Saturday, November 22, 2014

Paint Table Saturday - November 22, 2014

I surprised myself today by investing my little bit of hobby time in finishing the bases I have painted over the last couple of weeks instead of painting something new. Thankless work, but somebody has to do it. Plus, we are playing an Impetus game tomorrow evening and I want to use some of these figures, so, out of necessity...

First up are some rebase skirmish archers (Old Glory Eastern European peasant archer figures).
Generic skirmish archers

Then some of the same figures rebased as regular missile troops (Impetus basing).
Generic archers

Next, some Breton light cavalry (OG Breton sergeants) rebased two per stand.
Norman/Breton light cavalry

And a couple of Norman leader/banner bearer figures.
Norman leader and banner

Then the Ottoman sipahi sample stand that I put together as a taste of things to come. 15 more figures (5 more stands) are near completion, but I wanted to see what one completely finished stand looked like. I like it.
Ottoman armored Sipahis

Finally, the ubiquitous German knights (from the Mongols in Europe range). I hand painted the lance pennons to match the heraldry painted on the figures. A first for me, but I think it looks good.
German knights

And more knights.
More German knights

And lastly, all the new knights on parade. There are two stands that need to have Flag Dude banners added, but that is the final step, and will be done tomorrow.
Lots of German knights

Not a bad day's work.

Farewell to Jessica's Biscuit

I went to my favorite cookbook website this morning to do a little Christmas-related potential present browsing. Or, I should say, I tried to...

I have used, the website for Jessica's Biscuit, an online specialty store selling only cookbooks for years. They always had great customer service and a dazzling array of cookbooks at great prices, and their website was easy to browse, categorizing and tagging books by all sorts of criteria to make it easy to browse. But it seems like they are out of business. Gone without a trace. A brief story by a food blogger is here, but the gist of it is that after many years in business and with a dedicated and loyal customer base, the guy who ran it simply closed the doors to open a craft brewery instead. No warning. No farewell. Nothing on the website (because there no longer is a website; it's gone as well). Just gone.

As noted in the article, there is nothing wrong with moving on in life and doing something different. Once a business decides that it is done, that business has no obligations to its customers. But a simple "Thanks to our customers and good bye" on the website would have been nice.

I'm sad to see it go. It was the best cookbook resource on the web.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Julia's Bedroom Remodel

A cold weather house project to be done this Fall and Winter is to re-do Julia's bedroom. Surprisingly, she has decided that she wants a pink room. So pink it will be.

The Plan: The wall behind her headboard will be an accent wall of a dark pink. The other three walls will be a slightly pinkish off-white. Pink is fine, but we don't want a cotton candy explosion. I will put up crown molding and do the painting. We will take down the valance over top of her existing curtains (already gone), and we will take down and replace the old curtains with new ones that Amp will be sewing (after the costume work for the Fall musical is done). Then we'll rearrange and hang some artwork and that will be that. Oh, and the piece of furniture to the right of her bed (the one that we built ourselves) still needs to be painted and glazed.

At start - The valance is gone but the curtains can't come down until we have new ones to replace them.
Valance down. Old pale yellow walls.

Then crown molding goes up in pieces. The 11 and 12 foot walls are too long for a single stock 10 foot piece, so I'll be splicing each wall carefully in the middle. They make 16 foot lengths, but it isn't worth renting a truck or paying to have them delivered for one room's worth of material.
Musical souvenirs. Crown goes up.

The moldings are up. As usual, the walls and ceiling are not perfectly even and level, so there will be some spackling and sanding and caulking to be done. When that is finished and the paint is on, you'll never be able to tell. I hope. At least that's the way it's worked out in some other rooms...
Crown molding up. Lots of finish work to do.

Next was the tedious step of patching nail holes, spackling gaps, sanding, etc. That is where we are now; prep work for painting maybe two-thirds done. One day soon, "painting table saturday" will be this instead of miniatures.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Painting Table - November 20, 2014

Last weekend and some evening painting this week has gone well. As planned, I was able to re-base some archers and Breton light cavalry, but (as usual) I have the flocking and finishing work left to do.

