Thursday, December 29, 2016

Getting Gear

For the past several years the kids have skied using older gear, including skis, boots, bindings, helmets and goggles. Actually, for goggles they had new ones but they were the cheapest I could find and sort of looked the part. I figured while they were learning and growing, it didn't make sense to drop a load of cash on gear that would last a year, at most. Furthermore, new gear looks cool, but it doesn't make you a better skier, that's for sure. Using this logic to justify my frugality, they skied on used ski equipment, which worked just fine.. To the kid's credit, they never complained and if anything, they said they didn't need new stuff because it worked fine. Don't you love when kids talk like that?

Gradually over time, however, much like with hockey equipment, I felt like they were deserving of newer stuff, which also meant cooler looking, not that seemed to matter to them. To be perfectly honest, I think they are always deserving of newer and nicer stuff because they are good kids, but it's also not desirable to spoil them. Either way, I've slowly replaced their used stuff with new stuff. It started with A's snowboard, then N's skis. For the record, A still has second hand skis, but she doesn't ski much, and N has a second hand snowboard, but he doesn't board much.

The other day we were able to hit the slopes early and I couldn't help but notice that N's helmet and goggles didn't quite look right. I asked him if they fit and he said they work fine but his helmet has always been a bit loose and his goggles seemed to be squeezing his face. Mind you, he wasn't complaining, I was just making an observation. I decided that maybe the time had come to get them decent helmets and goggles. In years past A has mentioned that she has trouble keeping her helmet out of her eyes because it keeps slipping down, but whenever I mention getting her a new helmet she says it works good enough. What am I supposed to make of this?

I went with N to the ski lodge where they have a ski shop and I get a discount. The helmets were a decent price, and we found one that he liked and fit him well, but I waited. I figured that since it was so early in the season I had some time shop around, and that's exactly what I did. I looked pretty much everywhere in the area but couldn't find a better deal. That is, of course, until I went online and found things a lot cheaper, plus I could get free shipping. Since he was able to try on the exact same brand and model, I knew what to get. I also found killer clearance goggles for about 1/4 of the price I was seeing in the stores. Say no more.

Now they're geared up and ready to hit the slopes. I think I'm done buying equipment from here on in. They have all the hockey and ski stuff they'll be needing for awhile, so I can focus my OCD on other areas, like surfing, which will be the new frontier. Check back with me in summer.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Valeria Zolotoreva for the pic.

First Run

When you think of Christmas in New England I naturally think of snow and skiing, but apparently this is not always the case. We went skiing about a week and half back at our local hill and a friend who was there with us said it was the first time for as long as he can remember that he actually skied before Christmas. So there you have it.

Then again, I guess it's unusual to even have snow on the ground before Christmas, which is sort of baffling when you think about it, but the weather is crazy. We had a decent storm a couple of weeks back and there was enough to get decent coverage on our local hill. Killington has been open for at least a month, but the smaller hills generally open around the holidays. Our local spot (which looks just like this pic... yeah right) is actually run by the Inn and on this opening day, many momentous things were happening. First off, all Inn employees got to ski free with their families. Secondly, the lodge was open and all the food was free. And finally, it was the first day of their impressive new quad chair. Say no more, we were going. A had band practice so it was just N and I, but we made the most of it.

Truth be told, conditions weren't that great. The coverage wasn't as good as it could be, and only one run was open, the easiest one. Also, it was raining pretty much the whole time, but we didn't care. In fact it was a blast. It's just nice to get on skis once again and if anything it's good to ease into things your first day back. We skied for about an hour and then went and chowed down in the lodge. They had killer lodge food and brownie sundaes. Then it was time to get back on the slopes. At some point I was ready to hit the lodge and warm up and dry out, but was ready to ski to the end. As always, he skis until the lift closes, and then we headed home.

All in all a great day of skiing. That night was the solstice festival across the street, but we were pretty tired albeit stoked to have gotten a killer day of skiing in. Now that I think about it, we don't ski much on weekends and tend to ski mid-week for numerous reasons that I won't get into.

Now we're supposed to get slammed with another snowstorm so we might do some more skiing in the coming week. We'll see how that goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Heather Burke for the pic.

Going Rogue

Since we're the hip and happening family we went out to see the new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Truth be told, I wasn't even aware that it was out, or for that matter, that it was a Star Wars movie. They haven't really hyped and plugged it like previous Star Wars movies, which I find surprising considering the Disney publicity machine is behind it. You can chalk a lot of my ignorance up to not having a TV, I am so out of touch with reality... not that this is a bad thing.

Either way, A was meeting a friend and said friend needed a ride to the theater after school and then home. This of course meant that dad (i.e., myself) was going to have to drive. Since I was driving and had to wait until the end of the movie, anyway, I figured I might as well see the movie, and that N should join me. So we headed over to the school, picked up A's friend, dropped them off at the theater and then me and N parked the car. We went in awhile after A to give them some space and then we got a large popcorn and got our seats.

I wasn't completely sure what the movie was about... actually, I knew it was a Star Wars movie but didn't realize it was a prequel to the original movie that I saw as a kid. All in all I thought they did a good job introducing the themes of the franchise and killing off the necessary characters to further the plot. I was wondering how they were going to introduce Princess Leia since she was a kid in the original, but they pulled it off with modern technology. It didn't look perfect but it was probably about as good as it gets.

I can't remember the last time I went to see a movie in the theater, but it was enjoyable, and we got to eat a big bag of popcorn. You can't beat that.

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Rock and Roll Pancakes

A's band had a gig at the Skinny Pancake in the big city and it was quite the show. All the bands at Tuck's played and there was a good turnout at the restaurant. It was packed, and finding a place to watch the band was not that easy. It would have been a lot easier had we sat down and ordered supper, but we had already eaten, and all we really wanted to do was sit and hear some live music. With this in mind, we didn't want to take up tables for paying customers, though I guess we could have ordered drinks. Then again, we don't drink.

