Thursday, December 31, 2009

That's a Wrap!

As the old year comes to a close, we always have high hopes for the year ahead. I don't know how much cause there is for optimism in 2010; there are a lot of unresolved issues facing all of us. Yet, at least as far as my little family is concerned, I think we have reason to hope that 2010 will be a better year than 2009.

This past year was a tough one for us. We barely managed to make the transition from our old house to our new house, and the new one is still under construction. I spent the last three quarters of the year trying to make up for the prior three quarters of unemployment.

I'm not saying that it's all going to suddenly be easy for us, but we're turning a corner. The house needs a lot of work, but we're in it and it's a workable living space, and so now anything we do will just make it better. Our overhead is lower (the heating bill is lower--even using electric heat!--and we have no mortgage payments), so we can begin to catch up with old bills and put some money aside. Thomas is back at work, not full time yet but working on it.

And I think we're ready to make some changes. We don't feel as much under the gun as we did in 2009, and so we can realistically begin to explore other options.

On the less-expansive front, we have some specific fun plans for 2010. I'm in a play at the Village Players this Spring, and planning to audition for every show they're doing in the coming year. We have plans to come back out to California at the end of the summer (I know, the hottest part of the year, but we have our reasons). And although some of the work on the house is going to be challenging, even annoying, we are looking forward to being able to finish and decorate the house as suits us, instead of with an eye toward selling it, something we had to take into account for nearly five years at the old house.

Of course, it will all be chronicled here at I hope your new year looks as promising.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Yeah, Yeah, I Know, It's Winter

Bitterly cold today, with lots of wind. It's hard to keep the house warm (our heating system is not complete yet) and going from the house or the office to the car gets me shivering, but it's my car that's the biggest problem. At over 231,000 miles, it's getting a little old for this weather.

I have to allow extra time and gas to warm the car up in the morning or the power steering and brake pump won't work, which leaves me unable to turn or stop, a wonderful bit of GM engineering. Frankly, if I had a choice, I think I would like to be able to steer when the brakes go out or stop when the steering goes out. But I don't have an engineering degree, so what do I know?

This cold wave will be a short one. Tonight will be in the single digits (for those of you not used to the expression, that means it will be below ten degrees Fahrenheit), teens tomorrow, and back to daytimes in the thirties and nights in the twenties for at least a week.

That means reasonable temperatures, and apparently only a little snow, for New Year's Eve and the Wolfeboro First Night celebration. The Village PLayers are doing a melodrama this year and I want to try to get us a seat at the first show, if we can get there early enough.

Meanwhile, I have to get up and out early tomorrow. The temperature isn't going to climb above ten until after I'm scheduled to leave for work, so my car is going to need a lot of extra warming up. So off to bed with me!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Another New Look

Well, here is yet another revision of the site. I can't resist playing around with the look, and I'm trying to learn more about Web site design and coding, and you, dear readers, are my guinea pigs.

The holiday weekend was enjoyable, but altogether too short. There's so much I'd like to be doing with my spare time, and so many other things that have to be done. Even, on occasion, a little sleep. Just a little.

The new site has more links, including one to my Wall on Facebook, and to our accounts on PicasaWeb and YouTube. I'll be adding additional links to archive pages so you can surf down memory lane if you are so inclined. But first I need to concentrate some attention on catching up the galleries and adding some long-overdue video.

But now I have to get myself together for work tomorrow, and get some of that sleep I was talking about. Duty, as they say, calls.

But some days I just want to let it go to voicemail.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Kids Have It All Wrong

I've decided that the kids are wrong about Santa Claus. William was telling me how he starts visiting homes as soon as the kids have gone to bed and manages to travel the whole world between then and when they get up in the morning. But he's missing something.

Parents don't go to bed when kids do. Especially on Christmas Eve. Especially when not all of the presents have been wrapped. Especially when none of the presents has been wrapped. You know how it goes. So the parents are up until, oh, two or three in the morning, wrapping, cleaning, preparing.

And then the kids get up at some ridiculous hour. Five o'clock, for example. This leaves St. Nick less than three hours at best to make the rounds.

And yet this morning, there they were. Presents from Santa, in a kind of paper different from all the other presents, that weren't there when we went to sleep.

Pretty neat trick.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cold Days

When we pulled up to the house tonight, the temperature was a mild 24 degrees Fahrenheit. Twenty-four degrees? Mild? Surely Mr. Brooks has lost his marbles, or perhaps they have just frozen.

No, you see, everything is relative. We have just returned home from a trip to Santa's Village, about 90 miles north of here in Jefferson, New Hampshire. When we got out of the car at 11:00 in the morning, the temperature was nine degrees. Get the picture?

And it was a little breezy. Now if you read anything concerning wind chill, you will find different formulae that all boil down to the same thing. If you take a nominal temperature of nine degrees Fahrenheit, factor in a ten mile-per-hour breeze blowing on your bare face or neck, and do some fancy calculations on those numbers, the perceived temperature is TOO DAMN COLD, plus or minus a degree or two.

Fortunately, Santa's Village has added something new to their menu. You can buy thermal mugs and fill them with hot cocoa for free all day. We know from past experience that hot chocolate is the big gun in the Jefferson survival arsenal (and to prove it, we see park employees who have to work outside, meaning most of them, guzzling it throughout the day).

Actually, this trip wasn't as bad as our first. Though the weather was better the first time, our preparations were not, as we made the mistake of predicting Jefferson's weather based on our own, since we're both in the same state and only a couple hours' drive apart. Oops! Now we know better.

It's late now and I have to get to bed. I wouldn't have stayed up this late, but I always get a bit of an adrenaline rush (not to mention a caffeine high) when I take the driving duty late at night, and it's hard to drop off to sleep. Good time to take care of things, don't you think?

