the weekend that wouldn’t end.

So yeah, about the last few days:

  • Quinn turned 7 yesterday. Parental schedules being what they are, we had an early birthday party for him on Saturday. We had eight kids and as many adults in the house, and it was pretty lively. There was chili, cake, liquor, and those awesome little cocktail sausages that someone slathered with a home-brewed BBQ sauce which turned the little things into CRACK. Then one of our friends and her three kids stayed for a sleepover, so festivities were not really concluded until noon the next day as far as the kids were concerned.
  • Yesterday we took our female dachshund in for her planned c-section. We bred her again because we still don’t have the girl out of her that we wanted so we could continue her mother’s line. OF COURSE the c-section yielded…two males.
  • Last night wasn’t so hot. I had to stay up and check on the mom and pups every 15 minutes or so. I fell asleep around 2am. Robin got up just after 4am to discover that one of the pups had died. Now Raven is down to a single-pup litter, and we’re hoping he’ll make it. He’s active and nursing like a champ, so chances are good, but they’re not really out of the rough until they’re a few days old at least. He’s a very pretty color, deep red mahogany like his sire. I predict we’ll end up retiring Raven from breeding, keeping the male, and then buying a female to breed him to when the time comes. So this breeding didn’t go as well as we had hoped, to put it mildly, but we’ll make the best of it.
  • The wife and kids are coming down with something, possibly acquired when the house was packed with adults and kids on Saturday. That means I’ll be getting it too sooner or later.

So that was my exciting weekend that sort of dragged all the way into Wednesday and shows no signs of ending. I could stand about a week away from Daddy duties at this point, maybe drive down to Key West and pound down some Mojitos at the beach or something. Alas, I’m never off the clock here. At least I can do the mojito thing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a garage to clean up and some furniture to reshuffle for tomorrow’s refinancing home appraisal. Then I have to start the sausage & kale soup for dinner, and possibly collapse on the couch and sleep for eighteen hours straight.

it’s a bike! it’s a bar! it’s…totally german.

Leave it to the Germans to come up with new and inventive ways to do sightseeing tours without leaving the bar behind:


The Beer Bike.

That’s a monster bicycle with space for 16 people. It features a bar, roof, sound system, and beer tap. The beer bike carries its own supply in the form of a 50-liter keg at the front. The twelve people on both sides of the bar have foot pedals for propulsion, and there’s space for four non-pedaling people in the back. The driver has a steering wheel and brakes. (Yes, the driver has to stay sober.)

You can rent those for tours in many German cities. People use them for sightseeing trips or special occasions like bachelor parties, graduations, or birthdays. And yes, they’re (still) legal to operate on public streets. (I say “still” because there’s legislation under consideration to ban the beer bikes from public roads.) When you rent one, it comes with a driver who steers you around and makes sure the rules are being followed. (Their code of conduct is actually pretty strict—no rowdy behavior, no harassment of pedestrians, no leaving the bike, and so on. Failure to follow the rules will result in an immediate end to the tour and a 200-euro fee.)

I’ve never been on one—they came up with that idea long after I moved to the United States—but I hear they’re a lot of fun. It’s certainly a different way to do a sightseeing tour, that’s for sure.

christmas 2011 after-action report.

We had a quiet and relaxing Christmas just like last year. With Robin’s family mostly in North Carolina and surrounding states, and my family in Germany, we don’t really have an opportunity to do the Big Family Gathering type Christmas too often. We got together with some local friends for lunch and a social afternoon on Friday, and then stayed home and did the Santa thing on Saturday.

Here’s a picture of the main loot recipients this year. They made out like bandits.

Time flies, doesn’t it? To me it seems like both of them were still in diapers just last week. One morning I’ll get up, make coffee, go to wake up the kids, and find that they’ve left for college.

The kids got the lion’s share of the presents, but Santa also dropped off a telescope and some stargazing books and charts as a family gift. Our friends also thoughtfully gifted us an annual 5-person membership to the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord.

The menu for the Christmas weekend included the traditional family Christmas fare–lobsters–and such German staple items as paella and lobster bisque. The lord of the manor also consumed way too many German gingerbread cookies, and the lord & lady together pretty much drank all the eggnog. Also, we seem to be out of Bacardi now. In short, it was a typical all-American Christmas. I hope yours was as good as ours.

hydration devices of the future.

Here’s an interesting thing Robin bought: a water pitcher that infuses the H2O with fresh fruit flavor.

Pitcher 003

It has a vented “spine” that can be filled with fruit and (conceivably) other flavor items as well. In this case, it’s fresh watermelon with a  few mint leaves tossed in. The lid has a removable water-filled core that can be placed in the freezer.

The resulting flavored water is actually quite good—a light note of fruit, nothing too sweet or overwhelming. Of course, I’m already trying to think of uses that involve cocktails.

the burnination: after-action report.

We had friends over on Saturday.  Robin made a crepe buffet with about three dozen toppings, and there was much merrymaking and gaiety.

I combined some advice I got from this here Interblog, and purchased a propane torch at Home Despot prior to the event.  I also had six gallons of kerosene, a big plastic tub of bone-dry kindling, and assorted cardboard boxes with dry newspapers and such.  We removed much of the snow from the pile, and got it started with liberal application of packed kindling and that propane torch.  (Now that thing is about as much fun as you can purchase for $39.99, let me tell you.)

Anyway, we got about 1/3 of the pile burned, which isn’t bad considering it had six inches of snow on it, and all the fuel was wet or damp.  I couldn’t find anyone willing to sell me a few pounds of magnesium bar stock, or we would have gotten rid of all of it.  I’ll just cover what’s left and burn it in the spring, when it’s still wet outside.

Saturday was a perfect day, though.  Sunny, not too cold, not a cloud in the sky–postcard-perfect New England winter weather.  One of the couples attending brought their three little girls, and the other couple had their two-year old son in tow.  Between them and our own kids, we had six children between the ages of 2 and 7 running around and having a blast.  Add four excited dogs to the mix, and you can imagine the noise level.  Everyone had a good time, though.

Today?  Isn’t starting too hot.  It’s -25F out there this morning, and our water pipes (which run from the artesian well in the unheated garage into the house) are frozen.  I have a bunch of electric heaters going in there to un-stick the solid H2O, and until it does, I guess I won’t be doing dishes.  Or flushing toilets, for that matter.  Such is winter life in Upper Cryogenica on occasion…

your saturday cocktail recipe.

Ian Fleming’s James Bond is quite the booze connoisseur in the novels.  Fleming had Bond invent a cocktail called the Vesper, after the character of Vesper Lynd.  It’s a mix of gin, vodka, and Kina Lillet, which is a slightly bitter French liqueur that hasn’t been in production since the 1980s.  (They make a Lillet Blanc now, but that one lacks the quinine of the original Kina Lillet and the characteristic bitterness.)

There’s a variant of the Vesper that makes use of currently available ingredients.  I tried one recently, and it immediately rocketed to the top of my “Favorite Cocktails” list.  It’s called a Green Vesper, and is prepared as follows:

  • Three measures gin (preferably 90-proof)
  • One measure vodka (also 90-proof)
  • Half a measure absinthe or Pernod (whichever you can get locally–the flavor and color will be the same.)

Stir with ice in cocktail shaker, strain into cocktail glass, garnish with a strip of lime peel.

Fair warning: if you hate the flavor of gin, licorice, or both, you’ll hate the Green Vesper, because it tastes a lot like washing down a piece of licorice with a swig of gin martini.  I love the flavor combination, and that concoction is my current favorite cocktail, narrowly beating out the martini.