Either way, we snuck our way to the front of the venue and had a good view of the stage. A's new band was really good. I'm trying to be objective here, but they have good chemistry and energy on stage; they're a lot of fun to watch because it looks like they're having a lot of fun up there. It helps that they have a really talented new singer who not only has a good voice but also a good stage presence. The singer really puts themselves out there, more than anyone else, and the band can sink or swim onstage based on their presence. Like Steven Tyler said, they get all the glory, but they also take all the abuse when things aren't firing.

I think what was fun to watch with A's band is that they seem to jive together, and some sort of communication and fun chemistry is at play. I know that A really likes the band and I'm glad for that. Her previous singer had a beautiful voice and I really enjoyed watching her, but she was a bit more pensive on stage. The new singer's voice is not as melodic but has more soul. In a lot of ways she has a better rock and roll singing voice because sometimes rock music calls for a little rougher edge and more soul. Think Janis Joplin and Neil Young.

After A's performance the kids wanted to hang out with their friends, which worked out well because mom had to slip over to work for a short time and I needed to get some things at the store. I dropped her off, did my shopping, and then picked her up and we headed back to the Pancake. By that time the bands were done and a lot of people had left, though we still had to pry the kids away from the scene. This, of course, is not necessarily a bad thing because it just means they were having fun. I love when that happens.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Head Warmers

With winter on the way it is time to break out the cold weather gear, which includes keeping the old melon warm. Growing up in California I'd never worn anything but baseball caps, but as I've gotten older I've come to really appreciate keeping my head warm. The problem is we are not a hat culture in this country other than baseball caps, which I personally think are pretty lame. Somehow they've become fashion accessories for guys, don't ask me how or why. And they're pretty useless for keeping your head warm. I do wear them in the warmer months or when it rains, however, so I shouldn't talk, should I?

Now it's getting cold out and we've even gotten some snow. I used to have a winter hat that said HOCKEY on the front. It had ear flaps with braided straps and was kind of dorky but it sort of suited me. It was also a tad bit small, adding to the dorkiness, which my kids were more than happy to point out. The hockey community came to identify it with me because I always wore it on the bench during games, so naturally they saw me with it all the time.

This year I lost the thing. I wore it for 3-4 years and for some crazy reason this year I couldn't find it. I had mixed emotions about this development because on the one hand it was my hat, and on the other hand it was really pretty dorky. After my brief period of mourning, I knew I had to go out and get a new hat, the only problem was, I wasn't sure where to look. You see, the problem I run into is that my head is on the bigger side, so 95% of the hats out there are too small. This is especially true with baseball hats, but even with soft and flexible beanies, my head tends to stretch them to the limit. This makes them uncomfortable, as well.

I began to search around with no luck. One option was going online but you can't try them on. It's a bit of a leap of faith and sometimes it pays off while other times you crash and burn. Well, I was at EMS the other day and as you can imagine they have hats for as far as the eye can see. I found one similar to the one I lost (no HOCKEY on it) and not only was it warm and comfy, but it fit. I couldn't believe it. I bought it on the spot. It was more than I would usually pay for a hat ($30), but sometimes you have to bite the bullet when the stars align.

This of course got my OCD to kick in, and I started thinking that maybe I should get another one as a backup. After all, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky, and I lose hats all the time. If I lost this one, who knows when I'd find a replacement that fit and made me look like a male model? It could take years. I decided that I would get another one and just keep it in storage. When I went to EMS, the hats were on sale for 20% off. Say no more. I got another one, and the cashier, who noticed that I was buying the same hat that I was wearing, asked me if this was my backup. It sure was, I replied. I was pretty stoked because not only was I set up for the future, but I saved some money.

However, the story doesn't end there. EMS has killer customer service, and they are constantly sending me coupons and cash bonuses. A week back I got a $10 voucher for anything in the store, and I was bummed because I forgot to use it on my hat. This is not an issue at EMS, because when I went in and explained my tale of woe, they gladly gave me the extra discount, so I ended up paying $13 for my backup hat that originally cost me $30. Don't you just love when that happens.

I'll tell you, it's the little things in life that make you sit back in smile. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to noramunro for the pic.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Who Needs Sleep?

The kids were off and running this past weekend with various activities including sleepovers for both of them, which is cool with me because when I was a kid, sleepovers were kind of a big deal. Maybe because my parents never really let us have sleepovers, and when they did, it wasn't very fun because they were so uptight. Conversely, it was a blast sleeping over at friend's houses because our friend's parents always seemed so much cooler, and they always seemed to have cable TV and better food to eat. Funny how things never change, isn't it?

Either way, there were logistical issues to deal with, and that meant mom and dad has some driving to do. Fridays are busy for us because we have hockey in the afternoon but also meet mom for lunch over at her work. After ice time we came home, I whipped up some supper and then dropped A off at her friends house. N had an early morning game on Saturday so we headed up to that and during this time mom went to pick up A. We got home from our game and N packed up for his sleepover, which is a bit of trek to get to, but what's a little distance when it comes to friendship? I had to go to work so mom took A & N to their friends house (they're brother and sister), with a plan to get A later in the evening while N slept over - two sleepovers in a row is too much, in our boring parental opinion. I'm sure the kids feel otherwise.

N had yet another game the next day, so I had to drive out to get him, bring him home, get a quick bite to eat, then we were off to the arena. The game was fine (they won), then it was back home to take a few moments to recuperate before heading out again to get to A's big show over in the big city at the Skinny Pancake. The place was packed and A's band did a killer set. They have a new singer who shreds, she's really good, and the band looked like they had a lot of fun. I know I had fun watching. Afterward the kids wanted to hang out with their buddies and eat, so I took mom over to her work to few minutes of stuff while I went to the Coop to get some supplies. It only took about 20 minutes, and by the time we got back to the restaurant the crowd had thinned and the kids were ready to go home.

