Saturday, December 27, 2014

Fickle Weather

I guess this is par for the course in New England, but the weather has been all over the map, and not always in a good way. We got an early snowfall in the end of November, and the sky dropped quite a bit of the white stuff. Before we knew it, our area was a winter wonderland, which was very cool to us. It looked beautiful, and we were hoping that there was more to come. I think all the ski areas were stoked because it meant a Thanksgiving opening day, which they all hope for.

Well, here we are, a few weeks later, and we didn't really get any more snow, but it got warm and rained for days. We hit the low 50s yesterday or the day before, and on Christmas it rained all day. Fortunately the snow survived and there's still a lot of it on the ground, but once it cools down, and cool down it will, it will all turn to ice, and then conditions get a little precarious. Kind of a bummer.

Such is life up here, you have to just roll with it. At least we still have snow, and we're so busy with hockey that we have plenty going on. Even still, we are supposed to start skiing in January so hopefully things will stabilize. You just never know.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Naomi Rumaloine for the pic.

Big City Reporting

A week or two back the kids had to do a project up in the even bigger city of Burlington, and I thought they did a great job. They are doing a news project in conjunction with CSPAN (yes, they've hit the big time) that requires that they do interviews with a variety of people, including politicians and everyday citizens on the street. The politician part was fairly straightforward because these are public servants who make themselves accessible to their constituents. Most of them can be contacted by email or phone, though talking directly to them doesn't always happen. We happen to have a friend and neighbor who is in the state legislature, which made this faction a little more accessible.

The interviews on the street were another matter. The kids had to get opinions from people in Burlington about a local event, and that meant getting a camera and hitting the street. It didn't help that the weather was brutal with freezing rain and snow. We had a time frame to adhere to, however, so we packed up the kids and headed up there. NMP is part of the group so AM dropped her off with some vittles and we were all set.

One of the goals was to find local schools that were affected by this legislation, but it turned out that we couldn't find the darn things. Burlington is a big town, and the suburbs are extensive, so there are a ton of schools. We found plenty of schools but none of the ones we needed. It was really the first one that confounded us, and foolishly I printed directions that were all based on the previous school so we could hit them one after another. The problem was, without finding the first one, I couldn't find the next one and so on. Oh well, we still got some footage of schools.

We literally wasted 2 hours looking for this stupid school, realizing later that we were in Burlington when in fact that school was in Winooski. At some point we decided it was a waste of time and headed into downtown to interview people. We had packed lunch so we parked on Church Street and ate our food, then got out and sought out word on the street. Now it's not easy for a kid to approach a total stranger and ask for some opinions, especially in the bigger city where people have a contrived sense of urgency. People frequently said I don't have time when in fact they probably just didn't want to deal with us. Fair enough, I get that, but I do think seeing some kids trying to do a project should spark a little more understanding and willingness to help. Maybe that's just me.

Either way, the kids did a great job, and I'm proud of them. They went to the mall and waited out on the walkway asking for opinions and got shot down about 99% of the time, but they hung in there and got what they needed. One thing about Burlington is that there are a lot more hoodlums and whacky people. I made sure to linger nearby and keep the kids in sight in case I needed to give someone a karate chop to the head. One zany woman in particular was very opinionated but declined to be filmed. She spoke for about 20 minutes, then came back for more. I saw her throughout the evening talking to various people on the street, so clearly something was going on with her.

It didn't help that the weather was so poor, and at some point it started raining and getting dark. We took a break and got ice cream/hot cocoas at Ben & Jerry's, and in a stroke of good fortune, the guy working there was passionate about this topic and agreed to be interviewed. What a score. The kids headed to mall for one last try, and then we headed home. We could have stayed there all night, but it was getting late and we still had a 2 hour drive home in wet, icy conditions. Total bummer.

We had snacks so we chowed on those on the ride home, eventually making back to our town around 7:30PM. We called JP en route and he met us at our house to get his daughter, and we ate a quick supper and relaxed. Despite the challenges, I thought the kids did a great job, and again, I'm proud of them for mustering the courage to just do it. It ain't easy, even for an adult, but they did it.

Now they are ready to move on to the next phase, whatever that may be. Whatever it is, I think I'll be somehow involved. Funny how that works.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Doc Oren for the pic.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Getting Ambitious

Yesterday we were bantering back and forth about what to make for Christmas supper. The no-brainer would have been to roast a chicken since we've done it so many times and know the drill. Beef is always on the back of our minds, but roast beef seems to leave me a little flat because it's on the tough side. Ham is usually not an option, and beef stew is a family favorite except that we had it for Thanksgiving.

