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Friday, August 29, 2014

Vacation - 2014

With our family Mini-Van repaired it was time to take off for our vacation away from the hustle, bustle, and noise of the NYC area.  Earlier this year, my wife found a farmhouse in the Catskill mountains using a website called Flipkey.  The house, in Hobart NY, was located on The Rich Family Farm.  The reviews were positive and we placed our deposit for the days we wished to stay in late August. 

Our day came to leave, our bags were packed and off we went, over the GW Bridge, up the Pallisades Parkway to the NY State Thruway to Kingston.  From there it was local driving winding through the small towns along the way until we reached Hobart and found the farmhouse.

We unpacked and were surprised at how large the house was.  It had a spacious kitchen with a nice enclosed porch, perfect for morning and afternoon coffee.  The living room was tremendous as well with a large dining room table.  The living room was comfortable for all of us.  The first night, we turned off the TV and played games with the kids. 

The next day, we went out in the morning and visited Howe Caverns.  It was a nice tour underground with cool temps and a fun boat ride.  We got back to the farm house and rested and then used the fire pit to start a fire and make S'mores. 

On Wednesday, we slept in and went into town.  There we visited 2 of 4 bookshops located off the main street of the town.  My children got a kick out of the cats hanging out in one of the shops.  The staff of the shops were very nice and we found books for the kids.  We got back to house, had lunch and headed off to Cooperstown. 

Cooperstown was about a 1 hour drive from the Farmhouse and as we got to the town, we opted to park in the first parking lot suggested by the town trolley service.  Parking could be tough near the Baseball Hall of Fame.  We got on the trolley, drove past some beautiful homes in the village and was then dropped off in front of the Hall of Fame.  This is Baseball Mecca for any fan, passionate or not.  From a historical perspective the last 150 years of our country can be seen through the baseball lens displayed in Cooperstown: from its pastoral beginnings to its place in big business today.  We had a fun time checking out all the exhibits of the HOF.  There were so many to see.  We did get some nice pictures there. 

After leaving the HOF, we picked up dinner in a small local diner and watched some of the Little League World Series.  As we left the diner, it began to rain.  We got on our trolley and headed to our van.  As our drive to Hobart began, the rain became biblical pouring and pouring bucketsful of rain.  I had to let Aimee drive as I couldn't see so well on the dark road out of Cooperstown.  We decided to take the way we took from Howe Caverns back to Hobart as we weren't familiar with the road we took to I-88 going to Cooperstown. This added a few extra miles but the weather was mixed all the way through until we got to Hobart.  Thankfully, the lights were turned on for us by our hosts otherwise it would have been hard to find the farmhouse on our return. 

The next day was sad as we had to pack up for our return home.  Our family had a fun and peaceful time at the farmhouse, I don't think I ever heard an airplane flying overhead the whole trip.  We regret we didn't get on the bikes to explore the hiking trail but who knows, maybe next year.


Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 2 - The Repair.

Just a brief post to update my loyal followers and visitors about the repair done on my wife's Mini-Van.  Just to recap, there was smoking coming from the van's engine.  It was determined that a heater hose Y connection was leaking coolant onto an exhaust manifold and would burn the coolant giving off the smoke and smell.

Researching this problem on the web, I came across quite a few Chrysler/Dodge owners who've experienced the same problem.  One website was useful in providing step by step instructions to replace the Y connection.

After obtaining the replacement parts, I chose a brass t fitting from Lowe's to replace the plastic Y connection as well as heater hose, clamps and anti-freeze, the repair was made.  Other than having to remove the battery from the van - it gave me a chance to clean it - the repair was straightforward.   Remove the connections from the Y cut new heater hose (I used a PVC cutting tool which worked great) make the connections and clamp down the hoses.  New coolant was added to the proper levels and the car was run with no evidence of smoking or leaking on to the exhaust manifold. 