I prepped a bag of mounted crossbowmen, but can't get to painting them yet as I cannot realistically prime the figures in the house, and it has been below freezing and windy most if not all of this week, so I can't get outside to spray them, even in the garage.
Mounted crossbows

That means that next up are some already primed Ottomans (of which there are several trays full of figs ready to go).
18 sipahis on deck

Over the weekend, after the above chores were completed and in and around planning and running a D&D session, I put some work in on a block of 18 Ottoman armored sipahi cavalry. By Monday night I had painted and washed/shaded the horses, and done the basic armor treatment.
Monday - basic horses and armor

By the end of tonight (Thursday), I had done the basic painting on all 18 figures. All that remains is to clean up some details (horse equipment, straps, shield details, etc), do some shading and highlighting, and give them a final once-over to make sure they look OK.
Thursday - Detail work remains 

One stand is more or less done, which leaves 5 stands of 3 each left to go. Plus the two leaders and one extra sipahi in the background. I have a bunch of beautiful "Flag Dude" Ottoman flags waiting, and three of these stands will have a flag bearer once the figures have been seal coated.
One stand more or less done, minus flag

This weekend I really should force myself to flock and finish the bases that are hanging in limbo. But I say that most weeks... There is also talk of a medieval game this Sunday, so I am getting a table together just in case that works out.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Painting Table Preview - November 15, 2014

The Fall In convention induced flurry of painting activity has continued this week, and I've probably painted more figures over the last 2 weeks than in any similar period ever.

In addition to completing the refurbishing and additions to the 18 German knights shown a few posts back (and begun back in May), I have painted 5 medieval townspeople, refurbished about 10 stands of Norman cavalry, and most significantly, painted 56 Norman heavy infantry from scratch. These guys have been sitting in a box prepped and primed for a few years. Given that they are mostly covered in chainmail armor, I figured they would be easy to work my way through, and they were.
Norman heavy infantry on Impetus bases

Goals for this weekend, or the near future at least, are to finish basing and flocking all of the above, re-base some generic medieval archers onto Impetus style bases, prep and prime a unit of mounted crossbows and a unit of German sergeants for when the mood strikes, and flock the bases of a bunch of WW2 US infantry painted back in the spring. In recognition of my lack of focus, I like to have a bunch of different figure types and periods primed and ready to paint so that when I feel like picking up a brush I have a variety of things to choose from. Perhaps caving in to this known flaw of mine is why I have a hard time getting a period ever "finished", but it works for me (although my Ottoman project might not agree).

All this painting has made me want to get a game together, so there is a possibility of either a medieval Impetus game or another D&D session later this weekend. Hopefully something works out. If not, I may play a little Impetus by myself.
Throwing a game table together

Lastly, a completely unrelated (obviously) picture of my favorite tree. This is a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia) that we planted at the back of our property in 1998. It started at about 6 feet tall, and is now 25-30 feet tall at the top of its spike. It is a seasonal conifer with very cool feathery leaves that it drops for the winter.
Dawn Redwood

Given a lot more time (long after I am gone), this could be the tallest tree in town. By a lot. Although it is the smallest of the redwoods, it still tops out at over two hundred feet with a 6 foot diameter base. I'm not quite sure what we would do with that much tree in the backyard, but I won't be the one to have to worry about it...

Monday, November 10, 2014

First State National Monument

Sometimes the good guys win.

Near home, my favorite place for a short hike is the Woodlawn Tract, a beautiful 1,100 acre wooded area along the Brandywine River with a few scattered horse farms. Is is bordered on the south by Brandywine Creek State Park, and stretches a little ways into Pennsylvania near Chadds Ford.
Wood lots and farmland

My understanding is that while the Woodlawn Trust (the owners of the property) would seem to be a conservation/wildlife preservation entity, it isn't; it is a real estate holding trust.
Grace hiking the National Monument (who knew?)

The big "uh oh!" came a few years back when a proposal was put forth for a developer to buy a chunk of the Woodlawn Tract and put in 300+ new houses. This of course immediately raised a public outcry, a very visible and active "Save the Valley" campaign, and all the related furor and distress.

Then things got quiet. I figured that things had devolved into a legal battle and/or negotiations over what could and couldn't be done; something likely to take years.
First State Natl Monument and BCSP

Just recently, by accident, I found out why the furor died down (and I can't believe I didn't know this sooner!!). A good encapsulation of the story can be found here, which I will summarize. The short version is that what used to be the Woodlawn Tract is now a national park service unit as part of the First State National Monument.

