Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year

Before I retire to bed for the last time in 2014, I want to take a moment to wish everyone reading my blog a happy and healthy 2015, full of love and laughter. We're going to do our best to make this a special year. If you keep visiting our site, you'll be able to find out how we made out.

2014 went fairly well for us, but there's always room for improvement.

No waiting for the ball to drop for me tonight; Karen has to get up in the morning. So, I'll see you somewhere on the other side of midnight. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Getting a Warm Feeling

I should be singing I'm Dreaming Of a Wet Christmas, or maybe It Might As Well Be Spring. It was raining when we woke up, and the snow we've gotten so far has mostly melted. It's really very much like a New Hampshire Spring.

But although Christmas wasn't white, it was very nice. Despite having to replace the washer/dryer, we managed to take advantage of some deals and upgrade some of our electronics. William, by virtue of big improvements at school, earned a special kind of laptop called a Chromebook to use in class. Daniel got his first computer, and I got a Kindle, which I am using to write this post.

Karen and I will also be getting something called  a Chromebox, which is the non-laptop version of William's Chromebook that will replace a lot of the various boxes we now use to watch TV.

It wasn't all about electronics, though. As its usual for the Brooks Bunch food was a major there this holiday. Not only did we all pitch in and prepare some wonderful grub, but we gave food-oriented gifts as well. Tom got a sushi kit from William, and William got an icing spatula and a family cookbook by the Cake Boss. I got a copy of Tim Ferris' book The Four-Hour Chef, which isn't really as much about cooking as it is about learning.

So the good eating is unlikely to end with the holidays. But it seems the warm weather will; predictions show a return to temperatures more in keeping with the season toward the end of the boys' vacation.

But that's probably good timing for me; once the boys are back in school, I can hunker down and write. And if my office gets too cold, I can grab my Kindle and park myself close to the heater, and still get my work done.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


We finally are coming to grips with our appliances. For reasons that would take too long to explain (and would be somewhat embarrassing for the household electrician), we've been without our upstairs stove for several months. I just resolved that problem Friday night.

But before I fixed the stove, which we could wait on because we have another one downstairs (the basement was set up as a separate living space), we had to deal with a broken washer and dryer (a laundry center, all one unit). That was harder to do without; there was the local laundromat, of course, but that is expensive, and frankly where we live nothing is truly close by. I tried to fix the unit—I've done it before—but the part I needed would have cost a couple hundred dollars, and the inside of the washer was very rusty, and the springs were weak, so we had to give up on repairing and go straight to buying.

It was a hard decision, especially because I replaced the heating element in the dryer section less than a year ago. But the old laundry center wouldn’t have held up much longer. So we have a new one. Not what we wanted for Christmas, exactly, but it does work well, and now we can catch up on all the laundry we’ve been putting off.

Now I just have to get started on the dishwasher. Don’t even ask.

Saturday, December 06, 2014


Danny is twelve years old today. I can hardly believe it myself. Our family celebration of the day will be simple: dinner, decorations, presents, and homemade (by William) cupcakes at home. Tomorrow we’ll be off to the movies with a friend of Danny’s. We were going to do that today, but weather and logistics didn’t cooperate.

Our little preemie is now impossibly tall, the second tallest student in his grade (and the tallest in his basketball team). He started out as a tiny, withered, delicate wisp; twelve years later he’s strong and healthy, rough and tumble.

It will be about six and a half years until Danny graduates high school. Then, we hope, he’ll strike out on his own. And then it will be just Karen and me.

Here, in case you haven’t heard it yet, are my musical thoughts on that subject:

Sunday, November 30, 2014


We finally have power, as of about noon yesterday. It was out for 68 hours, and, in concert with the big snowstorm that caused the outage, it spoiled our travel plans for the holidays.

We made the best of it. We stayed home the first night, in the hope that the power would come back on during the night. When it didn’t we went into town in search of breakfast and found it at Dunkin’ Donuts, the only place in town serving food on the holiday. After breakfast and a look at the electric company’s Web site, we decided to take advantage of our timeshare in Wolfeboro (they had power; they usually have power when we don’t) and spend Thanksgiving someplace with heat, light, running water, and a working kitchen.

Karen prepared a lovely, if not traditional, meal of bacon-wrapped steak, wild rice, broccoli, and asparagus, and we splurged on a mousse cake for dessert. DVDs and video games kept us entertained until bedtime, and we were all able to get a good night’s sleep, more or less.

In the morning, I checked the electric company’s Web site. Seeing that our neighboring town had only 5% of their customers still out, I reasoned that they should have us up and running by late the same day, so we checked out of the room and headed to the library, then home.

The power didn’t come back up. Sigh. After another cold night at home, we went off the some local craft fairs, sitting down to lunch at one of them, and then back to the library, where we could charge phones and tablets and take advantage of their Internet connection. Finally, around noon, the power was back up and we went home. We had our little turkey breast and the baked stuffed clams we were supposed to take to New Jersey. We’ve been going through the food in the freezer and the refrigerator. Most of it seems to have survived.

In other adventures, Tom’s car broke down last week, with a charge light and no heat from the vents. We limped it almost halfway to the mechanic when it stopped running. He had to have it towed in. Fortunately, the problem turned out to be two broken belts, and not terribly expensive, so Tom is back on the road and not completely broke.

On the other hand, our washer/dryer stack is down for the count, and we’re replacing it as soon as the one we’re buying from Lowes can be delivered. This Thanksgiving we’re thankful for sales and employee discounts. Meanwhile, harkening back to my bachelor days, we’re haunting the local laundromat. At least I get to catch up on some of my reading.

And, finally, the snow did a number on the temporary garage where Karen’s trailer is kept. The trailer is okay, but I’m going to have to add some wooden support to the now bent metal frame of the shed, and keep a close eye on future storms. By next year the trailer will be done and we’ll have a deck overhead to protect it, so we just have to get through this Winter.

Which is normal for us, as it is for many here in northern New England: Winter is just what we do while waiting for Spring.

Friday, November 14, 2014


The first snow arrived last night, though it wasn’t much even as first snows go (or is it goes?), and wasn’t worth all the scrambling we did to prepare for it. But real snow storms are coming soon enough, so the effort wasn’t entirely wasted.

I thought the boys might have a delayed opening today, but the roads were so warm that the snow didn’t stick to them at all, and the bus arrived right on time. As it turns out, it would have been just a bit easier for me if there had been a delay, because I pulled the boys out of school early for dental exams in Rochester, and had there been a delay it would have saved me a trip into town to get them.

Hardly anything happens in New Hampshire, especially here in the Lakes Region, that involves less driving.

I know it’s been a long time since I updated this blog, and I have no excuses, other than I’ve been doing a lot of other writing lately, and this seems to just get pushed down the list. I’m currently working on four songs, two of which started as assignments for my online songwriting class. The third song was going to be for the class until I came up with the idea for the fourth one, which is going to be easier to write, and important feature since the deadline for the song is five days away.

I’m also working on a short story and—it’s about time—a book. So the keyboards on my computer, the library’s computer (when I’m there), and my iPhone are all keeping pretty busy.

