30 September 2013

2013 was a fun year.  We did a little traveling.  Ski trips included going up to the North Conway area for a week with the Wildes.  The snow was pretty good and I always enjoy snowshoeing around Dolly Copp.
We took Bud to Mazatlan for the first time.  Fair to say he had a great time and can't wait to go back.  We started in Tucson for a couple of days then drove to Phoenix for the flight down.  
We went to Los Osunas, Goat Island, the Mercado, top of the Freeman, and enjoyed our stay at El Cid Marina.  We took a wonderful sunset cruise as well.

We rented a ski house in Maine with the Wildes, Olivia, and Karyn and Ralph.  We had a great stay.  There was a hottub, a fire pit, and snowshoe trails all over the property.  We got to bring Zdeno, which was special for me.
We took the guys at the shop to a basketball game.  We also got the mini-season ticket plan for the Bruins.  We had great times at all the games.  Won more than lost.

The hearth show was in Florida this year.  There was not a lot new so we blew off a day and drove out to the coast to visit NASA.  Got to meet an astronaut and and tour the museum.  Amazing!

Art and I took a vacation with just the two of us this year.  We drove up through Maine, staying at Bar Harbor for a few days, then up to Nova Scotia where we rented a house for a few days, then ultimately up to PEI.  We stayed with a fabulous airbnb host and enjoyed the beautiful weather.  The people were so nice and the views were spectacular.  This is one I could do again!  One of our favorite moments when we walked into town on Sunday afternoon to look for a pub.  We found a nice quaint place and sat down for a beer.  A rather large group of people joined together for a sit in song time for Irish music.  Amazing!

In August the family rented a house up in Campton for the week.  We had a great time hiking, sitting on the deck watching stars, and just hanging out in general.  On the rainy day we went to the local ice arena to skate.  Very fun day and great trip overall.
It was a nice getaway.   

I also took my parents up to Maine for a few days when they came to visit for my birthday.  It was a little chilly but we had a nice stay and even got to go lobstering for the day!

  Christmas was in Colorado as usual.  Great family and great time together. 

 Tuukka has been a fabulous kitten.  He is snuggly and playful and gets along great with Zdeno.  He tries very hard to be irresistible to Blizzie as well.  I think she will cave in eventually.  In the mean time she is still trying to eat all of the food to "starve" him.  I fear we will have to get into a once or twice a day eating routine instead of their choice, the 'always' feeder.
 Zdeno had a great summer being wet.  He loved going to Pratt Pond with Teddy Bear.  He would definitely settle for Heald or our backyard mud-puddle.  He had dreadlocks to beat the band.  His groomer had a devil of a time getting him shiny and smooth again.  Now it is cooling down a bit so we don't get wet as often.  This makes me happy.

 We also hosted the Sims for the weekend.  Peter brought his girlfriend to New England for the first time and we were delighted that they were able to spend some time with us.  We had good family time this summer which was wonderful.  Lobster at $3.99 all summer didn't hurt much either!
 We had ordered some late chicks in August.  Sadly, there was a problem with the plane they arrived on so only two of the ten survived the trip.  Faith and Grace spent over a month in the shower and loved to snuggle.  I held them most of their first day since they were so petrified.  They are in the big coop now but I hope they will remain cuddly and sweet.
 We took everyone to Parker's Maple Barn for breakfast.  A new England Classic.
 We also spent as much time as we could with Art's Dad.  He put his house on the market late in the summer and is under contract now.  He is sorting out the details but we are hopeful that he will consider staying in Temple during the coming summers.
I stepped out of my comfort zone and did a solo trip to NY to see Abbie.  I caught the commuter rail in Fitchburg, took the subway from North to South Station in Boston, then hopped on the Yo!Bus to China Town.  It was $20 for the bus ticket (one way) and got there in four hours.  The train would have been $140 and taken 3 hrs, 40 minutes.  I think I got a good deal.  We had a great visit.  I loved walking around and seeing Teddy at his dog park.  He is such a good pup!  We also took a boat tour around the island of Manhattan.  Much larger than I thought.  A gorgeous day for a boat ride, too.  I think I got Abbie hooked on X-files and I loved that we could order food from a wide choice of restaurants online and they brought it to us without talking to anyone or going anywhere :-D  Unheard of in rural NH.

