Thursday, April 13, 2017

Oh Brother

Our Brother printer took a dive recently and while it's not a vital part of our lives, it sure does come in handy on a regular basis. With that in mind, we decided to replace it rather than go without. Naturally my OCD kicked in and I did some reasonably thorough research on new printers. What I learned is that you can get a decent printer for a reasonable price, and interestingly enough, they often come with free shipping.

Our old printer was pretty old, though in this crazy tech world that we live in, things get old within a year. It's completely ridiculous, if you ask me, but nobody's asking me. Either way, our printer was well over 15 years old, and it was on the nicer end when we first got it. It had a fax and a phone and a few other things. I have to say that it served us well, which is a testament to Brother products, and we probably could have fixed it if we had any clue as to what we were doing, but we don't, so we didn't.

Shopping around you begin to realize that printers have definitely progressed, at least in terms of size and cost. We ended up getting a decent printer, another Brother, and we got free shipping from Best Buy. The printer itself was pretty basic with little in the way of bells and whistles, though I would not have minded a copier/scanner. We have a scanner and accomplish the same goal with an extra step, so we went bare bones. The printer cost less than $50, and it came with the drum and toner, which will set you back another $50. Plus, it's compact and works very nicely.

All in all we're once again happy with our tech purchase because we got a great deal, free shipping, and a reliable product. Don't you just love when that happens?

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

Fruit Salad OCD

My latest exercise in OCD happens to have a healthy edge to it - fruit salad. If you can believe this one, I've been making fruit salad (not unlike this one in the pic) for everyone and have been really into it. It takes a bit of effort and thought and it requires some legwork to get all the fruit, but the end result is a tasty, healthy, and fun way to start the day. Plus, I get to indulge my OCD about getting the fruit, which isn't always easy to find.

This all started several months back when I wanted to make sure the kids start their day with some fruit. Truth be told, they eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, especially when we do vegetarian days. Even when we don't, we eat a pretty healthy serving of veggies every day, more than your average person, and definitely more than you'll get at any restaurant. They also eat fruit with their lunch, usually an apple or pear, or some grapes.

I started giving the fruit in the morning, usually some cantaloupe or some strawberries, and it worked out fine. We started getting some really crappy melons, however, and I started to ponder how to liven things up. Now I like melons but am for the most part fairly ambivalent about them. The problem is, when you get fruit salad in any restaurant or breakfast bar, it's practically all melon, either cantaloupe or honeydew. Consequently, I avoid it.

I decided to make fruit salad with stuff I like, which basically meant no melons. I started with pineapple, strawberries, grapes, and clementines, but over time it has morphed into its current incarnation of grapes, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, clementines, and mango... and sometimes kiwi. When I can find them cheap I'll add raspberries, but they're expensive. I've removed pineapple from the equation, though I still like it.

What's crazy is that I'm totally into it. Except for peeling the mango it's pretty easy and boils down to washing the fruit, but by the time I've finished making it, I'm stoked with the end result. It looks beautiful with all the colors, especially the dark berries contrasting with the yellows (mango and clementine) and reds (strawberry). And, everyone loves eating it. No problems on this end getting the kids to start their day off with a big bowl of fruit. Plus, I get to placate the Martha Stewart side of me, so everyone is happy.

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

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Good Shopping Vibes at Dick's

I'm a fan of online shopping because in addition to the fact that you don't have to drive to the store and deal with crowds or people in general, you also tend to get better prices and you can't beat the selection. In fact, in most stores around us, the selection is fairly paltry compared to what's on any given website. You can't even compare. That doesn't mean that the online shopping experience is perfect. The one huge disadvantage with shopping online is that you can't try things on or examine them closely. This isn't a problem if you know exactly what you want, especially for me when I buy jeans or a book, or something along those lines.

However, it can be a significant problem when buying stuff for the kids. I've run into this problem trying to get them a wetsuit, and just recently N needed a new pair of cleats for LAX. I'm still trying to sort out the wetsuit dilemma (more on this later), but LAX is happening now, so something had to be done. In the past we've gone to Stateline and while they're super helpful and I love to shop there, most of the cleats they carry don't fit N that well. He benefits from a slightly wider shoe, which is not always easy to find, at least when you're trying not to drop a big load of cash.

Then I went to Dick's Sporting Goods online store, and there were so many cleats, I didn't know where to start. I benefited from starting on the early side, but even still, they have more cleats (and shoes, for that matter) than I could even fathom. The prices were good because they were having a sale, and I broadened my search to include football cleats, which widened my options and brought prices down. Anyone who is involved with LAX will know that LAX equipment is way over-priced. What made the shopping experience truly worthwhile, however, is that Dick's offers free shipping, and free return shipping if need be.

I definitely "needed be" because my first order was too small, so I ordered up. The cleats arrived and most importantly he likes them. So he's happy with a cool pair of new cleats, and I'm happy because I got a good deal and free shipping. I love when that happens.

I always figured that the high cost of sports equipment would abate once hockey ended, but that's clearly not the case. Then there's the issue of outfitting everyone for surfing, but let's not go there.

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

Wetsuit Search

I've been looking at wetsuits for the kids and I found some pretty good deals on new wetsuits. My original plan was to go used, but most used suits are not that cheap, especially when you factor in shipping. Plus, when you buy a used suit, you can never be too sure how it was cared for, and there's the issue of other people's urine. Like they say, there are two types of surfers - those that pee in their wetsuits and those that lie about it. Having worn wetsuits for years I'm not so squeamish about it, but the kids might think differently.

