Friday, March 29, 2013

Technical Difficulties

Back in the day, when the TV went on the blink, an announcer would say in a somber tone, "We are experiencing technical difficulties. Please do not adjust your set." I remember, even as a child, how frustrating that was. It always seemed to happen right in the middle of my favorite show, right at the most exciting part. Back then, there was no pausing or rewinding live TV. Once you missed a few minutes, or sometimes several minutes, there was no getting them back. If you were lucky, you might catch the rerun months later in the summer. Otherwise, what you missed was gone forever.

Recently I've been experiencing technical difficulties of a different kind. Nowadays, most people under the age of, say 80 or so, find living without a computer most inconvenient. When my ten-year-old Dell began to bite the dust a little over a month ago, I sensed it was time to take the plunge and put out the money for a new setup. Luckily I was able to save all my files and photographs onto an external hard drive before the old Dell finally died. (At least I hope they are saved; I haven't had time to load them on the new computer yet.) I knew I used my computer a lot, but I didn't realize how much I depended on it until I was afraid to use it for fear of killing it and losing everything. And it couldn't have come at a busier time: we were knee-deep in syrup, puppies, elder care, and Guest House opening.

Once I decided to get a new computer, I took a day to go shopping. I came home with a snazzy little laptop (which I love) and a desktop with more power and storage space. The actual computer tower for the desktop was out of stock and had to be ordered. So I actually came home with the laptop and a monitor. The laptop worked like a charm right out of the box, even with the handicap of having to orient myself to Windows 8. It connected to the Internet through my wireless router with ease and kept me up to speed with email and other Internet tasks. When I picked up the back-ordered computer tower about ten days later, it sat in the box for another two weeks before I had time to tackle taking down my old computer (I won't even try to describe the maze of wires and cords that went with that job!), cleaning the built-in desk corner, and setting up the new computer. I finally started that whole process about ten days ago.

Needless to say, things have not gone very smoothly since. Once I connected the desktop to the Internet, the laptop stopped connecting to the Internet. It appeared only one computer at a time could have access, which should not have been the case. In addition, the desktop did not "go to sleep" and "wake up" properly, nor did it restart correctly. Once, when I shut it down completely and hoped in the magic of midnight for resetting things, it wouldn't even come back on! The power button did nothing. I finally solved that issue by disconnecting the power cord from the back of the computer, waiting a minute or two, and then reconnecting it. With frustration mounting, I packed the whole desktop computer up and took it back to the store yesterday, where of course it worked slick as a whistle when the technician turned it on. I left with a new router, a set of speakers (that was another thing: there was no sound; apparently computers don't come with internal speakers anymore), and a tentative hope that all would be well.

After twisting around like a pretzel numerous times hooking up another maze of wires and cords under the desk, I got the new desktop all set up again last night. It was a relief to find that the sound worked, but quite disappointing to find that instead of intermittent Internet access, I now had none at all, even with a new router. At 10:00 I quit trying and went to bed. Today, I spent the better part of three hours, in two different sessions, on the phone with a technician from my Internet service provider working at getting Internet access. When we finally succeeded, I think she (the technician) was as excited as I was.

Since that milestone was passed, about 1:00 p.m. today, the desktop has worked beautifully, and the laptop, too. What a relief! Now I can start installing the software I use, copying all my files from the external hard drive, and begin catching up with all that has been waiting for this new computer to work properly. In the movie Evan Almighty, the modern-day main character (Evan) hears from God that he is to build an ark. When he reluctantly obeys and things get really crazy, God (played by Morgan Freeman) tells Evan's frustrated wife that He doesn't give people patience when they ask for it. Instead, He gives them opportunities to be patient. That's what this whole computer saga has been for me: several huge opportunities to be patient. I hope I passed the test!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Open At Last

Sometimes, when you're in the depths of a project, it seems for a long, long time that you will never reach the end, that the vision in your head will never come to fruition. You work and work and yet you're not done. But then...the day comes when you are. Done. Finished. And the vision is no longer just a vision, but reality.

The Guest House has been one such project for me. I've been working intensely on it for almost two years. Mostly I've been painting: walls, ceilings, doors, window trim, door trim, cabinet hardware. I've also stained and finished the pantry floor, cleaned windows, waxed and buffed the dining room floor, plus lots of just plain cleaning. Then there was the fun part: unpacking dishes and doodads that I scrubbed and wrapped up six or seven years ago, shopping for linens, rugs, and curtains, cleaning and waxing the lovely old furniture from the Vance family, and getting a place for everything and then getting everything in its place.

All along I had this vision in my head of what the rooms would look like when finished and ready for guests. There were many weeks when my progress was barely visible. But I'm learning that if you don't give up and keep plugging away, eventually the vision becomes reality.

At last, I can take you on a tour of Vance's Country Guest House!

Come on in! For now, the kitchen door is the one we're using the most.

When you open the door, this is what you see.

That beautiful floor was hidden under old tile and the walls were a dingy shade of grey. Quite a transformation!

The kitchen window is twice as big as the original one, letting in lots of lovely light. Through that door beside the the pantry.

And when you come in the kitchen door and turn left, you are in the dining room. Until we can get another room remodeled, this is the bedroom/living room.

