Monday, November 30, 2009


Well. We managed to celebrate us some Thanksgiving. It started out small (two families) and ended up being a sort of accidental, last minute four family extravaganza. In the end, I am very happy with how it turned out. We managed to fit and feed 9 adults and 7 kids. In our little house. Quite comfortably as well. Sweet.

In other news, the littlest is growing like a weed. Well more like a pumpkin. Much more out lately and not so much up. She's finally getting some real weight on her. She's a cute little fatty. The middlest has just gone through a growth spurt, and she has lost (for the most part) her cute little pot belly. While it is nice to see her t-shirts staying near her pants, it's sad seeing that she has become a girl and won't continue being a little girl. Sniff. The biggest just keeps on staying stick thin. He continues to look like a concentration camp victim. And yet he eats like crazy. He gets the skinny little boy syndrome from his mom's side of the family.

This next part might come as a surprise to anyone who knows me. Or appreciates growing up in the south where it only rains in the winter with the occasional short freezes and maybe a sleet storm. We have succesfully kicked off our winter sport season. We (here I really mean "I") have vowed to stay as active as possible while it sucks outside. To that end, the kids and I all have new, cheap-o ice skates, and Sarah and I each have a set of used cross country skis. We bought the skis at a winter flea market, and I managed to get skis, boots, bindings, and poles for both of us for a total of €30. Sarah's boots are too small, though, so I will have to get her new boots and bindings once the season closes out and everything is getting clearanced. She won't be able to do much skiing, though, with C in tow. I'm not really sure I will be able to coax her out even then, since it is cold out where the snow is. See, she complains about the thought of going to sit in a ski lodge with a book and a baby, but I know for a fact that she would complain just as much should I be the one to sit there and let her out to ski. ;) She doesn't quite see eye to eye with cold.

So our true season opener was a trip to the ice rink up in Waldbronn ( a couple of weeks ago. We rented skates and suffered through a couple of hours there. At that point I decided that I wasn't going to fight rental skates any more. Up until two years ago, I had only been on the ice two or three times, so owning ice skates never crossed my mind. Since we moved here, I have been skating eight or ten times (and it looks like it will only be getting more common). All of my previous sessions have sucked, though, because I have had crappy rental skates. I have decided that the risk to my body isn't worth it. To that end, I picked up some super cheap skates a the local Lidl (think Aldi, for those who know Aldi). I have dtermined that the cheapest of cheap, discount-market ice skates is roughly a factor of 100 times better than the best of rental skates, from my experience. Wow. My feet were comfortable. My feet were warm. The blades have edges and don't move side to side as well as (or in some cases better than) they move front to back. Incroyable!

We got to use the new skates at the open-air rink here in Karlsruhe on Saturday ( It is the largest open-air, multi-use ice facility in Germany. It is also subsidized by the local utitliy, so the whole family can skate for a pittance. Unfortunately, last weekend was pretty warm and somewhat sunny, so that pittance included about 3/4" of standing water on the rink. That was an interesting experience. While it sucked for any who didn't happend to have water proof clothing on. There were some wet kids there. Fortunately, they didn't belong to me. We planned well this time around.

So, it turns out that really warm, wet ice is sticky. I have never encountered sticky ice. Sticky ice combined with brand new skates makes for a very controlled skating experience. It was much more like roller blading and much less like ice skating. To the point that even the middlest was able to wander around a little bit without her little helper penguin ice skating support. The biggest looked like he has always owned skate. I flailed around like I always do, but with much less side to side footing flinging. The littlest ended up going shopping with the mommiest, who grumbled about it but decided she might as well fight the crowds since we were in town. We are looking forward to more time there this season.

As a bonus, I got to explain the heat transfer process used to freeze the rink because the heat exchanger piping (this would typically be referred to as the chiller piping, I guess) runs along the ground at one end of the rink, and A asked why one pipe was frozen and the other wasn't. He doesn't really get as excited about that stuff as I do. He didn't want to hear about the Carnot cycle (, though. I was kinda disappointed.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I'm a daddy!

I got a baby.

I like babies. Especially because they don't have to latch onto my boobies. Sweet.

I also gave my father in law some soy milk in a brown jar and told him it was some of Sarah's colostrum. He almost had a stroke. It was awesome.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

It's Getting Hectic, It's Getting Crazy, It's Getting Hectic, It's Getting Wild

Well, the final countdown has started. First we got through A's birthday. Yesterday we made it through Sarah's birthday. Mom flies in on the 25th (this countdown is a branch from the main source, so to speak) . The baby comes on the 27th. It is pretty weird talking about the new baby like we're picking up a rental car. Hopefully we planned this C-Section early enough that we don't have any emergencies. Third time's a charm, right?
I am pretty excited about my mom coming to visit. She hasn't ever left the country before. This should pretty well blow her mind. I am thinking I will take back roads back from Frankfurt (once we're south of Mannheim) so she can see some of the countryside and the cool little villages that you miss on the autobahn. Assuming she can keep her eyes open. It will be a long day for her and an early one for us. I am hoping to get the kids out of the door before 6:00 AM so we can get parked and meet her at customs. The kids have committed, but they don't quite understand what I mean when I say that they have to get up at 05:30. Fun fun! This will (hopefully) give Sarah some time to rest up and sleep in before the big day.
We are slowly coming to terms with what to expect with the whole public social insurance rigamaroll. As peasants (I can't afford private insurance for the whole family), we are relagated to the peon ward with shared rooms. In the hospital we have chosen, that usually only means two people. For a €55/day premium, we can "rent" a whole room, and I can stay there with her. I will then get to partake in the breakfast buffet and hospital meals. From what we saw when A broke his leg, that will pretty much be bread and water. It's all of the fun of prison, but we get to pay for it. Yippee!!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

This is a test

I am testing posting.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What a stressful weekend!

