September Part I

False Alarm A had a birthday. KrisDi made her a cake using a new icing technique — “mirror glaze”. She also took her to a painting event and a for a pedicure. While she was gone, G False Alarm and I watched the four kids, and invented a new technique for coloring: We taped a un-colored picture on the outside of a window, and let the kids color the inside of the glass with white board markers.

The next day, we went to their house, where we mostly finished up their clusterfucked kitchen sink. When I left, everything was working, but the connections to the sink leaked a little bit.

Chilkat started first grade. She seems to be doing well. She seems to like the teacher, and there was (as far as I know) no crying on her first day.

Chilkat also lost her second tooth; her first permanent tooth has been named “Onesy” and the second one “Twinsy”.

Chilkat reached another pubescent milestone: She put up signs telling people to keep out of her room.

A & V Dubs both had birthdays and shared birthday parties. First was at a Pump It Up, the next weekend was at their house. They are now 4 and 2 respectively.

Not a lot else going on. Just life.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Photo updates, 0 comments

So Many Words

So…two main things today. And surprisingly, no pictures of kids, food, or beer.

I discovered after I had kids that my quality of life is significantly affected by my ability to consume stories — TV, movies, or books. After Chilkat was born, the time when I could do this simply disappeared, which was miserable. After some time (I think after Chilkoot was born), I discovered Kindle (on my phone), and could suddenly start reading when I was sitting with a cranky child in the dark. And suddenly my life was better. Prior to this discovery, sitting in the dark with a screaming child was a grueling, tiresome chore. After this discovery, it was bearable — because I can read books on my phone in the dark!

Anyway, since that time, I’ve been reading consistently. Not as much as I used to, but so much more than the grim (in terms of story consumption) period after Chilkat was born. It’s nice.

Recently, I finished reading the entirety of HP Lovecraft‘s writings. I spend less time reading in the dark with my screaming children now, but still most of my reading is on a phone. I found many of the stories OK, a few bad, and a few very good. One of my standard frustrations with old (pre-40s) fiction is the collection of uninformed notions about health and science (yes, it’s because things were simply not known, not because the author or particular individuals were especially uninformed). One of the things I especially enjoyed about this was the vast collection of unfamiliar and/or archaic words or references — below, if you find yourself so inclined.

Continue reading →

Posted by snaotheus in Stuff I Looked Up, 1 comment

The Rest of August

A large amount of the pictures from the second half of August taken in the US were taken by Les and D. They took the kids to the zoo. The kids also had their piano recital, which I would have liked to see. Chilkoot does a lot better under pressure from someone besides his mom and dad. There’s really not a lot, overall.

There is also not much food. Aside from the fact that it was a busy month, we were out for a lot of it in Europe.

Posted by snaotheus in Family, Food, Photo updates, 1 comment

Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Day One

Again, we took the train. Again, it was a little weird how little security or ticket-checking there was. We arrived in Amsterdam in the afternoon, eventually figured out how to use the tram system to get fairly close to our little hotel (the Owl). We walked there, checked in, were amused at the comical tininess of the elevator, and were alarmed at the total lack of air conditioning despite the mugginess (turned out OK with cool nights and open windows).

We walked around somewhat aimlessly looking for beer and/or dinner. We quickly noticed that there was a very recognizable aroma that seemed to be characteristic of Amsterdam, in little pockets in many places, often centered in front of or near coffee shops. We were amazed at the quantity of bicycles, the complexity of the crosswalk signals (I honestly have no idea how they’re supposed to work), and the fact that apparently the cops have no problem tearing down the sidewalks with lights and sirens blazing, and trusting to pedestrians to get the fuck out of the way.

We eventually settled on a collection of places around a square that seemed to have joined together to fill the square with seating, umbrellas, and heaters. We got a Dutch sampler plate and some local beer. Then we wandered around some more, looking at shop fronts and canals and houseboats.

Day Two

Breakfast at the hotel (nothing special, but not bad). We rented bicycles from the hotel, because everything we planned to see was a bikable distance (walkable, but long) from us, and the tram seemed slow and cumbersome. Biking is also non-trivial — navigating, trying to understand traffic, and watching out for the many exciting disturbances that can disrupt a bicycle. We went to an area near the Rijksmuseum where the “I Amsterdam” letters are, took pictures with them, got tickets for a canal boat tour and the Van Gogh museum and Moco, had a snack and wandered around the park area nearby, and then went to see the Banksy and Salvador Dali exhibits. They were neat.