Apparently, as early as 2011, the Woodlawn Tract, deemed to be in jeopardy, was added to a bill in Congress that would link it to several other historic sites within the state, and be put under the protection of the National Park Service. That bill failed to pass.

A $20 million dollar donation to The Conservation Fund allowed the Woodlawn Tract to be purchased with the intent to include it in a park once it became available for donation at the end of 2012. A new bill was introduced, stalled again, and was in danger of failing (and The Conservation Fund was going to lose rights to the land apparently). With the clock ticking, President Obama (with urging from Delaware's Vice President Biden I'm sure...) signed the bill into law under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013, and created the First State National Monument, including the donation of the 1,100 Woodlawn acres to the government, where they reside under the protection of the National Park Service.

It doesn't protect everything in the area, but it does protect woods, fields, farms, and dozens of miles of hiking trails in the path of suburban sprawl.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Painting Table for Two

Much to my delight, over the past few evenings, I have had company at the Painting Table. Grace, my 5th grader, has decided that she wants to paint some figures of her own.

She spent a little time painting with me last Spring, and painted a mounted medieval knight (in an eye-popping combination of purples, pinks and light blues). This time around, she has declared that she wants to make a little army of three mounted figures, one of whom will be the leader, and four foot soldiers. She wants to paint them to look like mine (i.e. realistic).
Painting Table for Two

I have no idea how long this will last, but I am thrilled while it does. She is interested in learning different basic techniques, and is a good student. We have been through blocking in basic colors, washing for shading, dry brushing for highlighting, and then picking out detail. We have talked a little bit about color theory, painting over a black or brown prime versus a white prime, which colors tend to cover well (blues and greens and browns) and which colors cover less well (reds and yellows) due to the pigmentation, etc...
Painter's Apprentice

It's been a blast. I treasure these moments when it's cool for her to hang out with Daddy. On top of that, she's a pretty good painter for someone working on her second figure ever (a 25mm Old Glory 3rd Crusades mounted knight). I will post a picture when she is done. I tried to post a close up of the work in progress, but she wouldn't let me - "it doesn't look good enough yet." Good for her.

Painting Table Saturday - Knights

After not lifting a paint brush for most of the summer and early Fall, I've been back at it in small spurts over the last week or so. The first order of business was to finish up the batch of 18 German mounted knights that have been sitting there since...May? Yes, probably since May.

These guys were the last of the "refurbishment" batches, along with a few new figures to round out the number needed for 6 stands of 3 each. The plan was always to go with fairly basic paint schemes for these, but I did add some additional detail to a few of them. They look OK, and when the bases are finished and flags and lance pennons are added, they will be a nice addition to the medieval horde.
Early Medieval German Knights

Next up, at least for the moment, are 10 more Hundred Years War crossbowmen, but I suspect that these will get set aside for something else. I have 4 units' worth of Norman heavy spearmen prepped and ready to go (60 figures), and adding these as nice large infantry blocks to the early medieval forces sounds appealing. Those are also easy figs to paint, and can be turned out quickly in large numbers.
Hundred Years War Crossbows

For today at least, I'll get some paint on these crossbowmen.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Fall In 2014 - Saturday, Day 2

Day 2 of Fall In was fairly uneventful for me, and somewhat brief. I arrived mid-morning and had plenty of time to watch various games and do some shopping before setting up a flea market table for the afternoon session.

I've been giving some thought recently to what my miniatures collection would look like if I started with a completely clean slate and were not burdened with a basement full of false starts, sidetracks, and periods that have gone by the wayside. Suffice it to say for the moment that the "ideal" vision differs a good bit from the reality. With that in mind, it was a very successful flea market session, where I sold practically everything I brought. This included three boxes of 25mm Saxons and two boxes of 25mm Vikings (reserving enough of each for modest skirmish armies), my American Revolution Continental army (2 large boxes of Brandywine regiments), Warhammer fantasy battle dwarves, a few miscellaneous odds and ends, and a half dozen board games. I came home with one board game and one rulebook. The carry-out was delightfully lighter than the carry-in.

This was a good step in the right direction towards (profitably) jettisoning the things I will never use. Hopefully they have found a good home where they will be of more use to somebody than they have been to me in recent years.

