31 October 2007

Happy Halloween!

Salem Witches




To celebrate Halloween (without the crowds) we headed down to Salem, MA yesterday to check it out. Salem is the place most famously known for the witch trials in the 17th century. Halloween is a very big holiday for them. They have a big festival and people swarm the town. DH has two "witches" in his family. One of them we recognized on the walls- Rebecca Towne. I was thinking the other was Sara. Probably also a Towne. They were not witches at all and they didn't even practice the religion that is associated with witches. Wicca(r)- as the guide called it- seems to be a fairly benign religion but during that time period it got way out of hand. Dozens died in this country and thousands across Europe after being accused and prosecuted as witches which they perceived as being in association with the devil/evil. Here it all started with a Jamaican woman named Tituba who was brought to New England as a slave who entertained young girls in her house with stories, legends, and little tricks. Then snowball down the mountain... We went through the witch museum, walked around the festivals they had set up, and of course, took a tour of their oldest graveyard.

It was a beautiful day out, so we headed up to Gloucester to finish the day off with a great meal at the Gloucester House for some great seafood! I had bacon wrapped scallops with cole slaw and Art had Baked Stuffed Haddock with very fresh asparagus. We stopped by the fishermans monument commemorating the lives lost at sea for the past few hundred years.

30 October 2007

Front Range Trail

Here are some pics from a great bike ride last Monday in Loveland-




29 October 2007

Coach

What a relaxing and fun week in Colorado. It was a nice little get-away. Getting there and back went as I expected. I have bad airplane karma. I am a magnet for the loudest, most obnoxious, needy passengers. I am like the pied piper of problem people... My first flight out of Boston to Cincinatti (God forbid I ever get a 'direct' flight that does not make stops!) was definately the worst flight winner for the trip. I may as well have been flying out of Salt Lake City there were so many little rug rats around. I sat in the aisle seat next to a guy who had his four or six or so year old kid. He was an "omigod i'm alone with a kid whadoido panic" kind of guy and the kid was playing him from the start. 'I don't want my bag, I need xyz out of my bag.' 'Hold this- That's mine don't touch it!'(scream) The silly fool jumped at every demand which lead in turn to the kid maximizing on this new-found power. The bouncy kid in front of me who was standing on her chair pushing all the buttons- which flight attendants loved oh-so-much :(> She would blather at me incoherently and drop stuff on me and mommy sat beside her reading her book like it wasn't even her kid. Across the aisle we had the nuclear family with mommy, daddy, toddler, and baby. Daddy was on the aisle and in charge of the baby, who of course, was teething and crabby. So daddy had to stand in the aisle and bounce the screaming baby for most of the flight. Lucky me, the guys @ss was in my face for practically the whole time, and the kid was leaking profusely. A couple of times the sopping fist she had shoved in her mouth between wails would come out and grab at my hair. Delightful. Behind me were the eight to ten year old cousins/friends/weird family members on a trip with their moms who sat in a different row- lucky them! They played games the whole time at the top of their lungs, and kicked the chair almost constantly. The final joy was the older kid in the nuclear family ended the flight by barfing as soon as we landed.
Coming home there was a lovely brutish twenty-something guy in ripped jeans and a backwards Red Sox hat who bounded down the aisle and proclaimed with his Southie accent that I was in his seat. I said, "no, this is my seat," as I showed him my ticket. "NO! I don't sit by the window, I sit on the aisle. You're in my seat!" "Today you do because I am in the correct seat." So, of course, he brooded, fussed, and fidgeted the whole flight and got up like four times to go to the bathroom.
Oh, the joys of traveling coach! Thank god for my i-pod and the ability to sleep in those tiny little chairs!

12 October 2007

True Green

OSLO, Norway - Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize Friday for their efforts to spread awareness of man-made climate change and lay the foundations for counteracting it.
World leaders, President Bush among them, congratulated the winners, while skeptics of man's contribution to warming criticized the choice of Gore.
For his part, Gore in a statement said he was " deeply honored ... We face a true planetary emergency. The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity."
http://www.climatecrisis.net/
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7041267.stm
Also from BBC here is a great quiz on the Nobel Prize
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/7036111.stm

Going Green?

