequently, even though he knows them, they don't play together on the same lax team so spent the season not-playing with them, if you know what I mean. Sports are a good way to break that ice, or rather, re-break the ice and get back in the swing of hanging with his buddies.

The weather was just right, not too hot and pleasant, and he had fun. TG did a nice job of organizing it and running the practice, and I thought N looked good out there, especially since he was amongst the older and more competitive big boys. It's good practice for him, and as I mentioned, he's reunited with his hockey clan. After the practice, we headed over to the White Cottage and had cheeseburgers and fries, and then ended it with ice cream. We hadn't eaten there in awhile, and it was good, though for my money I'd probably opt for Five Guys. The Cottage gets points for summer atmosphere because it's right on the river and it's nice to eat outside. The food is good for your typical summer eating place, though a little touristy, and it cost more than I had hoped for, but that's always the case when you're painfully frugal like myself. Oh well, what are you going to do?

After supper we went to the river and threw rocks into the water, and then went home and made popcorn and watched a movie. We made a big bowl and at the whole thing. Talk about a killer evening, though I worried a little about getting a stomachache, which fortunately never came. A&R got home late from the show, so we got to stay up late, too. The end to a wonderful evening, and we can't wait for the next one.

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

Wild Kingdom

Life in the wilds of New England is not without its fair share of adventure, especially of the mammalian kind. We have had a steady stream of wildlife through out backyard, and it's been pretty entertaining. A few months back we had bears in our compost, which was not that entertaining, and of course we had the usual woodchuck issues in our garden. We've been lucky in that they haven't bothered our tomatoes, but I'm wondering if that's because they don't like tomatoes. They didn't hesitate to chomp on the sunflowers, which I had to enclose. This, of course, makes me wonder if our high-tech solution is actually working, but I'm still a believer.

There has also been a fair number of deer coming through the yard, including a mom and her baby. The other morning they passed through and suddenly took off. A few moments later a coyote passed through, and the other day I was driving and saw a beautiful young red fox. Add in an unusual number of barred owls having a party in the woods, and you realize you aren't in Kansas anymore.

Now excuse me while I go click my heels together. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to jean anderson for the pic.

Watching Out

I have a watch that I love and have had for over 30 years, which in my opinion is pretty cool. I got it for middle-school graduation and have kept it since, and the thing still works beautifully. It's a heavy diving watch by Seiko and I wanted it because I grew up a surfer, and every good surfer in California has something like it. The thing has withstood the test of time and is a testament to Seiko quality.

The last time we were in LA visiting my mom, she noticed that I was still wearing it and this was, in her eyes, cause for consternation. Consequently, she went out and bought me a new one. Now in years past, I would have put up a fight and protested vehemently - I love my watch, and she's the one that gave it to me! But as R is always telling me, don't make a stink, my mom wants to do something nice for me, so I should just go with it and show the proper appreciation. So I am.

Truth be told, the watch she sent is really nice. It's another Seiko, but a fancy one, and I think N already has his eyes set on it. Now I have a fancy watch to go with my macho surfer one, and best of all, it's not a dainty fancy watch, but a manly one. I have to maintain my real-man in training image, right?

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