My two flea market purchases over the two days were a box of 54 nice 15mm palm trees and a set of uniform guides. The palm trees were based very nicely on round masonite bases (flocked), and look beautiful after I got them home and gave them a light overhead dusting of two shades of lighter green and a matt sealer coat to knock the edge off the dark green plastic look. These will be useful for either my 15m Crusaders or WW2 Pacific War.
Age of Chivalry, two volumes, in French

The real find was the uniform guides. Liliane and Fred Funcken did a whole series of uniform and equipment guides (back in the 1970's primarily, I think). The sets came in pairs of two books per period and go for a very hefty price for the English versions. You can also find them in French and less commonly in German. When I see them at shows, they are generally in French. I have Napoleonics in French and Lace Wars (1700's) in German. To this I added the two volume set of Medieval and Renaissance (in French) for the reasonable price of $45. They are in great condition, and I use them primarily for pictures and painting inspiration, so the fact that I can barely fumble through some of the text makes no difference.

All in all another successful show, and it certainly has gotten the painting juices flowing again, as these shows always do.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Fall In 2014 - Friday, Day 1

Things have been pretty quiet (OK, very quiet) on the wargaming and miniatures front over the last few months. Family stuff has been keeping all of us busy, and the time I have had to allocate to hobby stuff has primarily gone to working up the basics of a D&D campaign (for this first time since the late '80's or early '90's).

Knowing that Fall In, the local/big fall convention in Lancaster PA, was coming up soon has gotten the painting juices flowing again, and over the past week or so I have gotten back into something of a painting groove. More on that soon.

For now, today was the first day of Fall In. As usual, I took the day off and made my way out to Lancaster in time to get there and wander the in-progress games before the dealer area opened at noon. On picking up my preregistration badge, I was surprised at how thin the weekend's program book was. In the 15+ years I have been attending these Lancaster conventions, I think this must have been the lightest program yet. Wandering the show over the 6 or so hours I was there would bear this out; not a ton of games being run, and not a ton of gamers. I guess it wasn't too far off what I remember a Fall In Friday as being, but with the good weather today, I still think it was light.
Romans and barbarians in Germania (25mm)

Although the number of games seemed light, the quality was high, and there were a lot of attractive games to check out.
Early WW2, "Brazen Chariots" rules (15mm)

As always, there were friends and acquaintances to run into and chat with, games to watch, the dealer area to cruise, and the flea market (bring and buy to our English friends) to troll for that special "ah-ha" item.
Fish in a barrel...I mean 15mm Napoleonics

As has also been the case at recent conventions, I dove into the dealer area fully expecting/hoping to leave some cash behind, but didn't find all that much that struck a chord. I needed some dice for our foray into D&D (wargamers are swimming in d6, d10 and d20, but have little use for d4, d8 and d12, thus the need to stock up on some of these). I believe I now have at least a modest handful of every type of dice made. Actually, that being said, I think that there is a such thing as a d100, and if so, I don't have one of those.... yet...
WW2 Pegasus Bridge in 25/28mm

Other dealer area purchases were 7 medieval flags and cavalry banners from The Flag Dude and a few packs of 25mm medievals from Old Glory (2 packs of generic 12th century infantry and a pack of early medieval mounted German knights with lances). When in doubt, I buy more medievals. It's a "happy place" thing I suppose...
SAGA "Crescent and the Cross" in the desert (25mm)

I was on the road and headed home by 3:30. Garnet Valley had a home playoff football game at 7pm (we won convincingly, 35-15). I also needed to spend some getting together the things that I will be taking to the show tomorrow to sell at the flea market table I have from 2pm to 5pm. Selling hobby stuff is a bit like selling off members of the family (fill in your own joke here), but in my advancing years the one, perhaps only (probably only), bit of wisdom I have managed to attain is that if I lived to be 200 years old I would still not have the time to delve into every potential hobby interest that I have stumbled upon (and bought figures for). Thus, tomorrow, with any luck, lots of 25mm Vikings and Saxons, some 25mm English Civil War, a few Warhammer Fantasy odds and ends, and an American Revolution 25mm Continental army will all be going to live on a farm up-state. Or wherever it is that the hamsters, goldfish and other ex- members of the family go.

"Fall In" Saturday to follow (after it happens)...

