16 8 / 2013

Checking In and 13in13

So the New Porcupine hasn’t posted a New Blog Post in an embarrassingly long time! After being here in New Hampshire more than a year, we are hardly the newest porcupines anymore (according to the Free State Project’s website, 144 people have moved here since Adam and I arrived in June 2012), but I still have plenty of topics in mind to write about as we continue to make that journey from new movers to wise grizzled old Yankees.

I know nobody likes excuses, but here’s a little update about what’s been filling my time so far this year. Adam and I have launched a personal side project for the entire calendar year of 2013 called 13in13. Each month, we produce something that benefits the FSP in one way or another — and then, without getting attached, we move on to the next thing. We collaborate each month on a manageable project that emphasizes design and simplicity. Because we aren’t answering to anyone but ourselves, we can afford to be experimental and yes, sometimes fail.

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We are now over halfway through the year and have built independent websites, assisted with events, reimagined aspects of the current FSP website, and created tangible real-life objects that are sold to signers as a fundraiser for the FSP. Adam and I are learning to work together in new ways and developing our technological, graphic design, business and marketing skills. It’s really fun to see how our ideas evolve and improve, and it’s pretty much how we spend our weekends now!

Some of my favorite projects so far have been Free State Facts (January), the Signer’s Certificate (March), and the newest one, A Live Free Guide to Manchester (July).

There’s this one other little thing that’s been consuming my energy lately…in April we found out that I’m growing a little bitty porcupine. Yes, we’re having a baby in December — the perfect capstone project for 13in13! Expect forthcoming posts on hospitals, doulas, classes, and other baby-related resources in New Hampshire.

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23 4 / 2013

Winter Activities

I am in no way a snowbunny yet, but figured that part of enjoying my first snowy winter was taking advantage of that weird white stuff coming out of the sky with some outdoor activities.

Tubing

My sister came to visit over Christmas, and while I didn’t want inclement weather to interfere with her travel, I was hoping for some snow so we could experience a “winter wonderland” together. It worked out perfectly because a couple days after Christmas, and a couple days before sister went back to Oregon, we got our first real, accumulating, sticking snow of the season. And the next day the sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, and the snow was fresh and clean.

We bundled up and headed to McIntyre Ski Area, which is a little ski park right in Manchester. It’s about a 5-minute drive from my house. It’s really for beginning skiers and snowboarders only, but that’s okay cause that’s what I am. And they have tubing! Imagine those big metal wavy slides that you ride down on a burlap sack at the fair, except instead you are on an inner-tube sliding down a groomed snow path. It’s sledding for people who don’t have sleds/want to find a good sledding hill/want to trudge up said hill repeatedly.

The tubing area at McIntyre has a “magic carpet,” which is a long and very slow conveyor belt that moves you and your tube up to the top after each ride down. Kids as young as five were going down and it seemed like a great family activity. For the cost (I think it was $15 for two hours, which is plenty of time) and convenience, you can’t go wrong with tubing!

Snowshoeing

I got a Groupon to go snowshoeing at America’s Stonehenge in Salem, NH. When we went, the actual attraction of old and mysterious rocks was not accessible due to snow, but the snowshoe trails were perfect, and so were the alpacas!

We went snowshoeing once a few years ago in Lake Tahoe, and this was much more enjoyable. In Tahoe it just seemed like we were sinking into the snow despite the big paddles on our feet, and it was windy and snowy while we were out there.

Here in NH, the snow had been packed down enough that the snowshoes were doing what they were supposed to do, and we picked a great February day that was calm and not too cold. The trail markers were confusing but the whole area was small enough that we didn’t have to worry about getting lost. Snowshoeing seems like a great way to hike or walk outside in winter, and the forest was very peaceful and pretty. Like tubing, snowshoeing has pretty much no learning curve and doesn’t require much athleticism, so I recommend it for fellow snow noobs!

Skiing

I had only been skiing once before, about three years ago, and so I was pretty excited when our black diamond skiing friends invited us up to a day at Loon Mountain. Adam was excited too, but unfortunately couldn’t join us due to a last minute work trip. Next year! I opted for another beginner lesson package since I wasn’t sure what I’d retained since 2010, and it included all the rentals I needed.

