Friday, October 31, 2014

Day to Myself

While the kids were away at camp, I got to experience something that is a rarity in our lives - a day to myself. R had to go to an all day meeting, and with the kids at camp, I was left all by myself. Can you say PARTY? As you might expect, nothing like that happened, but I was happy that I could get a lot of stuff done around the house in preparation for fall.

The first order of business was mowing the lawn and dealing with those leaves. Raking is without question my least favorite thing to do, but this year I'm employing a different approach and raking less. Zero raking would be better, but you clean up a little bit. As I may have mentioned in the past, I was reading somewhere that instead of raking the leaves, mow them into bits and let them nourish the soil. It sounds like one of those ideas that is good in theory but not in practice, but I'm going to give it a try. Some raking must be done, but I'm not going to go over the entire lawn with a fine toothed comb. No thank you.

With that in mind, I was able to mow the entire lawn, which takes about 5-6 hours and usually 2-3 days. The weather on that day was cool, sunny, and breezy, so it was perfect for getting the job done. Also, it was the only day it didn't rain that week, so my timing was good. After mowing, I fired up my chainsaw and cut some wood, hoping to have enough cut and ready to split for pile #2. I then changed the oil on the car and went to hockey practice, even though none of our kids were there since they were at camp. How's that for hockey dedication?

I didn't get to relax and sit on a hammock, but who wants to do that, anyway? By the end of the day, I could relish in the fact that I was productive and got a lot done. When you're a real-man in training, you live for these moments. All that was left to do was to bag a deer for supper.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to David J Dalley for the pic.

Back to the Rink

We are back on the ice, and it sure feels good, though there's always the daunting prospect of spending lots of time on the ice. Not all of us are thrilled about this, but what are you going to do? The week the kids were off to camp the opened the arena, and they had a free skating/barbecue to kick it off. We were due at camp that afternoon, but had time to stop by beforehand and see all our friends before heading over. It was really nice seeing everyone though exhausting saying hello to so many people and asking them how their lives were. I felt like I was running for office.

The kids, of course, were happy to be back, and I'm glad they got to see their friends, some of whom they haven't seen all summer. Lots of new faces, as well. There was a dryland training session beforehand for N's team, and then a parent meeting at the rink, so I never really got to do any skating, which is a bummer, but there will be plenty of time for that. N got to try his new skates, which I think passed muster, and A got to skate with her buddies. Plus, there were free hamburgers and hot dogs, followed by ice cream. What more can you ask for?

The timing worked out because the skating ended right around the time we had to head out, though we missed out on the skating session with the Dartmouth hockey players. I took the kids home, we finished packing their stuff, and then we took them to their week of camp. Wow, what a whirlwind day.

What else is new in our lives? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Choo Yut Shing for the pic. 

Back Home

The kids were away at camp all week and though it freed me up to do all sorts of things, it's nice to have them back home. We miss them when they're gone, though I'm sure they don't miss us, which is as it should be. It means they had a good time, and I can get some sense of this when we pick them up because they don't want to come home. Plus, once they're home, they not only talk glowingly about their week, but look forward to going back.

I was a little concerned about their week because it was an awful one for weather. The forecast originally called for sunny weather every day, and then within 24 hours it shifted to rain and clouds. We got hit with some sort of Nor-easter and it slammed us with rain, every single day. I was bummed, and even went so far as to email the camp directors to see how everyone was faring. I didn't want to be intrusive, and he was very cool about it, informing me that all was well. A little rain can't stop campers from having fun.

And, as usual, the kids came back with a bug, and now we have illness in our house. This actually happens every time they go to camp. I think with all the excitement and fun, plus being around all those kids, makes for a ripe environment to catch something. Now we are all recuperating from our crazy week and, of course, gearing up for hockey. The holidays are right around the corner, as well, so there's a lot to look forward to.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Caro-lines for the pic.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Family Night Out

We've been having fairly busy weekends doing this and that, and this situation will only increase when hockey season kicks into full gear, but for now we still have time to do things all together as a family. It was Saturday night and the women's hockey team was playing an exhibition game, but we decided to hold off on jumping into hockey since our lives will at some point be immersed in it. Instead we went to see a movie at the Hop. The movie is called Slingshot, and it was actually very interesting. It is about a guy named Dan Kamen who nobody has heard about, but that's the point. He invented the Segway and he's this millionaire inventor that lives in New Hampshire and flies a helicopter to work.

This guy Kamen is an engineer and inventor who has set his sights on solving the world's water problems. He invented a system that purifies the most polluted water into stuff that is clean enough to drink. It's basically a still that employs a low energy heat compressor, not unlike what we are looking at to heat the barn. What's interesting is that it uses technology that RR is involved with since they work on similar kinds of stuff. Kind of cool if you ask me.

This guy is a little eccentric but very smart, and clearly motivated to make a difference in this world. He's got the support of some big names like Bill Clinton and Bill Gates, so he's in good company. Whether or not he pulls it off, time will tell, but you have to give him credit for trying. It's nice to show the kids that you can make a difference and help people while doing something that interests you. A win-win situation if ever there was one.

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

Bonfire of the Vanities

We attended the big homecoming rally on campus and as usual it was quite the scene. Homecomings are a big deal at any college, but they take on a special meaning when you attend an elite institution like an Ivy League college. It really becomes a part of your identity if you wish, and a lot of people wish. It is interesting, however, how many people we know that are alumni of Dartmouth but didn't know it until we saw them in the homecoming parade. Go figure.