It is not understatement to say the mom and dad were ready, too. I have to say that it was a crazy weekend but fun for all of us, even if some of us were in dire need of a phat nap.

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

Seasonal Neck Pain

It seems like once again my neck is acting up and causing me grief. The funny thing is, the last time it hit me was around the same time a year ago. I remember because I could really feel it on the ice and on the slopes, though last year I wasn't playing hockey, just coaching it. I'm seriously thinking of taking My Mentor's advice and going to the chiropractor, because while the pain is not unbearable, it's pretty severe, and it's constant. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly is setting it off because for most of the year it was manageable, but those glory days are over.

One thing that seems to aggravate it is an up and down motion, which is a constant when you're skiing and going over bumps. I remember last year going down the hill and wincing the entire way down. Eventually it must have jarred something into place because the pain wasn't as bad by the end of the day, but it was still there. I played hockey last night and it was really flaring up during the game. Since it manifests itself as upper back pain, which is nearly impossible to reach, I find myself doing all these awkward stretches in order to get some relief. None of them work but that doesn't stop me from trying. My teammates must think I'm a nutcase, and they wouldn't be too far off in thinking that.

Oh well, we'll see how I end up dealing with this. I'm trying to avoid too much Advil, which doesn't actually do much in the end, anyway. Sometimes I think I was just meant to suffer because I do such a good job of it. Just ask my family.

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

Learning Art

A few months back I got an email about a homeschool art class but didn't think the kids were that interested in it. How many art classes can you take? We used to do art classes all the time, and they were fun but usually involved crafts and paper folding, the sort of stuff we could do on our own. I realize there is a social aspect to taking a class, but they aren't necessarily that cheap, and since they're geared toward homeschoolers, attendance is thin.

As a consequence, I didn't pay much attention to the email. That is, of course, until A said that she had some friends who took it and gave it high marks. She said she was interested, and as it turns it, it isn't that far from our house, and it's affordable (I love when that happens). I wasn't really sure what to expect when we enrolled her but so far it's been very cool. The artist LH teaches out of her house/farm and it's not just finger painting and doodling. They do some serious art, and she is going to teach A how to paint on canvas. This involves stretching her own canvas, mixing paints, and all that other good stuff, which happen to be things A said she was interested in learning. They'll get a short break over the holidays but otherwise the class just keeps going throughout the year. A enjoys it, her friends take it, and it's not killing my wallet. What more can a dad ask for... besides a phat nap?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Gore908 for the pic.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Soup a Day

Speaking of healthy and vegetarian, we've been eating soup like crazy, and it works on many levels. First off, we love soup. Who doesn't? It's pretty easy to make, which makes dad happy, and it's perfect for the cold weather. It's also a great way to get vegetables and legumes into our diet, thus replacing meat. Finally, if you add in a veggie and maybe a whole grain salad, you have a meal that would cost you a fortune at Moosewood, and you don't have to drive to New York to eat it.

I know we eat soup all the time, not to mention fruit, but somehow with our new healthy initiative I'm just acutely aware of how much we eat... not that it's a bad thing.

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

Christmas on the Way

This seems to happen every year, but Christmas is once again creeping up on us, and it will probably blindside us when it arrives. I always get somewhat complacent when I start thinking about the holidays early in the month and then rest on my laurels until we are well into the thick of the holiday season. By then, it's getting late and I'm beginning to stress. I think I'm at that point. I still have cards to write and gifts to obtain in a timely manner so they get to their respective locations in time. Sometimes I fail.

I still have a little time so I need to get my act together. Part of my problem is that it takes time to get into the holiday spirit. Once that happens, I can be a holiday juggernaut, but until then, I'm a Christmas sloth. We'll see how this one goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Joan Luo for the pic.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Holiday Concert

Last night we attended A's holiday school concert and it was a lot of fun. They did a great job and at times it's hard to keep in mind that they're only kids. They play so well together and while I realize I'm a biased parent here, I really thought they were tight and demonstrated a mature awareness about the technical aspects of the music. I was given this impression by how they described the pieces in the introductions as well how they came to appreciate the process of musical discovery. It had nothing to do with any knowledge or proficiency in music, of which I have none.

I'm no musician (I just play one on TV), but the pieces struck me as fairly esoteric, i.e., I had never heard of them, and I wonder if the teacher chose them to challenge the kids and broaden their horizons. Bear in mind that this was a Christmas program and nobody was playing jingle bells. In fact, I would say that over half the pieces were not Christmas songs, which was different for a holiday show.

Either way, they did a great job. I don't think kids at that age fully appreciate how cool it is to play a musical instrument and be a part of a band. At their age it's just cooler to be a jock or to be beautiful and popular. I think some high school (and life) experiences will never change, but now that I'm older and a bit wiser (just a tiny bit), I think you're better off developing a love for an instrument and being in the band than playing sports. Most guys will think I'm crazy for saying this, or that I'm a big dork (this is sort of true), but that's just how I see it.

I love sports and it's a load of fun, and there are great life lessons to be learned from sports, but people are so fanatical these days. We've really lost perspective and sports have come to consume our lives. I know this because I'm in the thick of this fanaticism with hockey, though I've recently gained a lot of perspective. I'm not sure what people's expectations are for their kids in sports, but I get a sense that they're not completely aligned with reality. I know the argument goes that hard work and sacrifice in sports will help a kid in life, but you can learn those things in just about anything you do. And, having played sports my entire life, I can honestly say that the hyper-macho jock environment is not always a healthy one... unless of course you want to run for president.

So with that in mind, I think it would be best if we all lightened up about sports and instead encouraged our kids to join the band. It's like that line from a song by John Mellenkamp, "Forget about all that macho shit and learn how to play guitar."

