Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sommelier in Training Wows Wine World

Sam's latest party trick...

Friday, December 07, 2007

Do you TiVo?

I've been thinking about getting a TiVo ever since Sam went to preschool and started skipping his nap (as a result, he now goes to bed at 7:00PM which gives Deanna and I some time to watch TV in the evenings occasionally provided that Will cooperates). There was an article in the Boston Globe a while back that presented a case for TiVo being good for marriages.

Given that we're very careful about our purchases, especially technology purchases (our annual budget is $0) I'm wondering: Is TiVo worth it? To further complicate the decision, it seems our local cable company has decided to offer TiVo software running on their DVR boxes. What to do?

I'm curious what our readers think about TiVo. Do you have one? Please feel free to post a comment if the answers below don't adequately describe your opinion on the matter.

Do you have a TiVo?
Yes, I Do!
No, I have a DVR from my cable company.
No, I still use a VCR.
No, I don't record TV.
I don't know what you're talking about.
Free polls from


Since this post was the most commented upon in the history of Casa Dwyer, I thought it deserved an update. Since seeking and taking the advice of our faithful readers, we've gotten a DVR from our cable company (see picture below). Installation was $17.95, and it costs $12.95/mo. How easy can you get? No work required on our part to get it up and running, no additional bills, and no commitment.

It works pretty well. Could it be better? Probably. It's straightforward and all that, but it seems to lack some of the intelligent features I've heard TiVo offers. The TiVo software upgrade still isn't available in our area, but when it is we might give that a try.

Top show recorded so far? Blind Date! This show airs at 3:30AM, yet with our DVR we get to enjoy it as soon as Sam and Will (mercifully) fall asleep. Check your local listings.

Monday, December 03, 2007

All Aboard the Christmas Train

What a busy weekend here at Casa Dwyer.

Sam's G-Pa and Sue came up yesterday and delivered the Christmas tree platform he built along with a toy train for the boys. Another great do-it-yourself project from the master (witness his previous work on our backyard shed here).

We all went out together and bought a tree from the local nursery on what was a perfectly cold day. Then last night, we had a few inches of snow! This morning it was nice to wake up, put lights on the tree, and watch Sam play with his new train:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Cabernet Tasting Results

We had another blind tasting here at the "Dwyer Wine Bar" last night. This time, a "horizontal" tasting of 2004 California Cabernets. I chose wines with low, medium and high Wine Spectator ratings to hopefully offer differentiation.

There were some variations within individual taster ratings, but as a group the wines were "correctly" rated- or I should say "consistently" rated in agreement with their Wine Spectator ratings:

1) Turnbull 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (92pts, $45)
2) Robert Mondavi 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88pts, $27)
3) Charles Shaw 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon California (82 pts, $2)

I asked the tasters to guess the Wine Spectator rating of each wine. As a group, the guesses were remarkably accurate. Maria (pictured below with Sam getting ready to attend a UConn basketball game prior to this tasting) did *stunningly* well. She guessed 92 points for the Turnbull (dead on), 85 for the Mondavi (3 points off) and 82 for the Shaw (dead on again). Incredible performance! She too shall be called "Wine Afficionado" along with her daughter Sarah (for those of you not familiar with the family relationships).

The "shocker" of the night came from a taster who predicted that the Charles Shaw was not only the most expensive of the group, but went so far as to hazard a guess that it was a bottle of Caymus! (arguably the most consistent Napa Cab producer for the past decade)

I also asked the tasters to guess the retail price of each wine. Notable here were the price guesses for the Two Buck Chuck: $20 and $30. WOW.

Personally, I preferred the Mondavi to the Turnbull. I've tried to force myself to like Turnbull since it is a relatively reasonably price Napa Cab for the big numbers they get from Spectator. I visited their winery a while back and bought several bottles- I didn't like them that much. Last night's tasting didn't do much to change that impression.

I thought the side-by-side tasting of California Cabs was interesting because it enabled me to taste the differences between the wines in a way that drinking different wines on different nights does not. Specifically, I smelled the Mondavi after tasting the Charles Shaw. WOW- what a difference. The Shaw was (at best) muted and unoffensive, and one whiff of the Mondavi revealed an amazingly wonderful aroma.