Either way, it really boils down to cost, and if I can get a new suit for near the price of a used one, I would definitely go that route. I may have found just that, but am still not sure how to proceed. I've found plenty of used suits on Ebay but some are outrageously expensive, and I wonder who the heck would buy them. There are cheap ones around $20, but some are complete junk, and a more realistic price point for a used suit is around $45-50. This is a good price if a suit retails at around $200, but nobody in their right mind would buy a beginning surfer a suit for that much. Plus, once you factor in shipping at around $10-15, you're looking at about $60-70, which is still a good price for a wetsuit, albeit a used one.

However, if I could find a new suit for around the price, wouldn't that be a better way to go? Sure, I'm not going to find a top of the line O'Neill or Rip Curl, but for the first go around, maybe an entry level suit would be a good way to go. I'm sort of leaning toward this, though it may not win me points on the home front, but what else is new?

We'll see where this one goes, but for now, at least the goal is in sight. As of now we still need one more board and two wetsuits. If time and finances permit, I'll get them both some booties, as well, but let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.

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

Monday, April 10, 2017

Game Night

We headed over to homeschool game night the other night and despite our (my?) reservations, we had a great time. One of the reasons that I'm reluctant for the kids to go to some of these evening get-togethers is that they require that parents attend, as well. They discourage drop-offs and make you feel guilty if you do. Now I sort of understand where they are coming from because they work hard and do a good job organizing these events, but I don't think it's necessary to make the parents stay for the night. Mind you, I like all these parents, I just don't want to spend an entire evening sitting there while the kids play. Plus, the kids are at the age where they probably don't want the parents hovering, anyway. I would be more than happy to help set up and then come back at the end of the evening and help clean up. I have no problem with that, but I'm not sure that's allowed.

Well, another event was coming up and I told A I would take her but I wasn't going to stay. She would have to work out the logistics. It just so happened that on this evening N was sleeping over at a buddies house, so mom said she would stay and maybe it would be more fun if the two of us were there. I agreed, so the three of us went. A has a blast at these things because she's a social kid and it's a bunch of her buddies hanging out and being kids. It happened to be game night, so I guess they play games, though I can't say for sure.

We were sitting around the living room chatting, which really boiled down to listening to one guy talk the whole time, when someone suggested we play a game. I wasn't sure if they were being serious but figured I'd go along with it, so we sat around the table and played a game the name of which I've forgotten. Basically you choose a phrase from a book, draw a picture of what you think the phrase looks like, and then the person next to you has to try to identify your drawing. It goes on and on around the table and the result were amazingly entertaining.

Yes, I confess, it was a lot of fun, and we ended up having a blast. So much so that we had no clue what the kids were up to, though I'm sure that's just the way they like it. I'm not sure if I'll be jumping for joy for the next event, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much fun I had at game night.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Farouq Taj for the pic.
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Unwelcome Passenger

I was beginning to suspect that there was an unwelcome passenger in my car, and the reason for my suspicion was because I noticed pieces of snack mix on the floor or in cup holders. I even found a hole in one of the bags. My kids were skeptical and thought I'd probably accidentally poked a hole and it spilled out, but I had my doubts. I eventually found a hole in the garbage bag we keep in the car, and sure enough, snack mix was on the floor.

I couldn't really figure out how a critter might have gotten in, and there was no smell or traces of its presence, i.e., critter poop. For the record, I'm happy about this. I finally decided to get to the bottom of this situation and try and catch the thing, so I broke out the Have a Heart trap. I set it up in the evening and the next morning lo and behold, a mouse. I was not surprised, though mom and the kids were a little shocked. I jokingly said I was going to catch the mouse and feed it to our cats - they were not amused. I released the critter down the road and am hoping that's the end of it, but you never know. I'm thinking I should set another trap and see what happens. Hopefully he wasn't in the car too long and didn't establish a cozy home, or even worse, a family. I'm guessing we'll find out soon enough as the weather warms up.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mark Tizard Getty Artist for the pic.
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Friday, April 7, 2017

LAX Preparation

Now that hockey is over, it's time to start thinking about spring sports, and that of course means lacrosse (LAX). There is significant crossover between hockey and LAX, so we'll be seeing a lot of the same families well into summer. In light of this, I tried to convince N to play for another program, maybe one with closer ties to where he might go to school one day, or at the very least not so closely linked to the bad hockey vibes, but he said he wanted to play for the same team. Who am I to argue? They are a good team, no question, but my feelings are that it's time to move on. Clearly I'm alone in this thinking.

Either way, we had to dust off the LAX gear and check the sizes on various pieces of equipment. As would be expected, several things need an upgrade, so that's our current mission. Nothing major, so that means it's not so painful in terms of cost. Fortunately the big items, like helmet and pads, still fit. New shoes are in order, but there are numerous options when you look outside the LAX box, i.e., many sports use cleats, and buying specialized LAX cleats bumps up the price significantly while also severely limiting the availability. It's all marketing in the end because cleats are pretty standard across the different sports, so a soccer or football cleat will do just fine. Baseball maybe not so much.

So with this in mind, we did some online shopping and found a nice pair of brand name cleats for a great price. I got the wrong size at first, which would have been a serious bummer if not for Dick's Sporting Goods, which offers free shipping as well as free return shipping. How cool is that? I returned the small shoes and got a bigger size, though it was still a bit of a crap shoot because without trying them on you just don't know. As luck would have it, however, they fit great (I took a chance and got a size bigger - whew!), though if they hadn't, we could have returned them again, for free.

Now he's set. I have to say, as much as I love hockey, it's nice to get a break from the rink and all the drama. Looking forward to warmer weather and the activities that go with it.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Fred Backhaus for the pic.