Now, we would be ready to take our vacation upstate a few days later.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mini-Van Repair - DIY Pt 1 - Diagnosis

This post will describe the diagnosis of a leak in one of our heater hoses in our family mini-van and a plan to perform a do-it-yourself repair to correct it.  First some background.  The mini-van is a 2009 Dodge Grand Caravan.  It is similar to the Chrysler Town and Country and Volkswagen Routan.  Our mini-van was purchased in 2010 and has performed well for us in transporting our family of 5 on trips near and far and for my wife to use as her daily vehicle.  The engine is the 3.3 liter V-6 engine which doesn't allow for the greatest pick-up when entering an interstate but once it gets going it's okay.

Recently my wife, who drives the car, experienced problems with her brakes.  It was repaired and then within a month, she experienced a symptom of the original brake problem: smoking from engine after driving for awhile.  We returned the car to the mechanic who redid the brakes for no charge.  I also must add we found on the internet numerous complaints regarding premature wear on the brakes for these vehicles as well as questioning why Chrysler/Dodge and now Fiat has done nothing to improve the brake system.

Well after a week or so after the 2nd repair job was done, we were experiencing the smoke and smell in the cabin.  My wife took our kids to visit her sister's home for the weekend.  I noticed a small circular mark on the driveway after they left and while talking to her while she was travelling I suggested she ask her brother-in-law to investigate the small leak.

It turns out one of 2 heather hoses was leaking coolant.  These hoses connect by a plastic Y connector and the connector is situated above a large exhaust manifold and when it leaks it evaporates and begins to smoke.  Luckily, she was able to drive it home safely and I made sure to add coolant to her reservoir so she had enough coolant for the engine.  I also researched this new issue and, to some surprise it seemed to be another issue faced by owners of this vehicle.  However, this problem was one that could successfully corrected through a DIY project.  

I found a blogger who successfully replaced his y connector as well as a You Tube video of another Y connector repair which he modified his repair using a brass T connector he purchased at Lowes.

This is the DIY repair I plan on doing for our Minivan.  It's amazing that Dodge uses these plastic Y connectors that are prone for leaks early on in the vehicles life cycle.  I used to own a Ford Taurus and it gave me a lot of problems.  I swore off Ford Vehicles.  Now must I avoid Dodge/Chrysler/Jeep products as well?  So much for buy American.

Wish me luck. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

100th Post

Tempus Fugit, a Latin phrase that means time flies.  If a phrase encapsulates this blog's history, then that's it.  I have now reached a milestone as this is my 100th blog post.  Over the previous 99 posts and several years since this blog's humble beginnings, I have sought to stay true to my guiding principles to use this blog to comment on any and all that I find interesting, entertaining or amusing. 

Today, I don't want to talk about current events, as I find myself here on a Sunday morning disgusted with the state of the world and its decent into what I can only characterize as darkness.  One of my first posts was a comment on the shooting of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords in Arizona.  Sadly, these random acts of violence have continued in other public places such as movie theatres and schools.

I want to use this post to express my gratitude to several people in my life.  First to my wife Aimee.  Since our beginnings together, she has been a rock steady and supportive partner.  When I returned to school, during the last few months of her first pregnancy, she encouraged me to stick with it as she saw how happy I was with the rigors of study with the plan to change careers from the business world to one of a school teacher.  To my children, first Joseph and then your twin sisters Caroline and Samantha.  The best lessons are the ones you learn at home and I have three amazing, inquisitive, and tenacious children.  I am enjoying watching them grow. 

Finally, I want to thank all the great children I have worked with since beginning my teaching career in the Fall of 2010.  I graduated the previous spring with horrible job prospects.  For starters, there are just too many teachers here where I live for the limited amount of jobs out there.  I had many classmates unable to find work.  I even had difficulty finding employment in a local school district as any "connections" I had were ineffective, heck I couldn't even get one interview.  However,  I was fortunate and grateful to find employment at a school for special needs children and as I was dually certified in elementary education and special education, I was able to fill a position working with some super kids. 

