Friday, December 3, 2010

The Sherwood Glen Beavers

This is what the tree looked like two weeks ago. Since then, it has yielded to the gnawing of our giant Sherwood rodents, who have since moved on to another tree. You can visit a slide show of their work over time that is being updated every few days at MySherwoodglen.com.


If you want to find out more about the lives of beavers as they prepare for winter, you can check out the David Attenborough video below.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Looking Back...

It's just over a year since we moved to NH. With Thanksgiving, Hannukkah, and Christmas (we celebrate them all) falling one after the other this year, it's natural to review the year in one's mind.

On Thanksgiving I realized that it in past years, it was a day to give thanks for for family, friends, and good fortune. However, this year was a bit different. As I reflected, I realized that it was really just another day, because since being in NH, I am aware on a daily basis of the things for which I am thankful.

Last night, I just riffled through some of the digital photos I took this year. I put them together in a little presentation. It just scratches the surface of the new friends and fond new memories that have been built.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Night at the Nutcracker

The three car caravan headed west to Manchester to spend an afternoon of culture at the Nutcracker and a friendly dinner at Johnson's.

I'll leave it to someone who has been to more than a few ballets under their belt to critique the show. Personally, I enjoyed it and would do it again, but let's not rush it.

After the show, the 12 of us headed to Johnson's for good food and fun conversation. Here's a ten second peek and reminder of the day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Live Free or Die!

We just got in from a 6 hour trek from South Jersey and Raymond. After we unpacked and unwound a bit, I checked my email and Facebook where I found the video below.

I wish I had it when we were in NJ. Everyone we met would ask us how we liked it. After saying we love it, the conversation usually flowed to the reasons. Of course, out grandson toped the list, but right up there near the top are the people, the pace, and the general life style. This would be great to show!

The video is of Blue Color comedian, Juston McKenny. He was born in Portsmouth, NH and moved across the river to Maine when he was in 5th grade. That fact is portrayed hilariously in this routine. If you live in the area, a thinking of living in the area, or have ever heard of New Hampshire, you should watch and laugh!

Friday, November 12, 2010

My First Sticker Shock in NH

Since moving up here from NJ, we've been tickled that pretty much everything is cheaper here than in NJ. Before we moved, people warned us that NH had high property taxes, but as it turned out, they were just about what we were paying in NJ, but NO ONE warned us about automobile registration.

We bought a new car in April and were shocked when we had to pay $150 even after an $80 discount for transferring registration from our other car, but that's only 1/3 of the story.

Two days ago, I got pulled over by the Raymond police. They said I had an expired registration. How could that be? I just bought the car in April? I found out that registration is due at the end of the month of your birthday, which as August and there is notification or online registration. You have to remember and do it in person.

The office was very polite, friendly, and understanding. He told me that they take non-registration seriously and that he is supposed to give me a $103 ticket and tow the car immediately, but he didn't. He told me not to drive and to get it registered in the morning.

I just got back from registration and I'm still in shock! That $150 after the $80 discount only covered the period from April to August. The bill for a 1-year registration was $567!!! The same registration in NJ is only $84.

If you are from NH and have been paying that kind of fee regularly, the fee probably seemed normal, but now that you know the NH registration is seven times more than NJ, you might think differently.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Amazing Things in Framingham

One of the best kept musical secrets in Massachusetts is hiding in Framingham. It's the Amazing Things Arts Center. Mike Moran and his staff of volunteers manage to attract some great talent. Thanks to their efforts and contributions from local businesses, they bring high class talent at bargain prices.

On September 10, they organized a concert for the opening of the Bowditch Field Athletic and Cultural Complex, with Arlo Guthrie as the headliner.

I've seen Arlo about four or five times over the years. I feel a deep connection to him and his music for a number of reasons including being a fan of Woodie Guthrie, having my own Alice's Restaurant story, and having survived the 60's. His music is as fresh today as it was back then and every time I hear him, his stories are new.

This was the first stop on his new "Journey On" tour. There was a great mix of old standards, some tributes to great musicians like Lead Belly, and a new song that gave the tour its name.

One of the most amazing things was that the tickets were only $10, which is a tribute to the fund raising efforts of Mike Moran and his staff. We got there at 12:00 thinking that Arlo was going to be on at 2:00, but I didn't do my research very well. When we arrived there were about a half dozen other people parked on the grass in front of the stage.

