Wednesday, August 06, 2014


Emma Claire enjoyed her cupcake.
Emma Claire did not enjoy the candles on the éclair (her nickname).

Today is Emma Claire's birthday and she is two years old! She is in full-on terrible twos. Just tonight Oliver and Chloe came inside from playing outside because they said Emma Claire wasn't being nice. And, she wasn't. She was hoppin' mad about the sidewalk chalk and insisted it come inside. She wanted to color every one and every thing and they just wouldn't comply.

Emma Claire's vocabulary is still growing. Her favorite words this month:
"Give Me!"

The other day I caught her playing in my makeup and asked her, "Emma Claire, what are you up to?" and she responded, "No good!".

And there you have it.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Nellie parked with Mont Tremblant resort in the background. We don't pack lightly. Details of our family vacation/kart racing week in Quebec follow.
Late on Friday, June 25, we packed up Nellie with provisions and headed out for Quebec. The trip was two-fold, part vacation and part racing. So, we dressed the kids in their pajamas and once we were all packed and ready we headed north stopping for the night just shy of the U.S./Canadian border. We had heard all sorts of stories from fellow racers and RV travelers on the unpredictability of crossing the border in an RV towing a trailer with four racing karts. Would they inspect the cargo and the bus or not?

The answer was NOT. We crossed the border early Saturday morning and were basically the only vehicle entering at that time. No problems. Very nice border control agent. The only unwelcome event we had while crossing the border into Canada was the simultaneous text messages from our cell phone carriers alerting us that we were international and facing data roaming charges.

We did what any visitor from the States would do once crossing into Quebec and passing through Montreal--we stopped at W*al-M*art for some supplies (namely a shopping cart half-full of English chocolate). Only difference, everything but the store name was in French and there was a row of electric car charging stations out front. We continued our way north to the Laurentian Mountains and the town of Mont Tremblant where we would spend the next five days.

Mont Tremblant was a beautiful setting for a family vacation. It also is home to a kart track (would you expect anything less?) and a three-time world champion kart driver and instructor. We spent the first two days in Mont Tremblant touring the area and the last three at the track.
The kids on the walking trail in Mont Tremblant.

Oliver and Chloe enjoying some snacks in the top bunk while watching a movie. We really "rough" it when we camp.

Matt and Chloe with a giant bar of English chocolate reviewing the GoPro at the track from earlier in the day.

Around the campfire at the campground in Mont Tremblant. Emma Claire had already gone to bed.

Matt ready to hit the track in his DD2.

Oliver suited up and ready to drive his kid kart. He's an international kart driver now.

Chloe getting a track lesson from Ben Cooper.

Chloe and Oliver on track together.

More tutoring from Ben Cooper.

Oliver and Chloe on track. Oliver loved the track and drove really well and got in lots of laps. He went out on his own. This photo was taken on his favorite part of the track.

Ben Cooper wanted a photo of Oliver in his kid kart. Ben told Oliver he was his favorite driver now. We were all impressed and Oliver asked, "Why should I care?" So Oliver. Hard one to impress.

Chloe and Emma Claire in the track office at Tremblant.

Our podium of kids.

We called this Emma Claire's "palm tree" hair do.

Oliver ready to hit the track.

Back at the campground after a day on the track. The pool was too cold for me.

Oliver loves to dive.

Emma Claire thought the water was a little too cold too. She opted to play from the sidelines.

At the ski resort in Tremblant. The weather was such that you started the day in many layers and peeled them off as the day went on only to layer them back on as the sun went down.

A silly-shot of Oliver and Chloe in the resort.

Chloe in front of the tourist information which featured a Birel kart (her chassis manufacturer).

Oliver had fun on the bungee jump.

Chloe took on the rock climbing wall and managed to make it to the top on all four climbs.

Emma Claire was cheering Chloe on as she scaled the hardest part of the rock wall.

Chloe ringing the bell at the top.

We rode the gondola to the top of the ski resort. The view was fantastic although a little cloud-covered and chilly at the top.

A selfie of me and Emma Claire.

We finished at the track mid-day on Wednesday and made way to Trois-Rivières which is home to the prestigious Le Petit Monaco kart race which is set on a tricky street circuit. After trying to navigate to the paddocks we got in line behind fellow participants who were lined up to enter the paddocks and set up shop for the next four days--two practice races and two race days.
You can see the row of trailers and RVs lined up for the opening of the paddocks for the race.

Emma Claire told Dad she could steer Nellie into the paddocks.
We unloaded, got out the karts and equipment, met up with Chloe's tuner Chris who drove in that day, did a track walk and ate dinner and went to bed. Thursday, the paddocks were nearly full as people arrived during the night. It was the first full day of practice in what would prove to be a challenging kart track. Chloe had many new things to learn racing at this event. Canadians have different kart set-up requirements. She had to learn a new style of track on a different type of tire she was accustomed to driving on with a different sized kart axle. So, Thursday was a day to get Chloe comfortable on the track and in the kart set-up. But, Mother Nature wasn't going to accommodate us and practice was cut in half when the skies opened and absolutely poured rain and came a flood where we were camped.

Oliver pushing the water to the storm drain.

At the height of the rainfall, the water was up to the middle of my calves. After the rain stopped, it receded but we were left with a small lake which the kids loved splashing in. Both Oliver and Emma Claire went through three outfits each that afternoon.