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

More Vegetables, Please

For various reasons we have been trying to eat a more vegetable based diet, with the more prominent goal of cutting back on fats, oils, and especially dairy. They all sort of go hand in hand. We are not vegans, which I don't think is that healthy, and we flavor dishes with a bit of meat so technically we're not even vegetarians, but that's not the goal here. A bit of lean meat is okay. We also eat a lot of fish, but all in all, we have definitely embraced a more plant-based approach. This means tons of fruits and vegetables, and more beans than you can imagine. Soups and grains help us get through a meal, and being the cook in this household it's my job to come up with things novel and tasty throughout the week. Everyone is good natured about this and nobody complains, partly because they will incur the wrath of dad, but also because mom and kids appreciate the effort. It helps to make the food taste good.

Consequently, meal planning a whole heck of a lot more challenging, but with greater challenge comes greater reward, right? I've found that things like whole grains and beans can be made pretty tasty with a little olive oil (not too much), vinegar, and salt. What else do you need? As I mentioned, soups are a great way to be a vegetarian, though I tend to add a slice or two of ham to flavor it. Even still, gone are the days of meatloaf and ground beef tacos. Meat definitely makes a meal a lot easier, but who wants easy? Not us, that's for sure. Plus, when it's just N and I, usually traveling for hockey, we usually grab cheeseburgers or beef burritos, so we're hardly living the vegetarian life. It's at home where we put on our vegetarian hats, and so far it hasn't been too bad.

We'll how long this lasts, but part of me thinks it's going to work out okay in the long term. One bump we're going to hit is with the holidays, but engorging ourselves on meat every now and then isn't such a big deal, is it? Just eat an extra portion of broccoli and you're on your way.

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dancing Days

In the quest to find some aerobic activities for A, we are looking into dance classes over at the college and came up short. Most of the stuff is for experienced and college aged people, which I think A could handle but it might be logistically challenging. Plus, I'm not sure how comfortable she would feel, though she's a good dancer and I know she'd be fine. There are potential options through the homeschool pipeline, though I've found them to be difficult to peg down and in some cases I've learned that they're a bit pricey.

Well, mom went out and did some investigating and found a Zumba class that is offered through the rec department (or something like that) at the college. It's reasonably priced, not filled with old people like me (it's mostly college-age people), and according to the girls, it's a blast.

Mom and A take the class together so it's a nice opportunity to have mom/daughter time, so it's a win-win situation. As long as everyone else is happy, then I tend to be happy as well. The net result is that everyone is happy. Don't you just love when that happens?

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Snow Tire Dilemma

I managed to get my snow tires on the car, and the guys at the shop told me I have more tread on my all-seasons. I guess they were suggesting that I keep my all seasons on, which is a bummer because it also implies that it's time to get new snow tires. Last year when I took the snow tires off, I asked the guy if I could get another year out of them and they said yes. I was stoked because they are an expensive albeit necessary acquisition. I took their word to heart and didn't plan on getting new ones, even though even I could tell that they were on their last leg.

Now that they've expressed some concern, naturally my neurotic OCD is kicking in and wondering if I need to get new ones. My dream scenario would be to get one more year out of these snow tires, but the biggest concern is that A is driving a lot now, and she doesn't have a lot of experience in these conditions. Saving money is important but what good does that do you if you're compromising safety? Maybe I should start a GoFundMe drive.

We'll see how this goes, but I'm leaning toward getting new ones at some point. The conditions are only going to get worse from here on in, and I just don't think it's worth the risk. One major bummer in all this is that it makes me less enthused about the coming snow, and I love the snow.

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

Quiet Campus

Speaking of slowdowns, everything around here seems to be slowing down, especially the college campus. I didn't realize this but the students here at Dartmouth get what seems like 6 weeks of vacation time over the holidays. This seems excessive to say the least, but the students are probably stoked about it. I guess in a way it makes sense because otherwise they would take Thanksgiving off, come back, and simply head out again over Christmas, so why not just leave at Thanksgiving and come back in the new year? I can tell you one thing, I sure as heck never got that much time off in college. Then again, I went to a school that didn't coddle you like maybe a school you're dropping $45,000 a year might. For me, it was survival of the fittest, and believe me when I tell you that it was a dog eat dog academic environment. I probably could have used a little coddling back then.

Either way, the one nice thing about all of this is that the campus is amazingly quiet. Sure, there's not as much going on, but it's not as if I do much anyway. Traffic lighter, parking is a breeze, and in some places I get the facility all to myself. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to minerva1891 for the pic.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Big Slowdown

The holidays are upon us and like every year they seem to come out of nowhere. Chalk it up to a busy life, or something like that, but I honestly never see the holidays coming and suddenly it's time to get a tree. Maybe it's due in part to the weather, which has been uncharacteristically mild, with little in the way of snow.

Whatever be the case, one thing that does get my attention is that employment dwindles, and in some cases, comes to a halt. Work at the Inn has pretty much non-existent because nobody wants to get married in dreary November weather, though I personally like the moody ambiance. Then again, I also like east coast beaches in the winter. The holidays also mean that school is out so poster boy work is on break, as well.

There are two ways to look at this situation. On the one hand, it's nice to get a break, because in addition to domestic duties, which can be extensive when you're training to be a real man, the kids have school and various activities that require transportation, not to mention parental participation. Plus, it's nice to be able to all have supper together on a regular basis, which is something we really work hard on maintaining and seems to be lacking in the modern family.

On the other hand, it's hard not making the fat paycheck that helps us support our fabulous lifestyles, especially with the holidays et al. What this means is that we just have to live a little more sensibly, not that we don't already do this, but also maybe I need to get my fabulous freelance career off the ground. We'll see how this goes.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Juliet Kay for the pic.