And of course there’s this little matter of keeping up with construction on the house. I just finished the front porch. Now with cold weather setting in, I’ll move to indoor projects, of which there is a never-ending (it seems) supply. And Danny is playing basketball this season, going to Scouts, and attending the Book Talk Club.

William doesn’t have any after-school activities this year, but that’s partly because school keeps him physically active; again this year, he’s in the Vista program, which includes daily walks and weekly long hikes, even in the dead of winter. It’s tiring, but William enjoys it, and he’s doing very well in school this year. We’ve been getting refreshing calls from his teachers telling us how much he’s improved since last year, and how responsible and helpful he is in class. It’s so good to hear.

I'm writing this rather late at night while I’m waiting for a loaf of bread to finish baking. It’s just about done (I can smell it), so I need to wrap this up and get myself to bed. With Karen’s schedule this week, we don’t even get to sleep in on the weekends. Sigh.

I’ll try to make the next post longer. And sooner.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Autumn's Almost Here

You can tell that Summer is coming to an end. It's not just that the kids are back in school, or that the nights have turned decidedly chilly. It's not even that the days are noticeably shorter. What really cinches it, is that nearly everyone in the house is sick.

Danny just went back to school today after two days off. Ever generous, Danny shared his virus with Karen, who still had to go to work, but no happily. Thomas is beginning to feel the first symptoms, but maybe having today off work will have saved him from the worst of it. William had some other malady that brought him home early from school for two days, but in typical William style, he's shaken it off in time to go camping with his class tomorrow.

I'm not sure about me. Just when I'm feeling that little tickle in the throat and a couple of snuffles, and I've resigned myself to the inevitable, the symptoms just sort of fade away, and I'm left wondering whether it's nothing more than a change in the weather. Perhaps I shouldn't speak too soon, though.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Adventures In Camping

This past weekend, we went camping with a wonderful group of trailer enthusiasts in nearby Milton. Our trailer is not ready for camping yet, so we were still in a tent. Which got interesting when it started to rain. Pour, actually.

It would have been fine, but the rain fly came loose and water started coming in the top vents of the tent. Someone ran over to the pavilion, where Karen and William were preparing our contribution to the potluck, and told me that the tent was taking on water. I ran out into the rain to see what was going on. I managed to do a temporary fix to the fly, then went into the tent to take out anything that was still dry and put it in the car. Karen came over a couple of minutes later and did a better fix for the fly so that we wouldn’t get any more water in the tent.

Fortunately, the camp has a laundromat with large-capacity dryers, and we were able to dry out the sleeping bags and some of our clothing.

We managed to set things back up so that we could sleep in the tent on the last night, but it took us quite a while to strike camp the next morning, drying layer after layer of tent pieces as we went. But we managed to leave before check-out.

Aside from the adventure with the tent, though, it was a very enjoyable campout. Lots of singing around the fire, a couple of side-trips to places we don’t get to very often, and lots of space to run and play for the boys. We’ll be back next year. But I won’t be disappointed if the rain decides to stay away.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Birthday!

Karen had a birthday on Saturday, and we had two parties. The first was at home on her birthday, when we presented her with a new easel. It sounds like we’re pushing her into doing more work, but she wanted one. Honestly. We were going to go out on that night, but Thomas had to work. We did go out on Tuesday, since we could all make it.

Karen’s birthday wasn’t an entirely happy occasion, though. One of the lovely birthday gifts that the State of New Hampshire gives every car owner is the need to have her car inspected. It’s supposed to be a safety inspection, but there are a lot of things on the list that don’t seem safety related. At any rate, Karen’s car didn’t pass, and it would have taken more money to fix than an 11-year old car with 212,000 miles on the odometer could possibly be worth. So, on Sunday, the last day that she could legally drive the car, we took it to the mechanic, who bought it from her for parts.

Karen was very sad to see it go. It’s the car her Mom gave her after Danny was born so that she could safely drive to the hospital to see him. But nothing lasts forever. It may be awhile before we get another car; meanwhile, we’ll have to limp along with the one, and occasional help from Tom when his schedule permits.

It’s not the first time we’ve had to do it, though, so we’ll manage just fine.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Curse Of the Blue Tongue

There it was again yesterday: Danny's blue tongue! Something about the 7th of the month lately that's got me missing a picture. Now I'm trying to decide if I should go ahead and put a picture in the 7th slot so that I don't see the blue tongue again in September. Or perhaps I should leave the picture there, as a tradition of sorts ("The 7th day of each month will hereafter be known as Blue Tongue Day"). I could also just take my chances and see what happens next month, although I know that the 7th of September will find us camping, so if I don't take care of it ahead of time, Danny's blue tongue will put in its fourth appearance.

As you can see by the new pictures, we spent yesterday at York Beach, at the amusement park, at also at the park near the Nubble lighthouse. Because of the rain, no one actually got to go to the beach, but we did sit and watch the sunset at Nubble, and we found an ice cream place we hadn't been to before.

Today we went up to the Kancamagus Highway, between Conway and Lincoln. We weren't able to go to our usual swimming hole because the parking facility is under construction, so we continued on up the highway. And on and on until we got to a place called Otter Rocks. It was further than we expected, but the boys had fun splashing around in the icy water, and Karen managed to do another painting. I spent the time experimenting with the panoramic setting on my iPhone. I have to figure out the best way to show those pictures online, because some of them are very interesting.

We were so far away from the Conway end of the highway that we decided to go all the way to Lincoln and go home from there. That turned out to be the long way, I think, but we did discover yet another new ice cream place, and saw some parts of Holderness and Center Harbor that we hadn't seen before.

Tomorrow is lobster truck day. I get to stand in line waiting for lobster at $4.99 a pound outside the store where Tom works. When I get up to the truck, I tell them how many and they pluck them out of the tank and bag them for me to take inside the market where I pay for them. Since they are live lobster, we need to cook them the same day, so we'll take them home and boil them, then take the meat out. Some will get frozen, and some will get included in some scampi tomorrow night. The shells and some other parts get boiled down into stock to be used later for bisque and lobster macaroni and cheese. It's an all-day preparation event, pretty much.

The truck arrives pretty early, so I think we'd better be off to bed.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Karen’s unfortunate timing with the weather hasn’t gotten any better. Here it is her first day off in six days, and what she really wanted to do was work on the trailer. And it poured. Buckets. With lightning and thunder. The boys’ swim lessons even got called off. We did treat ourselves to brunch out at our favorite hole-in-the-wall hangout, and we spent some time in the library, so the day wasn’t a total loss. We’re hoping for better weather tomorrow, at least for part of the day.

The boys discovered a program that I’ve had on my computer for a long time that allows them to do animation, and they’ve been having fun with it. Maybe the results will be on YouTube soon. It reminds me of Thomas playing with the Amiga computer many years ago. I’ll have to try to recover some of that animation and convert it to a modern format so that we can look at it. I remember being pretty impressed with what Tom could do at nine years old.

I don’t think the boys realize what a magical age they’ve been born into. When I was there age (now wait, I’m not trying to sound like an old fogey), if I wanted to make a movie I had to spend a lot of money and there were some things I just couldn’t hope to do, like sync sound and any kind of special effects. Now there are so many resources, so many tools that are a part of our everyday lives, and so much free and low-cost software that money is no longer the limiting factor in making some spectacular media. Now all it takes are hard work and patience.

