Saturday, December 26, 2015

Restructuring Christmas

Until I married Wife, Christmas was a none-event for me. In my family not only was it not a part of our tradition, but my Father was against celebrations in general.

When Wife and I moved in together we had only been together for 5 months (we were married 2 months later) and she asked me what we were going to do for Christmas. I said nothing and quickly realized this was not going to be an acceptable answer. So I surprised her with a small artificial tree for our apartment and from that point Christmas was in our life.

With Kids coming very shortly thereafter, Christmas became a big deal. As the kids grew up and started to go away* and started having families of their own, it became more and more apparent that the Christmas of those years was gone.

In the highly rewritten, sanitized and revisionist history of this story, Wife and I discussed what we should do about the holiday in the calm, rational manner that we approach everything - 42 years of uninterrupted bliss and harmony can only be achieved in this way. In the end it was decided that whether children and grandchildren were here or not, having a holiday celebration was important. It might mean that not everything was done to the same extent but that it should be done. For us this meant some decorating, a tree, music, food, presents.

The music was frustrating. We bought this new Sonos system but Wife's computer from hell (another post) on which most of the music was housed refused to stay connected to it. We ended up digging out our 80's era cassette tape player. 

Presents were another issue because let's face it, we pretty much buy whatever we want whenever we want it. But we looked at the tree so naked with nothing underneath it and at the last minute, I caved and said I would buy presents for both of us...which of course got Wife guilty and she went out too! We actually ended up going to the same small store within minutes of each other. As a special bonus we opened our presents up just as we were Skyping with Daughter #3 so it was sort of like having a bit of a family Christmas.

Making pizza is our meal tradition dating back to when the kids were little and they said they didn't like the lasagna I used to make. In recent years we have gotten it to a real science. Wife is now using a dough that takes two days of slow rising. I made my sauce using tomatoes (pulp and dried) and chile from my garden. Our new oven gets up to 600 degrees so with our pizza stone and the new dough we get a great crust. We've learned to not put too much on the pizza so that it all cooks in a short amount of time. We had pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions, mushrooms, and green chile along with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. We made six pizzas with varying combinations freezing most for later and for taking to a neighbor couple who is older than we and having lots of issues.

Wife Getting Ready to Prepare the Dough

We follow the advice of our friend Gaius Derf that no pizza should be made without wine

The Wine of Choice

Our Pizza Assembly Area

One of the Final Products

The 1980's Musical Christmas

*Really away. I mean you have to wonder what trauma you inflicted on them that they have gone almost as far as possible away without going all the way around the globe and coming back!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Snow Hiking

I was planning to go hiking this morning. Yesterday was a grey and rainy day but higher up in the mountains they got some snow. This was just a minor storm. On Friday night we're supposed to get some real cold weather and more snow. This is not at all unusual for us in December.

I was hoping that the trail that has become my favorite for my 'conditioning' type hikes, would still be snow covered and not all wet and slushy. The morning was grey too. I looked at the weather report on my phone and in the newspaper (yes we still use those here on the Eldership). They called for some snow this morning but just flurries. So I figured I'd go out any way.

I try to get out early. Most people during the winter don't show up until around 10 AM. I get out by at least 8:15 AM.  Even if it warms up later, the trail is still hard and not mushy then. I wasn't 20 minutes into my hike when it started to snow. It snowed all the way through but never really hard though there were a couple of times when I thought it might be prudent to turn around. But in actuality there was little accumulation...just enough to put a soft cover over everything. It was very quiet and peaceful. Snowing seems to deaden the sound. I didn't run into a soul until I was just about all the way back.

Wife and I have been doing lots of things to get ready for our departure from this plane. Sounds morbid doesn't it? But we see and we read about all kinds of people our age who are passing. We might have another 20 years or more. But we might only have 20 days or more. I find that focusing on the end actually makes you focus exceedingly intensely on what is happening right now...this very moment. Thus a day like today when I was out and enjoying the mountain and the peace and the snow and the ability to still be able to do this!

Have a wonderful holiday today and tomorrow and focus on experiencing and enjoying each moment of it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Catching Up

For a person who posts like a maniac when I travel in circumstances where time is always compressed, I have the hardest time staying up to date on posting when I'm at home. I think about things I want to be posting and then get caught up in nothing particularly important and then the day is gone. So this is going to be a general catch up on the last few weeks.

Is Your Dishwasher Blowing Up?