Photo Op

We have an older digital camera that we use for everyday usage, not to mention pics when we travel. It's about 5 years old, which in new technology means that it's beyond ancient, and truth be told, even I acknowledge that we could use an upgrade. The camera uses 4 AA batteries, so for a small point and shoot, it's on the bigger side. This makes it a little less convenient when we are traveling or out and about, mainly because it doesn't sit well in my pocket. When we travel I try to keep it there and if I'm wearing shorts, they inevitably get pulled down. If I'm wearing jeans, forget about it.

Now I know I'm whining about first world problems and there are bigger issues that deserve my attention in this world, so I didn't put too much time or resources into it. In fact, I didn't put any, figuring I could just use our old camera and deal with it. For all intents and purposes, it still works, though I've been led to believe that digital cameras have a finite lifetime.

When we were heading off to a trip last spring we were debating whether or not to upgrade our camera but as usual, with the overload of information, didn't know where to begin. Since mom is a photographer she consulted with one of her associates and he not only recommended a few models, but offered to lend us one of his "spares." He's a pro so he has multiple cameras, and the one he lent us was a nice. It fit nicely in my pocket, took awesome pics, and charged like a smartphone or laptop - you simply plugged the thing directly into the outlet, alleviating the need to replace batteries. This is the modern way to go if you don't have a smartphone, which you may have guessed we don't have.

Well if you can believe this, after our trip he mentioned that we could simply keep the camera, he never uses it. I wasn't sure how to respond, but he insisted, and now we have the camera we (or at least I) was hoping for. I feel sort of guilty because it's not a small gift, but am also grateful because it was a generous gesture.

I guess in the end I should stop over-analyzing it and go out and take some pictures. What a great idea.

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

Fat Logs

Splitting wood can be a chore, though I enjoy it a lot. There are, however, limitations in my ability to split certain blocks of wood, especially when I'm dealing with hard maple or really knotty logs. I can tell just by looking at it that it's going to be difficult, and sure enough, when that maul blade hits the surface, it bounces off like it was rubber. It's really amazing how tough wood can be, going along the grain, no less. This is even more impressive when you've somehow managed to split the block in half and you still can't split it any further - the first split often compromises the grains so every subsequent split becomes easier.

I could definitely split most of the pieces given enough time with a wedge and sledgehammer, but at some point you have to get on with your life, and spending 10 minutes on one piece of wood is not worth it. Before I was able to borrow a splitter I would simply put these fat logs aside and eventually they would just rot out in the woods. Kind of a waste but what was I supposed to do?

Well, I realized that in many cases, I could burn them. I piled them on a pallet in spring and let them dry all summer, than in the fall put them in the basement. As long as they were reasonably dry they would burn nice and slow, helping to keep the house warm overnight. Usually there are coals glowing in the morning, which not only makes it easier to get a new fire going, but the stove is also warm. I'm not a big fan of having a raging fire going and then leaving the stove alone, but on the nights when it gets below zero degrees, it sure is nice to have the fire going as long as possible. Plus, I don't have to waste the pieces of wood that are too hard to split, which breaks my heart.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

Branching Out

We had a bit of a Charlie Brown crisis yesterday, though in the modern era it's not kite that gets stuck in a tree but a drone. It was a pretty serious dilemma, however, and just goes to show you that you can't get between a boy and his drone. We even called the fire department in a desperate bid to see if they could help - they couldn't, so we were left to our own devices. To be clear, by the time we contacted the firemen and were told it wasn't going to happen, we had already resolved the situation.

N has been really getting into drones and it's pretty crazy stuff, albeit cool crazy stuff. Not only does he like to fly them, but he and his buddy make them from scratch, or close enough to count as making them from scratch. You can buy the components online and then assemble the drones to the specifications that you want. There are many levels of complexity, and the lower levels are surprisingly affordable. The big thing is first person viewing, or FPV. I mistakenly thought this was virtual reality (VR) and earned the scorn of both my kids.

Anyway, with FPV you control the drone, which has a camera, but you can see what's going on in real time while wearing a headset. It's pretty crazy stuff, and depending on the range of your receiver, you could theoretically fly the thing anywhere. The problem you run into is when you are just learning the ropes and can't always fly out of complicated situations. This includes flying your drone into a tree and getting stuck in the branches. This happened yesterday, and N came home in distress because not only was the drone stuck, but the battery was dying, and apparently you don't want the thing to completely run out. They are sensitive things, so time was an issue.

All of us went out to the tree to assess the situation, and it wasn't looking good. It was about 40 feet up there, and climbing the tree was out of the question. I brought my extension ladder and tried to knock it out with a roof rake, but couldn't reach it. We probably could have extended the thing all the way but it was pretty squirrelly resting it against a tree and trying to climb up so high. Mom wasn't having any of it, so we were reduced to trying to dislodge the thing by hitting it with various thrown objects. This included a hockey puck, a football, frisbees, and a soccer ball. If you've ever tried this, you know it isn't easy throwing something straight up into the air, especially high up, and we couldn't get any of these things high enough. We finally tried with tennis balls and a racquet. Using this method we got the height, but as you can imagine, our aim suffered greatly. We toyed with the idea of hiring an arborist to get it.

While A went to see if the fire department could help us, I kept hitting tennis balls straight up in the air and finally one of the balls hit the drone and dislodged it. It immediately occurred to me that the thing was falling and I needed to catch it, so I dropped everything and stuck my hands out to grab the drone, which I did, cutting my hand in the process - the things we do for our kids. N was hugely relieved, and the drone came out pretty much unscathed. Mom and dad were relieved that the drone did not need expensive replacement parts, and dad got to feel like he did something good for once in his life. I love when that happens.

For all it's worth, this is not a unique problem for drone enthusiasts, as you can imagine, and there are plenty of websites dedicated to helping the needy drone owners reclaim their vehicles from trees. You gotta love the internet... sort of.