It remains to be seen if my boys will devote enough of that to create some amazing movies. I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Off the Stage

My run in Pittsfield is done. The set is gone, the cast party is past, and goodbyes have been said. I'll miss my Pittsfield Players theater family. But it's time to get back to home projects before New Hampshire's winter creeps up on me.

And, of course, creative work. I have a couple of short stories, some videos, and several songs that I haven't had time to do much which since rehearsals started.

Evernote, a service and a set of applications that let me write from wherever I happen to be, helps a lot this time of year. For example, I'm writing this blog entry using my phone while the boys are swimming.

Lessons this week. We're only doing two weeks of lessons this year, because the cost went up, but the boys are good swimmers, and the lessons are mostly to keep them safer. They spend a lot of time in the water during the summer. I don't think they know how lucky they are.

But I think they'll remember this fondly when they're all grown up. Which seems as if it's coming up tomorrow. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014


It's interesting in the summer trying to get everyone, including me, where they're supposed to be. This morning, William and Daniel attended a very interesting talk on water at Lake Wentworth, which included information about watersheds, erosion, invasive species, fish anatomy, and even a carnivorous plant that is found in New Hampshire waters. Not to worry, the utricularia only eats plankton.

After stopping at the store to get food for lunch and dinner, we had to get back to the house so that William could meet up with a friend, with whom he is staying overnight. Then just enough time to get some writing and a little carpentry done before cleaning up the kitchen and having dinner.

Just Danny and me for dinner tonight; Karen ate a late lunch and Tom is working late, so sandwiches for the two of us, and Karen is bringing home a special dessert for our temporary only child. She'll arrive—I hope—just in time for me to leave for rehearsal tonight.

Three more shows to do, two of them on Saturday (whew!), and then I'm done with the commute to Pittsfield for quite some time. I'll miss the theater and my new Pittsfield Players family, but I won't miss the extra driving.

And now it seems that Danny is done making his sandwich. My turn.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Castle In the Clouds

Karen is in love. With a house. In Moultonborough, New Hampshire. It's known as "The Castle In the Clouds," and it was built in 1914 by a shoe factory owner named Thomas Plant. It's a huge house, but that's not what Karen is in love with: it was built during the Arts and Crafts movement, and every detail shows it.

We spent the afternoon there with the boys, stopping on the grounds for a picnic lunch. Then we had to rush back for my final rehearsal. Tonight is opening night. So what will I be doing to prepare for this momentous occasion? Working on Karen's trailer, what else? By the time you've rehearsed a show this much, it doesn't do any good to beat yourself over the head with it leading up to the big night. I feel ready, and I've got a great cast up there with me.

So now I have to go do carpentry. Now that makes me nervous.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Busy, Busy Busy!

As you can tell from the reprise of Danny's blue tongue, I have had a bit of trouble keeping up on pictures. And it's mostly just forgetfulness. I forgot to bring a camera when the boys were swimming yesterday, and to rehearsal (I was going to have one of the crew take some pictures of me). But the camera didn't make it into my mental packing list when it was time to go.

But, if it helps, I finally have a gallery of pictures from the camping trip HERE. No captions yet, but perhaps I'll get that done after opening weekend.

The play is going well. We open on Friday (yikes), and Karen and the boys will get to see me on opening night. Karen has some time off this week, and we're going to spend it having some fun with the boys, and also getting some work done on the house and the trailer. We're aiming at having the trailer ready to sleep in for a camping event in September, and I think we can actually make that date.

Meanwhile, I am taking an online course on programming mobile media applications now, and starting another one in music theory in a week. The overlap was unintentional (class schedules changed) and it should make things, uh, interesting. At least my theatrical run will be done before either class ends.

Not that I'll be able to relax. It's the kids' vacation. Not mine.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Back From the Great Outdoors

Missed a couple of pictures while we camped in Vermont, but now you get to see a little taste of what we did. Karen belongs to a group of trailer camping enthusiasts, and we manage to get together with them two or three times a year.

Karen's trailer, of course, is not finished yet, so it's tent camping for us, which at our age makes for some pretty rough getting up out of the bed in the morning. But the camping was fun, the park is beautiful, nestled next to the Connecticut River, and the boys had a good time, although William had just spent three days hiking and camping with his class, and so he wasn't terribly active.

School is done for the summer now, and so it's time to start home projects and outings with the boys. More camping in the works, and museum trips, and lots and lots of swimming.

And lots of writing for me, I hope. If I can keep the boys busy while I work. Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Busy, Busy, Busy

I couldn't turn it down. My friend Greg Parker, who was one of the directors of the first play I was ever in, came up one man short in casting his production of The Norman Conquests: Living Together. I had to think about it for a long time, because the production is in Pittsfield, 35 minutes from home. But I just couldn't leave Greg in a bind.

So until July 19th, I'll be spending at least two days a week driving down there to rehearse, while still trying to get us ready for the summer, including working on Karen's trailer (which is finally beginning to look like a camper!), finishing up the front porch, and starting construction on the back deck. While still trying to write and do video, and pick up freelance work.

At least I won't be bored.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Getting Ready For Summer

On my last post, I was talking about Spring cleaning, even though Spring had been with us for a full two of its three months by then. But that was about the weather, not the calendar.

Summer is more about the calendar, because two days after the arrival of Summer on the calendar comes the boys' vacation. There's swimming lessons to sign up for, and planning for Karen's vacation time, and more planning for how I'm going to get my work done while they're home.

It's especially important now, because I'm beginning to get some paying work from home. I've been picking up the odd voiceover job here and there, and since I'm in front of the microphone anyway, I decided to put offers up on the Website know as Fiverr.

Fiverr lets me offer my service for a mere five dollars, which doesn't sound like much. But since I'm already sitting at the mic talking, doing a minute of narration for someone, including editing and sending it, takes only a few minutes. Even with Fiverr's 20% fee, the hourly rate actually comes out better than my other jobs.

And since I've been in front of the camera against my green screen to do my own projects, I've offered to do that for Fiverr as well, and had several people now pay me to appear onscreen for them. It's not as good a rate as the voiceover, since prepping the video takes more time, but it's still not bad.

But it's easier to do when the kids are in school. When they're on vacation, we'll be out and about more, and there will be things planned for home. So I'm going to have to keep a pretty strict schedule the rest of the time if I want to keep this going.

But I love a good challenge.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Spring Cleaning, Sort Of

Spring cleaning is underway at our house, but around here it's more than cleaning. We should be calling it "Spring All-the-things-we-couldn't-as-a-practical-matter-do-with-snow-on-the-ground." It includes a lot of construction and yard work.

Painting, carpentry (such as it is), planting, deck construction, and deck planning (different deck) are all part of the process. Oh, yes, and cleaning. Cleaning up and cleaning out. One of the hardest things to do in this area is get rid of things. In L.A. we had the Recycler free ad paper for things we could sell, and a nearby Goodwill drop-off for things we just needed to give away.