Recalls of food products - happen all the time. Automobile issues - recalls all the time. Dishwashers? Not so fact don't know if I've ever heard of least until a week ago when we got a notice by snail mail telling us of this big ass problem with a power cable in our dishwasher that has the potential to blow your machine up and burn everything you ow down to the ground! Okay they didn't use exactly that language but they did use dire language and told you to stop using your machine in bold type so it obviously was important - but not important enough to communicate via something other than snail mail. We're now waiting the some two weeks before the part will get her so we can get it back. THE HORROR OF IT ALL HAVING TO WASH OUR DISHES BY HAND! Someone of Fox News should be shouting outrage over this.

Back Hiking

The recovery from the pneumonia has been a bitch with lingering symptoms. I went on line (Yes! Self-diagnosing web sites - the hypochondriacs best friend ever!) and found it is not unusual for the post illness symptoms to last for a month or more. Yet I am definitely not sick and I have up hiking again. As often happens in our neck of the desert during this time of year, we've had some snow and that means 'snow hiking' one of my favorite things to do.

Our IT Transformation

I was checking to see if I'd written anything about all our transformations in computing and media. I saw I posted only 4 times in November. That's pathetic. Any way we're doing all kinds of things to move into the 21st century. We got rid of satellite and cable TV, brought in really high speed internet, got Roku devices and over the air HD TV. We're getting a home server so we can back up all our data in one place and a VPN so we can access our files when we travel and a media PC for one of the TVs to access other content. We have a Sonos sound system now to access our music.

A lot of this is all supposed to be easy plug and play type of stuff. None of it has been. There are all kinds of issues between this device and that device and Wife's deadbeat laptop that has been doing weird stuff since the day she bought it and my MAC which seems to have issues coordinating with just about anything that isn't MAC. The server arrives today and it will replace Wife's laptop as her main computer so that will be a relief since we have been expecting it to die at any moment.

A Quiet Holiday But A Holiday

Through the intervention of a UN crack negotiating team, Wife and I have managed to come to a mutually agreeable set of terms for what the heck we are going to do during the Christmas season when the children and their families are not here. That is most of the time now with everyone all over the world. 42 years of living together is clearly not close to enough time to be work these type of things out organically. Thank goodness we were recognized as a potential world hot spot danger soon enough that the UN took us under its wing. This means we have decorated, we are meal planning, there are gifts bought and under the tree. Unfortunately the seasonal music has been thwarted as the Wife's laptop keeps dying every time she tries to connect to the Sonos and the MAC and Sonos refuse to talk to each other. Hopefully when the server is in today and we can get Wife's music over to it, we will have overcome that problem.

Good Problems From Semi-Retirement

We met with our accountant the other day and as we expected found out that we'd made much more money from my part-time working than we'd budgeted and had to pay out a bunch of taxes. This is not a bad problem.

Hopefully will be reporting on our holiday festivities next.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Party Comes Off Fine And We Did Not Blow Up The House

The party was a success. The food was well received and the guests seemed to all get along well - a good thing since none really knew each other before hand.  We had a number of cancellations the day of the party which was annoying as it led to us having quite a bit of leftover food. If all had come who had originally accepted, we would have judged our food pretty well. I took some pictures but because of it being in the evening and with the lighting of our house the way it is they really didn't turn out very well so I'm not posting them. However here is the menu.

Antipasti/Tapas/Hors d'oeuvre/Mezze

Three kinds of Spanish Chorizo
Jamon Serrano
Home made Pate de Compagne
Two kinds of home made bread
Four kinds of cheese including a crazy Spanish blue cheese that everyone scarfed up
Borani - a Turkish yogurt and roasted vegetable paste
A Turkish inspired bean paste


Austrian pumpkin soup with toasted pumpkin oil
Cambodian style chicken soup with coconut milk


Austrian goulash with buttered potatoes
Bucatini with Veneto style ragout


Three (count'em) Three home made gelatos
Home made chocolate salt truffles
Peppernotten  - a Dutch specialty cookie
(hand carried by maidens across the Atlantic from Amsterdam)

We had a bit of excitement as I was trying to cook the bucatini in broth, a trick I got from an old Italian cookbook to replicate the flavor of the pasta we had in Italy. Unfortunately broth does not react the same way as water and when I put the pasta in literally half the boiling liquid boiled over the top. Fortunately my gas stove top has a deep pan and most of the liquid stayed there. But then we had the problem that I'd flooded all the burners. Guest and friend John Le Grain had had a similar problem and we were able to gradually get things dried out enough so the electric starters were no longer arcing (which was freaking everyone out) and we were able to finish the pasta.

