Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Do Not Disturb

I mowed the lawn last night. The grass is a disturbing combination of almost equal parts soft green and wiry brown. I’m hoping the recent rains will even out our yard’s complexion.

Near one of the pine trees I found a patch of dirt. It looked like more damn chipmunk damage. I kicked at the soil until I got to the grass beneath it. I continued to scrape at the pile until I saw more grass than dirt. Then I continued mowing.

It wasn’t until I swung the mower around for a second pass that I noticed the wiggling of little legs. I had planted a baby bunny’s head into the ground when I moved the dirt with my foot. The poor thing’s hind legs were kicking desperately in the air. I ran to the garage to get a box and towel. When I got back to the baby bunny the wiggling had slowed significantly. I pulled the bunny out and noticed it was bleeding.

That’s when I saw the other six babies.

I know that I should have left them alone, but I wanted to make sure the others weren’t injured. I pulled them all out of their hole and put them on the towel in the box.

Of course I had to show the girls. You can guess what the first thing out of Allie’s mouth was. Her Can we keep them? was quickly dismissed. She did notice the blood on the bunny that I tried to plant. I was honest and told her I didn’t expect it to survive. She didn’t seem upset. There were far too many other sightless, barely fuzzy babies squirming around in the box for her to focus on the plight of one bloodied baby.

I wish I could be as easily distracted.

I felt awful about harming the bunny. It was struggling to breathe and barely moving when I got around to returning all the bunnies to their hole. I knew it was going to die but I thought I’d let the bunny’s mother deal with my rabbicide. I arranged the babies as best I could, keeping the dying one to the rear of the pile, in contact with, but not buried by, its brothers and sisters.

I looked to the Web for information about this type of situation and it seems I did the right thing.

I won’t be checking on the baby bunnies’ progress. I don’t want to know if the little one I made bleed survived. I’ll just continue to look out the window at that spot in the yard and hope I’m not a murderer.

Monday, June 27, 2005

A lot of trouble just for some photos. . .

Click on Password Please. Enter the password. Then click Multimedia. After that you'll find London & Paris 2005 and Shannon & Anna 2005.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Marmite Taste Test #1

It blows. It sucks. However you want to say it I now have proof (not that I required it) this stuff is nasty.

I brought a jar of Marmite to work along with some Wheat Thins. I spread some of the sticky, brown goo on the crackers and left them on a plate. Next to my unholy appetizers I placed a pad of paper that read, "What do you think of Marmite?"

Here's what they wrote:

1. The worst chocolate sauce ever.
2. EWW - - - -
3. So that's what happens when you mess up a batch of wort. . .
4. Get your money back - this jar has gone bad!!!!
5. Whoa.
6. Tastes "funny." Paradoxically, both funny weird AND funny Ha Ha. That's all. Gotta go to the vomitorium.

My friend Donna wrote a haiku:

Smoked, salty yeast sauce
Hardens to a deep brown glaze
More like brine, or bile?

Then she wrote another one:

Lower fat wheat thins
Adorned with dark brown yeast sauce
No one liked his treat

Marmite is so bad a person was moved to commit haiku. That pretty much says it all.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Just Ducky

I had convinced myself that my father's day sucked. Turns out it didn't, but we'll get to that later.

Deb had her wisdom teeth pulled on Thursday. This left her bruised, swollen and unable to do most of the common things most of us take for granted. I'll mention chewing, in particular. No chewing made for a cruel weekend for Debbie. Her parents and sisters came to see us and we ate hamburgers, corn-on-the-cob, steaks; most of Deb's favorites. All she could do was watch us eat or retreat to the bedroom for some pharmaceutically aided slumber.

Deb was, understandably, a little cranky. She started to bristle at all of our suggestions to help her feel better. I wasn't very understanding of her tone and chastised her for treating us like idiots whenever we threw recovery tips her way. I supposed after three days of watching her suffer I'd had enough myself.

Needless to say Deb wasn't in any kind of shape to make a big deal out of father's day. She went into town and got me some truffles. Two were in the shape of tiny ducks. I discovered later that the ducks are my favorite. Not only do I enjoy eating their little faces off, turns out ducklings are filled with caramel and marshmallow cream. I'll keep that in mind the next time I'm lost in the wilderness and have to depend on nature's bounty for food.