Different Perspectives

We are toying with the possibility of changing hockey associations after all the BS and drama that we experienced with WYH. This, as you might imagine, is not easy because we've spent our entire hockey lives over at WYH, dedicating countless amounts of time and effort to the program. With all that time and dedication you'd think they'd at least throw us a bone but that is wishful thinking when you're dealing with shortsighted egos. Either way, perhaps it's just a sign that it's time to move on.

With that in mind, there are a couple of possibilities, and which one is better is all a question of perspective. I was over at the other rink and saw a WYH compadre who jokingly (or not) commented that I was coming over to the "dark side." Ironically I now see WYH as the dark side, but it should be noted that I am alone in this thinking. My issues with WYH are mine and mine alone. I was also speaking with a parent from said association and he asked me what our situation was. I mentioned that we were looking at other options and his take on it was that we were seeking out "greener pastures."

So it just goes to show you that it's all about perspective, and one man's trash is another man's treasure, or something like that. Yet another adventure, so stay tuned for more.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ronald Rigdon for the pic.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Smoothing Things Out

I'm in no position to complain about this (so I won't), but I scored some incredible hockey sticks for N, but they weren't exactly what we were looking for. We are stoked on them in almost every respect - they are high end sticks that retail for more than I am willing/able to spend, though we got them for a fraction of that (they are discontinued models); they are super light, and they have the blade curve we were looking for. My friend gets them for his players but when they move on or change teams he has all these overstocks left over. Occasionally they make them available to the public, but timing is everything. We connected just in time. The only caveat is that they have "grip" shafts, which seem to be the sticks that people want today. When I go to Stateline almost every stick they sell has a grip shaft, and when you look online, grips seem to be the most prevalent. I'm not sure what most of N's teammates use, but I'm guessing they have grips, as well.

Grip sticks, as you can imagine, have this thin film of rubber over the finish that gives them... you guessed it, grip. I guess in certain ways this helps with puck handling and even your shot, but I'm not a fan of them. If N liked them, then we'd be all set, but he's lukewarm on them, as well. When I went to meet my friend to get the sticks, he handed them to me and I felt the grip but couldn't say anything. He was doing me a big favor, one which I would never take for granted, so I bought the sticks. As I mentioned, they are awesome in every other way

Anyway, I was talking to the guys at Stateline and one of them mentioned that you could simply put a light layer of clear coat over the grip, and it should work. I wasn't even sure what clear coat was, so I did a little investigating and decided to give it a try. You can get the stuff at any auto parts store, and it's basically clear spray paint. I took N's new stick out the barn, sprayed a couple of coats, and voila, goodbye to the grip. It was pretty cool, and there was absolutely no effect on the weight of the stick.

So N went from having one undersized intermediate stick to having two new sticks in the correct size. Plus, they're nice sticks, and he's stoked on them. I love when that happens.

Now we're ready for hockey season, except that it's all over until October. Oh well, at least we'll be prepared.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Leilani and Jade for the pic.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Senior Citizen's Discount

I guess I kind of figured this would happen at some point, but maybe not this soon. I was at the local small Coop nearby, which refer to affectionately as the "Hippie Coop," and was standing in line at the register when my turn came up. I didn't have a lot of purchases and when the cashier, who was a young woman, rang me up, she asked if I might be eligible for a specific type of discount and pointed a sign by the register. I wasn't sure what she was talking about but my eyes followed her finger and saw the sign she was pointing at: Senior Citizens discount, age 55 and up.

I told her no, not quite yet, but one day. Now I know I'm getting old, but I guess I'm starting to look the part, as well. Maybe if I changed my clothes more often I might look younger... or cut my hair.


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

Burning Like Crazy

As is usually the case, we've burned through all of this year's wood, which is en par for the course except that it happened much earlier than usual. As a result, we've been dipping into next year's wood for some time now, and it pains me to see how that pile is dwindling. To compound my suffering, it's only April and we will probably burn wood for another two months. I could see burning through at least 1/3 of next year's wood, which is crazy when you think about it. How could this happen? This winter wasn't even that severe, and we had some stretches of really warm weather, and when I say warm, I'm talking crazy warm.

Either way, no sense in whining about it... yeah, right. I have a theory or two about what happened, and on a bright note, it is fixable. I made a conscious effort this past summer to split the wood thicker. I did this because the bigger pieces burn longer, but it makes my life easier - for any given block of wood, there is less splitting to do. Big pieces take longer to dry, but I figured since it was year two, it had plenty of time to dry. Now my biggest issue with big pieces is that they take up a lot of space, so when you stack it, you get less bang for your buck. I know it's all supposed to be the same in the end, but I do think smaller pieces stack more densely and subsequently, there is more wood to burn for a pile of the same size. At least that's how it feels.

The take home message is that I'm either going to have to split the wood smaller again, or stack the pile higher, or both. This dipping into year two is a drag, but dipping this much into year two is completely unacceptable. I was so stoked this fall because I had two killer piles going and I was ready, but having burned through so much wood I'm beginning to reassess my feelings of pride. I'm not so bitchen, after all, am I?

Plus, with spring's arrival, I get to stress about obtaining another truckload of logs, which is never a simple matter. We'll see how this goes.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to hans.emtenas for the pic.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Contact

In a break from past behaviors, I have been talking to my mom on an amazingly regular basis. I'm talking 4-5 times a week, which is more than I talked to them when I lived at home. My mom has been having health issues, and she's alone out in LA. This is a complicated situation because she's a very difficult person to be around and she alienates every single person she is close to. She has even pushed her kids to the breaking point, but being her kids, we always come back for more. I went for years without contact, and I don't deny that I was not an ideal son, but it was an intolerable situation and I did what I felt I had to do.