On another note it also happened to be my birthday - the party was not a birthday party it just happened that was the best day to schedule it - and wife went online to the World of Errev store a bought me my very own Purple Wizard Official Bathrobe Complete With Evil Spell Warding Cowl And Matching Harmonic Power Back Lighting. Sweet!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

More Foodie Stuff - Gelato!

One of the hits of our Hapsburg Renaissance trip was gelato - we ate it everywhere. So when we came up with the idea of having our upcoming party focus on foods of our travels naturally Wife's thoughts went to gelato.

Many, many hours of research, many hundreds of dollars, and many agonizing if it will be shipped in time later, our genuine Italian manufactured gelato machine arrived yesterday. Wife has started the experimenting on recipes today. We are pretty much eating nothing but gelato from now until the party.


Dr. Gelatostein working her magic


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Introducing The Stuffing Burger - I Heart My Pressure Cooker - And Other Cooking Stuff


The Stuffing Burger!

The Stuffing Burger was created a couple of nights ago when looking at a rather large amount of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing and no other Thanksgiving related food I came up with the idea of using it as a binder for some kind of meat to make a patty. I had some BBQ Pork in the freezer so I used that. It came out great. I can see all kinds of opportunities - different types of stuffing/dressings as the binder with all kinds of proteins. Can you see the Cajun Crayfish version using oyster stuffing and leftover crayfish tails!  I can see chains of these across the county.

And please don't bother me with any thoughts such as people have been doing this for ages. I refuse to have my genius sullied by inconvenient truths.

In the meantime I am reminded again just how much I LOVE my pressure cooker. I used it to make my turkey stock for Thanksgiving. Just an hour of cooking and I had tons of this rich luscious stock with that I'm using for my party cooking. Just today, I was making an Austrian Goulash. Stewing/Braising meat at altitude can be a real pain because of the lower boiling point of water means you're cooking at a much lower temperature and thereby have much longer cooking times. Not with the pressure cooker. It only took an hour again in the PC to have fork tender meat and lots of rich sauce.

Wife has been baking up a storm making mini-loaves for the party.

A whole wheat bread

And a light rye bread

And while we're on the subject of baking, Wife and I are really getting the touch with making pastry dough. I do the dough assembly and she does the rolling out and assembly.

Look at those flaky layers!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Catching Up

I haven't posted in quite a while so I'm going to catch up the month in one post.

The major theme of November was illness. Right after the month began I came down with what seemed like a fairly minor viral infection over a weekend. I didn't feel too bad afterwards but I did notice issues breathing. It morphed into bronchitis. That's when I made my major error in that I should have gone to my alternative medicine folks then when that type of thing would help. But there were a number of times when it seemed like things were getting better so I held off.  Then it went down into my left lung and it was definitely NOT getting better. Just before Thanksgiving, I finally decided I needed to do something but unfortunately my doctor was out of town so we were doing consultation by phone. We tried some things but they didn't work and we made the decision I should go to Urgent Care and get a chest X-Ray. The doctor there said, "let's listen to you first because if it is obvious, there's no need to radiate you unnecessarily." This was Monday morning. He said it sounded like a classic case of pneumonia and prescribed some antibiotics that I started immediately and I can say within 48 hours I've seen a big improvement.

In spite of all this I've been doing a lot of cooking. We had a very quiet Thanksgiving with Cabinet Lady, Dr. Debbie (ret) and Dr. D's sister. The turkey I did was crazy good. I've been working on this recipe from Saveur Magazine the last 4 or 5 years that is an apple cider based brine with a very high temperature cook. Each year I seem to get it refined a bit better.  I also finally pulled the plug on the great stuffing/dressing experiment. My Mom always used Pepperidge Farms packaged stuffing in the bird and everyone loved it. I've tried so many from scratch recipes without success. So this year I just bought the package - less work, better results.