But there is a busy day ahead. We have to shuffle some furniture around in our living room to make it nice for the Christmas tree, and I have a read-through tomorrow night for the next play I'm in, a farce called "Dilemmas With Dinner." Carol Bense is directing; I've worked with her on several shows now and it's always a pleasure, especially since she won't let us get away with anything but the best we can give, and I'm always glad of it.

I also get to share the stage with five people I've acted with before, one I've directed but never acted with, and another I've never worked with before at all, but who gave a great performance at the auditions. This is going to be a great show!

But now I'd better get some sleep. Didn't I already say that?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Can We Get a Do-Over?

Yesterday was the first big snow of the season, and the first snow days of the school year. And it was something of a disaster.

The snow didn't start until about 6:00 am, so getting me on the road was not too big a deal. We already knew that the kids would be off from school, so Karen stayed home with them. By the time I got about half way to work, though, it was snowing rather heavily and it took me about an hour and forty-five minutes to get to work.

But that wasn't the disastrous part; that's just winter in New England.

Tom had to go to work, too, and he's lost the charger for his cell phone. So Karen loaned him her phone on the promise that he would call when he got to work. He didn't. But he's okay.

The disaster started when Karen presented the boys with a brand new pair of plastic sleds, an early Christmas gift, and encouraged them to go out and try them. The snow wasn't very deep yet. Danny, as I understand it, was making a run when his sled turned sideways, hit a bump, and sent him flying face first into the snow, which was barely covering a very large rock.

Of course I found out about this through voice mails during my breaks--I can't take calls at work. And Karen, as I mentioned, didn't have her cell phone, and so keeping me up on the news was no small feat.

Danny ended up with a big cut under his eye, and one amazing black eye, plus five staples just above his hair line on his left side. He didn't go to school today, though he felt well enough tonight to be in the school's holiday presentation, which he performed quite well.

He's quite a guy. I just wish he's keep his face away from big solid objects. He's done this before, riding his Big Wheel riding toy into the back of my parked van.

At least I can't claim that life here is dull.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lucky Seven!

Danny is seven years old today. We're planning a little family celebration for tonight, and then Danny will be having his party with his friends at Chuck E. Cheese's sometime later in the month. It's hard to believe that my little munchkin, who almost didn't make it here and was incredibly tiny when he did, is such a big guy now.

One of Danny's birthday presents, which is not so much fun for Dad but I'm glad he's enjoying it, is snow. A week ago we were sitting outside at Mambo's Cafe in Glendale, California, sipping cold milkshakes. This morning I got up with Karen to brush snow and scrape ice from her car before sending her off to work. Sigh.

Look for a sudden and dramatic change in the look of the site in the next day or two. I'm trying to make more available from the front page and restore access to some of the old material. THis revision is the first step.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

It's Cold Here!

Well, we're back home. I use the word reluctantly because, to tell the truth, I'm more comfortable in California.

Of course that could be because California was mostly warm and sunny and New Hampshire is cold! The house, with only isolated heating until tomorrow when our first bottle of propane for the season arrives, is downright frigid. Not enough to freeze the pipes, but enough to make it very hard to get myself moving to get us all ready to return to daily life here. Hard to overcome the jet lag when the temperature inside in the middle of the day is colder than it was outside last night in Burbank.

But we're here and we're safe, if a little blue. A little blue from the frosty air. And a little blue from having to leave the warmth of the West Coast.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

We Say Goodbye

A busy few days. Saturday we visited two museums in Mariposa: the California Mineral and Mining Museum and the Mariposa History Museum. Both have a lot of information on the California Gold Rush, each cost only $4 (kids are free), and it's worth taking in both during a trip to Mariposa.

Sunday was a travel day. After a stop for lunch at El Pollo Loco (great chicken you can't get in New Hampshire), we took a side trip to visit our friends Rusty and Andrea and their son Evan. We had a great talk and the boys had fun playing with Evan, but it was altogether too short.

Yesterday we had a visit with friends Sue and Brad. Their dog Penny remembers William, who stayed with them when he was just a baby. She was very excited to see him! After lunch at Mambo's Cafe, Cuban food which you also can't get in New Hampshire (notice a trend here), Karen did crafts with William and Madison at the Reisch house.

And today is our last day here. Our flight leaves late, so we have time to visit with a few more friends before we head down to the airport to return the rental car and get on the red-eye. Tomorrow is a work day for Karen, and I need to get the boys all set up for their first day back at school.

With luck we'll be able to sleep on the plane; we' weren't so lucky on the way out thanks to a very upset little girl.

But even if I sleep, and the entire trip is entirely smooth, I know that I'm going to have a bad case of post-California let-down.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Of Tall Things

A busy and fun day yesterday, taking us from Oakhurst to the Sierra Forest to Fresno and back to Coarsegold.

It started with breakfast in Oakhurst. I had chicken-fried steak (and it's chicken, not country) with eggs and hash browns. That supplied good fuel for a short hike to one very tall tree, the Bull Buck tree in Nelder Grove. It's a sequoia, 242 feet high and 84 feet in circumference. And after passing many stumps of trees cut down in the late 1890s, stumps that are themselves as much as twenty feet high, the tree kind of sneaks up on you. Fortunately, we had my brother Andy as a tour guide, and he knows right where to go (and what to see along the way). The Bull Buck is very, very impressive.

The boys also had a blast hiking and climbing on stumps and taking pictures on the trail.

After that we drove down to Fresno to visit the Chafee Zoo in Roeding Park. After seeing a very tall tree, the boys got to feed a very tall giraffe, as well as seeing elephants, tigers, armadillos, geckos, emus, stingrays, and too many other animals to enumerate.