We stayed in the paddocks Thursday night and the kids played with friends and fellow karters. Chloe and her teammate, George, were interviewed by the local press and had a photo shoot.
Chloe and her teammate George in the newspaper photograph with the Northeast U.S. Rotax director in the foreground. The story ran in the Friday paper.

Friday was another practice day. Chloe struggled to be competitive with her track times and the day turned worse when there was a serious karting accident on track involving a teen driver from the U.S. Such a tragic accident and our thoughts and prayers are still with the young man and his family.

That evening we went to dinner with other race friends in the busy town of Trois-Rivières. It was Friday night and everybody seemed to be on the main, pedestrian street. We were a large group and decided to split in two groups so we would have a better chance of getting in a restaurant.
At the restaurant.

Saturday was the first of two race days and Chloe finished in 9th. During Sunday's race Chloe had another Micro drive up her backside but she managed to stay calm and cool and escape unscathed. She drove well and finished in 6th place.
Chloe, Chris and Matt work on making changes and adjustments to her kart.

Waiting with a race pal to go out for practice.

Chloe and Oliver smiling from Nellie.

A selfie from the stands.

Chloe on track during qualifying.

Waiting for tech. after coming off track.

Oliver photobombed Chloe.

Chloe racing on Saturday.

A view of the spectator stands.

Chloe (in the red suit and yellow/orange helmet and kart) at the start of Saturday's race. The concrete barricades were very intimidating, especially to U.S. karters who are accustomed to driving on track with ample grass space for run-off.

Start of Saturdays race.

After the accident on Friday, the intimidating track set-up and other frustrations, we were happy that Chloe finished safely and without any accidents. She's a smart driver. She learned a lot and is ready to race again in another two months in Canada.

We stayed for Sunday's award ceremony and drove home that night, getting back home in the early hours of Monday morning.

Monday, July 28, 2014

How Does the Garden Grow

Our house was a foreclosure and sat vacant for about a year before we moved in. The yard was mowed but little else was done during that time. As soon as spring sprung, so did the weeds. Lots and lots of weeds.
Spring! My little helper carries plants for our window boxes and planters for the front porch.

Lovely flowers for the window boxes, aka "deer food".
We have over 4000 sq. ft. of landscaped beds. By May it looked as if our house was still in foreclosure. It was a mess.
Everything in spring was sprouting, except for this dead tree in our front yard. The only thing that was growing was the massive amount of thistle underneath it. We will have to have the tree removed and replant a new one this fall.

We solicited some bids from landscapers to weed and mulch. The proposals were shocking. Several thousands of dollars shocking, and that was only for the beds in the front of the house. They didn't even take the side bed or the three beds in the backyard into consideration.

So WE got to work. I ordered mulch---45 cubic yards which required four deliveries. We pulled weeds and laid paper landscape paper that biodegrades and laid mulch. I do not like the landscape fabric. I think it causes a bigger headache two to three seasons down the road and part of the reason the estimates to weed the beds were so high was because the previous homeowner laid down landscape fabric and the mulch biodegraded and the weeds grew into that and the fabric = MESS.

We did this whenever we had free time, which during race season is infrequent. Considering we also have three kids, we also had many interruptions.

The first delivery of mulch.

Cleared of weeds, ready for some plantings and then mulch.

Did I mention there were lots of weeds?

Second bed cleared of weeds, but not rocks, and ready for some new plants.

We tried to till the soil but these little suckers kept interrupting the process. Weeds and rocks, that's what we're growing.

Finished this part of the side landscape bed and found this deer lounging in the new mulch and pooping out more weeds.

A before. You can see the landscape paper and some mulch already done on the far right and the weeds on the far left. Our neighbor (whose house you can see in the background) would come out while I was weeding and say, "Wouldn't it just be easier to take the entire landscape bed out?".  

Matt and I managed to clear the front beds, the side bed by the garage and start on one of the beds in the backyard. But, with two remaining beds left, we called in help. We got a race friend from the track who landscapes to come and finish the job. What a relief.
Matt and I finished the landscape bed on the right which goes around the side of the house in the backyard, but I could see the weedy bed along the fence row. Ugh! Never ending.

This is the last two beds and we called in reinforcements.

Now, besides the regular weeding maintenance necessary, I get to turn my focus on the other battle---deer. We seem to be raising a herd of deer and they are laughing at those plants I bought that had "deer resistant" on the tag. I was told by a landscaper that since it was such a tough winter, the deer and other varmints are eating anything like mad, even the plants they typically wouldn't.

The other night, I woke up with Flash barking like mad. I thought there was an intruder and went downstairs to see what was upsetting him. He was looking out the window, barking and growling. It was a deer on our porch eating my geraniums in my window boxes. Caught red-handed (or red-mouthed). Like right at the window, "Hello!", making a late-night snack of my plants.

I didn't fight back the weeds to lose out to deer. WAR, I tell you.
Before our visit from the deer.

After the deer made a late night snack of my window box. Gone are the geraniums and petunias. 

Echinacea, supposedly deer don't like it. They liked this one. Oh, and that 'May Night' salvia everyone at the nursery tells you deer don't touch. Yea, our deer ate all four of those plants down to the ground. Gone.

They really liked my white Echinacea plant. They also really, really love caladiums. I have those in a pot by the barn. Let me rephrase, I HAD them in a pot by the barn. The deer mow them down, let them make a recovery and mow them down again.

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