Wife and I are also putting on a party this weekend so we're doing a bunch of cooking for that. I decided a while ago that I'd had it with people coming to our place for meals and then saying something like, "Oh we should have you over but I couldn't possibly cook like you do." and then we never hear from them again. So I started this year to recruit people who could be my audience. My rules are simple:
  • I like to cook and I need people who want to eat so I can cook
  • If you come there is no obligation
  • I don't want you to bring anything and I don't expect you to invite me back
  • If you can accept those rules, you're on the list.
I had quite a few takers so we'll have a dozen folks here not counting ourselves. Our theme is FOOD FROM OUR TRAVELS. So we've been working on finding recipes for all kinds of things we've eaten and loved over the years. It is going to be a progressive buffet. I'm not sure that is a real culinary word but it should be. It means we'll have an initial amount of cold buffet and then start adding hot dishes but not take anything off of the buffet.  I will give a full report on this next week. I've already made a number of dishes and so far everything is tasting great. Hopefully I will take some pictures though I've been terrible about that lately.

We also cut the cable meaning we no longer have cable TV or satellite TV. We have a high speed internet connection, a Roku box, and an over air HDTV antenna. It really doesn't affect me as I haven't watched a lick of TV since before our last trip because I AM ADDICTED TO WRITING!

It's crazy. I've talked about it before but I would rather be writing every night than just about anything.  I finally finished Book #2, the sequel to my first book. Three people actually read the first book and the feedback was it was like drinking straight Coke syrup - too much going on, too jagged, too intense. In Book #2 the conflict between the original younger author and the current older author's voices was finally resolved. And things definitely stretched out. The subject matter of Book #2 was so much that I pushed lots of it off to yet another book. And Book #2 came in at 364 pages compared to Book #1 which was 187 pages. I should be on to Book #3 any day now. Then there is the prequel and the rewrite of Book #1.  It was funny when I was done on Monday because on the one hand I was "Yay I've finished" and on the other it was "Boo Hoo, I'm going to miss all the stuff and folks I've been living with these last 9 months".

Monday, November 16, 2015

More Semi - Less Retirement

Each new long trip that we do seems to further our understanding of how to be away for long periods enjoyably and within the energy resources we have. That in turn, at least on my part, just makes me want to travel more.

Simultaneously I find that my attitudes toward what I want to do and don't want to do in this last phase of life changes. Prior to going on this trip I was pretty good with doing some work while I was in country. Coming back this time I find that actually doing the work (helping clients) is easy but there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for getting out there and selling - which of course is necessary if you want to have work.

Another data point is that the work that I have been doing has been very profitable so we actually ended up with a surplus compared to our budget.

So I was curious as to what it would look like if I cut out work but expanded the travel - basically reduce income and increase expenses.  We had our advisers run the numbers and (not a big surprise) it doesn't work. So it appears that if I want the extra travel I need to keep the semi-working side going.

I'm conveniently skipping the part where one of my advisers and Wife looked at me sarcastically and said, "Oh so you are going to have to work 20 hours a week for 50% of the time and get to travel out of the country twice a year for 6 weeks at a time - you poor thing you!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

On The Seveth Day Wife Said, "Let There Be Waffles"

And there were waffles. And they were good.

Actually Wife said, "How about pancakes for breakfast?"

This type of carb loaded treat being almost unheard of on the Eldership, I doubled down and asked if we could have waffles instead as I much prefer them to pancakes. To my surprise she agreed.

Some background - you may remember that we here on the Eldership de-I are rather severely understaffed. Even though ElderFleet Command authorizes a crew in the hundreds for the de-I, there are only Wife and I. So we make do as we travel through elder space by swapping off roles (except for the red-shirted enlisted person on an away mission - can't afford casualties).  Most of the time I am in charge of the mess hall so to have Wife want to take on that role was a surprise.

But she was a credit to her ElderFleet Academy training. Running out for an away mission to get milk which we almost never have in the house, using a 'from scratch' recipe in the joy of cooking that requires whipping egg whites and folding them into the batter.

We had one scare in that as we were off and running on this adventure there was suddenly a thought, "Do we actually still own a waffle iron?"  Joyfully there deep in the cargo bay was an almost brand spanking new one we'd bought when our old died (gad a decade or so ago?) and has sat their faithfully awaiting the day when like a Communist Chinese cadre of old who was on the wrong side of the Cultural Revolution it would get back on the right side of the power structure.

We waffles were pretty darn good considering we hadn't tried anything like this in a decade. Definitely there was some tweaking of the use of iron required but that will come with more practice.

Friday, November 6, 2015

When Did Enjoying Life Become Evil?