With all the possibilities and nowhere to turn, we decided to get a little crazy this year and do something that I've never done and in all honesty, never thought I could do: make prime rib. It was on sale at the store, and not that I like succumbing to marketing, but the price was too good to pass up, especially since prime rib is so expensive. I went and picked out a small roast, about 3 pounds with one bone, and tossed it into the freezer until the big day. I then went online to search out the best way to cook the thing, since not only was this new territory for me, but the stakes were high: it was a big occasion and the meat was expensive. That's all I need in life, more things to worry about.

On Christmas Eve, I took the meat out to thaw, then let it sit uncovered in the fridge overnight. The purpose of this is to let the meat dry out, at least on the surface. I then left it at room temp for about 2 hours before popping it into a 200 degree oven for 3 hours. Low and slow, as the butcher told me. Once the meat was cooked, I let it sit at room temp for an hour, then back into a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, along with the Yorkshire pudding. I even made au jus sauce with the drippings.

All in all, the meat came out pretty darn good. My first prime rib, and it wasn't a disaster. Feeling empowered and invincible, I may try to make it again... then again, maybe not.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the Kansas City Steak Company for the pic.

Belated Merry Christmas

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas, hope everyone was well and at home with the people they love. I managed to get through it without being too cynical, and I'm happy for that, but the holidays are still going, so give it some time. There's always New Year's Eve to gripe and moan about.

Until then, Happy belated Merry Christmas and thanks for reading, and thanks to Val West for the pic.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Cards

I love this time of year and really hate the fact that it has to be stressful. It all makes me so cynical, and I don't want to be cynical. Last year for a number of reasons I didn't send out postcards, and I vowed to get it done this year. Of course, since Christmas seemed to come out of nowhere (Christmas does kind of come out of nowhere when you really get down to it), I am way behind the curve. That means I'm a little stressed out about something I'm only doing because I enjoy it. How does life get to be so paradoxical?

Whatever be the case, like all things in life, whining about it doesn't make it happen. I'm in the process of getting it done and I should be able to pull it off, but the clock is ticking, and Christmas is on the horizon. Life would be so much simpler if I didn't have all those "other" things to deal with, not that I'm whining, of course.

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

Christmas Tree

I realize it's Christmas Eve and this post is a little late, I've been swamped and little overwhelmed, but no whining, right? For the record, we got our tree about a week and a half ago.

This was a little on the late side, and there was some question as to whether or not we were going to pull it off. We had the usual busy weekend with hockey and traveling, but at some point during the prior week we had decided the time had come. We agreed on a day and went and did it.

Christmas really seemed to sneak up on us this year, because we are way behind the curve on a lot of things, including our tree. When we arrived at our usual tree vendor, the guy was sold out. Actually, he had two trees left flanking his big "Sold Out" sign. We were surprised, to say the least, but the two trees left were pretty nice, albeit small. We ended up choosing one and were happy with our selection, and he was happy to sell the last of his trees. He mentioned he had done an extra load this year and they sold out quickly. I noticed that there were plenty of trees leading up to the weekend, and then almost overnight, they were all gone.

We brought the tree home, R brought down the decorations, and the kids powered through getting the tree all set up. They did a beautiful job, and now the holiday spirit is finally starting to come to life, at least for me. Somehow I just wasn't feeling it until the tree went up.

Oh well, that's the holidays for you. You just never know what's in store. At least we're all set on the tree front.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vivienne Gucwa or the pic.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Back Again

So how is this for bad luck? I was walking out to the car two days ago and slipped on the steps and landed on my back. Not just on my back, however - I landed in a way so that my back hit the corner of the step, and believe me when I tell you, it was a free fall. Talk about brutal. I was holding a sandwich, water, and cup of coffee, and just like you'd see in a movie, my feet came out from under me and I slammed the ground, with my food flying off in all directions.

I was laying in the snow in extreme pain, wondering if I'd broken something, and managed to get on my feet and stumble back into the house. The bummer was that I was on my way into work, so I had to get a grip and drive over to the big city, and then run practice at the arena. This was my turn to come up with the practice plan and run the show, so I couldn't bail out. To add to the misery, two of the other coaches couldn't make it, and the third almost didn't show up, though he did make it as he said he would. Thanks to DW for that one.