13 July 2013


It has been a very nice summer this year.  We have spent a lot of time with family, the business is going well, the Bruins made it to game six of the Stanley Cup Playoffs succumbing ultimately to the Chicago Blackhawks who had an amazing season, and we are enjoying life on the homestead.  We also have a new addition to our little family.
We kicked off the summer on Memorial Day down in Newport.  Art's Dad had their 2 bedroom unit and I was able to rent one through RCI as well.  So we had enough room for all :-)  We had a weekend together with the main family; Karyn and Ralph, Pam, the twins, Abbie and Zeb, and Susan and Charlie all spent a night or two or three.  We also got to spend time with Art's cousins and Bud's sister Jean and her husband Tom.  We did sneak off to Boston that Saturday to see a B's playoff game against the Rangers with Will and Sandra.  Fabulous!!  We won that game :-D


We added our precious little Tuuka in mid-June.

We went around to several shelters but they either didn't have a kitten that fulfilled Art's wish list or they had too many rules and 'though shalt...'s to fuss with.  Then we stopped, on a whim, in a pet grooming place in Milford that had 'kittens' written in the window out front.  They had three little fluffballs eight weeks and two days in age.  Two boys, and a girl.  The little boys were both cute.  One was a perfectly colored tan tabby and the other had brown tabby on top with white socks and a frock.  When I went into the cage to get the tan kitten I accidentally brushed the brown one.  He started purring immediately.  Art scooped him up and he flopped over on his back purring loudly.  The tan one just kind of looked at me like I was annoying him.  I promptly put the tan one back as Art said, "I think we found him."  Less than three minutes later we were out the door with our new little fluffball.  I think it took us about that long to name him.  Tuukka is named after the Bruin's Finnish Goaltender Tuukka Rask who, as it has been pointed out, is very catlike.  He has been a love from day one.  We are talking Zoi snuggly and the rate he is growing I think he will be able to hold his own against Blizzie.  He also loves playing with Zdeno.
We had an interesting intro as two days after we got Tuukka Abbie and her pup Teddy Bear came to stay for a couple of weeks.  Sadly, Abbie broke up with her boyfriend and needed a little time away.  We were glad to have them and the pups had a blast together.  Teddy was awesome with the kitten as well.  Tuukka loved to attack his tail.  Teddy just lay there and let him.  We had a couple of Bruins parties and lots of visitors in the house (Pam and the twins came up for a couple of days as did Opa) so the kitten had lots of attention.  He was fine with it and the twins, and Sydney, loved to cuddle and play with him.

Art's Dad put his house on the market yesterday.  We are hopeful that he is going to come live with us.  We may freshen up the cottage/workshop so he can have an alone place to do his carving, etc.  We are thrilled that he is considering moving here.  He is going to babysit while we go on our adventure North soon.  I have set up a few activities in town like the four score and more club and coffee hour.  Hopefully he will find this town as warm and welcoming as we have.
The chickens are doing fairly well.  We have had the rotten fox in the neighborhood.  At least three of us have popped some fur off of his tail but sadly no one has gotten him.  He has taken down two roosters and at least seven girls this year.  I don't care how cute you think they are after they kill so many of your pets you lose the loving feeling.
The business is going well.  So much better than last year.  We hired another Temple local earlier this summer that is going ok.  Another one was awful and we had our first threat of a (false) workman's comp claim.  We are still trying to hire one or two more people.  We are already booking in September though, which is a good sign.

22 May 2013

100 to see/do before I die Update

100 to see/do before I die.