On our way back from Europe, as I've mentioned, we stopped in Chicago to acclimate and spent the night at a hotel by the airport. This was a very business person's oriented hotel. They filled the restaurant next to the lobby, they were waiting for shuttle's and rides, and at the reception/check-out desk. What a grim, grim lot they were men and women. All staring at their devices -thumbs and fingers a working. Nothing showing up on a device prompted a smile. No smiles when talking to serving people or the folks at the desk, or the shuttle driver. Just grim looks saying, "I'm a worker. I'm serious. I don't have time for frivolity". Even if you tried to engage someone who was not on their device in conversation you'd only get the tersest of replies. I don't think even in my most type A days that I didn't try to enjoy myself during my work days.

But it has become a badge of honor at least among those older than the millennials that work should be grim and it should be all the time. Certain companies like Amazon have turned this into their driving culture. Work IS important. If people don't work we don't eat, we don't have clean water, we don't have roads, we don't on and on and on. Existence is built on work. But does that mean we have to take this totally artificial attitude that work must be grim and that we must sacrifice everything to it? If we lived in a subsistence economy, we'd have no choice but work all the time. But we are fortunate to live in a time and place when that is not the case. Shouldn't we honor the gift given to us by having some gratitude and joy about where we're at?

Gratitude and joy are important emotions. Without them people become fanatics. We rue all the fanatics around us who are ready to kill. Maybe we should be ruing all the fanatics around us who won't let us appreciate the blessings we have received.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review of Travel Report

As traveling is an integral part of the semi-retired life landscape, I like to summarize the overall observations and feelings that come out of each trip.

To summarize this was a 6 week trip with a significant 'stay' component - stay meaning we stayed at one place and used it as a base rather than traveling around a lot. 'Stay' in our lexicon also implies that we are renting houses or apartments and not using hotels. For the six week period we had only 5 hotel nights, we had 8 nights at our daughter's, and the rest was either homes or apartments. We made a conscious decision to limit the amount of driving that we did. This of necessity limited the number places that we could visit. Our trip started in Vienna Austria, went for two weeks based out of Graz Austria, went for slightly over a week based out of the Euginia Hills near Padua Italy, a couple of days in Ljubljana Slovenia and just over a week in Amsterdam Netherlands.

Here are the observations and conclusions:
  • Travel really agrees with us - I in particular felt that I came out of the trip more mentally acute and active than I have been for quite some time. I think this was a function not just of traveling but also some of the decisions we made to put some limits on what we do.
  • It is that act of travel that is the desired outcome - I don't have a 'bucket list' of things I want to see or do. What I like is the whole process of planning, then going, then dealing with all the challenges that come from the type of travel we do. Yes the challenges can be frustrating but they are never impossible and when overcome lead to a sense of accomplishment. I think this is what is feeding the mental acuity aspect.
  • I think our lifestyle is healthier when we travel - We may eat a bit more but we walk tons more! I suspect our daily exercise level when we travel is on average at least two to three times more than what we do at home. At home we have schedule exercise in. When we travel just about every day we go some where and end up walking and walking and walking.
  • If we're going to stay somewhere (3 weeks or more) I want to be somewhere I can communicate - I have no problem dropping into areas where we don't know the language (keep in mind we're strictly in first world countries) and figuring things out. That's part of the challenge. But if I'm going to be somewhere for a while, I want shopping and understanding the systems to not be that much a challenge so I if you don't speak the language. So that means for our longer 'stay' type of trips and English or French speaking country.
  • Driving in Europe was much less dangerous than here in the US - Navigating is a challenge because of signage differences or non-existence but the GPS has really helped us with that. But by and large people follow speed limits, stay on the right unless they are going faster than other vehicles and don't go weaving in and out of traffic.
  • We have to keep acknowledging our age and declining capabilities - Even though certain children who will not be identified snarkily said that our 'slowing down' brought us back to where normal people are, we really on a number of fronts tried consciously to do things in a manner that did not beat us up so much.
  • Paying attention to the quality of sleep area pays off - In making our arrangements I wanted to avoid some of the problems of the trip before this where sleeping was not as good as we would have hoped because rooms and mattresses. This time by being aware of the issues we were much happier in that regard and the result was we didn't come back exhausted.
  • The type of travel we do is probably not something any of our peers are going to do - We've always dreamed of being able to share our love travel and the places we've been with friends but I've come to the conclusion that the way we do things is a product of decades of experience. There are so many things that we take for granted now like going to a grocery store in a country where you don't know the language or driving around and navigating as just some of the little challenges of travel. If you've done it in three languages, what's problem doing it in a fourth. For someone who has never done it, that's a much bigger deal. We've also fine tuned how to get the best value for the money we've spent and know what we want and what we're willing to spend for it. That has come from lots of experience. So the net is I suspect it will just be Wife and I doing our traveling.
  • Finally we recognize time is running out - We are in our upper 60's and fortunately still have mobility and acuity. The odds are some time in the next 10 years that's going to change and we aren't going to be able to do what we're doing now. So anticipate more blog posts from places around the world!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Transitioning Back Home