One look at the program and we knew we were in for a long wait, but the time went by quickly as we enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere, some good food, and local talent including the Amazing Hooligans, Marian High School 'Mainstagers', Framingham High School Musical Review, Rust Never Sleeps - a Neil Young Tribute Band, Eguie Castrillo and his 18 piece Latin band, and HELP! with Mark Poulan and Roy Orbison.

I took a lot of stills and captured a few sounds on the video below. No artists were harmed in the making of this video, because all sounds are presented under Fair Use Guidelines, without violating any copyrights.

You may have missed this great concert, but keep visit the the Amazing Things Arts Center and check out the lineup for the rest of the year!

Friday, October 22, 2010

French Door Saga

It all started when I wrote about my problem with an estimate from Home Depot, which prompted me to call on Lowe's for an estimate.

Today, the Lowe's installer, Ken Bishop of Bishop Contracting in Bedford, and his helper Brian installed the door. They arrived at 10:00 AM, worked right through lunch and finished at 2:00.

The Home Depot installer was going to charge $100 to get the door into the house. Ken took the doors off the frame, brought them in and then Brian handed the frame up to him from the outside of deck. A piece of cake!

Home Depot said they couldn't reuse the molding, they would have to replace it and we would have to paint it. Ken was going to reuse our molding. I assumed that I would have repaint it. I was hoping against hope that it would be able to get away with just be touch up nail holes and fills. They did such meticulous work that you would never know the door wasn't there from the day we moved in. It need NO paint at all.

On one final note, the installation couldn't be done until the J-channel we ordered came in. Lowe's installation department called me every few days to update me on the status of the process, and two hours after the installation they called again to make sure everything was ok.

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate Lowe's a 10 and Ken Bishop an 11. Jill and I couldn't be happier with the door and the work.

For our Sherwood Glen members, you can find Ken's full contact information on the vendor list in the Members section. For those of you who are not members, you can reach Ken at kbishopcontracting@comcast.net .

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Now It's Lowes' Turn

Last week, I wrote about how Home Depot lost our business. The contractor doubled the installation estimate by padding with inflated and unnecessary up charges. I also wrote about how Lowe's explained that almost all of the up charges Home Depot added were included in their base installation price.

We visited Lowe's on Saturday evening and were contacted by their installer on Tuesday. He came out to measure and reiterated all that the in-store salesman had said and explained a few other details based on what he saw when he measured. He explained that there would be a minor amount of extra work that would involve a small charge.

I have to note, that he wasn't the least bit concerned about the "difficult access" for which Home Depot was going to tack on $100.

Two days later, Don from Lowe's called us with the estimate and to make the final arrangements before signing the contracts. The only hold up was the J-channel which was from a manufacturer that wasn't on their vendor list. I tried to get some from our condo manager, but the unit they were framing out wouldn't have siding delivered for at least 3 weeks. So, we went to Lowe's and matched it with a vendor they dealt with. The grand total was just over $15, which was considerably better than Home Depot's $65.

So let's compare the bottom lines. At Home Depot, we were getting a door that was NOT Energy Star rated and at Lowe's we were getting an Energy Star rated door, for which we could take a tax deduction of roughly $100. Home Depot's bottom line for the door and installation was $1437 and Lowe's was $1050.

Considering we are getting a better door AND a tax deduction, that's a huge difference. Weigh in the fact that Lowe's offered us better customer service in terms of being professional, friendly, and explaining everything in detail, it is not likely we will go the Home Depot route for any work. It's not that Home Depot's service was poor. It just a case that Lowe's went the extra mile.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Ray Free Senior Center

Last winter, shortly after moving to Raymond, NH, Jill and I had breakfast at the Long Branch Restaurant. Across the street was the Ray Free Senior Center. We decided to stop in and see what was happening. What we found was a VERY active group of "youngsters" from their 50's on up to through their 90's.

They club sponsored trips, held Tai Chi lessons, and line dancing lessons. There was a walking group, exercise group, cribbage, bingo, knitting, crocheting, quilting and more! As we talked, we mentioned that we had just come from the Long Branch, and John, the club president said, "Oh, if you are a member here, you get a 10% discount."

When we asked what the cost of membership was, he told us it was $10. I said, "Considering Jill and I want to join the walking group, I want to take Tai Chi, and we'll probably save $10 a month just on breakfasts, sign us up."

Imagine our surprise when we found out that it as $10 a YEAR! You just don't get bargains like that any more.