Now, with her health on the fringe, I feel like I have to suck it up and be more of a presence. For all it's worth, my mom had mellowed out and is not as vindictive, though she still enjoys sticking the knife in now and then. I guess I have to just lose a little blood because she's getting up there in the years and as I mentioned, she doesn't really have a lot of help out there. My brother was being pretty helpful and attentive, but even he got fed up with her abuse.

Speaking of my brother, I've re-connected with him, as well. It's been a little awkward but on the whole pleasant, so I just have to go with it. It makes my mom happy that we're talking, and I think that as my mom deals with her health issues, it's better if her two loser sons are there to help out. It's the right thing to do, and I feel better that we are somehow coming together as a family.

So I'm going back out there to help out, and I think my brother is coming down, as well, with his fiance, no less. It's hard for me to make this trip because there is always so much going on, but it's time to be a man, right? We'll see how this one goes.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith A D for the pic.

Reflections on Hockey

Well, the season is over and I have to say that it's a bit of relief on a number of levels. I think most parents experience a little burnout by the end of the season because it's such a marathon getting kids to practices, games, and team parties. Then there are the emotional ups and downs of winning, losing, and other assorted disappointments. I didn't talk about this much during the season but I definitely felt a profound sense of betrayal by DW and the WYH program, but I'm also aware that I'm not in a position to whine... not that this will stop me.

I will make this as short and sweet as I can, but this year they brought in a slew of players to bring up the numbers of the program and make a super team that could win it all. For the record, they did win it all. My gripe is that N should have been on that team, but I'm not in charge so it's not my decision. While the case could be made that I'm just a whiny parent who wants their kid on the A team (I am), several parents from the "other" team came up to me and said N should have been on that team. One person in the know even said not a single person he knows isn't scratching their heads as to why he's not on this team. Same person even said before the season started that N was a shoe-in, so I'm not just deluding myself.

Either way, besides being qualified in terms of skill, N has been a loyal WYH person for years, and we as a family have been involved with this program from the get go, doing more than our share of helping out. Even in lieu of all that, N was good enough to make that team, and better than some of those clowns they brought in, who for the record bailed out on WYH for greener pastures. How's that for loyalty?

Clearly DW and various parents had an agenda that meant bringing this outside group in, keeping them together, at the expense of kids who were more deserving. It was really a crappy situation and made me lose all respect for everyone involved, some of whom I didn't respect in the first place. They got what they wanted, but I have zero love for WYH.

On a bright note, N had fun and I really think he grew as a player. Playing on the B team was probably a better introduction to full contact hockey, and I think he really embraced the roll. It was hard at times having players who were total slackers or had crap attitudes, but I'm proud of N in that it didn't stop him from going out and working his hardest. He really grew as a player and got a lot out of it. At times he had to do the work of two players, which may have strengthened his mojo.

Regardless of the positives, however, I feel our time at WYH may be over. This is not solely because I'm bitter, but there are several issues at play. I won't go into them, but suffice it to say that changes may be on the horizon, for better or worse. We'll see how this goes.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mika Kylmaniemi for the pic.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Getting Some Booties

Not that kind of booty, surf booties, like the ones in the pic. I am gearing up for our big surfing summer and part of that is getting cold water gear for me and the kids. I'm pretty much set up with wetsuits, but I still need to find them for the kids. I have my sites set on a few options, but have not moved forward just yet. In the meantime, I needed to get some foot protection for myself. When I surfed in my youth I was not a fan of wearing booties, but you can pull that off when you live in Southern California. Even then, during winter months, the water was so cold that it felt like your feet were being crushed by a vice. Also, I'd surfed more than my fair share of rocky beaches where walking out to the waves was like walking on broken glass. Totally brutal.

As a consequence, I never really adjusted to the feel of wearing booties. I can't say I'm such a big fan. Now that we are on the east coast, I don't think I can avoid them. In New York and New Jersey the water gets very warm in the summer, but I've swam in Maine in August the water was freezing. I think for the second phase of my surfing life I'm going to have to get used to wearing booties, so naturally I set off on a mission to find myself a pair. Oddly enough it wasn't as straightforward as I thought it would be. Finding the right pair in a size that might fit me took some legwork. I would have loved it if there was a surf shop nearby, but we are landlocked, and most shops don't have a huge selection.

This meant looking online, where there is more variety and probably better pricing. The only problem is, you can't try them on before you buy them. Plus, you start to get overwhelmed with the possibilities. I had an idea of what I wanted but couldn't find a pair that fulfilled all my expectations, which is odd for the internet - it seems like you can find anything and everything. In retrospect, I could have found the perfect pair if money was no object, but as you know well enough, money is a huge object for me.

With this in mind, one important requirement was ease and cost-effectiveness of doing a return. I could estimate what size bootie to get, but if it didn't fit, I would have to exchange it for a pair that did. At some point it's just not worth it. I figured that if need be, one return would still make it cost effective.

I managed to find a pair online that I liked, and they offered free shipping and $5 return shipping. I think that's about as good as it was going to get, so I bought them. They arrived just the other day and they fit perfectly. I am so stoked, and might look to these booties as options for the kids, but I don't want to get too ahead of myself. Not yet, at least.

I think surfing is still a couple of months away, so I have some time to find the right gear at the right price, which sometimes seems like it never happens but that can't stop you from trying, right?