And after that we had dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Fresno. We didn't get to visit as much as we would have liked--the restaurant was crowded and noisy--but dinner was good.

And the boys slept very well last night.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful day visiting with all the family in Fresno, with lots of conversation and a great dinner.

I haven't seen anyone here except my mother (who came to visit us in 2007) since the very end of 2005, so Danny and William really felt as though they were meeting these people for the first time.

This is pretty much the halfway mark for our trip, and the time is going much too fast. It's not just the visiting and the warm weather we're enjoying here; there are so many things to do, and so many favorite places to see, that we have no chance of getting to even a small fraction of them.

But we have vowed to return more often, and for longer periods of time.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

I Hate To Brag, But. . .

I am sitting outside in the back yard of the home of our good friends the Reisch family, in late November, in shirtsleeves, watching my children play. I don't know what the temperature is at the moment, but I am sitting in the shade to avoid getting too hot.

The trip was very long, although I have to credit Jet Blue for doing more than any airline I've flown recently (though I have to admit that my last flight was some years ago) to make the trip more pleasant. I had picked Jet Blue for the lower fares, but found the service and the many nice touches very impressive.

They have an individual screen for every seat, with around 35 channels of progamming to choose from. I watched a fascinating show on the National Geographic channel about ancient crocodiles. They also have more legroom than I am used to, and I could easily get used to that.

And the people were very, very nice. The captain even made his preflight annoucement standing at the front of the cabin instead of facelessly from the deck.

I took the boys and their friend Madison to the park today to run off some steam. The last time I was there, with Thomas, there was a cute little play structure. Now there is a giant structure with lots of amazing new things to climb on and hang from. The children had a blast. My boys have never been on a playground that big before.

They've never, in their memory, been anyplace this big before. But in the true spirit of childhood, they are too involved with the moment to really notice much difference. To them we are just sleeping over with friends, visiting new and exciting places, and visiting people that, for the most part, they don't remember meeting.

On the other hand, I am still in awe of the contrast between New Hampshire, which even in its largest cities is more like a giant small town, and Los Angeles, a city with a population three times that of our entire state.

I sometimes wonder what it is I would miss about New Hampshire if we lived in California. When I think about it, the list is small. There are a few special places we like to go, but these are places that we could revisit on a vacation to the Granite State. Mostly I would miss my theater group. Not only do i love the theater, but The Village Players is a very special group of thespians. If I lived somewhere else, I would want to be able to come back long enough at a stretch to do the occasional play with this particular company.

But I feel very comfortable in the city. I love the availability of everything. When i first got in the rental car, I wondered how quickly I would adapt to driving here. I think it took about a minute, and then only because I was in an unfamiliar car.

I missed the entrance to the freeway because the rental agent sent me in a direction I don't normally use. But knowing how Los Angeles is laid out, I found my bearings immediately and found the entrance in a matter of a couple of minutes.

Even streets I couldn't remember the names of were instantly recognizable when I came to them. I picked the right freeway exits, turned at the right cross streets, and then faltered badly when I passed the Reisch house. The front had been seriously remodeled since my last visit there.

But other than that, there has been nary a misstep.

In ten days we will get back on the plane, back to school and jobs and house construction. I've been there for eight years, and of course it is familiar and I am reasonably comfortable with it.

But it's only in Southern California that I feel truly at home.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Blogging From a Bus!

Wireless technology is an amazing thing. As I write this, I am sitting in a bus on the way to Logan Airport, and I'm Internet connected.

It sounds very fancy, but taking the bus was actually a cost saver. The round-trip fare is less than half the cost of parking for ten days in Boston, and about a quarter the cost of a round-trip limo fare. This is our first time using the service, and so far I'm impressed.

Traveling anywhere from where we live is a day-long commitment. It's about forty minutes to the bus, then two hours to Logan, a couple of hours to allow for security check points and boarding, and six hours of flying. We'll arrive close to midnight, nearly three a.m. according to our body clocks. And after that we have to drive about an hour from LAX to the valley to where we're staying.

But after a little recovery period, it will feel very good to be back in California.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ready to Fly

As we approach our departure date, there are myriad details to sort out before we go, and so a couple of things are slipping through the cracks. Like pictures on this site.

At least today's picture is not event-specific; Daniel is still doing homework every night, so I can at least claim that the picture is timely. On the other hand, I do have some material to draw from, on William's camera and Karen's, that I will post before we go so that it isn't all recycled pictures while we're away.

And I should be able to post some entries and photos from the road. We're looking forward to seeing everyone in California, to visiting a few old favorite places, and to spending some time in warmer weather, although New Hampshire hasn't been so bad this month, at least compared with average temperatures.

And I think we're all looking forward to just getting away from the regular routine, and to having some long streches of time together. With conflicting schedules and so many things to take care of at home, there has been precious little of that.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Halloween Treats

The boys had a fun and successful "Trick Or Treat" outing on Saturday. Towns in New Hampshire now specify official days and hours for the activity, not always on Halloween. Strange.

We went into Wolfeboro, William dressed as Jack Sparrow, the Johnny Depp character from "Pirates Of the Caribbean," and Daniel dressed as a knight. Karen had to catch up with us, as it was a work day for her. We hit all of the side streets off the main drag, and then went up to one of the local haunts for dinner. About three or four blocks from the restaurant, it started to rain, but we didn't get terribly wet and it didn't dampen our spirits, although Mom and Dad had tired feet by the end of it all. Amazingly, neither of the children complained about his feet despite the fact that they both were wearing rubber rain boots, not because of the weather but because of the costumes.