I think I also learned a bit about my preferences. I've been running around trying to pick up wines that have been rated highly by Wine Spectator. There is a huge difference between an 88 point and a 92 point wine in terms of availability (not to mention price). In this case, I preferred the 88 point wine to the 92 point wine. I'd like to understand better what specific characteristic of the 88 point wine I liked. Wine Spectator writes the following about the wine:

"Well-proportioned, rich and intense, with concentrated currant, loamy earth, herb and cedary oak notes. While firmly tannic, this has a seam of elegance and grace and merits short-term cellaring. Drink now."

Was it the currant I liked? I don't even know what currant smells or tastes like!

I'm left thinking about the different purposes you buy wine for. For me there's "daily drinkers", "value wines" that you might serve for a large gathering, and "special occasion" wines. Trying to figure out which wines I prefer at each level is a process I've been enjoying. There's something great about enjoying wine with friends and family.

Yesterday, Sam and I went on an adventure to pick up the wines I ordered from the holiday wine show. We brought my friend Michael along (as he was the one who invited me to the show). On the drive, I recalled the first really good wines Deanna and I ever enjoyed. While we were living in Belmont, Michael came over and brought a couple bottles: a 1997 Cakebread Benchland Select and a 1997 Groth Oakville Cab. They were amazing. As we celebrate the holidays this year, I'm reminded of his generosity. Sharing great wines with *everyone*, not only with your friends who already "appreciate" wine, can sometimes be more impactful than selectively cracking open the big bottles with your wine loving friends.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Dancing Will

It has been far too long since we've posted even a picture of young William. Here's a video of him dancing with his Aunt Sarah from Thanksgiving weekend:

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blind Tasting Results

Yesterday, before Thanksgiving dinner, we conducted our aforementioned blind wine tasting (notice the cloaked bottles in the first picture below). The intent of this tasting was to determine which varietal we prefer without being biased by preconceived notions. I wanted our guests to feel as enthused about this as I was, so I "sold" the event hard. I appreciate the enthusiasm they all showed for the tasting- everyone took it very seriously and appeared to be enjoying themselves.

I chose each of the wines because I felt they were highly representative of each varietal. They were all rated (by Wine Spectator) between 88 and 90 points, so they were all similar in quality. The wines included in the tasting were (in the order they were randomly presented):
  1. 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88 points, $27)
  2. 2004 Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (89 points, $28)
  3. 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estates (90 points, $11)
  4. 2005 Yellow Tail South Eastern Australia The Reserve (90 points, $11)
In the image below is the order of finish from "favorite" to "least favorite":
  1. 2005 Yellow Tail South Eastern Australia The Reserve (90 points, $11)
  2. 2003 Columbia Crest Merlot Grand Estates (90 points, $11)
  3. 2004 Sanford Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills (89 points, $28)
  4. 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley (88 points, $27)

Interesting notes from the tasting:
  • Every single taster selected the Yellow Tail Shiraz as their favorite; it was unanimous.
  • One taster stated that Cabernet was their favorite varietal coming into the tasting because of its "big" taste. That rater gave low marks to the Robert Mondavi Cabernet and was (I think) surprised by the big taste of the Shiraz.
  • One taster stated that "Sanford Pinot" was their absolute favorite wine (and then proceeded to give it the lowest marks of the bunch *by far*).

I'm left wondering whether the favorite wine of the bunch won because it was the boldest, or because it was the best? When tasting these wines head to head some of the wines seemed "unremarkable". Perhaps these wines would be appreciated more on their own -or- when served with a meal? At any rate, it was interesting to see that the more affordable wines were preferred to the more expensive ones.

The next tasting we do will be low, medium and high quality Cabernets where the price aligns to the Wine Spectator rating.

There was a "quiz" where each taster guessed the varietals, elements of the aroma/taste, the Wine Spectator score, and the retail price. I'm pleased to announce that Sarah won that competition and should be referred to as "wine afficionado" upon entering a room.

Sam took the tasting very seriously, and continues to insist that Chateauneuf du Pape is his favorite:

Note to Child Protective Services: This is a gag photo.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Value Wine Recommendations

Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm a value-minded consumer. In this edition of the blog, I thought I'd share with you some recommendations for value-minded wines. I got these recommendations from Wine Spectator. I've had a subscription to Wine Spectator for a couple of years, but just recently did I really start digging into their ratings, buying the wines they recommend, and comparing the quality of those wines.

