Last Minute

Snow is falling.  Roads are slippery.  I popped into work for some last minute end-of-the-year details.  Friends are on the way.  I am headed back in a few minutes.

Happy New Year.  Hard to believe it is the last day of the year.

Here’s to a good one in 2009.



I have been pretty much way into crossword puzzles the past few months.  Late this summer I purchased a book of 300 crossword puzzles and scribbled away every day.  I just completed them all, and that includes going back to the few I skipped and completing those.  I have a few more shorter books of them but I just got introduced to KENKEN.

This was a holiday gift from my wife, who was aware of my puzzle fanaticism and who thought I might enjoy the new challenge.  I have.  I have been somewhat into Sudoku, a craze that most people are aware of by now.  KENKEN is similar to Sudoku (a 9×9 grid with some of the boxes filled with numbers, the goal being to fill in all the boxes without repeating a number in any horizontal row, vertical row or smaller 3×3 grid).    The difference here is that some math is involved.

The book I have starts with easy puzzles.  The grids are 3×3.  I blasted through them but they gave me a sense of how to solve the puzzles.  The book ends with 5×5 puzzles.  These are still relatively easy and I am afraid I will have to advance to more difficult ones.  Here is a fairly easy example (from

Easier KENKEN Puzzle

Easier KENKEN Puzzle

And here is a more difficult example (from Wikipedia):

A Tougher One

A Tougher One

As you can see, the first one has simple addition and subtraction, while the second one also contains multiplication and division.  I am ready to leap fully into those.

So far I have done well but I am still working on the easier puzzles.  I will need to go out and get a more advanced book.  I am hooked.  Sudoku is fine.  I have had some fun with that.  But I never got jazzed on it the way I am with these.  I will not give up on crossword puzzles.  I still have lots of those in the house to work on.  I will, however, be busy with KENKEN for a while.

Second Christmas

We just came back from a trip down south, to Connecticut.  I grew up there and my parents and some siblings and other relatives live there, so we visited for our second Christmas.  Every year my parents host Christmas the weekend after the “real” Christmas.  This has several benefits:

1. Those of us with various family wings can worry less about the conflict of who to see.  In our house we have decided that Christmas Day we do not travel.  We stay at home, share gifts, have a fine dinner and play.  We do not, however, have to worry about a long drive, so Christmas Eve we can see my in-laws.

2. Those of us who work where there are no true holidays (my mother and brother work for a nursing home) can offer to work so someone else can take the day off.  This feels pretty good and is a great gift.

3. We can do things for others.  My sister, for example, volunteered at a homeless shelter on Christmas.

4. If we have procrastinated, and we have enough of a buffer, we can get some steals on post-holiday sales.

I admit that I have not taken advantage of this last one, but still, it could happen.

We had a good long day for our second Christmas.  It felt like a major bonus for our children who got more gifts from Santa and all their various relatives on my side of the family.  We ate together and laughed and had a generally grand time.  Three of my four siblings were there (the other lives on the west coast) so it was a full house.

But wait, there’s more.  On Sunday we made another full day of it.  We took the children to the museums in Springfield, Massachusetts, just over the state line.  Somehow we managed to hit it right and got to wander the science museum just before a puppet show began.  It was put on by a traveling performance group and was targeted at children.  It was a hit.  We had time to check out the Dr. Seuss sculptures (he was born and lived in Springfield) one more time before heading home.

We had some time before heading out to Friendly’s for dinner.  This was a treat for the children, really.  They got to eat french fries AND ice cream sundaes.  What could be better?  It was actually the same establishment where I had my first paycheck job (I had paper routes before that), flipping burgers and manning the frialator.  Ah, the times I remembered.

Then, the finale to the day, we went to the Connecticut Trolley Museum for their winter fest event.  The place was decked out in holiday lights, including lights across all the power poles on the trolley lines.  Four trolleys ran the out and back route, under the lights.  It looked like a tunnel of color in the darkness.  When they switched the power pole on top of the trolley to go from one direction to the other, we were all in the dark.  No one working said anything about this, at least not right away, so everyone was quiet.  It was peaceful, fitting for the season.

My son was a huge fan of the exhibit hall, where two trolleys are indoors and a dozen or so electric train and trolley sets zoom in their loops.  There were trains of all sizes and they were dressed in holiday garb.  One train looped through Santa’s village with elves and snow and workshops and all.  Sure, I was pretty into it as well.  And it was festive.  A woman with a guitar sang carols, lights decked the hall, and several Christmas trees glowed in the corners.  There were kids all about and everyone seemed to be having a blast.

Back home today, after a long drive, we have to settle into post-Christmas.  We have some things to put away, some things to assemble, and some things to recycle.  We have a task list for the rest of our holiday break, and some good friends on the way in a couple of days.  Lots to do, lots to enjoy, lots to think about.  Both Christmases were as good as they get.  And two is enough.


Finger Painting

Finger Painting

It was a chilly one this morning. Frost covered everything. Snug in our house, we realized it was so cold when we looked at the thermometer right before I went out to haul in some firewood. The thermometer had a low number: 3

It was beautiful when the sun rose. Frost covered everything and the low red sun turned the thick ice pink. Milton’s rosy fingers of dawn tickled the landscape.

Frosty Twigs

Frosty Twigs

More Frosty Twigs

More Frosty Twigs

Santa in the House

Evidence of the Fat Man's Presence

Evidence of the Fat Man's Presence

We had a classic Christmas here at our house. Our children were pumped up on treats and gifts. As it should be. Santa came in the night and did his thing. We all benefited from his visit.

The parents were awake (5:30) before the youngsters (6:00 for one, 7:00 for the other) and we got started early. Snow showers fell during the critical morning hours to lend to the air of Christmas, but it was warm enough for some icy outdoor play after lunch. In the afternoon, both my wife and I even managed to fit in a run on this not quite frozen day.

The kids opened gifts all morning. We tried to keep it going slowly. We did not stick to the one-at-a-time everyone-goes-in-turn method employed when I grew up. We will do that in time, but it just feels wrong to keep small children from enjoying the thrill of unwrapping.

By request, we had pizza for lunch. We had out usual dinner of mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, peas and roasted maple butternut squash. That went down just fine. I realized that I did not have any candy until I had a half dozen M&M’s as I was making dinner. I did, however, have a vanilla Coke.

My daughter was so tuckered from going to bed late, rising early, and playing hard all day, that she was asleep by about 5:30. Her brother followed about an hour later. They couldn’t have had a better time. They don’t usually squabble, but had nary a disagreement all day.

Maybe we need to do this every day.

Snow Piled Up

Snow on the Roof

Snow on the Roof

We got lots of snow over the past few days.  Today the sun shines.  I have been noticing how the snow has gathered on roofs.  On many of them, it sits in even layers.  On some it lies deep on one side and shallow on the other, the wind having brushed it off on the east side.  Some sport wavy combinations of both.

I keep watching the forecast.  It looks like rain tomorrow.  After all this snow, that is hard to take.  It is a bother on any winter day, but to get rain on top of all this amazing snow on Christmas Eve, well, that is a straight up bummer.  If we get rain, we will still have a fine holiday.  And if we don’t I will consider it a gift.

Until then, I’ve got some admirin’ to do.

Deep on the Eave

Deep on the Eave