My sister-in-laws insisted on buying me a cool shirt. These women have introduced me to several northern delights not the least of which is the pre-dinner Old Fashion (taken in multiple doses). So I had drinks, gifts, good company, cute greeting cards and a hand-crafted, ultra-cool mouse pad featuring outlines of both Allie's and Julia's hands (which I forgot to take to work today).

How could I possibly say my father's day sucked without sounding like an ingrate?

I suppose it was a matter of Sunday not being the give dad a day-off to indulge his whims sort of day that I anticipated it would be. I did some kitchen duty and took the girls away so that Deb could rest before returning to work today. That meant instead of wandering around Home Depot unhindered I found myself making vague threats of torture beneath the ceiling fan display to stop all the screaming and clawing. Instead of checking out a movie or window shopping for motorcycles I plugged quarters into the riding toys at the mall. Rather than sampling something exotic in some out-of-the-way restaurant for lunch I sat in a food court and watched Happy Meals disappear.

This wasn't Father's Day, it was just like every other trip into town on any given Sunday with the girls.

But it wasn't, really. I drove to work this morning and thought about Sunday. I remember the guy at the carwash looking at the girls in the back seat and smiling at me while he said, "Happy Father's Day, man!" I smiled when I thought about rubbing Allie's head while walking around Home Depot. She said, "It's father's day and you get to pat both your bubbies on the head." I remember the feeling I had in the car when I glanced back at both girls as they slept during the drive home. And later this evening, I'll get to go upstairs and bite the head off another chocolate duck.

In retrospect, I had a kick-ass father's day.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Feeling Saucy

I haven't had Dink's Barbecue sauce in about twelve years. After that amount of time, I'm afraid I may have forgotten what it tastes like.

That doesn't mean I don't crave the stuff.

There is a portion of my brain where proteins have etched a memory of the pure bliss and satisfaction that occurs when eating anything with this sauce on it. That's why I had to call up Jesse in Bartlesville, Oklahoma (I don't know Jesse, he's just the guy they put on the phone). He's going to ship four bottles to me.

I was introduced to the sauce back in the early 90's when I went on a business trip (my very first) to Nowata, Oklahoma. We drove to Bartlesville for lunch at Dink's. I don't know if the place has changed much but it was pretty non-descript back then. It could have been any restaurant that offered any bill of fare, anywhere. But it wasn't just any restaurant and they served barbecue in Oklahoma.

After we sat down in the restaurant I didn't really have a chance to order. Our hosts just told the waitress to bring out platters of meat. I remember along with the usual smoked brisket, pulled pork and ribs there was barbecued bologna on the tray. Mmmmm. . . barbecued bologna.

Everyone at the table was wearing a suit (or at least sleeves and ties) and I was trying to display my best business manners. That's when I noticed the other people were grabbing at the meat on the trays like starved chimps at a banana festival. So I started grabbing at the meat myself. It was wonderful. Every bite was juicy, delicate with an incredible, smoky flavor. Everything on the trays was the work of a true artisan. Then the waitress put a bowl of Dink's sauce in front of me. "They just smoke the meat here. That way you only get as much sauce as you want," I was told.

I suppose it goes without saying I liked the sauce. I would have been happy to have just sat there and lapped it up out of the bowl. But marrying the meat to the sauce made this meal the gold standard for what barbecue should be in my head.

I'll share my sauce with you when it arrives. But I'm not giving away any bottles this time around. You'll have to get your own. I Googled Dink's Barbecue to find the number. It's there, but there's not much more information about Dink's Barbecue. I guess I'm kind of happy about that. It means Dink's hasn't taken the leap into Tony Roma's territory. It's still a special, little place. But they do have a Web site now: www.dinksbbq.com. They aren't quite ready for e-commerce so if you want to order the sauce you'll still have to call 918-335-0606 and ask for Jesse.

He'll ship you the bill in the same box your sauce comes in.

They know you're good for it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Two - Two Posts in One

Driving home from Chicago last weekend was tough on the kids. Allie's quote summed it up, "I love the big buildings but I hate all of the traffic."

At one point Julia started flipping out (again). I didn't know what to do. I had exhausted our entire arsenal of snacks, toys and distractions. Finally I reached into the bottom of Julia's diaper bag and pulled out a single, white Lego and handed it to her.