This "research" was prompted by a blind tasting at a friend's holiday party a few years ago. He bought 2 wines: 1 was a $8.99 bottle of Rosemount Shiraz, the other a $50 bottle of Shafer Merlot. Based on blind tasting- half of the group picked the $8.99 bottle as their preferred wine. The conclusion of that exercise was that half of the tasters were buffoons. But looking back at that experiment, both of the wines in that test were rated exactly the same by Wine Spectator: 87 points. So, if you believe the pros at Wine Spectator the wines were equal in quality although one cost 5x as much as the other.

Fast forward 5 years later. Based on recommendations from Wine Spectator over the past 2 years, I've discovered the following 4 wines. I present them for you for their Quality/Price ratio:

Columbia Crest
Grand Estates Merlot 2003/2004
90 points/$11 (bought a case @ $9.59/bottle)

Yellow Tail Shiraz Southeastern Australia The Reserve 2005
90 points/$11 (bought for $9.99)

Wolf Blass Cabernet/Shiraz South Australia Yellow Label 2005
88 points/$12 retail (bought for $7.99)

Charles Shaw Cabernet Sauvignon California 2003
82 points/$2.99 (Trader Joe's only- $2.99)

If you like red wine, I hope you give these a try. If you do, please post back and let me know what you think. I'm planning on having some blind tastings here for Thanksgiving. I'll post back with the results of that experiment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Just treats, please

Last year trick or treaters were greeted by a front door that was anything but inviting. (Even Sam ran away!) Covered in plastic, with all the molding torn off, we could only play it up as a Halloween prank with a sign:

A house with no door is spooky you say?
Even more so when the owner’s away.
But if you’ve come this close without any fright,
You deserve candy and a Happy Halloween night!

This year we were armed with more than a new front door. We had welcoming lights and plenty of candy to give out to the many neighborhood children. I am also fairly confident we had some of the cutest trick or treaters in town to help give candy away. I pledge that next year we will really do it right and give out full size candy bars. One of us will stay home while the other takes the kids trick or treating so nobody ends up rebuffed by the "help yourself" bowl we left on the doorstep while we took Sam around the neighborhood.

Sam was quickly identified as a doctor but it was really a treat for those ladies who recognized him as Dr. McDreamy. Only the most observant noticed his name badge. Since last year, he's gained an understanding of "trick or treat" and he diligently said "thank you" to each of the neighbors who greeted him. Will was Pooh bear for a short time until he became a snoring lump of red and yellow on his Papa's shoulder. I have a feeling it's only going to get better.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Up for air

It's been a while since I've written mostly because typing with one hand is too blisteringly slow to stomach. This little baby of mine, Will, sure loves to be held. There are times during the day when putting him down for even a moment is cause for urgent shrieking. Other times, he's content to stare at me, smiling as much with his eyes as with his lips. At present, he is sleeping in his father's arms, as we sit watching our beloved Red Sox with great anticipation. This quiet time is a welcome respite from our clamorous days.

Despite the volume around here, I've thought much about mothering these two little ones. At any time, my general attitude depends very much on my degree of sleep deprivation. I've not had an uninterrupted night of sleep in more than 4 months which has been difficult for this slumber lover to endure. And sleep is but one example of luxuries lost that I once thought basic human needs. But holding my boys is a luxury too-- I'm reminded when I think of those friends trying unsuccessfully to start a family. I'd just like to handle the sacrifice this job requires with more grace.

I've seen plenty of moms deal with toddler tantrums and infant demands with far more ease than do I. I struggle with the requisite putting aside of one's own needs to meet those of my children. Moms, dads, what's your secret? How do you deal with the demands of parenthood and still do the things that are important to you? Consider this an open invitation to share your wisdom. In the meantime, I'll share a moment that kept me going on a shall-we-just-say "challenging" day.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

France: Part Deux

I took the Twingo about 100km north to a nice little city on a lake called Annecy. Very pretty! It kind of reminded me of a combination of Bellagio, Venice, and Amsterdam.