The boys got quite a haul, and they will be enjoying it for weeks to come as we dole out the candy slowly. Not everything in the bags was candy, though. Of course there were the inevitable orange toothbrushes with black bristles from the local dentist (who, interestingly, also gave out the biggest servings of candy), but there were also treat-sized bags of pretzels and cookies. One of the administrators of our daycare center was smart enough to have packs of animals crackers on hand for the infants. People can be very clever.

Now it's back to the real world as we rush to prepare the house for Winter, and get ourselves ready for a trek to California, which we are all very much looking forward to, and not just for the break from the cold weather. Talking to Danny the other night, I realized just how many of our treasured friends and family members Danny has no recollection of.

It's been too long!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Another Roller-Coaster Winter?

It snowed on Sunday. Right in the middle of October, it snowed. It didn't blanket the yard in white, but it was, nevertheless, snow.

This week, by contrast, is expected to be mild. Though last night the temperature fell below freezing, again, and there was frost on the ground at the Seacoast (where I am as I write), the days are already getting milder and the predicted lows for most of the nights heading into the end of the month are much more tolerable.

I see a trend here. I see a winter with especially cold periods followed by tantalizingly mild weather, followed by bitterly cold periods, with no time to adjust to any of it. I see that I'd better get our heat up and running.

I have to throw in an apology for the recycled picture on Sunday, brought on by a busy Saturday that included William's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's, which is nearly a tradition among the boys' circle of friends. I still can't believe that William is nine. When we first moved to New Hampshire, leaving Karen and William behind for four months, William wasn't even walking, and Daniel hadn't even been born. And here they are growing so fast, both in school all day with homework to do at night.

And Thomas, of course, is an adult. When we moved here he was in the last year of elementary school. Now he has his own car. I best not think about it; time passes too quickly and too little gets done, and it's a bit depressing.

At least we are living in the new house, a house that is, for the first time in the memory of my two younger boys, not for sale, not being shown to strangers. A house that we can put our own individual stamps on, with chalkboard paint, bold colors, and lots of pictures on the walls. A house that is anything but neutral. A house occupied by artists.

Of course we have to finish making it into a house first, with basics like heat and more than one working shower and window casings and baseboards. But even these tasks can be done without thinking about what would appeal to a buyer. What a relief!

Now all we really need to figure out is where to find the time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Happy Birthday, William!

William is nine today! I haven't had the chance to wish him a Happy Birthday, because I left for work when he was still asleep, and he's at school as I write this.

William asked for a birthday dinner at Hart's Turkey Farm on the other side of the lake, so that's what we're doing right after I get home from work. It has to be an early dinner, because it's still a school night, but we'll make it a fun celebration of a big event.

Wow. Nine years old. Yikes!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chilling Out

The nights are getting cold, and the days are not all that warm. But we're not ready to turn on the heat yet. To save money this winter, we are postponing turning on any heat until the First of November.

Of course, this is made easier by the fact that we haven't bought our propane for the season, and that only one of our three heaters has been installed (and it's slated to be moved). All of that will come on time for that wonderous day after Halloween when we can say "crank up the heat."

We won't need to crank it up too far; this house is far better insulated than the old one, and we are not inclined to keep the inside of our home as swelteringly hot as are some of our New England neighbors. Which is odd, when you think about it, coming to New Hampshire as we did from the land of perpetually mild weather, Los Angeles. Maybe we've just adapted to Karen's childhood, during which she lived in a 1920s WPA house in New Jersey, not the cheapest place to heat.

Not that even our new house will be saving us a lot of money this year, with expectations for an especially cold winter, though not as snowy a season as the last. But if we made it through last winter in our drafty modified camp, we can certainly make it through this one in our cozy new house.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Looking Forward

Living in the new house is something of an adventure--only the boys have anything approaching a finished room--but no one seems to be pining away for the old house, much to my surprise.

We all seem to be more interested in settling in to our new house, our only house, and making ourselves as comfortable as possible in the meanwhile. I think it's because we had been anticipating this for so long. We had the old house on the market for more than four years, planned the new house for more than three, and spent more than two years getting the new house from excavation to occupancy.

I would expect to be a bit disappointed after all that time to be living in a house that's still unfinished. But I'm not, and I don't think anyone else is either. Determined, is more like it. Determined not only to work toward finishing the house, but to make the house feel like a home even before it's a finished house.

And it's not as though it's a perfect house. We keep finding more things that the builders did badly. Not things that will keep us from living in the house, but things that require attention, like siding that's falling off, and a tub that won't quite fit right because the walls it's bewteen are not exactly the right distance apart, and a concrete floor that was poured badly. To name a few.

But it wasn't built as a dream house. It was built as an affordable house, relatively cheap to build and cheaper (compared with the old house) to heat. And on that score, so far, it has not let us down.

And even with open walls, unfinished floors, and boxes and furniture stacked all over the house, it already feels like home.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back On the Grid

We now have phone service at the new house, with the same old number as of yesterday. Using the "number for life" feature of Vonage, we can keep that number as long as we use Vonage, even if we move out of the area. Which is weird.

The way the phones are set up is also weird; the cable comes into the basement just above the concrete portion of the wall and ends in the cable modem which is currently sitting on top of a utility cabinet for our tools and various hardware for the house. The Vonage box plugs into the cable modem and is sitting atop the concrete wall (the concrete part of the wall sticks out 1-1/2 inches from the framed part). Another cable runs from the Vonage box to our wireless router so we can connect to the Internet. And a phone cable goes to the base unit of the cordless phone, currently sitting on a chair.

