A Peculiar Grace • a novel by jeffrey lent

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What to give a blacksmith?

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 10.17.26 AMWHAT a fantastic book! The detail Mr. Lent incorporates into his main characters’ trade, blacksmithing, is sure to appeal to any tradesman. A solitary man, living alone, living with his demons, rediscovering love. Again, a complex effort by Mr. Lent, which will enrich your life. I invite you to visit any library in America, locate this book of fiction, and try the first three paragraphs in a quiet nook. Time permitting, you’ll sit for the first chapter of 50 pages and leave with the book under your arm.

Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms powered mainly by lent190draft horses. He lived for many years in North Carolina, an enriching and formative experience.  Lent currently resides with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont. – Grove Atlantic

Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade

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Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade • Choreographer: George Balanchine

IF YOU WERE permitted one cultural performance your entire life, what would you choose?  The Doors in Madison Square Garden?  Pavarotti singing below the Eiffel Tower?  A recital of wooden flute in an Aurignacian cave?

After attending the first ballet performance of my life, I can attest there is one answer only to this question:  a ballet performance of Serenade.  

“Now, hold on a minute”, you are probably thinking.  Just who is this George fella?  George Balanchine was the finest choreographer that ever lived, says just about everyone who studies this for a living.  “And what, exactly, is this Serenade?” 

Backing up a little, we remember Tchaikovsky wrote, in 1880, Serenade for Strings in C.  Inspired by his time in Italy, this piece supremely exhibits a relaxed buoyancy and melodic richness. Perfect, one thinks, for ballet. This piece, however, was not written for Mr. Balanchine. Sadly, by eleven years, the two men missed the other’s worldly existence.

A few decades later, as a young man, Mr. Balanchine heard Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, and wrote, to accompany this music, a perfect dance he also called Serenade.  To answer your question, finally, Serenade, first performed in 1934, is a ballet by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky’s  Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.

Tchaikovsky’s score is fulfilling and romantic; the ballet performance is this but so much more.  Beauty and grace one rarely encounters in a world of survival comes alive through the imagination and vision of one man.  The dance designed by Mr. Balanchine will transport one in a manner the Manly Man, hiding tears, may not acknowledge.  Women, however, will openly be thankful for the beauty of all Mankind.

Artists of Pennsylvania Ballet in Serenade, choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. | Photo: Alexander Iziliaev

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Chinook Winds Bison Yarn and Fiber • MONTANA

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Chinook Winds harvests fiber from bison, or buffalo as they are commonly called,  then blends the fiber with varying amounts of alpaca and/or wool.

All fibers come from animals  raised on South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming ranches.  The fibers are processed at regional and US owned mills. Once the yarn comes back from the mill, it is sold in its own beautiful natural colors or kettle-dyed and handpainted in deep rich tones.

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 Why am I so excited?

Because Heather had some extra time, bottled up on her farm in Iowa, during this famously cold winter. And I asked, very nicely, if she’s knit me an extra warm watch cap with extra special yarn. AND IT’S DONE !!!!! 

It’s 70% Rambouillet which is one of the softest wools with high crimp for warmth and bounce, 25% bison which is strong, light, warm, and soft with a micron count comparable to good cashmere, and 5% Suri which is strong, light, warm, and soft.   There are two types of alpacas, and Suri makes up only about 10% of the total population. – Heather

Hats by Heather of Iowa. From $55 to $225 delivered. This example cost $125.

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¡Ay, caramba! Cara Cara CARA !!!

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WE ARE officially in mid-season for one of my favorite Venezuelan imports! Discovered at the Hacienda de Cara Cara in Valencia, this  cross between the Washington navel and the DSCF2780Brazilian Bahia navel is a phenomenal treat.

You don’t like oranges? You’ll love the cara cara, regardless. Slice one up! Go ahead, I dare you ! The carpels tear cleanly off the pericarp and melt in your mouth in a complex explosion evoking notes of cherry, rose petal, orange, and blackberry. Carpels, you ask? HCeLFThat’s the flesh of the fruit, also called the segments. The inner core is the pith, and even that didn’t go to waste in the orange I just consumed. This cara cara was $1.25 at Wegmans, and well worth it!