I've been thinking about some of the preconceived notions I had about France (and French people) before I came here, and whether my observations so far were aligned with those notions. While you scroll through these photos du 'jour, let's play a little game of "French Stereotypes: Fact or Fiction" shall we?


"French food is served in small portions."
FALSE. Every meal I've eaten has included generous portions.

"French food is fancy. Lots of duck, rabbit, and strange stuff."
FALSE. While there is some unusual stuff (I've eaten quail legs several times) for the most part, I've found the majority of the food to be quite "normal".

"French Wine is very good and very cheap."
PARTIALLY TRUE. I have to say, I had higher expectations of the wine. It's good, but in my humble opinion very similar to California red wines. I mean, they're the same exact types of grapes (most California grapes are cloned from French grapes), just grown in a different location. The pricing is similar as in the states- very cheap or very expensive: take your pick. A typical glass of wine at the hotel bar costs 6 Euro. That's $8.40. That seems rather expensive to me actually.


"Gas costs a fortune in Europe."
PARTIALLY TRUE. It's hard to calculate an exact comparison in one's head (dollars vs. Euros, gallons vs. liters- what a mind bender!) but gas is noticably more expensive than in the US. I filled up the econobox's tank today for 45 Euro. That's like $60. Gas has gotten a lot more expensive in the US lately, so $60 to fill the tank doesn't seem *that* outrageous.

"Everyone drives BMWs and Mercedes."
FALSE. Not in France anyway. While it's true that when you see the headlights of a BMW or Mercedes on the "rapidway" (highway) you should "get over immediately!" or be run over, most of the cars in France are Renaults, Peugots, and other modest cars.

"You can take the train anywhere!"
PARTIALLY TRUE. Yeah, if you want to spend a fortune and have all day. Paris is a 5 hour drive away. You could take the TGV (Train a'Grand Vittesse, the speed train) from Grenoble to Paris in 3 hours (plus transfers and waiting time). But you have to somehow get to the train station, find parking, and then pay. A lot. $125 each way. Pretty pricey. Transportation being so expensive, I could see where only the rich would be able to move about the region frequently.


"French people are rude."
TOTALLY FALSE. The people I've met here have been *so* nice to me. They're not fake-nice and all smiley right off the bat, but they are very appreciative when you try to speak French, ask questions about speaking French, or ask questions about France.

"Everyone smokes."
PARTIALLY TRUE. There's still a lot more smoking in public places here than in the states. I think an improvement here in recent years is that people don't smoke indoors anymore. They still smoke outside- say in a sidewalk cafe where it can be bothersome, but things seem to be improving in that area.


"There's dogs everywhere."
PARTIALLY TRUE. I have seen quite a few dogs, but nothing ridiculous. I haven't seen anyone bringing their dogs to eat at the table with them or anything.

"People say things like 'komon tally voo' and 'on shon tay!' frequently."
PARTIALLY TRUE. I thought a couple of these were interesting actually. With my limited knowledge of the French language I had no clue what these words meant until I saw them spelled out in my phrase book. "Comment allez-vous" means "How are you?" You see "comment" used a lot to say "comment on this...". I think it's easy to remember that way. And "on shon tay": enchante. It's a concise one-word way of saying "nice to meet you" or "I am enchanted to meet you." I'd heard that the French language often provided single words that mapped to many in English. I think "Enchante" is a great example of that.

Bonsoir and au revoir for now...

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bonjour from France

I got called over to Grenoble, France on short notice for a work trip. Well, I wouldn't exactly call it "work" compared to what Deanna has to do back home, but it has been an interesting adventure so far.

I arrived to a rather anemic looking little car; a Renault "Twingo":

This little car has gotten me around just fine- though I'm glad I requested a GPS navigation system. That's been very handy.

My "French Culture and Etiquette" handbook taught me that meal-time is very important in France. I like food too, so I've enjoyed meal-time in France. Every meal is an event to be savored- even lunch in the company cafeteria. There's beer and wine available, and every day brings a new gourmet dish to sample. And the bread- delicious! And plentiful. French people eat bread with every meal- throughout the meal. If someone were to run out of bread I'm sure they'd stop eating altogether until they found more bread. Here's the appetizer course of the first lunch I had in France. Look at the presentation!