All this will get straightened out in time, of course. The house is thoroughly wired for TV, phone, and computer connections, all terminating in a lovely tangle of blue and black wires suspended from the ceiling over the existing tangle of ethernet and phone wires. When other more pressing matters are taken care of, a small wall cabinet will contain patch bays where I can connect and re-connect the feeds to any room to the Internet, phone, and (eventually) satellite TV signals.

We have been without TV for several weeks now, and frankly much too busy to miss it. The kids have movies to watch that we've rented or checked out of the library, and the rest of us have a house to finish.

That will probably occupy us for some time to come.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Internet In, Phone Coming

We finally have our high-speed Internet connection, so I can start updating the site again, starting tomorrow. Phones will come next week, but it looks like we will keep our existing number.

The house, as anyone who's moved will know, is piled high with boxes and unplaced furniture. We're settling in gradually, trying to get the essentials done first. I just got the washer and dryer hooked up two nights ago, and this weekend I need to finish the installation of the dishwasher.

The most important thing we have to do is sort. The old house, with its kneewalls and sheds, had far too much deep storage to put things into and then forget about them. Can't get away with that now!

And, of course, the house isn't really finished yet. We only have one useable shower, and the attic is still, well, an attic when it supposed to be a bedroom. So there will be a lot of inside construction work going on to keep us warm this winter!

Now that I finally (I've been waiting so long) have a high-speed connection, it will be much easier to post pictures and movies. Before I had to load them on to my laptop (a 7-year-old iBook) and go to the library to use their connection. Now I can do it right from home. There should be a lot more updates in the near future.

Hold me to it!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Coming Back Soon!

Our Internet connection is scheduled to be installed today, so although we won't have a phone (but that's coming soon!), we will be connected.

It will be the first time in my life I've had a (relatively) high-speed, full-time Internet connection, and we'll have wireless to boot! It will make it possible for us to try out the lower cost Internet telephone options and see if we can keep our communication costs at bay. It's also going to make it much easier to keep up on the family site and blogs.

So, the pictures should be back in a day or two!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Off the Grid

You may have noticed that the picture of the day is, to be perfectly honest, missing. Glitch on my part which I will fix soon, but right at the moment Internet access is sketchy as we are in the process of moving.

No phone service in the new house yet, and no television (not that we have time to watch). Things are progressingm however, with no more problems than those concerning lack of time, exhaustion, and bruises and sore joints from moving heavy furniture. In other words, just the usual.

Nearly all of the large stuff has been transferred to the new house, and only Thomas is still sleeping in the old house, until this weekend. It's a bit, how can I put this, rustic, but I'm enoying the feeling of being there (though I enjoy it less at 5:00 am when I have to get up for work and discover that I left an important article of clothing on the second floor when I happen to be in the basement).

This is a short entry; I have to get back up to the house and get myself to bed. I will try to do some catch up this weekend if I can get to the library for a connection, because by that time I won't have one at home. Soon, though, and finally a faster one!

Friday, August 21, 2009

We're On the Move!

On Monday we passed inspection! With that done, we can move in, which in truth we have been doing for some time, but now we can move the beds and the refrigerator and the washing machine and, well, everything else and live there full time.

I expect we will be living in our new home in a little over a week, as soon as we've figured out where everyone's sleeping and gotten things moved more or less where they're supposed to be.

The boys return to school on Monday, Danny going into first grade where he'll be in school all day for the first time. William is going into third grade. Where does the time go?

Even as summer comes to an end, we're getting our first real taste of summer weather, with hot, muggy days and thunderstorms in the afternoons. We'll have to work around the rain this weekend to get as much stuff moved as we possibly can. The last few days have been without rain, but they've also been miserably hot. I sweated several pounds away just moving the pieces of Karen's animation desk to the second floor. I wonder what the winter is going to bring.

But never mind that now. This week is going to bring a lot of furniture and boxes into our new home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Pins and Needles

Today should be our final inspection on the new house. The last time, the inspector gave me a list of things to correct. Not a very short list, but a straightforward one.

I had to add joist hangers on the back temporary deck, put in handrails in the front and down to the basement (what I had there didn't qualify as a handrail under the new code), and post our house number so that it's visible from the street, among other things. I've done all of that, and the inspector is coming back late this afternoon to, I hope, tell us that we are ready to live in the new house.

It won't be easy. We'll all be moving into smaller spaces to start with, and there is still a lot of work to do to make the house a home. But we are all so excited about finally moving in that I don't think any us us will really mind.

Yesterday we made our annual trek to Storyland before the kids go back to school. We all had a wonderful time, despite the heat and humidity. On the way home we stopped at Bobby Sue's in Freedom, one of our favorite ice cream places. Today, though, I feel a little crippled from all the walking. I need to get over it, though; I'll be moving furniture for the next month!

Looks like we're getting a break in the weather for the move, though. Although the forecasts go back and forth on the issue of rain, it's mostly back to the normal August pattern of sunny, humid days with occasional afternoon showers, which come on quickly but not entirely without warning.

The new house is so close to the old house that everything will just be carried up the hill or brought up on hand trucks. That's what we've been doing do far: just grabbing a box or a small piece of furniture and carrying it up when we go to work on the house. Now it's going to be more like a trail of ants carrying things along three well-worn paths, one directly into the basement door, one up the back steps to the kitchen, and one around the line of trees on the north side and up to the front door.

It will be a flurry of activity for a month, and then we will collapse for awhile before we start moving things to their final place in the house, or out of the house completely if we're at all smart about it. There won't actually be that much unpacking to do, because there wastn't that much real packing in the first place.

And then finally, the new house won't be the new house anymore. It will just be home.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

I'm Back!