The fire itself is pretty amazing. They build this massive wood structure and then set it on fire. It's daunting to say the least, and being one to cut and split firewood, I can't help but think what a waste of good firewood it is. It's also a time for the freshman class to get together and be a little crazy in one massive group. It makes me realize that although these kids are clearly smart and industrious, in the end, they're still just kids trying to figure out life. They've got a leg up against their peers who don't attend Ivy League colleges, but they've still got a ways to go in life. They can just afford nicer clothes.

It was funny because we had planned on seeing the fire but had some time to kill beforehand, so we went to the bookstore and hung out. I wondered aloud if we'd see Mr. Hockey out there since he's an alumni, and left it at that. While we were having a treat and hot cocoa and reading magazines, we realized the homecoming parade was happening right outside the bookstore, so we went out to see it, and while we were watching, it suddenly dawned on us that none other than Mr. Hockey was standing right next to us. How funny is that? Of course we started talking about hockey.

After the parade, we made our way to the Green and watched them set all that beautiful wood on fire, then we headed home. It was a little nutty, I get a sense a lot of those college kids are a little sauced and it can get obnoxious, loud, and unruly out there. Am I getting old, or what? Personally I think I'm a little over all the pomp and circumstance of it all, but that may change next year.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Dartmouth College for the pic.

Rough Day and Turning To My Mentor

A couple of weeks back I had one of those Sisyphean days and it got to the point to where I needed help. We had a last-minute complication on top of our complications, so what did I do in my time of need? I turned to My Mentor, of course, and he was there for me. R had to go pick up A because she wasn't feeling well at her gig, and I had to be somewhere. I could have taken N with me, but that would have been hard for him. I tried to think who he could hang with, but our homeschool community has shrunk down to almost nothing at this point, so I called My Mentor to see if he was still in town. He heads up north for the winter, but as luck would have it, he was home and didn't have any flights planned. He said N could hang with him, so I woke him up (I hate doing that) and took him over with his laptop so the guys could hang with their computers. Thankfully, my interview was shorter than I anticipated, so N only had to hang for about an hour.

Quite the crazy morning, if you ask me, but we got through it. It really does take a village, doesn't it?

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

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not Sure What To Do With Myself

Now that the market is over, there are huge tracts of time that have opened up. We're talking weekends and weekdays that are now available to fun stuff like cut firewood and build a barn. Those two things alone are full time jobs, on the condition of course that I know what I am doing. Ignorance definitely holds you back.

I must say, by the time the market ended, we were pretty burned out and in need of a break. It's too early to say whether we'll do it again, but for now, I'm hoping to make the most of the time that is now available. That boils down to two things - barn and wood. There are assorted yard chores that need to be attended to, mainly mowing and raking, but now that fall is here, at least the grass is slowing down... finally. I was reading that raking the leaves, which for the record is the job I loathe the most, is not necessarily the best thing for your yard.

According to this article, while you don't want massive piles of leaves covering the grass, a layer is not bad if you just mow over it and turn it into smaller bits. It actually fertilizes the grass. This is probably wishful thinking for someone who really doesn't like raking, but I'm going to give it a try. Around the trees I'll rake the massive piles, but otherwise, I'm going to leave the stuff (no pun intended) and mow it into bits. Even just thinking about an easier solution to raking makes me feel better. We'll see how things look in the spring, after the snow has melted, especially since leaves take a long time to break down.

The wood pile has hit a lull, as can be expected. I am about 40% done with year 2, though I think (hope?) that I have cut enough blocks to finish it. It always takes more than you think. In terms of the barn, I can work inside pretty much all winter. I might need a space heater to survive, but my new goal is to get all the insulation in and prepare to drywall and do the floors. If I can accomplish all that by spring, we are in pretty good shape for the final stretch, I think. My Mentor can verify that, or remind me that I don't know what I'm talking about. It wouldn't be the first time.

As the saying goes, time is on my side, so I'd better make the most of it. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Pookie and Schnookie for the pic.

More High School News

There are several high schools that we are looking at as possible destinations, and like many things in life, sometimes having options makes it harder. Life is so much simpler when they just tell you what to do, but is simpler better? Not always?

I arranged to meet with the principal of Woodstock and went over to meet with him. I have to say, not only was he a really nice guy, but he was smart and very well-versed in all things education. Very approachable and willing to talk to me about the possibilities, and there are a lot of possibilities. Some of them I was aware of because we know a few people who homeschool and attend high school. Basically the principal told me on the one end you have students going full time, and on the other, students who take no classes but play sports. Our options would fall somewhere in-between.

As I mentioned, we know people who cover those different options, some of whom take no classes but play sports, and others who do a hybrid program of homeschooling, high school classes, and community college classes. We are intrigued by all the possibilities. Whatever we end up doing, it was nice to talk to the principal, especially since he's a nice guy. I'm sure we'll talking to many other principals in the near future.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Krzysztof Pacholak for the pic.