What is green? Growing up 'green with envy' was a common phrase. 'That made me green' was something that made you ill, right? Not anymore... Green has become the latest marketing wonder. It started out harmless enough. Encouraging you to recycle, and ride your bike or use public transportation. Then it caught. Resources we have all grown dependent on are showing signs of decline and the environment is changing. The climate is right for... Green... and it is reaching epidemic proportions. Take the article entitled 'Is God Green?' that ran in USA Today, or one of the dozens of other Green articles in magazines and newspapers today. You can buy green products, have a green wedding, or take a green vacation. The food you eat is green, right? I must confess our shop has even used the slogan- Go Green, Get Green, Save Green.
But what is Green?
IMHO-Green should not be harmful to the environment start to finish.
Unfortunately a much more selective or narrowed sense is more frequently adopted. Take cotton. There couldn't be more green product. It is a natural fiber. Grown locally, and spun into comfortable, durable wears. That is, until you take into consideration the pesticides used on the fields, the oil run equipment used to harvest and process the cotton, the chemicals and bleaches used to clean and prep the cotton, the dyes and chemical washes used in the process, and the warehousing and transport of said goods... Forget anything produced in China, or any other country half way around the world. The transport alone nullifies any Green claim. I saw an energy comparison between someone riding their bicycle to work versus them driving. The caloric requirement, and the resources needed to produce that requirement was a greater energy than the gas you'd need in the car. This is a great argument for driving some would say. But while the energy requirement for that one activity may have been in favor of the automobile, it does not account for the other resouces or energy requirements that came in to play making and maintaining the vehicle, or the effects of the waste products on the environment.
It is important to look at your daily life and see if there are ways you can reduce, reuse, and recycle. I do think there is value in buying 'green' products, and in being 'green' activity-wise, but be wary of the real value of the green you are buying in to.

11 October 2007

Fall foliage in New England

Did you hear that?

Did I just move aboard the Daedalus? What's that humming sound? Could someone please turn down the volume? It is getting way too loud in here. For the last two weeks I have had the pleasure of tinnitus. Aka- ringing in the ears. Of course, there is an incredible pressure in my head that I am sure, at times, would feel better if someone just took a pin and put a small air release in it. My candida groups all say it is common and due to candida. Driving the little buggers out of the nerves apparently makes quite a racket. Unfortunately, they had no guarantee or any suggestions on what to do about it. So, I bit the bullet, and made an appointment with my primary care physician. She's a hard as nails, no nonsense kind of doctor. I have decided I kind of like her. She gave me the once over; not sure why she needed to know how much I weigh? She commented that I had great blood pressure at 98 over 56 (Art said it was low...) then sat me down for a mini-House-esque discussion with her wipe board and brainstorming. Could be this? Do you have any...? Have you ever...? Does it...? We removed dirty ears or a head cold from the game right off the bat since I looked and sounded perfectly healthy. I am pretty sure we ruled out tumor, or was it that the insurance company frowned upon cat scans for ringing ears with no other symptoms?? She settled on Varicella Zoster Virus. This is the group of bugs that gave most kids a break from early school. Chicken Pox. The adult strain is also called Shingles. I guess they move in to nerve cells after their first party, and most lay dormant forever. If something wakes them up though- look out. Hurts like heck, and in my case has left my ears with a lovely (LOUD) hum. Of course, there is nothing that can be done about it. If I had come in right away they had all sorts of chemical cocktails that would hold them back, but since I waited nearly two weeks, I am on my own. Me and a bottle of Aleve.

09 October 2007

Newport

Had a great time in Newport this weekend. It went by way too fast, surprise surprise. We saw family, some only for a brief moment but it still counts. They had a lift assist so Mom was able to get into the pool for the first time since she's been in her wheelchair. It was great to see her smile and have a good time.


We had lots of good beer at Oktoberfest, while listening to some great music. The volume reminded me a lot more of Mexico than Germany, but I really enjoyed the yodeling version of Play that Funky Music. The accordianist was also a pretty good trumpet player. Spaten was probably the most German beer there. They do something to it when they bring it into this country, though, that ruins it. Well, not ruin ruin as it was still quite drinkable, but it doesn't taste anything like the bier in Germany. We had schnitzel, and bavernwurst with saurkraut that was pretty good, too. Brought back a piece of Black Forest Cake for Art's folks.

We went over to the pier in hopes of seeing the boat crane in action, but while they moved it and strung up the lift, nothing was actually lifted... We did have a seagull to mess with and saw a large school of fish swimming around though.

My DH got me an early birthday present. A great gold ring. My wedding ring has a marquis cut, and sticks up really high. So if I am not cutting myself with the sharp edges or ripping my clothes on it, I am whacking it in to something and bending it over. So I switched to a simple gold band that I bought for myself in college. A couple of months ago my acidy fingers ate right through the back of it. So we found a beautiful yet simple gold band that I can wear every day without poking my eye, or Art's eye, out.

