Saturday, March 30, 2013

What are you waiting for?

Today I took advantage of the spring-like weather to take a hike on the Supply Pond trails. I took the time to reflect on the events that have occurred over the past month. Things really hit the fan around home, and I haven't quite been sure of how to take it all in. Last week it was all put back into perspective when a coworker passed away in a car accident.

Tabitha and I started on the same day at UI, and immediately bonded over our sporting endeavors, as she was training for her first triathlon. Over the last two years, she was seemingly always training for some new event, and always raising funds for some charitable group. Just last Friday she had a very successful fundraiser for the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. It was hard to imagine someone so full of life gone just like that.

In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Ed's passing. Someone so full of energy and a childlike enjoyment of life shouldn't have been taken from us so soon. We feel robbed. But why? Obviously we mourn the loss of our friend and all the good times we shared. But what was it that made them so special, so different? For Ed, it was the way he always made time for his friends and was willing to try anything. On more than one occasion when I wasn't well, he'd take a "lunch break" and we'd go out for lunch and some duck pin bowling. We'd be gone for hours and he would saunter back into work without a care in the world. My favorite was when he drove up to New Hampshire for lunch with friends, and then back, again on a "lunch break". Spending time with Ed was equal parts laughing until it hurt and cringing while you waited for security to escort you out. His motto was "What's the worst they can do, throw me out?"

The way he treated his family and friends was truly special. While he never got to meet the MINI group in England, he spoke frequently with them online, and on one of their large events arranged to pay for a round of drinks at a stop on their route. If I ever posted anything that indicated I was stressed or upset, there was always a phone call and a heart-to-heart over ice cream at Mortensen's. His children were wonderful people, a testament to the quality time he spent with them. When he was suddenly gone, there was a gaping hole in my and many other's hearts. The one bit of solace I had was that he lived without regrets. It was at that time I decided to honor his spirit by living as he did.

So many of us get wrapped up in our lives and set things aside for some special time. But what if that time never comes? Do you want to look back on a lifetime of things you wish you'd done? The first question everyone asks when I announce my next destination is "Why?" I say "Why not?" The worst that happens is I go through a few days somewhere I'm not fond of. But it's also supplied me with a wealth of happy memories, great stories, amazing sights, and lifelong friends. I couldn't imagine living any other way. However, this week reminded me yet again that I still need to do more. I'm probably more guilty than most of getting wrapped up with work, be it my desk job, N'oap, or the pizza cart. I don't spend enough time doing the things I truly enjoy, and certainly not enough time with my friends. It's so easy to say "We have to get together soon", but what needs to be done is to set a day and just do it. Grab a coffee, go for a walk, invite them to dinner, it doesn't matter, just do it. And then before you leave, pick a day to do it again. We make dates with our hairdressers, doctors, dentists; why not our friends?

So get out there and start living! Really living. Go try something new. Take that trip you've been thinking of. Try a new restaurant. Visit a new park. And spend time with the people dearest to you.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

So much work, so little time

Today was another busy one. I had to be in Groton for 8:30 to meet with Scott. After way too long, we were finally going to replace my useless struts. Back in October 2011, I had to work the storm center for that freak snow storm that caused so many problems. I left work at midnight after 16 hours on the job, and wasn't far from the office when I drove through a puddle. Only it wasn't a puddle, it was a massive pothole filled with water. The noise made me think I had blown out the right front tire, but I realized that my suspension was jacked. After that driving was somewhat uncomfortable, but I got used to it. Hard right turns were particularly tricky, as my tire would just skip over the pavement rather than stick to it.

"Yeah, that's not supposed to do that."

Where did you go? What the hell am I supposed to do with this?!
After some asking around, I decided on the Koni FSD's over OEM replacements. I plan on driving this car into the ground, so I should get my money out of these. Scott got us onto the Subase (I learned today that that's the correct way to spell it, not "sub base" as one would expect), and we got a spot in the shop garage. It was a pretty cut-and-dry job, once we figured out the right method. That right front strut just didn't want to come out, and then the new one didn't quite want to go all the way in. Several prybars later, we got the strut to go in and the rest went with no problem. I took it for a spin around the building and immediately noticed how much smoother the ride was. Total cost: $9. Try getting a complete set of struts installed at 3 hours in a garage for that amount.

