Snow Daze

I feel like it’s been snowing….a lot…this year. We had our third major snowfall this past week, a year after we had a similar experience.

To recap, we had enough snow to go sledding on January 15th. It wasn’t a ton (maybe 4″?), but it was “enough,” and was of a good consistency for outdoor activities. It was cold enough in mid-January that it hung around for a bit, though roads weren’t all that terrible.

Then, February 2nd, we got hit with another 7″ of snow. That time, it dropped some ice underneath, so the roads were a bit more treacherous. We were out of school Wednesday through Friday that week because of the snow and cold temperatures. Meg was supposed to have a competition in Cape Girardeau for robotics that weekend that ended up being shifted to a remote event due to weather.

Then, snow around town is almost melted, and we get yet another round. This time, they were forecasting 10.7″. We didn’t get quite that much, but we hit 9″, depending on where exactly you measured the snow drifts. This time, we were out Thursday and Friday, so more school delayed. I had to record a lecture for one of my classes because we’ve missed so many days already. The kids had a few remote school days, but they’ve exhausted all that they’re allowed for the school year now, so they’re going to have to start taking back Spring Break days, or tack on days to the end of the school year.

Suffice to say, I think we’re done with snow. The weather may not be “done,” but we’re done. I suppose Calvin is still having fun outside, but the amount of disruption this year feels worse than we’ve had the past few years (and that’s considering a pandemic, of course).

Also, the forecast for tomorrow is 54 F, and it’s supposed to be 65 F on Monday. Missouri…..has been a whole thing this Winter….

Out With The Old…

….not pictured….another pair outside that I use for mowing the lawn…

The new year has marked a change in my exercise routine, for multiple reasons. After I completed my marathon last October, I decided I’d semi-retire from regular running as I had been for the past few years. Mostly, this was because of the wear and tear I thought I was feeling toward the end of training. For most of November, and even into December, I was still feeling pain occasionally when running, usually in my left knee, so that solidified the plan to ease off regular running and shift more into cycling as my exercise of choice.

For four years, since 2018, I ran at least 1000 miles each year, putting somewhere between 400 and 600 miles on multiple pairs of running shoes (pictured above…we got rid of most of them this weekend, as they were just taking up space in my closet!). I decided I still wanted to keep up running, but would cut it down to 500 miles a year (~42 mi/mo). There are some days when I’ve got 25 minutes to spare and running 3 miles is easier than getting cycling gear out, right?

Of course, this is January in Missouri, so the weather hasn’t exactly been conducive to cycling. We’ve actually had some decent weather here and there (the high tomorrow is supposed to be 57 F!), but usually good enough that I want to go for a jog and not suit up for 10+ miles on my bike. That’ll change as the season improves, I’m sure.

After the flood in June, we ended up rearranging the basement a bit. And since we canceled our YMCA membership due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve missed having access to equipment on rainy/cold days, so we’ve been incrementally upgrading our basement with exercise gear. Brooke’s rowing machine survived the flood, thankfully, but we added a spin bike a few months ago for ~$200 that has been pretty good for me this month. I’ve logged 195 miles on it in January, which is almost 30% of what I biked in total last year. It’s set up so I can have my phone on it, watching Netflix or whatever, or I can just listen to a podcast or something. Brooke usually bounces between the rowing machine and the spin bike most mornings.

A few weeks ago, we picked up an incline bench and some adjustable dumbbells. We picked up a few sets of kettlebells last year, but they max out at 15 lb each, whereas the dumbbells I grabbed (on clearance for way less than that link to Amazon shows….thanks, Walmart!) adjust anywhere fro 5 lb to 25 lb, each, giving us a bit more flexibility on what we can do with them. We even grabbed a few laminated posters to help out with different free weight exercises. Brooke’s thinking she wants to kick up her strength training a bit in 2022: nothing too crazy, but enough to kick that bone density up at a younger age so she isn’t struggling when she’s older.