From there, we went to Food Hallen, what appeared to be a converted warehouse filled with upscale eateries. We had four different things for lunch, followed by fancy pastries. It was very good. Then we discovered a flat tire on one of the bikes and walked back to the hotel to replace it.

Then we rode out to Brouwerij ‘t IJ for beer and snacks. It was nice. Then we rode to the Delirium Cafe for beer and snacks. It was nice. Then we rode to boat canal tour. This was also fun. The guy operating the boat was good-natured and friendly (which I’m sure is a requirement for the job). The tour came with two free drinks (rose, white wine, Amstel, and Heineken were available). He immediately said, “Drink as much as you like. I don’t care.”

From there, we went to De Bekeerde Suster, another brewery. We had good but not exciting dinner, and good beer. We wandered around some more and headed back to the hotel to sleep.

Day Three

Breakfast at the hotel again (it was convenient and we thought it was free). Primary transportation for the day was bicicles again. We went to the Van Gogh Museum, which was very cool, but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. I don’t know much about art, but it’s interesting to see how skilled and talented people construct pictures from colored paste.

From there, we went to a nearby parkish area strewn with various outdoor sculptures. It was something called Artzuid. This was not as impressive, but some of the sculptures were pretty interesting.

Then we went someplace for dutch pancakes. It was very small, and there was a line, but the pancakes were very tasty. We then went to some black licorice shop that was recently featured on some food or cooking channel.

We then found an outdoor market somewhere, which had pickled herring (haring, much better than the first time) and fried cod (kibbeling). Then we stopped at a bar called Gollem and shared a bottle of Rodenbach Alexander while T Dog wandered nearby taking pictures.

Finally, we rode to Brouwerij Prael, where we were meeting with Frans, a Dutch friend who used to work for a different subsidiary of my parent company and spent a year at my company. He met us at the brewery for a beer (we had already finished the bitterballen), then we walked to his choice of Indonesian restaurant. We went all out on the dinner, getting something called “rijsttaffel”, which ended up being something like 50 different dishes, all of which were very good.

Then Frans walked us around the Red Light District (on a Friday evening, it was pretty hectic), also through some quieter neighborhoods. He tried to teach me how to pronounce a little bit of Dutch, which is hard, again due to unfamiliar sounds.

We parted ways, and when we rode our bikes back to the hotel, it seemed crazy. At least one square that we went to either had a major party or some kind of demonstration going on — people were running and screaming, some flares were burning. It made me really uncomfortable.

Conclusion

We left the next day. We took a bus to the airport and wandered forever before finding where we needed to go, and found some more interesting stuff to eat and a few more things to bring home.

Overall, I think I enjoyed Brussels the most again. There were still so many things we skipped in both London and Amsterdam, not to mention that big city England and Netherlands (and Belgium) is certainly not the whole story — so there’s plenty more I’d still like to see.

I’m really glad Les and D were able to take care of the kids for us while we gallivanted. This sort of trip would have just been unpleasant if we had to spend all our time looking for things the kids wanted, and had to go to bed at their bedtime, and otherwise had to live within the limitations of parenthood.

But it was really nice to see the kids again when we got back. And it was actually nice to get back int o the regular daily routine, as well.

Posted by snaotheus in Photo updates, 6 comments

Brussels

Brussels, Belgium

Day One

We left London early in the morning. I planned to have a pasty for breakfast from the pasty shop in the train station, but despite the internet’s assertion that it was open 24 hours a day, it was not open. I was disappointed. We went from Victoria station to St Pancras to get to the international station for the Eurostar train to Brussels through France. St Pancras is also the home of “Platform 9 3/4” of Harry Potter fame. We stopped for a quick photo opportunity (surprise!), and then I bought a pasty from the pasty shop there that actually was open 24/7.

The international train was strange — I think the only time our tickets or passports were needed were for immigration on exiting London. We could have gotten on any of the trains. Nice two hour ride to Brussels with a couple stops beforehand. It’s strange to be in three different countries over the course of two hours. Also, I guess I’ve been through the chunnel now.