Not Quite So Painful

A day or so back I was whining (what else is new?) about my chainsaw woes and how bummed I was about all the money it was going to cost to fix it. I even regretted taking it in because I realized after the fact that I probably could have taken it to one of my logger friends or My Mentor (who is experienced with logging) and they might have been able to have fixed it, or at least given me more insight into the problem. Instead, I took it to Joe's and before I could grab the thing back the guy had the tag on it and took it out back to the mechanic. Done and over. He even mentioned that the problem I described could have meant a broken seal, for which the repair costs the big bucks. Total bummer. I decided that if that was the problem, I would simply take the saw back home and wait until spring, when I would really need it... and would have time to save up the cash to pay for it.

They said it would take about a week, but of course I called after a couple of days to plead my case. They understood, they are cool guys and probably deal with broke losers like me all the time, but they are a business, and one thing you learn when you're training to be a real man is that the cost of labor kills you. I think they sensed my neurotic frugality and told me they'd call me when the estimate was done.

On Friday they did in fact call, and the news was good. They said the repair cost was $20, and now I have the saw back with a little more time before the snows come. This means I just might be able to finish the second wood pile after all. Don't want to count my chickens just yet, there's a fair amount that needs to be done, but at least progress can continue. I love when that happens.

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

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Seasonal Shift

People are constantly talking about the strange weather, especially in New England, and for good reason. This summer was actually really nice, though we got slammed with rainy weather at the market early in the season. Now that fall is here, we were all primed and ready for cold weather and then we got a warm spell for a few days. It went from the 40s and 50s to the high 70s, almost to 80 one day. It really threw me for a loop, though I shouldn't complain about having beautiful weather. It also made the market more pleasant, though I have to say, it was unusual. I'm not sure what to make of it all, but I'm thinking winter should be interesting.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rudolf Vlcek for the pic.

Back and Forth

It's time for the big Halloween-a-thon competition at the local TV station, and as usual the kids are doing a film. This is probably the fourth year they're doing it, and things are a little different this time around. They've branched off from their regular group and are doing their own thing, which I have mixed feelings about. I wouldn't intervene and would let them decide, but they are sort of abandoning their book group in forming their own. On the one hand I understand they want to do a project with their friends whom they have worked with before. This also means they don't have to spend a lot of time teaching news kids what to do. On the other, I do think their book club is their clan, and maybe deserves some of their attention.

It's complicated, especially since a lot of these kids make the trip up here to do the book group, and now the locals (i.e., us) are not involved. I want the kids to make the right decisions, but I also want them to have some autonomy, so I'm not speaking up. I did say that they shouldn't ignore their book club and should help out when they can. I'm curious to see how the group evolves, time will tell.

In the meantime, their current group has a member who lives in another town that is a bit of trek to get to. As a result, there is a bit of back and forth to get the group together. This past week they had a day where I literally went out there three or four times, and it was crazy. I think it went like this: KS took the kids to the filming, I went and picked them up, then had to take A back to the studio for her trip to Burlington, and then had to go and pick her up in the evening when they returned.

Just wait until hockey season starts. Then the real driving begins.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Karsten Konrad for the pic.

Local News

A got to be interviewed on the big city news channel up in Burlington, and it was pretty cool to see. This wasn't simply some local cable access station, this was the real deal news station. They are promoting a program on the local cable access and it was a big enough to deal warrant a news story. A and another student headed up with BF and they were broadcast on the prime time news. A said it was cool seeing how the news stations operate, and she did very well in her interview. She was poised and relaxed and did a fine job, objectively speaking, of course. Afterward she got to eat at Five Guys burgers, so it was a win-win situation. I think it's a cool opportunity for a kid to not only see the behind-the-scene workings of a news station, which is probably pretty interesting, but to also get to be on TV.

We couldn't catch the broadcast in real-time but we were able to see it on their website afterward, and it was pretty cool. I tried sending the link out to various family members with varying degrees of success, but I think we can remedy the situation in the near future. We shall see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Adam Clark for the pic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Last Ultimate?

I hope not.

Fall is in the air, and sadly, as the weather cools and the days get shorter, it's clear that the days that we can UF are numbered. In fact, I'm wondering if that might have been our last UF game, especially with hockey starting and participation dwindling. It's been a great summer with so many new players that span the entire skill spectrum, and I hope it continues next season. For now, maybe it's not such a bad thing to wind things down.

I did learn from the kids at a high school the A is considering that people do play on the team even if they don't go to the school, which is cool because that might be an option for her. These guys are also very cool to N, encouraging him and complimenting him on his skills. I appreciate that. A guy (and girl) needs to have a little ego boost now and then.

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

Leader of the Pack

The kids have been involved with the local TV station's Halloween contest, and A has taken the reigns and become the de facto leader. It's nice to see because she takes it very seriously and does a nice job, but it's also stressful for her. I think part of the reason she does take charge is because it means a lot to her and she wants to stay true to her vision. However, as she is learning firsthand, it's not always easy to coordinate so many people who are moving in all sorts of directions. Even in light of this, she remains a leader.

I've seen this in the past with other group projects, and I think she has it in her. When she was taking theater classes at Northern Stage, which was 4-5 years ago, the teacher said she really thought A was a good actor (she reached deep within, as she said) but that she really felt that A had a director's instinct. Kind of cool.

This time around they decided to branch of from the usual routine and do their own thing, so the ball is in their court. It should be interesting to see what comes out of it. We'll find out in a few weeks.