I suppose aside from 500 mi of running this year, my only main athletic goal is to bike 100 mi on the Katy Trail sometime this Summer. As the weather improves, training for that should get easier, though I’m not all that concerned. The good thing about cycling is that you’re sitting the whole time, so you can just keep on going and you’ll eventually get the distance you’re aiming for (assuming you don’t pop a tire).

All I know is, I’m ready for some consistency in weather…this back-and-forth (which is typical for Missouri, of course) is getting to me…

Old Habits Die Hard

I suppose the never-ending pandemic has led us all to reevaluate our priorities, causing us to jump back into things we used to do, or try other things we always meant to, but “never had the time.”

A few months ago, I started practicing guitar again with a crew of folks playing at a church here in town. They’re only committing to once-a-month, give or take, so we’ve only actually played at their service twice. Still, returning to a regular practice time each week and getting to play some loud music has been fun! After the flood last Summer, I had to replace a few things, namely my electric guitar amp, so this gave me the excuse to upgrade to something more powerful than what I had before.

Strangely enough, I was approached in early December about joining the Marshall Philharmonic Orchestra. The kids started with a new piano teacher last Fall, and her husband directs the Philharmonic, as well as the Marshall Community Band that plays each Wednesday during the Summer. Through a variety of conversations (including with Meg’s orchestra and band directors), they figured out that I used to play percussion instruments in another life, and it turns out folks with that particular skillset aren’t exactly a dime a dozen, so the director of the Philharmonic handed me their practice schedule and said I’d be welcome to join in: they “can always use more percussionists!”

The Philharmonic has 4 shows a season, taking place during the school year, so they already had two performances last semester. The first practice for this next performance was on January 2nd, which featured a lovely ice storm, keeping many of the rather elderly musicians home that day. Still, I joined up with one other percussionist to do what I could.

Bear in mind that I haven’t done this since 2000! Since that time, I’ve played hand drums and drum set, but that involves improvisation almost exclusively. And when I’ve played guitar at various churches in the past 22 years, it’s been using chords on a sheet of paper. So yeah, reading musical notes isn’t something I’ve had to do much recently! It took me a bit to acclimate, remembering to circle tempo and time signature changes, writing notes to put down whatever I’m holding so I can go over and grab a triangle in time to play it for two notes, only to return back to whatever I was doing before.

It’s been fun so far, and I think I’m getting back into things relatively well. We’ve had 3 practices thus far, and I’ve run through my music with a practice pad at home (the same one I had back in high school!) so I’m at least a little prepared when I get there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m most definitely still making mistakes all over the place, but that’s why we practice, right?

One thing that’s taking me a bit to get used to is the difference between “high school band” and “community band.” Back in high school, it was a class one took, so everyone was there almost every day, and everyone had to practice at least a little bit because they were receiving a grade for their troubles. With a community band, it’s all volunteer, so you’re lucky if people open their music at all during the week – and you’re further lucky if all of the musicians are even present at each practice. The director is having to sing out various phrases of music because multiple key instruments aren’t there to carry the tune, for example.

Still, it’s a good opportunity to revisit a part of my life that I miss from time to time. Meg is playing bass in orchestra now, so I don’t have a huge connection to that, but she also started percussion in band this year, so now I can kind of brush up on my own history while hearing about how she’s traveling along the same path I did 30 years ago.

Time flies, right?

Trying Out New Toys

We hosted Oktoberfest again this year after a hiatus in 2020 (for obvious reasons…). We had a good turnout and the weather turned out to be beautiful, albeit on the warm side. A couple of visitors came by to catch up and we had a lovely chat, but as part of our conversation, we found out they had a cider press they hadn’t used in years and Brooke had been in the market (passively…) for one for awhile.

A week later, they were kind enough to deliver it to us. We wanted to compensate them, of course, but they very graciously wanted to give it to us. We left as a “long-term loan,” just in case they find a buyer (besides us) that they want to sell it to.