We were done by 11:30 and I took Scott out for lunch to repay him. I enjoyed a smooth ride home and decided it was time to tackle some of the mess here. I put a bunch of clothes away, did some laundry and changed the sheets. Then the day caught up with me, and a nap was needed. I was awoken by a hungry and pestering Ruthie. While she knows the automatic feeder provides the food, she hasn't caught on to the fact that I don't control it, and still bugs me to feed her.

I figured that was as good a time as any to run to the store and get some groceries. I never get around to shopping during the week, so if I didn't go tonight I knew it would mean a week of eating out. I got pretty lazy about the whole cooking situation last year and despite burning some serious calories climbing, still managed to gain weight. At the beginning of the year I finally cracked down and started being better about bringing lunch to work and making dinner. I'm not sure if I'm saving any money, but I've lost weight and have been more conscientious about eating healthier. I miss the days when I cooked all the time and made all sorts of delicious meals, using a lot of homemade and local-grown foods. Starting N'oap put an end to that, but I want to get back on track this year. I think I'm going to join a CSA, it's just a matter of finding one that's reasonably priced and provides a good selection.

Healthy? No. Amazing? Yes.

The cat laying across my arms tells me it's time to stop typing. This week heralds my return to climbing after a bit of a break, plus bowling and soap/lotion making.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Sugar Shackin'

It was a long week at work, definitely a hard one after being away, so I was super excited when my friend invited me over to a maple syrup making party at her house today. Fire, food, alcohol, and syrup: sounds like the recipe for a perfect Saturday!

I know several people that make syrup, so I knew the process. Stand around, watch it boil, add more. It's not the most exciting thing in the world. But if you invite people over and make a party out of it, you can make the time pass quickly. Make no mistake, making your own syrup in no way saves you any time or money over buying it. Forty gallons of sap needed to make 1 gallon of syrup. Boiling down 40 gallons is not a quick process, and with the amount of wood you go through, you could have easily bought plenty of syrup from your local sugar shack. But that's not the point, is it? It's nice to say you made something, it's nice to know the process, and it makes you appreciate the way things used to be done.

I always have great ideas and intentions, but I'm either too busy or disorganized to pull them off. My friend is me with focus. There was a wonderful brunch, thoughtfully selected to include foods that went well with maple syrup. Homemade hard cider was on tap. Handmade and wrapped salted maple caramels, and maple sugar cookies kept us going through the afternoon. There was even a hand-drawn mural in the mudroom and print-outs of maple leafs that you had to color in and write your "sugar" name on. That's the type of thing I would think was cute to do, but would never get around to putting together. Best of all were the whiskey teas, a wonderful combination of whiskey and syrup from the most-cooked tray in the fire. Cures what ails ya!
Can you say "Perfect Saturday?"
This was one of the more organized set-ups I've seen. Fire blocks creating an area to place the fire, just long enough to fit three pans. One end was open so we could feed the fire, the other end had a chimney. The idea was to have different levels of cooked material in the pans. The one closest to the opening was fresh sap from the buckets. The middle one had been cooked slightly longer, and the one by the chimney was the good stuff, the most boiled-down material. As that tray boiled down, you would then add a few scoops from the middle tray, then replenish the middle tray with sap from the first one, and restock that with sap from the bucket. There was also a strainer so you could skim off the foam, in theory increasing the surface area of exposed sap which should make it cook down quicker.

The challenge seemed to be in getting the fire spread evenly. The middle pan was always boiling at a good clip, but the outer pans were hit-or-miss. You really had to be diligent about moving the wood around and keeping it hot enough to really boil. It would be going well and then you'd walk way to grab a drink or play some cornhole, and all your work would be undone. We definitely went through a good number of buckets today, so I think good progress was made. They said they would probably have it going again tomorrow, as there was more to boil off and still buckets hooked up to the trees.

I had a grand idea of hooking the GoPro up and getting a neat time lapse of maybe the syrup cooking down, or everyone around the fire. Knowing the batteries were crap, I brought my solar charger thinking I could keep the camera going. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and we had neither the warmth nor the sunshine we were promised today. So the camera died after almost 2 hours, and it was the 2 hours right before all the action started. A little disappointing, but what's to be done?

Now I'm all warmed up again, reeking of maple and smoke, and there's a sleeping cat on me. I'm oddly sleepy considering I did nothing more than eat and drink today. But it was lots of fun to hang out, and I got to spend time with a friend I don't see nearly enough of, as well as meet some new ones. That's a pretty good day to me!