Updated again (Feb 2016)

Many years ago I compiled my list of 100 places to see and things to do.  I thought it would be nice to update the list a bit and see if I am working towards accomplishing my goals.  On the other hand it could be interesting to see how my list of wants has changed.  We have traveled a quite a bit the last six years.  We have seen many new countries, cities and many changes have happened in our lives.  
I know that Singapore and Vienna are near the top of my list, Iceland is on the top of Art's. Less than 30 on our list.  We'll have to think of more :-)

1 Coral Reefs of Australia.  I think we get partial credit for going to Australia but we went inland instead of to the reefs...
2 White sand beaches of New Zealand.  Spectacular place.  Best time was hiking on a volcano island off of Auckland.
3 Grand Canyon
4 Niagara Falls.
5 Drive on Autobahn in Germany.
6 Visit Eagle’s Nest.

7 Travel by high-speed train in Europe.  Mind-boggling!
8 Glacier Bay, Alaska.
9 Denali National Park
10 Summer Solstice in Fairbanks.

11 Chichen Itza.
12 Hoover Dam.
13 Zion National Park.
14 Victoria Falls in Africa.
15 Amazon Jungle tour.  
16 Belize.
17 Madiera.

18 Canary Islands.  Heard this was overrated.  I would update to Greece or Prague.
19 Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.  The big island of Hawaii was amazing!  Two weeks was perfect.
20 Cable car in San Francisco
21 Fish Market in Seattle.
22 Old Faithful in Yellowstone.
23 Houseboat on Lake Powell.
24 Opryland in Nashville.
25 Zion National Park.
26 Rocky Mountain National Park.
27 Hike part of Appalachian Trail.
28 Tenochtitlan.
29 Cruise Panama Canal.
30 Louvre in Paris.  Visited France and Paris in 2015.  Did see the Louvre from the outside...crowds
31 Great Wall in China.  Looking to do this in the next couple of years :-D
32 Bike trip in Ireland.  We did a driving tour of Ireland which was incredible!
33 Statue of Liberty.  My niece lives in Brooklyn so it is a short walk to view her. 
34 Top of Empire State Building.  Visited the 9/11 Memorial instead...

35 Riverboat on Mississippi.
36 Buckingham Palace.  Tower of London, National Gallery, Hyde Park, Big Ben, Thames cruise...
37 Double Decker bus ride in London.  Did a quick tour of London before heading to Ireland.38 Amsterdam.
39 Carnaval/Mardi Gras in Rio De Janero.  Carnaval in Mazatlan!
40 Ayre’s Rock in Australia.  Went to the Blue Mountains and hiked around falls instead.