Meiser Tire Pressure Gauge

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Pressure Drop   Toots & The Maytals

LONG long ago, a son gave to his father the nicest tire pressure gauge one could get from the auto supply store. It was made in the USA, and featured a hose and easy-to-hold brass chuck. But the father didn’t straight on tablebother with tire pressures; he allowed the garage to handle any and all routine maintenance. So, as often happens after the best intentions, the gauge was given back to the son several year later with a rueful excuse and a smile.

I used the gauge for over two decades before something went amiss. It began giving off-readings, telling me a tire was flat when visual inspection clearly showed a healthy sidewall. What to do? Meiser, the manufacturer, apparently had all their domestic market product made in China, sold under the Accugauge label.

I called Meiser, and discovered the gauge had a lifetime warranty. “If I would only mail it in with $3 return postage, they would repair or replace the product.” WHAT? No, sir, I want the gauge repaired. “Fine. Note that you want REPAIR, NOT REPLACE on your contact information.”made in usa

“Why don’t you make gauges here anymore”, I asked. The short answer was that their distributor stopped carrying domestic production gauges, so production stopped. I offered to take over sales, accepted the financial impact of a one hundred gauge order, and began selling them on eBay and sportsmen’s forums. The venture, after postage, fees, and promotional samples, does not make any money. But Meiser is very pleased to keep their guys busy, and Meiser’s suppliers can’t but feel the same way. Buyers invariably rave about the quality.

Never has an unfavorable comment been received. A quality gauge and a fair price

Michelin Primacy™ MXM4®

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Rolling Rolling Rolling

EVERY DRIVE, long and short, was rumbling thunder. Head-rattling, tension-inducing, muscle-cramping agony. Especially highway miles. I was in sales, a genuine road warrior. 300-400 miles a day was not uncommon. The 1994 850 Turbo I bought from a lawyer in Haddonfield was well-maintained, but he had his mechanic mount a cheap set of  tires before the sale. The tires were aggressive, but loud!

After a purchasing decision was made, several months were spent scouring online resources. Lengthy visits to tire stores, exhaustively gleaning every last bit of information regarding tread noise, durability, performance under all driving conditions, price, looks, and country of origin. Tires are classified by their characteristics. Given my wants, I chose a Luxury Performance Touring tire.

The best tire in my speed rating is made by Michelin. The best price? Costco [spend some time becoming familiar with their Road Hazard Warranty, which is  excellent & free]. Tirerack is the tire-primacy-mxm4-heroacknowledged go-to resource for online information and comparisons of tires.

Michelin manufactures tires in six states: Alabama, Indiana, Ohio, Oklahoma, North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition, there are three plants in Nova Scotia, Canada and one plant in Queretaro, Mexico. All of the Michelins I’ve purchased have the words MADE IN U.S.A. imprinted on the tire.

When I sold my Volvo, the Primacys were over 60,000 miles old but still had usable tread. I next mounted a set on an ’01 Acura TL, and again enjoyed excellent handing and wear characteristics. We put a set on the Subaru. The car is unstoppable in all weather. When my GMC Sierra pickup needs tires, alas, the Primacy will not be chosen because it is not a truck tire. But I will purchase the Michelin  LTX M/S2. From Costco.

LOST NATION • a novel by jeffrey lent

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EIGHTEEN Hundred & Thirty Eight was the date. The location, somewhere between New Hampshire and Canada. A very sparsely occupied area with the roughest of living. The inhabitants prefered to be left alone. Both countries thought it their territory. 

A man pushes his wagon deep into the wilderness, looking for a place to set up trade. Far from the law, far from questions about his past. The wagon’s load? Two barrels of Jamaica rum, powder, lead, fabric, small housewares, a woman.