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

Road Conditions

There have been some bad vibes on the roads lately, and I don't want to give in to overly superstitious ways of thinking, but it's a little unsettling. I was at work the other night there was some sort of accident on the main road out of Lebanon and traffic was completely stopped. I could see flashing lights in the distance, but that was about it. I ended up turning around and going through Hanover to catch the other highway home, which doubled the time of my journey, but at least I got home.

Then the other day all of us were heading over to catch a show in the big city when we saw a big plume of black smoke rising on the highway. It didn't look good, and by the time we got there, we could see a car that had careened off the highway and was on fire. I mean seriously on fire. There was a fire truck and a cop that were there to deal with it, but we managed to squeeze by before they shut down the road. What was crazy was that as we passed the car, we could feel the heat through the closed windows, and we were probably 50 feet away. I kept thinking the car was going to explode, it was a little scary. Also, since we got by, we didn't help up, which probably would have taken at least an hour.

Finally, the next day I took the kids to the TV studio and on the way home traffic on the 89 was at a standstill. I couldn't believe it, it was just like being in LA. We couldn't see the source, but we managed to get off and take side-streets, which in the end were even worse because everyone else has the same thing in mind. We sat in traffic for so long, and what should have taken us 20 minutes ended up being over 1.5 hours. What a drag.

Then again, I shouldn't complain. Nobody got hurt, we weren't in a hurry, and in the end we made it home safely. That's what really matters, right?

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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Moving to the Inside

Now that I'm done with the exterior, and I do think I'm officially done (at least until My Mentor points out what I screwed up), I can now turn my attention to the interior, which is good since the weather is getting colder, though the job itself if pretty daunting. So much so, in fact, that I sometimes look at it in despair and want to just lie down until it goes away. Like all things, however, you just have to take it one step at a time until it slowly starts to dwindle. Truth be told, there are certain things that I do know how to do.

The first thing is insulation. I think it's fair to say that I've got a pretty handle on the situation... ha, famous last words. One of the hard parts is done, which was putting in the ventilation from the soffit to the ridge vent. I am in the process of putting in fiberglass, and when that's done, I will put rigid foam over that. Then we're ready fors
drywall, and we're looking good. I won't count my chickens before they hatch, but it's something I can do over the colder months. We shall see.

Once the walls are done, it's just flooring and the interior is in pretty good shape. Since I'm moving into new and uncharted territories, at least for me, it goes without saying that I'll be constantly consulting with My Mentor, but that's what mentors are for, right?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to BGSU RecWell for the pic.  

Scoring Costumes at the Listen Center

We headed over to my favorite store, the Listen Center, to look for Halloween stuff for the kids, and managed to score some cool stuff. A is all set for her costume, but N is still figuring things out. He toyed with the idea of being something furry, so we headed over not sure what to expect. They are having their annual Halloween sale, so our timing was good. As you can imagine, there was so much stuff to choose from, and we found something that might work out. We also found a killer winter coat for N, as well as some cools shoes for A. I love when that happens.

I am still on a quest to find A a winter coat, but it's a little more complicated with her because she's hip and stylish. Practical boring stuff just won't cut it, which I understand. We may have to look for something new for her because fashion doesn't always come easy, or for that matter, at a bargain price. For now the search continues.

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

Keeping Watch

Every 4-5 years my trusty old watch needs a new battery, and I've been scrambling to find a way to get it done right. There are jewelry stores in the area that will do it for a reasonable price and probably get it done in a timely manner, but none of them can guarantee that it will remain water tight. There is an official authorized Seiko repair shop in New Jersey, the only one apparently in the U.S., but they won't give me a quote via email or on the phone. I have to send them the watch and only after they've looked at it will they give me a quote. I can then choose whether or not I want to do it, which is a drag because if it's too expensive I don't want to. I also think it's lame that they can't just tell me something as routine as changing a watch battery, but I do want it waterproof.

So I'm left with a dilemma. I could just do it locally, which would be quick and affordable, and then just not swim with it on. Or I could mail it in and hope for the best, which I'm guessing won't be too horrible, but you just never know. What to do, what to do.

Part of me resents Seiko for making this more complicated than it need be, but what are you doing to do?

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

Tomato Bounty

This summer was a good one in terms of weather, not too hot and not too much rain (but enough). Since we didn't have the usual long stretches of hot weather, certain things in the garden did not excel as they usually do, especially the tomatoes. Everyone complained about the same thing, the tomatoes were growing slowly and stayed green for a long time. We planted a ton of tomatoes, and had plenty of fruit, but again, they remained green.

Toward the end of summer, however, the tomatoes seemed to get a second wind and suddenly we were harvesting them by the bucket load. In fact, we use upward of 60-70 plum tomatoes per market, and our garden bounty helped us out in this regard, at least for the last few markets. It was pretty cool, and some customers could recognize and appreciate our using home grown tomatoes. Saving money and pleasing customers, isn't that what commerce is all about?

Next year I think with some proper planning, we could use our own tomatoes and cucumbers more effectively. It will take some organization and effort, but how cool would that be?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Corey Burger for the pic.

Ending On a High Note

We did our final market of the season this week and ended on a high note. In fact, the previous week was our best market ever, and this final week we topped it. Pretty amazing stuff, and all in the face of stiff competition from our neighbor, who for the record is a nice guy but is still our competitor, so we can't feel too enamored with the guy. Plus, he's a big business with a restaurant and notoriety.