All my indecision about the paint color was worth the trouble. The earthy yellow looks just like what I've been seeing in my head.

The pie safe contains books, magazines, puzzles, and games. The propane gas stove is doing a great job keeping things warm and cozy. That white cabinet with the pass-through to the kitchen turned out to be quite a challenge, and if you look in the right places there are still some spots that need more attention. However, I'm not telling you where they are!!

When you walk through the door that's standing open, on the left, you are in the laundry room.

This door opens onto the same back porch as the kitchen door. Opposite the door is a big sink that we moved from the original bathroom. I still have to make a sink skirt for it, though, so it looks a bit bare. There's also room for a washer and dryer, someday. Straight through the laundry room is the bathroom.

It turned out to be a nice place to wash away the cares of the day, don't you think?

There you have it. Four rooms, five counting the pantry, that are ready to offer rest and relaxation to folks who need it for one reason or another. I got the house all cleaned and set up not a moment too soon, as we had guests the past two weekends for the Maple Festival. Both couples were so nice, and were quite happy with their accommodations. It was a sweet feeling knowing that folks were once again cooking, eating, bathing, and sleeping in this grand old house.

See that door behind the love seat? It opens into the front hall, which leads to the rest of the house. For now, it is locked. But the vision in my head doesn't keep it locked. Someday it will stand open, inviting guests to fill the house with laughter, relaxation, and peaceful sleep, making it a home once again. 

Visit the Guest House website at

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Growing Up Fast

Leah's puppies aren't cute little puppies anymore. They're cute little dogs!! Nine weeks old and growing like crazy, they are so much fun to watch. They run and jump and wiggle, just because it's fun! Chewing ranks right up there, too. Their sharp little teeth attack anything within reach, including twigs, pine cones, actual dog toys, the edges of their dog box, my fingers, shoelaces, pant legs, and such. They are learning to come when we call "Puppies! Come on puppies!" and watching all six of them run toward me with ears flopping is quite a sight.

Robin and I took the litter to the vet for their second round of vaccinations and wormer a few days ago. It was quite a noisy ride over the mountains and back, 45 minutes one way. Everyone got a good report, and their weights ranged from 13.3 to 14.8 pounds. No wonder I can hardly pick up two at a time any more! Their personalities are developing along with their squirmy bodies, and each of them is stealing our hearts in a different way.

Moving the puppies to the outdoor dog pen in the middle of winter was a very hard thing to do. I really had no choice, however, since they had learned how to escape from the puppy palace in the basement. Besides that, they were really noisy sometimes and the basement was getting a little stinky. The pups made the transition just fine, despite my concerns. Their outside box is insulated on all sides and their little bodies produce more than enough heat to keep them warm when they're all inside. When they're outside, running and playing do the job. I think they like being outside, too. The fresh air does them good. On cold nights, especially when the wind blows, I still worry about them a little, though.

Here are some of the most recent photos. The first ones were taken last week when we got 14 inches of wet snow. At first the pups were puzzled by the white stuff, but it didn't take long for them to jump in, literally!

 These last photos were taken day before yesterday while the puppies enjoyed the sunshine. They do have fun playing tug-o-war!

The puppies are fully weaned and ready to go to new homes now. Two have been chosen by their forever families. Four more to go. *sigh*

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Catching My Breath

Life has been crazy busy these past two weeks, and it doesn't look to get any better very soon. And in the middle of caring for and playing with puppies, the best syrup year we've had for quite a while, getting the Guest House ready for its first guests, and helping care for my dad, my computer died!! Actually, it's dying a slow death, and I'm afraid to ask it to do very much for fear of a complete crash. So far, I haven't lost anything, which is a very good thing. Right now I'm working from a new laptop, which is really nifty, but I haven't had time to load my camera software or learn much about the new Windows 8 operating system.

The puppies are eight weeks old today. They have moved to the outdoor dog pen, which was more traumatic for me than for them, I think. They are snug as bugs in a rug when they all pile in their big insulated box. They shivered a little the first few days when they weren't in the box, but now they seem fine. It's pouring the snow here tonight, and when we let them out about 9 p. m., they were a bit puzzled by the white stuff. It will be fun to watch them in the morning if we get the 12-18 inches of snow that has been forecast.

We've had a great syrup season this year. In fact, it's been the best in several years and Robin has made close to 50 gallons. The syrup has a great flavor and is pretty, meaning it's a nice rich color and crystal clear. We've had some good help from Carter and Steve, who have hefted bucket after bucket of sugar water and kept the fires burning right along with Robin. And yes, there have been a few fun sugar house parties, too!

The Guest House is almost ready to open for business, which is good since our first paying guests arrive Friday evening for the Maple Festival. I'm down to hanging some pictures and arranging some d├ęcor items before I clean the kitchen countertops  and make the bed. As soon as I get me, my camera, and my new computer working together, I'll post some photos to show you the end result of all my labors.

Amid all this, I've also spent some time with my dad, and have been thinking about getting income taxes together for us and my father-in-law, and then there's the Historical Society newsletter to get done in the next ten days or so, and I haven't done my Auntie Letter for February...well, while I catch my breath, don't you hold your breath waiting for my next post! I'll get to it as soon as I can!