We've been back to the Towers for a grand total of 27 hours and it already feels as if we are back in the groove. Wife and I have been working hard on to make these transitions as seamless as possible. It is much more difficult for Wife as she has accounting/financial work that takes more time to do.  We are helped tremendously by having some high quality help in the form of a neighbor who is our handyman and watches the house while we're gone and a gardener who comes by and takes care of the yard. So when we got back the house and yard were in pristine condition.

Most important is our transition back to our current time zone. We implemented the changes to the East-West trans-Atlantic system of stopping at the US hub we've been working on the last few trips. So this time when we got to the hotel in Chicago, we took an hour long nap, then we ate dinner, and we stayed up until around 9:30 local time. We didn't wake up too much before the time to get up for our flight to Albuquerque.  That second 3 hour flight is so much easier on the body with the break. I took a pretty long nap after we got to the house. There's not tons of stuff to do when we arrive to unpack as we travel pretty darn light.  We both went to bed around 10:30.

Today feels pretty good. I took another 40 minute nap and I am starting with appointments tomorrow. My business picked up right where I left off with a new client commitment yesterday when I got back and another one hopefully on Thursday. Wife and I made our standard lunch salad (a concoction of around 9 to 10 fresh vegetables, 3 pickled vegetables, a meat, fresh grated cheese and a home-made vinaigrette) which is a process we have down to a science and remarked on how lovely it is to be working again in a kitchen that is clearly designed for cooking. We've been working in the Tower at our desks most of the day.

I like very much the fact that we can run around the world immersing ourselves in other cultures and come back and be at home in a matter of days.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - Heading Home And The Usual Sticker Shock

Our lovely time in Europe is over. It was sad goodbyes with the family this morning as we Ubered out to the airport. Absolutely no problems. Thank you all my hard won airline privileges which allowed us to:
  • Skip the long line checking into the airport
  • Skip the long line going through security in the airport
  • Stay at the airport lounge and save around $30 on food a drink
  • Skip the long lines at US Immigration (this time due to Global Entry not airline privileges).
Once again we opted to skip an upgrade back home and had a 3 seat row in Economy Plus to ourselves - more than enough room if one is not sleeping. Plus United has changed their policy and now has free wine and beer in Economy - even less economic incentive to pay the up charge for Business Class.

We're again staying overnight in Chicago to acclimate body clock wise before heading on to Albuquerque in the morning. And once again the sticker shock of eating in a US restaurant hit us straight between the eyes. Our European readers have complained about how much I was writing over the many weeks about what eating out cost on our trip. Let me give this example to show why it that was so fixed in my mind.

When looking at this example keep in mind this is an airport hotel so it has a somewhat captive audience and the prices are somewhat inflated by say 15 to 20%.  We had two hamburgers, a drink each before dinner and and drink each after dinner.  The total bill before tip was $75 - $28 before taxes for the food and the balance for the drinks. With a full 20% tip the bill was close to $90. This was more than any meal we had on our entire trip with the exception of one splurge meal with our kids - more than any meal we had and we ate some great meals with plenty to drink - for a couple of burgers and a couple of drinks.

That's why I write about the incredible value (quality compared to price) that exists now when you travel in Europe (if you are willing to get away from the major tourist central areas).

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - International Grandchild-Grandparent Celebration

It was Friday afternoon when the horrifying recognition came upon Wife and I that our daughter #3 and her husband 3A had their bags packed, were leaving their flat and had none of their children with them!

There is only one thing when life deals you lemons...make a meringue crusted lemon tart...or maybe a nice lemon curd...salted preserved North African lemons are also a savory option.  Never mind. Went on a culinary tangent.

No when we realized that we were giving the kids a child free weekend away we invoked the traditional International Grandchild-Grandparent Holiday. We were going to call it a party but granddaughter 3.1 told us that parties are only for birthdays however calling it a celebration was acceptable.