Anyway, we weren't sure what to expect going into the final market. The previous week was good, but the week before was a bit anemic. Plus, the weather is so unpredictable. Speaking of weather, we've had this unusual warm front that put temperatures in the 70s, which is unheard of in October. Come market day, it was supposed to be warm with a chance of rain.

The day started out gray and gloomy, and we had rain the day before and that evening, so I wasn't too optimistic, but by the time I was getting ready, the weather had cleared. It was gray but amazingly warm, and sure enough, the day was busy. Students are in class full time, so we had plenty of foot traffic, and with the warm temperatures and no rain, people were ready to party. The business was steady throughout the day, and I could sense how we were doing by how many tomatoes and cucumber we were using. By the end, we had fun out, and we brought along extra numbers just in case.

When R told us we had broken all previous records, we were pretty stoked. Actually, stoked on a number of levels: it was the end of the day, it didn't rain, we did well, and the market was over. Back to our normal lives, whatever that means.

Reflecting on the market, it was nice to be done, but there are many positives. We made some decent money, though it was hard work. It's an interesting and in many ways rewarding experience, particularly because we do it together as a family. Plus, it's nice doing something and receiving validation from a loyal customer base. Finally, it's always good to challenge yourself and overcome difficulties by adapting and learning better ways to do things, and that is surely something we do a lot of.

The big question is, will we do it next year? It's probably too early to say. For now, I've got a ton of stuff that needs to be cleaned and stored for the winter.

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Chainsaw Woes

How is this for a bummer? I was cutting wood the other day and noticed that when the saw was idling, the chain was still moving, which is a big no-no when dealing with dangerous machinery. You want things to work as they're supposed to, and with a sharp chainsaw blade, you want that thing sitting still when that trigger is disengaged. Being the real-man in training that I am, I figured I could fix the thing myself, which of course was a big mistake.

I had a similar problem a year or two back, except back then the chain was spinning quickly and it was a little dangerous. I took it in and the repair was expensive because they had to disassemble the machine and replace the seals. It's happens when your saw gets stuck in some wood and you dislodge it by tweaking it side to side, so I'm hyper-vigilant to avoid this sort of motion. This time around the chain wasn't moving as fast, but moving nonetheless.

One of the possible sources of this problem is the idle adjustments, and the manufacturers were nice enough to provide the means for clueless novices like me to play with said adjusters, so play with them I did. I figured turning it back a little would solve all my problems, but of course it opened the floodgate of woe. Upon turning the screws back, the saw stopped idling altogether. I then proceeded to turn every screw I could get my hands on until the saw basically stopped working altogether. What a complete bummer.

I ended up taking back to Joe's Equipment hoping the guys in the front could simply turn the screws properly and get it fixed within minutes. They'd helped me in this way in the past, and I didn't want to shell out the big bucks to fix it. The first they asked (humorously) was why I messed with the adjusters in the first place. When I said I was following the instructions in the manual, they then told me not to listen to the manual. I wasn't sure if they were being serious because they are all jokesters over there, but I decided I didn't want to go there, anyway.

My heart sank when he said they'd need to hold onto the saw and have it checked by the mechanic, and I saw dollar signs flying out of the machine. Couldn't they just turn the screws a little and make it work? I left the shop bummed because I didn't want to shell out the big bucks to fix it, but I don't want to shell out the big bucks for pretty much everything in life, so what are you going to do?

For now I'll wait and see what the damage is. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michael Davison for the pic.

Studio Time

A has begun to write her own songs and it's a very cool thing, in my opinion. It's not only cute, but a great creative endeavor that I support and encourage 100%. She performed her song at an open mic and it blew me away because not only was it a cool song, but it was the first time I'd heard it. I didn't even realize she was sitting up in her room composing music.

We thought it would be a cool thing for her to actually record the song in a semi-professional manner, just to what it's like. Nothing too fancy (i.e., expensive) just a way to preserve the song and let her experience what professionals might know. At her last lesson, she and EE laid down an initial track and he went home and cut an MP3 for her to practice with. He said he could put in some bass and drums, and then she could come in and sing. He is streamlining the operation because he could see the look of consternation on my face when I inquired as to how much the whole endeavor would cost. This way, we are streamlining the process and thus making it economical.

It should be interesting, and at the very least, it's fun and cool for A, and that's what it's all about, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the Limehouse Recording Studio for the pic.  

Evening(s) of Cinema

We like to drag our kids to the Hop to experience some cultural activities, and they almost always enjoy it, even if their initial reaction is not always one of enthusiasm. That is not always the case, however. The Telluride Outdoor Movie Festival was in town, showcasing movies about outdoor activities such as skiing, mountain biking (say no more), and other X-game-ish type stuff. They even had some promo clips online, so the kids were on board. We've tried to attend various movies in the past at the Hop and they almost all sell out, so we've learned our lesson and get tickets beforehand online. This one was pretty popular, not to mention pretty cool. The kids enjoyed it, and I can't say I blame them. It was all about hip young people doing hip young things in the great outdoors. It made me want to strap on my skis and hit the slopes, if only there were some snow.