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

Early Mornings

It seems like dad (i.e, me) can't get a break when it comes to sleep. All week long I'm taking A to school in the early AM, and on weekends it's early morning hockey games. On Mondays there is band practice that begins at 7:00AM, which I think is outrageous but this is what school kids have to deal with today. Work has been slow but on the nights I do work I'm usually there late which makes getting up early that much more challenging. Boy, poor little old me.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I"m a morning person. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to The Greatest for the pic.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

First Snow

Normally I'm thrilled to pieces about the first snow, but this year I was not as thrilled, mainly because I wasn't completely prepared for it, both mentally and logistically. As usual there was still some raking that needed to be done and power tools that needed to be stored, but more importantly, I didn't have my snow tires on. Maybe it's a function of getting older, but I've also found that I'm better off when I ease into a change of seasons, and part of this process is just wrapping my feeble mind around it.

Fortunately it didn't snow a lot, just enough to make it look like winter and give me anxiety about the roads. This in turn motivated me to take care of the final preparations for winter, which include dusting off the ski equipment and installing the storm windows. Luckily our firewood is all set, so at the very least we'll be warm, which when you get down to it is really the most important thing.

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

Turkey Day

Hope that everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving, hope all is well with you and your loved ones. It seems like every year Thanksgiving crept up on us, or at least me, maybe because our plans were up in the air until the end of last week. Usually we visit family but it can be a challenge on our end because we're traveling with two kids. Plus, it's hard to schedule things around all the kids' activities. Unfortunately with all these moving pieces we couldn't get all them to fit. It's a bit of a bummer for everyone involved, but hopefully we can work something out in the near future.

I will say this - cooking for just four people can be a pretty intimidating endeavor, so you can imagine what it's like to cook for eight people. I fielded requests from the family about what we should eat and the biggest requests were for Yorkshire pudding and a stuffed pumpkin. The main course was up in the air and I wavered between broiled salmon or roasted chicken, finally opting for the chicken because it's a bit closer to a turkey (we never cook a turkey) and it goes a little better with Yorkshire pudding, which is a family favorite.

The timing of the supper went well, as well. I'm a disorganized person and tend to do things as they pop into my head, and when cooking a meal this can lead to disaster. This time around it wasn't so bad, and we not only ended up eating at a reasonable time, but the meal wasn't rushed at the last minute, where you end up compromising the cooking times because you just want to get the food onto the table and the plates of hungry family members. This is a bummer when cooking chicken to completion (165 degrees inside) and squash, which really needs to be soft and tender.

So with this in mind, on Thanksgiving morning as I was enjoying down time with nowhere to be, I realized that I needed to get preliminary things going. This meant brining both chickens (I cooked two, for reasons I'll explain at a later date) and getting the stuffed pumpkin together. Once the brine was going the birds would sit for 3 hours and I could do other things. Mom wanted to make a pumpkin pie as well but our kitchen is poorly designed so that you really can't have more than one person doing the cooking, especially a stressed out dad who is in desperate need of time and space. Then again, you do what you gotta do.

I got the pumpkin ready and once that was sitting, I could cut the squash and then relax. The other food items could made closer to the actual meal, especially the Yorkshire pudding, which really should be served hot. Everything went according to plan and I got everything into the oven by noon, with a scheduled 3:00PM dinner time.

Anyway, it all went according to plan and the meal was quite enjoyable. One thing that helps is remembering that food stays hot for a lot longer than you think once it's out of the oven, especially dense foods like squash, potatoes, and roast chicken. Even though I let the chickens rest for about 30 minutes, the insides were still too hot to handle. I took this as a good thing. Mom's pumpkin pie was excellent, and all in all we had a great meal. We went for a walk afterward and were toying with the idea of seeing a movie, but instead decided to play a family game and then watch a family movie, something we don't do as much as we used to.

It was really nice, and I hope everyone out there had as nice a Thanksgiving as we did.

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

Just the Guys

Two weekends ago mom and A went down to Cambridge to do some special program for A, leaving N and I alone at home. Just the guys, as the saying goes, and while it might seem like an ideal time to let loose and live the bachelor life, we ended up being pretty chill. I for one went to bed around 9:30, and believe you me, it was nice to get some sleep. We had to travel to Manchester for an evening game and then to Waterbury for a really early game, so that meant plenty of driving. Since our Sunday game up north was scheduled for 8:00AM, we had to get to bed early the night before. Just give us some pizza and hockey and we're all set.

So all in all it was a pretty mellow weekend, though we got to manly things like burp and fart all we wanted... not that we don't do that even when the girls are around.

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Reluctant Head Coach

This could be viewed as an unfortunate by-product (or not) of all the BS that underlies the current hockey season (don't even get me started on that one), but I've had to step in act as head coach, at least for the beginning of the season. I look at it from a few different perspectives.

Our hockey program has gotten too big for it's own britches, and its ego has taken blindly taken charge in the quest for hockey greatness. I still don't quite get how things worked out as they did, and it's hard to discuss it without letting my emotions get in the way. For the record, several people have come up to me and wondered aloud how things turned out this way, but it doesn't matter at this point. It really boils down to the choices of DW and who am I to question his thought process? I don't agree with it and think he screwed things up, but he's in charge, so so be it. Victory at the cost of one's soul, as the saying goes.

The point is, with the teams now set, some of us have had to step up and take the reigns, and that includes yours truly. In the past I've been able to skate by with little in the way of leadership or input. Honestly, I'm not even sure why I'm a coach, but previous head coaches have welcomed my assistance. I'm there anyway with N, so why not help out? The thing about being an assistant is that you can skate by (no pun intended) and basically be an observer, almost invisible. When head coaches gave me a chance to be more of a presence, I deferred, taking the easy way out. I felt somewhat like an appendage, but I also felt like I filled some role, however minor it was.