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween 2014

Grace still loves dressing up for Halloween, and Julia still likes candy, so last night was a fun one for the girls.

Grace was Bellatrix, the crazy evil wizardess from the Harry Potter movies, and Julia was (you guessed it) a big blue M&M.
Crazy and Candy

As usual, they loved the idea of carving pumpkins until the time came to actually do the work. So after a week and a half of cajoling, I carved a couple pumpkins very quickly by myself at 4:00 this afternoon. Grace wanted a Harry Potter lightning bolt, Julia wanted a scary face. As I told them, if you won't help, you get simple pumpkins. Very simple. I do still enjoy carving. Next year I'll just give up on the girls and carve them myself earlier.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Homecoming Week

It was homecoming week at the high school this week. Is it really possible that I have a kid in high school? Anyway, there were dress-up events throughout the week (pajama day, etc), a homecoming parade with class floats on Friday at 5pm and a football game after (beating Haverford to go 7-2 overall, 7-1 in the league, with our only loss coming to my alma mater, Springfield).
Julia and some classmates

Last night, Saturday, was the homecoming dance.
Julia and some classmates (again)

These kids need to stop growing. We always teased them about putting them in a pickle jar to stop them from growing up (not exactly sure why a pickle jar...something about preserving them I guess), but it would seem to be way too late for that now.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book Review - Two Against One

Having read a fourth Frederick Barthelme novel recently, and with several more of his on the shelf, I kept the momentum going by reading Two Against One (Collier Books, 1988, 264 pages).

I could repeat what I said about the last one with regards to this, as this was like it, only more so. To quote one of the review blurbs on the back cover: "On Edward's fortieth birthday, his estranged wife, Elise, appears unannounced at the door, triggering a series of events that will involve the couple in a bizarre triangle and lay open the workings of a fifteen year marriage."

I guess that's one way of putting it. These people were unsympathetic and often downright bizarre, toiling through a plot that was...I don't even know what it was. I liked this less than the other books of Barthelme's that I have read (obviously). The saving grace was some salvageable commentary on expectations, relationships, love and sexuality. Unfortunately, as I couldn't help but keep thinking as I was working my way through this, the nice bits were buried in way too much not-so-good book. My opinion, anyway.

Only 2.5 stars out of 5. Don't bother with this one, as there are better Barthelme books out there. Like maybe all of them.

This gets me to 14 books and 2 partial story collections on the year, totaling a shade under 4,300 pages. Best book of the year so far is still The Painter.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Of Mermaids and Pirate Ships

Julia is in the high school Fall musical again this year, and they are doing Disney's The Little Mermaid. It should be a fun show, with lots of good songs. Having had a student in one of these, for the second time now, I have developed a ton of respect for the amount of time and effort that goes into a production like this; not just for the students, but also for the teachers and parents.

The students have a lot of singing, music, dancing and staging to learn. The parents have a lot of sewing and set construction to help with. There are over a hundred students involved, and sometimes more than one costume per kid. The basis for some of the costumes come from costume storage, where all the costumes of shows and years past are stored. Even with this head start, there are a lot of changes and alterations that need to be made, every student fitted, and many entirely new costumes that need to be sewn from scratch. Amp helped out for Les Miz, and is even more involved this time around. Spare time for her these days means pattern making, cutting, sewing and planning. I'm sure it will get worse before the end. But it is fun and rewarding work.
Pirate Ship to-be (really!)

As for me, I'm pretty good with tools, so when the call went out for more people to help construct sets, I chipped in for a few hours today, and will probably be spending a bunch of weekend hours lending a hand in the coming weeks. They need a pirate ship big enough to hold a bunch of kids on deck, some beach scenes, King Triton's throne room, Ariel's grotto, Ursula's lair... And more. Lots to be done. A staggering amount, really. As I've said, my level of respect and appreciation of what goes into a show like this is growing every day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Book Review - There Must be Some Mistake

It's been a while since my last reading binge (fiction reading, that is). However, I was in a bookstore a little while back, and saw a new novel (There Must Be Some Mistake, Little Brown and Co, 2014, 294 pages) by Frederick Barthelme, a writer who I have read before. I picked it up, plowed through it, and finished it a few days ago.