But the nearest Goodwill is about 30 miles away, and with no Recycler we have to rely on Craigslist, the online classifieds. And although Craigslist has been good for selling old cars, we've gotten very little response on anything smaller, and attempts to con us on more valuable items.

We sell things on eBay, but that only works for things that are easy to ship, not, for example, for the Empire dresser we're trying to sell.

For giving things away, we've had to settle for leaving it by the side of the road with a big sign that says "Free Stuff." (Actually, it says "free stuf!" because Danny made it a couple of years ago, and we love it too much to fix it.) That works sometimes, but we have to keep an eye on the weather.

But little by little we are paring down and building up, and probably by the time we've got it all just right, the kids will be moving out and we'll be hankering for a different kind of house.

A smaller one, with less room for "stuf," less space to clean, and far fewer staircases.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The first floor of our house is in utter disarray. But it's nothing to worry about; it's just that we've finally gotten around to painting.

Some time ago, Karen found a great deal on what Lowes calls "oops paint." That's paint that, for one reason or another, is the wrong color. It doesn't mean that it's an ugly color, just that it's not what the customer originally ordered. Lowes sells these at a substantial discount, and so you get really good paint for a fraction of the cost, if you can live with the color.

In Karen's case, it's six different colors. Nothing boring for our house full of artists. No, our main living floor is going to be done in stripes of color. So far we've managed to get two colors up and the results look great. Because we have to let each color cure for three days before we can apply masking tape, it's going to take us until early next week to finish all the colors.

We'll use this as an opportunity to rearrange the furniture a bit, too, and lay the last small section of floor that his been hidden until heavy furniture until now. No sense moving that stuff twice!

The really tricky part, though, will be painting around the direct-vent heater.

This could get interesting.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mothers' Day

Today is Mothers' Day, but the mother of my boys has to work. So, we made her a nice pancake breakfast (I did the pancakes and William cooked sausage), and tonight we'll have a nice dinner and a couple of surprises for her.

I wish that I could give her something else for Mothers' Day: time off. Not just a day off, but a change from working in big-box retail, a chance to do something satisfying and enriching, where she has more control over her time and her life.

It's not that Karen doesn't like designing kitchens. It's all the other stuff she has to deal with working in corporate retail that she—and the rest of her family—could do without.

I can't give her that gift this Mothers' Day. But I am working toward it.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

My Scout

Danny attended a two-night camping event at the local Boy Scout camp over the weekend. I was a little skeptical at first—Danny doesn't make life easy for adult leaders sometimes, and Karen and I were both tied up and couldn't stay overnight. But Danny did great.

He took part in all the activities, and impressed one of the adult leaders with his knowledge of which plants in the wild are edible and which are not. He helped the older Scouts build a shelter, and took part in a first-aid training exercise. And he came back dirty, smokey, and happy.

I went to check in on him after the first night. I arrived later than I expected, and was told that they were doing various activities at the top of the hill. So I went up to see. Very steep hill. I was wheezing and my heart was threatening to break out of my chest by the time I got to the top, and my knees were screaming at me all the way back down. But it as worth it to see how much fun Danny was having.

Not to self: get more exercise.

Which is what Karen and I found some time to do yesterday, since Spring has finally decided to come to New Hampshire. We took a nice, long walk, followed by a trip to the grocery store to get some fixings for lunch. We opted for that instead of eating out just to lessen the impact on the budget, but the result was, thanks to my wife's creativity in the kitchen, something far better than we could have gotten out: pizza burgers. Ground beef patties with mozzarella cheese, mushrooms, marinara, and onions mixed in, topped with marinara and served on a cheese roll. Heavenly!

Unfortunately for us, Karen doesn't get to spend much time in the kitchen, and Tom works nights most of the time, too, so we have to settle for my competent but not particularly inspired cooking. Fortunately for us, Karen made up enough pizza burger patties for two meals, so the boys get to experience it, too.

And speaking of Karen' unfortunate schedule, I have to help her get ready for another night shift.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Karen and I have been shopping for a car. Not a new car, because we don't have that much money, and we don't want to take on car payments. But we put feelers out with our mechanic, who has sold us a couple of cars so far, and they have been great deals. And he's done it again.

He found us a 2004 Subaru Forester, very similar to Karen's car, but with half the mileage, and at a very good price. We were hoping for a car that would last us a couple of years, but this one could go five or six with no problem. I'll be picking it up tomorrow or Friday, when the paperwork's done. The boys are very excited, and they want to come along with me. I'll publish pictures, I promise.

So for the summer, at least, we'll be a three-car family again, and I won't have to take multiple trips into town to take Tom to work and pick him up whenever the boys have something to do, or I have theater obligations (although I don't have any of those this summer, except for training a few people on the new light board, as I'm the only one who's ever used it in a show so far).

At the end of the summer, when Karen's car comes up for inspection, we'll have to decide if any repair costs are worth the money. If we have to go back to two cars for the school year, it's not a big deal; we've been doing it for quite some time.

But it will make the summer easier.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I have found that keeping up two blogs for the site is just isn't working. I tend to keep up on the little updates and neglect the main blog. So I'm eliminating the quick updates blog and making the main blog do double-duty.

All of the posts will be around from the update blog; they'll just be incorporated into this blog. Which is now the only blog, until some other member of the family actually decides to do some serious blogging.

I'm not holding my breath.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chilly Winds

The wind is blowing hard today, and it's making everything feel much colder than it is. I think we got a little spoiled by our trip to New Jersey. On the other hand, I am able to go out to the bus with the boys in the morning wearing sandals instead of boots, so we are making progress.

The boys have a vacation coming up. We're going to spend some time getting the house—and ourselves—ready for summer. There's clean-up to do in the yard (how does all that stuff get buried under the snow?) and things to bring outside from the basement. And, of course, lots of cleaning.

But on a more fun note, there are swim lessons to sign up for, and a camping trailer to be built, and scheduling for trips and days off.

It doesn't feel like it, but summer is coming. Eventually.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Back From a Wonderful Weekend

We all drove down to New Jersey Friday morning—including Tom!—to see Karen's family. We rented a minivan so that we would all fit (Tom chipped in some money so we could afford it).

The drive down was uneventful, and the van was comfortable, although a bit (actually very much) too decked-out for our tastes, with electric doors and a sound system rife with controls, so that it took us a long time to figure out how to use it. Made us yearn, actually, for our red-grape-colored Plymouth Voyager from when William was a baby.

On Saturday we spent several hours at Sandy Hook National Park, walking on the beach and looking at the abandoned military base there. Danny was fascinated. Karen and I got sunburned, but we sure enjoyed getting that way, walking barefoot in the sand while holding hands. Not much chance for that in New Hampshire recently!

Easter was very pleasant, with good food and great company, and a very entertaining Easter egg hunt that Thomas, Alan, and I set up for the children. Now, since the children range in age from 11 to 16, we made it quite challenging. Including some items hung high in trees. I think we had more fun that the kids did!

We arrived home early enough on Monday to eat dinner at home and get everyone to bed on time. So we are rested for our return to normal life. If you can call it that.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The One Day...

Usually I check the site every morning, using my iPhone, before I put the boys on the bus. But yesterday, I had left the phone in Tom's car after a touch-up rehearsal at the theater. And so, by the time I had retrieved the phone, I had forgotten to check the site. And, of course, it was broken.

