Saturday, December 29, 2018

Life Phases and a New Hobby?

Over the past several months I've become somewhat preoccupied with thoughts of how fast my life is passing by. It's kind of disturbing. Weeks, months, and years fly by like I'm in some sort of time warp. I think in terms now of how many more years of mobility I have left to live the active lifestyle I enjoy. It's not something I take for granted. Do I have 15 more years? 20? Maybe 25, tops? All I know for certain is that whatever amount of time remains in this active phase of my life, it's going to pass much too quickly. Now, more than ever, I have a difficult time sitting still for very long and watching my remaining time here slip away at a pace that saddens me. I've got at least a dozen books I'd like to read but I tell myself there will be plenty of time for reading in my next phase of life.

We've been enjoying a mild winter in the Minneapolis area. I wouldn't mind some snow and cooler temps to make for decent trail riding. The temp inside our insulated garage has been hovering at around 40ºf (4.5ºc) on its own with no help needed from our ceiling mounted electric heater—yet.

We had Drew's (Rachel's boyfriend) family over last Saturday. It was nice to spend some time together getting to know them more. They're good people. And our downstairs got to see some action for a change. Since Rachel went off to college it's been a little quiet down there with the exception of my time spent there for workouts and stained glass work. We all enjoyed ourselves.

Over the past several years, Tammy and I have made a point of downplaying the Christmas celebration. Where it's most noticeable is in the lack of Christmas decorations both inside and outside our home. It probably takes us no more than a half-hour to decorate our small tree and hang a wreath outside on a permanent screw to the right of our front door. No more Department 56 village displays or other touches of Christmas that in years past seemed to become an unwelcome guest after a few weeks. And I no longer do an outside light display. I missed it the first year without it but I quickly got over it when I realized how much work I was putting into setting up the display and taking it down.

Tammy and I did exchange a few gifts. The gift from her that I like most is my Northern Brewer Hard Cider making kit. It was a total surprise. I spent some time Thursday going over the information and getting it up and running. I'm intrigued by it and the idea of experimenting with different blends of fruits to create different flavors of cider. I've got it set up in a closet in our den. It appears to be fully engaged in the fermentation process. Tammy ordered the kit online but didn't notice that the company is located in St Paul, less than a 25-minute drive from home. We stopped there yesterday to check out what else they have. It's an impressive little shop. I'm quite sure we'll be back.

I remember how my mom used to make balloon wine in the late '60s. She would set her gallon jug(s) out of the way in the basement with whatever ingredients she was using to make the wine. She would place a balloon over the jug's opening and once the balloon had inflated and then deflated through the fermentation process, the wine was ready to drink. I have no idea how palatable it was but I think she mostly enjoyed the anticipation of what her efforts may produce. Sorta like how I feel about making my hard-cider. I haven't enjoyed a Christmas gift this much since Rachel bought me an ant farm several years ago!

That's all I've got.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Finding My Etsy Stride and a New Addition Coming Soon

If this mild weather continues, we may be back to a snowless landscape by the end of the week. I prefer the look of snow rather than the browns of the alternative during the winter months but I'm content either way. Not having to muck out the garage floor from the snow melting off our vehicles is a bonus.

I took advantage of today's warm temps (40º f / 4.4º c) to put on my walking shoes and do my Orchard Lake loop. It's an 8.7-mile loop that I do in around 2 hours—a little longer if I'm stopping to take photos. It felt nice to have the sun on my face. I saw this little guy working his way across the sidewalk and it had me wondering, what do caterpillars do during the harsh winter months? I looked online and came up with this: "They find a protected place to rest and enter a type of hibernation called diapause, where their body functions decrease and their growth pauses until they wake. Many wrap themselves in leaves or other organic matter, holding it in place with silk for extra protection." That's about what I figured. The little fella was out for a stroll on a beautiful afternoon, just like me.

I've been selling my stained glass artwork on Etsy for a little over a year. I was telling Tammy when I started out that I wasn't going to be discouraged if it seemed I wasn't finding an audience for my art right away and that I'd give it at least a year. So, here I am, one year later—how am I doing? I've found homes for 21 of my smaller panels and for 1 of my larger panels. I'd say it's been a success. I'll keep at it with hopes that I'll have even more sales in the coming year, but honestly, I just love engaging the creative side of me. It's a bonus that others like my work enough to purchase it. I've got a package by our front door heading out to Broadalbin, NY tomorrow containing the piece in the photo to the left. I do my best to get orders out in the mail the same day I receive them.