We also went to see a movie called "The Hundred Foot Journey." I had heard of it, it was playing at the Nugget, but didn't give it much thought until it arrived at the Hop. It's a PG movie, so we could all attend, and it's nice to have a family movie-night out. The story is not necessarily one that is compelling for kids - an immigrant opens a restaurant in France that competes with the local established restaurant, opening the way for a heated competition. It's something I would have seen with R, but not necessarily with the kids.

Well, as it turns out, the movie was not only really good, but the kids liked it. It was nicely done, funny and well acted, and I really like the storyline. It just goes to show you, you never really know until you give it a go, and kids surprise you all the time.

I can't wait until the next movie. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ajay Goyal for the pic.

Propane Delivery

In addition to thinking about getting firewood, another issue we need to confront before winter is propane. Not just the procurement of it, but getting it at a reasonable price. Fuel prices are all over the map, so it's hard to know what the best deal is. We are part of a fuel club to get a good price, and I think it's worth it, but have never sat down and to do the math. We usually pre-buy somewhere between 400-500 gallons, and that gets us through the year, which I've been told is a pretty reasonable amount.

This year the fuel club is doing things a little differently, and I don't completely understand it, but it doesn't involve pre-buying. You get a rate and pay as you go, eliminating the need for a huge initial cash outlay at the beginning of the year. I figured it would still be a big load of money in the fall because the tank hasn't been filled since early spring. Needless to say, I wasn't looking forward to seeing that bill.

A few days ago the propane truck started backing down our driveway, and I couldn't help but think they had come early. I was surprised, and a little bummed because I figured the time of financial reckoning had come. Why deal with money matters when it's easier to ignore them? Surprisingly though, the bill wasn't that bad. I guess we didn't use as much propane over the past 6 months as I had thought, and our rate was good. Boy was I stoked, and heaved a big sigh of relief. Plus, it's one more thing that I had to deal with before winter that is now off the list. I love when that happens.

Now I can focus on firewood and the barn. Until then, the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Larry McCombs for the pic.

Checking Out High Schools

If you can believe this, it's time to start thinking about high schools. We attended an open house for the popular Sharon Academy, where many of our friends attend. They are famous for having a warm and progressive approach to schooling, and it gets high marks from people for having nice kids who treat each other with respect. Since we know so many people who go there, I've always had a sense of what the school is like, and talking to the students, they love the place. I think they have a lot of fun and do all sorts of interesting activities.

The school definitely has a progressive approach, and it really reminded me of Waldorf. In fact, it is a favored destination of Waldorf kids, many of whom end up there. We think it could be a viable choice so we'll keep it in mind, but will explore all of our options before we jump into this. In meantime, we'll set up a visit and interview while looking at other schools. This should be interesting.

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

Long Day in the Studio

The kids needed to get to the TV studio to do some editing work on their respective movies, and I figured it would be an hour or hour and a half, max, but they ended up spending a few hours in there. It actually worked out well for me because I had a number of errands to run, and I love it when they become absorbed in their work to the point where they can focus on it for hours on end. That's the sort of thing you live for, finding what makes your kids passionate. I love when that happens.

I ran all over town getting stuff for the market, and once I arrived at the studio, I had a little time to sit in a vegetative state and relax. I even fell asleep for a few minutes, which was beautiful, until the director came over and teased me for it. Of course, he woke me up from my delicious slumber, but maybe that's not such a bad thing.

When is sleep ever a bad thing? Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Lights Up Professionals for the pic.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Remembering Algebra

A has been doing more involved math and she asked me for some help with her algebra. I have to confess, it took me a moment to figure out the problem, but figure it out I did. It made me realize two things: that I never use this kind of math, but that it's pretty cool stuff. I was glad I could work through the problem, because it was kind of challenging, and I'm glad I can still help the kids with their schoolwork. It's also good to know that my brain can still function, at least some of the time. I am a little concerned, however, when the kids start doing calculus. It's been years since I even thought about that stuff, but it's good to get the gears moving once again.

The brain, after all, is not unlike a muscle. You need to put it into action on a regular basis or it gets soft, and the last thing you want is for your brain to get soft... too late for that?

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

Log Report

Our logger, TB, came through and delivered our wood this past week, and believe me when I tell you, it's a huge relief. Having wood is comforting when you live through the long New England winters. There's still, however, a lot of work that needs to be done. It's been quite the drama with wood this season, just hearing about people who can't find it and newspaper articles running with the shortages in the area. Makes me anxious, and the last thing I need in my life is more anxiety.

I had to pester TB to get the wood, and though it might get on his nerves, I've found that unless I stay on him, he sort of blows me off. It's the not-knowing that bothers me. If I could say with confidence that he would get us the wood we need every year, then I'd probably relax a little more... then again, maybe not. TB finally called us back and said it was a rough year and demand was sky-high. However, he did have some wood for us, and he said it wasn't the best wood, but he could sell it to us. What exactly does that mean?

He also raised his prices, which is a complete bummer, but it's first time in several years, and what were we going to do about it? He's got us by the YKW. Maybe in time I can shop around for a better price, but for now, I'm glad we have a decent and regular relationship with a logger, because having wood sure beats searching for the stuff in lean times.

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

Monday, October 13, 2014

Inches Away

I was so excited last week when I finished painting the back gable soffit and thought I was done, only to realize that I still had one last set of corner boards to install. To add to the drama, I was all completely out of wood, though this is a good thing because it means I didn't over-buy wood. Also on a bright note, I only needed about 16 feet of 1X6 board, which not only comes out to about $12, but it also fits in our car. I love when that happens.