For some reason, the picture that went with the caption didn't get uploaded, although the pictures following it did (I'll reprise the picture in a few days so that you can see it). To make matters more annoying, my new blog entry broke the formatting of the site. I won't go into the technical details, but sometimes bloggers throws in a few extra commands for no readily apparent reason, and they interfere with my commands.

I should come up with some clever software solution to the problem, including something that emails me to warn me when the daily picture is too old. But then something else would come up that I didn't expect.

So I think staying in the habit of checking the site daily is a better idea.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Sunshine and Dirt

It may seem like an odd thing to get excited about dirt, especially for someone who, like me, does not care much for gardening. But seeing more ground than snow is welcome after such a long and cold winter. The trees are even budding.
It's still a little chilly for swimming in the lake or even boating in it, and we will still have the occasional  freezing nights, and maybe even a little bit more snow before the warm weather finally takes hold. But I can safely pack away my snow blower and put the snow shovels under the back stairs.
And it's even time to sign the boys up for swimming lessons.

Friday, April 04, 2014

We're Back

Got our Internet connection fixed, so we'll be back with new pictures of some kind by the morning. It turned out to be a bad modem, so a quick fix by our service provider. It's good to be back in the world of the connected again (and, believe me, that's about the only way that I can be considered connected).

Now I can catch up on some of the writing that I've been working on "in the cloud." I use a service called Evernote to write a lot of my songs and short stories, and I take the connection I have at home for granted. I really hit a brick wall yesterday when I needed to re-record some narration for the theater, which I had written using Evernote. I set myself up to record, went to find the copy, and then realized that I couldn't get to it.

I actually had to listen to the original and transcribe it before I could record it again. But I got it done for dress rehearsal, and it's there tonight for the opening, along with a mock radio show I did for the half hour between the time the doors open and curtain.

Speaking of which, I need to leave for the theater in about ten minutes, so good-bye for now.

Thursday, April 03, 2014


You may notice that the picture of the day is from last month. I was going to try to find a nice picture from the last few days to post last night after Danny's Scout meeting. Until out Internet went out.

It's still out. I'm writing this from the library computer while Karen and I are in town. It might be awhile before I have phone and Internet again, so you may get something of a reprise on the picture front until then.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Still Covered With Ice

The pond is still completely covered with ice and snow. Here is a picture taken today:


No, wait, I'm wrong. This picture actually was taken today, after all. I guess the joke's on us.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Not Exactly Springing

Okay. Spring is now a week old. Winter is over. But you can't tell looking out my window. The back yard is still completely covered with snow, and although there are puddles of water in the driveway, they are surrounded by a thick sheet of ice, and they, too, will turn to ice overnight. This is what passes for Spring in New Hampshire.

I know I should expect it. After all, I have lived here for a little more than a dozen years, and it takes a long time for the last signs of Winter to go away. But it has been such a long, cold, snowy, expensive Winter, that we are just that more anxious to bid it good riddance.

Even my children, who play happily in the snow, wonder aloud when it's going to warm up.

Karen will be happy when I can get back outside again and finish the front porch, and begin work on the back deck. I don't know how I feel about that; it seems that every time I turn around I'm having to learn some new carpentry skill, and while I knew that I would get stuck with it when we moved into an unfinished house, it always feels as though it's taking time away from the important things in life, like writing and music and filmmaking and, well, paying someone else to do carpentry, which I could do if any of those other things were actually making me money.

Alright, I admit there is a certain satisfaction in accomplishing something when I had no idea what I was doing going in. But I think I could learn to take even more satisfaction out of patronizing a fine craftsman who needs the work and can do a far better job than I can. I like specialization, as a concept.

But there's no sense living in the past. Or the future, for that matter. I'm here now, waiting for the thaw and spending that time on a lot of different things, including writing and music and filmmaking, and even some fun theater projects.

And Karen and I are working on some more craft videos and books, so I'm definitely not sitting, staring at the ice and snow, and saying "I'm bored."

Actually, I don't think I can remember the last time I was bored.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Coming Full Circle

Last night I attended a performance of a play called Dearly Departed, performed by the Pittsfield Players at the Scenic Theater. It wasn't the first time I'd seen the play; in fact, the first time was eight years ago about this time of the year, and it had a profound effect on my life.

In 2006, the play was performed at the Village Players. I had been toying around with the idea of trying my hand at stage acting ever since I'd seen a casting notice for The Sound Of Music in the summer of 2005. I didn't audition for that play, because our house went under contract and I thought that I wouldn't have time to rehearse because we would have to be moving to another house.

As it turns out, the deal fell through. When I went to see The Sound Of Music, I enjoyed it very much, but I found myself thinking: "I could do that."

And then, the following Spring, I saw Dearly Departed. It's hilarious, and full of heart, and I said to myself: "I have to do that." And so, the next day, I auditioned for a play called That Darn Plot, and I got cast. And my fate was sealed.

What made last night's performance even more interesting was that one of the directors was the same director who had put the play on eight years ago (and the other had appeared in that production). One of the actors was even the same, playing the same role.

So, in a way, I spend a couple of hours going back in time. And loving every minute of it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Early Birthday Celebration

Yesterday Karen and Tom both had the day off, so we decided to let the kids have a little bit of that, too, and go out for an early celebration of Tom's upcoming 24th birthday.

But before we did that, we took William to lunch at a very special place. The local school district has a technical center, and one of the programs there is a culinary arts program. William, who has shown a great interest in cooking lately, and especially in baking desserts (to go along with his lifelong interest in eating desserts), has also show an interest in the culinary arts program.

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, the students run a small restaurant inside the technical center, and so we took William out of school early and let him experience the place. Based on yesterday's lunch, he is even more excited about the program. Unfortunately for him, it looks like he will have to wait for quite a while to join up, as the program appears to start in the junior year of high school. But he'll have plenty of time to practice at home in the meanwhile.

After that, we picked up Danny and went off to Funspot, the arcade on the other side of the Lake, and the only bowling center in the region with a ten-pin alley (the rest are candlepin, and if you don't know what candlepin bowling is, you can watch this YouTube video, which ironically is set in a tenpin alley and shows a bowler in the back showing very poor form.

We played tenpin, two lines each. Karen and I were the champs (being by far the most experienced); Karen beat me the first time, and I beat her the second time, and we all had fun the whole time.

Tom's early birthday dinner was at Hart's Turkey Farm, just up the road from Funspot. The three adults had turkey, which is to be expected. I had a turkey burger, Tom had a stuffed turkey burger (with cranberry compote), and Karen had a turkey and brie sandwich.

The boys were boring: William had a beef burger and Danny had chicken fingers. Danny at least has the excuse of not liking turkey (although he liked in just fine in the turkey chili I made a few days ago).

The cake had to wait until tonight, since the stores were closed when we got home. Winter hours and all that.

So, as he did when he was young, Thomas gets multiple birthday celebrations. And we all get to enjoy them.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Winter Coming To An End?

There has been about eight inches of snow since the last time I wrote in this blog. The blizzard turned into the first six inches, light and fluffy and without the wind, not not really a blizzard. And not even close to the timing the weather reports predicted.