Now that "Don't Drink the Water" has had its run, it's time to come out of blog and Web update retirement. Not that we aren't still busy, but not having two weekly rehearsals to attend, not to mention all of the homework involved with directing a play, gives me just a little more control over my time.

The play, by the way, was magnificent! I had a cast of fifteen, and there wasn't a dud in the bunch. They all played it for all it was worth, and added so many wonderful little touches that aren't in the script. And the audiences had a grand time, which is what makes the whole process worthwhile.

The house is so close to completion. I predicted back at the beginning of Spring that we'd be in by the beginning of Summer, but going back to work moved that target a bit. We actually had an inspection over a week ago, but we didn't quite pass. We need a floor in the kitchen and some missing stair rails. Then we can move it.

Not that we haven't moved a lot of our things (which is fine as long as we're not cooking and sleeping in the new house). Any furniture and personal possessions we don't need to live in the old house are being moved to the new house. We're expecting to live in the new house within two weeks, and completely cleared out of the old house a couple of weeks after that.

In the days ahead I'm going to bring the site back up to date, more or less. I'm planning a minor change that will allow me to update pictures in either large batches, allowing me more time between, or in little bits, which more reflects the way my time works these days. Keep checking; I'll get there eventually.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Waiting for Summer

Okay, summer officially starts tomorrow, and summer vacation on Wednesday. But what we're really waiting for here in New Hampshire is summer weather.

With highs in the 70s today, this is about as close as we've been for awhile, and even at that we're anticipating rain starting tonight--and lasting nearly a week.

At least most of the work I'm doing is indoor work: the house, theater, passports--although, ironically, I'm actually writing this blog outdoors, on my Palm Zire at the park while Danny and William get what little dry outdoor activity they can. We went to the Friends Of the Library book sale before we came, which was disappointing in its selection, but perhaps because we arrived near the end of the day.

Tomorrow is Father's Day, and I plan to celebrate by, well, doing what I do most Sundays, while Karen works. I have a rehearsal that night, unfortunately pulling several Dads away from their kids as well. But the show must go on, in just over a month now.

Well, the sun is coming out, just as we're getting ready to leave for home.


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another Graduation

Today was graduation day at Kingswood High School. We went to watch Julia get her diploma, along with a few other young ladies that we know from child care and theater circles.

The weather cooperated nicely, sunny and warm but not uncomfortably hot, and a nice contrast to the abundance of rain we've been living with recently. It's also not what we are expecting tomorrow.

The sunny day gave the boys a chance to play in the water today, something they have had few cahnces to do, which is a shame because it is the last summer in which they will have their own beach, thought once we no longer own this house we still have access to the water, and there is a nice shallow beach on the south side of the pond.

The good weather also allowed me to get some outside work done on the house; I installed porch lights in the front and back of the first floor. Now the only outside electrical I need to do to pass inspection is the outlet off the walk-out basement. I'll also do the basement porch light just because it will make moving into the house easier, as a lot of it will probably happen after dark.

The house is still coming along slowly; it's hard to find the time for the things we are doing ourselves, and hard to find the money for those few things we cannot do, mostly involving plumbing. But there is progress being made every week, and it's just a matter of time.

Less vague is the coming of opening night for "Don't Drink the Water," which opens July 23rd, ready or not. I've got a great cast and a great crew, so we'll make it happen, but it sure seems to be coming up fast!

Also coming up fast is the beginning of summer vacation for William and Daniel, which really throws a monkey wrench into the whole schedule. Not mine, so much, but it will make Karen's mornings even more hectic then they already are.

Vacation is only eight weeks, however; the kids will be starting back to school earlier this year, as the schedule shifts back about two weeks; the kids will get out of school earlier next year.

Meanwhile we just keep taking it a day at a time, trying to move forward, settle into whatever the next phase in our family's life ends up being, giving a lot of love and trying to have a little fun along the way.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Month!

It's been about a month since I last posted on this blog. Shame, shame, shame. But I have to admit to myself that it's been a busy, crazy month.

Since I last posted, I have held auditions for a play at the Village Players, turned 52, put a couple of thousand commuting miles on my poor old van, done not enough work on the new house and spent not enough time sleeping.

I know some people have tried to contact me recently, and I apologize for not keeping up. I have all I can do to take care of daily life and keep my cast up to date on their requirments, while working and building and trying to sell the old house. And driving. I spend way too much time driving.

Thomas has recently talked about moving to Concord to be close to where he wants to go to school. I think about that and, although I like my community and the house we're building, I miss being in a city, even one as tiny as Concord.

Did I say tiny? Isn't Concord the capitol of New Hampshire? Yes, but with about 50,000 people it is around the size of, say, Tulare, California. For someone from Los Angeles, that's tiny.

But it's still big enough to be close to employment, shopping, good restaurants, and theaters. We won't be moving to a place like Concord anytime soon, but if Thomas does I will be happy for him.

And a little bit envious.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Time Bind

I am tapping out this blog entry on my old Palm Zire PDA. It's a little slower than writing by hand, but faster than writing by hand and then retyping. It's much slower than typing on my laptop, but I'm not allowed to bring a laptop into the building where I work.

And work is where I am writing this, because now that I'm away from home from pretty much sunup to sundown, I need to get things done however I can.

Part of that, I suppose, will involve deciding just not to do some things, but it's a little early to tell what those might be. I already have a couple of time-consuming activities that can't drop off the list, namely, the completion of our new house and the summer play at The Village Players. So, some other things are going to get pushed aside.

Not this site, though. It may suffer a bit from neglect, but I'm going to enlist some help from the rest of the family to provide me with a more regular supply of pictures and other material for the site. After all, Danny's the only one in the family who can't write yet, and everyone can take pictures and create art.