Mealtime doesn't end with merely the lunch. It's followed by espresso, and then at least a half an hour of chit-chat. The first day I arrived I didn't start doing actualy work until almost 4:00PM! I was going nuts. I was like "Alright already, let's get to work!"

Thanks to the tips I picked up from my French phrase and culture books, I made fast friends with my colleagues and customers over here. Tips like, "The historical reason for the handshake was to prove you weren't holding a dagger," proved invaluable. I was invited to a jazz concert and also to a co-workers home for drinks. Check out this fabulous view from his patio:

He recommended an itinerary for some weekend sightseeing. First, a scenic drive through the mountains. The area is very "French Alps"- big mountains all around.

I stopped in a few charming villages, and then to the "Grottes de Choranches"- very cool caverns. Kind of touristy, but hey- I'm a tourist!

It's been a very interesting and enjoyable trip, though of course I do miss my family back home. Sam has just recently begun to show awareness of whether I'm home or away, and that makes it a bit harder on everyone. Every time I go away like this I return to a massive progression in language development from him.

Deanna has been remarkably strong in my absence. Having her mom and grandma stop in for a visit sure helped. It's so nice to call home and hear her happy voice.

I'll be here a few more days. I'm not sure whether I have the energy to visit Mont Blanc tomorrow. We'll see. If so, I'll post some pictures of that for sure. If not, I'll post pictures of my record breaking 8th meal in a row at the Novotel Hotel. :)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Riddle

One of Sam's favorite books is a Winnie the Pooh book with riddles in it. Here he is reciting one of the riddles:

In case you can't make out what he's saying, the riddle is:

Q: What goes up when the rain comes down?
A: An umbrella!

After that Sam says "Oh, I like that!" just the way it's written in the book as if it is part of the riddle. He practically creates the illusion that he can read since he's memorized so many pages from his books. Particularly entertaining is when he "reads" car brochures talking about "Xenon Adapative Headlights" and "Active Cruise Control".

For his next trick, I'll try to get some video of him identifying car makes and models. He's dazzled the neighborhood with his uncanny ability to spot Honda Pilots and such from great distances- even in the dark.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Sam the Chair Salesman

We haven't posted pictures of Sam in far too long. He is really growing up quickly. Here he is in one of his favorites spots- on my office desk chair:

Here he is sitting on a chair I'm trying to sell on Craigslist:

Sam was a great helper this afternoon. We re-assembled the chair (it was sitting in a pile of parts in the basement since we've moved in). Then we took pictures of it and posted the ad. A little life lesson for my guy: Marketing 101.

PS- Here's the ad (while supplies last):

Update! The chair has been sold. Sam and I were successful in our first joint business endeavor.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Do You Upromise?

Upromise - Join Now 125x125

The day after Sam was born, I was suddenly more interested in saving for college than the day before. There's a lot of different sub-topics I'd like to discuss in this area:
  • Does saving for college hurt your chances for free money for college?
  • How much do we need to save?
  • What percentage of education should be the child's burden?
  • 529 plans vs. Coverdell Education Savings Accounts vs. regular investments
  • Which 529 plan to use?
For today, I'd like to focus on one very unique way to save money for college called Upromise. Upromise, in a nutshell, is a way to earn college savings as a percentage of the things you already buy. Money earned is then periodically swept into your child's 529 college savings plan which earns money tax free until needed for college.

What I like about Upromise is that the money you earn is on top of any other savings you might be getting. Say for example you buy gas and pay with a cash-back credit card (see my previous entry on recommended credit cards here: The money added to your Upromise account is in addition to the 5% cash-back you get on your credit card. Great deal, right?

So far, Sam has saved $1,099 for college through Upromise. To be fair $937 of that was from a single mortgage transaction. The easiest way to earn money through Upromise is by registering your credit card(s) with Upromise so that all the purchases you make trigger contributions for eligible products. It doesn't really add up very quickly unless you do your shopping through Upromise (like the mortgage transaction or other online shopping) which involves launching your transaction by first stopping in at the Upromise web site and then clicking through and shopping as you normally would.

