Saturday, April 19, 2014

If I had a week to kill

I once met a German while on vacation on a Caribbean Island, we got to talking about what sights I had seen in the USA and I said America is a big place and that I only had 2 weeks of vacation. He laughed since of course he had about 5 weeks of time off.

Now I get 3 weeks of vacation and like to save some of it for around Christmas and you need to take a day off here and there, so the 3 weeks gets used up pretty quickly. Next year I get an additional week of vacation.

So what would I do with a spare week?

Summer Courses at Oxford or Cambridge in the UK.
Now you can say you've attended "choose your favorite". We visited both cities and I preferred Cambridge. Definitely did not like the B and B we stayed in at Cambridge, but really liked the city. Missed seeing a few of the smaller University Museums and the Botanic Gardens. Both Universities have 1 week courses, they open for enrollment in January and book quickly. Caution, depending on the course and the University your select, your room may not be in an older college.
Working with a Trail Crew, building or maintaining hiking trails.
In the Northeast there are several groups which have volunteer opportunities ranging from a day to a week or two.
 The Mid-Atlantic Trail Crew is doing a special project in 2014 in Bear Mountain State Park constructing a new trail and according to them "Work will include splitting and shaping stone, transporting it with rigging equipment...", sounds like fun.

Trans Atlantic Cruise
Most Cruise Lines leave from Miami, Royal Caribbean leaves from Boston, only Cunard leaves from New York. Spend some time catching up on your reading, do some self reflection and maybe teach yourself a new skill.
  • Royal Caribbean Boston to Cork Ireland, then 6 more ports ending in Copenhagen Denmark. 
  • Cunard, NYC - Southampton in 7 days
 Outdoors Leadership Training
You know for all those Expeditions I lead.
 Less stressful is this hut to hut 4 day hike Botanizing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Adult Summer Music Camp
Almost sounds like fun, but I think I would tire of any genre in a week, plus I am limited on selection since I don't like folk, bluegrass or country, can't play a classical instrument and can't see going to a rock camp since I could just find some people to jam with on my own. If I was so inclined.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Making housework fun with an air compressor

Another nice weekend, though I did work most of Saturday.

Took our first bike ride Saturday and I lost my Fitbit (activity monitor) so I went back and walked the paths we rode and found lots of other stuff, but not my Fitbit. Back home we tried syncing to the Fitbit and it connected, so the smart one downloaded an app to her iPhone and we searched for the glorified pedometer near the truck and in the house and we finally found it clipped to the spokes of her bike in the basement. The fit bit had been clipped in my pants pocket for our ride and must have been transferred when I unloaded the bike at home.

Sunday, we cleaned the windows and screens on the first floor. We washed the screens in the tub and dried them using the air compressor. It worked a treat. I inherited the air compressor when the farm shut down and I generally just use it to fill tires. This positive experience has got me thinking I should look for other household chores that could be made more fun using an air compressor. Drying dishes, dusting bookshelves and ceiling fans immediately spring to mind.
After we had Mimosas along with mini grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch.

Now to this week's flowers;
Periwinkles, as suggested by Beverley Nichols(dead author)

Lewesia in bud
Grape Hyacinth
Grecian Windflowers "Anemone blanda", West Foundation Garden
Glory of the Snow "Chionodoxa luciliae", past its prime, also have blue which looked worse, Front Garden
Variegated Brunnera, Front Garden
Sweet Woodruff, Border Garden, smells great when there are a lot of blooms.

Sweet Woodruff is used to flavor May wine, a German beverage using Rhine wine or other white dry wine.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

More Spring... and some beers

Yard Updates:
Planted Spinach seed Saturday, the dog lay out in the sun for a bit, it was nice but very breezy so there was still a chill in the air, she had a longer spell at the front door till she got overheated.
Sunday was the nicer of the 2 days allocated to us cogs, though I did do some work some on both days. The dog got to lay outside twice Sunday while I did some more yard work, picking up leaves, some minor pruning and I planted some paper-whites I had forced during the winter.
Siberian Squill, scilla siberica in the Lilac Garden

Activity Update:
Had the tracker since March 20 and received the first weekly email update from my Fitbit One for March 24 - 30
Daily Averages
3400 steps, 11 floors, 6 hours sleep, awoken 5 times a night, 6 minutes to fall asleep. Still have some extra winter/holiday poundage lingering so I may have to up the activity.

Beers in the Fridge:
Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbeer
A smoked beer from Bamberg, Germany. I tried the Marzen and liked it. The sales person suggested it was really smokey, but I didn't think it to be too smokey. Reminded me of burnt leather and maybe Mescal, it was slightly sweet and not at all hoppy. The smoke essence is created at the tail end of the barley malting process when beech wood is used to dry the sprouted grain. After I tried the Marzen, I picked up the Urbok and Weizen varieties. Would be a good addition when making chile.
Couldn't wait and I had the Urbock along with a bauernwurst(pork and beef) and some pickles for Sunday lunch. I couldn't tell much of a difference between the Urbock and the Marzen, even so I preferred the Marzen. I've read that some people think you need to get used to these beers... poppycock I say.
 The brewery is in Bamburg, Germany they have a website here and a tavern in the center of town. Bamberg is a 2 hour train ride north of Munich.