Mr. Lent captures the dirt, grease, and hardship as a first hand observer. The depth of his observations will transport the reader back to a time before electricity, automobiles, telephones. You will not notice they are missing. You will live in this world not so long ago when survival depended on your work and your neighbor.

lent190Jeffrey Lent was born in Vermont and grew up there and in western New York State, on dairy farms powered mainly by draft horses. He lived for many years in North Carolina, an enriching and formative experience.  Lent currently resides with his wife and two daughters in central Vermont. – Grove Atlantic

Rosa Blanca – Cuban Diner in heart of former Philadelphia Financial District

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Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 1.43.18 PMIN THE mid-50s, men still wore suspenders. One man with vision, thinking belt sales would eventually far exceed those of suspenders, had just sold his suspenders company and was walking along Chestnut Street near 8th, thinking. He was in the heart of Philadelphia’s vibrant Financial District, and he had a pocket full of money.

He’s offered a business deal in a chance encounter with an acquaintance, the purchase of a cable company in Tupelo, Mississippi. Knowing nothing about cable TV, he nevertheless purchased the company. His name is Ralph Roberts and his company became Comcast.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 1.44.11 PMThe Financial District is long gone, along with it’s NewYork-style diners. Change comes to everything, however. Renaissance is striking even this area of Philly.  We are graced with a new eatery which makes an authentic Cubano Sandwich for nine bucks [comes with plantain chips]. Clean and shiny,  visiting Rosa Blanca @ 707 Chestnut will be a pleasant and memorable experience.

Something a little more hearty? Try the Masitas de Puerco, a bowl of fried pork shoulder and other very tasty stuff.  The side salad is strongly recommended. Fantastic blending of flavors!

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 1.44.28 PMDesert? How about a fruity shake? Morir Sonando Batido is an Orange-Vanilla smoothie well worth five bucks.

It will be very east to over-order in this place. On a date? Stick with one entry and one sandwich and share.  You may still need a take-away box.

SF12-BB • Box of 12 SureFire 123A Lithium Batteries

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In honor of President’s Day,

Surefire offers free ground shipping this weekend.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 8.32.17 AMRemember the American Toolbox post about a great headlamp?  The batteries that it uses, the CR123, can be bought this weekend direct from the manufacturer with free shipping. A great value just made better! 10-year shelf-life. Made in U.S.A.

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18″ Arctic Blast Aluminum Snow Shovel

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την σκαφην σκαφην λεγοντας

artic blast aluminum jsergIN 1925, a builder constructed a row of attached brick homes on farmland outside Philadelphia, across from a new high school.  In time, sidewalks were added.  Travel forward to the year 2014.  I am standing on the same sidewalk, in front of my home, contemplating the approaching nor’easter.  10″ of snow is due to begin falling at midnight.  My neighbor’s shovel, borrowed by me since time immemorial, was stolen off his front porch a week ago.  A hanging crime in these parts.

griddlebones the cat jsergWith reluctance, I visit the big box home center, expecting end-of-season flimsy imported garbage.  And what greets me at the door?  Giant boxes stuffed with excellent domestic-production snow shovels!

Selected was a mid-level product, suitable for home owners and perhaps even contractors.  18″ wide, all aluminum, heavy-duty riveted steel wear strip.  Roomy handle for gloved hands.  About $20 at The Home Depot.

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Mid-Century Revere Ware

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Soup’s On!

B2HSbWHAT American kitchen has not been graced by the 3 quart Revere Ware pot with lid? Everyone I’ve spoken with remembers at least one of these iconic copper-bottomed pots, pans, or skillets on the stove top every dinner, usually the 3 quart pot. The perfect size for soup, mashed potatoes,  boiled or steamed vegetables & eggs, even popcorn!

o76MsIt is no wonder so many people bought Revere  cookware. In 1929, Revere Copper and Brass Corporation was the largest copper manufacturer in the US. Before teflon, Revere Ware would have been your first serious set of cookware. First pot you’d buy when starting out on your own. A gift or purchase that was meant to last from one generation to the next.

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 12.39.04 PMAlthough the company has long since been sold, broken up, bankrupted, and humiliated upon the machines of corporate profits, good deals in sturdy, second-hand Revere Ware persist to this day. My most recent Revere acquisitions were rescued from a house clean-out. Saved from the Dumpster®, these will be stored among the basement joists until a friend or relative starts their first house-keeping.

Bitterroot leather guitar strap

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NOTHING adopts a personality of owner as nicely as decent leather wear. Your first thought is a pair of  shoes or a belt, perhaps. But today we’re talking about a guitar strap from Bitterroot Guitars!