She looked at me and said with her eyes, "Are you serious? I've been crying and moaning as if I'm trying to pass a McNugget-sized kidney stone and you think this is going to shut me up? Surely there is more to follow."

She examined the Lego. She searched for someway to activate it. Each time she turned it over she looked back to me for some clue as to how it worked. Then Deb suggested that I give her a snack-sized baggie to put the Lego in. I gave Julia the baggie. She put the Lego inside. She took it out again.

She was occupied. She was quiet.

At this point in the trip Deb and I were fairly punchy so we began to laugh uncontrollably. We started to list all the other "toys" that were waiting for Julia when she got home. The list included dead batteries, dryer lint and sticks.

New topic. Same post.

I can't stop thinking about Marmite. The stuff is yeast extract that British people typically spread on buttered toast. I guess the Australian equivalent is Vegemite and we've all heard that song.

I tasted the stuff when we were in England. It's repulsive. If you've been on the Miller Brewing tour in Milwaukee you know the smell. I like that smell. Only Marmite is that smell greatly magnified then reduced down to a sticky paste that has enough salt added to kill a slug without actually touching it.

I want more.

I want to get a small jar of the stuff and see if it's really as bad as my memory tells me it is. I want to try it on toast. Maybe then I'll understand why people continue to buy it. The problem is I can't find it. I know I can order the stuff, but I don't want to spend $20 only to take one bite of toast and say, "Yeah. It really is as bad as I remember. I'll save it for company." Then it'll sit on the shelf year-after-year until I find some unsuspecting victims.

What I would like to buy is a jar of pickles. I ate a pickle and cheese sandwich at Wimbledon and liked it. The pickle portion of the sandwich was more like a saucy relish. It was good. Maybe I'll get some of that.

I'll let you know.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Borrow Your Prophy Angle?

I took Allie to the dentist this morning.

Allie loves her dentist. Well, not her dentist. She only sees her dentist for a about five minutes each time she visits. No, it's the office, itself, she loves.

I can't say that I blame her. I might have mentioned this before, but the office has eight rows of theater seats and a super large screen TV that plays all the latest Disney films. When it comes time for Allie to actually sit in the dentist's chair they put cool sunglasses on her to shield her eyes from the harsh lights. The glasses must also help her see the tiny monitor Allie can watch while they gently remove the plaque from teeth that are going to fall out in a few months anyway.

Today Allie had a guest dentist (not that she'd notice). The plan for this appointment was to place a small wire in the roof of Allie's mouth to correct a slight cross-bite. The guest dentist called me over to explain why he didn't want to put the wire in until Allie's new molars arrive.

I walked over to Allie's chair and looked in her mouth. I didn't see her mouth because I was distracted by the tremendous number of boogers she had in her nose.

I almost gasped.

"Good God!" I said. "Can I borrow some of these tools to get that crap out of my daughter's nose?" I asked.

The guest dentist told me, "We don't do noses here. Unless they're really bad."

I wondered how much worse it would need to be before they intervened because Allie had a colony of massive green/brown asteroids growing in each nostril.

We finished her appointment without touching the build-up in her nose. No wire. Just a cleaning and a fluoride treatment. Allie walked away with a ring, a sticker, a new tooth brush and an appointment to do it all again in six months. Only next time I'll be sure to sandblast her nostrils before we go.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

No Bed Bugs!

One of the most difficult things about planning our trip was finding information about reasonably priced hotels in London and Paris.

Trip Advisor and similar sites were a big help but we still wanted more info. So here are quickie reviews of the three hotels we experienced (and yes, I have a thing about smells).

The Columbia Hotel
95-99 Lancaster Gate

May, 2005 - 86 Pounds/157.40 Dollars per night.

The hotel is easy to find and very convenient to both Paddington and Lancaster Gate Underground stations. When we arrived we were thankful that they allowed us to check in early (around 9:00 or 10:00 a.m.). Our room was very small but clean. There was no air conditioning and the room was stuffy even for what was a relatively cool day (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit). This made us wonder what the room would be like on an even warmer day.

The bathroom was tiny but clean. Soap, but no shampoo. No wash cloths.

The problem with room #222 was that the vent from the kitchen was right outside the window. The smell was very strong. I was a little nauseous so it was really a problem. I went back down to the reception desk and told them our problem. Fortunately they were very understanding and had a different room available.