Samuel Smith Chocolate Stout
photo from Sam Smith website
It is like a Belgium Fruit beer, I don't think it is brewed with chocolate, but I think the chocolate is added after brewing is done. It tastes very chocolatey and would be great to use when making a variation of a Chocolate Guinness Stout cake. While drinking it I thought that a scoop of vanilla ice cream would have gone great in the mug (Editor's Note: yes he drinks booze out of a mug). I think I may like Young's Double Chocolate Stout better, but this has true chocolate taste. Sounds like a side by side comparison is called for.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


Health Status:
Lately I've been working a lot and not sleeping and in general being very stressed out*. Two Fridays ago we attended a wedding, I received a few compliments on my Black Watch Dinner Jacket, but looking at the photos my face looked bad. Like Riff Raff bad, like I need a tan and a vacation.
The jacket looks like this but with a shawl collar.

This week I received my Activity Tracker and started to use it.
It is a Fitbit One model and it tracks steps, flights of stairs traversed, sleep patterns and displays the data on the display. Periodically, the One displays  words of encouragement(think conversation hearts).
The data is uploaded to the website where you can easily monitor your activity/inactivity levels. It is 2 inches long, discrete and easy to lose. Setup was a snap, a receiver plugs into the USB on your computer, you enter your height and weight and off you go. The One will sync with your computer when it is close enough. I also realized that somehow it was syncing while I was at work which is equal parts cool:curious:scary.
The One fits to a clip that allows you to wear it on your pants or your bro/manzierre during the day and at night to track sleep it slips into a wrist band seen above.

Garden Status:
 After the heavy snow pack and low temperatures, the gardens seem to have fared well. The snow drops are still up, the witch hazel is blooming and smells nice if you get close enough to it, all the Heaths and Heathers made it through the winter and need to be pruned and all the other spring bulbs are starting to come up. The crocus are already in bloom
 Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis), I'm forever planting these, they never seem to last long.
In the Front Garden
amongst the Cyclamen in the Peony Garden

Beers in the Fridge:
My Oatmeal Cookie Stout, it isn't bad, but not as good as I had hoped it would be. It is a bit thin and doesn't have any flavor from the cinnamon and star anise I added. On the plus side, the carbonation level is just right for me and it's not too hoppy.
The ale on the right from Saranac, my second favorite Brewery, has a nice aroma and citrus taste. The other bottle, from Dogfish Head Brewery is an Imperial Pils. I received it from a coworker as thanks for work above and beyond. Quite unnecessary since I don't just work for the fun of it. Have not yet cracked it open.

*  I am attributing some stress to the lack of communications from our Youngest.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Oatmeal Stout

Batch #3 of Beer - Oatmeal Stout
Last time November 2013 it was Smoked Wheat Ale (just OK), the first time(January 2013) it was Maple Porter see here, I was going to make Chestnut Brown Ale, but I didn't realize I had to buy and roast chestnuts.

I opted for the Oatmeal Cookie version, a cinnamon stick, brown sugar and raisins are added during the boil along with the hops. I also added star anise. Started 6AM and was done cleaning up by 10AM.

looks like granola
The liquid from the mash was sweet and you could taste the star anise just enough.
After the boil, the sweetness was cut a bit by the bitterness of the hops.
Oatmeal Stout

November's Smoked Wheat
Wait 2 weeks and bottle

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Enough already

The snow is too damn high!
But it can still produce beautiful things
Red Twig Dogwood encased in Ice

Beers in the Fridge
English Ale/Munich glass
The Saranac Caramel(3 syllables) Porter actually tastes like Caramel(2 syllables). That's how I said it in my head. It is good, not too hoppy not too sweet, though it is on the sweet side. The Hofbrau Dunkel goes well with wursts in winter and the Hoegaarden is becoming a standard, they have a Brewery Tour which is now on my list of things to do when I visit Belgium, as is a big bowl of Moules frites.

Keep an eye out for my new Youtube Series, "Boys on bicycles with Beers"

Saw this done in a Christmas Market a few years back, I tried it for myself, it dried out too quickly and it died.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

If it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians

Our dog is getting old and is finding negotiating the stairs more and more difficult. I thought that maybe a ramp would help.

So I made a ramp 76 inches long by 26 inches wide from 2x3s and plywood that was lying around doing no good, covered it with leftover carpet and called the dog. She was hesitant going down, but finally took the plunge, it was easier than the stairs, but going back up was harder for her. The slope was less than the stairs, but still pretty steep. I thought she would have had an easier time going up. It didn't work, but was worth the effort. It didn't take too long and I didn't have to purchase anything.