Once that trim is done, I'm finished with the exterior, and just in time for winter. I can then move my operation to the interior during the long cold winter months, which also means I can employ a light and work 24 hours a day, which we all know is my goal in life.

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

Cold Market

After our best market ever, and prior to the penultimate market (last week), we had a cold market. Summer is basically over and fall is here, so it makes perfect sense, but we had a stretch of mild and warm fall weather and it was really nice. This past week fall finally slammed us, and the market was cooler and not as festive. Consequently, the customer traffic dropped off. People are still coming to the market, but it's not as busy, and again, fall is in the air and winter is looming. Somehow I think that affects people's psyche.

It was still decent, better than some days, worse than others. Like life, you just have to roll with whatever life throws at you. We are still dealing with the stiff competition next to us, but you can't run from life's challenges, or for that matter, wish that things were differently. You just have to deal with it and simply do it better.

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

Bug in the House

Last week we got our first taste of winter ailments by contracting some sort of bug. I'm not sure what it was, but with all the news on the internet about killer viruses and respiratory illnesses, you can never rest easy. It's a total bummer. It started out with a little stomach discomfort and grew to the point where kids were getting headaches and runny noses. A felt bad enough to where she was bed-ridden for a day, which is highly unusual. R got it next, and then N, though mildly. Oddly enough, I seemed to have escaped it all fairly unscathed. I usually the last in the house to get sick, and I always get sick, so I was biding my time until it's arrival, but nothing happened. Mind you, I'm not complaining.

You sort of forget over summer that during the winter everyone gets sick, and it never seems to go away. The cold weather doesn't help, but what are you going to do?

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

Open Mic

A week or two back our friends at the local church mentioned that they were hosting an open mic and asked A if she would play. As you'd expect, she has many friends, as do we, whose families attend the church, so she was interested and we planned on it. It was after supper so we headed over and there was a decent crowd. We knew almost everyone and most of them are accomplished musicians. They also had refreshments and an intermission.

It was a lot of fun, and A got up and sang a song that she wrote. It was pretty cool, and we enjoyed the evening. I'm so impressed with how comfortable A is on stage, it's a joy to see. Hopefully she'll never lost that enthusiasm, or at the very least, her love of music.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to The Grove SL for the pic.

Big History

History is always a big thorn in our side when it comes to schooling. Every year when we turn out stuff into the state, we are acutely aware of how we could be doing so much better and vow to do it differently the next year. Of course, when the next year comes around, we blow it off with much regret. This year we seem to be a little more motivated, and part of that is due to mom's increased inspiration. A is on the verge of high school and we can't really play games anymore. Plus, given a little structure and guidance, she can be incredibly inspired and motivated. It's very cool to see.

With this in mind, we decided to focus a little more energy on history, though truth be told, learning history as a kid is a bit of a joke because you have no concept of what you're learning or for that matter, frame of reference. Like a lot of schoolwork, it's a lot of busy work that you makes you hate history and you never retain it. At least, that's been my experience, and I don't think I'm alone. Personally I think young children are too young to learn history and it's better taught at a later age, or through personal experience, i.e. travel. Either way, we need to comply, so we found some interesting stuff online.

There is a program out there called Big History that tries to teach history in a different way. The creators are two historians that felt that traditional history is not being taught correctly, and that there might be a better way. These guys were innovative enough to win a multi-million dollar grant from the Gates Foundation, and their lesson plan is available online for free. We decided to check it out, figuring at this point we have nothing to lose.

We all take part, though A is the most involved, and so far, it's been interesting, though we haven't delved deeply enough to grasp the significant differences. At least I haven't. What's different is they start at the Big Bang and move forward from there. They really reach back to the beginning, though I learned some cool stuff.

Who knows where this will lead, but at least we're all learning some new stuff, and maybe by the end of the school year we'll actually be ahead of the game. We shall see.

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

Friday, October 10, 2014

Hanging Out with Stars

Several months ago we learned about the Dartmouth observatory and how they open it up to the public on Friday nights. We tried to experience this once but the weather was cloudy and we learned they don't open on those nights. Bummer. We thought we'd try it again. We chose a clear night and headed over, but arrived a little early so we passed the time throwing the frisbee on the green in the dark. It was a lot of fun except that it was really hard to see the thing. Funny how that works. Eventually we headed over and sure enough, they were open, though the place was fairly nondescript and not that easy to find. Plus, it's really dark up there so walking is a chore. They don't make it a priority to make it obvious to the public.

There is an observatory building that actually looks like an observatory, but it turns out it's old and obsolete so they don't use it. About 100 feet away is the actual functioning observatory, which was basically a room whose roof opens up. Inside is a guy with a big telescope that is hooked up to a gps system. Now don't get me wrong, the telescope was nice, but it was comparable to something an astronomy enthusiast would have at home, costing several thousand dollars, but not much more. I have to say, I was a little disappointed by this since Dartmouth is not only an institution of higher learning, but a venerable one. Clearly star-gazing is not high on their priority list.