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

Finding New Sticks

As I mentioned before, N broke his stick in the penultimate game of the year, which is actually a fitting end to a crazy and tumultuous season, the reason being that we now have to start with a clean slate. This is symbolic to me on a number of levels which I won't go into. The stick was fairly new but I in fact thought it was time to upgrade him into an adult stick. He's been using older kid sticks (intermediate) and they've worked fine, but he's growing and in his last game he borrowed an adult stick from a teammate and liked it. They tend to be longer (though not as long as the one in this pic) and stiffer, both of which compliment his style of playing. They also come in a range of stiffnesses (is that a word?) and you can find a good balance in there.

Naturally my OCD kicked in and I went on a search. One could argue that it was a waste to drop that sort of cash this late in the season. After all, he played his last game, so what's the point? Well, there are a few points, one of which is that the season is not completely over. Sure, games are done, but there always seems to something happening on the ice. Furthermore, I like shopping for gear for the kids, especially when I can find a good deal on things they need. This of course includes surfboards and wetsuits, but that's a story for another time.

I went online and found some decent deals on sticks that are last year's models. I even got the thumbs up from mom to pursue this, so say no more. I ordered one and it came in a week, and he is stoked with it. The story gets more interesting, however, because we happen to be friends with someone who is an equipment manager for a major sports program in this area. What a cool job. He has procured sticks for other people we know for great prices, so I contacted him at the same time that I was shopping around for sticks. He was very cool about it, I think he feels a little sorry for me regarding how things transpired this season (our kids orbit similar circles), but that could easily be me reading too much into things. Either way, he pulled it off and scored a couple of killer sticks at an amazing price.

Now N already had a new stick because I had set things in motion at the same time and by the time my friend contacted me, I had already bought a stick. However, I felt like I couldn't pass up this opportunity because he had gone to all the trouble to locate the sticks, even took into account my requests about length, flex and curvature of the blade - those of you who buy hockey sticks will understand this. It was also a great deal; the sticks were last year's models purchased for players in his program who were no longer there, so they were excess stock. Since it's a top notch program, the sticks are top notch quality - we are talking prices in excess of $250 brand new. I would never drop that kind of cash on a hockey stick, but I would love to get one for a fraction of that price (we are talking about 1/5 the cost), which is how it worked. Finally, getting the sticks catered to my OCD about getting gear for the kids, especially when it involves a good deal. Besides, as we've witnessed, N needs two sticks.

There was one issue with the new sticks that was not ideal, but we were able to attend to it to make them exactly what we were looking for. Don't you just love when that happens? I won't get into it now but the guys at Stateline gave me some advice on how to fix things and it worked out beautifully, but more on this later.

For now, we are all set with sticks, and I can look forward to my next obsession, which will probably involve wetsuits, but you never know.

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

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Breaking Sticks

During one of the last games of the season N broke his stick, which was less than a year old. While it's a bummer to break your stick, especially a fairly new one, I'm glad that he had a backup, and I was not completely enamored with either stick (not that my opinion means anything). Unlike his dad, N is not a complainer and was fine with his main stick, saying as much on many occasions. It did, however, have a few shortcomings that naturally tweaked at his dad's OCD. First, a little background.

N was using a killer Easton stick that I got on clearance (of course) online and it worked really well for him. It was an intermediate stick that was a little long way back when so a friend cut it down to size, though in my opinion he cut too much, being a believer in short sticks. N used it last season but this season it was a little short for him, so we put an extension on it and also got him a new one. I didn't have a lot of time and it's good to hold the stick and get a feel for it, so I went to Stateline, whose selection can be limited at times, and bought one that was mid-range in terms of price. I cannot for the life of me spend over $200 on a hockey stick, despite my OCD for the sport and the gear. The one I got him was good but not great, and I think many other people felt the same way because everywhere I looked people were using the same stick - a few of his teammates, and the guys in my adult league. Clearly we all had the same thing in mind, which is sort of embarrassing, but what are you going to do? I was willing to get him yet another stick and then he could use the new/old stick as a backup. I would then take his old/old backup stick and use it, since my stick is a complete piece of junk. I realize how confusing and neurotic this all sounds, but N slammed on the brakes and told me to lighten up - his stick was fine, despite my misgivings. What a sensible kid.

He was fine was his new stick and I have to say he did well with it, despite my neurotic reservations. He used it for most of his games and in the penultimate game of the year, he broke it. It got caught in a crack in the boards and snapped. Now for the reasons I mentioned earlier, I was not heartbroken about this development. Besides, sports equipment breaks, it's part of playing the game. AND, he said he thought the stick was getting a little short for him... why didn't he say something earlier? Probably better that he didn't because if I'd heard that earlier in the year I would have definitely gotten him a new stick. He still had his backup stick for the final game of the year, though that one was even shorter, even with the extension.

Now at his final game one of his teammates let him use his backup, which is an adult sized stick, which is longer and has a higher flex, i.e., it's stiffer. These are all good things, and he looked good shooting with it. He also said he liked the feel of the adult stick, and it had the extra length he was looking for. Well, you can imagine how happy this made dad, because it meant a new project for his OCD - find your son a new stick.

I have the criteria, I just need to find something that is within a reasonable price range. I have a few leads and I hope at least one or two will work out. We shall see.

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Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to N. Kreger for the pic.