I ended up skating with the players but suffice it to say that I was morbidly afraid of falling on the ice, which is a pretty realistic possibility given the nature of the game. Some of the players rallied and said they'd help run the practice, which was nice of them, and once DW showed up, my spirits lifted. I made it through and so far I've been reasonably functional, though in constant pain. Having hurt my back in the past, I was not looking forward to dealing with life with more back pain, but so far I've managed. Hopefully things will only get better from here.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ms Kat for the pic.

The Search Continues

A weekend or two back we bore down and addressed several winter gear needs that I had failed to fulfill over the summer. Granted, I was looking for bargains, which always seems to complicate things. Had I been willing to pay top dollar for everything, then all of my problems would have been solved. The kids had several winter gear needs, some of them essential, others not so much. Then again, the fun ones are essential in their eyes, right?

A needed a new winter clothes, she'd outgrown her old stuff, and being the hipster that she is, certain elements of style needed to be considered, which I totally get. The only thing is, her tastes for a particular item ran into the realm of being pricier than I was willing to entertain. It's not easy being a hipster. I realize there are people who don't blink an eye at paying $400 for a jacket, but I am not such a person, so the search has been a drawn out process. She also needed new snow pants, ski boots, as well as Nordic and Alpine skis. Is that crazy, or what?

N is growing, as well. I needed to find him new snowboard boots (not that he's ever snowboarded, but this will be the year), skis, and Nordic boots. Over the summer I managed to score a new winter coat and skis, so he's set in those areas. With this in mind, we set out on a quest, managing to avoid Black Friday madness, and succeeded in answering several needs over the past few days. I think the only thing left to get is Nordic boots for A. We even managed to score a snowboard jacket for her, which for the record, we had to buy new because you just can't find bionic bargains for really stylish and hip clothes. Kind of a bummer, but what are you going to do? Kids need to look good.

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

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cold Outside

We've been getting the kind of weather lately that on the one hand is not unusual, but on the other, sort of makes you scratch your head. One would expect cold temps during this time of year, but it has been really cold, I'm talking arctic tundra cold. Definitely too cold for this time of year, save it for February. We also got some early snow, which was nice, but then it warmed up, rained, then froze again, which is a nightmare combination. Toss in some frozen rain, and you are pretty much homebound for the duration. Of course, I was busy with hockey all weekend so I couldn't deal with domestic duties, and am now suffering because of it.

Even if you aren't going anywhere in your car, there are certain things that need snow-clearing around the house, especially when you heat with wood. The path leading to the wood and compost bin get ice and chunky, making it hard to push a wheelbarrow full of wood through, so after everything melted and froze again, I had to go through and break up the ice with a shovel then clear the chunks. Even then it's difficult to get everything. You really have to get on it when it first falls and is soft. Oh well, nobody said life in New England was easy.

When the rains came and turned our driveway into slush, it made driving a little tricky, and I got stuck in the muck. I was leaving to meet A at the Dartmouth hockey game and I tried to drive over the small embankment at the end of the road and slid backward. When I tried to get out of that, I kept sliding back, making it worse. I ended up shoveling the slush away and then laying down sand in front of the tires, which BTW were not snow tires. Our neighbor M was walking by and offered to help, and at some point R realized I hadn't made it out and she, too came out to help. With two of us pushing and R at the wheel, we managed to get on the road, which was all I needed. I got the game really late, but it was nice seeing A hanging with her friends. I have to confess, I wasn't as enthralled with the Dartmouth game and could be in the throes of major hockey fatigue.

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

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Doing the Right Thing

While I'm not a believer in karma, I do think we've experienced an interesting turn of events by doing the right thing. Over the past year or so we've been pretty into disc golf, and one of the unfortunate consequences of throwing a frisbee disc in a heavily wooded or bushy area is that they often get lost. We've yet to lose a disc, though we've spent many hours searching and finding them. For some people, taking that much time to find it isn't an option, and they end up going home without their discs. We've discovered a few, and they're kind of fun to find.

Of course, the right thing to do is return them. Almost all of them have a name and phone number written on the bottom, so after we'd gathered about a half of a dozen of them, we decided it was time to make the calls. Interestingly enough, we called all of them repeatedly, and only one person returned our call. He lived nearby and appreciated us contacting him. He gave us his address but indicated that if he didn't get it back, it was not a big deal. We are frequently in his neck of the woods, so I went by there and left it on his porch.

As for the others, still no word, which I find strange. Whatever be the case, we're still in possession of the discs, so our collection, or should I say N's collection, is pretty nice. Even with the newfound discs, he favors the ones he got for his birthday. It's good to have backups since, as every disc golfer knows, those things get lost all the time.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Humboldt State University for the pic.