Another friend joined us who was at my same level — had skied once before, a while ago — so I had a lesson and bunny slope buddy. We learned a lot in the lesson about turning and stopping and all that good stuff, and overall I felt much more comfortable on skis the second time around. I think I’m in better shape than I was three years ago, too. I didn’t get physically worn out all day and wasn’t sore the following day. Thanks, Crossfit!

After the lesson, we met back up with the expert-level friends who were kind enough to help us through the ski lift process and teach us down a couple of the mountain’s easiest runs. Even those made me feel like I was going super-fast and almost losing control at times! At this point I can’t imagine maintaining a safe speed on the steeper, more advanced runs. But I had a great time and really want to continue learning how to ski.

File away for future winters

There are other winter activities that I didn’t get around to this year but would love to try sometime! I love ice skating and would like to skate on a frozen lake at some point. I’d also try my hand at cross-country skiing or maybe even a biathlon! Ice fishing and ice climbing seem a little too intense for my California blood at this point, but it could happen someday.

If you’re wondering why snowboarding has been conspicuously omitted from this list, it’s because I am a separate-feet sport person, not a two-feet-glued-together-sideways sport person. As much as I’ve tried, I can’t stay up on a skateboard to save my life. Certain aspects of skiing mechanics felt intuitive based on what I know from ice skating and roller skating, both of which I’ve done proficiently since childhood. So no snowboarding for me, but it seems like a lot of fun if you’ve got a skateboard/surfing type of skillset. Plus, your boots look way cooler!

19 3 / 2013

My Thoughts on Winter

As I’m sitting down to write this, we’re getting another big snow, and I don’t mind (although it would be even better if Adam wasn’t out of town, leaving me to do the shoveling)! Since the cold weather should be wrapping up soon, it’s time to post about my first winter, the preconceptions I had, and where they were proven right and wrong.

Winter Attire

When I’ve visited cold places in the past, I’ve usually put on a base layer of tights or long underwear under my jeans, layered up on top, and not gone outside without a heavy coat and the full suite of accessories — hat, gloves, and scarf. That’s kept me warm for full-day excursions on vacations, where I’ll be walking around outside much of the day, but made me hot and uncomfortable when popping into a store or restaurant, which always seem to be super-heated in the winter.

Here, I haven’t once used long underwear for a day out and about. I also have a couple of my heaviest sweaters that I thought I’d wear all the time here and haven’t worn at all. I’m much more willing to bear the cold with a jacket for the time it takes to get across the grocery store parking lot, in exchange for being the right temperature while inside. I’ve learned that nothing bad will happen to me if I’m outside for five minutes in just a sweatshirt in 20° weather.  

On walks downtown or to work, I typically wear normal clothes (jeans or corduroys with a blouse or sweater), with boots, a wool coat, a hat, and gloves. I’ve found gloves to be the most vital accessory. Once my hands get cold, it’s hard to warm them back up, but if I keep them warm from the get-go they’re pretty good at retaining that heat.


Here I am bundled up to walk to work on one of the coldest days in Manchester, around 0° F.



Boots have been indispensable, too. I have a pair of snow boots and three pairs of regular boots that I rotate through, saving the snow boots only for days where I’m really going to have to tromp (today will be one of those days). The only time I’ve worn flats or wimpier shoes all winter was at Liberty Forum, when I was inside the whole day. Boots keep my feet warm and dry and protect them from slush, ice, salt, and leftover snow on the sidewalks. Adam and I each bought a few pairs of wool socks, which seem expensive for socks but keep your feet much warmer than cotton socks.

My Sorel boots and wool socks are an unstoppable combo!




The Weather Itself

I was imagining monotonous short, frigid, gray days with snow multiple times a week. And I’m very glad to have been proven wrong! Locals keep saying how snowy this winter has been, but I don’t think it’s that bad. We’ve gotten enough snow to need shoveling maybe twice a month, and it’s interspersed with warm spells that melt the snow down so the piles don’t get too huge. A few times we’ve seen weather up in the 50’s, and I finally understand how that can feel warm, like t-shirt weather, in relation to the previous weeks. In Los Angeles, winter lows are usually in the 50’s, and here it seems downright summery when it’s 55° in January!

The winter is a lot more sunny than I expected. Not a week goes by without a few beautiful sunny days (even if it’s freezing), and a sunny day with fresh snow on the ground is one of the most gorgeous things I’ve ever seen. People kept telling me it was going to get dark at 4 p.m. and I would hate it, and there were really only a few weeks around the winter solstice when it was dark before 5 p.m. The short days didn’t bother me, and their noticeable lengthening seemed to come quickly in January. It’s only now that Daylight Savings Time has started and the sun is still high in the sky at 6 p.m. that I’m beginning to yearn for warmer weather. Longer days at below-freezing temperatures feels pretty strange.