When we stopped in today for our walking group, there was a group of women busily crocheting red, white, and blue stockings. When I asked what they were for, I was told they are for the troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. The stockings would be stuffed with toiletries and other essentials and send over seas to the troops.

I'll let Yvonne, the project organizer tell you about it in the short video. After watching it, why not come on down to 64 Main Street, sign up, and take advantage of activities and the friendly folks. If it doesn't make you feel 10 years younger, it will at least get you 10% off your breakfast!

video

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Home Depot - French Door FAIL

Jill wants to replace the sliding door that goes out to our deck with French doors. We started by checking out Lowes in Epping. Maybe it was a bad time, but we didn't get a very knowledgeable sales person. It didn't look as if they had the door we wanted, which was surprising, because we just wanted a basic 15 light door. Additionally, we didn't get a lot of details about the installation.

We decided to head to the Home Depot in Hooksett. We got someone who was a bit more knowledgeable, but not what I would call an expert. They had a door on the floor that we wanted, but she said it was not being carried anymore. She did a search of stores in the area and found that the Manchester store had one.

Off we went to Manchester where we spoke to Dave, the manager of the millworks department. He said the door wasn't discontinued and that it was a stock item. It was a 15 light door for $399. It wasn't Energy Star rated, but we said that was ok. The one they had there was damaged and they would have to order one. No problem. All we had to do was schedule a measurement.

The basic installation as advertised was $469, but Dave explained that if there were any problems or special situations, it would be extra. The installer would let us know if when they made the measurements. With a 1 year old condo, how many surprises could there be?

We heard from the installer in about a day or two and set up the measurement. When he came out, there was really only one concern. There was no way the door would fit through the front door and it would either have to be disassembled or lifted up and over the railing of the deck. The deck was 8 feet off the ground with another three feet of railing. He also mentioned the they would have to replace the trim around the inside of the door and we would have to paint it. That was the only things he mentioned that was a "surprise". How much extra could that be?

He said we should hear from Home Depot in a day or two after he submitted the paperwork. I let 6 days go by before I called Home Depot to find out what the story was. I had to leave my information and waited for a call back, which came later that afternoon. The person I spoke to told me that the bill for the job would be $905.22, which was about what I expected. In my mind I figured $399 for the door $469 for the install and the rest for the trim material and getting the door on the deck.

Everything seem in line until I got a call from Home Depot later that afternoon asking us to come in and select the door we wanted. Huh??? I told them we already did that and had paid for everything earlier in the day. They went back, checked, and said that there was a note about which door we wanted, but the no paperwork had been completed on it.

Guess what? The $905.22 wasn't for the whole job. It was JUST the installation! Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. I told them it was unacceptable and that we would be in the next day to talk to them about it.

Before going in to Home Depot, we decided to go to breakfast at iHOP in Bedford and noticed that there was a Lowes right next to it. We decided to stop in there and talk to them. There we talked to Don and told him what we wanted. Don knew his stuff! Their door WAS Energy Star compliant and was $50 cheaper than Home Depot's non-compliant one and the installation was $499.

We talked to him about the installation, the trim and the extra work to get the door on to the deck. I had taken pictures to bring to Home Depot so they could explain what installing the door in a brand new condo would be so much over the base price. I showed then to Don and this is where Home Depot lost the sale even before we went to talk to them about why the installation price doubled. (We'll get to that later.)

Let's start with the trim. Don said their installer would use the existing trim. He went on to described in detail how it would be accomplished, which is exactly how I had seen it done when we has windows installed in my last house. Of course we would have to fill nail holes and repaint as we did then, but that was perfectly acceptable.

Next we talked about getting the door to the deck. He said there would be NO extra charge for that. The installer was totally responsible for that and couldn't add a penny extra for it. If they felt they couldn't do it, they could request that Home Depot deliver it, but the installer would have to eat the charge. The only extra charge would be if there was some extra material they might need what he didn't see in the diagram.

Now it was off to Home Depot to get a refund. I wanted to be upfront with them about why they were losing the sale. So we went back to Dave, told him the story and asked for a refund. No problem. With no hesitation he pulled up the order and began deleting each item, but for some reason the last $132 wouldn't come off.

We had to go to the front desk where John to tried to remove it. However, Dave had done the refund wrong and John, a 13 year veteran, tried unsuccessfully for close to a half hour to figure out how to get us our refund. He even contacted a manager in Nashua store. He was extremely pleasant and apologetic. As one who works with computers, I realized that the problem was the programming, not the operator. John printed out full documentation of what was done and had to be done, with the promise that it would be resolved at 1:00 when his expediter came in. He was true to his word. Cudo's to John!