Which was annoying, because the boys could have had the full day of school, including Danny's after-school Lego Club and his Scout meeting, if the weather predictions had been accurate. There's been a lot of that going on this season.

In other news, our stove isn't working. In a fit of truly bad design, if the computer in the stove crashes, the oven and the burners cease to function. I know from past experience that there is a special key combination that will restart the computer and potentially solve the problem.

However, no one at the manufacturer's customer service line actually knows how that works. They want to send a technician out, at my expense, to probably do something that I could do myself in five minutes if they had the information on how to do it.

There is no customer service left, I'm beginning to believe. I refuse to yield, though. I will find, remember, or deduce that key combination if it kills me. Meanwhile, we are getting along with a hot plate, the crock pot, the microwave, and the bread maker.

We also have a working stove and oven downstairs in a pinch, but bringing hot food up the stairs is not something we want to do every day. And as a result, we're rediscovering some of our favorite crock pot meals. And when the weather gets better, we'll be enjoying sandwiches and salad.

And, by the way, don' buy appliances made by Samsung. They should stick to tablets and phones. Really.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Blizzard That Wasn't?

The kids were sent home from school early today. After-school programs and Scout meetings cancelled because of blizzard conditions that were supposed to start mid-afternoon. It's now ten minutes to six at night, and it's still raining. Maybe the blizzard will still come. I hope it has the good manners to wait until my wife is safely home from work. If it comes at all.

There certainly is enough precipitation. But so far no wind, and no temperature drop. So right now we have no idea what's really coming. That's pretty much been the story all winter long. Spring will be welcome, even if it, too, is unpredictable. Because at the very least, it will be warmer.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Sick. Of Snow.

I'm not actually sick. In fact, everyone in the house is nice and healthy at the moment, and that's just the way I like it. But there was another couple of inches of snow last night, and we're supposed to be getting slammed with a big storm starting tomorrow late in the morning. Ugh!

I know that the thaw is coming.  I know that within a couple of weeks, the plow piles will start to disappear and—once we get past the muddy part—New Hampshire will put on it's pretty greenery, the sunny days will actually be warm days, and I can finally shut down the heaters.

But the prospect of shoveling even one more snow this season makes me want to crawl under the covers and hibernate.

Which wouldn't be such a bad idea if it wasn't for the small matter of both Thomas and Karen needing to go to work. So I'll be out with the snowblower and the shovels, making it happen.

But I hope this is the last time.

Monday, March 03, 2014

A Date Day

Karen and I actually got to spend quite a bit of time alone together today. We went out to lunch, went to the library for a bit, and then exercised at the gym before Karen went for a short swim. We actually stayed out until after William got home from school and a little before Thomas left for work.

I wish Karen had more days off. I could get used to this.

Oh, another update on the cake front. William made the frosting last night, and a marshmallow fondant. And the result was nothing short of delicious. I think that William is going to be a fine young cake baker. And he's talking about taking the culinary program at the high school when the time comes.

I think that's an excellent idea. Not only because William seems to have both an aptitude and a passion, but because the culinary program at the local high school it really excellent. Karen and I have eaten at their restaurant and enjoyed both the food and the service thoroughly.

I'll be interested to see how that plays out. Meanwhile, we get to be the lucky beneficiaries of his experimentation.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Cake Update

The first attempt at cake was a failure. Not a total, inedible failure, but one flat, dense sponge cake. So what did William do? He tried it again, of course.

We determined that the first recipe he used was relying on technique instead of good basic ingredients. To be specific, it was based on whipping a lot of air into the cake instead of using basic leavening ingredients like salt and baking powder.

And so we turned to the Cake Boss. We found a basic yellow cake recipe by the titular cake baker from that show. And much to our delight, be not much to my surprise, the recipe was much simpler.

The only problem was releasing the cake from the pan. The pan was greased and floured, but the batter absorbed a lot of the flour, and so it stuck fast to the bottom of the pan. It wouldn't come out until Karen came home; she has a knack for these things, partly from experience with sweet breads. We left a thin layer of cake at the bottom of the pan, which Karen and I promptly scraped off and ate.

The rest of the cake is still intact and ready to frost tomorrow. And the verdict on taste? Just the scrapings from the bottom, even with the extra flour from the pan, are delicious! I think William is on his way to being a terrific baker.

And we'd better find some people to invite over for cake, or we're never going to lose any weight.

A Piece Of Cake

Today William and I are making a cake. Actually, William is making a cake and I am making a video, and giving him a little bit of advice along the way. Not because I've ever made a cake from scratch, but because I have enough baking experience to read between the lines.

And no, you didn't read wrong. I said he's making the cake from scratch. William has been inspired by a reality series that he watches on Netflix called Cake Boss, about a real-life cake baker from New Jersey. So William, flush with success from his cookie-baking experiences, has decided to give it a go.

I don't know how the cake will turn out, but I do know that William will give it his best shot. And I'll do my best to record the even for posterity, or at least immediate family.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Back On the Ice

Today, for the first time in almost two years, Daniel and William got back on ice skates. I expected that, after a wobbly start and some falls, they would get the hang of it. And I was right. Except for the wobbly part. Or the falling part. It was as though they'd never left.

The boys had decided not to take lessons this year, or last. I was going to get them season passes, but the only public skating hours at our local rink are on the weekend, when I don't always have a car available, or during school, when the boys have, you know, school. But at least I got them there once this season, and seeing how much they enjoyed it, I will do my best to squeeze in one more session before the season ends.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention: most of the skating rinks in this area are only open in the Winter. This threw me off when we first moved here, because Thomas used to take lessons year-round in California. To do that here, I would have to drive to a rink nearly 30 miles away. The boys aren't that passionate about skating.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Vacation Begins

Today was the first official day of Winter vacation for the boys, although they got an early start, not only from the weekend, but from a snow day (more like an ice day, actually). That means I have the boys at home with me for the next six days, having already (by the end of the day today) had them for four. Karen, at least, was home for two of those days.

But it does make it hard to get things done; the boys could just amuse themselves, of course, but that would inevitably lead to an entire vacation consisting of nothing but TV and Minecraft (a computer game that a whole lot of people seem to be addicted to—yours truly not included).

I have, at least, gotten William interested in a program called Mine-imator, which lets you animate using Minecraft characters and primitives, so maybe I can turn his obsession into something creative. Danny started doing some Lego stop-motion animation over the summer; I might be able to get him interested in that again.

And I'm going to try to take the boys skating (if I can find skates that fit Daniel), and swimming. And they have some reading to do. So that will give me time for writing, if nothing else. And almost everything I need to do starts with writing, so that will help.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

On the Difficulty Of Getting Pictures In February

Keeping up on pictures isn't easy this time of year. It's not that the Brooks family isn't doing anything, it's just that most of what we are doing isn't very picturesque. And how many times can I post photos of my boys playing in the snow or swimming in the indoor pool?

And when something interesting to photograph does come along, such as Danny's Crossover ceremony, it has to take place in the dark during snowfall, when the pictures I take are either blurry (though sometimes interesting—I actually ended using one of them), or dotted with snowflakes obscuring Danny's face.