It's All Over Now

So hockey season has ended and it sort of feels like a chapter in our lives has closed. Of course I'm not sure what next season may hold, but suffice it to say that there is some discontent with the program on my end. I was not happy with how things transpired, even though N didn't mind and he had a good season. He really grew as a player and developed skills and experience. I still hold a grudge against DW and the board, but I can't go on whining forever... or can I? Life goes on, who am I to say how things should go? Just to add to the drama, however, is the fact that the "other" team that I felt N should have been on (I'm not alone in this thinking) had huge amounts of success, but don't get me started on that one.

It is nice to be done with practices and being at the rink 7 days a week. We have all spring and summer to ponder what happens next.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to CakePops2012 for the pic.
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Monday, March 20, 2017

Back to Normal?

Whatever that means.

Excuse my absence but things have been very busy the past week and a half and I've been running around like crazy or too tired to function. Then again, as any parent knows, you're never too tired to function because there is always something that needs to be done. Plus, I can't complain (not that it stops me) because a lot of my turmoil is self-inflicted.

N's hockey season came to a whirlwind end this weekend with a big local tournament. Add in the big snowstorm early in the week, my own hockey and surfing OCD, cat care for two different friends, and a reasonably busy work week, and it's no wonder I feel like I'm barely treading water.

I realize I'm just whining and making excuses but I've got to stay true to my nature, right? N's hockey season ended and I'm feeling somewhat relieved because it's been a season filled with drama and resentment. I won't go into the details but the fact that the other team, the one which I without a doubt feel N should have been on, had the dream season. Thanks again to DW and the board for that one. If there were bright notes to it all, it's that N still worked hard and grew as a player. Unlike his dad, he's got a good head on his shoulders and has a good attitude. I do think that he probably jived better with this group of guys. They weren't the alpha males you get on a superstar team, and in a way it showed because they didn't show up to play for every game and practice. In that sense a lot of them really belonged on this team. On the other hand, the lack of commitment meant that it was a more fun and festive atmosphere. They lost many games that they should have won, but at least they had fun. In the the end they're good kids (at least some of them) and it should be interesting to see where they land.

We had two sets of friends go out of town this weekend and they asked us to watch cats and hens. It's a nice way for N to make some money and have some real world responsibility, but it requires a little traveling on opposite sides of our town. This of course means that dad has to do the driving, and when you've got so many things going on, it's just one more thing for me complain about. I am working on this, much to the disbelief of my kids. Our friends also returned home this weekend and it was a relief to have that off our plates. We did enjoy, however, all the fresh eggs.

We had a crazy snowstorm early in the week which threw off my work week and meant maintenance around the house. Me and N spent an entire day shoveling the driveway and the path to the wood. I would guess that about 2 feet of snow fell, and while it was powdery, there was a lot of it. We also had to shovel out our friends house so we could get to the chickens not to mention their house. This was a little harder because we couldn't get to it for a couple of days because I couldn't find their snow shovels (it turns out they were buried in the snow) and I kept forgetting ours. By the time I got to shoveling it, it was icy and heavy as cement.

I've been researching wetsuits for the kids and my friend said her husband had a bunch of old wetsuits that we could have. I was stoked at the possibility of free wetsuits but also wary of old and dirty used wetsuits. She said she washed a couple but that others were sort of nasty. When I picked them up I could tell that they were probably the wrong size and some were too nasty to even consider putting on, but we'll see. I am wrestling with this one because it's not very practical to buy new suits for something they have not even tried, but buying used wetsuits is tricky business because you really want to get the right size, and used ones can be gross and disgusting. More on this later.

Finally, I've got a new morning obsession in making fresh fruit salad for the family. I know, not a big deal, and do I really need to aspire to be Martha Stewart on top of all the other things in my life? But, the salad is killer, my family loves it, I love it, and what's wrong with aspiring to be Martha Stewart?

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More on all of this later. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Benjamin Reay for the pic.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Coming to an End

N's team played in the state championship game this past weekend, ultimately falling to their opponents and ending their season. They played a great game and I think many of them progressed as players, especially N. I still have a bad taste in mouth with how DW and the board put together these teams, but I'm not in a position to make a stink, and in the end, N had a good season and grew as a player. There's no question in my mind that N deserved to be on the "other team," if only for the fact that he's been a loyal player with this program and had grown up in it, but mostly because, more than anyone else on his team (in my opinion), he's just as skilled as the guys on the "other team". But, as I mentioned, I can't make a stink because it's just me whining about feeling wronged, and it's not my decision to make. Everyone else loves this coach because he's a winner, and they all want their kids to be on a winning team. Screw the other guy as long as my kid gets to be a champion, right?

N's team definitely had more of a festive atmosphere, and despite an overall lack of commitment and drive, they had fun. I know that's what it's all about, but sometimes I think these kids could benefit from a little more passion. I would say that only about 1/2 of the team, for various reasons, skated and played as hard as they could whenever they were on the ice. I can only hope their attitude will change if they ever play high school hockey, because coaches at that level will not put up with that BS.

I will say this, and I think N concurs with me, I feel a sense of relief now that the big game is over. Sure, we're disappointed, especially since we had to watch the other team win the championship (they played right before us) while we lost. There are, however, valuable life lessons in there, and sometimes that's the best thing to come out of these situations. I know N is pretty level headed about it, and I most definitely am not as bummed as I was last season when we lost a heartbreaker in the championship. This year I feel like the team went out and did their best and now we can move on with our lives.

So maybe I'll do just that. Now if I can only get over my bitterness, which for the record will probably never happen. Plus, there is still more hockey to be played, so that means running into a certain unsavory individual some more. I guess that's part of the character building process, right? The question is, what the hell am I supposed to do with all this character?