Now let's get to the things I mentioned above. The Home Depot installer had obviously taken every opportunity to pad the $469 basic install including $100 to get the door to the deck, $135 to custom fit exterior trim to existing siding, and $62.50 to replace the kick plate.

It's hard to imagine how they can justify $100 to get the door up to the deck. Consider this. If Lowes delivered it, they would charge $65. For that $65 they would send a truck that has a detachable fork lift that would simply lift the door up to the deck. Keep in mind that since a Lowes contractor is installing it there is no charge to me and if they had a problem, they would have to pay Lowes the $65 to deliver it.

On to $135 to custom fit exterior trim to existing siding. The English translation of that is "replace trim around door." In case you don't know what that is, here's a picture. Since it wasn't standard white, it would have to be a "special order." The only problem is that there is no way it would cost that much and EVERY install would have to have trim replaced. I would expect that labor to be in the $469 base price.

There was absolutely NO mention of this charge by the installer. Had he pointed out the problem of the special color, I could have told him to look around. We are a condo and units are still being built. It would be no problem at all for me to get some j-channel from our builder and supply it. I bet they wouldn't charge me a penny for it.

Finally, we get to the $62.50 to replace the kick plate. What door installation wouldn't require a kick plate??? It should be part of the $469. Even if it wasn't, the kick plate is nothing more than a 1" x 6" x 6' board secured by 12 nails. How much does that cost? Considering that JUST the deck floor is composed of 22 - 2" x 6" x 12' planks, if he were to charge the same rate, it would cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $10,000 just for the floor, never mind the beams, joists, and railing. But, of course there would be a probably be discount for the full job. LOL

All in all, that was one HUGE fail for Home Depot installation. It's sad to think that there are probably plenty of people who pay for all these "extras".

A final caveat… Lowes has yet to come out to measure and give me an official quote. Let's see what happens then. Pro or con, there will definitely be another entry after that process.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peace Day at Raymond Commons

September 25th is International Peace Day, but today Molly Schlangen, a yoga instructor from Epping organized modest commemoration on the Commons in Raymond I wasn’t able to get there for the earlier part of the day, but I did luckily arrive about a half hour early.

Mike O’Donnell was getting his guitar and harmonica ready to entertain us with a variety of songs, many of which had me singing along as I remembered days at the Philadelphia Folk Festival back in the 70’s. We'd soaked up music all day and then headed back to the tents for our 70’s version are karaoke with six strings and three chords.

We sang along with him on the Universal Soldier, Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream, The City of New Orleans and others, but Mike also offered some of his original works which carry similar themes in today’s world.

Mike writes about the working man, society, and the human condition. I didn’t have time to talk to his about his music, but to me it sounds as if he is writing from life experiences and the world he sees around him. His Homeland Security Blues pokes fun at the paranoia generated by the war on terror and Thin on Top, the song featured in the video below, talks about growing old, something with which this aging hippy can all to easily identify.

Mike is a transplant from Oregon and has been in NH for about 7 years. He plays at the Loaf and Ladle in Exeter on Sunday mornings, the Lazy Lion in Deerfield on Thursday night, and at the Yankee Market in Raymond on Friday nights.

His voice isn’t going to win him a million dollars on America’s Got Talent, but his voice is honest and he sings from the heart. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him on the commons and I’m going to make it a point to check him out one of these nights.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ice Cream and Donuts

Jill and I both love soft serve ice cream. For the first few trips, the closest place we could find was the Brick House in Hooksett, but then Jill read about Applehurst Farms. They are a former dairy farm in Epping on Old Red Oak Rd.

Aside from vegetables, meats, and a "junk" shop, they have 9 different flavors of Edy's soft serve ice cream. Everything is on the honor system. You serve yourself and put the money in a fire hydrant.

On Saturday during the summer and Saturday and Sunday during the Winter and Spring, they make fresh donuts that are fabulous. They come in plain, apple, or either one with cinnamon sugar. YUM!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The Pittsfield Balloon Festival

The first thing you see when you arrive at the Pittsfield Ballon Festival is a lot of helicopter activity from the three or four copters that were giving fair goers a spin around the lake at tree top level. It was an impressive beginning and I was glad that we arrived early enough to explore the grounds before the launch time.