Rachel and Drew took us to see a Minnesota Wild game Thursday night. I used to love to follow hockey when I was young but that was long ago. I couldn't even tell you any of the Minnesota Wild players' names but we enjoyed ourselves. They were scored on in the first minute of play but that was the only goal they would allow. They won 5-1. And the crowd went wild!

It had been more than 25 years since I'd been to an NHL game and that was at the old Met Center when I took my father to see his last game. I didn't realize how poor of health he was in. The walk to our seats took a lot out of him. I recall him having to stop to catch his breath along the way due to his emphysema. My father was from Canada where following hockey was in one's blood. He was on a business trip in the '70s and on his flight was the Minnesota North Stars team. He had a small notebook that he had the players pass around and sign their names in. He gave it to me and I somehow lost it. He asked to see it years later and I couldn't find it for him. I felt bad.

I'll soon have another bike in my stable. I put money down on a gravel bike at Michael's Cycles in Chaska. My choice was a Giant Revolt Advanced Zero. It's a sweet bike and it checks off all of the boxes I was wanting it to: carbon fiber throughout; disc brakes, and Shimano Ultegra components, all at a very reasonable price. I hope to have it in the next few weeks. If the weather continues to be mild, you can find me on gravel roads within a 50-mile radius of home.

That's all I've got.

Friday, December 7, 2018

A Slowing Toby, Goodbye Aunt Joyce, and a New Family Member

It was two years ago today that Allie left us. That was such a sad time. Toby (Allie's littermate) is coming up on 15 years 4 months. His hearing is mostly gone and his vision is very limited but he seems content. I know his time with us is short. He's reluctant to go walking in the colder temps but when I last had him out about 10 days ago with Charlie, he led us in a run most of the last tenth of a mile home. It's been nearly a year since we've done the Fleet Farm loop (as I refer to it) on our walks and I'm fairly certain he'll never do it again. It was a favorite walk of Toby's because the roads that took us by Fleet Farm added an extra mile to our walk. I always let Toby lead us and I would smile when he'd tug at his leash to take us across Jonquil Trail in the direction of the roads that would take us by Fleet Farm. He knew exactly what he was doing. He would come home, drink his fill from his water bowl then splay out on the wood floor, panting with his tongue hanging out with a smile on his face that left no doubt, he was one very content boy. How I miss those days with him and for him.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, we keep a diaper on him now while he's in the house because he's prone to piddling whenever the urge strikes him. Tammy found them online and they work great. We place an absorbent pad inside the diaper wrap and allow him to roam the house as he pleases.

Tammy's aunt Joyce passed away last Saturday. Joyce was a favorite aunt of Tammy's and she would regularly make trips into St Paul to spend time with her. Joyce taught her the art of making lefse and krumkake. The photo to the right is from one year ago. Making lefse was a yearly tradition they would do together going back at least ten years. She would've been 90 on New Years Day. She will be missed.

Tammy and her mother both celebrated birthdays on Wednesday. Elaine turned 93, I think Tammy turned 30-something (insert smiley here). We met Rachel at the nursing home where Elaine is a resident. We visited with her for a while before going out for lunch. Her Alzheimers continues its march forward. I can elicit an occasional smile from her but I can no longer say it's because she recognizes me. She's a favorite among the staff at Trinity Care in Farmington, just a 20-minute drive from our home. We couldn't be happier with the staff there and the care she receives from them. Tammy is there for a couple hours at least 3 to 4 days each week.

Speaking of making lefse—Tammy has enlisted me to help her in the kitchen when she gears up for the production. It's actually a lot of fun. I mostly just handle the griddle, leaving the more difficult work of rolling out each lefse to her. We agreed that I'd try my hand at the last ball of riced potato to see if I could do it. I did just fine.

We have a new member in our household—a Roomba! And what fun! Honestly, I could stand and watch the little vacuum do its thing for hours. Think I'm kidding? It's an amazing little bit of technology that I absolutely love.

I made it to the river bottoms for Global Fat Bike Day last Saturday. We had about 30 people in our group. The weather and trail conditions couldn't have been better. Lots of fun as always!

That's all I've got.