Here's your call to action:
  • If you have little ones of your own, sign up for Upromise and start saving.
  • If you don't have little ones of your own and are willing to take the time to sign up, do so and select your favorite future genius as a beneficiary.
I recently became a Upromise affiliate.  Sign up through the button below and I'll get a referral bonus:

Upromise - Join Now 125x125

Whether or not one of our little guys is your favorite future genius, we'd be happy to walk you through the process if you're willing to take the time. Just drop one of us an E-mail if you have questions. Thanks!

Friday, June 15, 2007

Flip This Shed

While we were at the hospital getting to know Will, Deanna's dad spent a couple of days fixing up a dilapidated shed we had in our backyard. I thought this thing was fit to be demolished, but he did an amazing job fixing it up. It's hard to believe that any of the new structure is original- the shed looks awesome! It's a fine example of his thrift.

After Remodeling:

I thought for sure we'd be better off knocking the old shed over and buying one of these: Walpole Woodworkers Sheds

I think the final result compares quite favorably with the very expensive pre-fab solutions.

Our thanks to Deanna's dad for this project, and for his tireless interest in improving our home in cost effective ways. His enthusiasm for caring for our house is amazing- we're fortunate to have him in our lives. Thanks to Sue as well for being supportive of his spending time visiting us- and for planting fresh flowers in the flower box. What a nice finishing touch. Our house doesn't even have flower boxes!

Before Remodeling:

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Here's a picture of Sam at 1 week to compare to Will's 1 week picture below.

Although (I think) they look very similar at this stage, their personalities are distinct. For example, our first trip out of the house with each baby was the same- a trip to a nearby Target. Sam had his first "melt down" on that trip- crying inconsolably while we practically ran out of the store. Will, however, snoozed through the whole thing. He continued to sleep through lunch when we got home.

Here's hoping that Will keeps it up. I think it's going to be tough taking care of these 2 guys, but Will's snoozy behavior makes it quite a bit easier.

Monday, June 11, 2007

It's a Boy!

We're thrilled to let you know that William Jameson arrived Wednesday, June 6th at 10:50 AM. He weighed 8 pounds, 1 ounce and was 20.5" long. "Will" looks just like his brother Sam did when he was born. He's got a wonderfully gentle disposition so far- he loves to be held. He's doing well. The pediatrician said, "He looks great- I've got nothin'"- for that we are very grateful.

Deanna is recovering well and we're home now resting and getting acclimated to life with 2 dudes. Aunt Sarah did an amazing job taking care of Sam 24 hours a day while we were in the hospital- for that we are very appreciative.

Welcome to this world, Baby Will!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Connecticut native brings a fresh perspective to Colorado

My cousin Diane has an amazing talent for photography and a passion for horses that comes alive in her shots. She's just released a new web gallery of work called Red Feather Ranch Photography. Her photos will inspire you to take a visit to the Wild West or your local stable.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The 'terrible twos' we'd only heard about

We are going on 3 days without a nap. I refuse to believe the veteran mom warnings I've been hearing that our days of sleepy afternoon bliss are over. This transition to the big boy bed is wreaking havoc on our (my) beloved afternoon routine. Sam figured out this week that a bed works unlike a crib. It offers FREEDOM! and EXPLORATION! because he can GET OUT AT WILL! Once this discovery was made, we dealt with running around upstairs for the first day. Then, we put a gate up at his bedroom door in hopes he'd at least be contained and eventually he'd fall asleep. In preparing this new safe environment, we tried to imagine what hazards he might uncover in his room if left unaccompanied and we eliminated them. But he outsmarted us. This afternoon while he was not napping, I heard several loud thuds and headed upstairs curiously to see what the commotion was about. What I encountered was a mess of two year old proportions.

Note the goofy look of surprise on his face as he trots over to his bed. Note the toys, books and wipes scattered everywhere. Last, note the biggest offender, the open diaper cream on the windowsill with the last of the container carefully finger painted all over the top of my vintage cedar chest. Thankfully, it wasn't the industrial strength variety that surely would have left a coat of impermeable white on the surface for all eternity. Silly you, you say for leaving all those stimulating items in his room. Well, I hear you and this evening we removed all the toys and baby hygiene items from the room so he can only be lulled to sleep by the sounds of his own humming. Tomorrow at naptime, I'm putting the blinds down and we'll try again. Until then, rest well my love, it isn't bright enough to play by the light of the moon.