Getting from our arrival station to Brussels Central was more complicated than it should have been. We don’t know why. We couldn’t talk to anyone or read anything. But, we got there. Then walked to the hotel (Warwick), checked in, were frustrated by the elevator that wouldn’t let us operate it, were frustrated by the air conditioning (at the end, we discovered it was barely capable of cooling the room one degree per day). Then we went out to look around and find lunch (and were frustrated by our inability to settle on a place to eat). We eventually found Bourse, with beer (of course), mussels, veal stew, and construction across the street that really elevated the ambiance. I liked it.

Then we went for waffles and street beer (drinking in public places is fine in Brussels — when you buy beer at a convenience store, they ask if you want it opened), and went to see the Manneken Pis. We were suitably irreverent and P Dubs and T Dog were suitably unimpressed by his diminution.

We wandered some more and looked around in chocolate shops. We found chocolate tits and dicks, as well as surprisingly realistic tools, such as a pair of vernier calipers and a nut and bolt that threaded together.

We went to Monk for beer (repeat from last time, where I found Westvleteren 12 cheaper than any stores) and the nearby St Catherine’s cathedral. We had Snack Family Doner Kebab for dinner. We dropped back by the Grand Place on our way back to the hotel (they’re very close to each other).

Day Two

We went to breakfast at Peck 47 (repeat from last time) and P Dubs also got coffee at the nearby Corica, whose barista was super friendly and helpful. We walked to Cantillon from there, where we listened to the founder’s “great great great grandson” (not sure how many greats were in there, and he looked like a teenager). We were suitably awed by the brewery and proceeded to taste most of the available beers. We spent 4.5 hours there. We also bought a ton of beer, which I had to carry back. We bought 18 bottles there — 12 gueuezes, 3 krieks, and 3 Rose de Gambrinus (raspberry).

We went back to drop them off at the hotel and then went back to Brussels Central to find an ATM. We also noticed the military presence — a military vehicle and at least three fully uniformed and armed soldiers walking around. This seemed to be the case every day, which is sad.

Then we went for waffles and street beer (I had Chimay blue). We went to the Little Delirium. We saw St Michael’s Cathedral (I’m not sure why I like this building so much — I mean, it’s just another incredibly impressive European cathedral). We saw a tuba as a street instrument (first time for me, excluding marching bands). We had more waffles. We had frites.

We went to a bar/restaurant named Poechellekelder, where we had more Cantillon and some other beers. We had dinner at Aux Paves de Bruxelles – steak and picadillo, pork shank, mussels. We went to Moeder (another repeat visit) for sour beers (I had more Cantillon). We went back to the Grand Place for some night time photos, which turned out well.

Day Three

We had breakfast at a pastry shop named Aux Merveilleux, including stroopwafels, and went back to Corica for more delicious coffee from the friendly barista. Then we did more general sight seeing, such as actually entering the square in the middle of Town Hall, the largest and most impressive building there — the first time I’ve seen it open. We stopped at Hard Rock for lame souvenir grabbing. I played with the camera and tried to freeze bees with high shutter speeds.

We packed up beer. My little suitcase was very heavy. KrisDi’s big suitcase was also heavy. We went to the Drug Opera (no idea why it’s called that) for lunch and beer. Then we went back to a convenience stores with Westvleteren XII in their fridge and bought some street beers. It’s ridiculous to walk around with a bottle of this 10.2% world-renowned beer. We went to the little park in front of St Michael’s Cathedral to chill and drink them.

And then we headed to the train station to head to Amsterdam.

Takeaways / Other Stuff

Throughout all of our wandering, I kept going into convenience stores and specialty stores looking for Westvleteren XII and checking prices. Lowest I saw I think was 13.50 euros, but it was stored in direct sunlight; highest I saw was 18. I bought six to take home; P Dubs bought one. We bought three to drink while walking around. I think we bought them at three different stores altogether.

I loved the night time pictures we took in Grand Place, and I totally attribute them to the new camera. I think with the old camera, we probably could have gotten comparable pictures by meticulously fiddling with settings and maybe using a tripod or something — but this thing was literally just point-and-shoot.

I love Brussels. Not sure (aside from the beer) what I love so much about it.

 

Posted by snaotheus in Photo updates, 1 comment