06 October 2007

Cafe A La Pedestrian

We are coffee drinkers. We are motivated from our large cozy bed by the prospect of the warm wakening brew. We have a programmable coffee pot that will wake you with the fresh aroma of coffee. That is if you remembered to load it up and set it the night before... O.k. so that doesn't happen all that often, but it is a nice thought. For years we ordered Gevalia coffee. I was traveling with my job at the time and saw ads for it in every hotel and airport. They gave us a free coffee pot and a couple of mugs for trying it out. They mail your selections a few times a year. It was a bit pricey but the coffee was pretty good. Nice and mellow. Christmas time in New England means coffee deals at Dunkin Donuts though. DD is not a big thing out west. I don't think I know of one in Colorado. Winchells was the donut spot there, but most of those were nasty. Dunkins is a New England mainstay. You can't drive more than two blocks without passing one. Each morning they have a line of cars out in to the road. Their donuts are good, but it is their coffee that corners the market. Back to X-mas. They offer their coffee at buy one get one free. This is like getting four pounds of coffee for the price of one pound of Gevalia. I stocked up last year. I stored them in their vacuum bags in the freezer. I had also bought a few from a local coffee shop in Amherst over the summer. Just to break the routine. It lasted until this week. Now faced with running out of coffee I felt cornered. I didn't want to pay full price at Dunkins as Christmas is not that far away. I was driving the opposite way of the coffee shop and I didn't want to start with Gevalia again, because let's face it those mail order people are tough to shake. So I bought (gasp)grocery store coffee for the first time in years. It was fresh ground by me, but lord knows how old those beans are. I hope it isn't terrible... Crossing my fingers- we'll find out tomorrow!

Pulling your weight.




The mice have their bags packed. They are ready to leave the great outdoors to move into a warm and comfy winter home- our home... ((Gggrrrr.))
I miss Morgan. He wasn't a great mouser, but he certainly helped.
This little momma seems to be picking up the slack though. See the big bulge in her belly? Zoi stared at and consider momma and her two babies for quite a while before deciding that they were o.k. and walked away. I commented to Art that we used to go through a big bag of cat food a month. Zo seems to be on a mouse diet since we have been on the same little bag since August.
Polar, ever the helper, is doing his part trying to round up frogs in the pond. Looks like wading around in the mud to me, but he's sure he's helping.

video

05 October 2007

Organic Energy

Organishe Energie. This is what a lead German pellet appliance manufacturer is using as their tag line. Simple, yet powerful.
This is an homage to European biomass technology.

Ökofen Wood Pellet Heating Systems is one of the leading manufacturers in Europe. Their Pelletmatic is technically and stylistically superior to any American pellet whole house systems. This year they introduced their Energy Box. If you don't have a basement, or have the room to put your boiler inside, you can simply put it outside.

One of the items we started pining for as soon as we saw it at the Energiesparverband in 2005 is their Pelletstank. The European standard is to use suction to move the pellets from the bulk storage into the unit as opposed a cumbersome auger system. The flow dynamics of pellet fuel are nothing short of amazing. They use an under-fire system which accommodates a much lesser grade of pellet than we require in the US, and Okofen's boilers have a nice large ash pan. A new addition this year is an ash compression system. The ash is simply transferred to a box outside the boiler (looks like a suitcase), which you can wheel away. In Europe the vast majority of pellets are delivered by bulk trucks, like oil is delivered in the US. So when the tech comes to deliver fuel they empty your ash, making it a zero user input system.
I am torn about whether or not to promote bulk feed too much in the US. Pellets are a large part of what keeps most pellet shops afloat in the off-season. There is a very small margin in fuel. Looking at it from my vantage point, I don't think our shop could run (the way it does now) without pellet fuel as part of the equation. But that is probably a topic for a different day...

Guntamatic is a manufacturer we toured as a part of the World Energy Conference. Their innovative boiler includes a tube bundle heat exchanger, a spiral jet secondary air feature, a vibrator tube cleaning mechanism, and an auger ash removal system.
With the added patented pellet valve Fröling ensures the legendary safety of a wood-heating system. Froling received the Innovation Award given by the Federal Ministry and the State of Upper Austria this year for it's P2 boiler.