Even with the sun out a lot, its angle is supposedly too low in the winter this far north to get us the Vitamin D we need, especially when only my face is exposed when I am outside. So we got some 1000iu Vitamin D supplements and took one a day, when we remembered! I don’t know if I would have felt more sluggish or depressed without the supplements, but it can’t hurt to take them just in case!

Adam shovels our path in a t-shirt on a sunny February day after the biggest storm of the season. He says he enjoys shoveling!


Driving in Snow

I was really worried about this. A couple weeks ago I had to get on the freeway on a morning with heavy snow, and it had not been cleared well. It was a bit nervewracking but everyone seemed to be taking it slowly, so I just followed the car ahead of me and tried to avoid changing lanes (my car wobbled through the uncleared snow between the path of each cleared lane). City street driving in the snow is easy, even if it’s not perfectly clear, because the speeds are so low. I just stayed very focused and gave myself plenty of time to stop.

I was also concerned about hitting black ice, and it hasn’t ever happened for us, even if the conditions are right, I believe because we stick to frequently-traveled roads.

When we and our neighbors had to move out of the driveway for the plow guy to clear everything during last month’s big storm, we watched the two non-Subaru sedans spin their wheels and slip around, needing to be pushed to get over the snowbanks. When it was our turn, the Forester had no problem at all! And we ended up sticking with the regular all-season tires that were already on the car.

It helps that we don’t need to travel far or urgently for anything, ever. If it’s snowing like crazy, we stay in. If you’re nervous like I was about this, try to arrange your lifestyle to keep your commutes as close and non-essential as possible. Don’t live in Plymouth and work in Manchester, like one of my co-workers does. I imagine it would be quite stressful to go 40 mph on a snowy freeway for over an hour each way, just to get to work.

Walking on Ice

I walk to work and back every day. While clearing the streets for cars seems to be a priority, sidewalks are more of an afterthought. After the big storm, the sidewalks stayed covered by giant thigh-high snowbanks for a few days while the streets were perfectly clear, leaving me to walk to work in the street in an area where there’s two tight lanes and no room for pedestrians.

The only thing I despise about winters here is dealing with icy sidewalks. Sometimes they are the city’s fault for not clearing them well, but often they’re just nature’s doing. On days around a freezing temperature, of which there are many, the snow will melt into water while the sun is out, then freeze back up as soon as it’s in shade. Some days walking through our alley, which is completely shaded at 9 a.m., there were so many icy spots that I couldn’t avoid walking on ice. For the rest of my walk on icy sidewalks, I have to look down the whole time, carefully choosing where to place my foot for each step. Walking in this manner takes about twice as long as walking to work on dry sidewalks.

It was easier to walk in a small amount of snow than a slick layer of ice where the sidewalk had been completely cleared, but then covered in run-off water. Honestly, walking on ice is pretty much the only bad thing about winter.

A Couple More Things

It gets dry inside with the heat on. I have been using lots of lotion for my hands and face, and chapstick. We even got a humidifier to run in the bedroom overnight, which has been helping.

Toward the beginning of winter, I noticed that my wedding ring was much looser! Cold weather shrinks your fingers, I guess. I thought maybe I’d need to wear a spacer or something to keep it on, and while it’s stayed a little looser than I’d like for the last few months, I’ve just adapted to keeping my fingers closer together while gesturing so it won’t fly off.

Snow has a lot of really interesting properties. It can be dense, powdery, snow-coney, dusty. It can look like a topographic relief map.

It can feel like you’re walking on a sheet of paneer as it squeaks under your feet. I feel like a little kid cause I’m always stopping to touch it and learn from it as it changes through these phases. I’ll never tire of the amazing colors shadows make on fresh white snow.

Oh yeah, and icicles are super sweet, too!

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10 3 / 2013

The New Hampshire Liberty Forum

The very first time Adam and I visited New Hampshire, in 2009, it was to attend Liberty Forum. The annual conference in Nashua was where we got our first taste of the Free State Project and gave us a chance to imagine our lives here. In 2010, we traveled to Liberty Forum again. A couple weeks ago, we finally got to experience our first Liberty Forum as New Hampshire residents.