Weekend in Springfield

Last weekend we yet another hockey-filled excursion, the second weekend in a row. Now I know hockey on the weekends is a normal thing for us, but between two kids playing and two consecutive tournaments, it gets crazy, especially when it involves overnight stays. We traveled to Springfield MA to play in N's tournament, which required a two night stay at a budget motel, which for the record was a complete disappointment because their pool was closed. How's that for an unfortunate coincidence? We travel to Ohio and the pool is closed, then we travel to Massachusetts and the pool is closed. Bummer. It just wasn't meant to be.

The tournament was fun, with all the socializing and of course, hockey. N had a blast, how could he not? Staying at a hotel with 15 of this friends, eating out every meal and getting waffles for breakfast every morning is living the good life.

I enjoy the company of the other parents, they're all very nice people, but I do find big group events to be exhausting and I always end up spending more money than I want to on dinner. It happened both nights, though one night was due to bad planning. You'd think I'd have learned the drill by now. For whatever reason, N's game was the very last game of the tournament, so we had to stay until Sunday night at 5:00PM, then drive home. The drive itself was not that bad, but it was a taxing weekend, and long drives at night when you're tired can be challenging.

It's always nice to get home, and I, for one, am looking forward to a little break from hockey, which of course I will not get. Oh well, such is the life of a hockey parent.

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

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Changing of the Guard

I have been the scheduler for the hockey program for the past three years and it's a bear of a job. I did not want the job in the first place but way back when Mr. Hockey wouldn't take no for an answer. He was up front and honest about it, telling me that it was a lot of work but an important job. I wasn't thrilled about it and told him repeatedly that I wasn't interested, but he wouldn't take "no" for an answer and kept dogging me until I gave in. When I took it on, I had no clue what I was doing, but over time I figured it out, and it's true, it is an enormous job. It starts in August and continues until about March. The work itself isn't the part I loathe, it's the complaining and whining by everyone around you about the schedule, and then the demands that things be changed without much thought about the work that went into it and the consequences of making those changes.

In the end, I'd probably rather not have to do it because it's just one more thing, and a big one at that. Well, my whining was clearly heard by the board because at their big annual meeting they sent out a request for someone to replace me and they got a taker. One of the moms who has experience scheduling came forward and said she'd do it. Wow, I couldn't believe it. Of course, the insecure part of me wondered what I did wrong to warrant replacement. I even went to the president and explained that even though I whined and moaned about the job, my intention was not to quit. I was not lobbying hard to be replaced, and he assured me that this was not the situation, they just felt like it was good to have a backup in place.

With that in mind, I then indicated that since things were in motion and someone had come forward who was willing and able, then I would start the process of handing over the reigns and moving on with my life. It's a good opportunity because the scheduling is basically done. Things will change over the rest of the season, but for the most part, the hard part is done. It's a good time to ease someone into the job, and I can't pass up this opportunity.

In the end, I worked pretty hard at the job and did the best I could. I can take that much away from it, and you can only expect so much from one person... yeah, right.

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

Brush With the Law

I can't tell you the last time I got pulled over by the police for a traffic violation, which I'm thankful for. It's probably been over 25 years. I've become a much mellower driver in my old age, and sometimes I'm embarrassed by how I drove in my younger days. It makes you realize how shortsighted and thoughtless young drivers can be.

Well, the other night I was bringing the kids home from hockey practice and we were driving on a remote road that connects the two towns, and at some point a car pulled in behind me and I didn't give it much thought. We came to an intersection and I confess that I didn't come to a complete stop as I made the turn, and you can imagine what came next. As soon as those flashing lights came on, my heart sank. I pulled into the first space I could find and waited for my punishment. I was so bummed, and the kids were probably baffled about what was happening. I don't think they'd ever seen us getting pulled over. The thing is, the road was empty and there was nobody around. It's a lonely country road, not that this makes it okay to run stop signs.

The officer was nice and took all my information. He spent several long minutes in his car which I took to be a bad sign, but he ended up just issuing me a warning. Boy was I stoked. The warning said I didn't use my turn signal, though I'm pretty sure I did. Even N said he thought I did, but I wasn't about to argue and jeopardize my good fortune. My guess is that he had been following me for a bit. Thinking I was going too fast, he was just looking for an excuse to pull me over and I gave it to him.

I'll tell you one thing, I'm not running any stop signs for awhile.

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