We waited a few weekends for some solid weather to be outside all day, and thankfully it didn’t take long. Brooke picked up some cheap apples from Peter’s Market (two half-pecks…which I guess….is a peck…right?) and we prepped to use the press, while also setting up the chiminea for some warmth and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

After chatting with a few folks, we thought cutting the apples into quarters would be sufficient, but one run through the mill showed us that wouldn’t be sufficient. We pressed as best as we could, but the structure of the apples was simply too dense at that side. From there, Brooke tried slicing and dicing a bit more and that worked better. At one point, she went inside and brought out the food processor, but that didn’t work all that well, either. It wasn’t a bad idea, per se, but the processor only diced the bottom portion of the container and couldn’t get to the top, so it wasn’t any more efficient than simply chopping up the apples.

Ultimately, she ended up cutting the apples into sixteenths, and that was the most efficient we could get it.

The cider we got we filtered through a collander to catch any remnants of apple (or bugs…) that fell into the liquid. The good thing about cider is that it isn’t supposed to be perfectly “clean” or anything, so it isn’t like we were looking for much clarity. The flavor was surprisingly sweet to me, though I don’t tend to gravitate toward cider, personally. Brooke and Meg thought it was good, though, so I suppose it was a success!

Ultimately, we ended up with just under 3 gallons of cider from that peck of apples, working out to around $20/gallon. Is that “worth it?” I dunno. But we had fun working together and hanging out that afternoon in some beautiful Fall weather, so regardless of the end-product, “the journey” was worth it!

Catching Up

So yeah, haven’t posted since September…..guess we’ve got some stuff to catch up on, eh?

Honestly, there’s been so much going on, I haven’t really known what to put up on the blog. The garden was done and we were all just doing day-to-day stuff at work, school, or around the house. One of many issues with an ongoing pandemic is that there are fewer milestone events worth mentioning for the record, as we find ourselves just figuratively treading water and trying to go from one day to the next. I’ll just recount some things about the last few months, though…

First of all, no infections in our little family of four, thankfully. The kids have only gone to stores like Walmart a few times, but we’ve mostly kept them at home unless there was a reason to take them alone (e.g. birthday presents, going to JCPenney for annual portraits, etc.). Any time we go anywhere, we’re still masked up, though around Marshall, many folks have gotten much more lax about it. Likely, this is why COVID cases have skyrocketed around here in recent weeks/months, though that’s true for Missouri and, frankly, the rest of the country, too.

However, the kids have been in and out of school, which has been a challenge to deal with. Their school district shifted to distance learning twice (now they’re in it for the rest of 2020, but plan to start in-person in early January), and Meg’s class has been quarantined twice this semester, so there were times where Calvin could go to his school, but Meg had to distance learn from home. Somewhat surprisingly, they’ve handled the back-and-forth shockingly well. We’ve left Meg mostly to her own devices in completing her work on Google Classroom and she got an award (and free pizza) for doing so well. Calvin has done well, too, but as a first grader, he just needs more engagement than a screen can provide. Still, both of our kids routinely say that they are in their daily Google Meet sessions with less than half of the rest of their class that is supposed to be there, so while my kids are doing alright, I know that there are countless more in our community and in the country as a whole that aren’t. We’re just lucky that our work schedules allow for a little more supervision and engagement as parents than some other families have.

On my end, the semester ended before Thanksgiving, which is crazy when you think about what a normal college schedule looks like. I ended up dealing with multiple students who were in and out of quarantine, which made it difficult to figure out when exams, lab practicals, and assignments could happen. Our school moved to a new LMS this semester, so I’ve been trying some new things in order to mitigate some of the scheduling issues. Overall, my students didn’t do as well this year as they’ve done in the past, so I’ve been trying to reevaluate the way I did things this past semester and see if I can make some improvements going forward. I guess that’s something I’m constantly reviewing anyway, but since I’m using the new LMS, I’m finding new tools that I didn’t use last semester but will use this time, so that’s at least kinda interesting.

A few months ago, Brooke scaled back her hours at work so she could start looking toward getting some counseling hours in toward her LPC. Working full time just doesn’t allow for the additional 15 hours a week that are required to actually get that certification in, so she’s taking a much needed break right now and will likely start getting those hours in once the new year starts. It’s been helpful having her around with more flexibility, as I could stay late for a meeting while Brooke could get home with the kids to make sure they were on a call at the right time, or get their lunches made, and so forth. The added flexibility has helped alleviate the stress we would otherwise be experiencing right now!