Each and every day, I have learned from them as much as I have taught them.  I have learned that for some, some progress, however small can be monumental.  For others, just taking the time and encouraging them to engage with someone else and participate makes the difference.  I have gained a strong respect for my student's parents and also reflect how lucky my wife and I are with our children.  Are there times when I wish I were in a local school district and on a long summer vacation (as I work a six week summer program beginning in a few days)?  Sure, but for now this is where I am needed and where I can make a difference daily. 

As Robert Frost once expressed so eloquently in verse comes to mind on how I feel at the moment:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Thank you to all those who have visited this blog and have read my posts.  I have loved all the comments I have received and would love to receive more. 
Also, thank you to those who have supported this blog via a donation on PayPal or by using the Amazon Links for a purchase through Amazon. 
Here's to the next 100 posts!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Social Media MIA - A Lenten Sacrifice

Tomorrow marks one of the holiest days in the Church's calendar: Good Friday.  It is recognized as the day Jesus fulfilled God's plan and sacrificed his life to redeem mankind from sin by suffering death on the cross.  While quite sad on the surface as Jesus was welcomed into Jerusalem with waving palms and cheers from the Jewish people, this mood quickly changed as Jesus was cursed and spit on by the same people who days earlier welcomed him as a King.  Good Friday is a solemn day but one we must remember is not the end of the story and in a few days we celebrate Jesus' resurrection and victory over death.

During the last several weeks during Lent as part of a Lenten sacrifice, I gave up the use of Social Media.  I made no posts on Facebook or Twitter.  Today, with the ubiquitous use of mobile technology, it was a great effort to refrain from using the assorted social apps to see what was going on locally and beyond.  The benefits to me were more time to devote to other activities with my family. 

I also haven't posted a new blog post for quite a while too, something I have missed as there is always something to opine about. 

In closing, I wish everyone a blessed holiday, whatever your faith.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

On St. Patrick's Day

Here's a post I made last year on the eve of St. Patrick's Day.  My thoughts then are the same now in regards to the Irish in America. Enjoy

Happy St. Patrick's Day.  Yes tomorrow is a day for all of us of Irish heritage to celebrate the patron saint of Ireland and also reflect on the important contributions the Irish have made and continue to make in the United States of America.

The Irish in America have come a long way since the large scale waves of Irish entered "the new world" in the 1850's and 60's.  These poor people, fleeing their homeland due to the
potato famine and hoping for a new start in a growing country in need of their labor.   It's easy a century plus to romanticize the experiences of the Irish emigrating to a new country, however it surely was difficult and at times dangerous for them.

The Irish-Americans have contributed to most military campaigns in our history.  Here in New York, the Irish helped build the railways, tunnels, and bridges that form our region's vital circulatory system.  The Irish have made important contributions in politics and on of our own achieved the highest office, the Presidency in 1960. (Note to self: JFK a future post! Please see my post titled Camelot from last November!

The Irish-American immigration experience was probably no different than those people coming from non-English speaking countries today.  Certainly they share many commonalities:  hard work, love of family and to their church. 

I have always wanted to complete a genealogy for both my mother and father's side of the family.  The internet has been helpful with online census records in addition to other records.  I've been lucky having found census records showing my grandfather on my mother's side listed close to 100 years ago.  I've also was fortunate to have found a great blog:  I marveled that Mr. Tierney researched and found a picture of his great-grandfather, who was a New York City police officer at the turn of the last century.  I found that so cool, since both my grandfathers were NYC officers too.  Follow him on Twitter @JJT and check out his blog.

He's since offered me tips towards my own family history and he also gave me a link to an Irish Soda Break recipe:

Well whatever your background is, this weekend your Irish.  Let this St. Patrick's Day put you in a festive mood and thankful for the contributions your ancestors have made and be sure to toast one to them.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Fun in the Big City...

Another Valentine's Day has come and gone.  While it's great to celebrate this holiday with your significant other, shouldn't the feelings and warm sentiments towards your partner last all year round?

This past weekend, my wife and I took advantage of her sister offering to watch our three children in order for us to spend an evening together.  We had been talking about traveling into Manhattan and checking out the TKTS booth in Times Square and seeing a show.  The TKTS booth offers discounted theatre tickets and is a good value for fans of Broadway. 