We spend a lot more time indoors, especially this year when the weather has been so frigid. And right now our house isn't very picturesque, either, because we're trying to get some indoor construction projects moving ahead, and sorting through a lot of the excess we've been storing for, in some cases, a couple of decades, to weed out the things that are never going to get used.  Again, not a very interesting photo op.

Nor are any of my activities much to look at; I am spending a lot of time sitting at one computer or another writing. The results are cool, but the activity itself is hardly photogenic.

On the other hand, the scarcity of picture choices does force me to be more creative. And that in itself makes the effort worthwhile.

I just hope the results will be worth looking at. I leave that for you to decide.

More White

I think it's possible that shoveling snow is my least favorite activity right now. We got another storm, which dropped about ten inches of the cold, fluffy stuff on us. The fluffy stuff is not very hard to deal with, even though my snow thrower has on flat tire.

But with these deep snows comes the ice and dirt that the town plows throw into the end of the driveway. If I'm lucky, the plow pile come before I start to shovel, and only accounts for the last eighteen inches or so between our house and the road.

If I'm unlucky, and I often am, the plow comes after we've done the shoveling, and launches a pile that reaches back five or more feet into the drive. It takes a very long time to get through that; most of it my snow thrower won't handle at the best of times.

Fortunately, no one has to go out early tomorrow; Karen has the day off, Tom doesn't go to work until late afternoon, and Danny has an after-school club. We're going to pick up William and let him do some swimming and spend some time in the library before we pick up Danny.

If it isn't snowing too much. It might snow tomorrow afternoon. Again.

But there are only 31 days until Spring.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


Tonight Daniel and I joined five other Weblos Scouts and their parents, along with a few younger Cubs and almost the entire Boy Scout troop, onto the snowy fields behind the Den Leader's house. It was snowing lightly, but it was not too cold, in the mid-twenties.

With a bonfire crackling in the background, Daniel crossed the ceremonial bridge, to leave the Cub Scouts behind, and to be welcomed into his new troop by the Scout Master and his new fellow Scouts.

The ceremony was not so solemn as it sounds. The boys, ages 11 and 12, were as silly as I expect boys to be, and although they are all looking forward to joining the older Scout troop, they were more interested in snowball fights, eating the potluck dinner, and playing on the ceremonial bridge afterwards, not to mention going down into the Den Leader's basement to play video games by the warmth of the wood stove.

But tonight I no longer have any young cubs in my house. Daniel is growing up. And I, for one, could not be happier about it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Winter is not over in New Hampshire, and one look outside confirms that. As does the early arrival of William and Daniel from school; they had a half day because of the snow, which is now falling in earnest and accumulating far faster than anything in my bank account.

The boys are happy, because they get a short day instead of a day they have to make up at the end of the year. I'm happier than I would have been with a snow day, because there was at least a little time in the morning to write.

And at the same time I'm not terribly happy for reasons having nothing to do with school and everything to do with shoveling snow and moving it around with a capricious piece of machinery known around these parts as a snow thrower.

Which, in order to keep up on, I will have to do at least partly in the dark.

Meanwhile, in Burbank, California, it's 79 degrees under mostly sunny skies. And I'm right there, in spirit.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

New Video

Karen and I finally released a new craft video on our YouTube channel. It's been such a long time that I'd kind of lost my touch for editing them. But after a couple of days of hacking away at it, I've seem to have gotten the hang of it.

Here it is:

We're already working on the next one, a Leprechaun bear.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014


Assembled the footage from the video Karen and I did today. Now I have to trim it down from about an hour to about three minutes. And then write and record narration. I think I can do that much tomorrow, although the incoming snow storm may slow things down a little.

We'll be okay as long as we don't lose power. The boys will likely be home from school, and there will be lots of snow to move throughout the day, but with an all-day storm like this there is no sense in doing substantial work until it starts to die down—or until someone needs to get their car out to go to work.

I also recorded a new song today, called "Bad News Always Comes In the Mail." It's posted here.

Danny had his last ever Cub Scout Pack Meeting tonight; after he does his crossover ceremony, he'll officially be a Boy Scout. It remains to be seen if he wants to continue with scouting; William decided not to after a year and a half of Boy Scouts, but part of the reason is that all of his friends had either left scouting or left the area.

Danny and William are very different boys anyway, so it could go either way.

I have to start getting ready for bed now; although I don't expect the boys to have school tomorrow, the weather predictions have missed the mark a few times this season, and so I have to be prepared for either situation.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Being Productive

For the first time in two years, Karen and I are doing another craft video. I shot all the footage today, and I expect that I will be able to get the video up on YouTube by Wednesday. Karen also made kits of the project that we will be trying to sell on a Web site called "Fiverr."

That was the morning. We also managed to have lunch out together, spend a little time at the library with William (between the time he gets out of school and the time Danny gets out of school), and take the boys swimming at the pool.

And we all made dinner together, and Karen even managed to make a delicious dessert. All in all a very busy day.

But I'm just about ready for bed; Karen's back to work tomorrow, and I have a lot of editing to do, and, with any luck at all, some recording; I just finished a new song.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Groundhog Day

It's the second of February, and there's nary a shadow to be seen in our neck of the woods. I don't know if the groundhog has a good track record, but after a few bitterly cold spells it's sort of comforting.

Our winter hasn't been so bad. The cold has been interspersed with, well, not-quite-so-cold (by New Hampshire standards). There is hardly any snow on the ground, although we still have some impressive shovel piles. I'm not saying that we won't be getting more snow before (and even during) Spring, but we certainly have not gotten hit nearly as hard as some of the states west and south of us.

And indoor day for us, mostly, with craft projects and house projects to work on, and Karen at home today and tomorrow. And though it's cloudy, it's not cold, so we won't be shivering our way through this one.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hunkered Down

The cold weather has continued in New Hampshire. We haven't had a lot of snow, especially not compared with our neighbors to the south, but we haven't had much in the way of thawing since the last oddball warm spell. It's played havoc on the heating bill, and caused the cancellation of some of the boys' outside activities.

Of course being something of a shut-in has been good for me; I've gotten a fair amount of writing done, and I'm about the record my sixth song since October first. A little behind where I expected to be, but I'm close to catching up with two more songs in the pipeline.

It's a little hard on the video production side, but I'm still writing things that I can shoot when the weather warms up.

Which will start to happen soon. "Warm" is a relative term, of course; nothing starts to get what anyone in Southern California would consider warm until well into April around here. But the next week or so will actually see a few days where it's above freezing.

And that's enough to pull us out of our shell. For awhile, anyway.

Late Start

William and Daniel had delayed openings for school so their teachers could get extra training. This happens two or three times every school year, and it makes for a hectic morning, especially on days when Karen leaves right between the two boys. Like this morning.

Normally weekday mornings are a continuous flow of getting everyone on their way. William gets up at 5:30 to get ready for school. I get up about twenty minutes later to get myself put together so that I can wait for the bus with him. As soon as he is on the bus, it is time for Daniel to get up and get ready, which takes a bit longer and requires more pushing from me.

Karen's schedule varies, although right now she's working most days from 10:00 to 7:00, so I help her get everything together for the day soon after Danny gets on the bus.