This is the story of Wallace Webster, a semi-retiree living in a condo development in the Gulf Coast area of east Texas. The residents of the condo development begin dying at an alarming rate, to accidents and other circumstances. We follow Webster through this maze of events as he deals with his ex-wife, her boyfriend (who happens to be the ex-husband of a younger female work friend whom he spends a lot of time with and has an...odd...relationship), his daughter and others.

I found the novel similar to the three previous Barthelme books I have read (Waveland, Elroy Nights and Second Marriage); which revolve around a not-overly-sympathetic aging male character thrown into all sorts of odd circumstances. Barthelme's characters can be head-scratching in their thought process and frustrating in the choices they make, but are for the most part interesting to read.

This is a solid if unspectacular read. Maybe 3.5 stars out of 5. The ending was bizarre, even given what had come before...

Next up...I've begun another older Barthelme book I had on hand (Two Against One, 1988).

Monday, September 29, 2014

Disney's Aladdin - 9/27/14

This past Saturday was Julia's big day; a day trip to Broadway in New York City to see Aladdin with the original cast. Her birthday trip last year was to see The Lion King, and she loved it so much that it might be becoming a tradition. If The Lion King was spectacular, then Aladdin was even better.
Aladdin Playbill

We hit a lot of traffic getting into the city. In an ideal world, we would have gotten there and parked with enough time to spare to have a nice lunch before heading to the theater. In the real world, we grabbed a snack at a Starbucks. Not ideal, but not the worst thing ever.
Girls and the Marquee

To say that Julia was excited would be an understatement. To say that she was ready to burst into flames at any moment would be more accurate. Uncontrollable smiles. Excited chatter. Hopping around in place. Good stuff...
5th row balcony (I like the balcony)

We had seats in the fifth row of the balcony, overlooking the stage. These are my preferred kind of seats, whether for a show like this or a concert. I like the perspective of being up and above the action, with a good panoramic view. According to the notes in the Playbill, Disney's first Broadway musical was Beauty and the Beast in 1994, and in the same year the Disney Company signed a 99 year lease to renovate the 1903 Amsterdam Theater to its original glory. All major Disney musicals since then have had their opening run in this theater. Corporate money can do good things, and this is one of them; the New Amsterdam is a spectacular old theater. Just sitting in this restored ornate old gem is like taking a trip back in time.
View from our seats
As for our show itself, Aladdin opened this spring. James Monroe Iglehart won the Tony award for lead performance in a musical (as the Genie), and I can certainly see why. At 6 foot tall and 295 pounds, football fans could imagine Warren Sapp who can sing and dance. Amazing. I could gush for a long time over this show. The music from the film was terrific. The additional music they added to turn this into a full length stage musical was equally good. The performances were great, especially Iglehart and Adam Jacobs as Aladdin. The staging was terrific. In two and a half hours of show there was never a let up. Singing, dancing, jokes, effects. The time flew by. There were so many little jokes and references embedded in the show that you had to pay attention or you would miss things.
New Amsterdam Theater

All of the cast was great. Jonathan Freeman as Jafar. Courtney Reed as Princess Jasmine. Don Darryl Rivera as Iago. All of the secondary characters were fabulous. It is a real treat to have seen the original cast; something that I hope the kids will appreciate later if they don't now. The effects were amazing. I'm still not 100% sure how they did the magic carpet...

Of the dozen or so Broadway shows I have seen over the years, I would rate this behind only Les Miserables and Miss Saigon. There was general agreement that this was better than The Lion King (which was also excellent). I thought it better than Phantom of the Opera (most overrated musical ever...), and it was better than Victor Victoria (even though we did see Julie Andrews, which in and of itself is a Broadway lifetime highlight).

Writing this two days later, Julia is still abuzz with excitement. As a parent, I guess that is the best you can ask of a birthday gift to a daughter. She's probably wondering what she will get to see next year. So am I.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Broadway 2014 - Aladdin

Julia loooooves music and musicals. There aren't many things she likes as much as her musical fixation du jour. Recently, this has been Aladdin.

Last year for her birthday we took her on a day trip to Broadway to see The Lion King. To say that she was over the moon would be an understatement.

When the subject came up of what we should do for Julia's upcoming birthday this year, it really came down to a question of "what musical should we see?" Julia has seen Les Miserables in Philly and The Lion King on Broadway. Aladdin on Broadway seemed like a perfect choice.