I had helped here and there with some aspects of Liberty Forum prep, including much of the imagery used to promote the event (see my post about branding on the 13 in 13 blog), and Adam and I had gotten Liberty Forum t-shirts made to vend there. Because we’d be working all weekend, we got a room in the hotel and had a “staycation” in Nashua, all of 30 minutes from our home in Manchester.

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Adam and I saw both of the keynote speeches, by Jack Spirko and Tom Woods, but not as many of the daytimes talks and panels as we did in past years.

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(Photo credit: Vanessa Vine)

One highlight was attending a Society of Libertarian Entrepreneurs meeting where Tom Woods was a guest. We got to have a round (okay, rectangular) table discussion with Mr. Woods in an intimate setting and his charisma and well-spokenness are evident even in casual conversation.

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(Photo Credit: Vanessa Vine)

I spent much of my weekend at this table where people were constantly registering for PorcFest (hooray!), and, less frequently, purchasing Liberty Forum t-shirts for cash, credit, Bitcoin, or silver. As you can see, people were also invited to “Ask Me Anything” as a Free State Project Ambassador while I was sitting there. Not many people took me up on that challenge, but for some reason Adam got Asked Anything several times whenever he was stationed there. He must look like a friendly and approachable guy!

Claire Haus sporting a just-purchased Liberty Forum shirt.


The Liberty Forum t-shirts were pretty slick, with a simple front-and-back design printed on black American Apparels, and we got a lot of good feedback. But we couldn’t have sold nearly as many as we did without the work of 13-year-old Rebecca, a fellow Free Stater’s daughter who came over to the table on Saturday to announce she was going to help us, and proceeded to create and continually improve her sales techniques and negotiate a 20% commission on what she made. She worked tirelessly and enthusiastically and finished her day with over $200 in cash that she was saving to purchase a saddle for her new horse. Watch the Ridley Report about Rebecca’s entrepreneurship here!

Other memorable moments included introducing both Steve Cooksey, a blogger who cured his diabetes with a paleo diet and got in trouble with the law for helping others do the same, and my friend Peter Bosse, who gave a fascinating presentation on the what-how-why process of building his impressive home in Grafton.

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Peter holding a chunk of the concrete-filled styrofoam blocks that make up the walls of his house!


One night we watched a screening of satirical presidential candidate Vermin Supreme’s mockumentary, Vote Jesus, and attended a Q&A with Mr. Supreme himself following the movie.

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Liberty Forum is a very different experience when you live here. I knew or at least recognized probably half of the 500 attendees. I remember how it felt when Adam and I were visitors and barely knew anyone. It was kind of intimidating and tiring to force socialization with strangers, even though everyone is friendly and eager to meet new people. Now it’s great to be on the other side, helping those here for the first time feel comfortable and answering their questions.

It’s also a good annual dose of inspiration to hear the ideas of liberty being discussed by the great thinkers, writers, and doers of today. Liberty Forum brings so many wonderful people together and helps remind us of the strides the liberty movement has made and the exciting things in store for the future.

Liberty Forum is the perfect opportunity to visit New Hampshire if you’re considering or planning a move here, but if it’s your first time in New Hampshire, don’t judge the whole state by the sterile, office park-type neighborhood of the Nashua Crowne Plaza. I’m very glad that we scheduled time to visit other cities in New Hampshire during our first and second Liberty Forum vacations. In addition to all the natural beauty you’ll see just by getting out of any city, each region has its own distinct vibe, and even after a half-day’s visit to each you’ll have a better sense of where you belong. On our first Liberty Forum trip, we managed to visit Keene, Manchester, Concord, and Portsmouth. Coming from giant, spread-out California, we were amazed at how close together everything was, but also how different each region felt.


PorcFest is another great reason to visit New Hampshire, and for many it’s easier to plan summertime vacations. Roger’s Campground in the White Mountains is a gorgeous setting for the festival, but, again, make sure to take the time to visit other spots on your way up or back — the Lakes Region is especially nice in the summer. This year’s dates are June 17 through 23, and you can register here. I can’t wait for PorcFest this year!

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22 1 / 2013

New Hampshire is not a food wasteland!

(Adam on a snowy walk to Republic for brunch. I scoured my photos, but couldn’t find any food pics from these restaurants!)