Thomas takes care of himself, of course, and normally without anyone interfering because he tends to work afternoons and evenings.

But on these days when the boys catch the bus two and a half hours later than normal, everybody is up before anybody starts to get ready. And no one is keeping track of time.

Except me. That's my job.

It also makes for a late start on my day, and so it's time for me to get moving.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Not So Cold

Today was actually not horribly cold. The high temperature was near freezing. Crazy for a native Californian to say such a thing, especially considering what the temperature in my old stomping grounds has been like (jealous, me? Yes!), but everything is relative.

Today was a day for doing things in the house. The boys made monkey bread with Karen, and William is making a new scratching post for his cat, with a little power-tool help from me.

We were going out to see a movie this weekend, but a quick look at the offerings in the local theaters convinced us that there was nothing worth spending the money, or even the time, to see.

But we'll find something fun to do tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Pinewood Derby Prep Starts

It wasn't the only thing that happened today, but the rest of the day was pretty normal—writing, cleaning house, working on video stuff. But the deadline for the Pinewood Derby looms larger than any of those.

Today we cut the body of the car, which is always the part I dread because, since the only woodwork I do it related to building a house, with my very limited carpentry skills, and so I lack even the proper saw to cut a shape out of a small block of wood.

In the past we have struggled with various options, and the results have been less than stellar. They were also, all of them, very time-consuming. This year we compromised with a wedge-shaped car, since I could cut the wedge out with my chop saw. Kind of. I had to drill a hole in the waste portion and attach the car body to scrap wood to make the cut. The chop saw couldn't make the entire cut, so there's a V-shape at the top of the car. Danny thought it looked cool, so he sanded it until it was smooth and kept it in the design. He'd done most of the sanding.

Tomorrow, we add a fin at the top and move on to painting. Now that the cutting is done, the rest is a walk in the park.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lazy Day. Not Really.

Karen's last day off before six on. We were going to try to get one of her trailer walls in to cut a door for it, but the rain made it impractical, as did the fact that we couldn't find her notebook with the plans in it. Which lead to a day of searching for the book, which lead to a day of tidying things up.

It wasn't exactly what we planned but it did have its satisfactions. And it wasn't the entire day; we picked up Danny from school and took the boys swimming.

Busy day for Danny. In addition to the swimming, he participated in Winter Sports day at school, snowshoeing in the the rain (no, that is not a mistake; they were really snowshoeing in the rain), and he had a Scout Den meeting in the evening, during which he got his Pinewood Derby car, the last one he'll ever make.

Unfortunately, because of several missed meetings, he's getting a late start on his car. The race is this Saturday.

So the next three nights are also going to be very busy for Danny.

And me.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Checking My Calendar

Having a little trouble believing that Winter is still with us. Today I was out wearing a hoodie with no coat, and I felt perfectly comfortable. And, no, I am not back in California.

It won't last, of course. Next week will bring more days of below-freezing temperatures, though nothing as bad as our most recent frigid spell. There might even be a bit more snow.

But for the next couple of days, anyway, it will be more like a New Hampshire spring than any time in January.

And I, for one, am planning to enjoy it.

Monday, January 06, 2014

It's Getting Ridiculous

So far, in 2014, William and Daniel have had exactly one half day of school, a sixth of what they should have had by now. It's all about the weather. But not always about the same kind of weather.

Last Thursday and Friday it was snow, which is was we usually expect, and which is why we call these days "snow days" and the work that the boys keep at home to avoid having an extra day tacked onto the end of the year "Blizzard Bags."

But today there was no blizzard. There was rain, and a high temperature right here at the house of 50 degrees. In the morning, when the busses run, this created icy conditions that lasted, in some parts of the district, until late in the morning, and so the Superintendent had to cancel school. There really was no choice.

But after a vacation that lasted twelve days, I was ready for the boys to go back to school so that I could get more writing done. And, well, half a day doesn't count.

I have higher hopes for tomorrow, because although it's going to get cold again and what's left of our snow will have turned to hard ice, the roads should be clear for the busses. And we're not expecting any precipitation again until, well, the next rain.

This has been one crazy winter, and it's barely begun.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

And Colder Still

The snow didn't delay the start of school, but it hastened its end, and the boys only had school for half a day. There was more snow than I expected, but it was lights and fluffy and my snowblower made easy work of it.

Unfortunately, the cold also make easy work of my hands, which were numb when I finished and in tremendous pain as they started to thaw. Shorter snow removal sessions tomorrow when the temperature is not expected to climb above seven degrees. As I write, it's bellow zero here.

The boys may not have school tomorrow, or maybe they'll get the delay they didn't get today. In any case, William's class will not have its usual hiking session tomorrow, with wind chills in the negative double-digits. Karen, unfortunately, will still be going to work early in the morning. But we'll be there to shovel her car out and get her on the road.

I just hope the town plows will do their part as well; I have not been very impressed with snow-removal efforts this year.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

2014 is off to a very cold start here in New Hampshire. The temperature never climbed about 20 today, and tomorrow is supposed to bring even lower numbers (and lots of numbing cold) and a fair bit of snow. But Spring is only about eleven weeks away. Eleven long, cold weeks. Sigh.

Tonight over dinner we all talked about goals for the coming year. We're trying to encourage the boys to focus on what they want to do, not what they want to have. And they did pretty well, although Danny decided he wanted to get a really expensive radio-controlled car. On the plus side, he said he wanted to earn the money by making jewelry and selling it on Fiverr, and more active and actually attainable goal.

This year William wants to learn how to write computer code. Fortunately, in addition to having a Dad that codes, William has access to tools I never dreamed of when I was first learning. There are several sites devoted to teaching basic programming skills to beginners, one of them by MIT.

Karen wants to get her trailer done in time for Spring camping, a challenge if the weather continues as it's been, but possible now that we have the trailer in a shed where we can work in spite of the weather. And we have a small camping heater we can use in the shed to keep from freezing our hands off.

Thomas wants to create an animated portfolio piece, with some help from his actor Dad and his animator Mom (and her friends) to guide him in the right direction. Not that he needs that much guidance; his animation in the past was always remarkably well-acted with a marvelous sense of timing.

My main goal is to complete my 52-Week Creative Challenge, and in doing so build a group of followers. And at the end of it all, on September 30th, I plan to start of crowd-funding project to produce the screenplay that I'm writing, and another to professionally record the songs I'll have written by then (at least, the ones that are any good).

There are other goals, of course: house construction goals, financial goals, organizing and clutter-reduction goals, and goals related to our health.

Which means, of course, that we have no excuse for being bored in 2014.

Man It's Cold!

We're getting another bitter cold snap, lasting until the weekend, and with snow. The bad part of this is that we can't really spend much time outside. Not to mention the uptick in propane usage.

On the other hand, there is another snow storm on the way, and then the temperature is this cold the snow is light and fluffy instead of wet and heavy, which means that it's very easy to remove from the cars, and friendly to my snow-thrower.

Of course, it also means that by the time I get it all cleaned up, I won't be able to feel my toes for awhile.

Back to the school routine in the early hours of the morning, if the snow comes as scheduled; if it comes much earlier, there could be a delay.