So we:
  • Bought crowns to prepare and wear
  • Blew up and played with many balloons
  • Bought and played with Noise makers
  • Bought and played with many stickers
  • Made and ate lots of popcorn
  • Bought and ate cupcakes
  • Bought and ate pizza
  • Watched lots of television (ungodly amounts of Peppa Pig!)
Generally speaking we all had a good time together.

A note briefly on the attachment of grandchild 3.2 to her grandma. She has been coming back from daycare and immediately running into the house crying 'GAMA, GRAMA!  We've joking called 3.2 Wife's groupie. Now she knows what it's like to be a rock star.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - Out Of Amsterdam

We decided to do something outside of Amsterdam on Thursday. Originally we were headed for an island on the North Sea coast but a combination of the length of time it would take us to get there combined with the not nice weather made us change our plans and go to one of the many smaller cities in Amsterdam

Hence by foot, metro, and rail

We reached

The home town of Hyeronimus Bosch where he lived his entire life.
The Artist

We crossed over the bridge into the old town

In search for the gastronomic treat of the town the:

A fabulous cream puff

That has the thinnest of pate a choux balls with a dark chocolate outside and a lightly sweetened whipped cream center.

It as a great old center square

There's cool modern architecture

Examples of the Medieval Heritage

A top of lingerie shops

A really nifty canal ride in open boats
(much better than the highly tourist ride in Amsterdam)

A fine old town center

And a really great Gothic Cathedral with fine stained glass windows

Friday, October 23, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - Misc Canal Pictures & Introducing The Italian Custom

What would a trip to Amsterdam be without a mandatory selection of canal pictures

Wife and I felt it was necessary to introduce the lovely custom of Austria and Italy - the Aperol Spritz to our Daughter and Son-in-law. After all in the Aperol commercials they call it 'sunshine in a glass'. What better for grey Amsterdam.

And an Aperol Spritz certainly makes the grand parenting role go smoother!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - Playing Tourist In Amsterdam

3A has to work this week. The grandkids are at their daycare. But #3 has taken off time from work as she has lots of days she needs to use up. So we decided that we might as well get out and do some stuff.

So today we got out and went to the Rijksmuseum.  Hard as it is to believe we've never been there in the 10 years we've been visiting the daughter her. One of the main reasons was that has been closed for a good part of that time for some major ass renovation.  This was the first time that we've had the chance to see the originals of the great 16th/17th century Dutch masters. It revived my faith in the power of painted art. To be honest we have seen scadzillions of paintings on this trip - canvas, wall, frescoes, murals - and for the most part they have been pretty dreadful. I don't know if the Hapsburgs had the worst taste in art ever, but so much of the stuff we saw was just emotionally impacting not to mention some of the real problems we saw with perspective. It was then interesting to look at later centuries when the money to support art and the talent was elsewhere in Europe at how the quality declined.

We met up with 3A for lunch in the Centrum (downtown) and then decided to take a boat tour of the canals that was just okay but at least got us off our feet.  I had done two long walks with #3 yesterday so I was ready to call it a day after that. There was a lot of rain and combined with the perspective of the boat on the canal (low looking up) decided that it wasn't worth taking a bunch of pictures. Similarly I decided that you can look up pictures of the Dutch masters on line that are a lot better than anything I could take.

It is so nice to be able to be with our family.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Hapsburg - Renaissance Trip - How We Role As A Family

We are in the last part of our trip - our traditional pilgrimage to the family in Amsterdam - 8 days of our being with the #3 family. It is a wonderful time when we take off our 'touring' and 'international experience' hats and put on our 'family immersion' hat. Typically that means I'm pretty much done with blog posts...Then I read daughter's blog where she says and I quote, "so I suspect I may copy-paste whatever my father writes as he is in full writer's mode and will do a much better job of it than I will right now."

Gee no pressure to post now.

Well what IS THERE to blog about....Hmmm how about


We have set an all time record for restraint on this trip and didn't get our first frites until nearly 48 hours after arriving!

Agh! Gek Fotograaf!

We could walk and take pictures of the Rijksmuseum, which for most of the 10 years we've been visiting our daughter as been under renovation but was finally finished a year or so ago.

Taking in the canals

We stop for lot's of coffee

We buy stuff from the Peppernoten Store, a store that sells only one type of cookie

And of course we roll with the family