We had a few ideas about what shows we would like to see and we checked our train schedule for our trip to Penn Station and quick subway ride to Times Square.  When we left our home it had begun to snow but it wasn't too bad.  Our train ride to the city was uneventful and after arriving by subway to Times Square, it seemed we walked a bit to our exit on 42nd street.  When we got on the street, the snow was coming down hard and visibility was poor.  The first order of business was to get to the TKTS booth on 46th street and select our show. 

Due to the snow and tremendous crowd, Aimee and I walked west on 42nd street and made it to 8th avenue.  We then back tracked on 43 and walked up Broadway to 46th Street to the TKTS booth.  The crowd in Times Square was large (so much for thinking the bad weather would lessen the crowds).  We saw at the TKTS booth that our first choice was sold out, the musical ONCE.  Our second choice was still available at a 50% discount.  This was the Tennessee Williams play, The Glass Menagerie.

With our tickets secured we walked back west to have some drinks and dinner at The House of Brews, 46th Street between 8th and 9th Ave.  The walk was made in the slushy slop of the sleety snow joining the melted puddles from the previous storms we've endured this winter.  We arrived at the House of Brews and quickly got a table and orders for drinks and a look at the menu.  We had plenty of time to eat and drink before our trek to see the show at the Booth Theatre on 45th street.

The House of Brews - 46th Street

The Booth Theatre is near several other theatres including the one housing ONCE, which had a huge crowd standing in front to get in.  We arrived at the Booth and went right inside.  After settling in at our seats, which provided a stellar view of the stage, another spectator came into our row and he found his seat next to my wife.  He was very nice and explained to us that his wife was about 12 seats to his left in the same row and his daughter was on the same level but on the right side section of seats.  He explained to us that he and his wife were visiting from Oklahoma and they had seen their daughter perform at the Met in Price Igor.  The theatre filled up with an additional standing room only just two rows behind us. 

Zachary Quinto, Mr. Spock in the rebooted Star Trek films comes out and begins the play, a memory play - one of Williams' most autobiographical works.  Cherry Jones stood out in this production  portraying Amanda Wingfield, the aging matriarch who clings to her past glories as a Southern Belle with visits from her "gentlemen callers" reduced now to selling magazine subscriptions by the telephone.  Now this family, including damaged daughter, Laura yearn for a life different from the one they currently find themselves in.  For Quinto's character Tom, he sees the path of his father who abandoned his family as one he will take.  He seeks escape in the form of trips to the movies or escape in the form of drink.  He wants to be a writer but hides that ambition from most of his co-workers at his shoe warehouse job.  The past glory and future desires collide with the tragic difficulties this family faces in their present in this Depression era St. Louis setting. 

These characters are joined by the "gentleman caller", O'Connor, a former schoolmate of Laura who has also fallen from the heights of his High School days.  However, he has a plan of self-improvement via public speaking courses he is taking. 

I recall having this play as part of my English-Literature class at St. Dominic's High School, either in 9th or 10th grade.  My teacher, Mr. Cambisio really liked presenting classic works of American literature and this play was no exception.  He also used the VCR to present a televised version of this play in conjunction to the text. 

Aimee and I really enjoyed this production.  The lighting and music played added to the stark material and tragedy unfolding in this play.  In addition, the acting was top notch with well choreographed movements on the stage.  This production has been playing since last fall and will close next Sunday, February 23.  If you happen to be in New York City before then get tickets and see it, you will not be disappointed. 

Our fun in the big city concluded with a subway ride back to Penn Station and a LIRR ride back to our home station.  The LIRR ride was hilarious as we had several loudmouths on the train, heckling others as well as a girl who was quite loud who rambled her discourse on what Hispanic group lived in the following towns: Mineola, Westbury, Brentwood, and Islip.  Her mouth was annoying to another rider who sat behind us and he was muttering to himself some actions he wanted to take against this loudmouth but I can't print them here on an all ages blog.  Fortunately the woman with him was able to pull him back from the brink before an action was taken. 

Always fun in the big city...