People often diss New Hampshire’s or New England’s food selection or lack of flavor, but I have to say I’ve been impressed by my options. I know there’s great restaurants in all regions of New Hampshire, some I’ve been to and many that I haven’t yet — but for this post I’m focusing on Manchester’s restaurant selection only. Here are some favorites:

Hooked
Seafood is more prevalent in New Hampshire than what I’m used to, and Hooked does seafood right! Usually Adam and I just get a bunch of appetizers to share — wasabi tuna tartare, fried calamari and vinegary banana peppers, mussels in a garlicky tomato broth. It’s great. If you go for a weekday lunch you can get a generous bowl of moules pommes frites (shucked mussels over fresh hot french fries — I didn’t know either) for $5. Mixed drinks are good and the servers have discovered the perfect mix of personable and professional.

El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria
I was sure that if any cuisine would disappoint me here, it would be Mexican. Not so! We haven’t ordered very adventurously at El Rincon because their tacos are so perfect. I can’t say if they’re authentic Mexican, but they are absolutely authentic Southern Californian. The carne asada and al pastor fill great little street tacos topped with onion and cilantro. Chips, salsa, and horchata also pass the test.

Republic
Of any restaurant I’ve been to in Manchester, Republic is the one that would fit in best in New York or Los Angeles. It has a trendy feel without being intimidating or crowded (awesome thing about Manchester: You almost never wait for a table, even on weekends). Republic focuses on sourcing fresh, seasonal foods from local farms, and a chalkboard at the front lists those farms and what comes from each one. The menu is small and leans toward Mediterranean/tapas influence. Brunch omelets filled with quality ham and cheddar or lamb sausage and feta and the pesto-y, creamy egg souffle are delicious.

KC’s Rib Shack
Okay, so their website hurts my eyes, but the bbq is really, really good. The place is large and would be perfect for group gatherings. The meats are tasty, especially the smoked sausage, the collard greens are flavorful, and they have portobello mushroom fries!

Cactus Jack’s
It’s kind of like if Applebee’s or Chili’s was a non-chain restaurant with good food. Cactus Jack’s has lots of seating and a menu full of choices. Adam has gotten the ribs more than once and says they’re excellent. I had a really good seafood gumbo and some of the richest, smoothest butternut squash of my life (and I eat a lot of squash). Cactus Jack’s may not be the most exciting restaurant on my favorites list, but it’s solid and a good spot to take your family or out-of-town guests.

India Palace
This, as far as I know, is the only Indian food in Manchester, so we are lucky it’s so good! India Palace is on par with our favorite San Francisco Indian take-out spot and better than anything we managed to find in our Los Angeles neighborhood. Chicken makhani is a favorite, as is the saag paneer. They have more lassi flavors than the usual —  in addition to mango and plain, you can try coconut and strawberry lassi. Level of spiciness can be uneven from order to order, and the lunch buffet’s food quality doesn’t compare to evening takeout, but this place is still awesome!

Unique Cuisines
I really really wish there was an Ethiopian or Eritrean restaurant in New Hampshire. Oh well. But, in the midst of all the pizza joints and Dunkin’ Donuts, Manchester does boast some interesting — dare I say “exotic” — types of food. Cafe Momo serves Himalayan food including special little dumplings called momos. A Caribbean Affair has endless mix-and-match meat and vegetable possibilities, including goat curry, breadfruit, and callaloo, and the strongest, best homemade ginger beer ever. Bavaria German Restaurant covers all your schnitzel cravings (haven’t been yet but it’s on my list). And just this week we celebrated our anniversary at Gaucho’s Churrascaria with Brazilian-style endless meat skewers carved at your table.


A Note on Fast Food
New England doesn’t have any of the awesome regional fast food chains we had in California — In & Out, Carl’s Jr., Jack In the Box. And it doesn’t really have its own unique regional offerings to take pride in either. There’s no Skyline Chili or Runza or White Castle or anything comparable like we found in other areas during our travels. I guess fast food just isn’t that important here, which is probably a good thing. That being said, sometimes you just need something quick and cheap. Our go-tos are Chipotle, Five Guys (they do a good bunless burger with lots of veggies on top), and a place around the corner called Souvlaki that fulfills the quick-and-cheap requirement with their gyro salads.

No, nobody’s moving to New Hampshire FOR the food. But if you’ve heard horror stories and are concerned, don’t worry. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the variety and quality I’ve found in Manchester alone.

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