The second room was much better. A view onto the street and a very large, handicapped accessible bathroom. It was difficult to maintain the water temperature in the shower, but we never ran out of hot water.

Paint was peeling off the very high ceiling and everything from the furniture to the bedspreads was very, very old. The room smelled of lemon scented cleaner which did a good job of masking the lingering scent of a room that has seen many travelers year-after-year-after-year. Not exactly the Four Seasons but clean and nice to return to after running around the city all day long.

The free English breakfast was good. Eggs and bacon, cereal, toast, juices and tea. If you need to use the hotel's only iron and ironing board, be prepared to leave a 20 pound deposit.

We would return.

Hotel Londres St. Honore
13 Rue Saint-Roch

May 2005 - 90 Euros/115.33 Dollars per night.

The hotel is near Pyramides stations. Once you find Rue Saint-Roch it's not hard to find. We arrived early and there was no problem checking in. If you are on an upper floor, you really need to ride the elevator. It's the smallest I've seen. Room enough for two if you've had carnal knowledge of the person with whom you're riding. We were told that the hotel owners were not allowed to cut into any of the wood in this 500 year-old building so they squeezed an elevator in where they could.

Our room was small, clean, functional. The bathroom could be described the same way. They provided hand soap and packets of body wash/shampoo. No wash cloths. Plenty of hot water but when someone flushed a toilet you paid for it with a minor scalding. The blanket on the bed was issued during the second world war and it's age still didn't do much to reduce it's abrasiveness. The pillows were shaped like raviolis and about as dense.

There was a tiny fridge in the room with beverages. It didn't do much to keep things cold, but we put beverages in there anyway and they seemed to somewhat below room temperature.

There was no memorable smell to the room however it was hot. It was 93 degrees outside (in May) and not a lot of breeze was available from our open window. Fortunately they provided a fan which kept us fairly cool as we slept.

The hotel is close to a number of small markets, restaurants, Metro stations and shops. It's also close to a church. A church with a bell. A bell that rings with no discernable pattern. If you're awake and ready to go the peeling bell adds to the old world atmosphere. If you're trying to sleep. . .

If you stay here you will more than likely meet Eric. Someone described Eric to us as being able to carrying on three conversations in three different languages while drawing a map, backwards, from memory. He was very helpful and even gave us a lengthy, animated, semi-entertaining, semi-informative primer on the city of Paris and what to see and do. All of which ended in a sales pitch for a river cruise which we went ahead and bought from him.

Breakfast was good and consisted of a croissant and a hard roll with your choice of hot chocolate, coffee, tea, orange juice.

We would return.

Rhodes Hotel
195 Sussex Gardens

May 2005 - 80 Pounds/153.24 Dollars per night.

Chris and Maria are the owners and are very nice people. Maria checked us in early (around 10:30 a.m.) and we had a very nice conversation with her. Our room wasn't quite ready so Maria brought us some fresh towels and soap so we could freshen up.

In comparison to the other rooms we stayed in this room was large but it featured the smallest bathroom. In this particular bathroom if you're standing in front of the sink, your ass will touch the door when it's closed. If you drop your bar of soap, you will need to bend at the knees to retrieve it. They made soap and hand towels available along with the requisite bath towels.

Unlike our other rooms this one had an air conditioner which was very welcome.

The bed was comfortable. The refrigerator in the room came in very handy and provided ice cold water in the middle of the night. There was a computer with free Internet access available. This was extremely handy for getting updates on our kids and letting people know how our trip was going. Prior to this we relied on Internet cafes which wasn't a big deal, but it was still nice not to waste additional time and money.

Breakfast was cereal, a selection of cheese and cold cuts, coffee, tea, juice and they brought us a basket of toasted bread and croissants. You could buy an English Breakfast for three pounds if you wanted but the fare that was provided with the cost of you room was plenty.

These are old rooms and you will notice that old room smell, but it's not extreme in the least. Nothing like the aromas we encountered on the Metro.

We would return.

Hope this is helpful.

A few phrases for the crawlers: London hotel reviews. Paris hotel review. The Columbia Hotel London reviewed. The Hotel Londres St. Honore Paris reviewed. The Rhodes Hotel London reviewed.