In order to have time to get properly excited and fully bask in the anticipation, she got her main birthday present a little early, and we are in full throttle ramp-up mode for a trip to New York in the near future.

Happy girls make the world go 'round. And we have a seriously happy girl in the house these days.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The road goes ever on and on...

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Grace, age 10, is my little reader. Over the course of the summer, between 4th and 5th grades, she devoured a lot of books, not the least of which were all 7 of the Harry Potter books (4,193 pages in total). She reads new books as fast as we can find them for her.

Tonight, when getting ready for bed, she asked me if we had anything else for her to read. A thought occurred to me. We went down to the living room ("library") and I took a sacred book off the shelf. The Hobbit. If she can read all seven books of Harry Potter, she can certainly read this. She may even be disappointed/underwhelmed by The Hobbit. I hope not. It is a book that holds a special place in my heart, and I hope she enjoys it. And after that, I hope she reads and enjoys The Lord of the Rings.

I can't help but to wonder what a kid these days will think of these books, having been exposed to a lot more than I ever was at that age, just in terms of what she will have seen in movies and on TV.

These were magical books to me. I hope they are to her as well.

Far over the Misty Mountains cold,
To dungeons deep and caverns old,
We must away, ere break of day,
To seek our pale enchanted gold.

Out with the Old...

The last quarter of the year would be bringing us to the end of a three year lease on the 2012 Honda Pilot (where does the time go?). This blue Pilot was the successor of a leased red 2009 Pilot, and we loved both vehicles. They were both well-equipped, big, heavy, safe and could haul any amount of people (8, comfortably) or gear (lots and lots and lots).

We have loved our Honda Pilots, and they have treated us well. However, we have been aware that the number of times we have needed to haul three seating rows worth of people or a ton of gear have been relatively few and far between. The flip side of "we have a ton of space and hauling capacity on those few instances when we need it" has been counterbalanced by not very good gas mileage and the fact that these big tanks eat tires for lunch. Needing to buy an expensive set of tires inside of a three year lease kinda stinks...

So with the realization that there are only four of us, and routine gear hauling requirements are minimal, we went to our go-to guy at Scott Honda to pick out a new vehicle (Eric Bausman, highly recommended, tell him I sent you...). We had agreed that the incumbent choice would be another Pilot, but that we would also look at Odyssey minivans and CRV small-SUV's. On the drive to the dealership, Grace asked Amp what color car we were going to get, and Amp said "anything but white."

Three hours later we drove home in a brand new 2014 CRV. White of course. Go figure.
2014 Honda CRV

Leasing isn't the right choice for everyone, but I like the fact that Amp and the girls get a new vehicle every three years. Safe. New. Reliable.

In some ways, I will miss the Pilot. It was big and could haul anything. And it was heavy and solid. Short of having Amp and the girls driving an actual tank, it is hard to imagine something that felt bigger and therefore safer than the Pilot. I have always like the thought of Amp and the girls safe and sound in their big blue tank.

But the CRV's safety ratings are excellent, it gets 50% better gas mileage than the Pilot (yes, 50%, that's not a typo), and the chances of it burning out an $800 set of tires inside of three years is basically non-existent. So... thus begins the era of the CRV.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

GVHS 34, Strath Haven 14

This was a close 7-7 game at the half, but the good guys pulled away in the second half with solid defense, some good running, and a few timely passing plays. Having an interception return for a touchdown called back for defensive holding that would have put us down 21-14 didn't hurt either.
Strath Haven's 400+ marching band

But the most impressive thing of the evening, by far, was the Strath Haven band. Our band is decent sized, and fairly good I think. Strath Haven was a whole different thing altogether. One of the other parents told us that (including color guard) the SH band totals 415 kids (ok, 415 young adults).

We were sitting in the home stands maybe 10 feet from our trumpeters. Every time the two bands did one of those competing battle-of-the-bands things, we could hear their band over ours. Clearly. They filled the opposing bleachers. When they marched onto the field for their halftime show, it looked like Napoleon invading Russia. And they were good. They were tight, loud, and big, filling the field from end zone to end zone, sideline to sideline. No matter how good a small or medium sized band might be, there is just something about the spectacle of a band that size that you can't get from anything other than...well...a band that size.

Hats off to the Strath Haven band.