Last, but not least, Charlotte and Sam are getting along much better now. She’s been chasing him around a bit and, for the most part, he isn’t fighting back all that hard. Kinda an older brother being pestered by their significantly younger sibling, I guess. She’s also getting fatter…but not particularly bigger?

In closing, all I can say for sure is….I’m ready for things to get back to normal…..ug…….

Kayaking Adventures

Since our vacation plans were derailed this year (we were supposed to have been in Yellowstone last week……ug…..), we’ve tried coming up with some fun alternatives that will still be memorable for the kids. A few weeks ago, Brooke and I took our inflatable kayak that we got last summer down a stretch of the nearby Lamine River. It’s a little less than 6 miles and took us about 3 hours to do it, but three weeks ago, the river had more water in it and was moving a bit faster.

Brooke looked into getting a youth-size kayak for Meg to use, so Calvin and I could just use our inflatable, and Meg and Brooke could use traditional fiberglass versions. They checked around, thought there were some at Walmart in Sedalia, drove down….didn’t find any at the store….and essentially, it sounds like most places are out of kayaks. It sounds like everyone else is thinking the same thing we are: fewer vacation options, so find stuff to do closer to home, and kayaks are a relatively cheap option for that.

Well, once we figured that out, Brooke tried ordering another one of our inflatable kayaks from Amazon, but those were back-ordered (again, the aforementioned “everyone is buying them all the sudden,” but also “harder to get things shipped in from China). Thankfully, they over-estimated the back-order and a second kayak arrived on Friday. Yesterday’s weather was less pleasant, so we ended up going today.

Overall, the kids did pretty well! We tried to warn them that this was a pretty “lazy river,” so it wasn’t a particularly fast float. The novelty of kayaking wore off pretty quick, so Brooke and I ended up doing most of the paddling, though Meg and Calvin would have their moments where they wanted to actually help out a bit. We brought along some snacks and drinks, so we could slowly release those here and there to keep them occupied.

By the time we were done, it took about 3.5 hrs of paddling, and all things considered, the kids did alright in that period of time sans screens and other entertainment. Brooke and I were both pretty tired by the time we got to the end, so it’ll probably be an early bedtime tonight.

In the end, it was very tiring, but we’re still glad we did it! We may want to hold off on doing a “camp and float” trip, but now that the kids have a better understanding for just how long this can take, maybe they’ll have realistic expectations when we propose: ‘hey, wanna go on a float trip?’

State Park #9: Knob Noster State Park

This post is part of an ongoing series summarizing each State Park in Missouri that our family has attended. We hope to visit each of 54 State Parks before the kids graduate from high school.

Brooke reminded me that we actually went to another State Park last October and I totally forgot to post about it!

Knob Noster State Park is out near Warrensburg, MO, so it’s a relatively short drive for us. We were looking for a quick hiking trip on a nice day where we could see some pretty Fall leaves, so we made the trip for the afternoon.

Honestly, we didn’t do a whole lot and there wasn’t a ton to see, at least not that I remember. There was a trail that we used to hike around a pretty late, so the bulk of our time there was spent hiking. Calvin was able to get around the whole lake, but he wasn’t particularly speedy…

The aforementioned lake seemed nice and would probably be good for fishing and kayaking, but as we didn’t bring any of that equipment along, we couldn’t make use of it. There’s a campground associated with the park, of course, but we didn’t check it out. It seemed like there were quite a few people there on that particular day, including some groups getting pictures taken with the lake in the background.

Really, the most fun we had was crossing a shallow part of the lake that had some neat rocks for the kids to jump across. Pretty sure we spent 15 minutes just walking across them, back and forth, back and forth…

So yeah, there are a lot of trails there and it’s probably worth revisiting sometime, but hiking and fishing seem to be the biggest attraction to that particular state park. It’s close, at least, so maybe we’ll camp there sometime, but I bet we’ll keep on hitting the other state parks instead!