Friday, May 04, 2007


Hey hey! Warm weather is finally here and we just bought our first gas grill. What a great feeling. Here I am putting the Weber to the test for the first time.

It seems that there's no buying decision Deanna and I can't over complicate. We both swore that we didn't want anything special- just a basic grill. Grills get nasty after a couple of winters outside, right? First we went to Home Depot, then Lowe's- where we actually bought one. Then we got cold feet, reconsidered, and canceled the order with Lowe's. Then to Natick Fireplace, Sears and then back to Home Depot again. Then we ended up placing the order at Natick Fireplace. I'm finding supporting the local companies a more viable thing to do here than in Phoenix.

Did you know that almost every store will assemble a grill for free? But the rub is that an assembled grill is really big. Like- too big to fit in the CR-V. But have no fear- they'll deliver them for only $45. What a deal! Early Wednesday morning, while I was working in our home office, 2 nice gentlemen delivered and set up our wonderful grill.

I'm thrilled. Not only is it a great feeling cooking outside at the end of the day, but buying a grill somehow makes me feel more settled than even buying this house did. It's a good feeling. I've gotten more enjoyment "puttering" around the house and the yard than I thought I would. With baby #2 arriving shortly, I don't think we're going to be traveling anywhere soon. And for once, in spite of my tendency to wander, that's OK with me.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

This land is your land, this land is my land

The weather in New England has finally turned for the better and I’ve spent as much of the last week in the garden as my unwieldy body would permit. Images from the very many nursery catalogs I now receive are cataloged in my mind for inspiration. (It is amazing how quickly one mail order nursery launches a thousand catalogs and special offers from nationwide sources for shrubs, bulbs and perennials.) While I still have any vigor, I’ve been planting everything I can get my hands on to set the stage for the blooms I’d like to enjoy later in the season when I have my new baby in my arms and little time for much else.

With a yard full of aged flora and hardscape relics, we've been working little by little to improve what we have. To his surprise, Bob has enjoyed tending the new grass in the front yard. He has less enjoyed, but hasn't yet complained about the many trips to the dump required to dispose of the copious lawn and leaf bags brimming with Spring debris. Nor has he complained about my requests for more and more and MORE of the compost the dump so generously makes available for free.

Yesterday while hunched over the front beds digging a trench for lilies, I caught a town police cruiser passing slowly by the house. I didn’t think much of it until he passed again and stopped in the street-- right in front of our house. My initial thought was that a concerned neighbor had called the police to report a very pregnant woman appeared to be lying on the ground. But, rather than jump out to rescue me, the officer simply asked me if this was my home. I thought, perhaps this was a ‘no dig’ day? Insane thoughts raced through my ever law-abiding head. Was I unaware of some New England blue law where earth could not be turned midweek in April? Perhaps this was a sister law to the senseless liquor quotas that still govern where, when and how one can buy a six pack? He cleared up the mystery for me and told me that he grew up in this house; his parents were the first owners some 60 years ago. He talked fondly of the house and I learned that he and his two brothers shared the two kids’ bedrooms upstairs. That they’d all snuck out the north window over what used to be the garage and that his father dug the drainage trench in the basement after the first time it filled with two feet of water. While neither of those thoughts was very comforting, knowing that I had law enforcement looking out for the well-being of my house was. Our meeting was just another way I know this friendly neighborhood and small town are just right for our little family. There’s something reassuring about knowing the ground I dig in and the rooms where we rest were inhabited by happy families who came before us.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

At long last

We tried desperately to have the patience to wait until all of the kitchen remodel was complete before posting pictures. Anything short of totally done and it would have felt premature. And there were plenty of roadblocks to hold up yesterday’s little photo shoot, even after 4 and a half months of solid work on this place. The biggest problem was probably a 9 foot slab of granite shattering in the midst of our kitchen as it was being removed for modifications. The noise was horrendous and until I saw it, I never would have guessed a piece of stone like that could shatter like glass. But all that’s behind us and repaired now and we’re actually living comfortably in our new space. We're grateful for Magic Sliders, Bob’s willing back and the burst of energy I’ve had unpacking. Now that life is once again starting to take on a normal rhythm, I hope to be back posting more often.