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

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Skiing and Boarding While We Can

The weather has been really crazy this past month, and while I'm not a fan of how things went, we were able to take advantage of the good days, which of course made the bad days less painful. The crazy progression started several weeks back, when we were hit with several storms, some of which were significant. I recall one where it snowed, followed by freezing rain, which is a bummer. The thing is, the next day the temps skyrocketed to 45 degrees, so the ice melted and the snow was good. We had a great day of skiing at the Skiway. N and A rode their snowboards (and shred) and I skied. I was initially reluctant because being the old man that I am I can't handle poor ski conditions, but it was a lot of fun. Up to that point the best day of skiing we'd had.

Then we had a big storm come in on Sunday and they canceled school, so we headed to S6 and had a great day of skiing. We're not used to skiing fresh, un-groomed powder up here, but there it was. We had a blast, though again, being the old man that I am, I don't do as well with anything other than perfectly groomed packed powder. I'm not complaining, but I had to change the way I ski in different conditions, actually using my poles, which I don't usually employ.

We got a fair amount of skiing in, way more than last year, where I don't think A skied a single day. It's good we jumped on it when we could, because within a week the conditions got really bad, with warm weather (in the 50s) and massive rainstorms coming in. This past weekend the temps dropped to single digits, with wind chills at -20 in the evening. How crazy is that? Naturally, all that melted snow turned into a massive sheet of ice, which I think pretty much ended the ski season. We did the Skiway last week for the FS program and I thought it was a bad idea. What little snow there was was terrible, and there were so many brown patches that I thought it was borderline dangerous, at least for little kids learning to ski.

Personally, I'm fine if we just call it a season (it was a good one for us) and move into spring, but that's not my decision to make, and nobody cares what I think.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Rutger Geerling for the pic.
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Friday, March 3, 2017

Surf Prep

I don't want to talk too much about things that haven't happened or project into the future, but of course I can't help myself. I'm currently venturing into more OCD territory in terms of gear, as if I needed another avenue for this, but this is important stuff. My next big project is to teach the kids how to surf, and I managed to address one big piece of the puzzle by getting my surfboard out of LA. We now have two boards, and need a third to be complete. I won't divulge my plan to address this, at least not yet. One nice thing about surfing is that there is a lot less gear than hockey and skiing, and for the most part, it costs a lot less. The board is the biggest expense, but once you've got that, you're all set... sort of. Now I need to find wetsuits for the kids, which is not an easy proposition when you're landlocked like we are. I can easily find them online, and have even found some pretty good deals on new suits, but they can't try them on. If there was a surf shop or even a dive shop nearby, they could at least get a sense of what size they need, but no such luck.

There are surf shops in New England, no doubt, you just need to head to the coast. We may do this in the near future, which would be great because surf shops are very cool, and they could of course try on wetsuits. The other alternative is to get one that I think is close to their size and if it doesn't fit, exchange it for the a different size. There are some additional costs to this method because of shipping, but only on the returns because what I'm seeing is free shipping to me. Besides, sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do, especially when it comes to catching waves.

It's still early in the season to feel rushed about this, but as with everything I seem to get involved with, it's sure to be an adventure. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Eduardo Avalith for the pic.
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In Need of More Sleep

Now that I'm a parent I find it amazing that kids have to wake up so early to get to school in the AM. Kids need more sleep (heck, I need more sleep), and granted they could just go to bed much earlier, but what teenager is going to do that? I am feeling the pain of early mornings because I have to take A into school, even though she drives. Since she has a first period class, that means getting there by 7:45, which means I generally have to wake up around 5:15 to get the fire going and make the fruit salad (more on this later) and write this fabulous blog. Needless to say that I get the day started tired and it lasts all day. I could ameliorate this situation by going to bed early myself. I'm talking 9:30 or 10:00, but that means mom and I don't get much, if any, time alone to chill or watch a movie. For the record, watching a movie for us means falling asleep in front of the computer and then crawling up to bed, but at least we're doing it together.

What compounds the matter is I start off the week tired and then it carries over until the end of the week. Having hockey games (adult league) in the late evening doesn't help, and now that I'm playing in the AM, I'm even more tired by the afternoon. I know, I know, I'm putting this all on myself, but at least it gives me something to complain about, right? All I can say is thank goodness for those afternoon (and evening) naps. You really take sleep for granted when you're young, but when you get older, it ranks up there with sex and eating, don't you think?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Alex Harries for the pic.
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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Shoveling Warriors

As much as I love the snow, I have to admit that all that shoveling is quite the workout. It is good to keep in mind, however, that being active is a good thing, especially as I get older. It's also worthy to note that I am greatly aided by the contributions of the kids, mostly N, but sometimes A. On really snowy days I am amazed that at one time I did this all by myself.

As most of you may know by now, our area got slammed with a couple of big storms, and while I'm happy that we finally got some snow, the fickle weather can make it a chore to clear. This is especially true when the snow turns to freezing rain or rain and then cools down again. This is exactly what happened recently, and it makes it so the white stuff weighs a ton. Plus, since we had a freeze thaw pattern earlier, there is a crust of snow underneath the softer stuff that in certain places needed to be cleared. As you can guess, we had our work cut out for us. The main reason for this is because we have to be able to cart wood in a wheelbarrow to the house. If the under-layer is frozen solid, no problem, though it's slippery. If it's softer and crunchy, however, it needs to be cleared. It took us a while to get it done, and required the use of a metal shovel to break it up and move it, and the big chunks of ice keep falling off the shovel, making me say the F-word constantly (such a bad influence on my kids), but we managed to get it done. Thanks to the kids for their help.