41 Mt. St. Helens42 World Cruise.
43 Singapore
44 Machu Picchu
45 Pearl Harbor
46 Biodome in AZ
47 Alamo
48 White water raft Colorado River.
49 Golden Gate Bridge.
50 See a concert at Carnegie Hall.
51 Smithsonian Museum
52 Octoberfest in Germany.  Germany many times, and much beer, but no Octoberfest...
53 Sauna in Sweden.  We did visit Stockholm and Gotland in 2015.  Went to a RenFest which was great fun, but did not get into a sauna even though there was one at the hotel?!?
54 Stonehenge
55 Roswell, NM.
56 Bermuda
.  Did a cruise to here which docked for six days and acted as a hotel.  Awesome!
57 Visit Antarctica
58 Dogsled in Alaska.
59 Four Corners (CO, UT, AZ, NM)
60 Taj Mahal.
61 Pyramids in Egypt
62 Greece
63 Stargate set in Vancouver.  Sadly it is no more.  Victoria Island is still a good one for the list
64 Istanbul.  Didn't go here but did visit Budapest.  Should be on list as well...
65 Baseball game at Fenway Park.
66 Virgin Islands
67 White House
68 Watch Space Shuttle launch.  Didn't get to watch a shuttle launch but a great day at Cape Canaveral and NASA in Florida.
69 Sunset in Mexico.
70 Saguaro National Park.
71 Tombstone.
72 Abydos.
73 Fjords in Norway.  Went to Norway and saw many beautiful mountains in 2015.
74 Kremlin
75 Fiji.  Note- it is a four letter word.  Cyclone Daphne rained on our whole time there...
76 FAO Schwartz in NYC.  Been outside.  Crazy tourist area.  Abi got us out quick!
77 Montreal.
78 Eat Belgian chocolate in Brussels.  SO ENJOYED THIS ONE!  On my top five best places list!
79 Quebec City.  Stay at the Frontenac
80 Fishing in Gloucester81 Block Island  Pre-season delight!82 Nantucket.  Is Martha's Vineyard close enough??83 Gondola ride in Venice.  Venice, Tuscany, Rome!
84 British Museum
85 Georgia Acquarium in Atlanta.
86 Disneyworld
87 Sailboat tour to anywhere.
88 Spa in Monte Carlo
89 Moab, Utah.
90 Bar Harbor Maine
91 Cape Breton, Nova Scotia
92 PEI.  Loved this place.  Would go back in a heartbeat.  Done in 2013.
93 Coloseum in Rome.  Did the dungeon tour.
94 Metropolitan Museum of Art
95 Vienna.  Went here in 2014.  Much bigger city than I expected but we did get to see an opera.
96 Highland festival in Scotland
97 Bay of Fundi
98 Newport, RI
99 Redwood Forest
100 Bavaria
(Italic- done/been at least once.)
Not bold- done between 2013-2015

09 May 2013

Happy 15th Anniversary to our biz!

Fifteen years ago we received our official registration for StoveKeepers and our business was born.  We had just moved to New England and one night had a friend of Art's over; he saw that we had a selection of mailers on franchise businesses.  He said he had a better idea.  He was a pellet manufacturer who had just lost a dealer in the town we were now living.  He said start a stove shop and I will give you the support you need and introduce you to industry people you will need to know.  I worked on our business plan for months and secured financing.  We received our registration in May, attended trainings all summer, and opened a shop with five stoves and several big plants (thanks Mom and Dad!) to help "fill the space."
Our first location was cozy and the landlord was very flexible and let us choose our terms.  SBA, who provided our financing, did their best to mess with our plans but we needed them initially so we did what we had to do.  We ran an ad and opened our doors September 1, 1998.  We did make a sale that day :-D, sadly it was on credit card so I could not frame our "first dollar."  Still, we were thrilled!  When we took a vacation to Colorado for Christmas that year we left a clipboard and a couple tons of pellets out back and let people take fuel on the honor system.  We worked really hard those first couple of years with Art working another job, me taking small computer jobs in between, running the store, doing trainings, installing, delivering and every other task in a day.  We were exhausted but having the time of our lives.
Not every day was a joy.  I still remember having a week to come up with $20,000.  I never thought we would make it and was terrified!  Somehow it all worked out.  After two years going solo we hired our first employee.  By 2003 we had three others and at that point I stepped out of the shop to tackle the bookwork that we had previously outsourced.  We grew every year for the first ten years and received top ten awards from Harman a few times. We won a cruise to Alaska with other high achieving shops and Harman employees.  That was a trip of a lifetime.  A train and cruise tour from Fairbanks down to Vancouver.
We have had three locations in our fifteen years, as well as an off-site warehouse.  In 2009 we were able to purchase our own property.  We took two years where we used it as a warehouse and fixed up the showroom, paved the parking lot, and put up a fence before we moved.  It was risky.  We were moving two towns away!  The move was stressful but within a year we had a record setting quarter which eased our minds about our move.
We now have five full time employees, one part time, Art and myself.  The industry is a roller coaster.  It is not for the faint of heart.  One year can see a 20% increase and the next 30% down.  Cash flow is my main job now.  Art's main role is managing the employees and vendors.  We are a good team and both agree that we couldn't/wouldn't do it without each other!
It is a good technology and I think I will say that we have done more good than harm.  We have done our best to provide a good and fun job for our guys with stability and perks.  I think our guys are also proud of not only the products we sell but the work they do.  Hoping for another ten successful years and possibly beyond!