Well, all that changed when this season began. N's team has a head coach (AL) who knows his stuff and is young, talented, and very skilled. Definitely someone who the kids look up to because of that, unlike the dads who are old and dorky. The problem is, AL also runs the arena, so he has to be there to take care of the ice. The beginning of the season most if not all of our games have been away games, so he can't be there. Someone had to step in, and guess who got sucked into that trap? It became painfully clear to me the first game up in Lyndon that there were only two assistant coaches (and no head coach) there, me and NC. I could have just told NC to take charge and I would once again ride in the back, but that would have been wrong for a number of reasons. First off, NC wasn't prepared for this (though neither was I). Second, he is new to the program, this is his kid's first year, and it would have been wrong to throw him into the pit. Finally, I don't want my son to think I'm just a big wimp who always chickens out and lets everyone else take responsibility. These guys needed someone to take charge and as reluctant as I was to do it, somebody had to, right?

I met NC in the parking lot and informed him that it was just him and I, and he was more than willing to step up. We were woefully unprepared for our first game, and part of that stemmed from me not realizing I would have to take a lead role, or more to the point, nobody realizing this. Normally the "head coach" takes care of all this, and this becomes a problem when there is no head coach present. We didn't have roster stickers (not a huge deal), a first aid kid (not a huge deal), a dry erase board to map out plays (sort of a big deal), or pucks to warm up with (a big deal). We had to wing it, but the kids didn't really know what to expect because it's early in the season. I felt bad because they were clearly ready to play, and we as coaches were not. Bad planning and too many expectations that someone else would have to take care of everything. Time for dad to step up and be a man.

Before the game, I got the players attention and ended up doing most of the talking, keeping it simple for our first game. Oddly enough, despite my lack of assertiveness, I've learned enough about hockey to know what makes a winning team, not to mention good players. I've also played sports my entire life so certain qualities carry over from sport to sport. Coupled with yelling really loud, the guys listened and took it to heart. They went out and played a great game, winning 7-4. It's weird when between periods they all skate over and look at you expecting some sort of sage advice. You simply re-iterate what separates the boys from the men.

It was a little stressful, but we managed to pull it off. Afterward we coaches vowed not to be so poorly prepared the next time, i.e., we needed to get our shit together. We also didn't want to fall into the trap of playing second fiddle to the other guys, but that impetus is on us. On the drive home N said that as far as coaching goes I do a better job than I give myself credit for. From my kids that's about as good a compliment as I'll ever get, so I'll take it.

I survived my first stint as N's head coach (I once had to do it for A's team, as well), but I know it won't be the last, because the guys need a leader, if only symbolically. I am looking forward to AL the real head coach to take the helm, if for the simple fact that he really knows hockey and can give them more constructive and helpful feedback... as opposed to yelling "just shoot the damn puck," but for now I'll wear the head coaches jacket and hopefully lead these guys to a positive hockey experience. That means that I'm going to have to do a little growing as well. I think I'm ready... not that I have much choice.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to gregorys2006 for the pic.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Who Do You Believe?

I try not to get too into political discourse on this blog, though I failed miserably at this after the election, but I'm amazed about the news lately, or rather, the lack of objective, trustworthy news. The internet is an amazingly useful platform for opinions and information, but it seems to me that it has really become vehicle for various groups, both left and right, to put out false information and sell it as real news. Once it gets picked up and goes viral, it's pretty much ensconced (fancy liberal educated word) in the public consciousness and taken for truth. This happened repeatedly during the election and it's happening now that the election is over.

I for one think it's a total bummer because I don't really know what to believe anymore. Or more to the point, like everyone else, I will simply seek out what I want to believe and take it as fact. The internet and technology in general really are double edged swords.

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

Under Pressure

We have a slight air leak problem in one of our tires, and it's a bit of a pain because it requires diligent observation and maintenance. Modern cars are so full of bells and whistles, some of which I think are excessive but they seem to be doing their job. One such example is air pressure in the tires. Each tire has a pressure sensor that indicates when the air is below a certain PSI. When I first encountered this light in a rental car I had never seen it before and didn't take the time to read the manual to figure it out. Consequently, we drove around for days with low air pressure. What's a drag about these sensors is that mechanics need to reset them every time they change a tire, and some places like Wilson Tire charge you $5-10 per tire, which is a total rip-off. This is one of the many reasons I no longer go to Wilson Tire, which is regularly chosen, amazingly enough, as the best place to go for tires. For the record, Tip Top Tire doesn't charge for this service, which I think amounts to pushing a button.

Anyway, one specific tire has a leak. The guys at Tip Top took a look at it and found that it was the actual air pressure sensor that was the problem, meaning I needed a new one. They said they charged about $80 for a replacement, but I've replaced these things before and have found them for much cheaper online. They are so cool there that they didn't push it, and the truth of the matter is, the sensor works fine, it just isn't sealing properly. In about 2-3 days the pressure drops 3-4 psi below the recommended level and the indicator light goes on. Normally this wouldn't be such a big deal but with regularity comes annoyance. This is especially true when you're rushing out the door with your daughter to get to school and the first thing you notice when start the car is the low pressure light.

I ordered a new pressure sensor but figured I'd wait until I have the snow tires installed, saving me some time and money, though I wouldn't be surprised if Tip Top installed it for free, they're cool in that way. In the meantime, we need to keep adding air to the tire, which is a pain but not the end of the world. It usually takes about 5 minutes out of our journey to stop at the gas station, put in about 5 psi, and then head out. The problem your truly runs into, and it's a matter of principle more than economics, is that I don't like to pay for air. We're talking maybe 75 cents at the most, so it's really not about the money. I just find it lame that they charge for it, so I try to find the places that offer free air. Fortunately our local gas station is cool enough to offer free air, but it still means getting over there.