Either way, the guy running the show was a Ph.D. candidate in cosmology, and he was nice and answered all our questions. We looked at Saturn, which to me appeared as a dot in the sky, though A said she could see the rings. He showed us some star clusters which I thought was pretty cool, but all in all, there wasn't a whole lot to see. He even mentioned it was not the best time of year to see things. Apparently winter is when it's all happening.

We were distracter, or rather A was distracted, by the big street party that was going down on the campus, so our time was short. All in all it was interesting but I have to confess that it wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be. That's what happens when you set your expectations too high.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to (a)artwork for the pic.

Relishing the Moment

When we sell falafels at the market, we get a fair number of people that don't eat dairy for assorted reasons. Some can't digest it, others are allergic, and some are vegans that don't eat anything that comes from animals. Consequently, when they order a falafel, they don't want the yogurt sauce, which is akin to eating a salad with no dressing on it. The yogurt, in my opinion, is a key ingredient, and I could eat it straight with a spoon. We started offering a zucchini relish that one of the vendors at the market sells. It's really good and actually tastes great on the falafel, especially if you combine it with the yogurt and some Sriracha sauce.

As I mentioned, we buy the stuff from one of the vendors, but I got to thinking that we could probably make something pretty close. It might not be as good, but it would be adequate. I decided to give it a try, especially with zucchini so plentiful during the summer. We even got a bunch from a friend, so I gave it a go. I found a recipe online and went to work, and it turned out pretty good. Again, maybe not exactly like the real deal, but close enough. I made cold pack jars, unlike the true canning jars, but we go through the stuff so quickly that they don't stay in the fridge for more than a few weeks. Best of all, we can say they're homemade, adding to our marketing aura. I love when that happens.

It just goes to show you, you never know what you can do until you try. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Dee Kincke for the pic.

Going Online

As you can imagine we put a lot of thought into learning and schoolwork, and I can't shake the feeling that we're never really doing enough. Chalk it up to my 14 years of going to school, but I, like most people, equate more work with better education, even if it's just busy work that will never be retained. I look at kids in school and talk to parents and everyone seems to think that a school that gives more homework is doing a better job.

I have since revised my opinion of this, for which I will spare you my pontification on the matter. Suffice it to say that we are continually searching for a better way to learn the necessary material, and in certain areas we got it covered, namely the basics: math, english, writing, art, and reading. The challenges arise with history, social studies, and specific areas that might interest them.

Enter the internet. There are a lot of resources to cover all subjects online, especially when they're related to computer stuff like programming and gaming. I don't think it's a perfect solution, but where do perfect solutions ever exist? One thing I've noticed is that the kids like doing things on the computer, including math and social studies, so that's not necessarily a bad thing. It definitely makes them more self-motivated, but I'm guessing there's a fun component in there, as well.

The search continues, but for now, the internet is a good resource. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to tct10e for the pic. 

Eyes on the Future

As soon as the market ends, we can turn our energies to other areas, mainly hockey and other life pursuits. I think I have managed to get a more balanced view of hockey and realize that there are other things in life, though not many. It's hard not to get caught up in the fanaticism of the game, but now I can look back on how some of these parents behave and it's interesting, if not a little shocking. For the record, I've been there, done that, and now I'm done... yeah, right.

It helps that the kids have other interests to give us all a little balance. Hockey is still a big part of our winter, but we will make more of an effort to other things. Last year we got a fair amount of skiing in, and I think this year we'll do even more. A has really taken off with her music and N has become a mountain biking machine. With these other interests come other needs, and for that, I am planning for the future. N needs a new mountain bike, and I am in the process of researching this prospect. I think the one he has is marginally adequate, bearing in mind that we got it free from a friend. It's more of a recreational bike, and I think he would benefit from something built for riding on trails. For A, she is pining for an electric guitar. Her buddy's mom told me that whenever she comes over, she always picks up her husbands electric guitar and plays it. A's teacher has given me some affordable possibilities, and says he can teach her. Electric guitar definitely has a big cool factor.

They both could use some new hockey skates (hockey is hard to avoid). Hockey has pretty much arrived, so that will have to be addressed sooner than later. N's bike won't be an issue until spring, and A's guitar has no time frame, though if you ask her, the time has come. Christmas is on the horizon, so you never know.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Jill Erickson for the pic.

Game Theory

The kids enjoy being on the computer, like every kid on the planet, and while I have issues with ones who spend their entire lives in front of the screen (gaining weight and frying their brains), the reality is, computers are an indisputable part of modern life. You can choose to ignore their significance at your own peril. I would prefer for our kids to be computer literate, which for the record they are, but as we all know, the tech world is continually evolving, and it doesn't take long for things to change considerably. For a dinosaur like me, it's like speaking a foreign language, a fact my kids get a huge kick out of.

With this in mind, I think it's good for the kids to know how to navigate computers, but even better, to know them well. Maybe even know how to program them. Deep in the back of my mind, I wouldn't even mind if they knew how to hack computers, but of course never in an illegal way. I have been encouraging them to dabble in computer language and to be at least minimally familiar with programming, for which they have been more than happy to oblige. I'm still researching what languages are best, but for now, they are working with Javascript and HTML. There are numerous resources out there, so all it takes is a little legwork and experimentation. So far they have been working with digital animation and graphic design, as well as game design. It's pretty cool, and they really love it.

It's all fine and well as long as they don't spend too much time on it, but that's where mom and dad come in, right?

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