Garden Update: 07.26.19

I did…so much stuff today

I kinda buzzed through my lawn care work last week before heading off to Smoky Mountain NP (more on that next time), so I had some catch-up (ketchup?) work to do today. Thankfully, the weather has been pretty mild, so things could have been work for the amount of stuff I had to do…

Firstly, I finally dug up the carrots. We ended up with a overfilled ice cream bucket full of them, and many of them were a pretty substantial size. Others, however, were ridiculously small for how long they were in the ground. Right now, I’m not sure how “worth it” carrots are for next year: we got quite a few of them, but they were planted months ago and took up space that could have gone to other things. We’ll just have to see how they taste, I suppose…

The green beans are about done, too. Brooke has canned around 20 pints of beans this year, which is similar to our usual haul. We’ve also given away some and eaten them fresh, so as usual, the green beans have done wonders for us.

But yeah, they’re not filling as well as they did a few weeks ago, so we may pick a few more here and there, but we’ll probably let them finish up.

The peppers are still growing very, very slowly, so I’m not optimistic on their chances. We’ll keep working on it, but I don’t think I’ve seen any flowers on them yet. Ah well…

I also weeded some of the second plot. Brooke planted some flowers that needed some TLC, so I worked through them first. The black beans she planted are also looking great, but aren’t flowering yet, either. The cucumbers came on pretty quick and we picked two of those the other day. Calvin’s excited!

After that, I tied up the tomatoes. They’ve started producing finally, but we’ve only had a few ripen for us.

We’ve got some volunteer grape tomatoes growing in another plot that we’ve been going after, though we’re still waiting for them to come on strong. We’ve only had, maybe, 10 or 15 of those tomatoes mature.

Other than the ‘maters, everything else is still doing it’s thing. The pole beans are growing quite a bit, but no beans yet. The blackberries produced a few two weeks ago, but we only got a handful (still more than usual…). The strawberries are probably done for the year, but they’ve been putting their shoots out and they’re continuing to proliferate.

The peaches are the real story of the summer, though. A few weeks ago, they started to turn, so Brooke coated them with kaolin clay and I kept hitting them with neem oil, both of which should be relatively bee-safe. Then, we picked a few and tried them out and they were pretty good! Again, this is the first time we’d actually gotten to try some, because the Japanese beetles consistently get them, so we were pretty happy to actually get some.

While I was gone at Smoky Mountains, Brooke picked a bundle of them! Again, the flavor was pretty good, but she found them to be a little “mealy” and difficult to extract from the pit (“clingstone” peaches?), but overall, pretty good.

Well, over the past few days, the beetles have gained a foothold… I’ll probably continue to apply neem oil for a little longer, but we’re thinking the peaches are probably done for now.

Still, we got our peaches, so I’m satisfied!

That’s it for now. The next update will probably involve a metric ton of tomatoes, if all goes well!

Blizzkrieg 2019

Early last week, they started forecasting snow for this weekend, but depending on which site you looked at or which day you checked, the estimate varied from 2 to 10 inches. Thankfully, most forecasts thought the bad weather would hit on Friday rather than Thursday, making it more likely it would head into the weekend, therefore not disrupting work or school.

It turned out that a Winter Storm Warning went into effect at noon on Friday. With everything heading in, Calvin’s school (and mine…) were called at noon and Meg’s at 1:00. Brooke new the bad weather was coming and “battened down the hatches” at work, so she was ready to come home a little early, too. I went ahead and hit up the Y before picking up Calvin so I wouldn’t feel the need to run on Saturday.

The snow started right around noon on Friday…and kept going…and going…and going… We had maybe 4 inches late-afternoon on Friday before settling in for the night. By morning, we had 8 inches on the ground.

And it kept going from there.

About mid-morning, Meg and Calvin were invited over to a friend’s house to sled and make snowmen. With the depth of the snow, I wasn’t sure how sledding would go, but they packed it down well enough to get a few good runs in. Otherwise, the temperature was in the low-30s, so they still had fun just messing around.