I happen to have an air compressor with tire nozzle that would do the trick, but it would require hauling it from the barn and then plugging it into the wall socket. The thing is heavy so in a way it's not really a practical option. Now this is where the story gets interesting. Way back when we went on vacation to Spain we parked our car for 2 weeks and took the bus to Boston. When we got home the tire in question was flat as a pancake. I called AAA and the guy came with an air compressor the size of a book. He hooked it into the cigarette lighter and the thing inflated the tire. It took about 5 minutes, but it was done and I was amazed. It even had a pre-set function that would automatically shut off at the designated psi. I was sold

When we got home I looked around for one of these small compressors but couldn't find the exact one. The AAA guy even said that they stopped making that specific one. I ended up going to Advanced Auto Parts and getting something that was similar, and amazingly enough, it wasn't that expensive. I ended up paying $25 for mine, and it works beautifully. I spent an extra $5 for the auto shutoff feature, and believe me, it's worth it. Since our tire does not lose all it's air, it takes about 2 minutes to get it up to the pressure I want. Then we're off and running, it's great.

I think everyone should have one of these things in their car, but nobody cares what I think. I did hear from a friend who just bought a new Toyota minivan that they come with their own air compressors, so someone is thinking like I am. Now if only more people would, the world would be a better place, at least for me.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Feel the Heat

I sound like a broken record at this point but I am determined to finish the insulation on the barn and move to drywalling it. I'm pretty darn close and I can't help but think I could get it done over the winter. Things slow down as you can imagine because you can't really do yard work (other than shoveling) when there's 3 feet of snow on the ground. The biggest issue I have to deal with is the cold, which is a big issue when you live in New England.

Not wanting to let this opportunity (yet again) slip through my fingers, I obtained a propane heater to use in the barn. It's not a fancy one, it just attaches to the top of the 5 gallon tank and emits a fair amount of heat. I wanted to get one last year but waited too long. By the time I hit the home improvement stores they were sold out. I could have gotten one online but just sat on it, as usual. This time around I shopped for one over the summer when they were not only in stock, but I was flush with catering money in my pocket.

Now I'm ready to go. I have a light set up in their, and all I need to do is motivate and get out there. That, of course, is without question the hardest part.

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

Ski Instructor

Ski season seems like a long ways off, mainly because it's so darn warm, but when it does finally snow, we are hoping to get some serious skiing done. N has also expressed an interest (willingness?) to take part in an apprentice ski instructor program. I'm not sure what the end goal is but he said he would be into it, or rather that he wouldn't abhor the idea. I think it would be a good way to teach some responsibility and he might have fun doing it. He loves to ski, after all, the truth of the matter is, he isn't completely responsible for overseeing the kids. He is just helping out the adult ski instructors.

I've seen N show interest in other activities in this capacity, namely hockey. Way back when I stood in for the Squirt hockey coach and asked N to help me out. He relished the position of being an assistant coach and he definitely helped me out. More importantly, he showed a lot of maturity in being willing to help me and work with the little kids. Not every pre-teen would be into this. The ski program might be a similar thing, and with a little luck he'll be surrounded by a bunch of ski babes who fall for his good looks, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

One thing that might help (or make it worse) is that I am required to be a volunteer, as well, so I'll be there. I think he has mixed feelings about this, and may even prefer that I am not around. I'm pretty good at making myself absent, so this won't be a problem.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to European Snowsport for the pic.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

With a Little Help From My Kids

On the sports front, this is kind of a cool development - my kids are actually helping me with my golf and hockey game. Don't ask me why, but I find this to be a very cool thing. The reality is they are superior hockey players than I'll every be, so why not tap that wealth of talent and experience for my own nascent game? It's funny if not ironic that after helping coach them for several years, the tides have turned and I'm looking to them for guidance. When I say coaching it comes with a huge grain of salt because let's face it, I'm not a hockey player, I just play one on TV.

I've helped over the years and have not hidden the fact that I'm in way over my head, but coaches who know what their doing appreciate a helping hand in practical matters during practice and games, i.e. gathering pucks and opening doors. The reality is, I've never really had to practice what I've preached. You can learn about skills and strategy by reading books and watching videos, and for the most part this works. Also, I've played sports my entire life, and certain qualities carry over from sport to sport, so I'm not completely clueless.

When I get on the ice, however, there is no question that I can't keep up with these guys. Plus, they're learning about strategy, positioning, and game skills. Again, I can learn about these things, but it's a whole different ball of wax actually putting them into practice. I noticed this the first time I played, I didn't do any of the things I preach, I just panicked every time I got the puck. It's just not that easy, and I will say this - every parent who has expectations or puts pressure on their kids should lace up a pair of skates and try it themselves. It's an incredibly humbling experience.

Anyway, I went through my first season being fairly impotent on the ice (thankfully just the ice), though being able to skate does have some merits. I didn't play the following two years but I was on the ice during this time helping out with my kids. I can't help but think years of being a coaching assistant have some benefits. At the very least I was skating this whole time, and I'm definitely more thoughtful, aware, and patient on the ice. These qualities mean that I am ready to take it to the next level and start embracing some of the stuff I'm teaching, bearing in mind that the next level is just one step up from ground zero.

The help I'm getting from my kids deals mostly with positioning in the offensive and defensive zones, i.e. stuff that requires thinking. I generally have no clue what I'm doing and just skate around and try to get the puck. This has come back to haunt me when I play with guys who are in the know and are serious about the game; they give me constant grief about not knowing what to do. This year, with a little help from my kids, I'm trying to play my position and be where I'm supposed to be. In the league that I play in, there are guys who are a lot more clueless and a lot less skilled than me, but that is not to say that I can't improve myself as a player irregardless of the people around me. Plus, when you know what you're doing the game is more fun. This is true for just about everything in life.

It's worth mentioning that the kids are happy to give me stingingly candid feedback about my skill level and performance, so there's no sugar coating my lack of abilities. Oh well, the only thing to do is go out and improve my game.

One last note - I took some advice from N about my golf swing and it paid huge dividends. I won't get into it right now but just a simple adjustment has made all the difference.

I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Eli Sagor for the pic.