I'm not sure how much more snow we're going to get, but I think that most of the below zero days might be behind us. Then again, when you live in New England, you just never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you, so it's best to just expect the unexpected, or better yet, have none.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tianyu M. Fang for the pic.

Strangle That Cat

I love our cats but every now and then they do something that really infuriates me. The funny thing is they know they did something wrong because the minute I walk into the room they run for dear life. They'd better. This past Valentine's day we left flowers out for mom but couldn't be there when she saw them because we had to head out for school. I left the vase of flowers on the dining table but one of them broke in half. I put it into it's own little vase and left it for A at her seat. As we were in the mudroom getting ready to leave, I heard a thump and knew something was wrong, so I went back inside and sure enough one of the cats had knocked over the small vase, spilling water all over the table. And as per protocol, the minute she heard me come in she ran for the hills and was out of sight.

We were a little late but I had to clean up the mess. Our dining table is very busy and there are books, magazines, papers, and numerous laptop computers on it. I scrambled to move things out of harm's way and sop up the water. Mom got up and came down and took over, and it wasn't quite the harmonious V-day morning I was hoping she'd have, but what are you going to do?

Just another day in in the life, as the saying goes. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to the Rose of Lady Oscar for the pic.

Killer Thai Food

One last V-day note, we went to dinner that night in the big city and decided on Thai food. Living up here in the wilds of New England, it's not hard to imagine that good Thai food is not always that easy to find. However, there are a couple of places that do a good job, and one of our favorites is Kata. The location is not the best because it's downstairs, which is fine by me but makes it hard if you don't know about it. The less than optimal location must make the rent cheaper so they can pass the savings on to the customers. I see a similar thing with Boloco, my other favorite place to eat in the big city.

The food at Kata is excellent, and the prices are reasonable. The decor is no nonsense and the service is minimal, but when it comes to ethnic food, sometimes the more the place is a dive, the better (within reason). Also, I am a fan of bussing my own dishes, I don't need 4 star service. If anything it embarrasses me. The food at Kata is excellent and you get nice portions and plenty of steamed rice. Our favorite is the mango curry. We had a couple of appetizers, three curries (red curry, as well), and killer steamed veggies, which come with real veggies and not just carrots and bok choy. I was stuffed and we still had a lot of food to take home.

All in all a killer meal on V-day, followed by a little Bogart and Berman at the Hop. What more can you ask for?
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Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Midvill for the pic.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Good, then Bad, and then Good Again

The weather has been a little bit crazy lately, albeit in a good way. I.e., the net result is that we're happy with the way things have gone, but it's been challenging along the way. We've had some killer snowfall in the past couple of weeks, but it didn't start out this way. Last week it snowed a bit and then transitioned into freezing rain, which meant icy and dangerous conditions. What's a bummer is that we drove to the rink in the snow and it changed to freezing rain while were on the ice. This meant we came out to slippery conditions all the way home. It also meant that shoveling was going to be tough because the snow is like a sponge and when it gets wet it's a bear to move.

What's crazy, however, is what happened next. We were supposed to ski over at the Skiway the next day, and I figured the conditions would be terrible with all the ice. However, the weather warmed up to 45 degrees the next day, and by the time we hit the slopes, the snow was perfect. In fact, it was the best day of skiing we'd had, and we made the most of it. It just goes to show you, you just never know how things are going to turn out.

We've had a couple of big storms since then, so skiing conditions have amazing. Throw in a snow day at school and life is good.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to EP Scott for the pic.
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Reflections on Valentine's Day

Several days after the fact, I hope everyone had a nice Valentine's Day. Even though I'm a bit cynical about commercial holidays that they've created to put pressure on us to buy things and conform our lives a certain way, we celebrate V-Day and get out and do things as a family. It also happens to be our anniversary, so we can't ignore it, nor do we want to. We always have fun and usually do things together as a family.

This year it kind of crept up on us because life has been crazy with the weather, hockey for the kids and myself, and skiing. I've also been working more than I thought I would, so we're moving in many different directions on any given day. I think the fact that A is in school makes our lives a little busier, as well. Either way, we weren't sure what our plans were until a day or two before, but we decided that we'd have a celebratory dinner and then go see a movie. They just happened to be playing Casablanca at the college, and the kids agreed to sit through it with us. I sort felt bad because it's a slow movie, even by my old standards, and I was not impressed when I saw it way back when, but it is a classic, so I thought I'd give it another try.

N had hockey practice, as well, which we decided to forgo since it would complicate matters and I'm no longer enamored with his hockey program for reasons I'll explain at a later date. Mom and A also take an exercise class, which they wanted to attend. We were also toying with skiing, which we passed on because it was just too much stuff. So, after bringing A home from school, we chilled out for a bit and then headed out to the big city for dinner. We had killer Thai food at Kata, a new place downstairs where Bagel Basement used to be. I love that place, they have killer curry and the prices are very reasonable. It's no nonsense in terms of service and decor, but the food is awesome.

After supper we went to the theater and watched the movie, and I have to say that I enjoyed it more the second time around. I was "not young" when I saw it the first time, but maybe even the last few years have mellowed me out enough to appreciate it. Sure, it's sappy and campy and all that good stuff, but I liked it. The kids didn't complain one bit, though I'm guessing they won't be lining up to watch it again any time soon. The audience definitely leaned more toward the AARP spectrum, sort of like everything in this town.

All in all we had a nice Valentine's Day. We managed to surprise mom with flowers in the morning, and we ended it with a nice supper and movie. Best of all, we got to all hang out together. How can you beat that?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Vanessa Pike-Russell for the pic.
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