Screen Shot 2014-02-05 at 11.47.56 AMYep, who would have thought! Usually one purchases a padded nylon fake-embroidered strap to go with their new guitar. What else does the music store stock, anyway? It’s all economics, and Jake the Snake doesn’t want to tie up his  crisp Yankee dollars on a display rack.

After playing my new acoustic for a few months, it became clear a guitar strap was necessary to keep up with my bluegrass buddies. I wanted leather. I wanted USA production. ADSCF2716 little post-internet investigation turned up a great online seller, Bitterroot Guitars.

The strap was promptly delivered, smelling tannery-fresh! Perfect execution! At the time of purchase, the year 2013, the cost was about $17 delivered. Bargain to boot!

Smoked Bluefish Paté

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Delish!

PHILIP R Craig, I’ve never met. Yet I feel a kindred, a bond, with one of Craig’s best buddies. Craig was an American writer who, among other accomplishments, produced 20 mystery novels set on Martha’s Vineyard. The star of the series was J.W. Jackson, retired cop-turned-fisherman, who lived a simple life but got caught up in some complicated situations. I’ve lived vicariously through Phil’s writings, for which I will be forever grateful.

J.W. loved to fish. What he didn’t sell or give to the needy, he ate or smoked to eat later. J.W.Unknown made, and consumed daily, his own smoked bluefish paté, on sandwiches and among cocktail nibbles up on the balcony.

J.W.’s recipe was reproduced on the flap of one of the books, and, I’m told, is listed within the collection of J.W. Jackson’s recipes in the book Delish, by Shirley Prada Craig.

Smoked Bluefish Paté 

5-6 ounces shredded smoked bluefish *
8 ounces whipped cream cheese **
½ tablespoon finely diced red onion (more, please)
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce if desired

* Trout works fine. Bet any good smoked fish would do.
** Package of cream cheese, softened, in the mixer with a little milk or sour cream.

Craftsman All Rubber Garden Hose 5/8 In. x 50 Ft.

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When it’s time for a scrubby

WE HAD a quick nip above freezing today, up to 44˚F. Since it is headed to 8˚ tonight and firmly nestled below freezing temperatures all week, what could be more constructive this balmy afternoon than to hose off the craftsman garden hose detail
vehicles! Goodbye winter road grime, slush, & dried de-icer.

Out back, I dug my faithful Craftsman hose out of the snow. She came willingly, eager to once again bend her supple curves across the pavement. After a bit of ice pushed forth from the nickel-plated brass end coupling, I had full water flow from the generous 5/8″ inside diameter hose. Once again, the hose had performed perfectly. And well it better!

Although the cost is a bit more than most hoses, the diameter is larger, the rubber does not crush and kink as easily, and it has a lifetime warranty from a company that will probably outlast the hose’s eventual demise under a lawn-mower blade. Ever have grand landscaping plans dashed after finding your skinny green hose kinked, flattened, and beyond the best medical attention? Doesn’t happen with the premium Craftsman hose. Restless from anemic water flow from a cheap hose? You’ll get professional, problem-solving volumes of water from the Craftsman! And for play, you’ll want a second mortgage to pay your water bill if your kids get unlimited use of this hose!craftsman 50 ft all rubber garden hose

This garden hose works best with unreduced water flow. Have your plumber cut a 3/4″ tee right after the meter, pipe it to a 3/4″ full port ball shut-off valve in the basement, and through the wall to another full-port ball valve with hose adapter. You’ll be playing with the big boys, with water flow like that!

Not all Craftsman tools are made alike, a sad commentary to profit and globalization. But this hose has been made in the U.S.A. since I’ve been buying them for business and pleasure.

Minimus™ Vision Variable-Output LED Headlamp • HS2-B-SL

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Lamp of Learning

NOTHING is as annoying as inadequate lighting when you decide to read in bed at night. Eye strain, wrist cramp, and thought interruption are all symptoms of a poorly designed book light.