I think it's time this stopped being a one-man show.

Monday, April 13, 2009


Nothing's been happening on the site for most of the week because everything's been happening at once here at home. I just finished the last of five performances of Night Watch on Saturday, did the whole Easter thing with the kids and a lot of house wiring on Sunday.

And, oh yeah, I returned to work at the National Passport Center the week before that. So I'm back to getting up at 5:00 am and not getting home until about 6:00 pm.

I am trying to catch up, but it won't happen all at once because in addition to my NPC schedule and continuing to work on the house, I am also starting on my first stint as the director of a full-length play, Woody Allen's Don't Drink the Water, the casting for which begins this coming weekend.

So things are a little, well, busy. No busier than they were when I was doing, for example, The Pajama Game, but I had the routine down then, and I'm scrambling to put it all back in place now. I'll get there, even if it feels as though I couldn't possibly.

And now I need to get to bed. Sleep is one of the other things that hasn't been in my schedule this past week.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Making a few tweaks to the site. I've been learning a lot about programming for the Web because I've gotten paid to do someone's site. It's a small step, but perhaps it can lead to a life of employment without commuting, which considering the state of my car is an entirely good thing.

The bigger pictures you get when you click from the main page now have a caption box that adjusts itself to the size of the caption. Now I don't have to worry about the length of the caption. And there is a button on the bottom to get you back to the home page.

This was just an interim version of the site anyway. I'm in the process of designing my professional site, and a lot of what I learn there will make its way into this site, not because this site isn't fun the way it is, but because I just can't leave well enough alone.

However the site changes, though, I promise it will continue to include photos of the family and a link to this blog. Because I know that, whatever fancy design theories I may implement, in the end it comes down to pictures and news.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Buzz

As the snow begins to disappear, leaving now mostly the big piles we created by shoveling except in those little corners where the sun only reaches for a short time each day, things are beginning to happen on several fronts.

The new house is getting closer to being finished to the point where we can move in. I think that we will be calling that house home about the time my birthday rolls around.

More people are coming to look at the old house, though that's been going on for so long now that it's not something that tends to bolster my hopes much. But I guess it's better than not having anyone come at all.

The play I'm appearing in opens in less than a week. We always get nervous around this time, feeling that we're just so far from ready and wishing we had another week--or two--to get it down, but we always make it fall into place somehow.

Very soon the auditions will start for the next play, but I won't be trying out for that one. I'll be directing! I'm a little nervous, but also very, very excited. The show opens the last week in July, which gives us about three months to get everything together.

I can't predict exactly what our summer will be like. But I don't think the word "boring" is going to apply.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Is Here!

Okay, officially it's still a couple of days off. But the snow is melting. the birds are singing, and I don't have to bundle the kids up in coats, gloves, hats, and scarves to wait for the bus in the morning. That means spring around here.

Of course. those of you in milder climates might disagree. After all, it's still well below freezing most nights, and we're not running around outside it T-shirts yet. At least most of us aren't (there are a few hardy souls around here that can even be seen in shorts). But for us it's a matter of contrast. Our overnight lows of, say, 25 degrees were, only a matter of weeks ago, our daytime highs. If we were lucky.

There is finally a snow-free path to the new house, a mixed blessing since we now have to slog through the mud instead of the snow, but it still bodes well for all of the outside work that must be done to get occupancy on the house. Not that much, really: a set of temporary steps in the front, a couple of outside lights and outlets, and some venting work and we're done.

At least as far as the outside is concerned. Still a lot of little things on the inside, but I'm knocking them out pretty much every day. I just finished cutting countertops for both kitchens and installing thermostats and lighting fixtures. I don't think it will be long.

Soon we won't be talking about the "new" house and the "old" house. Before the official start of summer, we'll just be talking about "the" house, the one we live in, the one we just finished building. Well, okay, the one we're still building, but the one we'll be building while we're living in it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Well, after twenty years of marriage, Karen has finally corrupted me in the kitchen.

After all that time being the master of dishes requiring precise measuring, temperature, and time, like rice, cookies, and bread, I have now created something completely out of my head. The kitchen may never be the same.

The dish was a simple potato soup. I took eight or nine potatoes and peeled and cubed them. I stuck them in a pot with enough water to cover them and a bit of salt and boiled them for 15 minutes. Then I added more water and let it simmer for about an hour. Then I added more water, milk, and some pepper. I chopped up some frozen brocolli (which nobody in the house would eat because I accidentally got chopped instead of florets) in a food processor and dumped that in. I grated a few ounces of leftover cheese and dumped that in. Then I added celery salt and garlic and chopped onion, and left it all boil down for awhile while I made grilled cheese sandwiches.

And it was good! This could have a serious influence on my style of cooking. This could be really, really dangerous. I could get used to this.

What made it even funnier was that I had just finished reading The Tale of Despereaux as a bedtime story to William and Daniel. If you don't know the story (which was made into a pretty bad movie just recently), one of it's key plot points is that the King, after his wife dies of shock when a rat falls into her soup, rashly outlaws soup and anything involved in the making or eating of soup. And as it turns out, soup is what finally saves the day.

Soup certainly has saved me from being chained to a recipe. I just hope all of my culinary adventures have such a happy ending.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A New Look for Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day. Well, here is the new Web site! It looks a lot different, as you can see, but it is also a new site under the hood.

You will notice some things missing, like captions and the archives, but they're not gone for good; I just need to work out some design issues. You'll see things changing several times as I play around with concepts. I hope it's not too disconcerting.

One of the reasons I built this new site, aside from wanting to learn a few things, is to make it easier to make changes in the site. I can change backgrounds and move things around far more easily with the new design. I think not too far into the future, we're going to have a little bit of fun with art from the kids.