There were dozens of food vendors, enough to overjoy an over-sized carnivore with a sweet tooth. I had a cheese steak and a Coke. Jill had chicken fingers, fries, a Coke and later, some cotton candy. All of that amounted to a $20 bill. The price wasn't a bad, especially considering the size of the portions. They were tastier and much more substantial than I would have expected. I would have happily paid that amount at a local eatery.



After eating, we headed to the launch field and set up our folding chairs. We had at least a half hour to kill. While Jill sat with our stuff and watched the activity (or lack of) on the launch field, I strolled over to the bandstand, where RockUs, a local band was bringing back memories with a set of oldies. I hung out for a few songs and headed back to Jill.

It was now past launch time and it looked like it might be a repeat of the Hillsborough non-launch. At 5 AM they successfully launched 20 balloons. However we were attending the 5 PM launch, and things weren't going as smoothly. The wind was in the wrong direction. For some reason, the pilots didn't like the prospect of landing in the mountains.



One balloon, the Irish Rover, did launch. I assume the pilot was either D.B. Cooper or on a more sensible on a short flight in mind, that would land long before they were counting pine needles.

After that, the ReMax balloon flamed up and faux-flew, tethered hovering above the fairgrounds. It was still 20 minutes before the launch window would close and they would cancel. Knowing that the chances of a launch were slim to none, we decided to head back to the car and beat the traffic.

The festival was about 25 mile from home, but the top down ride on Route 107, was so relaxing that it was as much of a pleasure as the rest of the day. We didn't get to see a full launch, but we had a great time and will have the 2011 festival on our calendars.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Hillsborough Balloon Festival

We rolled into the village of Hillsborough at about 5:00 and the balloons were scheduled to launch at 6:00. Jill was hungry. So rather than settle for typically over priced festival food, we pulled into the Hillsborough Diner, which sat directly in front of the festival field.

I ordered a 6 oz. burger and Jill had a roast beef, both of which came with chips and didn't look very impressive. Jill's bread was stale, but my burger was a complete surprise. I like my burgers rare, but ever since the mad cow disease scare, finding a place that will give you anything less than medium is next to impossible. I ordered medium rare, hoping to find at least a tiny bit if pink. When it arrived, it was definitely at least a 1/2 pound and not only was there pink, it was rare and tasty. Live free or die! A real winner!

We walked outside and the owner of the diner was charging cars $5 each to park for the festival, but because we ate at the diner, we parked for free. Things were working out pretty well.

It was almost 6:00 as we walked to the festival grounds. When we got there, it was obvious that the launch was going to be delayed. None of the balloon were prepped and this one was the only on that had any action at all. So we strolled around the grounds visiting the carnival and concessions.

At 6:30 we headed back to the field to see if thing were further along, but they weren't. The word was that the winds were between 10-12 mph, which might be great for kite flying, but hot air balloons was 4-6 max.

At about 7:15 we saw the first balloon go up, but it wasn't anything to write home about. It was just this tethered helium balloon to test the wind strength and direction. At 7:30 they announced that the launch was being canceled, but at dusk they would do a moonlight tethered light up of the balloons.

Two more hours in the grass would have wreaked havoc with our backs, so we decided to call it a day. We were disappointed, but the drive was beautiful and for me, the hamburger was worth the trip.

We'll probably give it a try again next year, but I know now that the real launch time, even if the weather is perfect, will probably be around 7:00. I already know where I'm parking and I'm going to have for dinner.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Woodchucks of Sherwood Glen

Yesterday I walked out my back door and less than 30 years away was a family of woodchucks who live in the pond in back of our condo. They were grazing on the clover and getting ready of the evening's activities.


I also got show shots of a chipmunk, some birds, and a big white cat. Between the beavers and the cat, I could have come up with a title for this blog that would have attracted every pervert who was capable of typing a search term. While that might do wonders for my hit count, one can never predict what will happen tomorrow from something posted today.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tall Ships - Portsmouth, NH 2010

Today Jill and I headed out early to beat the crowds to see the tall ships that came into the commercial fishing pier at Portsmouth yesterday. The tours started at 10 and we arrived around 9:45. There was plenty of parking at that hour, but it was to fill up quickly!

The H.M.S. Bounty, which was made for Mutiny on the Bounty, was the main attraction, but I was more impressed with the Lynx, the "American Privateer". It's 2001 replica of a the 1812 square top sail schooner that operated under "letters of marque" preying on the enemy during the war of 1812.

I took a few shots and headed over to Animoto to create this slide show.