Here are before and after shots from roughly the same spot- the family room looking toward the kitchen area. If you're so inclined you can see more photos in our photo album.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Better than flowers and chocolate

It's right around the corner, so close I can feel it. The movers are coming on Valentine's day and, if all goes according to plan, we'll spend that night in our new house. Finally, after months of work and chasing the details, we're on the verge of being done. We're still collecting our thoughts on the whole process so stay tuned for an upcoming post on our 'lessons learned' and photos of the finished product.

All this comes not a moment too soon since we're now in need of a nursery. To readers afar, my news may come as a surprise since I've been mum on this for some time. But our little family will be welcoming another little boy in June. Sam is anxious to tell anyone who'll listen, "there's a baby in Mommy's belly." He seems to be adjusting to the idea well and thankfully, his attachment to the name Gordon was only short lived.

So until I have more, I leave you with this photo of 4 Brazilians, a French Canadian, a lot of rock salt and a pickup truck in our front yard. That's what it took to get our new family gathering place into the house.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Troubling trends: Organic popcorn futures up, home prices down

With the holidays in full effect and the remodel timeline urging us to distract ourselves, we've been catching up on our movie watching. Even though our holiday card said otherwise, the house is still uninhabitable and as a result, we put all visions of sugar plums on hold until next year.

Overall, there weren't any true cinematic standouts although we both enjoyed The Devil Wears Prada and Little Miss Sunshine. Other movies on our 'recently viewed' list are Friends with Money, The Family Stone, Failure to Launch, Lady in the Water, Thank you for Smoking, You, Me and Dupree, Clerks II and, the one you may not enjoy but ought to see, An Inconvenient Truth.

I still don't like Al Gore as a Presidential candidate, but I definitely think his movie is worth watching. If this strange spring weather in New England doesn't convince you, the science presented in the movie might. It's both compelling and depressing; I can't help but feel that a tidal wave from the Arctic ice shelf is imminent. It makes me wish that we could counteract global warming in the public and private sectors more aggressively. Unfortunately, the American public doesn't feel the same way. I was disheartened to hear a recent survey indicating the environment fell at the bottom of our collective priority list. I wonder if the majority of our nation saw the movie whether they'd change their minds. With all due respect to our service men and women, I wonder what difference a few Iraqi insurgents will make when half the Middle East is under water.

After the movie, I was sufficiently frightened about our planet's future and began researching what I can do to make a difference. Although the film itself doesn't offer many suggestions for the average American, the associated website does. And since our remodel is one of my most consuming thoughts these days, I took solace in how we've tried to get through the project with our micro and macro environments in mind.

We've been trying to do our part by renovating our not so big house instead of building brand new. Throughout the renovation we've made eco-friendly design choices wherever it was feasible, cost effective and didn't sacrifice the house's colonial integrity. Here's a rundown of our green remodeling practices:

-started by hiring a licensed deleader who brought the house into Massachusetts compliance and safely disposed of the lead paint.
-chose locally sourced materials including Vermont slate flooring and Canadian granite countertops instead of the typical varieties that get shipped from half a world away.
-purchased all new Energy Star appliances and "freecycled" the out of date ones to individuals using even older, less efficient models. Ours didn't end up in a landfill and the new appliance owners get to use something more efficient than what they had.
-installed new Energy Star certified thermostats.
-selected new windows and doors that have low-e glass and are Energy Star qualified.
-referenced California's Title 24 guidelines to implement a lighting plan that minimizes electricity usage without sacrificing light quality. Also installed Energy Star fluorescent light fixtures wherever light color was not an issue like in closets and on the front of the house.
-weatherized the attic and vast crawl spaces beneath the living areas with insulation certified by GreenGuard.
-used zero-VOC Sherwin Williams paints throughout to minimize offgassing.
-refinished hardwood floors with low-VOC water based finishes.
-removed wall to wall carpeting to improve indoor air quality.
-installed a high quality water filter in the kitchen so we could safely drink our tap water.
-designed recycling stations into our kitchen layout.
-using natural cleaning products in post construction cleanup.

Taking just these small steps helps me feel a little better about my responsibility in the environmental crisis. I challenge you to take some steps, however small, to do the same.
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