We finally had good weather this weekend. We got up early on Saturday to run into town to get our hairs cut (Sarah and I had appointments). Thanks to now having a car, we are able to accomplish that 35 minute trip in 12 minutes now. It is awesome. B got a complementary bang trim because she was looking shabby and the hairdresser thought she had pretty eyes that needed to on display.

We got back home, Sarah vacuumed out the car, I made plans with a friend for a barbecue, then I packed the kids back in the car and drove to a local, public skate park. I parked a little way away (60 yards or so) because I wasn't sure where I could park. I got the kids set up on the side of the park to watch a little while, and I moved the car right next to the park. I got the kids all safety-d up and sent B out on her little Laufrad and A out on his skateboard. I was about to pull out my cell phone to take some pictures when the boy fell down. I heard a LOUD pop, and he immediately started screaming, "I BROKE MY LEG! I BROKE MY LEG!" Sure enough. I was about 40 feet away when I heard it break. It was freaky. I got the kids into the car, called Sarah to let her know we were headed her way for passports, insurance cards and doctor papers. We picked her up and raced to the hospital. Fortunately, I have been looking at the hospital's web site in preparation for the new baby, so I actually knew where I was going. We got him into the the children's emergency room and spent the next 4 hours fighting him down so he could get x-rayed, sedated and casted. He didn't end up needing surgery, but he is in a cast from mid-thigh to his toes. He had to spend the night in hospital last night. Sarah stayed with him. That was pretty tough on the family. We made it through, though, and we have him back at home. We are all completley worn out now, and we are ready to pack it in and go to bed.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I skipped out on work for a few hours today and met the family in town for the Fasching (Carnival/Mardi Gras) parade. It was cold. Fun, but cold. There was a lot of candy for the kids. And matches. That's right, there was a club throwing out small boxes of matches. A got one. B didn't. She was distraught. We let A help us light a fire in the wood stove tonight, then I took them away. Poor guy...

Oh, and we bought a car last week. After more than year and a half without one, we finally gave in. Well, we also found one that was dirt cheap. It is way smaller than we had planned, but we couldn't beat the price, and it gets us into a vehicle so we can better search for another, larger vehicle should that become critical. We want to see how long we can manage with this one, though, so we can get finances better in hand.

Either way, being able to hop in the car and drive to the store in the rain is amazing.

New Wheels: 2001 Fiat Seicento SX 1.1L

Wow. Perspective can make things in the background look really small.

It's even more effective when you have small things in the background.

But... It has a FULL LENGTH sliding sun roof.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Aaaahhhh... Good coffee

I have a confession. I find German coffee and beer only OK. Well, let me clarify that. Most Germans own $2000 coffee machines, but they buy $2 coffee which they store open on a bright counter. And, while, Tschibo makes pretty good coffee, the Germans do something strange when they roast it, and it is all flat and bitter. And I feel that I have given it a good go. I have bought tons of brands. I have tried brewing in a coffee maker, I have tried it in my coffee press, and I usually brew into a thermal carafe with a cup top cone filter (where you just pour the hot water in by hand). It is all very mediocre.

Now on to German beer. I like beer. A lot. I have years and years of experience automating breweries. I have done taste tests with brewing departments to determine quality. I am not an expert at it, and I will be the first to admit that I can't sit and pitch the pros and cons of Yakima hops over blah blah hops or the best pitch rate for a nice pils, but I understand beer. I also know what I like. I like ale. Very hoppy IPA's really get me going. Germans don't do that. They have three types of beer: Pilsner, Export, Wheat. And they are good. But they aren't ales. And the differences between brewers really aren't that big. Enough to pick a favorite, but not enough to pass when it isn't available.

I have, however, found a workaround. There is a little brewery here called Vogelbraeu. I love their beer. They brew a few other varieties, and the quality of the ingredients makes it taste great. I don't go there very often (only a handful of times a year, maybe), but it is quite tasty.

Last summer, I stumbled on a coffee roaster. It is nice. He makes coffee like it is supposed to be made. He drastically varies the roast based on the beans he is roasting, and he knows his stuff. His prices are reasonable as well. I mean, it ain't cheap, but since it is a pain for me to get there, it isn't a frequent expense. I picked up a kilo of coffee yesterday. I got an Ethiopian (I believe) and another one. Since I can't read German hand writing, I don't really know what I got. The one that I think is an Ehtiopian is a sorta dark roast, but not too dark. It is nice and mellow, a little grassy (like every Ethiopian I have had) and quite drinkable. I got another one that is super dark roasted. Very oily. It is a little over roasted, but I like that taste, so it suits me.

I brewed up a carafe of each today. I won't be sleeping tonight, but man oh man is it worth it.