Brooke and I drove out to their house twice, so we got to head around town a bit. Odell was fine, but our street was…bad. Thankfully, the Forester handled it like a champ, though it did struggle in our alley a bit. The slush in the intersections was difficult to get started in if you were moving slowly, and we ran into a few drivers that caused us to come to a complete stop. The second time around, we drove in from the northern end of the alley, and that was the better call. We also ended up helping to push a few cars, getting them moving again.

After coming home, we did lunch and rested a bit before going back out later.

Eventually, we clocked at least 12 inches in the alley, though it continued to snow more as it went along. I don’t know the official tally, but when I looked out the window a bit ago, my driveway was covered….again… I wouldn’t be surprised if we had over 13 inches.

Anyway, the kids went outside again later in the afternoon, so I watched them from the window while playing on the Switch. Much warmer that way… 🙂

The last time Brooke and I saw this much snow, we lived in Iowa. The crazy thing is, we apparently recorded 10.7 inches that day in early February, so this was more by a substantial amount. Granted, the snow drifts up in Iowa were considerably taller than anything we had here, but still.

Hopefully we’ll get more sledding in tomorrow! Who knows if they’ll have school on Monday – probably depends on how many rural roads get cleared tomorrow. Regardless, we had fun today! The kids loved the ridiculous amount of snow!

New Year, New You II

So, this post gets a “II” because, technically, I already used that post title back in January, 2016, and frankly, I’m too lazy to come up with anything more clever…so it’s a sequel.

To be fair, it’s probably worth an update, 3 years later. Back then, we had just picked up the bicycle trainer in hopes that we would use it. We actually did use it a fair amount that year, and a little the winter after. But then I started running quite a bit more and didn’t use it at all last year. These past few seasons, we’ve set it up downstairs, but Brooke only uses it periodically, mostly because it’s cold and boring down there. Brooke found that, earlier in the Fall, she’d stay on the bike longer if she had a magazine available to read while she was doing it, but for the last month with the holidays, it’s been harder and harder to get down there.

Today, we renewed our YMCA membership. Summer 2015 was the last time we used it, back when we thought Meg would do summer camp (note: she hated it). We let it lapse and haven’t looked back, but recently, in an effort to get some more exercise in, we opted to renew it because they run a sign-up deal in January like many other gyms do. Mostly, Brooke’s thinking that she’s more likely to get some exercise in if we set up a routine where the whole family goes: Brooke and I go to work out and the kids get to play in the ball pit play pen area they’ve got set up on the main floor. For my part, though i get plenty of jogging in (more on that in a moment), I’d still like to get more upper-body workouts in, so this gives me an excuse to go a few times a week to lift some weights.

Anyway, Brooke will probably check out some of the organized workouts for adults, and we’re still investigating if the kids are interested in any sessions. We may spring for swimming lessons before this summer, but we haven’t decided quite yet. At the very least, as Calvin is aging out of preschool, he’ll be home this summer and it’ll be a lot easier for me to keep up my jogging if I can drop him off at the Y while I work out or jog on the treadmill.

Speaking of jogging, the picture above is from yesterday when the weather was 63 F. On January 7th. In Missouri.

No, climate change totally isn’t real. Obviously.

I slowed down over the break, but was able to pick it up a bit in the last week. I’m trying to stick to a 20 mi per week average, but in an effort to “catch up,” I pushed it a little more this week.

Anyway, the temperature was awesome and I got to run in the afternoon, which usually goes better for me. I started out with a 7:22/mi average early on, which was a good 20 sec/mi faster than I ran last week, so that already felt great. I kept pushing it as fast as I could, slowing down a little bit toward the end, but still maintaining a 7:26/mi average over 6.2 mi (10k). In the end, I did it in 46:28 min, which is utterly spectacular for me.

Did I say I ran in a T-shirt and shorts? In early January? In Missouri? Seriously.

After I ran, I grilled some brats and hot dogs. Because it was 63 F. In early January. In Missouri.

And they were delicious.

…after I put them on the grill for a few minutes longer because it got dark and it was hard to tell…because…it’s early January