04 May 2013

Making Bratwurst Sausage with my KitchenAid

I absolutely think my KitchenAid mixer is the best thing since sliced bread.  It has a place of honor on my kitchen counter and helps me make cookies, cakes, whipped cream, pretzels, bread, pasta, ice cream, hamburg, dog food when Zdeno was VERY fussy, and now Sausage!  My parents live in Mexico part of the year where it is not always easy to find sausage.  This got me thinking.  How hard is it to make sausage?  What equipment do you need?  So after a quick Google search I saw that there were many recipes for making sausage with the KitchenAid.  I already have the machine and the meat grinder and I found I could get the sausage stuffer attachment for less than $15 from Amazon.  So, I was off on my adventure! 

A quick note on casings.  Most videos I watched showed a laborious and tedious process of gently stretching out natural casing, soaking it, rinsing it, soaking it in vinegar, rinsing it again, then laying it out for use.  This seemed to me to the burden of sausage making.  A quick stop at a local Meat House showed me that if you buy the cellulose casings you can skip all of the unpleasantness described above.

Homemade Bratwurst Recipe and Process
I found this German Bratwurst recipe at www.lets-make-sausage.com if you would like to see it in it's original form.
Bratwurst is made with emulsified meat.  I couldn't go that far but found that by grinding the meat through the large then small grinder multiple times worked well.  The consistency won't be exactly the same as the store but I think the taste is better!  The grinding is probably the most time consuming part of the recipe.  If the meat is cold/semi-frozen the grinding will be much easier!  I learned that the hard way.  If you hands are going numb handling the meat it is almost cold enough...

  • 4 lbs. Pork Shoulder or Pork Butt (80% lean is recommended as fat is an important ingredient.  If you get a leaner pork you may want to supplement with pork fat- which is what I did.)
  • 1 lb. Veal or Beef (Again if you get a lean cut you may want to supplement with added fat.)
  • 1-2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt 
  • 1 Tbsp. Ground Nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. Ground Mace (can substitute all spice, or cinnamon if you can't find mace)
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1 Cup Cold Milk
  • 2 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1 Cup Non-Fat Dry Milk Powder (Used as a binder) 

Trim the pork and beef.  Cut into 1 inch cubes.  I start with semi-frozen meat for easier cutting.  Place a metal bowl inside a larger bowl filled with ice and chill meat in fridge.  I did this the morning of and left for a couple of hours but overnight is probably better. 

After cutting place in freezer for a half an hour before grinding.
Grind meat through large grind plate, then twice through smaller grind plate or step down in size each grind if you have more than two grind plates.

Grind Plates
In a separate bowl mix the beaten eggs with one cup of milk and combine spices.  I used a container with a lid so I could just shake it together.

Mix the egg/milk mixture into meat with your hands and work for at least two minutes.  It should be a soft paste.  You may run it through the small grinder one additional time if preferred.

Load up the sausage stuffer and casings onto the KitchenAid and tie a knot at the end of the sausage.  Leave a little slack in case if pops open when twisting links later.  In the picture note I did not leave much slack, which is how I know you need to leave slack because it blew out...
Stuff into 32-35mm casing.  I made one long sausage then twisted links after the fact.  Note- this part of the process is much easier if you have two people; one in charge of feeding meat in and the second in charge of catching and managing the growing link.  If you get an air bubble pop it by poking with a knife as the casing is filling.

Twist into links if preferred.  Size is your call.  Then refrigerate or freeze immediately.
I have read on many sites that the sausage should rest for a day before eating so it can plump.  I don't know how vital it is but I saw it enough that I let them sit overnight before cooking.
Cook and ENJOY!