Definitely, one of the most innovative products we saw at the last show was the Stirling Power Module pellet boiler. The combination of the SPM module with a KWB pellet heating system ensures that wood, a renewable and domestic energy source, is optimally used for the production of heat AND energy, also in single-family homes. This power station makes it possible to produce a significant part of the annual energy requirement of an average single-family home by using the energy from a pellet heating unit.
Sollet is one of many company's that offer one of the most practical pellet solar solutions. Use energy from the sun when it is available, and support it with pellet for night, and inclement weather.
European government is incredibly in favor of biomass heating. Tax incentives abound and people are encouraged to switch to this renewable fuel. Here in the US we have been struggling to get noticed in Washington. NH representatives have definitely lead the charge introducing multiple pieces of legislation which include provisions for biomass. Here are some related links that may be interesting for further study.
http://www.solartoday.org/2005/nov_dec05/wood_heating.htm
http://hodes.house.gov/PRArticle.aspx?NewsID=1394
http://www.rules.house.gov/110/text/110_hr3221.pdf
While it is at times frustrating to think that pellet technology started in this country when we now lag so far behind. Still, I am hopeful that our fav US manufacturer Harman Stove Company will be able to continue releasing some of the most innovative, well constructed, technologically sound pellet appliances for years to come under their new ownership.

04 October 2007

A time to sow

Freshly seeded
Fall in New England. Trees are changing color and falling from the trees like a precursor to snow. The nights are cooler, the days are getting shorter, and our business is beginning to pick up in preparation for the winter to come. Fall is the time I fertilize the lawn, and for the last two years, fill, grade, and plant grass seed. Rumor is that if you do it in the summer the weeds will win out, and smother your new little grass sprouts... With our french drain and addition that we started a year ago last spring, dug up our yard in it's entirety.

Shannon and Kathy September 2006

South yard Sept. 2006

Last year, with my Mom's help we graded, replanted seed on the South lawn. Luckily the fill and base grading was done by the same guys who dug the french drain around the house. This year we were not so lucky. I called a few places but they wanted several thousand dollars to the work. So we bought 20 yards of top soil and Art hopped in the Bobcat. After it was spread around we brought out the little york rake that fits on our small yard tractor. We took turns driving and being the weight for the rake and thus graded the back and North side yard. I just finished putting down the seed and starter fertilizer. When Art gets home he'll haul out a round-bale of hay so we can spread it and then begin the watering ritual. Luckily it is supposed to rain starting this weekend sometime. (cross fingers) If this happens we may not have to worry about watering that much. It generally takes a couple to three weeks for the little sprouts to come in.

03 October 2007

Wilkommen

Get out your lederhosen and steins — it is the season for Oktoberfest. There are 3 days until Newport's 2007 International Oktoberfest!
The first Oktoberfest was not really a festival at all, but the public celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Luitpold I and Princess Theressa of Bavaria on October 17, 1810. Held on a large meadow in Munich, the party featured a horse race, beer, food, music and dancing. Anniversary celebrations continued each year, usually starting in late September and ending in the first week of October. The horse races were dropped in the early 1800's but Oktoberfests have been held in Munich for almost 200 years.
Oktoberfest is not only an event, it is also a style of beer. The traditional style guidelines describe an amber-gold lager, robust at 5.2 to 6 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), bottom-fermented and lagered for at least a month, with pronounced malt flavors from Vienna malts, usually accented by the German noble hops such as Hallertau and Tettnang.

Each year Art's parents head down to Newport. All of us 'kids' try to make it down for a day or three. This is the first year they scheduled for an October visit. They used to go down around Memorial Day, then switched to September. One thing I have been really wanting to do this year is visit an Oktoberfest. We made plans to go down to my fav German Restaurant The Student Prince later this month, but I just discovered that while we are in Newport this weekend, they are having their Oktoberfest!
http://www.newportfestivals.com/Oktoberfest/
An authentic German Oktoberfest celebration with lively Bavarian music from throughout New England, delicious German food and American cuisine (seafood, pierogies and more), Biergarten, Weingarten, and special area for children.
Shopping marketplace and German-related goods for sale. Continuous entertainment including the Alpenblumen Dancers, Strolling Musicians and International Showbands.

01 October 2007

Urban Pioneer

Does someone in your house forget to wash their hands sometimes? Or like to live by the 'If it's yellow let it mellow...' mantra? This store has an interesting solution to try to tie the two activities together using a sustainable and practical ware: the
Toiler Lid Sink
With each flush of your commode, clean water that would otherwise go straight down the toilet is first routed up through a chrome gooseneck spigot to dispense pure water for hand washing. The Toilet Lid Sink installs easily without tools, is attractive for any bathroom and is a great space saver. Shuts off automatically. Porcelain-like white plastic replaces your existing tank top and adjusts to fit standard toilets up to 8in wide and 18-22in long. Built-in soap dish. Overhang varies up to 1.5in.
http://pathtofreedom.com/peddlerswagon/homestead/ecogoods/toiletlidsink.shtml