Whether  camping with the kids at the Franklin Institute, assaulting a defective circuit breaker in a blacked-out debris  strewn basement, or preserving your marriage during marathon midnight Machiavellian mental musings, a quality headlamp is an investment which, time after time, will pay handsome dividends.

glee-artie-lights-outPersonally recommended is the Surefire variable-output LED series of headlamp. Designed for our nation’s fighting forces, this item has crossed over as a favorite of spelunkers, tradespeople, bookworms, and Hollywood [recently featured on “Glee” during the power blackout episode].

MinimusVisionVariable-output means that you can crank the brightness from a super-dim to a blinding beam. LED means it is a low-power-consumption, practically indestructable light bulb. Meets Department of Defense qualifications for being US origin. Order a box [12] of Surefire CR123 batteries to go with it. You’ll be set for a couple of years.

The list price is pretty high, as one would expect for a device that can blink S-O-S for days on a tossing life raft, but that online photo video place has them for much less.  I buy my batteries direct from Surefire, however, two boxes at a time, and suck up the delivery charge.

DeFeet Aireator® Running & Cycling Socks

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Survival With Clean Socks

A FEW years back, when a hundred miles riding bicycle through the open country *on an empty stomach, without water* was a lark, I was given my first set of DeFeet cycling socks from the Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia. Snazzy white socks, open mesh across the top of the foot, low to the ankles, with a bright yellow stripe at the top. So began my stylin’ bike gear collection.

socksDespite care and hand-washing, these socks began to fall apart after about ten years. The horror!  But since The Internet had by now been invented, I was able to track down the manufacturer. Interesting story here, but the short copy is that a cycling guy wanted a better sock, invented it, and used his family  background to open a knitting facility. It was the first open mesh weave airflow design sock, totally customizable. DeFeet was born. The year was 1992. –DeFeet

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The Grab Bag is recommended. A dozen pair of seconds or over-runs, delivered, works out to about $3 per pair. Significant savings over standard per-pair price. You get an eclectic mix, possibly including logo’d socks from Triathlons in far-off lands as well as Benefit Runs for well-deserving causes.

Editor’s note:  The Grab Bag apparently comes and goes.  At the time of this edit, Web Deals appear to be the only “special”.

Uvex S3960C Stealth Safety Goggles

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SAFETY IS NOT AN ACCIDENT

 

223eae84BACK when  starting out, a few years into the manly occupation of tradesman, I quickly discovered one thing about cheap eye protection. It didn’t work well. Uncomfortable, foggy, loose, scratch-prone, easily broken. Did I mention uncomfortable?

Searching high and low, it turns out that good eyewear could not be bought off the shelf. Specialty eyewear = specialty supplier. I headed to Grainger [pre-internet].

This is where I discovered the Uvex S3960C 20c9fe71Stealth Safety Goggles. Great fit, even over my eyeglasses. Replaceable lens. I eventually bought them for all my people. Anyone swinging a hammer or grinding an old pipe apart would get eye protection. Then came replacement lenses, 10-to-a-pack. Everyone got new, clear replacement lenses when required.

You can’t spend too much to protect your eyes. Quality eye protection, at about $10 a set, is cheap. Uvex by Sperian. Anti-fog. Scratch-resistant. Gap-free fit. Made in USA.

 

Klein 5139L 12-1/2-Inch Top-Grain Leather Zipper Bag

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ANYTIME PRESENT

Screen Shot 2014-01-21 at 10.50.37 PMGIFT-giving time again! With the giving comes the re-gifting. But not all is bad. This year I received a post holiday re-gift, more of an Anytime Present actually, from my dad. A tool pouch I gave him last year. But not just any pouch.

One I’ve wanted for years but never splurged on. Usually, I buy the canvas bags for cost savings. But Klein makes a beautiful bag in leather. This one is made in the USA with mostly domestic materials.

Mmmmm! Smell that leather! See the brass zipper glint! Built to last. Lifetime warranty!

About $30 delivered.

Klein offers a lifetime warranty on material defects and workmanship for the normal life of the product.

Klein makes tools and supplies for the hardcore professional. Any task you set out to accomplish is easier and more enjoyable with top-quality tools. Next time you need hand tools, treat yourself to the best. The job will turn out better, and you’ll have invested in tools that will last.   – jim s. –