Tonight is a Valentine's Day at home, so I have a few decorating tasks to do with the boys. Hope you'll keep up with the site; it's going to be fun.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Warming, But Not a Trend

Today brought spring-like weather to New England; the temperature went over 50 here today, and a lot of the snow and ice on our driveway melted. It's enough to make you think that spring is coming early, but not so fast! The cold is returning for the weekend, though not as deep a cold as we've experienced recently.

But, short-lived as this warm spell will be, it did give me a chance to work outside without freezing my fingers off, and I took advantage of that to install the balusters on my temporary back deck and stairs. I even managed to stay ahead of the little bit of rain that came along in the afternoon.

Some changes are coming to the Web site in the near future. It's actually an educational experience for me; I'm trying to apply some new techniuqes I've learned. I hope the result will be a Web site that's more fun to look at and easier to use. I'm also collecting all of the Pictures Of the Day starting this week and putting them into an ever-growing Picasa gallery, which I will post sometime tomorrow.

Right now I have to post the pictures to the actual Web site so that I can get off to bed.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Playing Handyman

I spend a lot of my time these days doing things I don't actually know how to do. Like drain plumbing, though so far all I've done is wrap the kitchen drain pipe in Magic Wrap repair tape to contain the leak until I can replace the drain pipes, and hanging doors, which I have just finished doing for the first time in what will soon become the play room in the new house.

It amazes me I can do this stuff at all, because it's so unlike anything I've trained myself for. What amazes me more is how hard it can be to find good advice. Well, the plumbing wasn't too hard because the guy in the Lowes plumbing department knew exactly what I was talking about and had all the parts for me in a few minutes.

But when it comes to hanging a door, I found three different sets of instructions, of which only one made any sense. The other two came from Lowes. What was worse was the list of materials needed from the actual door, which listed 8d and 16d finish nails, when every set of instructions I could find recommended 8d and 4d. Can't anybody write directions anymore?

Incidentally, the directions I found that I could understand and that worked were from Now that figures.

We are expecting another snow storm starting tomorrow morning, so I'll be out shoveling snow, something I wish I didn't know how to do. Unfortunately, I have a lot of recent experience.

Before I post this, I need to relate a funny story about Danny and food. Danny's my picky eater, the one who claims he doesn't like meat. It's not exactly true; he eats chicken nuggets, hot dogs, and meatballs. Karen recently made a meatloaf for the first time in a very long time, and got Danny to eat it by describing it as a really big meatball. Not only did Danny eat it, but yesterday he asked when we were going to have another big meatball for dinner.

Sometimes it isn't what you serve that counts. It's what you call it.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Just Chilling Out

We're finally emerging from a bitter cold spell that sent temperatures well below zero last week. I never thought I would consider daytime highs in the teens to be a relief from the cold, but there you have it. Today it reached nearly freezing. Break out the Hawaiian shirts!

Of course, with the wave of warmer weather came a wave of snow. So coping with cold and snow has taken up a good deal of our time in the last couple of weeks. Hardly a day has gone by this week that I haven't been out shoveling.

But we still manage to do other things. Karen has some vacation time and she's spending a day of it doing a fun craft project with some fo the children at the Children's Center. I'm appearing in another play, and preparing to direct one this summer.

And while I can't honestly say I'm looking forward to it, I am expecting to be back at NPC within a month, and that will relieve a lot of the financial pressure we've been under and give us a boost toward finishing our house.

Meanwhile I've started a sideline business, which hasn't made any money but has gotten some positive response. I call myself "The Web Handyman," and I'm planning to apply my experience with Web programming and interactive design to earn a little money while helping some of our local business owners make the most of their Web sites. And I will be able to do that while I work at NPC, and perhaps have it established as an income source when the next layoffs come, probably at the end of the summer.

Thomas got his first taste of the joys of driving on icy roads on Sunday when he was trying to get home from work. A racoon ran across the road, he hit the brakes, and found himself backwards in a snow bank. He wasn't hurt, and the car came out all right, but I had to come help him dig it out (with the assistance of some passersby) and give the car a good push so he could get it out.

Of course it was something that could have happened to anyone—I've found myself sideways on the road a few times—and I'm very glad that it all turned out okay.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

CHilly New Year

2009 started off this year by reminding us that this is supposed to be an unusually cold winter; when we woke up this morning the temperature outside was zero degrees Fahrenheit, and I never saw the thermometer climb above 20 today.

The house is very hard to heat in this kind of bitter weather; it was originally designed as a summer camp, and the bottom story has never been properly insulated. The top floor stays reasonable comfortable, but there are parts of the house that just won't warm up when the temperature drops into the single-digits.

And then there is the plumbing. I had to crawl under the house and set up an electric heater to keep the pipes from freezing. This time I was smart and put the heater on a pair of extension cords. I sent the meeting of the two cords up one of the unused floor registers in the kitchen and stuffed insulation under it. If I need to unplug the heater (to save money!) I just lift up the register to access the cord. Particularly handy when, as will happen some time this winter, the access door to the crawlspace is covered in a couple of feet of snow. It only took me seven years to figure this trick out.

It's going to be an interesting year. We'll be moving in the cold, and probably the snow. We'll be finishing the house while we're living in it (but we've done that before). We'll be struggling with the economy (but so is everyone else). On the other hand, we'll be spending time with our children, watching Thomas finding his way as an adult, getting involved in community theater, and trying to spend more time being artists, something we've let slide since moving to New Hampshire.

It will be a story worth following. And unless we do something newsworthy (which isn't always a good thing), the only place to follow the story is right here on